About Thomas Lancaster

I am an experienced Computer Science academic, best known for research work into academic integrity, plagiarism and contract cheating. I have held leadership positions in several universities, with specialty in student recruitment and keen interest in working in partnership with students. Please browse around the blog and the links, and feel free to leave your thoughts.
Website: http://thomaslancaster.co.uk
Thomas Lancaster has written 143 articles so far, you can find them below.


The Best Way To Take Notes At Conferences And Workshops?

When attending an academic conference or workshop, it’s always useful to take notes. There might be some good ideas shared during the workshop which don’t exist on slides circulated afterwards (often the case during discussions). And, it’s unlikely that sessions will be recorded (and that you’ll have time to watch them).

But, too often notes end up being hastily scribbled down or not referred to again.

What many events are now doing is encouraging notes to be taken and shared using social media (and tablet devices, smart phones and laptops).

For instance, a workshop I was recently involved with ended up with both Twitter and Facebook discussions (here are some examples of what was recorded on social media during the event).

In this case, the Facebook discussions took place in a Facebook group.

The Twitter discussions all used a consistent hash tag.

Both of these were set up quite independently, and so led to quite different types of discussions.

There are a lot of benefits of an approach like this to people organising (and funding) the events, particularly in the increase in visibility. In both cases, people interested, but who could not attend, joined in the discussion.

The discussion created inside the event itself is also useful, particularly where delegates pick up on similar points, engage in virtual discussion and retweet. The permanent and immediate record of the event is useful for both delegates and organisers too.

There are also criticisms to this approach. One I’ve heard is that it creates two classes of delegates – those who are involved in social media and those who are not. But, this certainly doesn’t preclude people keeping their own paper and private notes.

One way I saw this used well at a recent conference was having a blogger who was monitoring the social media channels for post ideas. That created a permanent record of what was going on to add to the (sometimes hard to find at a later date) social media discussions.

I also know of academics who use a similar approach in class, encouraging students to take and share notes using social media – something which I may well try myself over the coming year.

 

How does this approach work for you? Is electronic note taking at events useful? Just use the Comment box to share your thoughts.

Plagiarism Indicators For Academics

All academics, regardless of the level of the student, need to be aware that some students may take short cuts when producing academic work.

These slides (from my SlideShare account) outline five different indicators that work submitted may not all be the student’s own.

 

Many times, what you find when marking work will just be an indicator that something is out of place. This can lead to a more thorough search by hand.

TurnItIn, and other similar tools, are excellent as starting points, but often a specific Google search can identify parts of the web that are hidden to TurnItIn, so this approach is particularly useful.

 

What other indicators do academics use? Have you found any interesting plagiarism cases using indicators? Use the Comments box to share your findings.

Growing Your Professional Network With BranchOut

Did you know that there’s a way to manage your professional contacts inside Facebook?

The BranchOut App works in a similar fashion to the LinkedIn professional social network. It takes the form of an App which runs inside Facebook.

Facebook friends generally become your BranchOut contacts, but you can also reach other people through the extended network and there are a number of job opportunities advertised on BranchOut.

At present, BranchOut is primarily Facebook based, but the profile page can be accessed from outside Facebook, giving you another good professional view. I’d also imagine that this will grow further outside Facebook in the future.

Here’s what my profile looks like:

The BranchOut Profile For Thomas Lancaster

One way to use this is to include professional contacts within your Facebook friends. Use the Privacy settings to keep the information that you display to this group within Facebook suitably restricted. Then include them as professional contacts within BranchOut to access the benefits of their network.

Whilst BranchOut isn’t a LinkedIn competitor yet, it does offer a lot of potential and is one of the up-and-coming social tools which I believe that you should be using to present yourself professionally online.

You can view my BranchOut profile here.

 

Computer Science – Birmingham City University – Word Cloud

I thought I’d generate another word cloud, so here’s one for BSc Computer Science at Birmingham City University, the course which I’m in charge of.

The text for the word cloud was generated by manually taking the text from the four tabs on the official BSc Computer Science course information page on the Birmingham City University web site.

Word cloud showing the BSc Computer Science course at Birmingham City UniversityIt’s interesting, as I think that this represents the course and it’s industrial focus very well, in particular the focus on software and systems. Many of the main course areas are prominent. The only word which looks out of place is the word credits, but that’s reflects the details of specific modules provided (quite rightfully) on the course information page.

Feel free to try this for your course and let me know if the word cloud offers a good representation.

A Quick Way To Jazz Up Presentations With Word Clouds

Here’s a quick way to jazz up presentations and to offer a talking point.

It’s to generate a word cloud for an appropriate site, which you can do easily using Wordle.

Just type in a url, or copy in a section of text, and Wordle will generate a well-formatted tag cloud showing the most terms on that site (excluding English language filler words). It’s interesting, as they’re often not the terms that you expect to be used most.

 

Here’s a tag cloud for my main site at http://thomaslancaster.co.uk

Word Cloud For ThomasLancaster.co.ukInteresting that the word research dominates teaching. It feels the other way around. I’m gla to note that students is prominent.

 

Here’s a tag cloud for this blog…

A word cloud for Thomas Lancaster's blogI think this one is more coincidental based on the topics I’ve been promoting. It doesn’t feel like I’ve written a lot about search. I’ll have to regenerate it when there are a few most posts on the blog.

 

Both of these are up-to-date at the time of processing, of course.

You can play around with these a lot to change the layout style and formatting, but I’ve found that even the randomised default settings will give you an interesting slide to include in a presentation.

 

Have you had any luck using word clouds? Just reply below and share your experience.

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