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Saturday, March 25, 2017

SA-made solution helps Maths and Science students achieve good results | The South African

Photo: Caryn Edwards
"All you need is a cellphone." says Caryn Edwards, Author at The South African.

Top quality Maths and Science teaching is now available to South African students, offline through their cell phones.

Photo: Youtube / The Paper Video Subject Maps

For the first time, no matter where a student lives or what their economic situation may be, Grade 8 and 9 students can turn their cell phone into an experienced teacher in key subjects – without the internet or data.

This innovation, called Subject Maps has come about through a partnership of Paper Video and the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA). It is a response to the dire state of Maths and Science education in SA, particularly in under-resourced schools.

It works by allowing students access through their own cell phones to professional video lessons for every topic in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Accounting in Grades 8 and 9...

Check out the video that explains the concept below:


Source: The South African

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Summer courses open new doors to learning | The Seattle Times

"Get a jump on credits, hone professional skills or pursue a new passion." inform UW Summer Quarter.

Photo: University of Washington

Summer in Seattle is boundless with possibility. Opportunities to learn, grow and experience new things are all around us. And while the allure of paddleboard lessons on Lake Washington is an obvious option, the idea of returning to school for the summer may not be the first idea that pops into your head. But maybe it should. 

Summer classes are a perfect opportunity for high school students eager to earn college credit to get a head start. Already a college student? Knock out a prereq or catch up on credits. International students visiting Seattle can immerse themselves in the academic life. And for working adults who want to hone their professional skills or expand their horizons, summer offers many options.

Whatever your goals, there’s no shortage of topics to whet your intellectual appetite. You might study African-American history or bone up on the ancient Romans. Follow the sagas of the Vikings or learn entrepreneurism. Tackle architecture or delve into digital cities. Explore sculpting, study film theory, dive into marine biology.

At the University of Washington, UW Summer Quarter throws opens the doors to all comers. A special open enrollment policy means that anyone – enrolled student or not – can take a class at UW during the summer. UW Summer Quarter offers almost 2,000 classes in more than 100 fields of study – both on-campus and online.

UW Summer Quarter also offers in-depth options that extend beyond a single class. This summer, those include two certificate courses: Business Essentials of Tribal Gaming and Hospitality Management, and Database Management. Taught by industry professionals, these résumé-boosting certificates offer the chance build your skills while earning full-fledged UW credit.

If languages are more to your liking, UW Summer Quarter has you covered with its renowned Intensive Foreign Language Courses. Whether you aspire to travel overseas or complete a foreign language requirement, these classes pack a year’s worth of learning into nine weeks of study. Professors and instructors teach a wide variety of different languages, from Chinese to Modern Greek, Swahili to Spanish.

The intensive format “creates a better learning community,” says Professor Ana González Doboa, who directs the Spanish language program at UW. Spanish intensive students attend classes three hours a day, five days a week – and are expected to spend another three hours a day on homework. That demanding schedule promotes faster progress than traditionally paced courses, says Doboa. Students also benefit from smaller class sizes and exposure to teachers who hail from Spain, Mexico, Chile, Peru and beyond.
Read more... 

Source: The Seattle Times

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Building the library of the future | Research Information

Predicting the future is notoriously difficult, writes Keith Webster, Dean of Libraries at Carnegie Mellon University.


The array of forces that impact upon the library’s operating environment makes any modelling of transformation during the coming years an almost impossible task. The political and economic forces that drive the functions and finances of parent institutions, the imperative for commercial publishers to meet investor’s demands for earnings per share growth, technological advances from Silicon Valley and beyond, are all part of the world in which the library will have to flourish.

What we can do, however, is look at trends and consider how best to take advantage of these to develop a library that is positioned for success tomorrow. A glance at the world of the academic library in 2017 reveals a few key themes that are conditioning professional practice, resource allocation, and investment priorities. These include the creation of advanced learning environments for students, an increasing move towards a global, distributed collection of information resources, the deployment of tools and technologies required to curate the evolving scholarly record, and a growing expectation of both domain and methodological expertise among recruits to the library profession.

Against this backdrop, in its strategic plan to 2025, Carnegie Mellon University announced its intention to create a 21st century library that serves as a cornerstone of world-class research and scholarship. While a large part of our vision is built upon a large-scale shift to digital forms of content, and web-based services, we are certain that the library will remain a vital presence on campus...

