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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Here’s the proof that math is hot these days

Follow on Twitter as @dominicbasulto
writes, "Math – the m in STEM – is probably the least glamorous of all the STEM fields. Go ahead – just try to name one celebrity mathematician (Russell Crowe as Princeton math legend John Nash in A Beautiful Mind doesn’t count)."

But all that could be changing.

Maryam Mirzakhani wins 2014 Fields medal - first woman to do so 

The big news, of course, is that the Fields Medal – generally considered to be the Nobel Prize of mathematics – was recently awarded for the first time in its nearly 80-year history to a woman. The 37-year-old Iranian-born Maryam Mirzakhani of Stanford could do for mathematics what astronaut Sally Ride did for space travel: give young girls a role model for someone they’d like to be when they grow up. 

“This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians, ” Mirzakhani noted in a Stanford University news release. “I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.” 

And that’s huge. After all, part of the narrative about the STEM profession is that women simply lack the types of role models and mentors to help them stay in the field. Having someone like Mirzakhani win the Fields Medal could draw attention to other top female mathematicians in the field and give a new boost to all the types of grassroots initiatives that have sprung up recently to get more young kids — especially kids from underrepresented backgrounds — interested in math.


And there’s another reason why mathematics suddenly seems hotter than ever — and that has to do with the rising salaries and career prospects of math graduates. A recent career survey from CareerCast named mathematician as the “most desirable job in the world.” The reason, quite simply, is that all the hot areas of the technology industry – from big data to computer search algorithms – draw intensely on the field of mathematics. According to CareerCast, mathematicians now can expect a median income of over $100,000. Jobs for mathematicians are expected to grow at a rate of 23 percent by 2022.
Read more... 

Source: Washington Post (blog) and tywebbOOOOO's Channel (YouTube).

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Making a great online course, and why high drop-out rates aren’t a bad thing

Photo: Elliott Masie
Elliott Masie, head of The MASIE Center reports, "After 30 years in a corporate learning setting, I wanted to try something different. So, I decided to experiment in the world of massive open online courses (MOOCs), knowing I could share my passion of big data and learning with an even larger audience (after all, the “M” in MOOC stands for “massive”)."

Armed with a topic I was passionate about (big data for learning), I worked with online learning platform Udemy to build my first course. Not only did this experience allow me the opportunity to expand my audience, but it also yielded a few best practices for others looking to do the same. 

Photo: Cali4beach/Flickr

Lesson 1: The content itself is only half the battle
When it comes to the content, think about it in context. While the content of any course is key, I was surprised to find that it’s just as important to emphasize the timing and format of the content’s “unveiling.”
MOOC instructors have two routes they can take:
1: Release each course separately
2: Release all their content at once

When trying to identify which route is best for you, consider whether your intended audience is likely to have the time to binge-watch. For example, an audience of busy working professionals likely only has the time (and patience) for courses that are cut into small installments. This type of audience consumes online content in a way best described as “primal” – i.e., they devour the skills and topics for which they are hungriest and those that are the most “nutritious,” then quickly get on with their busy lives.
Instructors who clearly lay out the course’s content in an introductory syllabus-style outline streamline the process for their students, allowing them to more directly access the course lessons that are most relevant to them. Releasing the content in phases has the added benefit of giving you the chance to incorporate audience feedback and make improvements along the way.
For instance, A trio of three-minute videos might be more digestible than a single video that is nine minutes long.
Lesson #2: Don’t overvalue the “course completion rate” statistic
One of the most frequent – and quite frankly bogus – criticisms we hear about MOOCs is that course completion rates are extremely low, suggesting that students lose interest and ultimately learn nothing.
The beauty of the on-demand MOOC format (i.e., students start and stop their classes as they desire) is that the student is in the driver’s seat. Asking “what are completion rates?” is the wrong question. Rather, you should be asking, “Did students learn what they needed to know?”
Online learning is different from a traditional academic setting; everyone comes in with a different level of understanding and expertise. Therefore, not everyone needs every segment of every course. A low rate of course completion is a meaningless statistic without any additional context.
Consider your course’s student completion rates in tandem with student feedback. For example: If low completion rates are paired with negative student commentary, then the content may be to blame;  however, if completion rates are low and yet the feedback is positive on the whole, this tells a different story (and is a good sign!). It means the student got what he/she wanted and moved along.
Remember, skill seekers have enrolled in your course to gain a specific skill, so they are likely to focus on the segments of the course that are most relevant and of most value.
Read more... 

