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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Practical tips from 13 innovative profs to improve classroom engagement | Top Hat

Photo: Philip Preville
Check out this useful new e-book by the higher education journalist Philip Preville, award-winning journalist and a former Canadian Journalism Fellow at Massey College at the University of Toronto. 

Download your copy

Building on his last handbook, How to Reach Distracted Students, Preville interviewed professors from across North America about how they’re tackling the epidemic of student disengagement. Each has found innovative ways to get students to invest more of themselves in their work.

The 13 case studies, told in the professor’s own words, explain how to:
  • Institute surprisingly simple tactics, easily adapted for any course, to engage students.
  • Make simple changes at the beginning of a course that can have lasting—and rewarding—impact.
  • Adopt a variety of strategies to keep students focused throughout the semester and to make the most of class time.
  • Assess whether students have come to comprehend and master a course’s subject matter.
Philip Preville says in the introduction, "At the start of every semester,  students arrive in class with high hopes. They’ve chosen their slate of courses based upon what they want to learn, after all, and they are eager to learn it. But, as every instructor knows, any given group of students will fall prey to distraction and disinterest as the weeks pass. The 21,000 faculty members who responded to the 2016 Professor Pulse Survey agreed that their biggest teaching challenge is “students not paying attention or participating in class.”"

This e-book assembles stories from 13 instructors from across North America explaining, in their own words, the challenges they faced, the solutions they
devised and the lasting impact their changes have had on their classrooms. Faculty everywhere can learn from each other’s experience. 

Download your copy

Source: Top Hat 

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A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right LMS For Your Organization | CommLab India

"Buying technology is not complicated when you know what you’re looking for. It’s the same with a Learning Management System (LMS). The more you understand your organization’s training needs and technological requirements, the easier it is to zero in on the right LMS for your organization." notes CommLab India.

Get your copy today!

Here’s what you can glean from it:
  • The advantages an LMS can bring to your organization
  • When it’s necessary to replace your existing LMS
  • How your organization’s training scenario can dictate the type of LMS it needs
  • Important factors to consider when choosing an LMS
  • Different types of LMSs available in the market
CommLab India writes in the introduction, "Buying a learning management system (LMS) is a big decision and an important investment for many organizations. Its success or failure depends on how well it handles an organization’s training requirements and aligns with its business goals."

The right choice of LMS can be made only when organizations know how to make that right choice. This eBook aims to do just that – help organizations understand how to choose the LMS that can successfully eliminate training challenges.

If you are looking for an LMS, this eBook is for you. It does not matter if you currently have an LMS or are completely new to the world of eLearning and LMSs. We will look at how to go about choosing the most appropriate LMS, no matter what your position is today.

Get your copy today!

Source: CommLab India

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Learning Outside Your Comfort Zone | Teaching Professor Blog

Photo: Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D.
summarizes, "When we learn something outside the comfort zone, we attempt to acquire knowledge or skills in an area where we’re lacking. Part of the discomfort derives from learning something we anticipate will be difficult."

Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog

We have no idea how to do it, or we think it requires abilities we don’t have or have in meager amounts. Moreover, poor performance or outright failure lurk as likely possibilities. In other words, it’s going to be hard and require concentration, and what we’re struggling to do, others can accomplish beautifully, seemingly without effort. Their skills, and our obvious lack of them, raise questions about our merits as a learner and maybe even our worth as a person.

The Teaching Professor Blog

A colleague wrote of her efforts to master Italian, “I’ve been reminded about how difficult learning can be when you step out of your comfort zone and learn a skill for which you don’t have any particular aptitude. I’m NOT a language person, so as I’m learning Italian, I have to repeat words approximately 850 times before I have even a chance to recall and use them. I’m trying to practice what I preach for students and approach this with a growth mind-set!” Another colleague on sabbatical is taking a course on mentoring and coaching that includes demonstration of these newly learned skills. “I am learning so much and am feeling the pressure that comes when you have to demonstrate something you’ve just barely learned,” she noted.

I wonder if learning outside the comfort zone isn’t especially difficult for faculty. Theoretically, it shouldn’t be. We’ve devoted years to learning, but most of what we know resides in one area. We’re experts at learning more about what we already know and love. And we’re used to having our learning expertise recognized—by students, colleagues, and sometimes even at home. However, plop us down in a discipline unlike our own, task us with learning a skill we don’t have, and suddenly, we look and act exactly like our students. And that’s the very reason this kind of learning has all sorts of positive implications for teaching. It’s good every now and then to be reacquainted with feeling stupid.
Read more... 