21st-century library spaces for 21st-century learners
Today, many universities are building new, or remodelling old, libraries to meet demands for serious space – learning environments that support interactions with information in a variety of forms. The design of the contemporary library draws heavily upon the space reallocation made possible by advanced storage retrieval systems (bookBots) and the transfer to offsite storage of lesser-used collections, freeing up space to meet student demand. While today’s libraries are busier than ever, few students make extensive use of traditional offerings such as lending collections and reference services.

Libraries will continue to be recognised as a place of research and learning for the entire university community, at the heart of the campus-based experience. They will provide an array of spaces to meet a variety of learning needs: individual and group study, collaboration and fabrication spaces, active learning studios, and an array of specialist learning technologies. As access to the contemporary scholarly record in digital form becomes universal, libraries will create specialised facilities for the special collections and archives which distin guish most clearly one library from another. On many campuses, libraries will also serve as an academic commons, providing an opportunity for faculty and students to interact across disciplinary boundaries, and in a space that reflects the diversity of the university community.

Source: Research Information 

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Watch the First Ever Music Video Created Using Artificial Intelligence | Noiseporn

"The first video created using Google’s artificial intelligence technology has arrived." according to Noiseporn.
Ben Zaidi’s “Who Did I Think I Was” is the first-ever music video created by Google’s DeepDream technology, which was just made public in 2016. The video, shot and edited by two Visual and Environmental Studies students at Harvard University, took over a year to complete and was created frame-by-frame.

Ben Zaidi – Who Did I Think I Was. (Official Video


The stunning result, processed with the DeepDream software, uses a specific type of artificial intelligence known as “neural networks.” In basic terms, the software mimics the working process of a human brain’s neurons and is capable of learning patterns. DeepDream’s software was “taught” different styles of rendering photos by feeding it images from Google’s servers.

Zaidi’s “Who Did I Think I Was” switches between various sets of patterns that work in contrast against each other to reflect a crisis of identity. But Zaidi’s artistic identity seems to be far from in crisis.
Read more... 

Source: Noiseporn and Ben Zaidi Channel (YouTube)

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The myth of learning styles | Patheos

Photo: Gene Edward Veith
"You know how some people are “right brained” and other people are “left brained”?" notes Edward Veith, writer and a retired English professor and college administrator. He is the author of over 20 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

Photo: Allan Ajifo [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

And how children are either auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners?  And how they learn best if they are taught according to their particular learning style?

Well, none of that is true!  That educational fad of a few years ago has been thoroughly discredited by scientific research.  And yet teachers, curriculum, and teacher education courses are still teaching it.

A group of neuroscientists, psychologists, and educators in England has issued a public letter pointing this out and begging teachers to drop this stuff and to instead use approaches that are evidence-based.  
Read more…

Source: Patheos (blog)

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Learning inside — and outside — of the classroom | Fenton Tri County Times

Photo: Hannah Ball
Hannah Ball, Staff Reporter summarizes, "Local businesses, like Alpine, Goodwill and Family Farm and Home, welcome the student."

Linden High School junior Kaitlin Dunn is gaining work experience at Alpine Marketplace, as part of a cognitively impaired program for students.
Students in the cognitively impaired program at local schools are learning not only in the classroom, but on the job.

The 13 students in the Work Based Learning Opportunities in Linden, Fenton and Lake Fenton’s Three District Consortium CI (Cognitively Impaired Program) spend a few hours a week at either Goodwill, Family Farm and Home, Alpine Marketplace, VG’s, Caretel Inns of Linden, Adopt-A-Pet of Fenton or a Linden elementary office gaining work experience, said Robin Hollifield, para-educator and job coach.

“At first we started small jobs here in our school...working in offices and libraries and recycling, that kind of thing. As their confidence grew, our district allowed me to go out and find businesses that would allow our students to come in,” Hollifield said.

The program began approximately five years ago, and was run by Special Education teacher Cheryl Heiss and Hollifield, as a way to help the students gain confidence and transition them from school to a job environment. The students, who are in 11th or 12th grade, work at least twice a week in pairs under the supervision of a job coach.

The students are responsible for dressing appropriately, having a positive attitude, being social, working independently and following instructions, said Linden Superintendent Ed Koledo. He said although the positions are typically unpaid, a few students have received a job because of the program.

