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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Eight-Minute Lecture Keeps Students Engaged by Illysa Izenberg

Photo: Illysa Izenberg
"In the 1970s, my mother, a fifth-grade teacher, would lament, “The TV remote has ruined my classroom! I can almost feel the kids trying to point a clicker at me to change the channel!” Little did she know that college students today don’t need to wish for a remote control to switch from their professor to entertainment—an endless assortment of distractions are all on their smart phones." according to Illysa Izenberg, lecturer for the Center for Leadership Education in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University

Photo: Faculty Focus

Numerous studies have demonstrated that students retain little of our lectures, and research on determining the “average attention span,” while varying, seems to congregate around eight to ten minutes (“Attention Span Statistics,” 2015), (Richardson, 2010). Research discussed in a 2009 Faculty Focus article by Maryellen Weimer questions the attention span research, while encouraging instructors to facilitate student focus.

When I began teaching in 2006, I assumed that students could read anything I say. Therefore, my classes consisted of debates of, activities building on, and direct application of theories taught in the readings—no lectures.

But I noticed that students had difficulty understanding the content in a way that enabled accurate and deep application without some framing from me. In short, I needed to lecture—at least a little. This is when I began the eight-minute lecture. If you’re worried that eight minutes is too long, I discovered that when students experience many short lectures throughout the semester, they learn to focus in those bursts, in part because they know the lecture will be brief. 

How to implement the eight-minute lecture
1. Prepare students – Early in the semester, explain your teaching methodology and your rationale for doing things a certain way. This helps manage students’ expectations. Most of my students study engineering and expect to mostly listen to lectures and take notes. They are less accustomed to an active learning environment that involves lots of debates on the readings, small group discussions and report-backs, short reflection papers, quick multiple choice clicker quizzes, problem sets, and/or short lectures.

2. Redesign/rewrite lectures – Review your lectures to identify natural breaks. Where can you pause without losing meaning? How can you use students’ knowledge from their homework and previous learning as a scaffold?

Next, look for areas in your lecture where you talk about something that instead can be learned from an image, video, or interactive activity, and substitute accordingly. Cull through the content until you have eliminated two-thirds of your lecture material.
Read more... 

Source: Faculty Focus

Before paying for math programs, free websites may get students ready

"Expert offers options for parents to help kids in math." continues WCVB Boston.

Watch report

There are now more than a dozen after-school programs designed to help kids in math.
But before you sign up, experts say there are important questions to ask.

Dan is doing his algebra homework -- but it's not a school assignment.

It's from Kumon -- an extra math program he's been going to for the past five years.

“I feel a lot more self-confident. I can go into class and I can know what the teacher is saying,” Dan said.

Photo:  Anne Collins
Dr. Anne Collins is the director of math programs at Lesley University. She said while programs such as Kumon teach students computational skills, they may not be the best way to go.

“I think it's a waste of money and a waste of their time,” Collins said.

Collins said there are many more interesting ways for children to become more fluent with mathematics. She said to try to have them focus on problem solving and reasoning to develop their math fluency.

“There are a lot of fun type of activities that students can do especially with the web now where they're looking at developing their math fluency but they are doing it through problem solving,” she said.

But it may be hard to convince Kumon families who see the results.

“I do think it's worth it, especially at the elementary level,” said Dan’s mother, Irene Francesconi.

Resources: Free Math Enrichment Websites:
Arcademic Builders
Illuminations: Resources for Teaching Math
Greg Tang Math

Source: WCVB Boston   

What’s It Like to Get a Ph.D. in Science?

This question originally appeared on Quora, the best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge.

Your adviser will happily ignore you for years so long as you churn out good data for his or her grants.
Photo: Purestock/Thinkstock

Answer by Tom McNeill, Ph.D., director of scientific computing, Virtual-Rx, Inc.:

It will be lonely, and you are on your own without a net.
 Unlike business, medical, or legal education, a Ph.D. in a hard science is an individualized apprenticeship. No two Ph.D. experiences are identical; your program is unique to you. You and your fellow students will share similar ups and downs in your development, but the content and context will be different for each of you. You will be diving into areas of study that few people will understand. In truth, the number of people who will be able to discuss your work as peers world wide will probably be able to fit in your office. This means you need to have the skills to assimilate what you know and apply them to expanding your chosen field. The best bit of advice I can give you is to look to other fields for answers to your questions. For example, systems biologists need to look to electrical engineering and certain branches of math for solutions to problems. Learn to think by analogy. But, most importantly, understand this, your successes will be shared with your larger group, your failures are only yours.

