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Thursday, May 26, 2016

US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons | Voice of America

Photo: Faiza Elmasry
"Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary School is proud of its zero score." inform Faiza Elmasry, Radio & TV Journalist at The Voice of America.

The zero stands for the amount of energy the school uses from traditional power sources. Instead, its energy is provided by on-site renewable sources. Discovery Elementary is the first so-called "net zero" school in Virginia and the largest in the mid-Atlantic region. 

Watch the Video

The innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool or an open laboratory, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. 

In the cafeteria, kids use a scale to determine how much food waste is being created. The school has a built-in solar calendar, to help students tell time and mark changing seasons. 

Discovering Discovery
Discovery's instructional technology coordinator, Greg Rusk, pointed to the 1,700 solar panels on the building's roof, which generate the energy needed to run the school.

"That energy is converted to alternating current, which is put back into the grid and we draw out when we need to use energy," he explained, adding that the goal was always to be net-zero, and produce as much electricity as was used. "However, the architects have said that they designed it to be a net-positive so that we'll actually be generating more electricity, hopefully."

More than a third of the walls are glass, to maximize the use of daylight, and solar tubes in the ceiling funnel light into the building's core area. Highly efficient LEDs illuminate places the sun can't reach.

The ceiling has sound-absorbing panels to cut down on noise pollution.

"It's a very open building that generates a lot of sound deflection," Rusk said. "So the panels are in place in the ceiling to absorb some of that sound, to keep the students focused on learning."

Every classroom has uniquely shaped desks and tables and different styles of seating, from traditional seats to chairs that wobble or bounce.

"It's really a kind of students' choice or teachers' choice for what seating students use,” Rusk said. “I think that sort of customization encourages teachers and students to personalize their learning space."

Perhaps the most non-traditional aspect of the non-traditional design, Rusk says, is a slide that kids can use to zip downstairs.

"It's a very orderly line up process and students enjoy sort of talking about that outside of the school,” he said. “It's sort of a key signature piece of the school itself."

Building curriculum on a building
But it's not just about saving energy — there's also an educational philosophy behind the building design.

"This kind of open building encourages them to work together," Rusk said. "Even if you took out all of the technology, just having them working together is the key to any global success. I think we have to keep pursuing that as an educational objective."

Discovery principal Erin Russo agrees.
Read more... 

Source: Voice of America

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What to Do When a Robot Is the Guilty Party | MIT Technology Review

"The Obama administration is vowing not to get left behind in the rush to artificial intelligence, but determining how to regulate it isn’t easy." writes Mark E. Harris, an award-winning freelance journalist.

Should the government regulate artificial intelligence? That was the central question of the first White House workshop on the legal and governance implications of AI, held in Seattle on Tuesday.

“We are observing issues around AI and machine learning popping up all over the government,” said Ed Felten, White House deputy chief technology officer. “We are nowhere near the point of broadly regulating AI … but the challenge is how to ensure AI remains safe, controllable, and predictable as it gets smarter.”

One of the key aims of the workshop, said one of its organizers, University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo, was to help the public understand where the technology is now and where it’s headed. “The idea is not for the government to step in and regulate AI but rather to use its many other levers, like coördination among the agencies and procurement power,” he said. Attendees included technology entrepreneurs, academics, and members of the public.

Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, left, speaks with attendees at the White House workshop on artificial intelligence.

In a keynote speech, Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, noted that we are still in the Dark Ages of machine learning, with AI systems that generally only work well on well-structured problems like board games and highway driving. He championed a collaborative approach where AI can help humans to become safer and more efficient. “Hospital errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S.,” he said. “AI can help here. Every year, people are dying because we’re not using AI properly in hospitals.”

Nevertheless, Etzioni considers it far too early to talk about regulating AI: “Deep learning is still 99 percent human work and human ingenuity. ‘My robot did it’ is not an excuse. We have to take responsibility for what our robots, AI, and algorithms do.”