Source: The Teaching Professor Blog

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Ten tips to help you pass your PhD viva | Times Higher Education

Kevin D. 
Heriot-Watt University professor Kevin O’Gorman, Management and Business History offers some advice to those preparing for their viva voce. 

  1. It is a test to prove that you have written your own thesis. So, if you have written it yourself, and your supervisor feels that both the thesis and you are ready for examination, then you really should have nothing to worry about.
  2. It is an ‘open book’ exam. The viva is not a test of memory; you can bring stuff into the exam, and really you can bring anything you want into the exam – within reason! Of course, bring a copy of your thesis! You can stick yellow ‘Post-it’ notes on it (eg, anticipated questions and answers), although personally I hated the idea of that, and I just used the Table of Contents; however, it works well for some people…do what makes you comfortable.
  3. Your examiners want to pass you. Don’t expect an easy ride, but don’t expect some kind of medieval hand-to-hand combat. You will be very nervous for the first couple of questions. This is normal, your examiners know that, and they should ask you some questions to relax you and settle you into your exam.
  4. Follow the normal rules of conversation. Don’t interrupt your examiners; let them finish their questions before starting to answer. However, do not worry about respectfully disagreeing with them, either. It should be an open, frank, honest and polite conversation. Keep referring your examiners to your written work. Don’t try to memorise everything, as mentioned above, they also want to make sure that you’ve written your own thesis. So just make sure that you know where all the key sections of your thesis are.
  5. It normally lasts two hours. However, it could range from 90 minutes to four hours – so, like every other exam you have ever sat at university, pace yourself and don’t rush into a poorly conceived or considered answer. When you are asked a question, write it down. This will give you a minute or so, and also don’t worry about bullet-pointing answers. You probably have a list of anticipated viva questions and your answers; you can bring them in and refer to them if you like.
Read more... 

Source: Times Higher Education (THE)

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How to Effectively Engage With Your Child in the Modern World | SayCampusLife - Education Tips

Opening Intro -
The most effective way to connect with children, while preparing them for life, is to focus your interactions on things that accomplish both at the same time.

"With all the technological changes and the explosion of new ideas, engaging with your children in today’s fast-paced lifestyle can be challenging." writes .

Photo: SayCampusLife

The most effective way to connect with children, while preparing them for life, is to focus your interactions on things that accomplish both at the same time. Here’s how to foster a relationship with your children and help groom them for the sea of opportunities that await them in the modern world.

Learning to Think  
Most learning methods are based on some facet of the theoretical idea to enhance critical thinking. As the world changes and drifts farther away from a more simplistic lifestyle, thinking becomes even more essential.

While critical thinking skills are important for creating change, it is also necessary to cope with change itself. When children do not develop a base foundation for thinking through problems, these problems can become overwhelming and lead to lifelong issues with self-esteem and motivation.

The most important thing in helping your child learn critical thinking skills is to allow them to think for themselves. Too many times parents and educators want to automatically provide answers, when in fact it is far more beneficial to the child if they are permitted to figure some things out for themselves.

The process of teaching children to think for themselves can begin at the earliest age. Engaging a toddler in a conversation about what time it reads on a clock and where the sun is at the time will perk their interest to discover. Amazingly, the worlds of science and inquisition will be sparked as your child begins to ponder why the sun comes up at the same time every day.
Read more... 

Groza Learning Center
provides students, pre-K through college, with specialized academic help designed to student’s specific learning needs. Operating out of world-class facility in Pacific Palisades, the center features unique design elements that reflect the center’s philosophy regarding the joy and inspiration that should always be associated with educational pursuits.

Source: SayCampusLife

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What interested Isaac Newton more than science? | - American Minute

Photo: Bill Federer
Bill Federer, author of "Change to Chains: The 6,000 Year Quest for Global Control" and "What Every American Needs to Know About the Quran: A History of Islam and the United States." remembers astounding accomplishments of famous researcher.

Photo: Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton was born in 1642, the same year Galileo died. His mother was widowed twice, resulting in him being raised by his grandmother. He was sent off to grammar school and later went to Trinity College, Cambridge, 1661.

Sir Isaac Newton became a mathematician and a natural philosopher, discovering the laws of universal gravitation and formulating the three laws of motion, which aided in advancement of the discipline of dynamics. Newton was a discoverer of calculus and helped develop it into a comprehensive branch of mathematics. During the Plague of 1665-66, Newton moved to Woolsthorp, Lincolnshire.

