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The AI World Will Listen to These Women in 2018 | MIT Technology Review - Intelligent Machines

Photo: Jackie Snow Jackie Snow,  MIT Technology Review’s associate editor for artificial intelligence insist, "There’s a long way to go toward gender equality in the field, but women are taking on more prominent positions."

Photo: AI4ALL | Lauren Yang
Let’s make one thing clear: one year isn’t going to fix decades of gender discrimination in computer science and all the problems associated with it. Recent diversity reports show that women still make up only 20 percent of engineers at Google and Facebook, and an even lower proportion at Uber. But after the parade of awful news about the treatment of female engineers in 2017—sexual harassment in Silicon Valley and a Google engineer sending out a memo to his coworkers arguing that women are biologically less adept at programming, just to name a couple—there is actually reason to believe that things are looking up for 2018, especially when it comes to AI.

At first glance, AI would seem among least likely areas of programming to be friendly to women. Writing in Fast Company recently, Hanna Wallach, an AI researcher and cofounder of the Women in Machine Learning Conference, said that only 13.5 percent of those working in machine learning are female. In the midst of the #MeToo movement, researchers in artificial intelligence also dealt with sexual harassment allegations, as well as complaints that inappropriate jokes were made at a parties around NIPS, a major industry conference.

But three major new AI policy and advocacy groups have popped up lately, with big-time industry backing and lofty goals for changing the way AI is designed and implemented—and all are headed by women.

Partnership for AI, a consortium made up of heavy hitters like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft, just hired Terah Lyons as executive director. Lyons was formerly policy advisor to the U.S. chief technology officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where she was behind the Obama administration’s deep dive into AI’s potential to change the world.

The goal of Partnership for AI is to “advance public understanding of artificial intelligence technologies (AI) and formulate best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field.” With funding from some of the biggest tech firms in the world, it’s poised to help shape policy and thinking around AI at the federal level.

Meanwhile, AI Now, a research institute at NYU, was officially launched this fall by Kate Crawford, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and Meredith Whittaker, a founder of Google Open Research. One of the group’s main focuses is to ensure that the engineers making AI algorithms are working closely with the people who will use them. In the case of a medical application, for example, they want to make sure that doctors are consulted as part of the research. This kind of work will help point AI toward tackling the kinds of problems that actually need solving, as opposed to only the problems that a computer programmer thinks to work on.
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Source: MIT Technology Review 

10 Machine Learning Startups to Watch | Datamation - Applications

"Artificial intelligence (AI) looks likely to be one of the most influential technology trends for 2018. And machine learning is poised to be one of the most aspects of AI that enterprises will need to master" continues Datamation.

10 Machine Learning Startups to Watch
These startups are applying artificial intelligence techniques to business intelligence, big data, cybersecurity, APM, autonomous vehicles, healthcare and more.
Photo: Pixabay
According to the latest forecast from IDC worldwide spending on cognitive and AI solutions, include machine learning solutions, is likely to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 50.1 percent from 2016 to 2021. In 2017, total revenue in the market was $12.0 billion, 59.1 percent higher than in 2016. By 2021, the analysts predict that revenues could hit $57.6 billion.

Large technology companies like IBM, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Salesforce and Amazon have been investing heavily in AI and machine learning. They each have armies of researchers devoted to advancing machine learning capabilities, and they are also acquiring machine learning startups at a frantic pace.

For example, in 2017, Google bought machine learning competition platform Kaggle and India-based Halli Labs, which made machine learning to fix "old problems." Microsoft acquired Maluuba, which had impressive deep learning and reinforcement learning capabilities. Apple snapped up Lattice Data, which used machine learning to make unstructured data more structured, and Amazon reportedly purchased cybersecurity-focused machine learning startup Harvest.ai. And that's just a handful of the biggest machine learning acquisitions of the year.

With more software vendors and enterprises looking to add machine learning capabilities to their applications in 2018, the startup buying spree will almost certainly continue. And entrepreneurs continue to found new machine learning startups at a very rapid rate.

Which of these machine learning startups look the most promising? Here are ten that seem particularly noteworthy and worth watching in 2018.

