No More Swikis: End of the Constructionist Web at Georgia Tech

November 15, 2011 at 10:57 am 63 comments

Using Wikis for undergraduate courses was invented at Georgia Tech. We started in 1997, long before Wikipedia.  Ward Cunningham talks about our work in his book “The Wiki Way.”  Our paper on how we designed the Swiki (or CoWeb) at CSCW 2000 is, I believe, the earliest reference to wikis in the ACM Digital Library.  Jochen “Jeff” Rick built the Swiki software that we use today, and he did his dissertation on his extensions to Swiki.

We published a technical report in 2000 about the varied uses of Swikis that we saw around Georgia Tech’s campus.  Some classes were having students create a public case library.  Others were have cross-semester discussions between current and past students.  Others had public galleries of student work.

All of that ended yesterday.

Georgia Tech’s interpretation of FERPA is that protected information includes the fact that a student is enrolled at all.  The folks at GT responsible for oversight of FERPA realized that a student’s name in a website that references a course is evidence of enrollment.  Yesterday, in one stroke, every Swiki ever used for a course was removed.  None of those uses I described can continue.  For example, you can’t have cross-semester discussions or public galleries, because students in one semester of a course can’t know the identities of other students who had taken the course previously.

Seymour Papert coined the term constructionism to describe a setting for constructivism to occur.

Constructionism–the N word as opposed to the V word–shares constructivism’s connotation of learning as “building knowledge structures” irrespective of the circumstances of the learning. It then adds the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it’s a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe.

Constructionism relies on the fact that the entity being constructed is public. The public nature influences the student’s motivation for doing it and doing it well. If it’s not public, it’s not constructionism. We can no longer have students construct public entities on the Web anymore for education at Georgia Tech.  It may be that FERPA demands that no school can use the Web to post student work publicly.

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Technology can help Universities with specialized programs, not with undergraduates Senator recognizes the need for more computer courses

63 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  November 15, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I believe that so far Georgia Tech is the only school to have made this perverse interpretation of FERPA. I do hope that it doesn’t spread. (I have one class where the students are evaluated entirely on their contributions to a public wiki: https://banana-slug.soe.ucsc.edu/ )

    Reply
    • 2. Danny Caballero  |  November 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      This makes no sense. If students are concerned about such information getting “out”, then I can understand protecting wikis. But to have a blanket ban undermines the endeavor of creating a diverse learning community.

      Reply
  • 3. Jose Zagal  |  November 15, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I wonder how much room there is in FERPA for students to voluntarily “out” themselves? So, participation may still be required, but students can opt to use randomly assigned pseudonyms or some username/identity of their choosing.

    Reply
  • 4. Ben Bederson (@bederson)  |  November 15, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Wow, that is really bad. Hope they don’t find my HCI class (http://cmsc434-f11.wikispaces.com/) or my social computing class (http://socialcomputing-f11.wikispaces.com/).

    – Ben Bederson

    Reply
  • 5. Mark Urban-Lurain  |  November 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Interesting interpretation of FERPA. Sounds like the legal dept is working overtime there.

    Was there some particular issue, ruling, etc., that prompted this? I ask because if so, then this may be a trend elsewhere. I know MSU takes a particularly conservative interpretation of FERPA regs, so I’m concerned that someone here will feel a need to keep up with Georgia Tech :-(

    Reply
  • [...] No More Swikis: End of the Constructionist Web at Georgia Tech « Computing Education Blog. [...]

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  • 7. Alan Kay  |  November 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Yikes!

    It would be very worthwhile to hear more about the process and rationalizations they used to get to this decision … sounds very anti-university (but rather like a business …)

    (One of the fun things was how easy it was for you to make the swiki’s in Smalltalk in just a few days with many incremental improvements while it was up and running. A nice example of “constructionism” there too.)

    Cheers,

    Alan

    Reply
  • 8. Tom Hoffman  |  November 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I think this sort of interpretation of FERPA is more common in K-12.

