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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why diversity (and disagreement) are key for success by David Falzani.

Photo: David Falzani
"Diversity of engineers is a perennial subject in engineering and technology.  Gender diversity is the most common focus, but also race, religion, age and so on.  For example, the statistics around gender participation are indeed stark." according to David Falzani, President of Sainsbury Management Fellows and Visiting Professor at Nottingham Business School.

Davidchairs a roundtable meeting at SMF on increasing diversity. 
Photo: The Engineer (blog)

According to WISE and EngineeringUK, whilst 37% of girls study STEM subjects at A level, only 13% of applicants for Engineering at University are female (compared to 38% females for mathematics degrees), and then 17% less female engineering graduates take a job in engineering and technology than males (51% versus 68%). Overall, today just 6.5% of the engineering workforce are women. I’m not going to theorise as to why this is the case. Instead, I’m going to ask: Why is diversity important?  Is it being imposed on the economy by a bunch of liberals trying to dictate their values, or is there something more valuable going on?

I’m reminded of the story of the Apollo Team Syndrome. In the 1980s experiments were carried out by Dr Meredith Belbin where teams were set testing challenges or tasks and their relative performance was measured against other teams. The so called Apollo Team was a tag given to the team of the brightest and most qualified individuals. The Apollo name of course referred to the NASA space program and it conjures the mental image of a group of experts.

The interesting result was that the Apollo team usually underperformed the majority of other teams. Although bright and individually capable, they could not work together as an effective unit, lacking the communication skills, the structure, and the “glue” to maximise their individual potential contributions.

At the end of the research, Dr Belbin concluded that diversity was important to achieve a balanced team, and diverse balanced teams tended to outperform other teams across a range of challenges. Dr Belbin went on to explain the different profile characteristics of the individuals within a team and how the diversity should be combined for greatest effect. All of this is probably not too controversial. However, there’s a flipside.

My view is that diversity increases the efficacy of output but can cause a more difficult process. An example of this is what I call the apocryphal agitator experiment. A team is achieving a certain level of performance. Then an agitator is added to the team, whose role it is to question, argue, play devil’s advocate and generally upset any status quo. The interesting but not entirely unexpected result is that the team with the agitator achieves a new and higher level of performance than it had previously. The decision making process is subject to more rigour and analysis. However, much more interesting is what happened when the team was then allowed to vote off one member. In the majority of cases the team voted off the agitator. In other words, the team removes the secret of its own success – presumably because the individual is regarded as a pain. I’ve seen similar dynamics in boards of directors, where contrarian thinking is massaged away in return for a quieter life and (over) certainty in the established view. In past CEO roles I have to admit feeling much more relaxed when all the other directors share the same views as my own. There’s a natural tendency to prefer people who think like oneself. I wonder if this bias hinders diversity – and thereby success?
Read more... 

Related link
SMF President, David Falzani's Business Blog

Source: The Engineer (blog)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mathematicians build code to take on toughest cyber attack

Rebecca Phillips, University Communications science writer summarizes, "Washington State University mathematicians have designed an encryption code capable of fending off the phenomenal hacking power of a quantum computer."

Hamlin, left, and Webb with a book about breaking the Nazi Enigma code, which was also the subject of the recent film, “The Imitation Game.” (Photo by Rebecca Phillips, WSU)

Using high-level number theory and cryptography, the researchers reworked an infamous old cipher called the knapsack code to create an online security system better prepared for future demands.

The findings were recently published in the journal The Fibonacci Quarterly.

Quantum computers are near 
Quantum computers operate on the subatomic level and theoretically provide processing power that is millions, if not billions of times faster than silicon-based computers. Several companies are in the race to develop quantum computers including Google.