Source: Fenton Tri County Times

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Music education proven to enhance early learning | Perry County Republic Monitor

"Music is part of everyone’s life. It is all around us, all the time. It can be heard on the radio, in vehicles, at the grocery store and in our homes. It can be used to calm or to excite, and it can even be used to help the learning process." says Amanda Hasty, Reporter. 

Students playing musical instruments
Photo: Perry County Republic Monitor

When a child becomes engaged in learning through the use of music, it stimulates them in more ways than just being easy on the ears. 

Tiffany Wibbenmeyer, a band instructor at Perry County School District No. 32, said that music positively affects students, and thata musical education can contribute to other areas of their learning. 

“There are very few things that literally every single culture, in any era, shares, and music is one of them,” Wibbenmeyer said. “Music engages the entire brain. It’s so good for the growth of young, and even older, minds. Music invokes emotions; to hype people up, or to make people laugh or cry.”

Many years of research have discovered that music facilitates learning and enhances skills that children use in other areas of their life. Making music involves more than just singing or playing an instrument with your fingers; learning through music makes children use multiple sets of skills at the same time.

Through the use of music they learn to work their body, voice and even their brain together. Just by practicing an instrument, children are improving their range of motor skills, such as hand-eye coordination, much like playing sports.

Children love to imitate what they see and hear around them. As the child copies things they see, they pay attention to try and imitate everything from actions to songs and words. According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. Studies have shown that any kind of musical training helps to physically develop the left side of the brain, which is the part where language processing occurs. 
Read more... 

Source: Perry County Republic Monitor

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Open Learning: Igniting the passion for learning online | Digital News Asia

  • Offers 10,000 private courses run by public and private institutes of higher learning.
  • Takes on a student-centred approach while enabling educators with its social elements

OpenLearning founder and chief executive officerr Adam Brimo
Photo: Chong Jinn Xiung
"TECHNOLOGY has not been a huge disruption in the education sector as it has been traditionally slow to adapt to new changes, according to OpenLearning founder and chief executive officer Adam Brimo (pic above)." notes Chong Jinn Xiung, Writer at Digital News Asia

“Education today is probably at the stage that the print industry was in during the late 1990s, slowly accepting and experimenting with the new possibilities offered by the Internet,” he says.

That’s where online learning platform OpenLearning, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform, hopes to ease the process of online learning for students and teachers in institutes of higher learning.

Headquartered in Sydney, Australia, OpenLearning’s online platform was first deployed in 2012 to facilitate a blended learning course, that combined online learning with traditional classroom lessons at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

In 2014, OpenLearning spread its wings to Malaysia and became part of the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education’s Education Blueprint for 2015-2025 acting as the MOOC platform for 20 public universities in the country, initiating 60 blended courses to over 100,000 students.

The truth is that the economy is growing faster than the higher education sector is able to produce students to fuel the knowledge economy.  However, building new universities is expensive and finding qualified academics is a challenge.

“The number of students entering tertiary education is expected to increase significantly within the next decade as it is estimated by there will be 2.5 million students entering public and private universities in Malaysia,” Brimo says, citing estimates in the Malaysian Education Blueprint .

To date, OpenLearning has over 3,000 public courses that anyone can set up and join. They also have 10,000 private courses run by public and private institutes of higher learning.

Even the courses are shared across all universities so students from other universities are able to participate with peers from across the country...

Enabling educators
“In traditional learning, students lack empowerment because the power is in the hands of the teacher and information is dispensed. In contrast, personalised learning has a more experimental flow where students can experience, discover and express themselves.”

Brimo is of the opinion that teachers are there to support the learning process rather than take control of it. They should guide a student’s discovery and curiosity by utilising engaging content through videos and easy-to-digest lessons complemented by interactive activities that encourage participation.

At the same time, the platform is also out to assist teachers in facilitating classes of any size be it 10, 50 or even over a hundred students.

Much of what makes a MOOC course great has to do with the course design and for that OpenLearning has its own team of dedicated designers that look at how to make offline classroom material suited for online learning.

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Video: Students of the Future | EDUCAUSE Review

Photo: Gerry Bayne
Photo: Gregory Dobbin
Take a closer look at the video: Students of the Future by Multimedia Producer and Senior Editor.

A portrait of the tools and technology that students of the future might encounter.  

