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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Additional literacy and numeracy education a continuing success | Community - Manning River Times

The second round of Bulahdelah additional literacy and numeracy customised education (BALANCE) commenced on the first day of term two, with a new cohort of Year 7, 8 and 9 students exploring making connections in literacy and fractions in numeracy, as Manning River Times reports.  

Year 8 students getting involved in the "balance" program.
Photo: Manning River Times

Program co-ordinator, Kim Rigley said students are encouraged to use their existing knowledge and experiences, prior learning and creative thinking in literacy to help them recognise the links to and between different texts, themselves and the world. 

“Students participate in group discussions following on from the short text read in class,” she said.

“Prompts are used to encourage students to follow their pathway of thinking and share it with the group...

As for numeracy, students have commenced their exploration of fractions and the general concepts of math as they are practiced in everyday life.

“Students have discovered fractions can be related to time, money, measurement, probability, and in the preparation of food, the latter being the most important, according to many students,” Kim explained.

“By relating these real-life everyday actions to math, it is the intention of BALANCE to make math relevant, meaningful and practical in answer to the age old question, “When am I going to use this in life?”
Read more... 

Source: Manning River Times

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Hands-on learning is a necessary part of college, but here’s what it doesn’t teach students | Grade Point - Washington Post

Jeffrey J. Selingo, regular contributor to Grade Point and professor of practice at Arizona State University says, "What employers look for when hiring graduates." 
Xavier University student Triton Brown studies in a common area on campus before going to one of his part-time jobs in New Orleans.
Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

As college students nationwide work in part-time jobs or internships this summer, it’s unlikely many will think about how they’re using their undergraduate courses on the job or how they might apply what they’re learning at work when they get back to campus.

For students, college is a series of disconnected experiences — the classroom, the dorm, the athletic field, the internship. Yet what employers tell me gets college students hired is the ability to translate what they learned in one place (the classroom, for instance) to another that is far different from where they originally learned a concept (a project on an internship).

Educators call this “transfer learning” — the ability to generalize core principles and apply them in many different places, which becomes more important as the skills needed to keep up in any job and occupation continue to shift in the future.

The concept sounds simple enough. But today’s students, facing the constant pressure to prepare for standardized tests, rarely have the chance to learn through problem solving or to be involved in projects that reinforce skills that can be used in multiple settings. Our ability to drive almost any car on the market without reading its manual is an example of knowledge transfer, as is our ability to solve math equations involving any number once we learn the formula...

Arizona State University, where I’m a professor of practice, is testing a curriculum across a dozen majors in which students learn nearly half of the subject matter through group projects instead of a specified schedule of classes. Engineering students might build a robot and learn the key principles of mechanics and electronics from faculty members during the project. The hope is that students will be more engaged if theories from the classroom are immediately applied in the outside world instead of years after students graduate.

Source: Washington Post

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The End Of The Internet As We Know It…Could It Happen? | Information & Communication - Evolving Science

Photo: Deirdre O’Donnell
By now, many of us are aware that the Legal Affairs Committee (or JURI) of the EU Parliament has voted in favor of controversial proposed changes to copyright legislation in the region.

New proposals for articles to be included in the EU law may change the way news is viewed or shared online.
Photo: By Sollok29 - Own work @ Wikimedia Commons

These measures are related to the reproduction and distribution of some content types on the internet and are widely viewed as detrimental to the freedom involved in doing the same.
The main clauses associated with this change in how copyright is enforced on the internet are articles 11 and 13 of the proposed directive 2016/0280 (COD).

Many groups, lawmakers, and interested parties claim that the adoption of these articles will lead to vastly increased censorship online. As of 20th June 2018, the JURI votes on this subject were narrowly in favor of both proposed articles.

So, will this be the end of the ability to share links and images online?

The Potential Effects of Articles 11 and 13 
Article 11 of the proposal would require anyone who wants to share a link, even containing a short line from a news story or headline, from a publisher who provides such content, will need a specific license from the said publisher before doing so.

