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Saturday, June 23, 2018

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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Friday, June 22, 2018

How Do Diverse Classes Fare with Video-Based Active Learning? | eLearningInside News

Henry Kronk, Writer/Editor at eLearning Inside News reports, "Classroom environments that use digital tools and active learning get a lot of attention these days. But discussion tends to lack nuance."
Photo: Hermes Rivera, Unsplash.

An educator might implement a new pedagogy and measure learning outcomes, grades, engagement, or some other ‘across-the-board’ metric. But how does video-based active learning work for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds? With different learning abilities? With different GPAs? A recent study by professors from California State University, Fullerton asks just that. Published in the June issue of the Online Learning Journal (put out by the Online Learning Consortium) the study is titled “Student-Produced Videos Can Enhance Engagement and Learning in the Online Environment.”

Researchers Denise Stanley and Yi Zhang conducted this study among 87 learners in two online sections of a managerial economics class. For the treatment group, they asked learners to prepare their own instructional video on how to solve a typical multiple choice exam question. They then uploaded this video to their LMS, and others were asked to comment on them. Students were subsequently surveyed based on their background, learning expectations, engagement, and performance throughout the course.

Video-Based Active Learning With Diverse Learners 
This example of video-based active learning asks students to go beyond mere comprehension or memorization. By creating a video used to teach others, they must master the subject first themselves.

“Our particular strategy represents an example of active learning and student peer provision of learner support and feedback, which could influence student success directly and/or indirectly through its contribution to student course engagement and satisfaction,” the authors write. “Yet it is a component that requires some technical skills, fluency in English, and comfort with public presentations. So analysis of student background characteristics and their possible interplay with the component can shed light on the observed actual learning outcomes.”

For student backgrounds, researchers looked at gender, GPA, race and culture, whether they received a Pell Grant, their mother’s education, and whether English is their first language.
In doing so, the researchers hoped to answer two research questions:
  1. Does the student-generated video component increase student engagement with the class and improve learning outcomes?
  2. 2. Are there any differences among groups of students with varied demographic backgrounds in terms of online education readiness, engagement in the online environment, and/or learning outcomes and satisfaction in online classes?

Source: eLearningInside News

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Commentary: How our LA charter high school is reimagining education for homeless and foster care youth | LA School Report

Photo: Erin Whalen
"As graduation season comes to a close, school leaders across the country have the opportunity to reflect on the way our schools are helping students from all walks of life prepare for their future, including students who are homeless, living in foster care, or experiencing challenges that prevent them from thriving in traditional school settings" says Erin Whalen, founding assistant vice principal at Da Vinci RISE High School.

Photo: Da Vinci RISE High

The harsh reality is that more than 63,000 homeless students live in Los Angeles County and another 28,000 are in foster care. In the face of such sobering statistics, a bright spot: education can be the tool that empowers our youth to rise above the circumstances they’ve been dealt, and charter schools are uniquely positioned to meet these students where they are and ultimately help them achieve stable and successful lives.

At Da Vinci RISE High School, we believe this is one of the biggest social justice issues of our time and aim to create intentional spaces for “disconnected” students to reach their full potential. Our students don’t have the option of focusing on just being students and consequently, school isn’t and can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. Yet, instead of providing additional support for these communities, bureaucratic school systems continue to disenfranchise and exclude them–pushing them out of the educational narrative altogether. Many of our students’ educational experiences have required them to check their experiences and identity at the door. This simply doesn’t work.

At RISE, we lead with the idea that our students already have the answers–and we need to listen. When we leverage their voices, instead of pushing them out, success inevitably follows. That’s why we created RISE hand in hand with the communities we seek to serve. Every component of our school, from curriculum to teaching staff, was built to meet our youth exactly where they are.

By continually engaging RISE scholars in conversations around what hasn’t worked for them in prior schools, what challenges get in the way of their education, and what kind of support they wished they had, we began to hear the same themes surface time and time again: accessibility issues, inflexible scheduling, and inadequate understanding and support from instructors.

Getting to school consistently can be one of the biggest hurdles students face. To remedy this, it was important for us to find a location for our school that would be easy for students to access. RISE is located in A Place Called Home, a safe and inclusive space for underserved youth in South Central LA, and we also have a facility in nearby Hawthorne. 
Read more... 

Source: LA School Report

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What Are Unique, Science-Based Careers In Math? | Steam - CBS Los Angeles

"California’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) program is designed to provide the state’s students with a background in five key disciplines, inform Mark G. McLaughlin, CBS Los Angeles.

The rapidly changing modern job market not only rewards but often also requires people who can work across disciplines, or take what they have studied in one field and apply it to another. Multi-tasking not only means being able to do two or more things at once, but combining two or more things to enhance the final product. Here, for example, are just five unique careers pertaining to science that many do not automatically think of as math related.

Additional resources 
What Are Unique Careers In Science? 
What Are Unique, Science-Based Careers In Tech?
What Are Unique, Science-Based Careers In Engineering?
What Are Unique, Science-Based Careers In The Arts?

Source: CBS Los Angeles

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Northern Virginia Community College offers new ‘cloud’ degree | Business & Finance - WTOP

Northern Virginia Community College will this fall become one of the first community colleges in the country to offer a cloud computing degree, as WTOP reports. 