As you progress through your program you will become socially isolated. Cocktail parties with “civilians” become mine fields of awkwardness. You will dread the question, “So, what do you do?” Can you imagine the look of fright and bewilderment on that cute real estate agent's face when you say, “I'm studying genetic engineering,” or “I'm working on ways to test our nuclear arsenal”? At best, you will get a Wow, that sounds hard, before he or she looks for a way to gracefully leave you. You see, “civilians” don't know what to do with you; you scare them. Even worse, the dreaded question, “So when will you be finished?” This is a seemingly innocent question that is the bane of every grad student's existence. When asked, you will stumble and fumble for an answer, leaving your listener utterly confused because in his mind, you go to school, go to class, and after enough classes you are done, right? Wrong! This whole concept of invention and advancing the field is beyond him or her.

Your dissertation topic might not be related to your future work.
Your dissertation is the body of work that demonstrates you have the skills required to join the fraternity of the scientist-scholar. That's all it is. It does not need to be the most elegant bit of science ever constructed; it just needs to be something you can defend before your committee. Now, go write you dissertation.

Truth of the matter is that your dissertation topic is only really relevant for at most five years (maybe 10 if you are really cutting edge). After that, what you did is really old news.

Choosing your institution is your least important choice.
Is a Ph.D. from Harvard any different than one from Fresno Tech? No—you are both called doctor. What matters is who you did your work under, not the name on your degree. Yes, the institution carries prestige, but it is your adviser's connections and reputation in the community that matter the most. Additionally, you need to think about lifestyle a little bit. The stipends are pretty close to parity without regard to institution. This means your stipend is the same in Boston as it is in Bloomington, Indiana. Different parts of the country are more expensive than others—take this into consideration. Generally, save the big name-brand institutions for your postdoc. It looks better on your CV to show continued improvement in brand than it does to get you degree from a big name-brand and postdoc at a second- or third-tier institution.

A bit of advice for those of you at big-name institutions: You are good, you are working with some of the best in the field, and you should be proud of that. However, at every second-tier and third-tier university, there is someone there who is as good or better and smarter than you are. The first truly scary genius I ever met did not come from Harvard, Stanford, or MIT. She came from a third-tier school in North Dakota.'

Source: Slate Magazine (blog)

What poetry has to do with math

Rohan Murty, junior fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, founder, Murty Classical Library of India reports, "We stand to gain much from developing an understanding of ancient India, its deep and diverse ideas."

Photo: The Indian Express

Over the past year, I have heard my friend, mathematician Manjul Bhargava, give several public lectures on the deep connections between poetry, Sanskrit and mathematics. Like many other mathematicians before him who have written or spoken on this topic, Manjul gave an array of examples that demonstrate the tremendous depth and contributions made by ancient Indian (for the purposes of exposition, stretching perhaps from present day Afghanistan to Burma) philosophers and poets to mathematics, often before their counterparts in Western societies did the same. Manjul’s quintessential example is from roughly 11th century India, when Gopala and Hemachandra discovered a delightful connection between the number of syllables in Sanskrit poetry and mathematics. The answer, it turns out, is what we now call the Fibonacci series (also appears in the number of petals in certain flowers in nature), which was eventually rediscovered by Leonardo of Pisa, better known as Fibonacci, about 50-80 years later.

That there should be an inherent connection between the number of syllables in Sanskrit poetry, a product of human thought, and the number of petals in flowers in nature must startle any reasonable person. Another extraordinary example that Manjul highlights is the discovery of the binomial structure hidden in Sanskrit poetry, as discovered by the ancient Indian poet Pingala, roughly in 200 BC. This was about 1,800 years prior to the French mathematician Pascal’s Traité du triangle arithmétique, which we today learn as Pascal’s triangle. Other examples include the use of techniques that resemble modern error-correcting codes, synchronisation, and formal language definition in Sanskrit poetry and prose. These are all modern inventions (or reinventions, in some cases) that impact almost every aspect of our lives, from computer languages to wireless communications.

It would, of course, be foolhardy to claim the ancients invented or knew of computer languages or wireless communications. That would be like claiming Copernicus built space ships to fly to the moon. Rather, what these examples do highlight is that a long time ago, in or near the region we live in today, there existed a thriving civilisation that produced extraordinary intellectual thought and ideas which continue to have fundamental connections with the way we live today. We appear to have lost knowledge of this ancient past through the vicissitudes and vagaries of time. And with it, a significant source of pride and the ability to influence modern Indian identity. Few people of my generation appear to be aware of these facts.