This means that the sharing of news may end up much more tightly regulated and monitored than ever before.

Some of the publishers hailed this proposal as a positive move in their favor. They have reasoned that this regulation will put more of the revenue garnered from news-link sharing in their hands, whereas under current circumstances, search engine leaders (i.e., Google, Facebook, etc.) see the bulk of this in the form of users searching and finding links.

However, the same publishers appear to have overlooked the fact that they are the ones who will have to pay for these licenses under article 11. This could be widely viewed as a negative step towards increasing bias, as well as a lack of access to news content online. 

The rationale behind this perspective is that those publishers who are in a position to pay licenses will be the ones releasing the stories, and thus, they are those who are in control of public perception. 

In addition, these guidelines may dissuade or entirely remove smaller publishing bodies from the market. This, in turn, can take a toll on the freedom of speech and expression online, over time. 

Article 13 was proposed by the committee to enforce the terms of article 11 since it provides for the monitoring of online content so that all links are licensed. 

Article 13 also appears to exist to legalize content-scanning for copyright infringement, in general. This can be facilitated by companies whose services are tailor-made for large-scale surveillance such as these. In addition, these agencies may be located outside of the EU, most likely in the United States. 

This cannot be good news for those who prefer to be in control of their data and activities online as much as possible. 

Also, article 13 is potentially incompatible with some other EU and human rights laws.

Source: Evolving Science

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Adobe is using machine learning to make it easier to spot Photoshopped images | Artificial Intelligence - The Verge

Photo: James Vincent
"New research uses AI to automate traditional digital forensics" according to James Vincent, cover machines with brains for The Verge, despite being a human without one.
A famous edited image of a missile launch released by the Iranian government in 2008. (This image was not used in the training or testing of Adobe’s research project.)
Photo: The Verge

Experts around the world are getting increasingly worried about new AI tools that make it easier than ever to edit images and videos — especially with social media’s power to share shocking content quickly and without fact-checking. Some of those tools are being developed by Adobe, but the company is also working on an antidote of sorts by researching how machine learning can be used to automatically spot edited pictures.

The company’s latest work, showcased this month at the CVPR computer vision conference, demonstrates how digital forensics done by humans can be automated by machines in much less time.
The research paper does not represent a breakthrough in the field, and it’s not yet available as a commercial product, but it’s interesting to see Adobe — a name synonymous with image editing — take an interest in this line of work.

Speaking to The Verge, a spokesperson for the company said that this was an “early-stage research project,” but in the future, the company wants to play a role in “developing technology that helps monitor and verify authenticity of digital media.” Exactly what this might mean isn’t clear, since Adobe has never before released software designed to spot fake images. But, the company points to its work with law enforcement (using digital forensics to help find missing children, for example) as evidence of its responsible attitude toward its technology. 

The new research paper shows how machine learning can be used to identify three common types of image manipulation: splicing, where two parts of different images are combined; cloning, where objects within an image are copy and pasted; and removal, when an object is edited out altogether.

Source: The Verge 

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Liberty University cuts costs with free textbooks for undergraduate online students | Liberty University News

As a pioneer in distance learning, Liberty University has consistently increased and broadened its online program offerings while keeping education affordable for tens of thousands of students across the country and around the world, continues Liberty University News.

Photo: Liberty University News

This fall, the university is taking its commitment to affordability a step further by providing digital books and instructional materials free of charge to online undergraduate students enrolled in online undergraduate courses. The change affects over 700 courses and is expected to save full-time online students up to $975 a year. Across the university’s online program, the total cost savings could exceed $12.2 million.

“We know from student surveys that the expenses associated with textbooks create challenges for them,” said Connie Allison, executive director of the Center for Academic Development at Liberty. “The costs may cause them to take fewer courses, buy older editions, or even wait to get their materials weeks into the course. Providing free textbooks will not only reduce their costs but also will ensure that they have access to their materials on day one of the class.”

