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Gender bias in student evaluations: Professors of online courses who present as male get better marks.

Ryan Straight

So, this happened.

The results were astonishing. Students gave professors they thought were male much higher evaluations across the board than they did professors they thought were female, regardless of what gender the professors actually were. When they told students they were men, both the male and female professors got a bump in ratings. When they told the students they were women, they took a hit in ratings. Because everything else was the same about them, this difference has to be the result of gender bias.

Could be that teaching primary school is seen as a woman's profession, while university teaching is a man's pursuit.

“The difference in the promptness rating is a good example for discussion,” MacNell explains in the press release for the study. "Classwork was graded and returned to students at the same time by both instructors. But the instructor students thought was male was given a 4.35 rating out of 5. The instructor students thought was female got a 3.55 rating.” Considering that professors were rated on a five-point scale, losing an entire point on the "promptness" question just because students think you're female is a major hit.

That's pretty damning evidence, really.

This particular study is small, so we shouldn't get carried away about its results. But it certainly suggests an important avenue for future research. Students penalized the perceived female professor in all 12 categories, including in qualities that women are usually assumed to excel at, such as being caring and respectful. This comports with other studies that show that while female professors are judged somewhat less harshly if they conform more to female stereotypes, men still get bonus points for showing up male.

via Gender bias in student evaluations: Professors of online courses who present as male get better marks..

I genuinely hope that the marks I'm given by my students aren't simply--at least, in part--because of my gender. I like to think it's because I deserve them.

Broadband is a Human Right

Ryan Straight


Wrote this up back in December and never hit 'publish.' Oops! A lot has happened since, like the treatment of broadband not as a utility but as a common carrier. There's a big difference, duly pointed out and well described by Mike Masnick over at TechDirt. I think that broadband being accessible to everyone like a utility is still a position worth posting, though. So, here it is. Tim Berners-Lee said that internet access is a human right. I'll go one further: I think broadband is a human right and should be considered a basic utility like water, electricity, or gas. That is, the infrastructure should be put in place, like telephone lines were, to bring broadband access to everyone no matter how remote they may be. And then, yes, like he says, protected from meddling.

Internet founder Tim Berners-Lee believes the Internet should be recognized as a basic human right and should be protected from interference by politics and commercial bodies.

Berners-Lee also spoke about Europe's "right to be forgotten," suggesting that it may not actually be such a good idea, at the LeWeb conference in Paris,

"This right to be forgotten -- at the moment, it seems to be dangerous," said Berners-Lee at the event on Wednesday. "The right to access history is important."

via Web Innovator Tim Berners-Lee: Internet Is a Human Right : PERSONAL TECH : Tech Times.

This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of protecting net neutrality--the notion that all traffic should be treated equally by internet service providers--and that is a perfect reason to post a video of John Oliver. (As if anyone ever needs a reason to post John Oliver.)

 photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc

On the Loss of a Loved One

Ryan Straight


Working on the well at The Farm The following is in reaction to yesterday’s passing of my beloved aunt Geraldine after a half-year long battle with (what started out as) gall bladder cancer. She is very much missed and, though I couldn't be there, I believe was very well taken care of when her time came.

When I decided to write something on the loss of a loved one—both as a way of informing others of the passing of my aunt and as a way to cope with the loss, myself—I imagined it would flow easily and naturally from my fingers given what happened yesterday. I thought,

The Family

'Shouldn't take much to produce something touching, heartfelt, poignant, and maybe a little tear-jerky. Just say how you feel.' And that's the problem. It ain’t happening.

It's not that I don't feel anything. I feel a great many things: sadness, disappointment, anger, confusion, you name it. When my father passed in 2002 it was like a punch to the gut. I was as speechless as his passing was sudden. When my grandparents (any one of them) died, it was easier as they were elderly and ‘that’s what elderly people do.’ This time around—though Jerre was in her 80s and, I suppose, in the ‘elderly’ category—after hearing a six-months-to-live prognosis given six months ago to someone who was seemingly in good health, the passing of a loved one takes on a completely different color. It becomes something that weaves itself into your calendar, that you prepare for, that you make phone calls about. It’s the first time I’ve ever thought to myself, ‘I need to make sure my phone’s charged because someone is going to die.’ Not might. Is.

At the time it seems perfectly rational. Upon reflection it feels oddly cold. This is nobody and nothing’s fault; just something I noticed.

Jerre and me

Some of my favorite memories of my childhood center around Jerre and her home, which the family simply refers to as The Farm. At one point it was a functioning farm where they had pigs and chickens, and rows upon rows of vegetables. I can still smell the damp stone of the cellar where the walls were lined with cans of every foodstuff imaginable. The kitchen always smelled like frying meat of some sort and in the winter the wood burner would impregnate the entire house with the smell of a campfire. Jerre would insist you eat something (even if you weren’t hungry) and always put others’ needs before her own. I’d ride my four-wheeler or dirt bike all over The Farm and she’d rule over the place like a queen. It’s just how things were.

She was incredibly joyful.