Related link
Elliott Masie heads The MASIE Center, a New York think tank focused on how organizations can support learning and knowledge within the workforce. In May 2014, Masie created a corporate MOOC on Udemy to deliver content to his Learning CONSORTIUM, a coalition of 230 global organizations cooperating on the evolution of learning strategies. Click here to learn more.

Source: VentureBeat

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MOOCs: Learning About Online Learning, One Click At A Time

Professor Gregor Kennedy
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Educational Innovation)
"Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, took the world by storm in 2012." summarizes 
Gregor Kennedy, University of Melbourne.

After years of experimentation at the fringes of higher education, prestigious universities from around the world progressively surged After years of experimentation at the fringes of higher education, prestigious universities from around the world progressively surged towards MOOCs, developing free online courses that were open to anyone, anywhere, with access to the Internet.

Photo: Science 2.0

Almost as quickly as universities climbed aboard, the backlash began. Commentators criticized the teacher-centered, content-heavy online pedagogy often seen in the design of MOOCs. Thorny questions arose, and still remain, about the certification of students’ learning in MOOCs, and how this fits with the degree-awarding business of universities. And MOOC providers themselves have yet to articulate a stable business model.

No doubt these conversations will continue, adding spice to the question of why internationally recognized universities – often elite institutions with strong and valuable brands – so quickly gravitated towards MOOCs in the first place. Answers to this question vary. Some universities wanted to be at the vanguard of a new educational movement; almost all saw the power of MOOCs in reaching students that they might otherwise never have engaged with.

But one reason institutions like Stanford University and Edinburgh University embraced MOOCs was that they provided a wonderful opportunity to learn about online learning. These institutions recognized that MOOCs were a vehicle for educational research, particularly through the use of learning analytics.

What can learning analytics tell us about online learning?   

Learning analytics use the digital data trails that students leave in online learning environments to develop an understanding of students’ learning processes. Every video watched, quiz answered and comment posted can be tracked, mined and analyzed to better understand how students are learning online. Researchers are able to capitalize on the big data sets generated by tens of thousands of MOOC students to uncover productive and unproductive patterns of learning behavior. These patterns can be related to a range of other variables such as students’ socio-economic or cultural background, their previous education and prior knowledge, and their motivation to study. They can also be used to predict when students will drop out, whether they will pass the course, or whether they will get a high distinction.

Learning analytics are also incredibly helpful in informing our design of online courses. For example, the Learning Analytics Research Group at the University of Melbourne published a paper this year that showed how different curriculum structures – linear or open – impact on the degree to which students are inclined to engage in the very useful learning strategy of revisiting and reviewing content and assessment tasks they have previously covered.

Source: Science 2.0

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

It’s time for school, but don’t forget the importance of playtime

"The new school year is an exciting time as parents, teachers and administrators try to ensure children succeed in the classroom. But it’s also a good time to remember one of the essential ingredients in a child’s success – play." continues
Sacramento Bee.


Play is critical to the physical, cognitive and emotional health of children. The American Academy of Pediatrics says play is so central that it should be part of the very definition of childhood, while the United Nations declares that children have the right to play.

Many forms of play, such as swinging on a swing or climbing a tree, help to build bones and muscles, improve coordination and boost confidence. Playing with simple toys, such as building blocks, helps children develop their intelligence, language skills and imagination. When playing make-believe, children use social and communication abilities such as negotiation, cooperation and sharing – all lifelong skills. 

Creative play with words, music and reading is critical to brain development. We know 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs by age 5. Daily exposure to reading, writing, talking, singing and playing helps children develop listening, problem-solving and creative-thinking skills. Reading stories together, especially over and over again, builds vocabulary and helps children learn abstract concepts.

Listening to music, singing along and playing musical instruments can help children develop and recognize patterns, which will assist with language and math skills. Play brings families together and inspires lifelong learning by encouraging children to be active learners through hands-on experiences.

And, let’s not forget: Play is fun.
Read more... 

Source: Sacramento Bee
ore here:

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Math apps help kids get ready for school by Jinny Gudmundsen, Special for USA TODAY

Follow on Twitter as @JinnyGudmunsen

Jinny Gudmundsen writes, "During the dog days of summer, your kids' brains are probably more focused on picnic tables than times tables. To help them transition back into learning mode, here's a list of kid apps that make doing math fun."