Students of the Future 

Source: EDUCAUSE Review and educause Channel (YouTube)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Practical tips from 13 innovative profs to improve classroom engagement | Top Hat

Photo: Philip Preville
Check out this useful new e-book by the higher education journalist Philip Preville, award-winning journalist and a former Canadian Journalism Fellow at Massey College at the University of Toronto. 

Download your copy

Building on his last handbook, How to Reach Distracted Students, Preville interviewed professors from across North America about how they’re tackling the epidemic of student disengagement. Each has found innovative ways to get students to invest more of themselves in their work.

The 13 case studies, told in the professor’s own words, explain how to:
  • Institute surprisingly simple tactics, easily adapted for any course, to engage students.
  • Make simple changes at the beginning of a course that can have lasting—and rewarding—impact.
  • Adopt a variety of strategies to keep students focused throughout the semester and to make the most of class time.
  • Assess whether students have come to comprehend and master a course’s subject matter.
Philip Preville says in the introduction, "At the start of every semester,  students arrive in class with high hopes. They’ve chosen their slate of courses based upon what they want to learn, after all, and they are eager to learn it. But, as every instructor knows, any given group of students will fall prey to distraction and disinterest as the weeks pass. The 21,000 faculty members who responded to the 2016 Professor Pulse Survey agreed that their biggest teaching challenge is “students not paying attention or participating in class.”"

This e-book assembles stories from 13 instructors from across North America explaining, in their own words, the challenges they faced, the solutions they
devised and the lasting impact their changes have had on their classrooms. Faculty everywhere can learn from each other’s experience. 

Download your copy

Source: Top Hat 

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A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right LMS For Your Organization | CommLab India

"Buying technology is not complicated when you know what you’re looking for. It’s the same with a Learning Management System (LMS). The more you understand your organization’s training needs and technological requirements, the easier it is to zero in on the right LMS for your organization." notes CommLab India.

Get your copy today!

Here’s what you can glean from it:
  • The advantages an LMS can bring to your organization
  • When it’s necessary to replace your existing LMS
  • How your organization’s training scenario can dictate the type of LMS it needs
  • Important factors to consider when choosing an LMS
  • Different types of LMSs available in the market
CommLab India writes in the introduction, "Buying a learning management system (LMS) is a big decision and an important investment for many organizations. Its success or failure depends on how well it handles an organization’s training requirements and aligns with its business goals."

The right choice of LMS can be made only when organizations know how to make that right choice. This eBook aims to do just that – help organizations understand how to choose the LMS that can successfully eliminate training challenges.

If you are looking for an LMS, this eBook is for you. It does not matter if you currently have an LMS or are completely new to the world of eLearning and LMSs. We will look at how to go about choosing the most appropriate LMS, no matter what your position is today.

Get your copy today!

Source: CommLab India

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Learning Outside Your Comfort Zone | Teaching Professor Blog

Photo: Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D.
summarizes, "When we learn something outside the comfort zone, we attempt to acquire knowledge or skills in an area where we’re lacking. Part of the discomfort derives from learning something we anticipate will be difficult."

Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog

We have no idea how to do it, or we think it requires abilities we don’t have or have in meager amounts. Moreover, poor performance or outright failure lurk as likely possibilities. In other words, it’s going to be hard and require concentration, and what we’re struggling to do, others can accomplish beautifully, seemingly without effort. Their skills, and our obvious lack of them, raise questions about our merits as a learner and maybe even our worth as a person.

The Teaching Professor Blog

A colleague wrote of her efforts to master Italian, “I’ve been reminded about how difficult learning can be when you step out of your comfort zone and learn a skill for which you don’t have any particular aptitude. I’m NOT a language person, so as I’m learning Italian, I have to repeat words approximately 850 times before I have even a chance to recall and use them. I’m trying to practice what I preach for students and approach this with a growth mind-set!” Another colleague on sabbatical is taking a course on mentoring and coaching that includes demonstration of these newly learned skills. “I am learning so much and am feeling the pressure that comes when you have to demonstrate something you’ve just barely learned,” she noted.

I wonder if learning outside the comfort zone isn’t especially difficult for faculty. Theoretically, it shouldn’t be. We’ve devoted years to learning, but most of what we know resides in one area. We’re experts at learning more about what we already know and love. And we’re used to having our learning expertise recognized—by students, colleagues, and sometimes even at home. However, plop us down in a discipline unlike our own, task us with learning a skill we don’t have, and suddenly, we look and act exactly like our students. And that’s the very reason this kind of learning has all sorts of positive implications for teaching. It’s good every now and then to be reacquainted with feeling stupid.
Read more... 