Source: The Indian Express

A.C. Grayling: Education should focus on inspiration more than teaching

Eleanor Hall is the voice of ABC Radio at lunchtime.

ELEANOR HALL: He's one of the world's most engaging and prolific philosophers and he is here in Sydney this week to speak at the Festival for Dangerous Ideas.

Photo: A.C. Grayling
A.C. Grayling is professor of philosophy and master of the New College of Humanities in London.

His latest book, "The Challenge of Things: Thinking through Troubled Times" has just been published. And he joined me in the studio a short time ago:

The Challenge of Things: Thinking Through Troubled Times

Professor Grayling thanks so much coming in.

A.C. GRAYLING: Pleasure.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you're speaking at the Sydney Dangerous Ideas Festival and you're topic is education, so I thought that I would begin by asking you what is the most dangerous idea in education today?

A.C. GRAYLING: Well I suppose really that we don't educate in a way to make people's lives good and flourishing and rich. What we do too much of really is to prepare people to be foot soldiers in the economic battle.

So the thing that really makes a difference to the world at large, but is distorting how education is provided is that we want people to make a contribution to GDP. And, if that's the one thing that over rides all other things then you're missing a trick because peoples careers, of course you hope that people have good satisfying careers that they leap out of bed in the morning with great enthusiasm for what they do, but they are also lots of other things too: they're lovers, travellers, neighbours and husbands and parents and voters. And you want them to be educated for everything.

ELEANOR HALL: We're constantly hearing about the importance of science and what we call stem subjects. You're a champion of humanities, which you say teach people to think. Do you think humanities do this really any more than science subjects?

A.C. GRAYLING: No I mean I think both science and humanity subjects teach people to think, and I am a big champion in fact of the stem subjects also because at my college, which is a college of the study of the humanities I require of my students that they do courses in science literacy. They've got to have an intelligent understanding of what's going on in the contemporary areas of science that have the greatest impact on us.

So yes stem subjects are tremendously important, but the point is that the humanities educate people. Stem subjects train them into technical skills. But to educate people's sensibilities, to give them a greatly enriched view of human condition and of human nature, yo give them a broad horizon of human affairs and how other people see things differently, that's what really makes a person, equips them to be ready to live well. 


Related link
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Source: ABC Local

Why Silicon Valley Falls Short When It Comes To Education

"Despite Silicon Valley billionaires’ remarkable track record of innovation, it appears they have decided to throw in the towel on higher education. Each year, many donate millions to old-line American colleges and universities that, together, graduate the same number of engineers as we did 25 years ago." according to Daniel Pianko, managing director of University Ventures, a fund focused on innovation from within higher education.
Photo: TechCrunch

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs will grow by more than 17 percent in the next decade, but an aging STEM workforce and small number of students graduating today with STEM degrees means there are more than 2.5 million unfilled STEM jobs in the U.S. Today, only 18 percent of Computer Science graduates are women. The numbers for underrepresented minorities are even worse.

Failure to transform American higher education may undo the very building blocks of our nation’s innovation infrastructure. Instead, today’s current generation of entrepreneurs are spending their energy and resources lobbying for band-aid solutions like H-1B visas, when they could be reimagining the current pipeline to address the lack of female and minority engineers in their companies.

The results at the top are stark: Of the fifty wealthiest billionaires in Silicon Valley, only one fortune was generated by a woman. At Yahoo!, which is led by one of the highest-profile women in the Valley, only about 15 percent of their tech team are female.

Yahoo!’s data is not remarkable in light of the number of female STEM graduates, but Silicon Valley’s response is both cowardly and contrary to their change-the-world spirit. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has effectively replaced NASA. His sights are now set on a Mars voyage. Uber’s frenzied campaign to disrupt the taxi industry has already reached presidential proportions.

Contrast these efforts to change the world with Facebook’s response to diversity concerns: “It’s clear that we still aren’t where we want to be.” And Peter Thiel is probably Silicon Valley’s most well-known contributor to the higher education innovation discussion by doling out $100K to students who want to drop out of college — not exactly a way to solve our education crisis.
Read more... 

Source: TechCrunch

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Colleges embrace the question "How can we do that online?"