Source: Datamation

Artificial Intelligence Apocalypse: Scientists Simulate Superintelligence in Video Game and the AI Takes Over | Newsweek - Tech & Science

"Scientists simulate what the introduction of advanced artificial intelligence into society would look like" inform Anthony Cuthbertson, staff writer at Newsweek, based in London.
 
The superintelligence modification to the "Civilization" game imagines what it would be like if an advanced AI was introduced to society.
The rise of powerful artificial intelligence, professor Stephen Hawking once warned, will be “either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity.” Unfortunately, by the time we find out which, it may already be too late—but a new video game simulation may offer clues as to what we might expect.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk have built a "Superintelligence" modification for the classic strategy game Civilization 5 that envisions a scenario in which a smarter-than-human AI is introduced to society.

One outcome offers a dire prophecy of the demise of humanity, achieving the game’s aim of helping players better understand the existential threat posed by advanced artificial intelligence.

“Artificial intelligence can initially provide some benefits, and eventually can turn into superintelligence that brings mastery of science to its discoverer,” the researchers write in the add-on’s description.

“However, if too much artificial intelligence research goes uncontrolled, rogue superintelligence can destroy humanity and bring an instant loss of the game.”

In this scenario, a message appears in the game that reads: “A device for creating utopia on Earth has been discovered, and your civilization was not the one to discover it. Future generations will live in a perfect world, but someone else’s perfect world, as your civilization lies forgotten in the ancient books of history.”

Steam/ Civilization
It is not the first video game to imagine the detrimental consequences of a rogue AI, with a game reenacting a well-known AI thought experiment going viral in October last year.

The game Paperclips explored the parable of an AI programmed to manufacture paperclips, first described by the philosopher Nick Bostrom in a 2003 paper exploring ethical issues in advanced artificial intelligence.

While the goal of the AI is simple, if it is not programmed to value human life then it could eventually gather all matter in the universe—including human beings—in order to create more paperclips.

Both games highlight the fear that a machine smarter than humans will be impossible to switch off. At a conference in 2015, Bostrom hypothesized why neanderthals didn’t wipe out humans when they had the chance to avoid being taken over as the dominant species on the planet.

“They certainly had reasons,” Bostrom said in his TED (technology, entertainment and design) talk. “The reason is that we are an intelligent adversary. We can anticipate threats and plan around them. But so could a super intelligent agent and it would be much better at that than we are.”
Read more... 

Source: Newsweek  

Would Artificial Intelligence Guide Education or Grab It? | American Spectator

America’s educationists seem to be getting carried away, one fears.
Photo: Robert HollandWhat is artificial intelligence (AI), and should we welcome it as a major force in education and other areas of our lives? says Robert Holland, senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.

Photo: American Spectator
Closing out 2017, Education Week published essays written by futurists that seemed to give a big “yes” to the second part of that question.
The Encyclopedia Britannica explains AI is, at least in part, “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. The term is frequently applied to the project of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience.”

That’s heavy stuff! Machines that think with us, do our thinking for us, or even are flat-out as smart as us. Does advanced AI bode well for civilization?

One of the EdWeek essayists, Arizona State University futurist Michael Bennett, presents vignettes of a “plausible near future” in which a 5th-grader’s virtual mentor has monitored her “cognitive and emotional development since shortly after her conception.” Thus, on a snowy day, “Maestro” guides the child to a favorite storybook, “having determined the intervention will induce an optimal psychological state for the school day’s lessons.”

“As a society, we must get used to the concept of ‘technological legislation,’ the notion that widely distributed technological systems and devices often govern our lives more effectively than local, state, or federal laws,” Bennett added.

Wow! So I guess this means it’s off to the scrapheap for school boards, PTAs, representative governments, and potentially even the Bill of Rights, which has protected Americans’ individual liberties for more than two centuries. According to some, people should just trust everything, our children included, to High Tech.

Strangely, none of EdWeek’s cosmic thinkers explored the possible downsides of dominant AI. Indeed, the featured backpage author, Harvard’s Christopher Dede, argued today’s students must continually “unlearn the old ways” while learning to use digital tools and media to prepare for “a lifetime of amplified collaborative intelligence.”