Source: The Teaching Professor Blog

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Ten tips to help you pass your PhD viva | Times Higher Education

Kevin D. 
Heriot-Watt University professor Kevin O’Gorman, Management and Business History offers some advice to those preparing for their viva voce. 

  1. It is a test to prove that you have written your own thesis. So, if you have written it yourself, and your supervisor feels that both the thesis and you are ready for examination, then you really should have nothing to worry about.
  2. It is an ‘open book’ exam. The viva is not a test of memory; you can bring stuff into the exam, and really you can bring anything you want into the exam – within reason! Of course, bring a copy of your thesis! You can stick yellow ‘Post-it’ notes on it (eg, anticipated questions and answers), although personally I hated the idea of that, and I just used the Table of Contents; however, it works well for some people…do what makes you comfortable.
  3. Your examiners want to pass you. Don’t expect an easy ride, but don’t expect some kind of medieval hand-to-hand combat. You will be very nervous for the first couple of questions. This is normal, your examiners know that, and they should ask you some questions to relax you and settle you into your exam.
  4. Follow the normal rules of conversation. Don’t interrupt your examiners; let them finish their questions before starting to answer. However, do not worry about respectfully disagreeing with them, either. It should be an open, frank, honest and polite conversation. Keep referring your examiners to your written work. Don’t try to memorise everything, as mentioned above, they also want to make sure that you’ve written your own thesis. So just make sure that you know where all the key sections of your thesis are.
  5. It normally lasts two hours. However, it could range from 90 minutes to four hours – so, like every other exam you have ever sat at university, pace yourself and don’t rush into a poorly conceived or considered answer. When you are asked a question, write it down. This will give you a minute or so, and also don’t worry about bullet-pointing answers. You probably have a list of anticipated viva questions and your answers; you can bring them in and refer to them if you like.
Read more... 

Source: Times Higher Education (THE)

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How to Effectively Engage With Your Child in the Modern World | SayCampusLife - Education Tips

Opening Intro -
The most effective way to connect with children, while preparing them for life, is to focus your interactions on things that accomplish both at the same time.

"With all the technological changes and the explosion of new ideas, engaging with your children in today’s fast-paced lifestyle can be challenging." writes .

Photo: SayCampusLife

The most effective way to connect with children, while preparing them for life, is to focus your interactions on things that accomplish both at the same time. Here’s how to foster a relationship with your children and help groom them for the sea of opportunities that await them in the modern world.

Learning to Think  
Most learning methods are based on some facet of the theoretical idea to enhance critical thinking. As the world changes and drifts farther away from a more simplistic lifestyle, thinking becomes even more essential.

While critical thinking skills are important for creating change, it is also necessary to cope with change itself. When children do not develop a base foundation for thinking through problems, these problems can become overwhelming and lead to lifelong issues with self-esteem and motivation.

The most important thing in helping your child learn critical thinking skills is to allow them to think for themselves. Too many times parents and educators want to automatically provide answers, when in fact it is far more beneficial to the child if they are permitted to figure some things out for themselves.

The process of teaching children to think for themselves can begin at the earliest age. Engaging a toddler in a conversation about what time it reads on a clock and where the sun is at the time will perk their interest to discover. Amazingly, the worlds of science and inquisition will be sparked as your child begins to ponder why the sun comes up at the same time every day.
Read more... 

Groza Learning Center
provides students, pre-K through college, with specialized academic help designed to student’s specific learning needs. Operating out of world-class facility in Pacific Palisades, the center features unique design elements that reflect the center’s philosophy regarding the joy and inspiration that should always be associated with educational pursuits.

Source: SayCampusLife

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What interested Isaac Newton more than science? | - American Minute

Photo: Bill Federer
Bill Federer, author of "Change to Chains: The 6,000 Year Quest for Global Control" and "What Every American Needs to Know About the Quran: A History of Islam and the United States." remembers astounding accomplishments of famous researcher.

Photo: Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton was born in 1642, the same year Galileo died. His mother was widowed twice, resulting in him being raised by his grandmother. He was sent off to grammar school and later went to Trinity College, Cambridge, 1661.