Internet security is no match for a quantum computer, said Nathan Hamlin, instructor and director of the WSU Math Learning Center. That could spell future trouble for online transactions ranging from buying a book on Amazon to simply sending an email.
Hamlin said quantum computers would have no trouble breaking present security codes, which rely on public key encryption to protect the exchanges.
In a nutshell, public key code uses one public “key” for encryption and a second private “key” for decoding. The system is based on the factoring of impossibly large numbers and, so far, has done a good job keeping computers safe from hackers.
Quantum computers, however, can factor these large numbers very quickly, Hamlin said. But problems like the knapsack code slow them down.
Fortunately, many of the large data breaches in recent years are the result of employee carelessness or bribes and not of cracking the public key encryption code, he said.

Additional resources 
Nathan Hamlin, Bala Krishnamoorthy, and William Webb. 
A Knapsack-Like Code Using Recurrence Sequence Representations, arXiv:1503.04238v1 [math.NT] (PDF)

Source: Washington State University

'Big data' helps drive big love for actuarial sciences

"Larry Leemis has been preparing a record number of students for success in the actuarial science field." according to William and Mary News.

Photo: William and Mary News

If there is a fire hydrant in front of your home, premiums on your homeowner’s insurance will be lower than the same home without a fire hydrant in its proximity.

But how close should a house be to a fire hydrant to be eligible for a reduced rate? And what reduction is proper? What evidence should be used? The people who figure out the factors that predict how much you should pay for insurance are called actuaries. And William & Mary produces them by the algorithm load.
Using probability, statistics and finance, actuaries drive many of the everyday outcomes of insurance. Drivers who have accidents usually see their car insurance go up dramatically. Smokers usually end up paying more for life insurance. The mathematical predictive power of actuarial science allows insurance companies to keep profitable, steering between the danger of risk on one side and the danger of uncompetitively high rates on the other. Larry Leemis says that all of this may seem intuitive, but the work of actuaries goes much deeper and broader.
Leemis, professor of mathematics at William & Mary, serves as the actuarial advisor in the Department of Mathematics. He has been preparing a record number of students for success in the actuarial science field. To become an actuary, a candidate must pass a series of exams offered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA).
According to Leemis, interest in the math major at William & Mary has more than doubled in the last two decades. He said the increase is due in part to more students wanting to go into fields such as actuarial science. Leemis said he expects interest in the actuarial field to remain strong in the future.

“As you get more people majoring in math and statistics because of the big data push right now, more of those people will be interested in going into actuarial science,” Leemis said.
“Big data” refers to the expanding capability of computational techniques to process amounts of data that were, until recently, unmanageable. William & Mary’s math department is addressing the training, research and educational aspects of big data through EXTREEMS-QED, a program funded by the National Science Foundation. 

Big data has implications far beyond the actuarial sciences, and Leemis said the effects of the big data movement have become evident in the interests of William & Mary’s math majors.

Additional resources 
Actuarial science (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) 

Master of Science (MSc) in Actuarial Mathematics (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
MSc in Actuarial Mathematics - Faculty of Science at University of Copenhagen

Source: William and Mary News 

Mental mathematics can help students shine even beyond classrooms

Dr. Raj Shree Dhar, Nodal Officer, J & K Institute of Mathematical Sciences writes, "Mental mathematics refers to mathematical calculations that you do in your head. It has been known to run almost every aspect of human life, considering that from the moment you wake up you are always calculating the amount of time it is going to take you to accomplish certain tasks." 


Worth noting is that this type of mathematics does not necessarily reflect how good one is in mathematics in general. It is a skill and the only difference is that while some people can be fast, others might take ages to work on simple calculations.

There is need to develop mental mathematics in children from a very tender age. Funny enough, there are some techniques that, when followed, help in simplifying even the most complex of calculations. 

For instance, it is possible for a child to calculate 1478+3456+98-29 in less than five seconds, without the use of a calculator or any other gadget. This has been made possible by the fact that mathematical systems are used in making mental calculations easy. East Asia is credited for developing most of these methods. Since most mental calculations often happen subconsciously, it is important to develop the art of constantly engaging in mental mathematics since it has proven health benefits to both the young and the old. 

Mental mathematics is very interesting although many people tend to find it a bit difficult to master. 