Photo: Amy Lane
"Colleges and universities are fully plugged in to digital education. See what steps they are taking to improve the experience for students." summarizes Amy Lane, Special to Crain's Detroit Business.
Off- and on-campus students in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology Ph.D. program this spring at Michigan State University interacted through iPads affixed to robots that allowed them to swivel or move about the room. 

In the graduate study of architecture, producing drawings, models, full-scale constructions and documents to be critiqued by an instructor is all part of a student's path to a degree.

It's hands-on interaction that brings together students and instructor in "design studios."

While traditionally held on campus, at Lawrence Technological University, the design studios are also online.

The studios occur virtually, via video chat, with a small group of students and instructors joining at prescribed times to present and discuss work, viewing it on computer screens, posting documents, drawing concepts, using models exchanged by email, and registering thoughts through texting, typing and speaking.

It's an approach that Lawrence Tech saw as signature in launching its online master's of architecture degree in 2009.

"If we were going to offer an online master's program, it needed to be online ... including the studios," said Richard Bush, executive director of eLearning Services. "We knew no other institution was offering at that time as complete an online master's as we planned to deliver."

As schools like LTU look to appeal to students interested in accessing education from anywhere, anytime, they are working to be more interactive and innovative — think robots, even — to improve the experience and usefulness of online learning. From faster-paced coursework and new teaching formats and technologies, to faculty training and classes that orient online students, schools are plugging in to enhance student achievement.

Keeping pace
"The challenge is keeping up with the pace of advances, and technology, and try not to follow the fads, and just stick to what is good for our students, and their success ultimately," said Ahmad Ezzeddine, associate vice president for educational outreach and international programs at Wayne State University.

One approach to improved online learning is to present course information in smaller segments, Ezzeddine said.

"When someone is online, the attention span is a lot shorter. You need to maintain the interest of students, so having them watch a three-hour lecture is not going to be effective," he said.

Students want "more action-oriented learning, in smaller doses," and clear relevance, said Ed Borbely, director of the University of Michigan's Integrative Systems and Design graduate degree-granting division housed in the College of Engineering. "There's less tolerance for 'Just sit back, someday you might use this.' "

He said the division in the past four years has added instructional designers who work with faculty to enhance online delivery and help them "think about how they could more creatively deliver the course content" — like "chunking their courses in smaller bites," using animation and interactive models, and employing "flipped classrooms." That's a model, used by many schools, in which students prior to class go through content — like short video lectures posted online — leaving the scheduled class time to discuss and apply material individually or in small groups.

Such approaches are designed to be more engaging and aid learning, Borbely said. And "while intended primarily to enhance the course for remote learners, they are also benefiting students who are on campus and taking the same course content in the same semester."
Read more... 

Source: Crain's Detroit Business

More work needed in blending online and onsite learning

"Although the traditional lecture hall is unlikely to ever disappear completely, it is increasingly being supplemented – and in some cases replaced – by technology. And while a combination of both online and onsite learning as a teaching means is proving successful, more work is needed for this combination to truly internationalise the global learning experience." writes Peta Lee, Feature writer for international website University World News.


The digital revolution has turned conventional teaching and studying on its head, affecting students, academics and campuses worldwide.

The role of digital learning is analysed in Internationalisation of Higher Education, a study focusing on 10 countries from within Europe and seven from without, commissioned by the European Parliament committee on culture and education.

Europe lagging
Despite the MOOCs – massive open online courses – revolution three years ago opening up new vistas in the fields of digital teaching and learning, Europe is still lagging slightly in the digital revolution.

However, it has the capability to find new avenues for improving quality and access to higher education, said the study’s authors: Hans de Wit and Fiona Hunter of the Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation, Laura Howard of the European Association for International Education, and Eva Egron-Polak of the International Association of Universities.

More emphasis is needed on digital and blended learning “as instruments to complement the internationalisation of higher education, not only through MOOCs but also through virtual exchange and collaborative online international learning”.

Generally, the role of European higher education institutions in the digital disruption of education has been erratic.

An exception is Spain's Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, or UOC, which since 1995 has offered 100% online degrees, while the University of Tübingen in Germany may have actually started the OpenCourseWare movement by publishing videos of lectures online in 1999 – three years before MIT in the US.

The study found that while most countries’ national strategies for internationalisation revolved around physical mobility, short- and long-term economic gains, recruitment-training of students and staff and international reputation, attention should focus more on curriculum and learning outcomes.

Blending provision
For most higher education institutions, internationalisation is about mobility (and targets), internationalising the campus at home, and “preparing graduates for a global market of products, services and ideas”.

