Ideas, Ideas, Ideas

Source: markyoungtrainingsystems.com

Up until yesterday I was completely at a loss as to what I was going to write about for section 3 of my webpage.  I was reading over the comments that I made on my classmates’ blogs and I noticed a common theme.  I really enjoyed the articles that pertained to the “death of the printing industry” and the rise of internet resources.  I guess this is because my husband works in the printing industry and I feel it is very relevant to our lives.  I know that my best papers and projects are often the ones I am most passionate about and I feel that this is a topic I will really enjoy. 

At first I was a little nervous to get into the research.  I thought it might depress me to consider the fact that in ten years my husband will be out of a job.  Surprisingly, however, I found a lot of information that contradicts the “death of the printing industry.”  It seems that many scholars agree that the web will simply compliment print, not replace it altogether.  I am a little skeptical of this assertion.  I still think that web will replace print completely, just hopefully not in my lifetime. 

I have found about ten articles that I feel fit into my topic but I would like to refine it a little more.  I’m not sure if I want to touch on all traditional print versus web or just newspapers.  I’m hoping that my project will evolve as I do more research.  I can honestly say that I am excited to get started and see where my research will take me!

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April 7, 2011 at 8:39 pm Leave a comment

Stepping Away

So this past weekend I was able to step out from in front of the box

As I was packing my bags to head for a warmer climate, I wondered if I should take my laptop.  I struggled with this decision for a mind-blowing 24 hours.  What if I missed an important email from Penn State regarding my graduate school application?  What if I wanted to share some crazy experience with my friends on Facebook?  What if there was an emergency?  Will my cell phone work?  If not, how will anyone contact me?  What if there was a pop quiz on my online class?  Most importantly, what will I do on the airplane for hours at a time? 

Surprising even to me, I declined to take my computer and I am so glad I did.  I went for five whole days without a computer and internet access.  I even shut off my smartphone for fear that I would be charged some ridiculous price if my emails actually went though.  Believe it or not, I lived through it and learned a little about myself.  I don’t need technology to entertain myself or my children.  The airpline ride was full of reading books and playing “I Spy” with the kids.  It was amazing.  Throughout this entire semester my classmates and I have focused alot on our increasing dependence on technology.  I am very proud to say that over my five day break I didn’t miss it at all.  In fact, I kind of liked the freedom to not have to answer my phone or e-mails.   

Funny though, when I got home at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, the first thing I did was check my email.  I guess old habits die hard.  😉

April 6, 2011 at 11:28 pm 1 comment

Internet Access & Inequality

The JBHE Foundation.  “The Once Huge Racial Gap in Internet Access at Public Schools Has Nearly Disappeared.”  The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. 47 (2005):  24-25.  JSTOR. Web. 28 Mar. 2011.

Many of us can’t image our lives without access to the Internet.  Personally, the first thing I do every morning (after feeding my children) is to hop on my laptop and check my e-mail.  Many daily routines across the country include monitoring stocks online, checking the weather and scanning daily papers – all online.  The use of the Internet in schools has also become second nature.  Believe it or not, when I signed my daughter’s kindergarten registration papers earlier this month, I was required to provide a signature.  This signature will allow her to have access to the internet in her classroom.  I believe all students are entitled to the ability to access the internet.

Unfortunately, access to technology, specifically the access to the Internet, has not always been equal.  As the author of this week’s article states, “In the early days there always was a large racial gap in the distribution of benefits.”  (24).  I can’t say that this particular fact was that surprising to me as I have heard that inner city schools often lack necessities such as text books.  What does surprise me is the fact that gap is nearly gone.

According to an article published by The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, in 1995, 10 percent of schools with a low percentage of minority students had access to the internet within the classroom.  This is triple the percentage for schools whose student body had a large minority population.  In 2000, those numbers jumped to 83 percent for low minority populations and 64 percent for high minority populations.  In 2003, this gap was further decreased.  Nearly 92 percent of classrooms with a large minority population were wired.  This number is only slightly below that of predominantly white schools.  Even more surprising, access to broadband internet connections is higher in schools with a higher number of minorities (24-25).

This article does go on to point out that not all of the current statistics are positive.  The ratio of students to  internet capable computers at predominantly white schools is 4 to 1.  At schools with large minority populations, this ratio is 5 to 1 (25).  Also, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, at the time this article was published only 31.1 percent of black households have Internet access as compared to 55.2 percent of white households (25).  Obviously, this is a huge deal because the Internet is helpful in writing papers, completing homework assignments, and even exchanging ideas with teachers and fellow students.  The article also points out that having the Internet at home can help students to research colleges and prepare for standardized tests (25).