There are set methods that can help you achieve this faster than you can imagine. Vedic mathematics is one of them and is rated among the best methods available. It is one of the most recommended methods for the students who are preparing for any mathematical examinations or contests for that matter. Compared to other conventional methods of learning mathematics, Vedic mathematics tends to be more systematic, unified and simplified at the same time. It is a powerful tool for mental maths that encourages the students to develop their skills in Mathematics and at the same time gives them an opportunity to engage in some fun, giving them satisfaction and flexibility in the learning methods.

Most of us, when faced with maths problems, immediately reach for a calculator or a pen. One key to improving and expanding your math potential—whether you're a corporate executive or a high-school student—lies in the powerful ability to perform mental math calculations. Solving basic math problems in your head is a gateway to success in understanding and mastering higher mathematical fields such as algebra, statistics, and calculus. It's a skill that offers other lifelong benefits. Vedic way of learning mental math has quite a number of advantages. For starters, this method allows you to increase your speed up to 15 times faster than if you were using the conventional math. 

Source: GreaterKashmir

How to learn a new skill for free by James Andrews

Follow on Twitter as @FinanceJames
"New skills, better pay, a broader mind or just because you want to – here's how you can get an education in everything from DIY to forensic science for nothing at all." reports James Andrews, editor of Mirror Money Online.

New skills can boost your pay, let you start a whole new career, mean you no longer have to pay tradesmen for simple jobs or even just make your life richer.
But while the cost of university soars, there are still plenty of ways you can learn new skills, languages or simply satisfy an itch for knowledge for nothing at all.

We've spoken to freebie expert Deepak Tailor to get his top tips to learn something new without it costing you.




You Are the Essence of Learning, Not a School or University

"If you're learning, you're being taught, no matter who is doing the teaching or where the lesson is taking place (and conversely, if you're not learning, you're not being taught). That message reflects the mission of the Khan Academy, an online learning platform that offers free lessons to anyone, anywhere, in subjects ranging from algebra to art history." summarizes Big Think (blog).

Photo: Salman Khan, American educator and founder of the Khan Academy

Created by Salman Khan after tutoring his cousins by telephone, the Khan Academy not only teaches academic subjects, but it also develops skills like grit and determination that are needed to take ownership of information. And this, says Khan, is what the essence of education is all about...

You Don't Need College to Get a College Education, with Salman Khan

Source: Big Think (blog) and Big Think Channel (YouTube)

Northeastern University pioneers new learning model in Silicon Valley

"North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, the world leader in expe­ri­en­tial learning, will open a series of edu­ca­tional hubs embedded directly in select com­pa­nies across the Bay Area, begin­ning in Sil­icon Valley." according to News@Northeastern.

Photo: Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun

The research uni­ver­sity is bringing its century-​​old expe­ri­en­tial learning model and global industry net­work to a northern Cal­i­fornia market that demands more pro­fes­sionals edu­cated in sci­ence, tech­nology, engi­neering, and math—particularly women and minorities.

North­eastern University–Silicon Valley is the latest addi­tion to the university’s global net­work, which includes the flag­ship campus in Boston; regional cam­puses in Char­lotte, North Car­olina, and Seattle; and more than 3,000 industry part­ners world­wide. The university’s pres­ence in Sil­icon Valley is unique due to its co-​​location with an entre­pre­neurial and widely respected industry partner, Inte­grated Device Tech­nology (NASDAQ:IDTI).

This hub will fea­ture a technology-​​focused port­folio deliv­ered through online and hybrid for­mats, enabling stu­dents to com­bine the con­ve­nience and power of online learning with the ben­e­fits of face-​​to-​​face instruc­tion. North­eastern will col­lab­o­rate with partner com­pa­nies, such as IDT, on tai­loring cur­riculum and cre­ating real-​​world expe­ri­en­tial oppor­tu­ni­ties as part of each degree and cer­tifi­cate program.

North­eastern University–Silicon Valley will also create a research ecosystem lever­aging the university’s fac­ulty and research cen­ters to ben­efit the entire region.