A panel on “artificial wisdom” focused on when these human-AI interactions go wrong, such as the case of an algorithm designed to predict future criminal offenders that appears to be racially biased. “The problem is not about the AI agents themselves, it’s about humans using technological tools to oppress other humans in finance, criminal justice, and education,” said Jack Balkin of Yale Law School.

Several academics supported the idea of an “information fiduciary”: giving people who collect big data and use AI the legal duties of good faith and trustworthiness. For example, technologists might be held responsible if they use poor quality data to train AI systems, or fossilize prejudices based on race, age, or gender into the algorithms they design.
Nevertheless, Etzioni considers it far too early to talk about regulating AI: “Deep learning is still 99 percent human work and human ingenuity. ‘My robot did it’ is not an excuse. We have to take responsibility for what our robots, AI, and algorithms do.”

A panel on “artificial wisdom” focused on when these human-AI interactions go wrong, such as the case of an algorithm designed to predict future criminal offenders that appears to be racially biased. “The problem is not about the AI agents themselves, it’s about humans using technological tools to oppress other humans in finance, criminal justice, and education,” said Jack Balkin of Yale Law School.

Several academics supported the idea of an “information fiduciary”: giving people who collect big data and use AI the legal duties of good faith and trustworthiness. For example, technologists might be held responsible if they use poor quality data to train AI systems, or fossilize prejudices based on race, age, or gender into the algorithms they design.

Source: MIT Technology Review

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Osmo Turns Blocks Into Code to Teach Kids Programming | WIRED

Photo: Tim Moynihan
Tim Moynihan, has 17 years of tech journalism experience summarizes, "Osmo Coding is the latest game for the Osmo platform."

Photo: Osmo

The best programmers turn complex code into intuitive tools that anyone can use. And those tools are easier than ever to master, requiring little more than a swipe or a tap. Interacting with code is so instinctive that even cats know how to do it.

Osmo Coding  

Now the challenge is figuring out how to make creating code as easy as using it. Osmo does that by turning abstract “building blocks” of computer programs into actual, real-world building blocks. The goal is to make the process so simple that a five-year-old can create code without having to read an O’Reilly book.

Osmo Coding is the latest game... 
Like the company’s previous efforts, the game is all about blending physical and digital objects, letting kids play in the real world while using the iPad as an all-seeing scorekeeper.

The game started as Ariel Zekelman and Felix Hu’s student project at the Tangible Interaction Design and Learning (TIDAL) Lab at Northwestern University. Zekelman, an industrial designer, and engineer Hu tried to bring tangible-learning research into the real world of programming. The initial version of their game was called Strawbies, and looks a lot like it does today. “As I was designing this,” Zekelman says, “I was learning to code. My epiphany was that coding isn’t difficult, it’s really just a way of thinking. That’s what we tried to teach, that it’s a way of thinking and a way of problem-solving. We wanted to literally make those building blocks that can teach kids how to think about it.” Now, Zekelman and Hu both work at Osmo full-time.

Osmo Coding begins with an assortment of modular magnetic blocks. You snap together numbered blocks along with commands such as “run,” “jump,” and “grab,” as you guide a tiny monster named Awbie on his eternal quest for more strawberries. One useful block looks like a repeat button on a music player and lets kids loop chunks of code, and you can twist parts of the blocks to send Awbie in a new direction.

The game’s most ingenious design touch is its analog “run” button. None of the blocks require a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection to the iPad—all the commands on the tiles are visually recognized by the attachment-equipped camera. But pressing the big “play” button runs the code compiled by the blocks. It opens two little portholes on the top of the block, which the iPad camera recognizes as an input command.
Other than the numbers on a few of them, there’s no text on the blocks. That helps make the game more accessible to young kids who speak any language, and the hands-on aspects of arranging and experimenting with the blocks make it more engaging.

Source: WIRED and Osmo Channel (YouTube)

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

If any place can get young minds to unplug, it’s a college sitting on an arboretum | Washington Post

Photo: Adrian Higgins
"The academy and the landscape come together at Swarthmore College." according to Adrian Higgins, Gardening columnist — Washington, D.C.