Although the EdWeek writers seemed all too willing to embrace AI’s control of our lives, it is reassuring to know that there are some very smart people, one of them being famed British physicist Stephen Hawking, who believe that developing artificial intelligence to the max could have dire consequences. Currently, we mostly have a narrow, weak form of AI that’s designed to perform specific tasks, such as an Internet search or driving a car. However, as Hawking made clear, a strong or generalized AI conceivably could go beyond assigned tasks and outperform humans in just about every cognitive realm...

...AI devices might help tutor pupils who have fallen behind in reading and math. It is hard for teachers to do catch-up instruction while keeping the class as a whole on schedule, and there are rarely enough trained tutors to go around. Thus, AI devices might be useful in bringing algorithms for improving literacy to bear in working with kids when teachers cannot.
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Source: American Spectator

Artificial intelligence proves major time savings for federal employees | FederalNewsRadio.com - Technology

Photo: Jory Heckman"Federal agencies are embracing the idea of artificial intelligence, and in test cases, adopting machine learning has cut down on some of the tedious aspects of working with government data" notes Jory Heckman, reporter at Federal News Radio since January 2018. 
 
Photo: FederalNewsRadio.com
The phrase “artificial intelligence” can stir up a lot of panic at some federal agencies, and can give rise to the idea of intelligent machines putting some employees out of work.

However, some federal agencies are embracing the idea of artificial intelligence, and in those test cases, adopting machine learning comes down to a few key strategies like starting small and managing expectations.

While AI isn’t a panacea for every big-data problem in government, agency leaders say they see value in using machine learning to handle the most tedious aspects of handling data, which frees up human operators to address more mission-critical issues.

“Artificial intelligence is an imperative. It’s not something that’s nice to have, or something that we should consider at some point,” Teresa Smetzer, the director of digital futures at the Central Intelligence Agency said Tuesday during an event sponsored by Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for the Business of Government. “We have an enormous exponential growth in the amount of data, the variety of data, the velocity of data, and our nation’s security really depends on our ability to quickly understand what data we have, what it means and how we’re going to use it.”

While still in its early stages, artificial intelligence has received lots of buy-in from the private sector and the academic world. But Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), a co-founder of the Artificial Intelligence Caucus on Capitol Hill, said the conversation around AI has not yet addressed the implications for lawmakers and the federal government.

“AI has the ability to provide lawmakers like me with up-to-date information, leading to better-informed decisions. And since AI never, ever forgets, its constant review of the effectiveness of policy gives lawmakers and government officials the opportunity to be proactive and address issues as they first crop up, and not wait to deal with them years and years later, when the problems get much, much, much bigger,” Olson said.

The key to going forward with new developments with AI, Olson said, includes protecting the privacy of individuals’ personal information in databases and educating the workforce to view artificial intelligence as a tool, and not as a competitor.

Mallory Barg Bulman, the vice president of research and evaluation at the Partnership for Public Service, said the rise of AI comes at a time when agencies face new technology-driven challenges, but haven’t received new funds or manpower to address them.
“We’re at a time in government where we’re not able to do more, with more,” Bulman said. 

“We’re really trying to look for that Option C. What is that other option? What is the way to do things differently to achieve critical outcomes?”
Read more...

Source: FederalNewsRadio.com

Forgotten legacy of Aboriginal stockwomen becomes subject of PhD research | ABC Online - Indigenous - Just In

"After so many men were killed in the frontier wars, a burgeoning Australian pastoral industry turned to Aboriginal stockwomen" reports Nathan Morris, the features reporter at ABC Goldfields-Esperance in Western Australia.

Photo: Nancy Watson was a stockwoman in north Queensland in the early 1900s.
Supplied: Tauri Simone

Pushing 60, Maudie Moore was still chasing scrub bulls on horseback — a testament to her reputation as one of the best 'stockmen' you could find around the 1950s in Western Australia.
Ms Moore is just one of the women whose stories feature in a thesis by PhD candidate Tauri Simone about the role Aboriginal stockwomen played in the Australian pastoral industry.


Advice: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this story contains names and images people who have died.

"There's a whole lack of and gap about the Indigenous participation and especially women," Ms Simone said.

As a Koa woman from central western Queensland, and also a stockwoman in charge of 1 million acres (more than 4,000 square kilometres) at Barwidgee Station in the Western Australian Goldfields, it was work Ms Simone seemed destined to do.

While the contribution of Aboriginal people to the pastoral industry has long been acknowledged, Ms Simone sensed a gap in the historical record.