    Reply
  • 9. geekymom  |  November 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Wow! Even in K-12, we’re not that draconian. We just use first names or Pseudonyms. I’ve had public web presences for my classes for over ten years. Such a loss for your school.

    Reply
  • 10. Jon Becker  |  November 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I second Mark Urban-Lurain’s call for some understanding. Was there some sort of communication about this policy change? Was it an email we can read?

    Reply
  • 11. Stephen Gilbert  |  November 15, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I wonder how that will affect other public student “performances”? Concerts and plays with no identification of the student performers? No public identification of individual football players?

    Reply
    • 12. Mark Guzdial  |  November 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      That explicit issue (that programs cannot be published with student names from a course concert) is one of those that’s being discussed now.

      I’m uncomfortable sharing any of the emails or other explanatory materials, which have all been placed on the College Intranet. I will share the GT definition of FERPA from the Faculty Handbook (below) which is publicly available. The impetus (as I understand it) is that a student complained on November 1 that his name was on a course website, and the campus FERPA experts decided that GT’s definition of FERPA required that no names could be associated with any course on the Web. The websites were all taken down yesterday, without prior notice to faculty.

      The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a set of regulations written specifically for students guaranteeing them the right to inspect and review their education records; the right to seek to amend education record; and the right to have some control over the disclosure of information from those education records.

      Members of the College must not release non-directory or personally identifiable information about a student to a third party (including parents) without the student’s written authorization. Such information includes the GTID or social security number; assignment, test, or overall scores or grades; grade point average; parent or emergency address or phone; detail about a student’s registration information including courses, times, or credits in a term or overall; race, ethnicity or sex; or date of birth. Further, if a student has explicitly blocked directory information, that may not be released either.

      Reply
      • 13. Jung Choi (@jung_gt)  |  November 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm

        I’m trying to wrap my head around this, with little success. Aren’t we engaged in discussions about C21U and how we should reinvent teaching and learning at the university? How could the administration take down the sites with no prior notice to faculty? Faculty were given no options? Where is the open discussion of these issues? I have heard zilch, nada, about this, and this clearly has lots of ramifications beyond the swikis.

        Reply
  • 14. andrewbonamici  |  November 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    This is a real shame and (IMHO) a disservice to the students who have valuable contributions to share and the society that benefits from their sharing. There are ways to manage it short of flipping the switch to “off.”
    @Jose Zagal, my institution’s current privacy policies and interpretation of FERPA, instructors are required to get consent from students for work that is public, and to offer alternatives if the student doesn’t want to publish publicly. See or go directly to the consent form is at

    @ Tom and @geekymom, interesting to get those K-12 perspectives.
    @Stephen, the example of concerts, art exhibits, and published theses came up here in the process of developing the forms linked above. Our registrar pointed out that in these cases, either there is no class per se (thesis) or class is already over (art/music). When we ask students to blog and post their work and use other online media throughout the term, they reveal their enrollment in one or more courses. The student’s registration in classes is protected by FERPA for the safety of the student as well as privacy rights. She doesn’t know of any school in the country that lists class registration as directory information in their student records policy.

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  • 16. Drew M Loewe  |  November 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Gah! How silly and counterproductive. Would psuedonyms obviate this (never mind that students won’t use fake names in the real world)?

    Reply
  • 17. Jim Groom  |  November 15, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Why not give students some control over how there name appears? That is really the call in FERPA, and in many ways this can be handled for more granularly given the affordances of the web than such a sweeping move to shut it all down. We have one of the more high profile blogging platforms at University of Mary Washington in UMW Blogs, and we argue that our system is FERPA compliant in that we make the students sysadmins of their education. They control who sees what, how, and where. In effect, we use the space to ensure that students keep “the right to have some control over the disclosure of information from those education records.” That is something we think is extremely valuable, and by giving the students control—and the trust that goes along with that I think we found away around the FUD that dominates the FERPA conversations around the web in higher ed.