Innovations in digital learning would have a direct bearing on how this is achieved. Many academic experts see MOOCs “as a potential enhancement to traditional forms of pedagogy, not as a replacement or even a successor stage”.

The study says that most MOOC experimentation points towards blended provision, but that was already happening before MOOC mania: in autumn 2011, 32% of students in the United States took at least one online course.

Through blended learning, higher education institutions can brace themselves for the future.

Studies in Britain and America prove that students actually prefer blended learning to purely face-to-face or solely online study, so the most successful online offerings must find ways to include community and social interaction, and consistent faculty-student engagement. UOC and the London-based FutureLearn platform are examples.
Read more... 

Additional resources 
The Temporal Perspective in Higher Education Learners: Comparisons between Online and Onsite Learning

Higher Education increases flexibility with online learning solutions. Nevertheless, dropout rates in online university are large. Among the reasons, one aspect deserving further study is students’ Time Perspective (TP), which has been studied in onsite HE... 
Source: European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning 

Source: University World News

Thursday, August 27, 2015

10 steps to PhD failure by Kevin D. Haggerty and Aaron Doyle

Kevin D. Haggerty, professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Alberta and Aaron Doyle, associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University offer tips on making postgraduate study even tougher (which students could also use to avoid pitfalls if they prefer).

Given the stakes involved, one peculiar aspect of graduate school is the number of students who seem indifferent to its pitfalls. Year after year many run headlong, like lemmings, off the same cliffs as their predecessors. Yet a good share of these people ignore or are even hostile towards the advice that might help them avoid screwing up.

Having repeatedly witnessed this process, we have concluded that a small group of students actually want to screw up. We do not know why. Maybe they are masochists or fear success. Whatever the reason, our heart goes out to them. Indeed, we hope to help them – by setting down a course of action that will ensure that they blunder through graduate school in a spectacularly disastrous fashion.

1. Stay at the same university

Photo: Times Higher Education
It can be tempting to obtain all three of your degrees (undergraduate, master’s and PhD) at the same university: you have already established personal and professional friendships there, you know the routines of the university, you have a solid working relationship with the academics, and you even have lined up a potential PhD supervisor who will incorporate you into an existing research project. However, if you actually want to succeed, doing so is probably a mistake.

Friends and colleagues often tell students to obtain their degrees at different universities, but seldom explain why. One reason is that departments have different strengths. Going to a different university or country exposes you to different perspectives. If you complete both your undergraduate and your master’s at one location, some say that you have probably got everything you can from the kind of scholarship and research practised in that department. (Whether this is true is a different matter.)

Going somewhere else for your PhD shows that you have expanded your intellectual horizons. In contrast, others will view the fact that you did all your degrees at the same place as an indication that you lack scholarly breadth and independence, and that you were not wise or committed enough to follow this standard advice about studying elsewhere.

Source: Times Higher Education

People are confusing computer-generated music with the works of J.S. Bach

"The robot revolution has come to classical music composition." writes, Mike Murphy, reporter at Quartz, covering technology.

There's an app for that. 
Photo: Quartz

Donya Quick, a lecturer in Yale’s computer science department, has built a computer program that can create music that the university reported has already confused some “music sophisticates” into thinking it was composed by J.S. Bach. Quick’s machine-learning system, which she’s called Kulitta, uses a library of different genres and styles of music as a basis for entirely original pieces of music.

Automated Music Composition With Kulitta Software 

Kulitta is not the first program made to generate music—computer scientist and musician David Cope has been working on software like this for decades—but Quick’s late advisor Paul Hudak previously told Yale that with Kulitta, “you can create sounds that no one’s ever heard before.”

The software works as past music-generation programs have: It can learn the rules of harmony and pitch mapping by analyzing any music fed into it. But Kulitta can also choose to compose music that doesn’t follow the strict rules in classical and jazz styles, as well as combine styles from different genres. Similar to IBM’s Watson, which uses chemical analysis to pair flavors for dishes that humans would not likely think of on their own, Kulitta can transcend genres to create entirely new music. In a demonstration for Yale, Quick asked Kulitta to write a short piece that combined a jazz harmony in the middle of a Bach-influenced chorale. Pleased with the result, Quick told Yale, ‘This might be what Bach would have done if he knew about jazz.’”
Read more... 

