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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Soon Your Computer Will Be Able to Tell if You’re Bored | Evolving Science - Intelligent Machines

Photo:  Emma Stenhouse
"Whilst many of us can probably remember drifting off at school during a particular lesson where the teacher failed to fully engage our attention, this could possibly become a thing of the past now that researchers have found a way to measure how engaged someone is with computer-based content." notes Emma Stenhouse, qualified teacher of biology and chemistry and worked as a teacher in the UK. 
Home Office Workstation Notebook.
Photo: Public Domain

As many more courses become available online, as well as educators employing a higher level of computer assistance during lessons, something called ‘affective-aware technology’ could potentially help increase the engagement of those people using these services. This would mean that the computer-aided lesson could recognize when a student’s interest is waning, and change either the content or delivery of the lesson to re-engage them.

Non-Instrumental Movements 
A study carried out at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School found that the level of interest shown by a person using a computer can be measured using tiny actions known as non-instrumental movements. These involuntary movements are exhibited by all of us, but tend to decrease when we’re fully engaged with what we’re doing.

A common example is a young child, who is normally full of energy and unlikely to sit still for very long. But, place the same child in front of a television showing their favourite show, and they will very often become completely still and fully engaged with the characters within the show.

Dr Harry Witchel, lead author of the study, calls this ‘rapt engagement.’ He suggests that what happens to that small child watching television happens when any of us are highly engaged with something that we’re doing: those tiny movements become supressed and it is this that can be measured by a computer.

Shaping future interactions 
The implications of being able to monitor and track these involuntary movements could certainly be broad-reaching across a variety of different sectors. Dr Witchel said of this discovery that: “Being able to ‘read’ a person’s interest in a computer program could bring real benefits to future digital learning, making it a much more two-way process.”
Read more... 

Source: Evolving Science

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Books In Science: How Genomics Keeps Rewriting Human History | Forbes

Photo: John Farrell
"Adam Rutherford's A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived paints in broad strokes, but provides a good survey of the science of genomics and how it's changing the story of human evolution" says John Farrell , Forbes contributor.

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived:  
The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes

And it's happening at an ever accelerating rate, given the advances in the technology of genetic sequencing.

Scientists can now employ sequencers smaller than a deck of cards, according to Rutherford, "that will plug directly into your laptop via USB port, so they can be taken out into the field to sequence the genomes of animals and plants in the wild."

All these technologies are fueling the revolution in genetics for everyone (and every thing) alive.

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived is divided into two parts: four chapters on how humans emerged as the lone survivors of what once were a seemingly cosmopolitan mix of many lineages. And Rutherford examines the descendants of the human migrations out of Africa into Europe, into Asia, and most recently in the last 13,000 years into the Americas.

The second part of the book deals with how genomics is changing our (mostly mistaken) views about race, eugenics and determinism. (And for that matter how genomics is giving philosophers of science more headaches in their seemingly endless debates about how best to define the concept of species.)
Read more... 

Source: Forbes

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Rhode Island charter school stays true to blended learning model | EdScoop News

Photo: Corinne Lestch
"Village Green Virtual charter school uses an edtech tool called Edgenuity to provide virtual instruction for students" says Corinne Lestch, Education staff reporter - EdScoop, FedScoop and StateScoop.

Photo: Edgenuity's courseware.

Some high schools incorporate blended learning strategies into their schedules, but a Rhode Island virtual charter school is using the model as the basis for its entire curriculum.

Village Green Virtual, a charter school based in downtown Providence that opened in 2013, allows its 225 students to set their own educational goals and paths through a combination of e-courseware and in-person interactions. Because it's mostly virtual, the school is unusual in that it has to rely on online methods to ensure students' gains in performance. 

That's where Edgenuity — a tool that provides personalized virtual instruction — comes in. Village Green Virtual uses the product to create a library of courses that can be easily customized for students, whether they are there for remediation or acceleration. 