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    • 18. Mark Guzdial  |  November 16, 2011 at 12:04 am

      I wonder how that works over time, Jim. We have been doing Swikis long enough that we get contacted regularly by students who don’t remember any of the passwords to remove the stuff they’d posted, but now they’re embarrassed by it and want it removed. The implication is that it’s our responsibility to remove it — we’re the ones hosting the site with the students content. How do we handle identity management over a lifetime, with many personas, some forgotten?

      Reply
      • 19. Bijan Parsia  |  November 16, 2011 at 10:11 am

        Perhaps it should hook into University accounts in such a way that the registrar, upon receiving the kind of proof that would cause them to issue a transcript, would provide access to that account and the student could then hide the info?

        Reply
  • 20. Toward a theory of Disconnectivism | Abject  |  November 15, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    [...] means… We can no longer have students construct public entities on the Web anymore for education at Georgia Tech. It may be that FERPA demands that no school can use the Web [...]

    Reply
  • 21. mhelquist  |  November 15, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    The “real names” debate re: Google and Facebook addresses the privacy issue in another context. While the shut-down of all class-related wikis does seem a bit draconian, I think there is merit to students having control over how their real names are used publicly. Jim’s note about students having control over how their name appears seems a good option. Here’s a link to danah boyd on the real names issue: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2011/08/04/real-names.html

    Reply
  • 23. Rob St. Amant  |  November 15, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    That’s a shame. I’ve used wikis in some of the courses I’ve taught; we’re required to have students sign a FERPA release form beforehand. No one has opted out so far, so I haven’t had to deal with workarounds. I think my students have produced some valuable work in this way.

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  • 24. Bijan Parsia  |  November 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Say it ain’t so! How sad!

    I have fond memories of debugging comwiki with you back in the day :) Stupid filehandle leak!

    Reply
  • 25. Bonnie MacKellar  |  November 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    This kind of interpretation could have implications for those of us doing open source projects, hosted on sites such as SourceForge, in the context of a course.

    Reply
  • 26. David Karger  |  November 15, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    From the FERPA page you link to:
    “Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. ”

    So presence of their name on the wiki is explicitly permitted.

    Also, what’s wrong with restricting course wikis to access by other students in the class?

    Reply
    • 27. Jay Summet  |  November 16, 2011 at 5:26 am

      The problem is that the student who complained had requested that their name NOT appear in any directory information. And any student can, at any time, make a similar request, and it must be honored as soon as it is received.

      [So in effect, any student can retroactively decide to not have directory information public.]

      Our computer system has a flag that can be turned on, and the online directory listing honors that flag immediately, but posted webpages and wiki pages have no way to know that the flag has now been turned on.

      Reply
    • 28. Bijan Parsia  |  November 16, 2011 at 10:18 am

      David,

      First, I think the difference between directory information and name on a class wiki is that the latter can be used to infer enrolment in the class, which is forbidden.

      Second, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with restricted access (e.g., lots of VLEs support this, obviously), but there are reasons for open access and encouraging students to do things publicly. “Encouraging” is not quite the same as “requiring” of course.

      Cheers,
      Bijan.

      Reply
  • 29. You Can’t Spell FERPA Without FEAR | bavatuesdays  |  November 15, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    [...] was sad to read over on Mark Guzdial’s Computing Education Blog that potential FERPA violations were being invoked in order to close down a wiki experiment at [...]

    Reply
  • 30. Martin weller  |  November 16, 2011 at 3:40 am

    This would be a sad tale anywhere, but at the home of the wiki, it’s especially telling. It was you, Mark, who introduced me to wikis in 2000 I think, at a conference in Sweden. That seems like an age away now, full of optimism and naïveté. We’ll see more of this, not just with FERPA but all sorts of regulation applied to the net that fundamentally misunderstands it.

    Reply
  • 31. Phillip Gentry  |  November 16, 2011 at 4:32 am

    From a software perspective, it would be trivially easy to just modify the wiki software to mask the names of students after the end of the semester.

