Tag Archives: education

Leaving Room 413

At the end of March, 2014, I’ll retire from full-time service as a professor at Kyoto Notre Dame University (KNDU). I’ve taught at KNDU since October 1, 1977, and I’ll continue to teach on a part-time basis as I devote more time to other activities.

As a part-time teacher, I will no longer have my own office at the university.

Room 413, a small office with only bookshelves, a few chairs, a desk, and a filing cabinet.

I had the same office from 1981 until March 11, 2014. For nearly 33 years I sat at the same desk in the same chair and talked with hundreds, maybe thousands, of young women over two generations. Some have sat in the same chair that their mothers had used. The room served as consultation space, a tutorial and small seminar room, a lunchroom for English Speaking Society members and various small groups, and quite often a refuge for people who needed advice, comfort, and encouragement.

The door was always open, and students dropped in whenever they wanted to talk or just sit in the comfortable chairs that faced the window that overlooks the Matsugasaki residential area and Mount Hiei.

Mount Hiei from Room 413

I’ll miss Room 413 and the view of Mount Hiei, but I’m looking forward to finding new spaces for good talks with colleagues and students.

Decommissioning the POETS Web Server

At the end of 2013 (January 1, 2014 here in Japan) I shut down a Web server, Personalized Online Electronic Text Services (POETS), at Kyoto Notre Dame University. Now all requests to POETS are redirected to a page on my personal Web site at the university, POETS Web server retired December 31, 2013.

As I near retirement from full-time service after more than 36 years at the same university and 41 years of working for a living, I’ve become increasingly aware of how professional life exists in a web of associations, obligations, human relations, and even technological relationships. For example, the POETS Web server used databases, texts, and software that had been freely contributed to the online community.

I’ve tried to express my gratitude to people who generously gave away the results of their hard work, but I find it difficult to adequately express my gratitude for having been encouraged, nurtured, mentored, criticized, and occasionally thanked by people who helped me gain expertise in UNIX/BSD/Linux system administration, text processing, and other technical areas. These connections go back to 1971, when I was encouraged to learn BASIC programming on a mainframe terminal, and then around 1980, when I began to program personal computers. In the mid-1980s, as we began to use modems in Japan, I used various dial-up Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) and then joined the global community of UNIX users and administrators on USENET and on BITNET and Internet mailing lists. Developing the original POETS Web server in 1993 enabled me to exercise some skills that I had learned and to express my gratitude by creating a useful and free service.

I hope that young people who are now beginning to discover the joy of making useful software and Web services will receive similar encouragement and then, in turn, encourage others. We cannot adequately express our appreciation directly to all who contribute to our successes, but we can perpetuate their spirit of generosity by passing it on to others.

Finding a source from a tweet

A lot of information is available on the Web; however, sometimes it’s hard to find the sources of facts or ideas. Here is an example, about young people, networking, jobs, and the future.

On Twitter I saw a tweet, Deep Thought is Dead, Long Live Deep Thought. It included a link to an article by “Blake” on LISNews, Deep Thought is Dead, Long Live Deep Thought. That article was actually a quotation within a quotation. Above the article was a link to an article on a Scientific American blog, Deep Thought is Dead, Long Live Deep Thought, by Amr Abouelleil.

Ah! That’s the original article, I thought. Wrong. In the first sentence the author quotes an article in The Atlantic by Alan Jacobs on March 19th, 2012, Jobs of the Future: A Skeptic’s Response. The quote that appears in the LISNews article actually comes from the middle of that article, so the title of the LISNews article and the tweet mislead readers.

Actually, the opinions of both Abouelleil and Jacobs are far more sophisticated than we can guess from that quote in LISNews. Also, Jacobs quotes “comments on a recent Pew survey about American internet use.” So, the original source would appear to be comments on a survey.

In fact, the whole discussion actually depends on a February 29th report by Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie for the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The report, Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives, can be seen online and downloaded as a 36-page PDF file. The report shows a “tension pair” of two kinds of predictions for 2020. Fifty-five percent of respondents predicted hopeful futures and 42% were more pessimistic.

But wait, there’s even more! In a note on page 8 of the PDF version, the report states that respondents were a “non-random online sample of 1,021 Internet experts and other Internet users,” so the results cannot be projected to any population. Also, the authors state:

The “predictive” scenarios used in this tension pair were composed based on current popular speculation. They were created to elicit thoughtful responses to commonly found speculative futures thinking on this topic in 2011; this is not a formal forecast.

Anderson and Rainie make it clear that their report is about thoughtful speculation. Comments on the report stimulated interesting essays in two influential American magazines, and one of those essays was quoted indirectly in a LISNews article. But neither of the essays nor the brief quotation in LISNews cited a major source of data: Imagining the Internet at the Elon University School of Communications.

I try hard to help college students learn information and media literacy well enough to do scholarly research. When a student writes about something that is not her own original experience of idea, I ask, “How do you know that? Where did you get that information”

What can we learn from this exercise? Tweets and blogs may us lead to interesting facts and ideas, but without proper citations we have to backtrack until we find original sources. Scholars reveal their sources so that others can find them easily and read them, too.