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    End of the Term

    This is a very special time for a lot of university students.  It is when their undergraduate degrees end and they start new stuff, you know like grad school or med school or gasp, they get a job or something.

    It is a pretty special time for me as well.  For the first time in my career I am taking a sabbatical.  Basically I don't have to teach for a year, and don't have any mind numbing committee work service to do.  I can concentrate on scholarly stuff, and play xbox oh and drink Pernod.

    This year is also very special because we have a really great group of fourth year students.  I am very proud of this group.  I said goodbye to them today, and while I know I will keep in touch with many of them, some I honeslty probably won't see in person again.  The neat thing is that through things like facebook I will see them again, and see them get married and have kids and careers and all of that stuff.

    It is also the year my daughter graduates from Algoma and she was in that last class of mine.  Today was probably the only time I ever actually ever made mention of it besides the standard 'you should all know that is my duaghter' disclaimer I make at the beginning of each term in a class she takes.  I felt a strange mixture of sadness and pride when I talked about her and her two highschool freinds that are in the class.  She has better grades than I ever did, and I fear she may be smarter than I am....  As an aside it is pretty cool that today is world autism day, as the day reminds me of Jonno as well.  So this day is about both of my kids and always will be to me.

    I just want to end by thanking this great group of people for allowing me to teach them for the last four years, and I guess for paying tuition.

    Thanks guys.


    Changes to the Stats Videos

    After four years of releasing the 3256 lectures both as audio podcasts and video podcasts I have decided to kill the video podcasts.  That said, they are now on YouTube.  Enjoy.


    Course Materials for Fall 2014 Now Available

    Yup, all set to go.  You can get what you need by clicking on the appropriate link above.  


    Ethics (or lack thereof) and the Recent Facebook Study

    The recent facebook emotion study has me thinking.  I am a research psychologist and I have quite a bit of experience in ethics guidelines.  I was the chair of the Research Ethics Board (REB) at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College of Memorial University for 6 years and the chair of the REB here at Algoma University for 2.  I co wrote the ethical guidelines for Memorial University (the largest English university east of Montreal in Canada) and had a similar position here at Algoma (the smallest university in Ontario, for those of you who are scoring at home).

    The study itself manipulated the news feeds of users to see if it would change their emotional states.  The researchers then counted the number of happy and sad words that the users posted.  There was a small but statistically significant effect.  OK, let me start by saying this, the work itself is quite clever.  Indeed, I have been involved in similar work.  An honours student of mine and I changed the interactions people had while playing Doom.  Rob Rawn, the student and lead author on the paper, either mocked people (and even dropped a few F bombs) over a headset while playing either co op or free for all deathmatch with the subjects or said nice things like ‘good shot’ or ‘you’ll get him next time’.  (The funny thing is here that Rob is a super nice guy, and felt bad about being mean to people).  Anyway, it turned out that there was no real effect on aggression in the players.  

    When Rob did his thesis he had to submit an ethics protocol to the psychology department.  The department, acting under the policy for research with human subjects at Algoma University, approved the project (with the permission of the Algoma University REB).  Subjects signed a consent form that noted that they were free to withdraw from the experiment at any time.  They were told they were in a study about aggression in gaming, and that they were going to play a violent video game.  They knew this in advance.  Afterwards they were thoroughly debriefed.  Rob even apologized to people if memory serves.  They were then told that if they wanted the results of the study they could come to the annual psychology honours thesis conference.  They were given my phone number and email address if they had any questions. 

    Now, let’s look at the facebook study.

    This was done by a corporation who wanted to look at emotion on their website.  Fine.  The data were then picked up by researchers at a University who published the work.  Apparently the REBs at the institutions in question considered these data to be archival, so no problem.

    I disagree.  The subjects in the study did not sign up to have their emotions manipulated.  So, no informed consent.  The subjects in the study could not withdraw at any time, because they had no idea they were in the study (again, no informed consent).  The subjects were not debriefed.

    I think the REB dropped the ball here, and I think the journal did as well.

    (Oh, and I used 'subjects' rather than 'participants' because this is my blog and 'subjects' is a fine word......)


    Algoma University Teaching and Learning Forum - The Blog Ate My Homework

    So, the other day I gave a talk to some of my colleagues on using social media in the classroom.  There was some interest in having a recorded version for those that could not make it, or could not bear the sight of me.  (I choose to believe the former....)  

    The title, by the way, is stolen, inspired by the title John Meadows gave to an interview he did with me on his podcast.

    I have the powerpoints here, and here is the talk.