He was honored to occupy the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics, 1669, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1672. Newton was given the position of Master of the Mint, 1699, and in 1701, entered Parliament. He constructed one of the first practical reflecting telescope. Using a prism, Newton demonstrated that a beam of light contained all the colors of the rainbow. He laid the foundation for the great law of energy conservation and developed the particle theory of light propagation. In 1703, Sir Issac Newton became the president of the Royal Society, and served in that position until his death.

Newton wrote one of the most important scientific books ever, Principia, 1687, in which he stated: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. … All variety of created objects which represent order and life in the universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the ‘Lord God.’ … This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of His dominion He is wont to be called ‘Lord God.’ … The supreme God exists necessarily, and by the same necessity He exists always and everywhere.”

Newton wrote in “Principia,” 1687: “From His true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent and powerful Being; and from His other perfections, that He is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, His duration reaches from eternity to eternity; His presence from infinity to infinity; He governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done.”

Newton was cited in “Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton” by Sir David Brewster (Edinburgh, Thomas Constable and Co., 1855, Vol. II, 354): “God made and governs the world invisibly, and has commanded us to love and worship him, and no other God; to honor our parents and masters, and love our neighbors as ourselves; and to be temperate, just, and peaceable, and to be merciful even to brute beasts. And by the same power by which he gave life at first to every species of animals, he is able to revive the dead, and has revived Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who has gone into the heavens to receive a kingdom, and prepare a place for us, and is next in dignity to God, and may be worshiped as the Lamb of God, and has sent the Holy Ghost to comfort us in his absence, and will at length return and reign over us.”
Sir Isaac Newton wrote in “Optics,” 1704: “God in the beginning formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportion to space, as most conduced to the end for which he formed them.”

Sir Isaac Newton devoted more time to the study of Scripture than to science (as cited in Tiner 1975): “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”

Sir Isaac Newton stated: “We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever. … Worshiping God and the Lamb in the temple: God, for his benefaction in creating all things, and the Lamb, for his benefaction in redeeming us with his blood.”
Read more...  

Recommended Reading 

A 'simple organist' who changed musical history

Photo: Johann Sebastian Bach
Bill Federer remembers composer for whom ungodly music was 'diabolical bawling and twanging'

Sir Isaac Newton on Science & Religion


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How Aristotle Created the Computer | The Atlantic

"The philosophers he influenced set the stage for the technological revolution that remade our world." argues Chris Dixon, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. 

Wikimedia / donatas1205 / Billion Photos / vgeny Karandaev / The Atlantic

The history of computers is often told as a history of objects, from the abacus to the Babbage engine up through the code-breaking machines of World War II. In fact, it is better understood as a history of ideas, mainly ideas that emerged from mathematical logic, an obscure and cult-like discipline that first developed in the 19th century. Mathematical logic was pioneered by philosopher-mathematicians, most notably George Boole and Gottlob Frege, who were themselves inspired by Leibniz’s dream of a universal “concept language,” and the ancient logical system of Aristotle.

Mathematical logic was initially considered a hopelessly abstract subject with no conceivable applications. As one computer scientist commented: “If, in 1901, a talented and sympathetic outsider had been called upon to survey the sciences and name the branch which would be least fruitful in [the] century ahead, his choice might well have settled upon mathematical logic.” And yet, it would provide the foundation for a field that would have more impact on the modern world than any other.

The evolution of computer science from mathematical logic culminated in the 1930s, with two landmark papers: Claude Shannon’s “A Symbolic Analysis of Switching and Relay Circuits,” and Alan Turing’s “On Computable Numbers, With an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.” In the history of computer science, Shannon and Turing are towering figures, but the importance of the philosophers and logicians who preceded them is frequently overlooked.

A well-known history of computer science describes Shannon’s paper as “possibly the most important, and also the most noted, master’s thesis of the century.” Shannon wrote it as an electrical engineering student at MIT. His adviser, Vannevar Bush, built a prototype computer known as the Differential Analyzer that could rapidly calculate differential equations. The device was mostly mechanical, with subsystems controlled by electrical relays, which were organized in an ad hoc manner as there was not yet a systematic theory underlying circuit design. Shannon’s thesis topic came about when Bush recommended he try to discover such a theory.

Shannon’s paper is in many ways a typical electrical-engineering paper, filled with equations and diagrams of electrical circuits. What is unusual is that the primary reference was a 90-year-old work of mathematical philosophy, George Boole’s The Laws of Thought.

Today, Boole’s name is well known to computer scientists (many programming languages have a basic data type called a Boolean), but in 1938 he was rarely read outside of philosophy departments. Shannon himself encountered Boole’s work in an undergraduate philosophy class. “It just happened that no one else was familiar with both fields at the same time,” he commented later.