"Edgenuity allows us to pull lessons across content areas," said John D. Butler, co-founder and director of academic planning and logistics for Village Green. "If I'm a chemistry teacher, and I'm having problems with some of my students solving an equation, I can pull from a math course a unit or lessons that are relevant to that particular section of chemistry."

Butler added that the school uses Edgenuity to tailor courses to align with annual testing, especially as schools across the state ramp up efforts to prepare students for the Next Generation Science Standards, which were adopted in 2013 and are still being implemented.

"We've been able to build, from the ground up, science courses that will align with that assessment," Butler said. "We also have access to real-time student data, so we know exactly where the student is in the curriculum and how much time they spend on the task." 

Source: EdScoop News (press release) (blog)

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Four tips for adult digital learners | The Globe and Mail

Photo: Guy Dixon
"The title alone, Death 101, suggests something other than typical University of Toronto fare" summarizes Guy Dixon, feature writer for The Globe and Mail.

The design of online classes has evolved dramatically in the past five years.
Photo: University of Toronto/Johnny Guatto
But Death 101 is no horror show. It is an online course, now archived, on global health risks, death and disease, and their effect on policy, developed by the University of Toronto for EdX Inc. And that makes the course even less typical.

EdX is a third-party platform on the web (another popular service is Coursera Inc.) that is in the business of hosting MOOCs, or massive open online courses. Sometimes the courses have a prerequisite, such as prior knowledge of the topic. Sometimes they are part of professional certification programs.

MOOCs have become another option, along with the plethora of online courses already offered directly by postsecondary institutions, for busy adults looking to dip into online learning, whether for work or pleasure.

And as a result, this has led to rapid changes in adult learning. The design of online classes has evolved dramatically in the past five years. And what is required of students online has also changed dramatically.

Prospective students who choose to study online have a few key issues to consider.

Expect to be busy
Simply signing up, doing some reading and dabbling in a class anonymously are not enough. That is no more effective than sitting in a lecture and watching a professor speak for one, two or three hours, says Gregor Kiczales, executive director of the University of British Columbia's extended learning department and a professor of computer science.

Online courses are about concision. Each lecture tends to be short, about 10 minutes, accompanied by exercises sprinkled throughout the course. They aren't about daydreaming through long classes and weeks of plowing independently through vast texts.

"What's interesting is that the online courses, in a funny way, have a real advantage, because it's so easy for them to intermix presenting content with activity. It's so easy for them to say to the learner, 'Hey, you haven't solved a problem in a day. Why don't you do this now?' " Dr. Kiczales says. "It's so easy for them to encourage the kind of activities that we know promote learning."

Shop around for the right class
This isn't as obvious as it may sound. There are many different ways in which online classes are designed to engage students, from continual assignments to little nudges by an algorithm or directly from an instructor. Consider your preferences.

"Look for signs that the online course is well designed for learning, not that it's well designed to be efficient for the institution providing it. Does it have a clear sense of what's going to happen each week? Does it have real activities that are going to be interesting to engage in? Does it check back in with you to see how you're doing, and keep you up to date? When you post questions online, do they get answered quickly? All of those are quality indications," Dr. Kiczales says.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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Performance Competition Brings Music Students to K | Kalamazoo College

Photo: Andy Brown
"High school students visiting for the music teachers performance competition can check out the music scholarships K offers for majors and non-majors" reports Andy Brown, Director of Media Relations and Online Content
Photo: Kalamazoo College

Kalamazoo College welcomes the students visiting this weekend for the Michigan Music Teachers Association Performance Competition for solo and chamber instrumentalists. Performances will be at Recital Hall, Dalton Theater and the band room at the Light Fine Arts Building.

For those visiting students still in high school, take a look around campus and explore what it offers through our virtual tour. If you can see yourself attending K, check out the music scholarships and theater scholarships we have for music majors and non-majors alike.

If we’ve piqued your interest, learn how to connect with Admission. The Admission Office often is the first point of contact for prospective students and their families as it shares the College’s distinctive programs and opportunities in the liberal arts and sciences, which are developed through the K-Plan. The K-Plan is a nationally recognized open curriculum offering rigorous academics, a hands-on education of experiential learning, international and intercultural experiences such as study abroad programs, and independent scholarship through senior individualized projects.

