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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Philosophers of the year, 2017: Beauvoir, Nietzsche, & Socrates [quiz] | OUPblog

This December, the OUP Philosophy team marks the end of a great year by honouring three of 2017’s most popular Philosophers of the Month, inform Catherine Pugh, Marketing Assistant at Oxford University Press in Oxford, UK. 

Duke Humfrey’s Library Interior in the Bodleian Library, Oxford by David Iliff. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The immeasurable contributions of Simone de Beauvoir, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Socrates to the field of philosophy ensure their place among history’s greatest thinkers. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a quiz highlighting the lives and works of each.

Source: OUPblog (blog)

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What is the value of rationality, and why does it matter? | OUPblog

Photo: Ralph Wedgwood
"In the past, most philosophers assumed that the central notion of rationality is a normative or evaluative concept: to think rationally is to think properly or well—in other words, to think as one should think. Rational thinking is in a sense good thinking, while irrational thinking is bad. Recently, however, philosophers have raised several objections to that assumption" argues Ralph Wedgwood, Professor of Philosophy at University of Southern California.
Photograph of a boy in front of a chess landscape by Positive Images.
Photo: Pixabay

Rationality is a widely discussed term. Economists and other social scientists routinely talk about rational agents making rational choices in light of their rational expectations. It’s also common in philosophy, especially in those areas that are concerned with understanding and evaluating human thinking, actions, and institutions. But what exactly is rationality? In the past, most philosophers assumed that the central notion of rationality is a normative or evaluative concept: to think rationally is to think ‘properly’ or ‘well’—in other words, to think as one ‘should’ think. Rational thinking is in a sense good thinking, while irrational thinking is bad. Recently, however, philosophers have raised several objections to that assumption.

First of all, how can it be true that you should never think irrationally, if you sometimes can’t help it?

Secondly, picture a scenario where you would be punished for thinking rationally—wouldn’t it be good to think irrationally in this case and bad to keep on thinking rationally?

And finally, rationality requires that our mental states (in other words, our beliefs, choices, and attitudes in general) are consistent and coherent. But why is that important, and what is so good about it?

Having considered these three arguments, we can now debate which side is right. Does thinking ‘rationally’ mean thinking ‘well and ‘properly’, or not? However, looking at both sides of the issue, it becomes evident that we still need considerable philosophical arguments and analysis before we can arrive at any conclusion. The reason why is because the problem itself is not clearly defined, since we don’t know the meaning of some of the key terms. Therefore, as a next step in the analysis, we will review some recent work in linguistics, specifically semantics.

Most linguists believe that the key terms—’should’, ‘can’, ‘good’, ‘well’, and so on—are context-sensitive: the meaning of the word depends on the context. For example, ‘can’ sometimes expresses the concept of what a particular person has an ability to do (as when the optician asks, “Can you read the letters on the screen?”). At other times, it expresses the concept of what is possible in a more general sense (as when we say, “Accidents can happen”).
Read more... 

Supplementary Information

The Value of Rationality,
The Nature of Normativity

Ralph Wedgwood, author of The Value of Rationality, The Nature of Normativity. 

Source: OUPblog (blog)

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Cybersecurity arcade game aims to improve high school students’ skills in English and math | Los Angeles Times - Education

Photo: Priscella Vega
"Coastline Community College has created a cybersecurity-themed online game to help improve area high school students’ English and math skills" says Priscella Vega, education reporter for the Daily Pilot.

Drake Sisk, 14, a freshman at Early College High School in Costa Mesa, says Cyber Attack is an entertaining way to practice educational skills.
Photo: Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer

Cyber Attack” quizzes players about grammar and math. If players answer correctly, they stop a hacker from compromising a bank’s security data. If they answer incorrectly, the bank’s information is compromised.

Plans to create the online game began in 2014 when the Fountain Valley-based college noticed students interested in its cybersecurity program were performing poorly in math and English.

“They didn’t think it was a problem,” said Judy Garvey, who leads Coastline’s Extended Learning team. “We needed some kind of fun way to prepare them for the placement tests and brush up on math and English skills.” 

The college received a grant from Orange County Pathways — an organization that connects educators with business leaders — to create the game.

Initially, faculty developed about 200 questions per subject. With money to spare, Garvey said they took it a step further by sprucing up the graphics for both the online version and the eight arcade-style machines they made. Those have been loaned to Early College, Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach high schools.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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27 students barred from HE, but could be many more | University World News

Tehran’s representative in the Iranian Parliament, Mahmoud Sadeqi, says 27 graduate students have been banned from continuing their education in the current Iranian academic year, but analysts suggest the number could be a lot higher, reports Radio Farda.