    Reply
  • 32. Jeff Rick  |  November 16, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Looking at the FERPA guidelines, it seems that Georgia Tech is overreacting. This should really be a non-issue. First, students know the public nature of the wikis. They (at least tacitly) consent to releasing their name. Second, in rare cases, a student can mention their concerns and can probably find a work-around. For instance, one student of mine used a pseudonym. Third, they have recourse. We have been quite responsive to removing any unwanted content. Fourth, the vast majority of class-based wikis are marked so that they won’t be indexed by search engines. So, the information isn’t very public. Precautionary measures should be reconcilable with the probability of problems occurring and the severity of those problems. Overall, Georgia Tech students are adults and probably more tech savvy than the people who wrote FERPA. There’s no reason to turn this or other universities into nurseries. Students can manage their privacy and we put reasonable safeguards in there for them. My guess is that compulsory use of wikis at Georgia Tech has caused less than 0.01% as many privacy problems as voluntary use of Facebook at Georgia Tech. Privacy in the digital age is a real concern, but class wikis are pretty innocuous in that regard.

    Reply
  • [...] interesting and disturbing decision was made by officials at Georgia Tech. They have decided to take down all student content from a GT-hosted wiki platform called Swiki after declaring that information disclosed on the openly available wiki infringed the [...]

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  • 34. Henry Michael Imler (@henryimler)  |  November 16, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I hate this development too, but the real problem is with FERPA, not GA Tech.

    Reply
    • 35. Aaron Bobick  |  November 16, 2011 at 5:51 pm

      Those of us at GT who have administrative obligations agree. The fact that Wiki’s privacy issues may be “innocuous” or that there are “workarounds” would not eliminate GT’s liability. FERPA was written well before we came to consider the balance that the digital age requires.

      Having said that, one of my colleagues pointed out that having content one created as a freshman in college (and that had been forgotten about long ago) might be uncomfortable to potential President or CEO or UN Sec’y General. Or even the fact one enrolled in a particular course. The ability to scrape the web and build databases connecting names to content/data is not a trivial matter.

      I am guessing that Universities will eventually have to adopt their own specific policies on how they will handle FERPA and what exceptions they expect students to tolerate. Then students (and/or their parents) will need to agree to this if they want to enroll in the school. This will likely be easier for private institutions to do since there is no “right” to attend such school.

      Reply
  • 36. Martha  |  November 16, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I was wondering if you could share how many courses/faculty/students were affected by this move. I can imagine it’s a pretty huge impact to happen in the middle of the semester. Has there been any talk of fighting back on the issue?

    I took a look at the swiki site and it’s hard to tell what’s left. I gather there was a lot more there a few days ago?

    Reply
  • 37. Technology and FERPA in Higher Education | BobMartens.net  |  November 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    [...] stumbled upon this article about the end of the use of public wikis at Georgia Tech for educational purposes due to worries about FERPA violations. To say that this article scares and saddens me is an [...]

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  • 38. klrlogan  |  November 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    This is crazy. The original authors of FERPA never intended for it to be used so widely. It has gone to far. I have had some schools tell me that all students names should not appear in an online class because it violates FERPA.

    See this quote.

    The primary author of FERPA, retired U.S. Sen. James L. Buckley of New York, told the Dispatch that FERPA “needs to be revamped” because colleges are relying on the law to conceal records that Congress never intended to classify as confidential.

    http://www.splc.org/news/newsflash.asp?id=1915

    Reply
  • 39. Learning Made Easy » Student Wikis Shut Down at Georgia Tech  |  November 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    [...] Read Mark’s article here. Unfortunately, a search of Georgia Tech’s web site didn’t find any release about the shut-down. [...]

    Reply
  • 40. Episode 83: FERPA Fear DTLT Today  |  November 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    [...] No More Swikis: End of the Constructionist Web at Georgia Tech [...]

    Reply
  • 41. David Adams  |  November 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I’m surprised at the reaction here. I thought this interpretation of FERPA was well understood. Put yourself in the place of students who do not wish to have their identity or their course enrollments made public as a requirement for getting an education. They ought to have the right to control what information universities reveal about them and FERPA is the only thing that allows that.