From the earliest days of higher education, the sages understood the importance of a contemplative environment for study and learning. Plato had his olive grove of Akademia, Christian monks turned inward to the verdant cloister, and Thomas Jefferson built his academy around the Lawn at the University of Virginia.

Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts school near Philadelphia, held its commencement ceremonies in the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater last year. (Laurence Kesterson/Swarthmore College)
It is no accident that many of the nation’s top universities hold their graduation ceremonies this month outdoors, in the designed landscape. Perhaps no other institution has embraced this ideal more than Swarthmore College, the small liberal arts college 10 miles southwest of Philadelphia.

Established by Quakers in 1864 and co-ed from the start, the college includes an arboretum celebrated for its horticultural excellence and display. Created in 1929, the Scott Arboretum grants Swarthmore’s 1,500 students an academic life immersed in the plant kingdom, although the arboretum welcomes visitors as well. Covering about 300 acres, it fuses three key elements: an arboretum of old and rare trees, a series of designed gardens around and among the college buildings, and a group of major plant collections that include magnolias, flowering cherries, hydrangeas and tree peonies. Add to that an adjoining 220-acre native hardwood forest — Crum Woods — and you reach the idea that if any place can take young and curious minds out of the digital universe and back into the physical world, it is here.

“When the weather gets nice out, you see people reading outside under the trees rather than inside in the library with a laptop,” said Kate Crowley, 22, a graduating senior. “And yeah, with real books.”

Sometimes, the gardens function as an outdoor classroom — exquisitely at the Science Center, where the outer wall of one building doubles as a chalkboard.

Another senior, Bennett Thompson, recalls a biology class in which students measured the carrying qualities of birdsong depending on the environment. The call of woodland species, he discovered, travels better in Crum Woods than in the Nason Garden. The latter is a courtyard landscape planted for its leaf textures and seasonal interest in fall and winter. Among plants chosen for their fall color and texture are the common oakleaf hydrangea, the singularly unusual Chinese parasol tree and a shrub named Disanthus cercidifolius. The latter grows to about six feet high and wide, with leaves resembling the redbud’s and turning a wine-red fall color. (Note to self: Get one.)

Thompson, from Iowa, was struck by the tree canopy of the Mid-Atlantic. Crowley, from Florida, discovered the region’s dynamic seasonality. The Nason Garden “looks amazing in the fall and winter,” Crowley said. “It’s cool to have areas of campus that look better when it’s dreary out.”

The trees of the Scott Arboretum represent 150 years of commemorative plantings and replantings and include magnificent specimens of American elms, swamp white oaks, black gum and catalpa. One of the most dramatic tree plantings is an avenue of dawn redwood in a narrow canyon of space between two tall buildings. In the beds beneath, ground covers have been planted to produce a green and white effect through the growing season, said Claire Sawyers, arboretum director. These include snowdrops, white chionodoxa, ferns, rohdeas, white flowering Japanese roof irises, white blooming hellebores and Solomon’s seal.

Two gardens move front and center for this weekend’s commencement, performing as the sort of ritual spaces that are so important to forging bonds and memories on any campus.

Swarthmore students use the outdoor chalkboard in the Harry Wood Garden for learning and for play. (Rebecca Robert/Swarthmore College)

The first is the Dean Bond Rose Garden, once a typical postwar formal garden of hybrid teas, floribundas and not much else, the sort of rose gardens that gave roses a bad name for their fussiness and chemical dependence. Its replacement offers a rose garden for the 21st century: full of carefully selected, disease-resistant varieties incorporated into plantings with heirloom varieties and species and all set in a broader garden context of perennials. The climbers and ramblers share their bowers with clematis.

Source: Washington Post

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User-Centered Design for Higher Ed: Webinar Recap & Resources | Transforming Higher Ed (blog)

Photo: Holly E. Morris
Holly Morris, director of postsecondary model development and adoption, Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), at EDUCAUSE reports, "The concepts of efficiency and user-centered design aren't at odds with one another. We just have to change the way we frame our plans."

Remember back in seventh grade when your friends didn't like each other and they tried to make you choose between them? You struggled because they each had good qualities that they didn't see in each other, but you did. Why couldn't they just all get along?