Citing Sadeqi, state-run Iranian Labour News Agency reported that despite attempts, 12 PhD and 15 masters students were not allowed to enter the universities this year. According to Sadeqi, 151 PhD and 398 masters students deemed ‘starred’ (deemed to be politically unreliable or undesirable) were allowed to register and continue their education after signing a written commitment to ensure students stay away from political activities.

But there are conflicting reports as to how many students have actually been barred this year. Other sources report much higher numbers.

Source: University World News

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Four Surprising and Innovative Uses of eLearning in 2017 | eLearningInside News - Editor’s Picks

"In the sphere of eLearning, countless businesses, educators, and individuals not only helped to develop new education technology; they implemented it in exciting and creative ways" says Henry Kronk, began his writing career as an intern at The Burlington Free Press in Burlington, Vermont, his hometown. 

Photo: eLearningInside News
By all accounts, 2017 has been a year unlike any other in recent memory. And we’re not talking about troubling politics–both domestic and international–or social movements or the media. 2017 has, overall year, been a remarkable year when it comes to education technology.

Below we’ve compiled some unconventional and strange (but also, effective) eLearning initiatives that caught our eye.

KFC’s VR Training Module 
There was once a time when new fry cooks-in-training at Kentucky Fried Chicken would receive instruction from a manager or one of their superiors. But this summer, the fast food chain proved that the old model of employee training was downright 2000-and-late.

The new method they introduced included a VR simulation. But it was just some low-stress way to learn the dance steps: it was a gamified escape room-style module replete with the ghost of Colonel Sanders himself heckling you at every turn. Learners are not allowed to leave the room until they correctly prepare a basket of fried chicken.

Needless to say, employees enjoyed the new method far better than the previous training. What’s more, while it took an average of 25 minutes to bring new employees up to speed with in-person training, it took employees an average of 10 minutes to successfully complete the VR simulation...

Robots in Michigan State University Classrooms 
Many online degrees allow students to stream in to lectures at the brick-and-mortar version of their university, chat with their peers, or skype with their professors. But in some graduate education programs at Michigan State University, remote students are literally taking a seat at the table.

They do this through the use of cameras (equipped for two-way live audio and video streaming) mounted on self-balancing robots. Students can control the robots, move them around the room, pivot them to look at their peer’s or instructor’s face, and adjust several other features. By and large, it allows students to participate in a class discussion as if they were really in the room.

“I teach graduate courses where the primary pedagogy is discussion-based,” Professor Christine Greenhow said. “When you’re in a discussion with some people in the room and others streaming in, you have these faces on the screen and you’re trying to talk to someone, look at their face, look at the camera, and look at other people in the room. You can’t have the same interpersonal experience.” The robots have begun to solve this problem.

Source: eLearningInside News

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Boosting student performance with robot learning | Digital Journal - Technology

Photo: Tim Sandle
"Remote learning is a growing means of delivering education. A downside is with student engagement" summarizes Dr. Tim Sandle, Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news.

File photo: A person at his workplace, communicating via a Video Relay Service video.
Photo: SignVideo, London, U.K

This can be overcome, according to new research, when robotic assistants are used.

The Michigan State University research has concluded that online students who elect to use the innovative robots can feel more engaged and connected to the instructor and students in the classroom. This, in turn, leads to better understanding on the part of the student and improved educational attainment.

In trials the researchers used robots located in the classroom. Each robot was equipped with a mounted video screen. The screen can be controlled remotely by the student who is undertaken the lesson online. This facility allows the student to pan around the room, looking at the teacher or other students or anything else that’s happening...

Commenting on the outcome, the head researchers, Professor Christine Greenhow notes that teachers also benefit from the experience. Here, instead of looking at a screen full of faces as per traditional videoconferencing, the teacher can look a robot-learner in the eye (via digital means)...

The results of the study have been published in the journal Online Learning. The research paper is headed "Hybrid Learning in Higher Education: The Potential of Teaching and Learning with Robot-Mediated Communication." 
Read more... 

Source: Digital Journal

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Experiences in Taylor Institute's 'forum' engage students in the art of dialogue and deliberation | UCalgary News

"Instructors invited to submit applications to teach in dynamic learning spaces; deadline for spring/summer applications is Jan. 30, 2018" inform Mike Thorn, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

“Public dialogues have deep historical roots across the world."
Photo: David Troyer, for the University of Calgary

Science in Society. Professional Communication and Interviewing. These course topics might not encourage immediate comparison, but three instructors who teach the courses in the Taylor Institute’s dynamic, adaptable forum — one of the building's three flexible learning spaces — find common ground in the value and importance of dialogue. In fact, these instructors argue that the forum comes to represent the content of the courses, manifesting the very act of learning through engagement.