    Reply
    • 42. Bijan Parsia  |  November 17, 2011 at 6:27 am

      I’m surprised at your surprise :) The taking down of 1) something cool and cherished, 2) with pedagogic value, 3) in a blanket way that chills similar activities is distressing, 4) there was no attempt to comply in a manner short of shutting them down (afaict). Even if it’s the right thing to do! It’s even more distressing if the prior activity, which seemed innocent enough at the time, is a wrong doing. No one likes that!

      So some of the grumbling is probably standard grumbling at a change. Some is at being made to feel bad (rightly or wrongly). And part of it is reasonable, I think.

      First, the “put yourself in the place” test isn’t sufficient for determining what’s right to do. Put yourself in the place of students who do not wish to have their transcript reflect the actual grades they got rather than a 4.0.

      Now, everyone agrees that there is a lot of information that universities keep that should not be divulged publicly. Individual grades, for example. (These perhaps did not always enjoy such consensus.) However, before this post it never occurred to me, either as a student or instructor, that my mere enrolment in a class was or should be privileged. I can see arguments for it, but I’ve not found them fully convincing yet.

      Not wanting to have your coursework public is perhaps more understandable, though there are classes of such work that are made available (theses?).

      I am fully sympathetic to the need for anon and psuedo-nymity and general desire for privacy. But I’m not clear that one has the general right to a specific university education without having to do some public stuff. (Of course, even without the right, it still might be the best overall policy.)

      (It’s certainly the case that things should be, in general, stricter for children who inherently require more protection. Similarly, there are lots of specific cases (e.g., stalking, persecution, etc.) which warrant systematic non-disclosure of all sorts of things.)

      Reply
      • 43. Mark Guzdial  |  November 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm

        All of this discussion is convincing me that it was a problem for the student names to appear in the Swikis. I’m swayed by the arguments that no student should have to answer to a reporter sometime in the future why she took a particular class — unless she explicitly makes it available. I buy the argument of the RISD counsel in the Wired Campus piece, that because the students put their names up there, it’s not a FERPA issue, but I also buy that the power relations in the situation can make the student feel that she has to post her name. I’m intrigued by Jim Groom’s idea of linking all the identity information to a single piece of software so that I as a student can control whether my name appears as a pseudonym or not, is traceable to me or not, or if my actual name appears. In fact, the architecture of Swiki would make this easier to implement than in most Wikis. (Unlike most Wiki engines where the page name is the page identity, all Swiki pages are internally referenced to an ID number, and the ID number is later mapped to a page name. That’s why the title/name of a Swiki page can change, which most Wiki engines don’t allow.)

        Unfortunately, GT simply pulled all the pages out and away from the Swiki server. The Swiki server is built in Squeak — it’s this marvelous environment for exploration and trying out bits of code. We can’t use Squeak and Swiki for making a better solution now. (Side note: I don’t think GT realizes this. GT just turned over to me the raw files to me of the course Swikis they removed. The raw files are not much use without a running Swiki server — all page references are just numbers! I need to pull all the files down and run a Swiki server locally just to read them.)

        If we could go back in time, and I had any say in what happened, we would have made inaccessible all the class Swiki servers. Jeff made it a single push button to make an individual Swiki instance accessible or not. Or we could have put a new username/password in front of all of them — again, the admin tools in Swiki make this easy. In this way, the Swikis would have been immediately “taken down” (to meet the legal needs), and we would have the chance to use the Swiki engine to clean the pages, to implement Jim’s identity-sysadmin idea, and to grab the content that we needed while we were working on a new solution. Stripping the files from the engine makes the recovery effort much harder, and loses the opportunity to build a new, FERPA-friendly version of the software.

        Reply
        • 44. andrea forte  |  November 18, 2011 at 9:07 am

          When Swiki was launched it was the wild wild west of wikis in education. I think it’s possible to make both social and technological advances here, but I’m sad that the swikis are no more.

          In terms of social practice, every time I give a talk to teachers about wikis in the classroom I caution against making students post homework publicly with their real names. It’s a nice opportunity to bring up the issue of persistence of content on the Web both for the teachers and the students.