I think we have found ourselves at a similar juncture in higher ed. We have two friends who are great—efficiency and user-centered design—but they're having a hard time connecting. Here's the good news: we can do better than we did in seventh grade.

We've had a long relationship with efficiency, and it's just getting stronger as resources become more scarce. Budget cuts are real. Sky-high, middle-class eroding tuition is real. We don't have unlimited money (never mind that we could have a LOT MORE if we changed some of our priorities, but that's a different blog).
We have to make college more affordable. We can't afford to turn our backs on the demands of efficiency. Here's the thing: it's forcing us to neglect an important aspect of our relationship with students and other stakeholders. We need to be just as close to the concept of user-centered design as we are to efficiency, but there's an inherent conflict there. User-centered design isn't efficient. Or is it?

Getting Close to Users 
In a recent webinar, we talked about the tools to really understanding our stakeholders and students. In order to truly grasp the things they want and need from us, we need to understand who they are, what makes them tick, what slows them down. According to this infographic:
  • People are on the internet an average of 27x a day
  • Most people won't watch a video longer than 4 minutes
  • People unlock their phones an average of 9x a hour
  • 80% of workforce learning is on the job via interactions with peers, teammates and managers (58.7% of the webinar found this to the most salient of these four facts)
This isn't the stuff an anonymous survey reveals. 

The parent-supported, dorm-living, 20-year-old college student is becoming an exotic idea. The 25-year-old +, independent, immigrant/minority, working-with-a kid or two is becoming the norm. (See this blog about the characteristics of modern learners.) They share some (but not all of the same) needs and concerns.  

Employers are absorbing these demographic shifts alongside massive cultural shifts, like expectations of flexibility, preference for certain benefits over salary, men taking paternal leave—the list is endless. Like the graduates they are expected to hire, employer stakeholders are not well understood by higher education.

In order to really bridge these gaps of understanding, we have to engage in techniques like:
  • Individual interviews to reveal nuance and detail around needs
  • Group interviews to uncover the extremes (including both positive and negative) regarding user experience
  • Immersion studies (using camcorders, journals and onsite embedded observation)
Based on the things we learn, we then take stock of what we do know about the challenges confronting our stakeholders and students, engage them in helping us to fill in our knowledge gaps, articulate potential solutions that we can prototype and then test those prototypes. 
You can check out the slides and recording.

Efficiency + User-Centered Design 
Now, it's no secret that engaging in user-centered design costs money. When compared to our usual methods for designing programs (surveys or just plain guessing), it costs a lot more on the front end. Creating prototypes based on that information costs money (even small prototypes take time, talent, and money). And there's always the very real possibility of that the prototype with "fail" (i.e., produce a result that supports scrapping the idea instead of scaling it). Our relationship with efficiency can hardly tolerate these realities. It's enough to flat out stop most people from engaging in user-centered design processes.

Can we reframe this relationship so there's room for us to attend to both efficiency and user-centered design? We can, but it's sort of like ending world hunger. We have the means to ensure that every person on the planet has food, but it requires a certain mindset, different priorities, and a kind of will we haven't found yet.
Read more... 

Source: EDUCAUSE Review

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Moocs prove that universities can and should embrace online learning | Times Higher Education (THE) (blog)

Photo: Kerri Morgan
Higher education institutions should not fear failure when it comes to new technology, says Kerri Morgan, director of Wildbase Oil Response, Massey University.

Photo: Times Higher Education (THE) (blog)

For centuries, universities have taken an active approach in tackling major challenges of the day – from addressing the changing role of women in society to researching the future health of our planet.

They have often been at the centre of progress, driving deep, meaningful change and helping build a better, more just future. 

But universities have also, traditionally, been extremely elitist and available only to a small, select part of the population. Nominally at least, access to university has been based on intellect, but often class and wealth have weighed heavily on access. As a result, their potential for impact and influence has been often cut short and their role as change-drivers constrained.