"In the 1930s, you actually find lots of information about Aboriginal stockmen and their participation in the industry starts coming out," she said.

"I thought 'Well hang on, I know that the frontier started long before that', so I went back to the 1860s and that's when I found where the women were."

Frontier wars left women to do work 
After many men were killed in the ongoing frontier wars — multiple conflicts between Europeans and Aboriginal people — a burgeoning Australian pastoral industry turned to Aboriginal stockwomen.
"Men were decimated by the war [so] there were only women and old people left on the station, so they had to be the ones doing the work," Ms Simone said.To build her research, Ms Simone said she had to dig through old government policy documentation, doing a lot of research and "reading between the lines".

Law prohibited hiring of women 
During her research, Ms Simone found she had to account for the social and legal realities of the time.

She said any information related to Aboriginal stockmen could have actually been about women in the industry.

"They could have been [talking about] women because you weren't allowed to hire women as stockwomen at that time, with the policies in place," she said.

Reading through old drovers' diaries and using published work from historians such as Henry Reynolds and Dr Anne McGrath as a starting point, Ms Simone was able to work her way back.

In the process, she came across the stories of a number of head stockwomen and one of them was Maudie Moore, a renowned horsewoman on Durham River Station in the Kimberley...

Contributors, not participants 
During her research, Ms Simone created a method she called a "multi-relational narrative framework" where information was respectfully recorded in a marriage of academia and Aboriginal yarning.

The women involved were not merely participants, they were contributors to the work.

"I don't see myself as owning it, I'm just that instrument for them to be able to contribute to this lack of knowledge that we have in Australian history so their voices can be heard," Ms Simone said of the women's stories.

"Aboriginal women are under-recognised and under-acknowledged for the participation that they've had, especially in the culture that has manifested today between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people within Australia."
Read more...

Source: ABC Online

Provosts, Pedagogy, and Digital Learning | EDUCAUSE Review - Editors' Picks

Panel members from an EDUCAUSE 2017 Annual Conference session offer insights about the role of provosts and chief academic officers in digital courseware deployment and the challenges of using technology to advance teaching, learning, and student success.
Please take a closer look at this article as below.
Editors' Picks
Stories you won’t want to miss. Selected by the EDUCAUSE Review Editors.

Photo: EDUCAUSE ReviewHigher education provosts and chief academic officers (CAOs) have come of age, personally and professionally, with the technologies that are now ubiquitous on campus and in the consumer market. However, considerable survey data and numerous conversations suggest that many provosts and CAOs remain skeptical about the potential or claimed benefits of information technology as a resource for teaching, learning, and instruction. They are also concerned about the significant investments that institutions make to support information technology for those purposes.1

At the EDUCAUSE 2017 Annual Conference, Kenneth C. (Casey) Green moderated a panel discussion with two of the CAOs involved in the Association of Chief Academic Officers (ACAO) Digital Fellows Program and with the principal investigator on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant that created the year-long program. In this session, the three panel members offered their perspectives on campus IT investments, including what the panelists see as working—and what they see as missing—in instructional technology portfolios today. 

The Panelists 
Casey Green: 
Let's begin with quick introductions from each of you, including a brief description of your institution and the CAO/provost's role within it.

Charles Cook: 
Austin Community College is in Austin, Texas. We have a surface area of five counties—geographically about the size of Connecticut. We have 11 (soon to be 12) campuses, including a shopping mall, which we bought and are converting into the Highland campus, which houses the ACCelerator, a huge lab offering students personalized and adaptive learning opportunities with instructional and coaching support in a number of disciplines. We have about 40,000 credit students and 10,000–12,000 continuing and adult education students—with about 52% white, 34% Hispanic, 7–8% African-American, and 5% Asian.

As the CAO, I try to be the connector. Since the college is geographically spread out, we try to have common communication across the campuses, and across programs, to ensure that we have good quality and good consistency in what we're offering our students. Both student services and academic instruction report to me, so that makes connecting a little easier.

Patricia L. Rogers:  
Winona State University, established in 1858, is the oldest normal school, or teachers' college, west of the Mississippi. We also have a branch campus in Rochester, Minnesota, and that campus is 100 years old this year. We have approximately 8,100 students, 340 full-time faculty, and 185 part-time faculty. We have about 13% students of color, a number that is rising and that is rather unusual for a small school in southern Minnesota. We offer a range of programs, with nursing and health sciences being our leaders due to our proximity to the Mayo and Gundersen Clinics.