          Technologically, I like the idea of giving students a choice about how to identify their contributions. If you remember, the MediaWiki extensions I wrote for my dissertation included a permissions structure that automatically allowed students in the same class to identify one another but anyone outside that group saw a non-identifying username. I just wrote a blurb for Mozilla calling it Local-nymity.

          Reply
          • 45. Bijan Parsia  |  November 20, 2011 at 6:45 pm

            All of this discussion is convincing me that it was a problem for the student names to appear in the Swikis. I’m swayed by the arguments that no student should have to answer to a reporter sometime in the future why she took a particular class — unless she explicitly makes it available.

            Really? I totally don’t get that one. In fact, it seems rather ridiculous. First, who on earth is going to be asked by a reporter about why they took a particular class? If anyone, it’s going to be a public figure. If it’s a public figure then it’s going to be pretty damn easy to find out what courses they took, if it is relevant. (Other students could easily tell the reporter.)

            Seriously, what’s the incidence of this?

            Similarly with jobs. Any employer can make it a condition of even granting an interview that you supply a transcript. They could ask for a sample of your coursework as well.

            The stalking arguments have merit, though they are stronger for current students than for past students (though not nonexistent for past students). But then, directory information might need to be restricted as well.

            Gallicano’s arguments seem, in principle, much stronger. (The first 2, the third is just the legal point.) She writes: Students’ grades should not suffer from their preferences to avoid sharing their writing or identities online. We should not impose our ideas on others about what constitutes safe and comfortable participation online nor should we require others to follow our beliefs about where to draw the line on privacy.

            That sounds good. Maybe. I went for a while not wanting to have any photos of me on line and went out of my way to preserve that. I’m a bit unclear as to why online participation is different than, say, class participation (aside from the obvious scope point). If people are “merely” shy, then we should support them. Supporting them does not necessarily mean excusing them from the task.

            Students’ grades should not suffer from their preferences to avoid sharing their writing or identities online. We should not impose our ideas on others about what constitutes safe and comfortable participation online nor should we require others to follow our beliefs about where to draw the line on privacy.

            Ok, this is roughly the same reason from a different angle. But is this really a prevalent problem under this description? Students also hate being called on or having to give presentations. Should we also not impose our ideas on others about what constitutes safe and comfortable participation in a room full of strangers?

            I keep going back and forth ;)

            Reply
      • 46. selphiras  |  November 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm

        What about classes that are public, such as service learning or internships, or tied to a public performance (art, theatre, music might do that)? These require students to be in a public place where usually people know their real name and what course they are taking…. But I suppose it is easier to apply FERPA to digital materials so that’s what happens.

        I am disappointed by this. Individual instructors and students should take care of things instead of blanket rules that don’t serve pedagogical purposes. :(

        Reply
  • 47. Georgia Tech goes nuts on FERPA « Gas station without pumps  |  November 17, 2011 at 3:28 am

    [...] Guzdial announced in his Computing Education blog No More Swikis: End of the Constructionist Web at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech’s interpretation of FERPA is that protected information includes the fact that a [...]

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  • 48. Page not found « Innovate.EDU  |  November 17, 2011 at 9:44 am

    [...] Computing Education Blog by Mark GuzdialSenator recognizes the need for more computer coursesNo More Swikis: End of the Constructionist Web at Georgia TechTechnology can help Universities with specialized programs, not with undergraduates Mind/Shift: How [...]

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  • 49. Ed Felten  |  November 17, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I has always seemed to me that, whatever the law might say, I as a professor should not require students to attach their names to classwork in public. My solution has been to give students the option to use a pseudonym. The true identity behind the pseudonym must be known to the instructor(s) but need not be revealed to the public nor even to classmates.

    In recent years, most students have chosen to use pseudonyms, and most have been willing to unmask themselves to their classmates during in-class discussions.

    Reply
    • 50. Bijan Parsia  |  November 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm

      Why not?

      (Again, assuming that exceptions are made where appropriate a la reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities.)

      (I don’t think there’s anything *wrong* with them using pseudonyms, but public participation under one’s own name seems sometimes useful.)