In the past, governments have tried tackling such issues – for example, the British Labour Party under Tony Blair had a target for getting 50 per cent of the population to go to university. But none have had access to the power of the most modern technology. Technology today is allowing universities to offer truly global, affordable access to university and to amplify the impact of their work – via research or lobbying – for the first time in our history. 

The demand by students to study by distance, and the increasingly sophisticated delivery methods on offer, has created a truly staggering shift in our understanding of what "going to university" means. No longer are students confined to studying within their borders: a wonderful fact if you come from a poor country with limited university access, or if you want to learn a specialist subject but don’t have the means to travel overseas to study. 

While the power of technology to improve learning is well understood, the spectre of failure that comes from innovating, including deep technology adoption, sits heavy on the shoulders of universities who are acutely aware of what it would mean to fail. 

Higher education institutions have a responsibility to ensure that they are wisely adopting technology to support and advance their core endeavours. Yet when they do so successfully the impact can so often be lost in the noise generated by conversations about the legitimacy of online learning versus face-to-face or blended approaches, and whether online learning will sound the death knell of in-class learning. 

The debate about how online and in-class learning will sit together in the future is a valid one. I personally think that they are perfect bedfellows and that there will always be a role for both methods of delivery.

Source: Times Higher Education (THE) (blog)

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A guide to understanding eLearning basics - Free eBook | CommLab India

Here's a new eBook from CommLab India.

This eBook aims to give you a basic, yet substantial understanding of eLearning, what goes into e-learning design and development, and is especially helpful if you are in the process of debating whether eLearning is the right choice for your organization. 

By the end of this eBook, you will understand:

  • What eLearning is
  • The advantages of eLearning
  • The impact of eLearning on businesses
  • How eLearning courses are designed, developed, and deployed
Download the eBook Now!

CommLab India writes in the introduction, "We live in a knowledge-based economy that is characterized by advancements in technology, globalization, intensive competition, and rapid changes in customer needs. To be able to consistently grow, cope with these changes,
and stay ahead of the game, the workforce must keep itself constantly updated with new concepts, skills and technology."

But there are challenges that hinder this ability to grow and change – the most common being the inability to train a new type of workforce that is fast emerging today – one that is young, diverse, globally dispersed, and with new learning needs.

In an endeavor to increase their workforce’s productivity and competency, many large and mid-sized organizations have fostered innovation, moved away from the traditional training methods and adopted eLearning methodologies that have had a positive impact on business.
Download the eBook Now!

Additional resources

E-learning E-books
Source: CommLab India

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rich TPACK Cases: Great Resource eBook | Punya Mishra's Web - Michigan State University

Photo: Punya Mishra
Punya Mishra, Professor of Educational Technology at Michigan State University where he directs the Master of Arts in Educational Technology program writes on his website, "The TPACK framework is a theoretical framework that seeks to influence practice."

Punya Mishra's Web - Michigan State University

And most gratifyingly (for Matt Koehler and myself) it appears to have had a significant impact in that area. That said, the field lacked concrete, rich examples of TPACK in practice. Cases that would (quoting Darling-Hammond & Snyder) “add context to theory” highlighting the rich telling detail, as well as local contextual factors that are often lost when teaching is discussed in more general terms.

This gap has now been filled with a lovely ebook by my friends and colleagues Mark Hofer, Lynn Bell and Glen Bull. The Practitioner’s guide to technology pedagogy and content knowledge (TPACK): Rich media cases of teacher knowledge focuses on developing rich “exemplary” cases of practice, and boy does it deliver. Consider what is included in each of the cases included in the book:

[Each of the cases] include a number of media elements, including short video clips, student and teacher artifacts, and links to digital tools and resources. The video footage is crucial to these cases and is used in various ways: to highlight teacher thinking, to capture salient moments of TPACK in action, and to highlight student learning. The teacher interviews add to the narrative included in the text, rather than being repetitive. The Classroom in Action and Student Work videos show real teachers and students in real classrooms engaging in unscripted instruction.