Enjoy your stay!

Source: Kalamazoo College 

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QU Music Department to host Saxophone Day | Herald-Whig

"Quincy University's Music Department will host a Saxophone Day for high school students from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Connie Niemann Center for Music, located at QU's North Campus,18th and Seminary Road" continues Local Briefs.


The day will bring together high school saxophone players from around the area to form a saxophone choir. Participants will spend the afternoon rehearsing music and learning about the saxophone. Each student will receive a gift bag full of interesting music items. Saxophone players between the grades of 9-12 are encouraged to attend. All abilities are welcome. The cost is free and lunch is included. 
The day will end with a concert at 4 p.m. for family and friends.

For any questions or to register, go to or contact Christine Damm, assistant professor of music and director of jazz band ensemble, at or 217-228-5432 ext. 3159. To register, include participant's name, grade and school.

Source: Herald-Whig

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Monroe man holds rush hour sax sessions near overpasses | Monroe News Star

"If you're ever near the intersection of North 18th Street and Texas Avenue in Monroe around rush hour, roll down your car window and listen" says Bonnie Bolden, Reporter.

Photo: Bonnie Bolden/The News-Star

Donald Givens plays saxophone for hours each day in the morning and the evenings in his gazebo. His yard is nestled near the corner of two overpasses, and commuters hear his practices daily.

Strangers pull up to his house and hand him money or ask him to play for them, and people around the city know him as the saxophone man, even if they don't know his name or what he looks like.

"I don't feel famous," he said.

Givens, 67, has learned three musical instruments as an adult: piano, saxophone and guitar. He learned two of those in the past five years.

Anyone can learn, he said. Keys to success at any age are confidence and perseverance. A lot of people fail because they assume they can't succeed and don't put forth their full effort. Knowing you can accomplish your goals is essential, and tackling what, to many, seems like a monumental task later in life can have benefits.

Watch the Video

Tickling the ivories
When he was 28, he started taking his daughter to piano lessons and decided he wanted to learn too. 
He said she practiced because her mother wanted her to learn, so she was done as soon as time was up.

He, however, was learning because he had a real desire to hone his skill.

A few months into piano classes, he was discouraged. Having each hand play different notes while reading the music and using the foot pedals on the piano seemed like too much. 

His teacher told him everyone else did it and he could do it too. He said she was right, so he kept playing.

Givens would practice for hours and try working out new songs beyond his range.

He'd go to Roark Music on Jackson and buy a song if he thought the words were beautiful. He'd have his piano teacher play it for him, and if he liked the piece, he'd keep practicing until he had it down pat.

"Regardless of how difficult it was, if it's beautiful,I'm going to stay there and stick with it until I learn how to play it," he said. Many of the more beautiful pieces are more difficult...

Palm Tree Sax
He started trying to copy Kenny G and other well-known saxophonists

"When I first started, I would play inside the house. When I got pretty decent I went out to the drive way, and when I thought I was pretty good, I went out to the gazebo," he said.Since then, he's been a part of numerous drivers' days. 

His favorite pieces to play include "Jesus, You're the Center of My Joy," " You Are So Beautiful," "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone," and "Memory."

Givens said he can play four to five hours without getting winded now, and he loves to keep practicing because there is no end goal with music.

"You can never master it," he said. "It's unending."

His daily practices have yielded numerous offers to play at events. At a birthday party, a local radio personality introduced Givens as Palm Tree Sax.

"I've had a lot of fun. So many people have come up in here."

Givens said one man claimed his music calmed him down and kept him from killing his boss. Several people have told him the jazz helps calm them down.
Read more... 

Source: Monroe News Star

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Music in the early years 'helps children learn to listen and speak' | TES News - School news

"Findings come after Ofsted chief inspector's call for all young children to be taught nursery rhymes" insist Helen Ward, Journalist at TSL Education. 