The role of the provost is to stay out of everyone's way. Because I'm a good Minnesotan, I sit in the stern of the canoe and help power things. I put the smart people out front and have them lead the show.

Laura Niesen de Abruna: 
York College, a private institution founded in 1787, has gone through many iterations. Right now, it has 5,000 students—undergraduate and graduate.

As the provost, I'm the chief academic officer, but I'm also in charge of institutional effectiveness, strategic planning, institutional research, and all technology and instructional design. I wrote and oversee the grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help CAOs across the United States understand how to deploy digital courseware.
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Source: EDUCAUSE Review 

Machine Learning and Higher Education | EDUCAUSE Review

The potential for machine learning to improve various aspects of higher education is considerable. Read about the possibilities and the limitations of this emerging technology, by Heath Yates, PhD candidate and Software Engineer at Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University and Craig Chamberlain, Manager of Institutional Enrollment and Budget Planning at Pacific Lutheran University. 

Photo: Storyblocks.com
Software is eating the world, so said Marc Andreesen in 2011.1 These days it seems that machine learning and its specialized algorithms are eating the software world.2 Is it thus a foregone conclusion that machine learning will play a significant role in disrupting technology and shaping our future?

Machine learning concerns teaching machines to learn about something without explicit programming. At the core of machine learning is the idea of modeling and extracting useful information out of data. Societal trends clearly point to data as the resource of the future. Colleges and universities are already swimming in data, and there is much more on the way. Imagine a future in which computers are everywhere and interconnected with everything from clothes to refrigerators, phones, vending machines, and more. Some people have even proposed equipping toilets with sensors that collect data.3 Storing those data will be very cheap.4 These interconnected devices will produce quantities of data that are too large human analysis, requiring us to teach computers to look for patterns in the data, identify predictor variables, and even try to predict for those variables.

Organizations that adapt and adopt machine learning will have a bright future. Machine learning is a new tool in the box, and it is worth learning how to use.5 Colleges, universities, and other educational institutions often adopt disruptive technologies in novel ways and are therefore in a good position to use machine learning to improve higher education. Adopting a machine learning–centric data-science approach as a tool for administrators and faculty could be a game changer for higher education.

Before we discuss machine learning further, it is important to briefly discuss analytics and traditional statistics. It is true that not all predictive analytics needs to be done with machine learning. The traditional methods here are statistical methods such as time series forecasting or various forms of regression. These have been used successfully in many fields for several years. In this article, from a very high overview, we refer to analytics as the subfield of machine learning that is predictive analytics and relies on training algorithms with a labeled training set, otherwise known as supervised learning. A common example is weather.6 Suppose we are interested in predicting sunny days. We can do this by observing our entire data set and feed the conditions into an algorithm that will look at days that were sunny and days that were not. This model is then trained and then can be fed new data and make guesses about whether it is sunny. For our purposes, we are interested in using supervised methods to make predictions and unsupervised methods such as classification to find patterns in the data that we might not have seen.

It is important to discuss the potential benefits and recommendations for pursuing machine learning as a tool for educational experts. In addition, it is important to note potential limitations and ethical considerations. Although an in-depth discussion is beyond the scope of this article, our hope is to start a conversation among higher education administrators, faculty, and IT specialists regarding the potential of machine learning to help make more-informed and better decisions — in other words, get people interested in machine learning to try it and see how things go. We are practicing what we advocate in this article. Heath Yates is actively exploring new algorithmic approaches to machine learning, while Craig Chamberlain is applying machine learning to data in higher education.

