October 20, 2018

Singapore Punishes Net Freedom Advocate

Over the last few days my activist self has come out.  I was a tenure reviewer for Dr. Cherian George at Nanyang Technical University, one of Singapore’s most high-profile universities.  His tenure case was overturned at the top, where university administration meets the country’s political elites.

It is difficult to dismiss George on the basis of academic merit. With degrees from Cambridge, Columbia, and Stanford, his pedigree is admirable. He has three books under his belt: the eviscerating “Air Conditioned Nation”, the evocative “Freedom From the Press” and a scholarly tome comparing independent online journalism in Singapore and Malaysia that was actually published at home by Singapore University Press. Through a string of academic articles, George has been equally critical of the government and the press, so it is not surprising that the country’s journalists have not rushed to his defense. He has revealed to colleagues that the decision to deny his tenure was solely because of “non-academic factors”—the university administrators told him as much. He’s had positive teaching evaluations. This wasn’t a merit based decision.
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On the Harvard "Cheating" Scandal

The news that Harvard is investigating more than 100 students on charges of unauthorized collaboration on a take-home exam has, predictably, led many commentators to chime in. No matter who you are, a story like this is likely to trigger one of your hot buttons, whether it’s the declining moral standards of kids these days, the moral core of elite educational institutions, the inherent injustice of top-down rulemaking, or whatever. Not to mention that the course was “Introduction to Congress.” [Read more…]

What is the 21st Century blackboard?

In the fall I’ll be back from the FTC and teaching again. I want to draw on the wisdom of FtT readers to help me figure out what technology I should be using to present material to students in the classroom. It’s a lecture class, teaching security and privacy to a class of 175 students, mostly computer science majors.

What should be my primary technology for presenting material?

In recent years I have preferred a technology called a “blackboard.” For those not familiar with this technology, it uses a large flat light-absorbing panel (the “blackboard”), across which I scrape a small cylinder of soft rock (“chalk”), leaving a residue on the board. I like the blackboard because it regulates my pace of presentation, because it allows students to see a lot of material at the same time, and because I can go back and modify / emphasize / point at material I have written. I like the physicality of the board — I am right there next to the board, the lights are on, and I can point at things for emphasis. (But I don’t like turning my back on the students while writing, nor the dust that gets on everything.)

I dislike canned PowerPoint style presentations for lecturing, because there tends to be less material visible to students at a time, because it gives me less opportunity to improvise in response to student questions, because it is less natural to refer to past material or emphasize a point, and ultimately because I think it pushes me toward an overly scripted lecturing style that conveys less nuance and enthusiasm for the material. I used to lecture with PowerPoint but for the last decade or so I have used the blackboard, and I think my teaching is better that way.

But it seems to me that there should exist a higher-tech approach that combines the advantages of the blackboard with the advantages of electronic media. I want something that I can use in an existing tech-enabled classroom, and that will scale up to a class of, say, 200 students.

What should I use? Please educate me in the comments.