Boole is often described as a mathematician, but he saw himself as a philosopher, following in the footsteps of Aristotle. The Laws of Thought begins with a description of his goals, to investigate the fundamental laws of the operation of the human mind:

Boole is often described as a mathematician, but he saw himself as a philosopher, following in the footsteps of Aristotle. The Laws of Thought begins with a description of his goals, to investigate the fundamental laws of the operation of the human mind:
The design of the following treatise is to investigate the fundamental laws of those operations of the mind by which reasoning is performed; to give expression to them in the symbolical language of a Calculus, and upon this foundation to establish the science of Logic ... and, finally, to collect ... some probable intimations concerning the nature and constitution of the human mind.
He then pays tribute to Aristotle, the inventor of logic, and the primary influence on his own work:
In its ancient and scholastic form, indeed, the subject of Logic stands almost exclusively associated with the great name of Aristotle. As it was presented to ancient Greece in the partly technical, partly metaphysical disquisitions of The Organon, such, with scarcely any essential change, it has continued to the present day.
Trying to improve on the logical work of Aristotle was an intellectually daring move. Aristotle’s logic, presented in his six-part book The Organon, occupied a central place in the scholarly canon for more than 2,000 years. It was widely believed that Aristotle had written almost all there was to say on the topic. The great philosopher Immanuel Kant commented that since Aristotle’s logic had been “unable to take a single step forward, and therefore seems to all appearance to be finished and complete.”

Aristotle’s central observation was that arguments were valid or not based on their logical structure, independent of the non-logical words involved. The most famous argument schema he discussed is known as the syllogism:
  • All men are mortal.
  • Socrates is a man.
  • Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
You can replace “Socrates” with any other object, and “mortal” with any other predicate, and the argument remains valid. The validity of the argument is determined solely by the logical structure. The logical words — “all,” “is,” are,” and “therefore” — are doing all the work.

Aristotle also defined a set of basic axioms from which he derived the rest of his logical system:
  • An object is what it is (Law of Identity)
  • No statement can be both true and false (Law of Non-contradiction)
  • Every statement is either true or false (Law of the Excluded Middle)
These axioms weren’t meant to describe how people actually think (that would be the realm of psychology), but how an idealized, perfectly rational person ought to think.

Aristotle’s axiomatic method influenced an even more famous book, Euclid’s Elements, which is estimated to be second only to the Bible in the number of editions printed.

Source: The Atlantic

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First Competency-Based Degree Program to Be Offered to All Federal Employees and Their Families | Southern New Hampshire University

Photo: Libby May
"College for America at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is teaming up with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to offer low-cost, competency-based degree programs to all Federal employees and their family members." inform Libby May, Southern New Hampshire University
Watch the Video

This alliance provides every Federal worker and their eligible family members with the opportunity to access College for America degree programs that are offered at $3,000 tuition annually.

College for America is a competency-based degree program, directly applicable in the workplace, and designed to accommodate the busy lives of working adults. College for America students can earn an associate's or bachelor's degree, online and at their own pace, from Southern New Hampshire University, a fully accredited, nonprofit university based in New Hampshire.

"We are proud to be working with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to offer low-cost, competency-based degree programs to all Federal employees and their families for the first time," said Paul LeBlanc, SNHU president. "This alliance will open the doors to higher education for thousands of Federal workers and their families, and will allow them to develop skills that are immediately applicable in the workplace."

Through the alliance, Federal employees and their families will have the opportunity to pursue an associate or bachelor's degree at their own self-directed pace in subjects including health care management, communications, and general studies.

For more information about College for America at Southern New Hampshire University, please visit

Source: Southern New Hampshire University

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Three Key Differences Between In-Person and Virtual Teaching | Learning Solutions Magazine

"Virtual training consultant Cindy Huggett points to three key areas where in-person instructors need to tweak or build skills when moving online." reports Pamela S. Hogle, staff writer for Learning Solutions Magazine.

“‘Be realistic about what is simple to do and what is difficult to do. It’s simple to have everyone type questions into chat; it’s difficult to have everyone move into subgroups (breakouts) to have private verbal conversations,’ said Karen Hyder, a certified technical trainer and online event producer.”

Photo: Learning Solutions Magazine

Instructional designers or eLearning instructors might believe that moving their face-to-face teaching online is a simple matter of choosing a virtual classroom platform and speaking to the webcam.

They’re in for a rude awakening.

While some elements of in-person instruction translate well to a virtual classroom, others need some adjustment. “A lot of what they [instructors] know about really great in-person facilitation applies online,” said Cindy Huggett, a virtual training consultant. But some skills need to be tweaked or expanded. “It’s like, you already know how to drive a car; now you’re learning to drive a truck. It’s the same set of skills, but you add on to it.”