Sir Isaac Newton became a mathematician and a natural philosopher, discovering the laws of universal gravitation and formulating the three laws of motion, which aided in advancement of the discipline of dynamics. Newton was a discoverer of calculus and helped develop it into a comprehensive branch of mathematics. During the Plague of 1665-66, Newton moved to Woolsthorp, Lincolnshire.

He was honored to occupy the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics, 1669, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1672. Newton was given the position of Master of the Mint, 1699, and in 1701, entered Parliament. He constructed one of the first practical reflecting telescope. Using a prism, Newton demonstrated that a beam of light contained all the colors of the rainbow. He laid the foundation for the great law of energy conservation and developed the particle theory of light propagation. In 1703, Sir Issac Newton became the president of the Royal Society, and served in that position until his death.

Newton wrote one of the most important scientific books ever, Principia, 1687, in which he stated: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. … All variety of created objects which represent order and life in the universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the ‘Lord God.’ … This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of His dominion He is wont to be called ‘Lord God.’ … The supreme God exists necessarily, and by the same necessity He exists always and everywhere.”

Newton wrote in “Principia,” 1687: “From His true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent and powerful Being; and from His other perfections, that He is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, His duration reaches from eternity to eternity; His presence from infinity to infinity; He governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done.”

Newton was cited in “Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton” by Sir David Brewster (Edinburgh, Thomas Constable and Co., 1855, Vol. II, 354): “God made and governs the world invisibly, and has commanded us to love and worship him, and no other God; to honor our parents and masters, and love our neighbors as ourselves; and to be temperate, just, and peaceable, and to be merciful even to brute beasts. And by the same power by which he gave life at first to every species of animals, he is able to revive the dead, and has revived Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who has gone into the heavens to receive a kingdom, and prepare a place for us, and is next in dignity to God, and may be worshiped as the Lamb of God, and has sent the Holy Ghost to comfort us in his absence, and will at length return and reign over us.”
Sir Isaac Newton wrote in “Optics,” 1704: “God in the beginning formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportion to space, as most conduced to the end for which he formed them.”

Sir Isaac Newton devoted more time to the study of Scripture than to science (as cited in Tiner 1975): “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”

Sir Isaac Newton stated: “We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever. … Worshiping God and the Lamb in the temple: God, for his benefaction in creating all things, and the Lamb, for his benefaction in redeeming us with his blood.”
Read more...  

Recommended Reading 

A 'simple organist' who changed musical history

Photo: Johann Sebastian Bach
Bill Federer remembers composer for whom ungodly music was 'diabolical bawling and twanging'

Sir Isaac Newton on Science & Religion


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How Aristotle Created the Computer | The Atlantic

"The philosophers he influenced set the stage for the technological revolution that remade our world." argues Chris Dixon, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. 

Wikimedia / donatas1205 / Billion Photos / vgeny Karandaev / The Atlantic

The history of computers is often told as a history of objects, from the abacus to the Babbage engine up through the code-breaking machines of World War II. In fact, it is better understood as a history of ideas, mainly ideas that emerged from mathematical logic, an obscure and cult-like discipline that first developed in the 19th century. Mathematical logic was pioneered by philosopher-mathematicians, most notably George Boole and Gottlob Frege, who were themselves inspired by Leibniz’s dream of a universal “concept language,” and the ancient logical system of Aristotle.

Mathematical logic was initially considered a hopelessly abstract subject with no conceivable applications. As one computer scientist commented: “If, in 1901, a talented and sympathetic outsider had been called upon to survey the sciences and name the branch which would be least fruitful in [the] century ahead, his choice might well have settled upon mathematical logic.” And yet, it would provide the foundation for a field that would have more impact on the modern world than any other.

The evolution of computer science from mathematical logic culminated in the 1930s, with two landmark papers: Claude Shannon’s “A Symbolic Analysis of Switching and Relay Circuits,” and Alan Turing’s “On Computable Numbers, With an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.” In the history of computer science, Shannon and Turing are towering figures, but the importance of the philosophers and logicians who preceded them is frequently overlooked.

A well-known history of computer science describes Shannon’s paper as “possibly the most important, and also the most noted, master’s thesis of the century.” Shannon wrote it as an electrical engineering student at MIT. His adviser, Vannevar Bush, built a prototype computer known as the Differential Analyzer that could rapidly calculate differential equations. The device was mostly mechanical, with subsystems controlled by electrical relays, which were organized in an ad hoc manner as there was not yet a systematic theory underlying circuit design. Shannon’s thesis topic came about when Bush recommended he try to discover such a theory.