Source: Quartz and YaleCampus Channel (YouTube)

Educators discover new ways that students cheat on MOOCs

"Paper describes ways to detect two major methods." reports Abby Abazorius, MIT NEWS OFFICE.

Photo: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

While the proliferation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has expanded learning opportunities for individuals around the world, the digital classroom is also subject to many of the same issues as the traditional one, such as cheating.

In a new working paper, researchers at MIT and Harvard University identify a new method of cheating specific to open online courses and recommend a number of strategies that prove effective in preventing such cheating.

The working paper, “Detecting and Preventing ‘Multiple-Account’ Cheating in Massive Open Online Courses,” was published today on, an online repository for electronic preprints.

Isaac Chuang — a professor of electrical engineering and physics, senior associate dean of digital learning at MIT, and one of the authors of the working paper — explains that he and his colleagues were inspired to examine the problem in an effort to better understand all the opportunities that online courses provide, including both learning and cheating.

“If learners in some online courses are circumventing the learning process and obtaining certification without going through the traditional routes of assessment and feedback, then the certification does not necessarily imply that they learned anything. This could seriously devalue MOOC certification,” Chuang says. “This is a well-known issue in academics, and it’s happening in a new ways in online settings. We want to understand and address this issue as online education continues to grow.”

Andrew Ho, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an author of the working paper, adds that the paper describes “a new cheating technique that is particular to MOOCs. It is enabled by specific design features, including the ability to create multiple accounts for free. This is a method of cheating that allows you to acquire a certification for a course in an hour, which is not possible through conventional cheating approaches. This is cheating of a different kind.”

Source: The MIT Tech

The 6 e’s of elearning – Part 2 by Brayley Pearce

Photo: Brayley Pearce
"Be guided through the elearning process with practical tips for L&D professionals and learning designers at each stage." according to Brayley Pearce, Instructional Designer.

Part 1 took us through the first 3 e’s of elearning: Engagement, emotion and empowerment. We finish by discussing the learning environment, ways to excite learners and how to evaluate the course.

Photo: Sponge UK (blog)

Environmental Learning In her book ‘Design for how people learn’, Julie Dirksen argues that students studying for an exam are wise to choose to study in the grey, windowless classroom, rather than the cosy library or the noisy coffee shop.

Design For How People Learn

Why? Because the theory is that learning situated within a particular social or physical environment improves the recall and memory of what’s being studied.
Learning that’s situated within a particular social or physical environment improves recall and memory of what’s being studied
As an instructional designer, I want to design elearning experiences that reflect the learner’s reality (or as close as I possibly can).

Understanding where the learner will be putting into practice their new found knowledge/skill/motivation will help greatly in designing elearning that mirrors their reality.

Some of my recent projects that have used this well involved creating elearning designs that simulated a text message conversation between a client and the learner. Made in the responsive Adapt software, the learner ‘scrolled’ through the messages as they would on their phone. When completed on a mobile or tablet, it simulated exactly how a real text conversation would happen.

Provide the learner with an accurate and relevant context in which their elearning takes place
It sounds simple, but getting the terminology and content into a format that is short, sharp and conversational took some time. One big plus was having the constraint of fitting the text into ‘message bubbles’  – this really helped SMEs and writers to concentrate on delivering really focused copy!

In the early stages of designing, find out where, when and how (place, time and method) the 
learner will put into action the objectives or outcomes of the elearning experience. Then work backwards and look to include as many emotional, physical and contextual triggers as possible, either in design, copy or delivery method (or all three!).
Read more... 

Source: Sponge UK (blog)  

Stephen Hawking presents new theory on black holes

Jan Petter Myklebust summarizes, "Cambridge University Professor Stephen Hawking has proposed a new theory of black holes, arguing that information lost in black holes could be stored in alternate universes and that some black holes could be passages to them.

Photo: Stephen Hawking

Speaking at a ‘Hawking Radiation’ conference this week in Stockholm, Hawking said the message of his lecture was that black holes “ain't as black as they are painted".

“They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought to be,” he said. “Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly come out in another universe.”

Hawking said the existence of alternative histories with black holes suggested this might be possible. But the hole would need to be large and, if it was rotating, it might have a passage to another universe. Then again, travellers could not return to our universe.

“So although I’m keen on space flight, I'm not going to try that,” he joked.

Information paradox
Co-sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Nordic Institute of Theoretical Physics, Cambridge University and the Julian Schwinger Foundation, the conference drew 3,000 people to hear Hawking speak in an open lecture.

He received a standing ovation on entering the Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre.