Slice Fractions

Ululab, best for ages 6-13, $2.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)

Kids help an adorable mammoth as he travels over challenging terrains. In each of the 90 puzzles, players slice objects into fractions to clear out ice and lava blocking the mammoth's path.

What makes it cool: This app uses slicing mechanics similar to that of the mega-popular puzzler Cut the Rope, so you know kids will like to play it. The developers worked with a team of learning experts from the University of Quebec to perfect the math curriculum, which is cleverly inserted into the gameplay. The result is an engaging physics puzzler that feels like a game but which also hones kids' math skills in working with fractions.
Read more... 

Related links 
Slice Fractions 
Bug Mazing - Adventures in Learning
Numbers League
Motion Math: Pizza!

Source: USA Today 

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Return of Radical Empiricism

Follow on Twitter as @mpigliucci
Massimo Pigliucci, a biologist and philosopher at the City University of New York writes, "“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.” So wrote Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason, one of the most influential philosophy books of all time." 

Kant is also the philosopher credited for finally overcoming the opposition between empiricism and rationalism in epistemology, as he realized that neither position, by itself, is sufficient to account for human knowledge.Kant was notoriously awoken from what he termed his “dogmatic slumber” [1] by reading David Hume, who had written in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding:“All the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Matters of fact. Of the first kind are the sciences of Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic … [which are] discoverable by the mere operation of thought … Matters of fact, which are the second object of human reason, are not ascertained in the same manner; nor is our evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing. … If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”

The second part of the quote makes it clear that Hume, in turn, was reacting to the philosophical excesses of the Schoolmen, the medieval logicians who attempted to discover truths about the world by sheer power of mental analysis — an approach that, to be fair, goes back at the least to Plato himself, who was himself impressed by the effectiveness of mathematics in arriving at conclusions with certainty, and thought that the task of philosophy was to do likewise when it came to its own spheres of interest.
Why am I reminding you of all this? Because I am now convinced that we are witnessing a resurgence of what I call radical empiricism, the sort of thing that we thought we had left behind once Kant came onto the scene, and which, frankly, not even good ‘ol Hume would have endorsed.
Read more... 

Related link  
Immanuel Kant (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Source: h+ Magazine

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Power of Mathematics Opens New Possibilities in Music

Follow on Twitter as @mrmeteor

Steve Koppes, University of Chicago writes, "Anthony Cheung’s formal mathematical training essentially ended with high school calculus. But as a musician and composer, he has explored mathematical phenomena in new ways, especially through their influence on harmony and timbre."

Composers found new ways of fusing the two musical qualities late last century, says Cheung, assistant professor in music. “Through technology and thinking about acoustics, we can change sounds on the computer in innumerable ways,” says Cheung, whose musical composition earned him a 2012 Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome.


The work of Cheung and others shows the power of mathematics to open new possibilities in music. Modern experiments with computer music are just the most recent example. According to musician-scholars like Eugenia Cheng, a visiting senior lecturer in mathematics and a concert pianist, the history and practice of music would have unfolded much differently without an appreciation of what unites music and math.

During the Baroque period, a mathematical breakthrough inspired one of Cheng’s favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach, to write The Well-Tempered Clavier (1722), his book of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys.

Expanding an audience for math
As an educator, Cheng is adept at relating just about anything to mathematics, including food. She developed a series of YouTube lectures on the mathematics of food, covering topics such as “The perfect puff pastry,” “The perfect Mobius bagel,” and “The perfect way to share a cake.” The series evolved into a book, How to Bake Pi, which will be published by Profile Books in March 2015. She also has brought mathematics to a wider audience through works such as the mathematics of cream tea, the mathematics of pizza, and mathematics and Lego

Mathematics of musical composition 
Cheung is a composer and musician who readily describes how an understanding of mathematics often can lead to a deeper appreciation of certain musical compositions.

In graduate school, Cheung studied with Tristan Murail, now a professor emeritus of music at Columbia University, who pioneered thoughts about how harmony and timbre could come together. Cheung cites Jonathan Harvey’s Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco (1980), as a classic early example of doing this electronically. In this work, Harvey used spectral analysis and re-synthesis on a computer to morph the sounds of the tenor bell at Winchester Cathedral into the sound of a singing boy, his son.
Read more... 