North­eastern has never been bound by loca­tion,” said Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun. “Our co-​​op pro­gram takes stu­dents around the world, and our regional campus net­work pro­vides expe­ri­en­tial learning for pro­fes­sionals in a knowledge-​​based economy. Northeastern’s Sil­icon Valley hub builds on our approach of seeing busi­nesses as part­ners and new regions as oppor­tu­ni­ties to empower human potential.”

Source: News@Northeastern

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Heriot-Watt world-leader in Actuarial Mathematics

"Heriot-Watt University, which has a Malaysian campus in Putrajaya, is a world-leading centre of teaching and research in Actuarial Mathematics." according to The Borneo Post.

Students are seen during a session at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia.
Photo: The Borneo Post 

The university’s Department of Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics was the first in the United Kingdom to offer a specialised programme in the field.

Students interested in a career in Actuarial Science will find a pathway that will set them up for a successful future in this field beginning with the university’s Foundation in Science or Foundation in Business and Design Actuarial, with the latter being designed specifically for students who want to pursue a degree in Actuarial Science.

These foundation programmes are structured to equip students with skills in the relevant academic disciplines while also equipping them with other skills, such as English and study skills, in preparation for their transition to degree studies.

Upon successfully completing the foundation programme, students would then be able to progress into the university’s BSc (Hons) Actuarial Science programme, a three-year degree programme which has been accredited by the UK actuarial profession.

Similar to the university’s other programmes, it employs a mixed mode of teaching and assessments, allowing students to experience a more hands-on approach to the programme content.

Chua Han Chun, a Malaysian alumnus of Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh campus, said the university offered him a very flexible, industry appropriate education.
Source: The Borneo Post

Campus News Examining use of mobile devices in the classroom

Smartphones and tablets are powerful tools for texting and tweeting. But can they transform education in the classroom? summarizes University at Buffalo Reporter.

The Digital Challenges program will include an "open mic" session during which students are encouraged to share how they're using mobile devices to improve their education.
Photo: University at Buffalo Reporter

Educators and students will attempt to answer this question during the third installment of the Digital Challenges series, a program created to provoke meaningful dialogue around the challenges of learning in the “Digital Age” and to prepare for the future generation of students.

“Open Mic: What Am I Doing in Your Classroom?” will explore ways students can use smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to enhance their learning experience.

The event will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 1 in 145 Student Union, North Campus. 

The program will be streamed live from the UB Information Technology (UBIT) YouTube account.

The event is free and open to the public. Those attending are encouraged to register online.

“Given the prevalence of mobile devices and the affordances they offer, if we, as educators, don’t embrace and exploit their use in our classrooms, we risk becoming obsolete faster than the technology itself,” says Valerie Nesset, associate professor in the Department of Library and Information Studies.

Nesset will set the tone for the program with her keynote address, “Online or Out-of-line: Mobile Devices in the Classroom.”

Source: University at Buffalo Reporter

Distance Learning Systems Empowers Students to Achieve Success

Distance Learning Systems, one of the nation’s leading educational publishing firms, offers a variety of online education programs that enable students to acquire the knowledge and skills needed in order to reach their personal goals.

Distance Learning Systems announces several affordable online education-based programs that utilize study modules, tutoring, and the latest technologies in order to assist students with achieving their career or higher education objectives.

The programs being offered by Distance Learning Systems are a hybrid, or Blended Learning Program™, that includes an Extra Credit Project. All of these study programs deliver comprehensive educational solutions to working adults, part-time and high school students. In addition to the customized programs, Distance Learning Systems also offers supplemental courses designed specifically for degree assistance.

“Online structured classes are the new wave of education,” said N.B. a student from Fort Gratiot, Michigan. “I believe this educational trend will progress to the point where no one will have an excuse for a lack of education because of the discipline it requires.”

Although all of the programs are offered online, each program is unique and provides different E-Learning options to students. The Online Learning Program is licensed based and offers courses strictly through an online classroom. The Blended Learning Program™ is structured online or face-to-face academic options for learning. This world class preparation program is instructor lead and accelerated to allow the client to complete the maximum number of classes within a minimum period of time.

