Death of the lecture: have the reports been greatly exaggerated?

From Teche in May “Most people who know me know that I would argue vigorously that the traditional lecture is dead. But that’s when I’m being provocative.” The full interview is here.


Aristotle on Facebook

Detail of the right-hand facade fresco, showing Aristotle and His Disciples. National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

In the opening to his discussion of friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle claims:

For friendship is a virtue ….  and also it is one of the most indispensable requirements of life. For no one would choose to live without friends, but possessing all other good things. (Section 1; Book VIII)

But what would Aristotle say about Facebook?

According to a number of papers in a special edition of Ethics and Communication Technology, he would not be impressed. The arguments, as one would hope, are rather nuanced. Most are limited to “full online friends”. I think Aristotle might be happy with Facebook’s use to maintain established friendships. In Section 5, he notes:

[D]istance does not break off the friendship absolutely, but only the activity of it. (Section 5; Book VIII)

Facebook, of course, enables some of the activities of friendship to be continued at a distance. I think Aristotle might find this affordance useful. So long as you don’t over do it – “One cannot be friends to too many people … “(Section 5; Book VIII)

(Note: I am no Facebook fan – I closed my account a number of years ago).

Digital Vandalism and Online Communities

Today, while doing some research on Wikipedia vandalism I discovered this article: Applebaum, Yoni (2012). How the Professor Who Fooled Wikipedia Got Caught by Reddit. The Atlantic, May 15, 2012.

Applebaum details the hoaxes of George Mason University students in T. Mills Kelly course in Lying about the Past. In the unit the students are asked to create false histories. In 2008 they had a major success on the Wikipedia:

confected the life of Edward Owens, mixing together actual lives and events with brazen fabrications. They created YouTube videos, interviewed experts, scanned and transcribed primary documents, and built a Wikipedia page to honor Owens’ memory. The romantic tale of a pirate plying his trade in the Chesapeake struck a chord, and quickly landed on USA Today’s pop culture blog.

In 2011 when the student’s attempted a hoax on Reddit around a factious serial killer it took a mere “twenty-six minutes for a redditor to call foul.”

Applebaum (2012) goes on to discuss why the hoax worked on the Wikipedia, but not on Reddit. The difference, he argues, turns on the structure of the platforms, the robustness of the communities and the nature of online trust.

Insightful, informative and entertaining.

The politics of knowledge

Presently, I am doing a little reading on the democratisation of content for the (now overdue) book. Just re-read Larry Sanger’s pieces on the politics of knowledge. The epistemology is a bit superficial, but the position on the place of expertise seems about right:

For these reasons, I believe experts should share the main responsibility of articulating what “we know” in encyclopedia projects; but they should share this responsibility with the general public. Involving both groups in a content production system has the best chance of faithfully representing the full spectrum of expression. To exclude the public is to put readers at the mercy of wrongheaded intellectual fads; and to exclude experts, or to fail to give them a special role in an encyclopedia project, is to risk getting expert opinion wrong.

Worth reading if you haven’t already.


Last week we released a set of concise resources for both staff and students on Formative Feedback. From the Intro:

These pages are aimed at both staff and students. The staff page contains information on how to write effective formative feedback for students. The student page contains information and video resources on how staff develop aligned feedback and how to use formative feedback to improve grades.
The purpose of formative feedback is to improve the student’s performance, not to justify the summative feedback (grades). However, much feedback is not even read by the student, let alone applied to improve future performance. This means a lot of wasted effort on the part of markers who often spend a great deal of precious time writing comments for students, not to mention students’ lost opportunity for improvement.
The aim is to assist markers to provide efficient and worthwhile formative feedback that has a maximal chance of leading to improved learning outcomes because students can and will apply it to their work.

More for Staff or more for Students