When my father passed unexpectedly, it left me and my mother alone, as my siblings (a half-brother and half-sister) are considerably older than me and were never in the ‘family unit,’ as it were. I was away at college about 90 minutes away from my family home and 60 minutes away from The Farm. Jerre’s role in my life changed slowly from being an aunt to being close to a surrogate parent, stepping in to help fill the void left by my father. She supported not just me, but my mother, as well. Our family is by-and-large pretty good at coping with loss and being alone, but it was comforting to not have to do that. Jerre, who had no children of her own and was unmarried, was there.

As the years went on, we grew closer. She got older and had trouble doing things around the house, so I (not as often as I’d liked to have, much to my regret) tried to make it over to The Farm when I could to do odd jobs, run wiring, pick up sticks in the yard, whatever she needed. The idea of her no longer being there never really crossed my mind. Jerre and The Farm were a permanent fixture in my life and there was no reason to even question that. Even after her cancer diagnosis, even during her chemotherapy, her being gone wasn’t something that seemed real or even possible. At least, not real enough to spend any energy on.

That probably falls under the category of ‘denial,’ but, I’m not a psychiatrist.

We miss you.

Regardless, as the end grew closer, she was in good spirits. She laughed and still bossed people around. She was even still making sure others’ needs were taken care of when she was lying on her death-bed. Then, at about 10pm on April 14th, she left us. For the week leading up she’d been surrounded by friends and family—sometimes to the point that they needed to bring in more chairs. At the end, she was there with her sister and best friend, my mother.

I hope she was happy. Our memories of her make us exactly that.


For Jerre and the millions of other people who are currently fighting, have beaten, or have lost to cancer, please consider donating to any number of cancer charities or, at the very least, using Amazon Smile whenever you buy goods online and choose from their extensive list of charities. Every bit helps.


Google's list of new top-level domains is nuts

Ryan Straight


And it's fantastic. I'm tempted to buy, myself. In case you missed it, you'll soon start seeing URLs very different from what you're used to. For example, the top-level domains (TLDs) you're probably used to are things like .com, .net, .org, and .edu ( etc., if you're outside the US). However, Google Domains has so, so much more, and the new top-level domains are pretty amazing.

How about a site that ends in .ninja? Or .land? Or even .education? Knock yourself out. Visit to see what's available. See the full list after the jump.

  .academy     $30
  .actor     $40
  .bike     $30
  .biz     $12
  .builders     $30
  .cab     $30
  .camera     $30
  .camp     $30
  .careers     $50
  .cc     $20
  .center     $20
  .clothing     $30
  .co     $30
  .com     $12
  .coffee     $30
  .company     $20
  .computer     $30
  .construction     $30
  .consulting     $30
  .contractors     $30
  .dance     $20
  .democrat     $30
  .diamonds     $50
  .directory     $20
  .domains     $30
  .education     $20
  .email     $20
  .enterprises     $30
  .equipment     $20
  .estate     $30
  .florist     $30
  .futbol     $13
  .gallery     $20
  .glass     $30
  .guru     $28
  .haus     $110
  .holdings     $50
  .immobilien     $30
  .industries     $30
  .info     $12
  .institute     $20
  .international     $20
  .kaufen     $30
  .kitchen     $30
  .land     $30
  .limo     $50
  .maison     $50
  .management     $20
  .me     $20
  .moda     $30
  .net     $12
  .ninja     $19
  .org     $12
  .partners     $50
  .parts     $30
  .photography     $20
  .photos     $20
  .plumbing     $30
  .productions     $30
  .properties     $30
  .pub     $30
  .recipes     $50
  .rentals     $30
  .repair     $30
  .reviews     $20
  .shoes     $30
  .singles     $30
  .social     $30
  .solar     $30
  .solutions     $20
  .supplies     $20
  .supply     $20
  .support     $20
  .systems     $20
  .technology     $20
  .tips     $20
  .today     $20
  .tools     $30
  .training     $30
  .us     $12
  .vacations     $30
  .ventures     $50



Featured image via MemeGenerator.

Emerging Tech Trends in Education, Infographic Style

Ryan Straight


When considering emerging tech trends in education, this comes to us from Ohio University's online Electrical Engineering program and was highlighted by Edudemic. As they say,Electrical engineering emerging technology in education thumbnail - emerging tech trends in education

The infographic discusses many applications for these technologies, which can do everything from helping people with disabilities more fluidly navigate the world to making our homes intelligent. There are, however, just as many applications within the educational realm. Smart schools, video conference homework help, immersive reality learning apps that will fully gamify the learning experience without allowing for distraction. The opportunities are limited only by instructor and student imaginations (and school budgets…).

They also look at how these technologies can be used with your students. In my opinion, the wearables, ambient backscatter, and virtual reality/immersive technology are really the killer apps. I do think they're missing one, though: augmented reality. They touch on it but its possibilities are nearly endless, from the floating dragons promised by Magic Leap to Minority Report-style HCI, à la this TED Talk:

You can click on the thumbnail to the right for the full-size image. It's big and beautiful, so enjoy.