The next day, Hawking further elaborated his new theory on black holes at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. KTH published a video-cut of the presentation.

Source: University World News

Which universities are the most innovative?

Follow on Twitter as @elliebothwell
Ellie Bothwell, International and rankings reporter at Times Higher Education introduces our four ‘innovation indicators’ and reveals the strongest performers as we visualise a new ranking based on university-industry collaboration.

Photo: Times Higher Education

A cloak with the magical power to make things under it invisible? Authors have fantasised about the possibilities of such a garment for centuries, but in 2006 scientists declared that fiction had become reality with the invention of a device that makes objects disappear – at least when viewed in the microwave spectrum. Crafted from synthetic “metamaterials”, the cape is the result of a collaboration between scientists at Duke University, Imperial College London and Sensormetrix, a California-based company that develops technology for governmental and defence clients. As the technology advances, scientists say that it could be used in military operations, to disguise vehicles, for example. David Smith, the James B. Duke professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke, says Sensormetrix was instrumental in the financing and construction of the cloak sample.

Such university-industry partnerships are increasingly common as higher education institutions around the world seek to enhance their research, find new applications for their work and boost revenues.

In the UK, interactions between universities and the economy increased in volume by 10 per cent between 2012-13 and 2013-14 through activities such as collaborative and contract research, consultancy and intellectual property income. Figures released by the Higher Education Funding Council for England last month suggest that the worth of these partnerships grew by £300 million to £3.9 billion during the same period.

According to Robert Tijssen, chair of science and innovation studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, alongside societal engagement, “university-industry connectivity is now the third mission of a university, next to teaching and training and research”.

Data published by Times Higher Education this week in collaboration with Elsevier aim to shed new light on the world of university innovations and inventions by revealing which institutions show the strongest performance across four indicators: the ratio of papers co-authored with industry, the proportion of papers cited by patents, the quantity of research income from industry and the proportion of research income from industry.

Many of the institutions that perform well have not featured prominently, or at all, in Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings because they do not have breadth of research or teaching. However, they are exceptional within a specific field.

Across the indicators, the US and China dominate, with nine and 10 institutions respectively in our tables. Only one UK institution – the Institute of Cancer Research – features.

China’s Southwest Petroleum University has the highest percentage of papers co-authored with industry while the US’ Scripps Research Institute, which conducts biomedical research, produces the highest proportion of papers that have been cited by patents. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, one of Germany’s oldest universities, claims the largest quantity of research income from industry, and the Siberian State University of Geosystems and Technologies has the highest proportion of income from industry sources.
Read more... 

Source: Times Higher Education

A personal tutor, available at the click of a mouse

Follow on Twitter as @LyndseyLayton
Lyndsey Layton, Reporter - Washington, D.C. writes, "Knewton, a digital tool that can figure out how you think and learn, now offers free, tailor-made K-12 lessons." 

Photo: Knewton

Imagine if your teacher knew that you learned math best between 8:40 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. Or that after 38 minutes of studying history, you lose focus. Or that you learn science best through a mix of video and text.

Knewton, the education technology company, says it has created software to identify such preferences for K-12 subjects, and it made the software available for free to the public Wednesday in an ambitious plan to drive personalized learning to new heights.

The company has spent seven years and more than $100 million developing a sophisticated learning tool that relies on an algorithm that draws on millions of data points to tailor supplemental lessons for any student, in real time, said Knewton chief executive Jose Ferreira. 

“It knows what you know and how you learn it best. It knows what you’re struggling with down to the atomic level,” said Ferreira, who was born in South Africa but grew up in Chevy Chase, Md. He studied philosophy and mathematics at Carleton College before receiving an MBA from Harvard.

The Smartest Tutor - Personalized learning from Knewton

Calling Knewton a “giant robot tutor in the cloud,” Ferreira said the software “plucks the perfect bits of content for you from the cloud and assembles them according to the ideal learning strategy for you.” He envisions it used by students as a supplement to classroom learning.

But some are skeptical that Knewton can deliver on its promises.
“I’m totally supportive of data-mining and personalized instruction, but it seems to me they are making unsubstantiated claims,” said Richard E. Clark, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Southern California and an expert on computers and teaching. “It’s a terrific idea. I think it’s possible, but I don’t think they’re doing it.”

Knewton has an open platform, which means any user will be able to upload lessons, content and tests. Clark said he was concerned that means Knewton has not validated the effectiveness of the lessons. “People get distracted by big data, and they don’t focus on how you go about teaching people,” he said.