For textbooks that have no digital option, students will be provided physical copies at no cost... 

Liberty has implemented new technologies, for example, that can identify areas where students are struggling and give guidance as they study. For instance, students may see a prompt telling them to go back and read certain portions of the material again. Companies are working with Liberty to create systems that can meet the unique learning needs of each student.

“These technologies are helping us explore the best ways to teach a subject, or a specific topic within a subject, so that the student will not only learn, but retain what they have learned,” Hicks said.

“It’s called ‘learning science,’” Allison added. “We’re integrating assignments, offering checks and balances, and, hopefully, helping students do better in true learning.”

Source: Liberty University News

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Digital learning having impact on low decile Northland schools | Northern Advocate - New Zealand Herald

"Students in low decile Northland schools are learning three times faster using electronic devices, a new report shows" notes Emma Russell, reporter for the New Zealand Herald.
Watch the Video

The University of Auckland's Woolf Fisher Research Centre tracked nearly 400 pupils aged 8 to 14 from six schools around the region who were using digital learning last year.

The cluster of schools were Manaia View School, Whau Valley Primary, Te Kura o Ōtangarei, Whangārei Intermediate, Tikipunga High School and Hikurangi Primary School.

Dr Rebecca Jesson, who led the research, said some of the students had made gains at more than three times the rate of the previous year.

"All lines are pointing upwardly for all year levels for both genders and all ethnicities, which is huge," Jesson said.

She said there was particular improvement in writing, which was a subject that often faced underperformance, and significant progress in maths.

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Why liberal arts and the humanities are as important as engineering | Hindustan Times

An engineering degree is very valuable, but the sense of empathy that comes from music, arts, literature and psychology provides a big advantage in design, as Hindustan Times reports.  

Steve Jobs gave credit for the success of the Mac to a calligraphy course that he attended. He also highlighted the importance of art and design at the unveiling of the iPad 2, when he said “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices”.
Photo: AFP

Doctor, engineer, or businessman were the three choices my parents told me I had for a career when I was growing up, with the third being at the bottom of the list. Even today, Indian parents dread the thought of their children becoming musicians or artists; engineering has become the most respected profession.

Because of the success of startups such as Flipkart and Paytm, parents don’t freak out as much when they hear that their child is starting a company any more. But engineering is still considered a prerequisite for success in the technology industry and this is what parents insist that their children study.

Some of Silicon Valley’s brightest stars aren’t engineers, they are Liberal Arts and Humanities majors. LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Hoffman, has a masters in philosophy; YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki, majored in history and literature; Slack’s founder, Stewart Butterfield, in English; Airbnb’s founder, Brian Chesky, in the fine arts. Even in China, Alibaba’s CEO, Jack Ma, graduated with a B.A. in English.

My research at Duke and Harvard documented that US technology company founders tend to be highly educated, 92% holding bachelor’s degrees and 47% holding higher degrees. But just 37% have degrees in engineering or computer technology, and two percent in mathematics. Their degrees are in fields as diverse as business, accounting, health care, and arts and the humanities...

With the convergence of medicine, artificial intelligence, and sensors, we can create digital doctors that monitor our health and help us prevent disease; with the advances in genomics and gene editing, we have the ability to create plants that are drought-resistant and that feed the planet; with robots powered by artificial intelligence, we can build digital companions for the elderly. Nanomaterial advances are enabling a new generation of solar and storage technologies that will make energy affordable and available to all.

Source: Hindustan Times

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An Euler Bookshelf: No Ordinary Genius | Life & Arts - Wall Street Journal

Photo: Siobhan Roberts
Siobhan Roberts, Canadian author and science journalist on books about the brilliant 18th-century mathematician Leonhard Euler.