Shannon’s paper is in many ways a typical electrical-engineering paper, filled with equations and diagrams of electrical circuits. What is unusual is that the primary reference was a 90-year-old work of mathematical philosophy, George Boole’s The Laws of Thought.

Today, Boole’s name is well known to computer scientists (many programming languages have a basic data type called a Boolean), but in 1938 he was rarely read outside of philosophy departments. Shannon himself encountered Boole’s work in an undergraduate philosophy class. “It just happened that no one else was familiar with both fields at the same time,” he commented later.

Boole is often described as a mathematician, but he saw himself as a philosopher, following in the footsteps of Aristotle. The Laws of Thought begins with a description of his goals, to investigate the fundamental laws of the operation of the human mind:

Boole is often described as a mathematician, but he saw himself as a philosopher, following in the footsteps of Aristotle. The Laws of Thought begins with a description of his goals, to investigate the fundamental laws of the operation of the human mind:
The design of the following treatise is to investigate the fundamental laws of those operations of the mind by which reasoning is performed; to give expression to them in the symbolical language of a Calculus, and upon this foundation to establish the science of Logic ... and, finally, to collect ... some probable intimations concerning the nature and constitution of the human mind.
He then pays tribute to Aristotle, the inventor of logic, and the primary influence on his own work:
In its ancient and scholastic form, indeed, the subject of Logic stands almost exclusively associated with the great name of Aristotle. As it was presented to ancient Greece in the partly technical, partly metaphysical disquisitions of The Organon, such, with scarcely any essential change, it has continued to the present day.
Trying to improve on the logical work of Aristotle was an intellectually daring move. Aristotle’s logic, presented in his six-part book The Organon, occupied a central place in the scholarly canon for more than 2,000 years. It was widely believed that Aristotle had written almost all there was to say on the topic. The great philosopher Immanuel Kant commented that since Aristotle’s logic had been “unable to take a single step forward, and therefore seems to all appearance to be finished and complete.”

Aristotle’s central observation was that arguments were valid or not based on their logical structure, independent of the non-logical words involved. The most famous argument schema he discussed is known as the syllogism:
  • All men are mortal.
  • Socrates is a man.
  • Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
You can replace “Socrates” with any other object, and “mortal” with any other predicate, and the argument remains valid. The validity of the argument is determined solely by the logical structure. The logical words — “all,” “is,” are,” and “therefore” — are doing all the work.

Aristotle also defined a set of basic axioms from which he derived the rest of his logical system:
  • An object is what it is (Law of Identity)
  • No statement can be both true and false (Law of Non-contradiction)
  • Every statement is either true or false (Law of the Excluded Middle)
These axioms weren’t meant to describe how people actually think (that would be the realm of psychology), but how an idealized, perfectly rational person ought to think.

Aristotle’s axiomatic method influenced an even more famous book, Euclid’s Elements, which is estimated to be second only to the Bible in the number of editions printed.

Source: The Atlantic

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First Competency-Based Degree Program to Be Offered to All Federal Employees and Their Families | Southern New Hampshire University

Photo: Libby May
"College for America at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is teaming up with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to offer low-cost, competency-based degree programs to all Federal employees and their family members." inform Libby May, Southern New Hampshire University
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This alliance provides every Federal worker and their eligible family members with the opportunity to access College for America degree programs that are offered at $3,000 tuition annually.

College for America is a competency-based degree program, directly applicable in the workplace, and designed to accommodate the busy lives of working adults. College for America students can earn an associate's or bachelor's degree, online and at their own pace, from Southern New Hampshire University, a fully accredited, nonprofit university based in New Hampshire.

"We are proud to be working with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to offer low-cost, competency-based degree programs to all Federal employees and their families for the first time," said Paul LeBlanc, SNHU president. "This alliance will open the doors to higher education for thousands of Federal workers and their families, and will allow them to develop skills that are immediately applicable in the workplace."

Through the alliance, Federal employees and their families will have the opportunity to pursue an associate or bachelor's degree at their own self-directed pace in subjects including health care management, communications, and general studies.

For more information about College for America at Southern New Hampshire University, please visit

Source: Southern New Hampshire University

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