Photo: TES News

Singing, playing and dancing with professional musicians has helped three-year-olds progress more quickly in their listening, speaking and behaviour skills, according to research.

A year-long project, involving workshops and concerts from professional musicians and training for teachers, resulted in the children involved making on average three months' more progress than expected in their speaking skills and two months' more progress in behaviour and listening skills.

The Music for Change project included weekly musician-led workshops, in which nursery children could explore and play with instruments, play music games or sing.

Training sessions helped teachers to embed music into their curriculum. The children also visited live performances in local venues – these included musical plays such as the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Sound progress 
The project was evaluated by researchers at the UCL Institute of Education and University of Roehampton.

According to one nursery manager in the report commissioned by Creative Futures, the charity which ran the project: “Children who were shy have come out of their shell [and become] involved in a bigger group. Social and emotional development has improved.
Read more... 

Source: TES News

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Sign up for Vanderbilt’s Osher Lifelong Learning winter term | Vanderbilt University News

"African American pioneers in sports and entertainment, media in a time of fake news, and climate change and human health are among the winter classes to be offered by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt in January" according to Ann Marie Deer Owens, Sr Public Affairs Officer.

Mature learners gather at a variety of locations, including The Commons Center, for academically stimulating courses offered by OLLI at Vanderbilt.
Photo: Steve Green/Vanderbilt

Other Osher classes—open to all those who are 50 and older—will focus on music and Southern culture, resources for tracing one’s family history, and Asian American literature and the impact of technological advances on identity.

In addition, lifelong learners can sign up for courses that preview the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s winter production of Hamlet and the Nashville Children’s Theatre production of Mockingbird in February. Other courses will tackle ethical issues surrounding death, medieval Christian mystic Meister Eckhart, playing steel drums, and creative writing.

“One of our most important goals is to provide an academically stimulating curriculum with Vanderbilt faculty and other respected experts,” says Norma Clippard, program director for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt. “In addition, members often develop strong friendships with others who share an interest in lifelong learning.”

All classes are individually priced.

The following courses comprise the winter term: 
“Osher Steel Drum Band—Advanced,” led by Alli Puglisi, director of the Osher Advanced Steel Drum Band. A level up from the Beginning Osher Steel Band, this class moves at a fast pace and focuses on learning different styles of music. The class meets for seven Sundays, beginning Jan. 14, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Blair School of Music.

“Osher Steel Drum Band—Beginner,” led by Mat Britain, director of the Osher Beginner Steel Drum Band. No musical experience is needed to join this hands-on class, which meets for seven Sundays, beginning Jan. 14, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Blair.

Source: Vanderbilt University News

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Taiwan marks World Philosophy Day with marathon-style salons | Focus Taiwan News Channel

"World Philosophy Day, established by UNESCO in 2005 to promote critical and independent thought, is being celebrated in Taiwan on Thursday for the first time, attracting hundreds of people interested in brainstorming on important life issues" reports Lee Hsin-Yin.

Photo: Focus Taiwan News Channel
A two-day event comprising 16 salons that start in the afternoon and run until midnight, is being held to encourage free and continuous discussions, an area of study that has not gained the attention it deserves until recent years in Taiwan, according to the organizers, a group of intellectuals and scholars.

Claire Lin (林靜君), event coordinator and deputy head of the Philosophical Education Development Organization, told CNA that In recent years the "pursuit of reasoning" has become popular in Taiwanese society and it is timely to re-emphasize the importance of philosophy because it provides "good tools" through which people can reflect on the issues they encounter in their daily lives.

There has been more reflection on the relation between individuals and society especially since the high-profile death of Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), which raised awareness of social justice.

The 24-year-old conscript died of heat exhaustion on July 4, 2013 after being forced to do strenuous exercise in a confined facility.

Hung's death raised questions about human rights violations in the military, sparked mass protests in Taiwan and led to the prosecution of several military officials and major legal reforms such as the abolition of military courts during peacetime.

Lin said that once people familiarize themselves with the study of philosophy, they are better equipped to reflect on and understand what is happening in the world around them.

Read more... 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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