Photo: Peter and Maria Hoey

A few years ago, a mathematician and a neuroscientist led a study investigating “the experience of mathematical beauty and its neural correlates.” The methodology rolled 14 mathematicians into a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and asked them to view and rate a collection of 60 mathematical formulas that they had previously assessed as beautiful, neutral or ugly. (Detractors of this sort of study call it “neurotrash,” but no matter.) While viewing the more aesthetically pleasing specimens, the mathematicians’ fMRI results showed activity in the “emotional brain,” specifically field A1 of the medial orbito-frontal cortex—the same area stimulated by moral, musical and visual beauty. Sometimes the mathematicians exited the machine weeping.

The equation that consistently rated the most beautiful was a famously compact specimen devised in the 18th century by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler : e iπ + 1 = 0.
Euler’s equation links—via three basic arithmetic operations, each deployed only once—five fundamental mathematical constants: 0, 1, i (the square root of -1, aka the “unit imaginary number”), π and e (“Euler’s number”—2.71828 . . . —which is linked to exponential growth). It is sometimes called Euler’s identity, or Euler’s formula, but by whatever name it is currently having something of a moment.

Two new books pull apart the equation—deconstructing it technically and historically—and celebrate its niftiness: “A Most Elegant Equation” (Basic, 221 pages, $27) by David Stipp and “Euler’s Pioneering Equation” (Oxford, 162 pages, $19.95) by Robin Wilson. Mr. Stipp’s roving account is propelled by his folksy sense of humor, and, as the author himself admits at one point, by “giddy metaphorical overreach.” Mr. Wilson’s account is more no-nonsense, proceeds on a shorter mathematical tether and has a quieter epigrammatic levity.

Both books, by way of introduction, mention the neuroscience study, and both lean on the Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin for this pronouncement: “Like a Shakespearean sonnet that captures the very essence of love, or a painting that brings out the beauty of the human form that is far more than just skin deep, Euler’s equation reaches down into the very depths of existence.” Both also quote the physicist Richard Feynman, who at age 14 wrote in a notebook that Euler’s equation was “the most remarkable formula in math.”

Convinced yet? If you aren’t by all this anecdotal testimony about the formula’s pure beauty, then consider its applied incarnations.
Read more... 

Recommended Reading

A Most Elegant Equation:
Euler's Formula and the
Beauty of Mathematics
A Most Elegant Equation
Bertrand Russell wrote that mathematics can exalt "as surely as poetry." This is especially true of one equation: ei(pi) + 1 = 0, the brainchild of Leonhard Euler, the Mozart of mathematics. 

Euler's Pioneering Equation:
The most beautiful theorem
in mathematics
Euler's Pioneering Equation
In 1988 The Mathematical Intelligencer, a quarterly mathematics journal, carried out a poll to find the most beautiful theorem in mathematics.

Source: Wall Street Journal 

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Fate of western civilisation does not hang on university courses | Opinion - The Sydney Morning Herald

Using the US as an example, it cannot be said that ending slavery came as a result of a contest of ideas or ideals. Violence did, argues Jack Waterford, former editor of The Canberra Times. 

Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation head Simon Haines.
Photo: James Alcock

The fate of western civilisation probably does not hang on whether the ANU has a course requiring students to study, in rough order of publication, “great books” of the past 3000 years.

But it is a measure of the political art of Tony Abbott, John Howard, and the attack dogs of The Australian that it can be made to appear that being opposed to such a course, in the way they would want it, is being said to be a sign that the ANU, Australia’s top university, is opposed to western civilisation itself.

Studying Great Books is an idea that largely originated in some of the liberal arts colleges in the US. In many of these institutions, whose syllabuses are on an intellectual level somewhere between an ACT secondary college and the first year of an Australian university course, they are particularly unpopular both for being very labour-intensive, but also boring.

Many students who do not shrink from serious intellectual challenge doubt its value for effort. Perhaps they do not get its point, or do not agree with the more-or-less agreed conclusions to which they end up being expected to subscribe.

One of the great things about books on the history and culture of western civilisation is that they can be made to represent the triumph of any number of ideas or theories, and the rejection of others now seen, as least by the instructors, to be inferior, retrograde, or barbaric. One could, for example, prove from some such books that in each succeeding century the enlightened ones have slaughtered more people than the one before.