About Knewton

No two students come from the same background or learn the same way. With Knewton adaptive learning, every student is supported and challenged.

Anyone can log in to to create free adaptive learning lessons that help students meet learning goals. Learning companies can use Knewton Enterprise to build or enhance powerful adaptive learning products across grade levels and subject areas.

The Team 

Source: Washington Post and Knewton Knerd Channel (YouTube) 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

21 Books Every Nerd Should Read, Because Nerdy Is Cool by Crystal Paul

Follow on Twitter as @CPLHouse
"There are all kinds of nerds — book nerds, computer nerds, history nerds, science nerds, space nerds, sci-fi nerds, math nerds, even just plain nerd nerds — and the land of the literary has room for all of them." summarizes Crystal Paul, Freelance Writer, Editor and Book & Brain Science Nerd.

It helps that many books are pretty much by and for nerds. You know, those of us who’d rather read than… well, pretty much anything else, or those whose eyes light up at a mathematical problem as if it were a giant piece of cake.

Whether you’re a nerd for books, brains, space travel, or Boolen algebra, the one thing all nerds have in common is a love for learning, problems, and, just generally what I like to call “brain food.” That’s the thing with nerds, they’re all probably already reading heavily and relentlessly in their fields of interest. But every nerd ought to branch out, or just take the occasional breather from programming your PlayStation controller to turn on all the lights in your house and read books by and about other nerds.

These are the books, both fiction and non-fiction, that every nerd would get a kick out of, whether for the complicated concepts that get your brain going, or just to laugh along as you recognize your own nerdy tendencies in the lead character’s nerdtastic mannerisms. So, read on and stay nerdy.

Copenhagen by Michael Frayn 

From The Los Angeles Times (May 21, 2000)

I’m pretty sure Michael Frayn only wrote Copenhagen because he wanted to imagine himself meeting Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr… I mean, that’s why I read it. The play pretty much puts you in the fly-on-the-wall position in a room with the two famous physicists during (a reimagination of) their meeting in 1941 in Copenhagen to discuss the atomic bomb. It’s kind of just nerd candy..

Source: Bustle

The Theoretical Underbelly of Optimizing Machine Learning Systems

Photo: Nicole Hemsoth
"This week we will be delving into systems and architectures designed for machine learning, but since it’s Monday and there is quite a bit to come, it seemed worthwhile to take a step back and consider how architects and software developers are thinking about the current landscape." according to Nicole Hemsoth, Co-founder and co-editor Nicole Hemsoth brings insight from the world of high performance computing hardware and software as well as data-intensive systems and frameworks.

Photo: The Platform

With everyone from Intel touting the next generation deep learning and machine learning as a partial basis for their Altera buy, to webscale companies like Microsoft, Google, Baidu and others seeking ways to boost machine learning algorithms with hardware, accelerator, and of course, software approaches, the larger conversations tend to get lost in the mix. For instance, what does it mean to optimize for these codes—and what are the system design choices that seem to be the best fits?

Photo: Joshua Bloom
It may seem a bit odd to take machine learning systems guidance from the point of view of a UC Berkeley professor who specializes in gamma ray bursts and black holes, but when it comes to applied scientific algorithms across massive, shifting datasets, Dr. Joshua Bloom does have a view into the complexity—and the systems required to tackle it. This is true both in terms of understanding the machines required to process cosmological simulations (i.e. large-scale supercomputers) but for Bloom and his group at Berkeley, the equal challenge lies in the tradeoffs of that computation versus the requirements of the models. Sacrificing accuracy for performance, scalability for complexity, memory for model depth—the list goes on. But at the core, Bloom says, is an increased need for machine learning systems and people building them to understand the purpose of optimizations and apply those to both the hardware and software (and by default, the outcomes and implementation)

Machine learning systems are alive, he says, both “influencing and responding to their environment. At best, they’re valuable, resilient, functioning systems composed of many imperfect parts with many weak contracts between them, built by fallible individuals with broken communication channels, all of whom are living a resource constrained world that’s constantly changing, with the results being consumed by exacting and capricious individuals.” This definition, as he told a group at PyData Seattle, which was hosted by Microsoft, indicates what we already know. This is hard stuff.

The difficulty lies in variability—and that variability means that there are never any standard tradeoffs that suit any algorithms, which is especially true since the same models, once applied to different datasets, can change performance-wise dramatically.

Source: The Platform