Photo: Courtesy Northern Virginia Community College

The college has partnered with Amazon Web Services’ AWS Educate program to offer a cloud computing specialization as part of its associate of applied science degree in information systems technology.

Teresa Carlson, the vice president of worldwide public sector business for Amazon Web Services, made the announcement at an AWS Public Sector Summit in D.C. Wednesday.

According to LinkedIn, the No. 1 in-demand global skill for the past three years in a row has been cloud and distributed computing.

The two-year ITS cloud computing degree program is a 63-credit associate degree mapped to the skills and competency-based credentials required by AWS and other employers using cloud-based-services. All students will also receive free membership in the AWS Educate program and access to hands-on experience with leading cloud technology and tools.

Source: WTOP

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Nine Educational Institutions Choose Motivis Learning to Improve the Student Experience and Learning Outcomes | PR Web

Innovative higher education, K-12, and professional development providers will implement the Motivis platform to deliver outcomes-based programs to learners around the world. 

Photo: Motivis Learning

Motivis Learning is honored to announce nine new partner institutions began implementing Motivis’ teaching and learning platform in April and May to deliver their outcomes-based student experiences. The new partners include colleges and universities, charter schools and public school districts, professional development programs, and statewide education initiatives, including:

ExcEL Leadership Academy in Shelton, CT
Huntley Community School District 158
IIAD Global
New Hampshire Learning Institute and New Hampshire Department of Education
Next Charter School
Marian University of Wisconsin
Southern New Hampshire University School of Business
Texas Technical University Curriculum Center for Family and Consumer Sciences
Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS)

“Our team is honored, and excited, to welcome these innovative educators to our fast-growing family of partners,” says Brian Peddle, CEO of Motivis Learning. “We know legacy learning management systems and related tools often create obstacles to efforts to improve the student experience and learning outcomes, even at the most forward-thinking institutions. Our mission at Motivis has always been to empower teachers, students, and everyone else involved in helping students achieve their goals with the right tools to make learning experiences better, more relevant, and more engaging.”

Motivis replaces traditional learning management systems and supports a full range of pedagogical models, including competency based education, micro-credentials, and other outcomes-based models in addition to traditional course-based approaches. 

To learn more about Motivis Learning, please visit

About Motivis Learning
The Motivis Learning platform goes beyond the traditional learning management system (LMS), connecting institutions with the analytics, advising, student information, and social learning capabilities to engage students, improve retention, and personalize learning. Motivis supports outcomes-based educational programs at institutions around the world, helping them deliver high quality, engaging, career-relevant experiences to learners at all stages of their education.

Source: PR Web

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Let Students Take Control of Their Learning | Education Week

"A principal shares his alternative school's approach to connecting the most challenging students to their education through real-world experiences" reports Matthew Lynch, Professor, Author, Advocate and Futurist.

Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12
At Kankakee School District, we asked our students the question, "What was your most memorable moment in school?" More than 90% of their responses reflected a project they created on their own, and the relationship they had with a teacher during it. They remember the moments where they were excited and felt in charge of their own learning.

For a long time, we've been trying to nail down that golden learning style that works best for every student. But ultimately, every single person thinks and learns differently. To unlock every student's potential for growth, we have to start by letting them take control of their own learning.

'This is my classroom, and my work'
Since 2007, I've played a role in educating students, from being a middle school science teacher to becoming assistant principal in the Chicago Public School District. In my current role as a principal of an alternative school in the Chicago suburb of Kankakee, I've come to realize the importance of taking learning styles seriously in a way that encourages students to find their passion and truly fall in love with learning.

To do this, we held our own project-based learning day for the very first time this year. Students showcased their work and explained the steps they took.  For example, they explained how they visited the county attorney's office over a period of time to better understand the court system. One student even discovered an interest in law and policy when visiting the county attorney's office! They were so proud of their efforts and the lessons they learned, because they were able to choose their project and guide their own learning. A project like this, where it's hands-on, real-world experience, truly brings the learning experience to a new level.

We made projects like this happen with the implementation of our online PBL platform Defined STEM, which provides a resource to guide teachers and students on their own competency-based learning journey. Students were able to articulate their understanding through their project in a way that suited them, whether it was a video they made or a presentation where they confidently talked to an audience. When students feel in control, it shows through in their excitement about learning new ideas and topics.

The impact of students owning their learning styles has been reflected in their achievement. For example, we've seen minor and major infractions decline tremendously, and attendance has increased since we started working on implementing a PBL platform more than two years ago. We've seen students who were on the verge of dropping out graduate with flying colors and talk about how excited they were to pursue a career that truly sparked their interests. Our students are on a path to excellence, with test scores going up and averaging the same as a nearby magnet school for gifted students.

Students are learning in an entirely new way that exposes them to ideas they may have never known they had an interest in. They feel connected and meaningfully involved in school when they can talk to issues that reflect their passions, interests, and personalities. Now that we've transitioned from a traditional classroom set-up with rows of chairs, teachers are playing the role of a facilitator, and students have said, "This is my classroom, and my work."

Source: Education Week

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