Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I'm glad to be teaching Newstalk again. That's because I get to talk about news items that are interesting to me. As a model of a Newstalk blog entry, I posted this one today:

Expert sets up survey on cheating

I found this article with the title above, in the local free campus newspaper, the Daily Egyptian today. It is about a national expert on plagiarism, Don McCabe of Rutgers University, who is doing a survey here at SIUC and who will visit SIUC in February to present his results. SIUC invited him here partly as a response to a plagiarism scandal involving its president, Glenn Poshard, and in order to raise awareness of plagiarism in general. By the way the DE invited both students and faculty to take the survey here. In general Dr. McCabe knows about and collects stories of academic cheating from around the USA, and is interested in SIUC probably because its students could be compared to students at other big universities. It is interesting to him, for example, how much our awareness of the plagiarism scandal could change our opinions.

I am very interested in this situation, because I have studied plagiarism for years, and I knew who this man was before I read the article. Plagiarism is quite different for my international students than it is for Americans, most of whom have heard about it for many years before they arrived in the university. My students in general are shocked at the high price American academics pay for being associated with plagiarism, especially since copying is quite common in some countries and in some circumstances not even considered wrong or illegal. I think it's important to teach it to them as soon as possible, but I hope they don't leave CESL without having some idea what people are saying about plagiarizing in general. I strongly recommend that SIUC students go to this talk (4 PM, Feb. 7, Old Baptist Foundation) for this reason.

More about this later, I hope.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Mark Algren, incoming President of TESOL

Congratulations to Mark Algren, graduate of SIUC's MA TESOL program (1982), who has just become incoming president of TESOL. Mark these days is associated with Univ. of Kansas, which is also notable because my son goes there, and because I went there myself, recently, to take my son back to college. Good luck, Mark!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

why hast thou forsaken me

Back from a long break, I have several observations to make, but mostly am ruminating about unknown reasons for my second computer crash in a year (more about this later). My biggest news here is simply that, having lost every single exercise I've made in fourteen years, I am literally starting over, and that is in itself interesting.

First- when the computer crashed the first time (about this time 2007) the hard drive of the old computer hadn't been cleared out yet, so I was basically given back most of my 14-year heritage, minus a month or two of e-mails and exercises. This time (mid-December), the same thing happened: for whatever reason, the computer wouldn't start up. But this time, I hadn't learned my lesson (hadn't backed anything up), and, didn't have that heritage anymore. It's gone. Why? Here are some competing theories:

1. Virus. Even today, I opened what I thought was a greeting card (wouldn't someone send me one of those) and it was a virus. Why would someone want to crash me? More likely they wanted to use my computer for their own purposes, and it filled the thing up (not that I haven't contributed to that process). For example, they often send spam from my computer- I know that because I receive messages from people I never heard of, in Europe or somewhere, saying they aren't in (why do I care?)...We have anti-virus programs; maybe I don't update enough.

2. You don't turn it off at night. This is what the computer person here said. I listen to her carefully. However, I don't quite buy this one.

3. MP3 file in the e-mail. When I had my own banjo song on cd, I sent it to myself. Crashed both the mail program and the Safari. It's one hot song, I can tell you. It was still in the mail, in December, when it crashed again. But it couldn't have accounted for the January 2007 crash.

4. Too much junk on the desktop. Is it possible that if the desktop itself is too full, the computer can't move? If so, this could be it. I'm guilty. I can't throw it away. I can't remember why I wanted to save it. I can't file it as I'm not sure where to put it. It stays, especially if it's a picture. I've got to do something about this.

5. The new MACS are just like the PC's. This is true- because they use the same intel chip (?) or some such thing, they are more susceptible to virus. This is basically #1, except that in this version, I blame Microsoft. It's always easier to blame Microsoft.

Don't know the answer, there may be more possiblilities. But here are some New Year's resolutions:

Things will come back, better than ever.
I will get CESL Todays online, though it may take a while.
I will clean my desktop. Less is more.
I may stop responding to greeting cards.
I will turn the computer off once in a while.
I will put e-mail addresses and useful information in easy-to-find places.
I will go to the dentist regularly.