Huggett identifies three key differences:
  • The role of technology—while a face-to-face instructor might use technology, in the virtual classroom, technology becomes the main platform
  • Engaging learners—different strategies are needed to engage and build a rapport with learners the instructor cannot see
  • Multitasking—instructors need to simultaneously present, engage learners, and use the technology platform
Investing time preparing in these three areas can improve the odds of a successful transition.

Tools of the trade 
The instructor must, of course, master the technology—the virtual classroom platform she’s using to deliver the eLearning. (See “Five Questions to Ask When Choosing a Virtual Classroom Platform” for tips on choosing a platform.) Then, the content must be structured with the virtual platform in mind. (See “Going Virtual: Tips for Moving Instructor-Led Training Online” for advice on making the transition.) Finally, the instructor needs to create and rehearse lessons that work with the online platform.

Karen Hyder, a certified technical trainer and online event producer, cautioned in an email interview, “Start by accepting that it doesn’t work to upload content and activities from a traditional, physical classroom session into a virtual classroom and expect to ‘make it play.’”

Both the instructor and the learners need to adjust to the new platform. “Everything operates a little differently online. Things that were easy in the physical classroom become difficult in the virtual classroom,” Hyder said. “Something as simple as verbal response requires the learner to overcome several technical hurdles!”

The instructor might need to plan, script—and practice—each session to a greater extent than she does for in-person teaching. And Huggett emphasized the importance of creating a learning environment that is comfortable for learners, which might mean teaching them to use tools like raising their hand. 
Read more... 

Recommended Reading
Photo: Cindy Huggett
Designing Engaging, Interactive eLearning for the Virtual Classroom: Cindy Huggett, CPLP.

Photo: Learning Solutions Magazine
Source: Learning Solutions Magazine

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Mysterious Lithophones of Vietnam: Descendants of the First Musical Instruments? | Ancient Origins

Photo: Wu Mingren
 "The word ‘lithophone’ is derived from two Greek words, ‘lithos’ and ‘phone’. The first can be translated as ‘stone’, whilst the second means ‘sound’. Therefore, a lithophone may be said to be a ‘sound-making stone’." argues Wu Mingren, university student doing a BA degree in Archaeology.

Vietnamese lithophones.
Photo: Mike Adcock

Today, this word is used to denote a type of musical instrument made of stones. Lithophones have been discovered in different parts of the world, including Vietnam. Researchers have said that lithophones were played between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Generally speaking, a lithophone consists of several stone slabs of varying sizes. As these stones are struck, different tones are produced. Therefore, a lithophone may be considered to be a percussion instrument, and it has often been compared to a xylophone.
The Vietnamese Lithophones 
In Vietnam, lithophones are also known as Dan Da, which translates as ‘stone instrument’. The first lithophone is reported to have been discovered in 1949. In February of that year, a set of 11 large stone slabs, standing close together in a vertical position, were unearthed by a group of road-builders in Ndut Lieng Krak, in the province of Dak Lak, in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. As these stones were thought to have some historical significance, a French ethnologist by the name of Georges Condiminas was contacted.

It was observed that the slabs, 10 of which were intact, were of varying sizes, and had been chiselled. This suggested that they had served a particular function. Subsequently, Condiminas requested permission from the Mnong people, with whom he was living at that time, to have the stone slabs brought back to Paris to be further studied by experts. This request was granted, and the stones were transported to the Musée de l’Homme in Paris to be examined.

Establishing the Musical Function of the Stone Slabs 
It was during these examinations that the aural function of the stones was established. According to one source, this discovery was made by Condiminas himself, when he accidentally struck one of the stones, and realized that it made a sound. According to another source, it was André Schaeffner, a musicologist, who speculated that the stones were used to make music. Schaeffner noticed that there were tool markings on the slabs, which was taken to be an indication that they were tuned. In addition, the musicologist also recognised that the stones produced different notes when struck, thereby allowing him to arrange them according to pitch.

Similar discoveries were made in the following decades. For example, the biggest known set of lithophones so far was discovered in 2003. In that year, 20 slabs were unearthed by a farmer in the province of Lam Dong, also in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Such supposedly tuned stone slabs have been unearthed on a regular basis. Whilst it is often claimed that these are lithophones, not all of these claims have been substantiated. Nevertheless, as of today, over 200 lithophones have been verified as genuine by experts.
A Vietnamese Lithophone Melody:

Source: Ancient Origins and Thế Trần Yên Channel (YouTube)

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