The bottom line is, in the last decade, access to the Internet has become a valuable tool in classrooms and homes across the country.  Unfortunately, minority students haven’t always had the same privledges as white students.  One a positive note, as we are moving into the future, this gap seems to be decreasing.  Unfortunately, progress still need to be made.  Hopefully one day all students will have equal access to the educational benefits of the internet.

March 29, 2011 at 1:35 pm 4 comments

Finicky Dreamweaver

My experience with Dreamweaver this semester has been, to say the least, frustrating

It completely boggles my mind that I can have my page looking absolutely perfect and when I press F12 everything falls apart.  Even more frustrating, when I look at my page in Explorer (and F12), everything is perfect. In Firefox, it simply doesn’t work.  Last week, I was so excited to come home and show my family my creative text.  I had spent hours working on it.  I mean this literally, hours.  When I left campus, everything looked perfect.  I got out my laptop, pulled up my page and opened Firefox.  I got to my third page and the link simply didn’t work.  I was unable to view the majority of my page.  I spend all night fretting over why I was having these issues.  Apparently, I am not alone.

Emily also had a similar issue.  Unlike my problem, however, her webpage didn’t look right in any of the new browsers but when she looked at it in an older browser, it looked exactly as she wanted it.  This got me thinking…

I Google searched Dreamweaver, Firefox compatibility I came up with 3,460,000 results.  Yes, I realize that this number is a little exaggerated because not all of my results pertained exactly to my problem, but still what is up with this?

After reading dozens of online forums, I discovered that the issue may lie in the fact that we are using an older version of Dreamweaver.  The newer version of Dreamweaver, Dreamweaver CS5, is more compatible with newer browsers.

So in conclusion,I know it is a small fortune, but I hope Penn State updates to CS5 soon!

March 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm 3 comments

The Plagiarism “Epidemic”

Scanlon, Patrick M., Student Online Plagiarism:  How Do We Response?”  College Teaching.  51.4 (2003):  161-165.  JSTOR.  Web.  22 Mar. 2011.

If you’ve ever written a research paper, chances are, you’ve tapped into Internet resources.  Though the benefits of this resource are numerous, there are negative aspects as well.  Students are now able to easily “cut and paste” other peoples’ ideas.  In fact, you can even buy a paper for as little as a couple of bucks.  As students at Penn State, we are all well aware of the ongoing issue with plagiarism.  I’m not sure if I ever remember having a class where the syllabus didn’t clearly state that plagiarism is a serious academic offense and will be treated as such.

In the article, “Student Online Plagiarism:  How Do We Respond?” Patrick M. Scanlon presents a multitude of quantitative studies of plagiarism over the last forty years.  He goes on to discuss what he calls a “weak response” by teachers and professors.  Finally, he offers advice for faculty in order to help educate students on plagiarism.

The problem with truly understanding how widespread the problem with plagiarism really is stems from the fact that different studies give a very wide variation of results.  Scanlon asserts that anywhere from 9 percent to 95 percent of students admitted to a form of academic dishonesty.  The huge gap in these numbers isn’t surprising, however, because the very nature of this type of action would make students unlikely to admit to it, even if the poll was anonymous.

Don't Cut & Paste!One interesting argument that Scanlon made was that though the number of student plagiarizers isn’t as high as previously thought, students have the misconception that the number is higher.  For example, in one study only 8 percent of students admitted to engaging in Internet plagiarism often.  In contrast, 50.4 percent of the same group felt that their peers engaged in this type of activity (162).  The problem with this is that students may believe that Internet plagiarism is a commonplace activity and this, in turn, may make them more likely to engage in it in the future. 

Scanlon criticizes the way plagiarism is looked at by educators.  He cites the 40 year old, first large-scale study of academic dishonesty to prove his point.  In this study, student body presidents and deans were asked to rank the seriousness of offenses that warrant students being expelled or suspended.  Surprisingly, plagiarism ranked last, under “violating rules about having guests of the opposite sex in dormitory rooms” and “stealing books from the library” (163).