Gwendolyn Blue, associate professor in the Department of Geography, emphasizes the crucial nature of respectful and critical conversation in learning about science in society. Critical exchanges help students work through challenging concepts and contentious topics that are part of everyday public dialogues.

“The course is grounded in dialogue and deliberation. We start with some ground rules, and those ground rules are that everybody speaks while appreciating that there are others in the room who may not hold similar assumptions and values,” she says. “We also are very conscious of some basics from rhetoric, such as no ad hominem attacks — criticize the argument, not the person. And so we keep our focus always on the argument. We’re also bound, because it’s about dialogue and deliberation, to consider all views on a topic, no matter how uncomfortable they might make us.”

Co-teaching a course called Professional Communication and Interviewing in the forum, social work instructors Sally St. George and Les Jerome believe that students benefit from watching instructors work together respectfully and thoughtfully. Watching collaborative teaching in action leads to effective collaborative learning.

Jerome reflects, “I think that students can clearly see that Sally and I both hugely respect each other, and I think that’s important for them to see.”

“We can’t predict everything that’s going to happen in the classroom,” St. George adds. “We can be quite well-planned, but we can’t predict, and so we also have to demonstrate that spontaneity. That’s so important; the students have to see us doing that.”

Learning by exchanging ideas
Both courses’ instructors appreciate the forum’s technological capacities, but more strongly emphasize the possibilities for engagement offered by the room’s most basic attributes: movable chairs and round tables...

Learning through dialogue
Both classes use the Taylor Institute forum’s movable round tables and chairs to incorporate regular group discussion and active learning. This method gives students the opportunity to engage in the kinds of collaborative processes that cut across disciplines. It’s all about having the space required for meaningful, learner-directed conversation...

The Taylor Institute invites instructors teaching university-level courses to submit applications to teach in TI learning spaces. 
Visit our Learning Spaces webpage to find out more information and to submit your application. 

Source: UCalgary News

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NC teacher pursues ASU master’s degree through distance learning | Valley Courier - Community

Alamosa News writes, "Being a single mother of three and teaching full-time doesn’t stop Covey Denton from setting a high bar." 

Covey Denton, of North Carolina, appreciates the Adams State Teacher Education online master’s program, which helps her inspire students in science.
Photo: Courtesy

“My goal is to be the most amazing science teacher my students will ever have,” she says from her home in North Carolina. “I want to develop a profound love of science in my students through the activities and material I cover in my classroom. I want to spread my love of science to every single student that enters my room.”

Denton is pursuing her master’s degree through Adams State University’s graduate distance degree program. She enrolled in the fall of 2016 to the Adams State Teacher Education Department Master of Arts in Education Curriculum and Instruction with Endeavor STEM Leadership Certificate. She will graduate in December 2018.

The Adams State program has given Denton access to unique opportunities and resources she didn’t realize existed. “The forums to communicate with like-minded individuals have given me feedback and helped me grow as a teacher.”

The flexibility Adams State online master’s program works well with Denton’s schedule. “I am a single mom of three kids who has eight grades of lessons to prep.” She teaches preschool through 6th or 7th grade, depending on the year. “The online classes allow me to work ahead when I have spare time in my schedule and allow me to pace myself and plan.” She appreciates the well-organized classes and user-friendly format. “The NASA classes with the call-in classroom meetings are easy to schedule after the kids’ bedtime and allow me to really focus on the content being offered. I have enjoyed the prompt communication from my instructors and felt like I benefited a great deal from each course I have taken.”

The courses through Adams State’s online program have also increased Denton’s awareness of diversity in the classroom. “The courses through Adams State have helped me understand the needs of my students and best practices in the classroom, and allowed me to develop my own teaching philosophy and style.”

Source: Valley Courier

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Op-ed: Let science educators build new science standards | Deseret News

Photo: John R. Taylor
John R. Taylor, serves as president of the Utah Science Teachers Association. He is also an Associate Professor of Biology and Assistant Dean for Integrative Learning at Southern Utah University notes, "As Utah begins the process of revising the state science standards for elementary and high school, it’s a good idea to take a moment to ask why we teach science to K–12 students at all?"

University of Utah graduate Margarita Ruiz teaches during a class at Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 22, 2017. 
Photo: Alex Goodlett, Deseret News

Science, engineering and the resulting technologies are interwoven into our lives and will be integral in meeting humanity’s most pressing future challenges. National data illustrate the need for highly skilled workers with strong backgrounds in these fields and the need is steadily increasing. 