Other programs like the Independent Learning Program are a self-paced study and test program with world class academic support. The Extra Credit Project is a program offering elective courses for home school and high school students seeking credits that are transferable to over 2,900 colleges and universities.

About Distance Learning Systems

Headquartered in Greenwood, Indiana, Distance Learning Systems (DLSII) is one of the nation’s leading educational publishing firms with over 10,000 students nationwide. DLSII is the only external learning program that offers customized, structured, and instructor lead online programs that allow students to earn college credits that a transferable to thousands of US and foreign colleges. Established in 1999, the mission of DLSII is to develop, support, and deliver comprehensive educational solutions to working adults, enabling them to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to achieve their personal goals. 

For more information visit, or email

Source: (press release)

Embedded Assessment Upgrades Personalized Learning for the 21st Century by Amanda Opperman

Photo: Amanda Opperman
"While some may feel that personalized learning is all the rage, others may be asking “What is personalized learning? writes Amanda Opperman, Institutional and Program Effectiveness Specialist at Wonderlic.


In its most basic form, personalized learning refers to any training approach that is learner-centered, and it includes such methodologies as differentiated instruction, competency-based education, and blended learning, just to name a few. In the 21st century, these learner-centered training approaches have become increasingly high-tech and software-based, which is why it has garnered the attention and endorsement from figures like Bill Gates. 

Currently, adaptive learning is the most high-tech and sophisticated form of personalized learning available. These programs are comprised of computer-based or web-based training environments, where every decision a learner makes is captured and considered in the context of learning theory. According to the DreamBox Learning white paper “Intelligent Adaptive Learning: An Essential Element of 21st Century Teaching and Learning,adaptive learning programs use the learner’s decisions to guide subsequent training, adjust the path and pace of learning, and provide formative and summative data to the trainer. 

Mehrdad Fatourechi concurs in the VentureBeat post, "How Machine Learning Will Fuel Huge Innovation Over the Next 5 Years.” By using intuitive algorithms and sophisticated “machine learning,” adaptive learning modules can modify the presentation of training materials in direct response to the learner’s performance, thereby meeting them at their individual level of need, explains Fatourechi.

While adaptive learning is an effective and streamlined method to deliver appropriate content and assess whether that learner has mastered the content, it may not always be the most desirable training tool because it does not require the presence or facilitation of an actual trainer. The modularized training environment can easily adapt to the learner’s level of need, but it cannot pick up on cues such as frustration, confusion, or confidence in the way that a flesh-and-blood trainer can. 

Indeed, the presence of a trainer during the learning process can be beneficial in identifying where the learner seems to be mastering the content with ease—and where the learner may be struggling. This information can be useful when placing that learner in future positions or assigning tasks and duties. 

What, then, is the trainer who wants to streamline the training process to do? Is there a way to incorporate high-tech training modules into a program, while still maintaining the valuable human element? Enter the embedded assessment.

Source: ATD (blog) 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The challenge of primary education by Rasul Bakhsh Rais

Photo: Rasul Bakhsh Rais
"We need to have a robust and modern curric­ulum design develo­ped by the best educat­ionist­s in the countr­y" according to Rasul Bakhsh Rais, professor of political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.


Primary education, the first few years of schooling, is the most critical phase in the learning process of a child. It provides the foundation on which the pupil, the school and the education system build higher layers. It is at this stage that the child enters the world of learning, knowing the people around him or her outside the family for the first time and gets some basic ideas about life, relations and the broader social world. Primary education is thus the formative level, where the teacher is trusted with the great responsibility to develop young minds. For this reason, many of the countries that have progressed in science, technology and human sciences have invested the best of their resources in education in general and in the elementary tier in particular.

With this comment on the importance of primary education, I wish to explain which types of ideas have guided primary educational planning in industrial societies. Most of these ideas that I am going to mention have universal importance, across different cultures, national boundaries and civilisations. These ideas are essentially about how to develop a human mind and embed it with values of personal success and a stronger society with a sense of community and solidarity, which are all applicable to Pakistan.