Potential Benefits of Machine Learning in Higher Education 
Our interest in machine learning began by doing some very simple clustering analysis parallel to k-nearest neighbor (kNN). Such techniques as kNN can assist in finding patterns in larger data for analysts. During the 2016–17 year, Chamberlain was approached by his university to look at a question posed by a donor: "Can we identify a group of students who need an additional scholarship that would eventually lead to increased retention?" After spending time with several data sets and after a lot of research, Chamberlain and his team identified a group of students who needed additional money to remain enrolled. At the time, many believed that increasing retention for this group was a long shot. However, after awarding these students additional scholarships, retention rose from approximately 64% to about 90%. This effort has had two distinct benefits. The most important is that it contributed to the continued success of those students. The second is that it resulted in about $200,000 in additional net tuition revenue from an investment of about $50,000 in scholarships. By conducting basic machine learning to find patterns in the data and testing hypotheses, Chamberlain and his team were able to help students and the university. Although this use case is simple and nascent and relied on some traditional statistical inference, once machine learning and education begin interacting more often, this simple example can evolve into larger data sets with large solutions...

Heath Yates and Craig Chamberlain writes in the conclusion, "Machine learning shows great potential to disrupt how we process and consume data and use software. Serious ethical considerations and limitations must be considered. However, higher education is naturally and uniquely positioned to capitalize on the promise of machine learning by using it as a tool for social and moral good. Higher education has the opportunity not only to use machine learning to help transform itself to make better decisions but also to explore how it might apply machine learning as a force for good. How can machine learning relate to and benefit higher education?"... 
Read more... 

Source: EDUCAUSE Review 

Priceless Gift Exchanges between Faculty and Students | Teaching Professor Blog

Photo: Maryellen Weimer summarizes, "Teachers and students can give each other priceless gifts. “Professor Jones changed my life!”

Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog
How many times have I told the story of my advisor who was the first person to suggest I could be a college professor? We love to hear and tell these stories because they are remarkable and inspiring. A student and a teacher connect during one small segment of the student’s life, yet through that tiny window of time can blow a gust strong enough to change the direction of that life.

And students gift us with stories that bear witness to life-changing encounters with teachers. I recently read Fred Heppner’s description of the three teachers who changed his life. It’s a lovely reflection, full of wise insights. Teachers who change students’ lives don’t have to be great lecturers. Heppner describes one of his favorites as a “terrible” lecturer, the second was “okay,” and the third used memorized scripts that started and ended with timely precision. That teachers can change lives without giving great lectures doesn’t justify delivering poor ones. But it does point to a part of teaching that transcends methods. When teachers change lives, it’s the human element that inspires, connects, and motivates in transformative ways. 

The Teaching Professor Blog
Teachers who change lives aren’t perfect. They don’t do everything right and they certainly don’t change every student’s life. In fact, most teacher aspirations don’t involve changing lives. More mundane goals drive our efforts. We want students to be able to solve problems, evaluate arguments, write clearly, be open-minded, and believe in themselves and in the value of hard work. Most of us consider the semester a success if we see progress in any of these areas.

Even if a teacher did set out to change students’ lives, how would that process work? How would you select the students whose lives you plan to change? And then how would you make it happen? In fact, most of the time, we don’t even see it happening. When we later hear about it (and sometimes we don’t), we’re surprised. We struggle to explain what transpired. Could magic be the apt descriptor?
Read more...

Source: The Teaching Professor Blog

Creating the Space for Engaged Discussions | Faculty Focus - Effective Teaching Strategies

Photo: Kevin Gannon "It’s a new academic year, and optimism and energy are in abundant supply. There are new ideas for class, new ways to engage students, and great questions to wrestle with as the intersections between past and present have rarely been so obvious." argues Kevin Gannon, director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and a professor of history at Grand View University.  He blogs at thetattooedprof.com.
 
Photo: Faculty Focus
And it all goes swimmingly, it seems, until the first time we actually launch a discussion. Then those faces that seemed to be so cheerful–nodding along as we talked about how our class could be challenging, provocative, even FUN–now stare back blankly. It was as if posing a question triggered an actual electric shock that stunned them into a catatonic state. No…wait! Someone looked up. Eye contact? We look at them hopefully, ready for someone to bravely interrupt the increasingly awkward silence. They meet our gaze for a split second, their eyes widen in panic, and all of a sudden there seems to be something much more compelling to look at on the floor next to their chair. It’s as if the air goes out of the room. Everyone seemed to be on board with a discussion-based class until we actually gave them the chance to embark. Then, abandon ship.