Source: The University of Chicago and The University of Chicago's Channel on (YouTube)

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Current Site and App of the Week - August 27, 2014

Current Site of the Week   

As schools increasingly rely on data to improve education, and as teachers increasingly rely on technology in the classroom to improve the learning experience, privacy concerns are being raised about the collection and use of student data. 

Photo: eSchool News

With ‘back to school’ now in full-swing, and to address both the promise and challenges surrounding privacy and data in education, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) today unveiled a one-stop shop resource website providing parents, school officials, policymakers, and service providers easy access to the laws, standards and guidelines that are essential to understanding student privacy issues and navigating a responsible path to managing student data with trust, integrity, and transparency.

More than at any other time in the evolution of education, data-driven innovations and use of emerging technologies – such as online textbooks, apps, tablets and mobile devices, and internet-based learning – are bringing advances and critical improvements in teaching and learning, with profound implications.

At the same time, the increased use of vendors and data is matched by the need for heightened responsibility to manage and safeguard student data and implement policies that benefit education and minimize risk. Concerns are being raised about how student data is collected and used in a next-stage learning ecosystem buzzing with social media, mobile devices, central databases, student records, Big Data, and an array of vendors and software.
Read more... 

Apps of the Week 

Do you know your states?

Name: Census PoP Quiz

What is it? Test your U.S. state knowledge with Census PoP Quiz, a new population challenge about the 50 states and the District of Columbia from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Best for: Students and teachers
Price: Free
Requirements: iOS 4.3 or later; Android 2.2 and up

Features: With each state challenge completed, users will earn a badge to show their knowledge of various state demographic characteristics. After earning badges from every state, the app will unlock the final U.S. challenge. Throughout the quiz, players can share their badges on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.
  • Challenges that test your knowledge of topics such as population, housing and commuting from the American Community Survey (ACS)
  • Questions that span locations in all 50 states and the nation’s capital 
  • Badges to share with social media connections

Visit iTunes to buy and download apps 
Google play 

Source: eSchool News     

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Is It Better to Learn at Your Own Pace or in a Structured Environment?

"For employers looking to equip their staff with new information, is it better to set aside office time for team training activities or to take advantage of digital technology, allowing everyone to learn at the their own pace and in their own time?" reports Orion D. Jones.

Photo: Big Think 

Workplace leader Janet Pogue, who studies how people use office space, says letting people take online tutorials with their mobile devices is a great idea in theory. Since scheduling people to be in the same room at the same time has become increasingly difficult, remote learning offers a possible solution. 

Employers should note, says Pogue, that failing to schedule time at the office for certain tasks implies they are not important enough to merit the attention of management, sapping motivation for employees to do them on their own time. 

As edX President Anant Agarwal discusses, self-motivation has definite limits, so basic courses like college prerequisites may experience particular success online.

Anant Agrawal on Online Learning

Source: Big Think and Big Think's channel (YouTube).

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

New eBook: Use Lifelong Learning to Your Advantage

It takes just four steps to achieve this win-win situation. 

How to Turn Organizational Learning into a Strategic Advantage

In our new eBook, How to Turn Organizational Learning into a Strategic Advantage,” we take a deep dive into these steps, including examples from companies that have used them successfully to achieve their key business goals.

Here’s a brief look at the four steps:

Step 1: Define Your Organization’s Learning Goals
Whether you need to deliver a three-day training or a three-month course, your goals for a learning program will probably include standardizing learning, creating repeatable content, and sticking to a learning budget.

Step 2: Stare Down Budget Challenges with Your Learning Program
A robust online learning environment immediately lets you eliminate the biggest hits to your budget: travel and hospitality costs.

Step 3: Bridge the Skills Gap
Organizations are facing a baby boom brain drain—people are taking years and years of institutional knowledge with them when they retire. Use an online learning environment to capture that knowledge.

Step 4: Integrate Learning Technologies with Business Software
When you can integrate your new learning platform with existing business applications, you create a powerful environment that’s easy for people to use.
By adopting this kind of robust approach to organizational learning, you can enable your employees to thrive in their careers while investing in your organization’s long-term success.
Professionals of all stripes have embraced online learning, allowing them to open up a world of career development to even the most far-flung employees while helping their companies achieve key business goals.  
Download our free ebook today to learn more about ways your company can turn organizational learning into a strategic advantage.

Source: Blackboard Blog

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