First of all, primary education has to be enjoyable for children. Learning for children can come from playing and doing things that create natural interest among them. What will attract a child to learning has been a subject of research for child psychologists, educational philosophers, curriculum designers and authors of children books around the world. The common thread among all of them is how to get the child’s attention and get her or him involved in learning. One of the methods that has been proposed and which is religiously followed in progressive schooling is interactive instruction. The teacher, more than an instructor, is a facilitator and a guide to students. This lets students think for themselves, as they try finding solutions on their own rather than expecting a perfect answer from the instructor. The instructor may lead them to what might be the right answer but before doing that, he lets students try, make mistakes and get there without his or her help.
Read more... 

Additional resources 
Rasul Baksh Rais (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) 
Rasul Bakhsh Rais | IGC  

Source: The Express Tribune   

VIDEO: Atlantic High student speaks out on gender gap in science, math

Follow on Twitter as @AMarraPBPost
"When Palm Beach County School Board members recognized March as National Women’s History Month on Wednesday, they decided to recognize several high-achieving women." summarizes Andrew Marra, Education reporter. 

Among them: Meera Radhakrishnan, a 17-year-old standout student at Atlantic Community 
High School in Delray Beach.

Student takes on gender gap in STEM studies 

But Radhakrishnan didn’t just want to stand and be recognized. She had a message to deliver.

In a brief speech to school board members and the audience, the National Merit Scholarship finalist called attention to the stubborn gender gap in math, science, technology and engineering fields.

Not just an issue at the professional level, she suggested that the problems may start as early as high school.

“Although this disparity of interests doesn’t seem to exist in students’ early years in elementary and middle school, it is clearly apparent in high school and onwards,” she said.

Related links  
March is Women's History Month
Women's History Month (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Source: Palm Beach Post (blog)
and Extra Credit (Palm Beach) Channel (YouTube) 

NUI Galway launches Strategic Plan with ambitious aims for 2020

"NUI Galway’s President, Dr Jim Browne, today unveiled Vision 2020, the University’s new Strategic Plan 2015–2020." reports National University of Ireland, Galway.

NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne. 
 Photo: National University of Ireland, Galway 

Over the next five years, the ambitious plan aims to catapult NUI Galway into the top 200 universities worldwide while securing €100 million in competitive EU research funds.

For students, Vision 2020 promises work-based learning experiences across 80% of undergraduate programmes. Students will also benefit from new accommodation and enhanced facilities for field and water sports.

Internationally, NUI Galway will maintain and grow the global spread of its student population, the five-year plan intends to have 25% of the student body coming from outside Ireland.
Locally, the University plans to develop a major Industry and Innovation Hub and lead Galway’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2020.

NUI Galway will also continue its key agenda of achieving gender equality and empowering staff to reach their full potential.

At the unveiling of the plan to all university staff, Dr Browne spoke of the approach to the University’s 175th birthday in 2020 and how all present could be truly proud of recent successes: “The past decade has been a period of transformation and rapid growth especially in terms of our campus - with the development of new buildings, facilities and research laboratories. We have invested €400 million in our capital development. Now it’s time to build on the strengths of our people - to invest in and support our organisation as it becomes recognised locally and nationally and internationally as a university of choice, relevance and renown in the eyes if the world.”

Catapult NUI Galway into the top 200 universities worldwide
Bucking the national trend and consistently increasing its position over recent years in the most respected and competitive world rankings, - the Times Higher Education (314) and QS ranking (284) - NUI Galway was the only Irish university to increase its position in these two main international rankings. The European Commission’s U-Multi-rank system in 2015 scored NUI Galway the highest ranking of 4 A grades. NUI Galway also ranked in the Top 100 most international universities in 2015 in Times Higher Education’s indicator for international outlook.

With its growing profile, NUI Galway will push its pursuit of an ambitious internationalisation agenda. It will commit to, and focus energy on being a top 200 ranked university by 2020. With this aim of becoming one of the world’s top-tier universities, it will build on relationships of substance that span the globe. This ambition will be driven by the University’s focus on internationally recognised achievements in specific areas of teaching, research, and community engagement.