What are teachers supposed to do?  The Center for Academic Integrity offers an assessment guide that facilitates the evaluation of plagiarism among students and helps to develop plans to curtail academic dishonesty.    Scanlon also stresses the dispersion of knowledge.  He strongly suggest that faculty and students should make a strong attempt to “examine the nature of information on the Web while considering writers’ responsibilities to their sources, as well as their reader” (164). 

This article was written in 2003.  What do you think?  Have things changed since then?  Like I said previously, I have never encountered a syllabus that didn’t address the issue of plagiarism.  I feel like, as a student, I know that what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.  Am I the exception or the norm?  If you think that plagiarism is still a major issue, what do you suggest be done about it?

March 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm 5 comments

Socially Stunted Adolescents

Subrahmanyam, Kaveri, and Patricia Greenfield.  “Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships.”  The Future of Children.  18.1 (2008): 119-146.  JSTOR.  Web.  16 March 2001.

One of the biggest issues that I have with my little sister (she’s 16) is the fact that her thumb is glued to her cell phone.  I watch her at our family gatherings and often wonder if her social development has been impeded by her constant need to be text messaging and checking facebook.  I remember the days when I was a teenager and would sit around with my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles on holidays and actually have a genuine conversation.  I feel like these situations prepared me for the real world.  I watch her on holidays and wonder, “What could possibly be so important in her friends’ lives that they need to discuss on Thanksgiving Day?”  Now that she has access to Facebook and Twitter, this has become even more of an issue. 

My personal experience with this issue is why I was particularly interested in my article for this blog, “Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships” by Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Patricia Greenfield.  In this article, the authors talk about the rise of technology in the past decade and its increasing importance in adolescent lives (119).  They assert that the new challenges faced for both schools and parents alike is to attempt to eliminate the negative uses of the Internet while promoting the positive aspects of this technology (119).  

Subrahmanyam and Greenfield first describe how adolescents are using electronic communication.  Unlike the past, the internet is primarily used to keep in touch with friends (as opposed to developing contact with strangers).  This is not to say that the danger of contact with strangers isn’t there, it is just less prevalent than in the past.  Also, privacy measures make information somewhat more secure than in the past.  They use the example of Facebook giving users the control to change their privacy options.  A study of MySpace profiles “found that users do not disclose personal information as widely as many fear:  40 percent of profiles were private” (123).  On the flip side of this, adolescents are also able to restrict access to their profiles by their parents as well.  They can allow parents to view certain aspects of their profiles while restricted access to others (124). 

The next section, entitled “Theoretical Framework” goes on to say that the authors “propose that for today’s youth, media technologies are an important social variable and that physical and virtual worlds are psychologically connected” (124).  Therefore, they attempt to look at how technology effects the establishment of interpersonal connections and constructing their own identities (124).  Again, there is a good and bad site to the establishment of interpersonal connections, while a 2001 survey shows that 48 percent of online teens believe that their relationships with friends has improved due to the internet (126), online bullying has become a major setback.  A shocking 72 percent of users of a popular teen Internet site in 2005 claimed that they had been harassed or bullied (127). 

Another interesting (but scary) subject that the article delved into was the relationship between adolescent users and strangers.  As I mentioned earlier, the authors do note that there has recently been a shifting trend that shows that the majority of adolescents use the internet only to contact their friends.  This does not mean that contact with strangers is not still an issue, but the authors do point out that there are benefits to talking with strangers.  Adolescents who feel lonely on socially outcast can find comfort in online relationships.  Also, because the internet is filled with anonymous discussion groups, youth that suffer from illness such as AIDS, eating disorder, or self-injurious behavior may get the help that they need (132-133).  Even healthy adolescents may use the internet to address embarrassing or difficult questions (133).  Again, there is a flip side to this, racist behavior or simply exposure to racist comments is often increased (134).  Also, there is the obvious threat of stranger contact and sexual solicitation (134). 

So I guess the end of the this article was a bit of a let down for me.  I thought it would offer me a definitive answer, is increased electronic communication between adolescents helpful or hurtful?  I wanted to shove it in my sister’s face and say, “See, see, I told you so!”  Instead, it simply said that it is both good and bad.  One thing that the authors do assert, however, is that this need to constantly been in touch with peers is leading to “serious parent-child conflicts and loss of parental control” (137).  They reinforce the fact that more research has to be done to figure out how to enhance the benefits of electronic media while mitigating some of the dangers (140).  I tend to agree.