Finally, the Utah Science Teachers Association believes that all citizens should have a scientifically based understanding of the natural world in order to engage meaningfully in public discussions, be informed voters and discerning consumers. 

Problems arise when nonscience ideals impede the teaching and learning of science, either through the use of pseudoscience or the avoidance of topics because they are politically charged. This unfortunately occurred, to no avail, during the process of developing the sixth-eighth grade SEEd standards with regard to evolution and climate change, in particular. 

Let me be clear: Every major scientific organization in the country — indeed, around the world — is on record as firmly asserting the scientific credibility of evolution and anthropogenic influence on climate change. 

Science teachers have a professional responsibility to teach science topics as understood by the scientific community, as both the National Science Teachers Association and its state affiliate, the Utah Science Teachers Association, recognize. Furthermore, the UtSTA adamantly feels nonscience topics have no place in science classrooms.

State science standards play an important guiding role. 
Read more... 

Source: Deseret News

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What AI can really do for your business (and what it can’t) | InfoWorld

Photo: Isaac Sacolick
"Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning are no silver bullets. A CIO explains what every business should know before investing in AI" according to Isaac Sacolick, author of Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology.

Photo: InfoWorld

How can you tell whether an emerging technology such as artificial intelligence is worth investing time into when there is so much hype being published daily? We’re all enamored by some of the amazing results such as AlphaGo beating the champion Go player, advances in autonomous vehicles, the voice recognition being performed by Alexa and Cortana, and the image recognition being performed by Google Photos, Amazon Rekognition, and other photo-sharing applications.

When big, technically strong companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Apple show success with a new technology and the media glorifies it, businesses often believe these technologies are available for their own use. But is it true? And if so, where is it true?

This is the type of question CIOs think about every time a new technology starts becoming mainstream:
  • To a CIO, is it a technology that we need to invest in, research, pay attention to, or ignore? How do we explain to our business leaders where the technology has applicability to the business and whether it represents a competitive opportunity or a potential threat?
  • To the more inquisitive employees, how do we simplify what the technology does in understandable terms and separate out the hype, today’s reality, and its future potential?
  • When select employees on the staff show interest in exploring these technologies, should we be supportive, what problem should we steer them toward, and what aspects of the technology should they invest time in learning?
  • When vendors show up marketing the facts that their capabilities are driven by the emerging technology and that they have expert PhDs on their staff supporting the product’s development, how do we evaluate what has real business potential versus services that are too early to leverage versus others that are really hype, not substance?
What artificial intelligence really is, and how it got there  
AI technology has been around for some time, but to me it got its big start in 1968-69 when the SHRDLU natural language processing (NLP) system came out, research papers on perceptrons and backpropagation were published, and the world became aware of AI through HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The next major breakthroughs can be pinned to the late 1980s with the use of back propagation in learning algorithms and then their application to problems like handwriting recognition. AI took on large scale challenges in the late 1990s with the first chatbot (ALICE) and Deep Blue beating Garry Kasparov, the world chess champion.

I got my first hands-on experience with AI in the 1990s. In graduate school at the University of Arizona, several of us were programming neural networks in C to solve image-recognition problems in medical, astronomy, and other research areas. We experimented with various learning algorithms, techniques to solve optimization problems, and methods to make decisions around imprecise data.

If we were doing neural networks, we programmed the perceptron’s math by hand, then looped through the layers of the network to produce output, then looped backward to apply the backpropagation algorithms to adjust the network. We then waited long periods of time for the system to stabilize its output.

When early results failed, we were never sure if we were applying the wrong learning algorithms, hadn’t tuned our network optimally for the problem we were trying to solve, or simply had programming errors in the perceptron or backpropagation algorithms.

Flash-forward to today and it’s easy to see why there’s an exponential leap in AI results over the last several years thanks to several advances.

First, there’s cloud computing, which enables running large neural networks on a cluster of machines. Instead of looping through perceptrons one at a time and working with only one or two network layers, computation is distributed across a large array of computing nodes. This is enabling deep learning algorithms, which are essentially neural networks with a large number of nodes and layers that enable processing of large-scale problems in reasonable amounts of time.

Second, there’s the emergence of commercial and open source libraries and services like TensorFlow, Caffe, Apache MXNet, and other services providing data scientists and software developers the tools to apply machine learning and deep learning algorithms to their data sets without having to program the underlying mathematics or enable parallel computing. Future AI applications will be driven by AI on a chip or board driven by the innovation and competition among Nvidia, Intel, AMD, and others.
Read more... 

Source: InfoWorld   

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