Turning Undergrads into Independent Learners

College educators have often lamented the unintended influence of standardized testing on students’ thinking skills. In my discipline, English, freshman instructors note that the short reading passages appearing on tests have limited students’ ability to follow—or even finish reading—longer pieces. Worse, as NCTE has noted, the tests’ multiple choice format gives readers the impression that every text has one, and only one, definite meaning.



My previous posting explored the phenomenon of Sci-Hub, a site dedicated to providing free access to more than 50 million academic papers without regard to their ownership status or to copyright laws. This post looks at the legal issues involved, in contrast to the previous post’s articulation of the argument for open access.


Sci-Hub: Research Crusader or Copyright Criminal?

Sci-Hub is an online repository of over 51,000,000 scientific academic papers and articles, available through its website. New papers are uploaded daily after accessing them through educational institutions. Founded by Alexandra Elbakyan from Kazakhstan in 2011, it began as a reaction to the high cost of research papers behind paywalls, typically US$30 each when bought on a per-paper basis. Academic publisher Elsevier has in 2015 filed a legal complaint in New York City alleging copyright infringement by Sci-Hub.

Persons with Disabilities Conference

Opening the Internet to the Blind: Challenges Remain

Last week marked the 31st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, the world’s largest gathering of people who develop or use assistive technology and the only one to be hosted by a college–California State University, Northridge (CSUN). It is a critical source of inspiration and information for multiple handicapping conditions, but especially for the visually impaired or blind.

Alternative Text for Images on the Internet

Facebook Gets One Right: Opening the Internet to the Blind

Starting last November, Facebook began refining an artificial intelligence tool to analyze photos. As Mark Zuckerberg explained to an audience in Delhi, “If you are blind and you can’t see a photo, we can have our AI look at the photo and read an explanation of that photo to you.” And, as Zuckerberg pointed out, using machine interpreters instead of humans means that photos can be interpreted at any time, in any location, for anyone with visual limitations.

Common Sense Media Ratings

Common Sense Media: Promoting Family Values or Dictating Them?

These days, Common Sense Media’s initiatives contain a less than subtle paternalism based on the conviction that its values should control children’s learning experiences. Early pronouncements like Core Belief #6 (“We believe that through informed decision making, we can improve the media landscape one decision at a time”) suddenly come across as a determination to reform that landscape in its own image.