      Reply
  • [...] If you didn’t hear about it, on Monday, Georgia Tech shocked the higher education community by deleting–all at once–more than ten years worth of its wikis used in undergraduate courses. You can read about it here: http://computinged.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/no-more-swikis-end-of-the-constructionist-web-at-georgia… [...]

    Reply
  • [...] reported the development on his Computing Education blog this week. (The tech journalist Audrey Watters picked it up on her [...]

    Reply
  • 54. Georgia Tech Wipes Class Wikis From Web | Eyes on Ed(ucation)  |  November 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    [...] reported the development on his Computing Education blog this week. (The tech journalist Audrey Watters picked it up on her [...]

    Reply
  • 55. How Georgia Tech Has Shown the Perils of SOPA  |  November 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    [...] has been a tough week for open education, at least in higher education.  First came the news that Georgia Tech has taken down a 14-year-old student wiki site that allowed discussions and [...]

    Reply
  • 56. Erik Engbrecht  |  November 20, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    When I first read this, I was shocked and dismayed, but I think I’m beginning to see why public pages with personally identifying information related to classes could violate the intent of FERPA.

    Think about it from the perspective of a hiring manager or team leader interviewing a candidate. Grades really don’t show to whole picture. There are a fair number of people who earn good grades through tremendous work but aren’t particularly good at what they do. There are a fair number of people who earn mediocre grades through laziness but are very good at what they do. There’s also a number of classes where grades fail to distinguish between exemplary and the above average, or the below average and the inept.

    So I was thinking about a graduate level class I took last spring that had a private course site for discussions graded on participation. I know grades pretty much just divided the class into “above average” and “below average.” But looking at the discussions you could tell who really understood the material, who was getting along ok, and who just didn’t get it. Not to mention you can see how well people communicate in a semi-impromptu fashion.

    That would be much more useful than a transcript. If I was interviewing someone, and I knew such pages existed, I would ignore the grades and look at the content. It would be a treasure trove of information!

    And I’m sure there’s some clever person who has software that automatically assembles such information into a dossier, so I might not even have to go to the trouble of finding it.

    In my opinion class related online content could easily have more power than a transcript to help or hinder a student or recent graduate searching for a job. If that’s true, it probably should both be as protected as transcripts and as readily made available at the student’s request.

    Reply
  • [...] No More Swikis: End of the Constructionist Web at Georgia Tech « Computing Education Blog – Mark Guzdial on the #ferpafail. – (wiki oer ) [...]

    Reply
  • 58. Martha Hendriks  |  November 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Is there a reason why student names couldn’t be anonymised?. Our profs ask students to use “first 3 letters of first name_first 3 letters of last name”. Without a class list, it’s quite difficult to determine anyone’s identity.

    I support the right of students to have their course registration held private. There are lots of personal and political reasons why they might need that option.

    Reply
  • 59. FERPA Nuts « John Thomson: Thinking out loud  |  November 22, 2011 at 11:29 am

    [...] GT professor notes all of the great learning activities the wikis enabled, and ties it squarely to the idea of [...]

    Reply
  • [...]  I don’t have much time to program these days.  So when I need a tool for data analysis, or need to remove student names from thousands of Swiki pages, or want to build a prototype, I use LiveCode because I can code more quickly and easily in that [...]

    Reply
  • [...] we developed the CoWeb or Swiki (which I talked a bit about in a previous post).  We had several reasons for moving to Wiki’s.  We had noticed with CaMILE that the [...]

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  • […] The TA’s complained to me about Piazza.  ”Nobody posts” and “I always forget that it’s there” and “It seems to work in CS classes, but not for the  other majors.”  I told them about work that Jennifer Turns and I did in 1999 that showed why Piazza and newsgroups don’t work as well as integrated computer-supported collaborative learning, and how that work led to our development of Swikis.  Swikis were abandoned many years ago in MediaComp, even before the FERPA concerns. […]

    Reply
  • […] media “contrary to the best interest of the university.”  (I could have been fired for my Swiki post under these […]

    Reply

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