NUI Galway will maintain and grow the international nature of its student population. Vision 2020 commits the University to attract 25% of the student body from outside Ireland.

Source: National University of Ireland, Galway

CompTIA to help people become network technicians through intelligent e-learning technology

"CompTIA, the IT industry association and a player in vendor-neutral skills certifications for the global IT workforce, will enable to train as network technicians on smartphones and Tablets through CompTIA CertMaster, an 'intelligent' e-learning platform that uses Artificial Intelligence to adapt to each student in real-time." according to IT Reseller.

Photo: IT Reseller
The new course will enable people to study for the newly-released CompTIA Network+ exam (N10-006) with a learning algorithm that monitors every student's memory capacity, confidence and aptitude and regulates dopamine levels in real-time.

The technology could help students learn how to build, manage and troubleshoot networks up to 75% faster than traditional courses. In early trials, the CertMaster platform helped students achieve 80% knowledge retention.

The learning platform could help address the global IT skills gap by enabling industry bodies, schools, IT departments, and government agencies to train a new workforce of networking technicians remotely through fast-track e-courses.

The new CompTIA CertMaster course maps to new exam content training students in the latest technological innovations, from 'software defined networks' to virtual network segmentation and digital forensics techniques.

CompTIA Network+ is the world's leading vendor-neutral certification for networking professionals and demonstrates that an individual has the knowledge and skills to configure, manage and troubleshoot today's networks. Over 400,000 industry professionals are now CompTIA Network+ certified.

CompTIA CertMaster is an online, confidence-based learning solution that helps individuals learn information faster and retain information more effectively for the long term. The pioneering platform combines key principles of brain science, neurobiology, cognitive psychology and game study to help learners master – not just memorise – the information they need to know.

Source:  IT Reseller

Friday, March 27, 2015

My life as a tech teacher, part 4: Would more women in IT make it less Dilbert-like?

Freelance technology journalist Alex Cruickshank continues from here. "Third lesson. It should be easy by now, but the butterflies hadn't disappeared entirely."

I gave the children 15 minutes to come up with their own programs then asked them to use the overhead projector at the front of the class to demonstrate what they'd done. And, crucially, to explain the steps they'd taken.

We had everything from rotating lobsters to colour-shifting unicorns, a cat dancing to a drum-beat and, in a “here's one I prepared earlier” moment, a boy who'd written a simple but impressive computer game at home, based on what he'd learned in the lessons so far. That earned him a deserved round of applause.
There's currently a focus in the media on women in IT, the general view being that there aren't enough of them. I don't have an opinion on that. If my daughters decided to be programmers when they grew up, I'd be neither delighted nor disappointed. It's a job, but it's often awkward, annoying, stressful and managed by idiots. In other words, it's fundamentally Dilbert. Whether that would change with increased numbers of women present I don't know. Nor do I know the effect it would have on any women who might try to change it.

One of the arguments against increased female participation in IT is that the mind-set for programming is representative of the 'male brain'. It's the idea that programming is a logical, mathematical, rigorous vocation that's best suited to socially inhibited, borderline autistic minds. Which apparently means men. Hmm... thanks for nothing. Such people might be over-represented in the IT industry, but correlation does not imply causation.

Source: IDG Connect

Stereotypes lower math performance in women, but effects go unrecognized

"A new study from Indiana University suggests that gender stereotypes about women's ability in mathematics negatively impact their performance. And in a significant twist, both men and women wrongly believe those stereotypes will not undermine women's math performance—but instead motivate them to perform better." according to Phys.Org.

Photo: Phys.Org

The research, led by IU social psychologist Kathryn L. Boucher, appears early online in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

"This study's implications go beyond the classroom into the many other social environments where negative stereotypes about women play a role," said Boucher, a postdoctoral research associate in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "They force us to ask whether people not affected by similar stereotypes can effectively recognize and find ways to reduce their impact. It also puts into perspective the enormous challenge of eliminating the effects of stereotypes despite growing awareness about their harm to women and society."

