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I initiate this discussion in an effort develop solutions for what I like to call “Do My Homework Syndrome.”
The primary purpose of this discussion is to help Typophile, as a community, continue to exist as a valuable knowledge resource, without doing students the disservice of stunting their problem solving skills.
Simplified for the sake of discussion, the situation I have identified as follows: Students ask Typophiles for help with their homework, and we end up doing it for them. The harm, as previously mentioned, is that we end up stunting the problem solving skills of students, ultimately doing them a disservice.
It’s not quite so black and white, but I am confidant that we are all aware of the phenomenon. It is futile to point fingers at students, Typophiles, or educators in particular as we are all equal participants. Myself included. Rather than argue about what is, we should take it upon ourselves to acknowledge the reality of the situation, clearly identify the problem and implement practical solutions.
I strongly encourage the participation of students and educators in this discussion. I see Typophile as a community committed to contributing. Helping you helps our profession, which ultimately helps us all.
We all recognize the value of the Internet as an information resource. An example I often use is doctors using drug databases, instead of memorization, to help them keep track of medications, their interactions and their side effects. It is faster, more accurate and less prone to human error. The result is an efficient healthcare system, fewer tax dollars spent, and human lives saved. We also understand the philosophy behind the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I dub this dichotomy “search versus solve.”
1. Valid student accounts: Have students self identify. This will most certainly have to rely on the honour system to a large degree. Real names, proper profile photos and links to their respective academic institutions would help.
2. Teacher directory: A way of letting teachers monitor the activity of their students. This could be as simple as letting them know Typophile exists and asking them to keep an eye out for people having their homework done for them. Perhaps they could register accounts marked by their institution which would then give them access to a list of all student accounts marked with the same institution.
3. Professional profiles: Those with the greatest experience and value to offer should have full CV’s, history, portfolios &c so students and teachers know who the help is coming from.
4. How to ask: Students should be encouraged to explain the problem, what they have done and the reasoning behind their design decisions as opposed to simply asking “What do you think?” In conducting research, I find I have far greater success when requesting information if I begin with “I have spent time looking here, here and here and have been unable to find what I am looking for. Could you please point me in the right direction?”
5. How to help: A very difficult one. Typophiles should help students help themselves, and be mindful when helping turns into doing. An example could be suggesting resources to identify typefaces before simply doing it for them. The ability to rapidly recall and identify typefaces on the fly is a useful skill that can only be developed with practice.
These last two points involve exploring the ethics of education, which is not my area of expertise. I am not an educator, but I do believe a good teacher produces a student capable of thinking for themselves and does not need to constantly rely on others to get the job done, while simultaneously recognizing the value of collaboration.
In closing, I believe Typophile has tremendous value to offer and sincerely hope it will continue to do so for years to come. This is an important issue that needs to be calmly and carefully considered by all so that our community can continue to contribute in positive and meaningful ways.
I look forward to a fruitful discussion and thank you for your time.