The goal of the TPACK Practitioners Guide is simple—to offer exemplary cases of technology integration efforts that result in curriculum-based student learning in each of the following nine content areas and grade level contexts:

Hofer, M., Bell, L. & Bull, G. (Eds.). (2015). Practitioner’s Guide to Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge (TPACK): Rich Media Cases of Teacher Knowledge. Waynesville, North Carolina: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). 

Source: Punya Mishra's Web - Michigan State University and LearnTechLib

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Science, Mathematics education helps creative, critical thinking | Khaleej Times

Iyad Malaeb (Business Development Manager, INTEL Corporation) reports, "To produce a human capital of scientists and innovators, UAE is focusing on Stem education in schools and on to higher education."

A . Importance of Stem in schools
"In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalisation and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in Stem to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past."

- National Science Foundation

According to US State Department of Commerce, Stem occupations are growing at 17 per cent, while others are growing at 9.8 per cent. As the economy becomes more knowledge based, which further relies on 21st century skills and competencies, Stem and especially coding and making are becoming even more instrumental in determining the success of a student in their professional career. Not only does it help students develop technical skills, but it also makes them more competitive and prone to developing an inquiring mind. It is in these young minds that we invest our future and developing the "four Cs" of the 21st century skills: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication are important for survival in the 21st century and they form an integral aspect of Stem education.

As challenges get more complex in this digital age of dynamic global environment which requires sustainable development, students require these skills fostered by Stem, in addition to the foundational literacies. This is because only those jobs that require a non-routine, cognitive and creative skill set will survive the onslaught of automation that is becoming evident across all industries across the globe.

B. Stem in UAE
"The national strategy of innovation focuses on knowledge integration in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and other fields, all of which contribute towards strengthening the knowledge economy." - Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid

To produce a human capital of scientists and innovators, the country is focusing on Stem education in schools and on to higher education. To help guide the students in that direction, programs and strategies such as Smart Learning Program, Journey of Discovery: Innovation campaign, Young Thinkers Program, Stem Scholars Programme have been devised by various governmental and non-governmental organisations. The main goal is to reform education in the UAE to become one of the best education systems in the world. This will be measured by the country's performance in literacy, numeracy & scientific skills through TIMSS & PISA, as set out in the National Agenda Targets.

Source: Khaleej Times  

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UST lecture: Is there such a thing as ‘Filipino philosophy’? |

"ALFREDO Co, a respected name in philosophy research and instruction, will address the question: What is Filipino philosophy?" notes

With his lecture, “Streams and Shapes of Filipino Consciousness,” Co will weigh in on the philosophical outputs that Filipino scholars have created. His lecture will be on May 25, 9 a.m., at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex Auditorium of the University of Santo Tomas.

The lecture is the second part of Co’s research project as holder of the Oscar Picazo Professorial Chair in the Social Sciences and the Humanities at UST.

Earlier, Co, in his inaugural lecture, “The University of Santo Tomas and the Birthing of Philosophy in the Philippines,” said that Filipino philosophy should be evidenced by serious literature by Filipinos doing philosophy— those who are trained and have published in and about the field.

“If there is anything we can call ‘Filipino Philosophy,’ this can only be the product of the hard work of Filipino philosophers and scholars,” he said, stressing that many academics who search for an indigenous philosophy seem to forget that many Filipino scholars have already made their contribution to philosophy through their publications.

Co added that this body of literature “now makes a new philosophical landscape in Southeast Asia.”

For him, the inception of Filipino Philosophy kindled when the Filipino scholars started publishing that resulted in the shift of consciousness, from colonial to Filipino. It began between the mid-’50s to the ’80s, he said.

“What marked this period in the history of philosophy in the Philippines is how these scholars transformed the landscape of philosophy in the country,” he said. “Suddenly, universities, even with their specific strength in their emerging philosophical tradition, shaped an entirely new environment.”

He also urged those who truly want to study Filipino Philosophy to “take the painful task of reading the writings of the first wave of Filipino philosophers.”

The professorial lecture is organized by the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters, UST Department of Philosophy and UST Research and Endowment Foundation Inc. through the Office for Grants, Endowments and Partnerships in Higher Education.


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