March 16, 2011 at 11:30 pm 5 comments

Out with Greetings, In with Emoticons

In their article “Electronic Mail and Organizational Communication:  Does Saying ‘Hi’ Really Matter? “ Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson and Martha S. Feldman discuss a specific field study, which suggests that as the use of electronic mail is increased, overall organizational communication within a group is decreased.  They talk about the positive aspects of electronic mail, but want us to also see the negative aspects.  Finally, they discuss the role that casual conversation and greetings have within an organization and the effects of losing them.

Sarbaugh-Thompson and Felman begin by discussing studies that were done previous to theirs, showing the often cited positive aspects of electronic communication within an organization.  Specifically, communication for those who generally don’t communicate or communicate infrequently is increased.  Electronic communication has the ability to allow people to communicate and allows people to “be available even when they are physically absent” (685).  The authors stress that though these studies have been useful, they do not put enough emphasis on “the importance of casual contact that occurs when people are co-present” (685).

Their studies began when comparing survey data from 1987 and 1989 of an organization whose electronic mail usage jumped from 8.32 messages per week to 32.18 per week.  Those who responded to both surveys showed a decreased level of intraorganizational communication despite the fact that electronic mail increased. About this the authors say, “This piqued our curiosity about whether something is lost as well as gained when organizations rely on electronic communication” (686).

As the studied continued, it was found that there were increased reports of disconnect between members of the organization (687).

Sarbaugh-Thompson and Felman point out that electronic mail provides the individuals involved with fewer cues (facial expressions, gestures, vocal intonation and indication of social position) than when they are co-present.  This lack of cues has two effects on those involved.  First the range of communication is limited.  For example, sarcasm loses its effect.  Secondly, there is an equalizing effect involved, such as a diminished sense of social hierarchy.  This leads them to believe that some people would say more and some less than they would in an actual face-to-face conversation.

The authors do point out that this decrease in overall communication may be looked at as a reflection of the greater efficiency of e-mail.  Also, they concede that as the members of the organization grew older, they may possibly spend more time outside of the organization, which could have caused the declining numbers.  Despite these issues, there is a definite decline in the use of greetings and they decide to investigate the effects of this decline.

An important concept that is introduced is the idea of presence unavailability.  These are physical signals that one person does not want to engage in conversation with another.  Specifically, “when people are present, but do not wish to engage in an encounter or wish to terminate their current engagement, they use…subtle, often nonverbal, cues to indicate disinterest, disengagement, or unavailability” (694).  This allows others to view the person as trustworthy, an important aspect of social interactions.

The article is concluded with the assertion that electronic mail can decrease social interactions within an organization.  This “decreases the opportunities people have to greet each other or engage in casual conversation” (695).  The authors encourage management to “treat opportunities for casual contact as an important part of work” (696).  By doing this not only are the members of the organization able to chat, they are also able to signal that they are not able to chat (presence unavailability) and therefore build positive relationships between group members.  So, yes, according to the authors, saying “hi” really does matter.

It took me a few times reading this article to really grasp what they were trying to say.  Between the technical experimental terms and tables, my head was spinning.  I was also quite irritated by the repetition of “much of the lost communication was greetings” (they must have said this 15 times).  The first few times reading it, I understood that greetings were lost, but not why this mattered.

At first I thought that the entire premise of the article was ridiculous, but the more I read it, the more it made sense, though I’m not completely convinced that signaling that you don’t want to chat is necessary (can’t you just ignore the e-mail?).  I liked the fact that they didn’t say that electronic communication is bad, only that managers should remember to make sure that casual communication between group members is maintained.  Despite the use of emoticons, there is definitely something that you can only get from a face-to-face conversation, or is there?  How much can you really get across with emoticons?

I’m still leaning towards the necessity of at least some personal interactions.  I like to compare this idea to my online classes.  I have taken at least a dozen online classes.  Often times I never develop a relationship with my professor and classmates because there is an element of personal interaction that is missing.  This isn’t to say that the classes are bad or that I didn’t learn anything, just that it makes for a different learning experience.  I enjoy being able to interact both casually and formally with my classmates and professors.  So I guess I have to agree, saying “hi” really does matter (at least to me).

Works Cited

Sarbaugh-Thomson, Marjorie, and Martha S. Felman.  “Electronic Mail and Organizational Communication:  Does Saying ‘Hi’ Really Matter?”.  Organization Science 9.6 (1998):  685-698.  JSTOR. Web. 16 Feb. 2011.

(By the way, it is IMPOSSIBLE to create a hanging indent on here :-))

February 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm 3 comments

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