But a Great Books course has a marked tendency to promote the idea of human progress, a triumph of reason, and a steady and a logical flow towards a paradise, somewhat like the United States in, say, 1950. Here, it is suggested freedom had triumphed (well, except for black Americans), religions had become tolerant, and capitalism had become established as the ideal engine of human and economic growth.

That one of the jewels of western civilisation – Germany – had just surrendered after murdering millions of Jews, Gypsies, the disabled and political opponents was, apparently, neither here nor there.

The course never very much enthused the great American universities, such as Harvard or Yale. The best university to which its Australian promoters point is Columbia, in New York, and Notre Dame, a private Catholic university (and a fine one if, like my old school, better known for its football than its academic achievements). One could write the history of western civilisation, or indeed the history of intellectual ideas in the US, without mentioning any of the universities which teach the subject, or its teachers or any of its graduates. I cannot think of a president who studied it. Wherever it has been “popular” it has been because it has been compulsory.

This is not to suggest that the idea behind it is bad, or that, even if it were, that it followed that western civilisation was bad. The course tries to put in context books such as the Bible, the Iliad, Greek and Roman philosophers, medieval scholars and philosophers, and the work of scientists, political economists and others pretty much right up to the present day. The books tend to be very worthy, but very character-forming to read. Students have to read a book a week, and to be able to participate in detail in intensive discussion about them with from six to eight students, and a tutor in seminars. Very active participation, at which a failure to have read each book closely will be evident, and, probably punished in assessment. Students looking for subjects that permit them some time off to work should avoid the course, which presupposes about 20 hours of reading a week.

I have read most of the Great Books, but not in a single course. We imbibed them in high school or university, in learning the history of ideas and how academic disciplines developed. A good student will imbibe many of the great writers in studies of history – ancient and modern – economics, law, political science, religion and philosophy, as well as in mathematics and science. It was once, at least to a degree, assisted by the teaching of classics. ( It is pleasing to see that classics now appears to be on a comeback at university level.)

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald  

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The Psychology and Philosophy of Memory | Memory - Psychology Today

"And 10 ways to improve your memory" according to Neel Burton, M.D., psychiatrist, philosopher and writer.

Photo: Pexels

Memory refers to the system, or systems, by which the mind registers, stores, and retrieves information for the purpose of optimizing future action.

Memory can be divided into short-term and long-term memory. Long-term memory can be further divided into episodic and semantic memory. Episodic memory records sense experiences, while semantic memory records abstract facts and concepts. Episodic memories eventually feeds into semantic memory. Interestingly, the distinction between episodic memory and semantic memory is already implicit in a number of languages in which the verb ‘to know’ has two forms, for example, in French, connaître and savoir, where connaître implies a direct, privileged kind of knowledge acquired through sense experience.

There is, naturally, a close connection between memory and knowledge. The connaître and savoir dichotomy is also pertinent to the theory of knowledge, which distinguishes between first-hand knowledge and testimonial knowledge, that is, knowledge gained through the say-so of others, often teachers, journalists, and writers. In the absence of first-hand knowledge, the accuracy of a piece of testimony can only be verified against other sources of testimony. Similarly, the accuracy of most memories can only be verified against other memories. There is no independent standard.

Episodic and semantic memory are held to be explicit or ‘declarative’, but there is also a third kind of memory, procedural memory, which is implicit or unconscious, for knowing how to do things such as reading and cycling. Although held to be explicit, episodic and semantic memory can influence action without any need for conscious retrieval—which is, of course, the basis of practices such as advertising and brainwashing. In fact, it is probably fair to say that most of our memories lie beyond conscious retrieval, or are not consciously retrieved—and therefore that memory mostly operates at an unconscious level. ‘Education’, said BF Skinner, ‘is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten.’

Source: Psychology Today

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