Car theft analogies

Incorrectly parking is a much lesser offense than incorrectly removing a vehicle (aka stealing).

The former is a minor breach while the latter is a more major offense.

The first can be likened to referencing errors while the latter has been aligned with plagiarism.

There is no way known that we would charge someone who parks badly with vehicular theft.

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Testing Turnitin

I had a question at a demonstration of turnitin about blog posts and ‘self’ plagiarism.  The essential aspect of the question concerned the impact of students sharing their thoughts via social media prior to submitting it for assessment through Turnitin.  So I set about testing things.

I managed to get a score of 100% on a submission based on a previous blog post, but how quickly would a newer post cause a high text match. The text below is my ‘patchwriting’ example (Howard 1995) which scores around 50%.


The study of games is sometimes termed ludology in reference to the Latin term ‘ludus’ meaning “game”.

<Truncated because I don’t want it in the database.>

I’ve been testing this against a few variations of Turnitin settings (Default settings, Bibliography excluded, Quoted Material Excluded, Exclude Small Matches (5 words), Exclude Small Matches (5%)).  This is partly to see how the settings work but mostly to provide examples for reference when academics are setting up assessment.

Howard, R. (1995). Plagiarisms, authorships, and the academic death penalty. College English, 57(7), 788–806. Retrieved from

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Update to download

So we’ve finally managed to extract V1 of the Moodle Tools Guide from inside Moodle. You can now download a backup of the lesson (backup-moodle-tools-guide).  You will need to change the extension to mbz because WordPress is protecting you from Moodle backup files (as well as other potentially dangerous files)   Hopefully it will simply plugin to most Moodle installations.  It was developed in Moodle 2.2 so there is no guarantee it will work in other version, although I’m assuming it will work in later versions with only minimal problems if any.

The second thing is the decision tree is now in Flickr.  I designed this in Omnigraffle for the Mac, but I think I can save it as a Visio document.  Again, no guarantees that it will work.  If you would like the decision tree file, please comment to let me know.

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Moodle Interactive Tools Guide

The original Moodle Tool Guide was developed by Joyce Seitzinger.  We (Sherry, Dave and myself) redeveloped it as a Moodle Lesson (which will be available here soon).  But I also felt that it should be available in HTML form to make it more accessible.

At the moment, it’s hosted in my dropbox so I can make changes easily.  Eventually, I hope to have it hosted somewhere and downloadable in many formats.

Moodle Interactive Tools Guide

Let us know what you think in the comments!


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Threshold concepts

Threshold concepts are a recent addition to the ways we think of developing learning resources for students.  It arose in the Ways of Thinking and Practicing project in the UK.

Threshold concepts are defined as troublesome, transformative, irreversible, integrative, and bounded.  They are also said to be ‘liminal’ that is, they are akin to a rite of passage through coming to know a concept.

What troubles me about threshold concepts is that sometimes it appears that the defined threshold was troublesome for the teacher.  A certain ego-centric take on what troubled them would be the same as what troubles others.  There may be more to it and this is particularly highlighted by O’Donnell (2010) in his study of the ways in which economists understand the classic example of a threshold concept: opportunity cost.  O’Donnell found that there were 4 distinct conceptualisations of opportunity cost and that only one of them aligned with the classic definition.  He also found that economists were equally likely to claim any one of the four definitions as their understanding (that is, in a question about opportunity cost, each of the four multiple choices gained around a quarter of the responses).

Troublesome, indeed.

So when we start to talk about information literacy, what are the concepts that are most troublesome? Are they the same for everyone? Can we define a set of concepts that lead everyone to the same (or similar) understanding?

And when we talk about information literacy in universities, are we invoking a broad categorisation or a more confined set of skills around academic literacies?


Ref: O’Donnell, R., 2010. A Critique of the Threshold Concept Hypothesis and an Application in Economics. Working Paper Series, #164. Available at:

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The knowingness of lately

This phrase popped into my head while I was writing the about page, just trying to get my head into the space for the project.

What do I mean by knowingness of lately? The free dictionary suggests one possible definition for knowingness which is:  Possessing knowledge, information, or understanding.  Well, that term fits.  We want to know how people come to possess knowledge, information or understanding (although defining understanding itself is sometimes problematic as it is often unmeasurable).

So the problems of keeping up to date, of coming to possess knowledge, information or understanding are central to our project.  How do people do this? Given the expansion of information, the fragmentation (Rowland, 2006) of knowledge, how can any one of us, or even a team, keep up to date.  And that’s the lately part.

So the knowingness of lately refers to the ever shifting processes we need to keep up to date.

(How does this differ from the ‘knowingness of now’?)


Reference: Rowland, S., 2006, The Enquiring University: Compliance and Contestation in Higher Education, Berkshire: Open University Press

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