A recent example of "stereotype threats" Boucher and collaborators point to is the current lawsuit in California brought by venture capitalist Ellen Pao alleging years of discriminatory practices and attitudes based on gender that she says prevented her advancement at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

"This study has major implications for women in technology and business environments, where women's abilities are regularly impugned by negative stereotypes," said Mary C. Murphy, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, who oversaw the study. "These are the places where women are most likely to experience stereotype threat—and if their supervisors and co-workers cannot anticipate how these threats interfere with performance, that's a serious problem. It's one of the ways women end up underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math."

The study's main goal was to find out whether observers could recognize the anxiety and underperformance experienced by women when judged under negative stereotypes. In the IU study, over 150 study participants, split nearly evenly between men and women, were given 10 minutes to solve seven difficult math problems on a computer with no scrap paper.

Additional resources 

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology… ii/S0022103115000037 

Source: Phys.Org

This Is How We Can Get More Women Working In Tech

Did those adorable Supergirls at the fifth-annual White House Science Fair this week make you a little weepy, or was that just me? continues Refinery29.

Photo: Refinery29

I have an excuse, because I saw their picture after reading the latest report on the status of women in technology, out from the American Association of University Women. And, no surprise, the statistics aren’t good. The research report focused on women in computing and engineering, two fields that make up more than 80% of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and applied mathematics) workforce, and which have remained stubbornly male-dominated despite an increase in gender equity in many other areas.

In engineering, one of the most traditionally male industries, women made up just 12% of the workforce in 2013. And, in computing and mathematical occupations they made up 26% — almost 10% less than they did in the 1990s. These numbers are a major problem. “The overarching thing the research pointed out was the ‘boys’ club’ culture in these fields, which isn’t just holding back women, but the companies and employers themselves,” says Christianne Corbett, one of the report’s co-authors. Innovation needs diversity in order to be the best it can be, because as Corbett points out, “Technology is shaping the way we live more and more, so we really can't afford to not have women's perspectives at the table.”

Instead of just recounting the bias and depressing statistics found in recent research, AAUW analyzed the findings and came up with some actual recommendations that companies, universities, and women in tech can use to help reverse these trends. Here are some of the most interesting.

Solving the Equation (introduction)


Additional resources

Get the Solving the Equation Report (PDF)

Source: Refinery29 and AAUW Channel (YouTube)

Bridge the Gap Between E-Learning and Compliance by Travis Waugh

Photo: Travis Waugh
"We build the courses because we have to, and our learners watch them because they have to." according to Travis Waugh, training generalist for The Georgia Institute of Technology.

Compliance learning, in too many organizations, is dangerously close to an oxymoron. No matter how rigorous and compelling our primary learning programs may be, our compliance learning initiatives, especially in e-learning, are routinely boring, stale, and lacking in any real impact. We often blame the technology, but there are deeper issues at play.
Photo: ATD (blog)

We build the courses because we have to, and our learners watch them because they have to. But no one pays any more attention than the absolute minimum required. This second-rate status is only natural. Unlike the majority of adult learning programs, which are born directly from an organizational need or opportunity, compliance-training programs are foisted upon us without any perceived need from within.

Even if we see the importance of the subject—as most of us would on issues like sexual harassment, employee safety, and business ethics—the broad mandates of compliance laws and policies often make it difficult to see where any real, individual learning will occur. Instead, we throw up our hands, check the boxes, and move on as quickly as possible to a course that we actually care about.

Such compromises are understandable. In real life, with limited resources and seemingly infinite demand, learning departments have to choose priorities. We must accept that not every course will be a masterpiece. But sometimes, priorities must shift. And now might be the time to shift a little more love toward compliance.

The need is certainly there. After years of hasty compromises, many learning programs are lost in a sea of lip-service compliance tutorials that barely even pretend to carry any real meaning. Their dead weight is a burden to designer and learner alike, posing a serious threat to the long-term health of our industry.  

If we can’t bridge the gap now between compliance and learning, we may soon discover that we’ve failed at both. Here’s why.
Read more... 

Source: ATD (blog)