It’s hard to muster the enthusiasm (and increased effort) necessary for an active, collaborative class environment when none of our students seem to reciprocate. We know an active learning pedagogy is better for student learning, but we also face circumstances like this example, or of large classes, or of rooms with desks bolted to the floor in rows. Our discipline has so many avenues into a fruitful conversation with students: primary sources, images, “what-if” questions, debates, exploration of difficult, controversial, or morally and ethically complex issues. But those conversations can’t happen if only one party participates. The key question for so much of our teaching, then, is what do we do when discussion dies?...

These are just three basic techniques that require little to no investment of time that can produce the results we hope to achieve as we imagine our ideal class discussions. The common denominator for all of them is the creation of space for students to think, process, and then articulate ideas they’ve worked with in complex and higher-order ways. That space is essential for good discussions, and is also contingent upon classroom climate. Have we created an environment where all of our students feel comfortable sharing ideas and taking intellectual risks?...

Note: two invaluable resources on fostering effective class discussions are Stephen Brookfield and Stephen Preskill, Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for College Classrooms, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005); and Jay R. Howard, Discussion in the College Classroom: Getting Your Students Engaged and Participating in Person and Online (San Francisco” Jossey-Bass, 2015).
Read more...

Source: Faculty Focus

9 New Books We Recommend This Week | New York Times - Book Review - Editors’ Choice

Follow on Twitter as @johnwilliamsnyt"There’s good news and bad news on this week’s list of recommended books" says John Williams, Daily Books Editor and Staff Writer.
Photo: Storyblocks.com
Well, almost exclusively bad news, at least in terms of subject matter. These picks cover the devastation of tsunamis, earthquakes and wildfires; the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918; mass extinctions; the potential for nuclear annihilation. Even the work of fiction included here is a fantasy about imminent catastrophe. The good news is the eloquent and haunting way in which these books are written.
The Doomsday Machine:
Confessions of a Nuclear
War PlannerTHE DOOMSDAY MACHINE: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, by Daniel Ellsberg. (Bloomsbury, $30.) 
When the Cold War ended in 1991, nuclear weapons vanished from the minds of most Americans. But Ellsberg, the former Defense Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers, sounds an impassioned alarm, warning that the dangers of nuclear conflict remain.

The Ends of the World:
Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans,
and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past
Mass ExtinctionsTHE ENDS OF THE WORLD: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions, by Peter Brannen. (Ecco, $27.99.) 
Earth has undergone five major mass extinctions and Brannen tells us about all the destruction in great detail. Read more... 

Source: New York Times

3 Strategic Steps To Execute At A Higher Level | Influencive - Mindset

"Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t be afraid to be more prepared" summarizes Cole VanDeWoestyne, Contributor.

Photo: Influencive
I’m looking back almost an entire year and remembering the aha moment I had when a friend introduced me to the art of strategically planning things before executing them.

Before this moment, I would just go crazy. I would come up with an idea and without giving it any thought I would just run with it. I was playing too deeply into the Gary Vaynerchuk mindset of going all in on my strengths and forgetting about my weaknesses. Strategic Planning was certainly a weakness. Actually, planning, in general, was a weakness. I was always a wing it kind of guy.

During this aha moment I keep talking about I realized immediately that if I took the strategic planning side that my friend introduced me to and blended it perfectly with my executing mindset, I would be able to accomplish anything at a much higher level. This didn’t necessarily mean I would be successful at everything I set out to accomplish, but it definitely meant that I would have a much greater success rate.

Bridging the gap between my 24/7 executing mindset and the mindset of someone who strategically plans every detail out and making it work together was not as easy as it may seem. It’s extremely challenging, but extremely rewarding.

If I had to summarize an entire year into one article, I’d lay it out over these three steps.
Read more... 

Source: Influencive 

The Ph.D. Skill Mismatch | Inside Higher Ed

"Analysis of a year’s worth of MLA job postings -- most of them for teaching positions -- finds strong emphasis on alt-ac skills. Are doctoral programs providing the right training?" continues Inside Higher Ed
 
Photo: Getty Images
Senior faculty members frequently tell doctoral students in English and foreign languages to "just do research all the time" and to "view everything else as a distraction," said the author of a study being presented today at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association. 

That's a big problem for Ph.D. students and the institutions that may hire them, according to the author. The study analyzes the 1,658 job postings that the MLA listed in 2015-16 to look at the skills being sought by hiring departments. About three-quarters of the job listings listed at least one skill associated with what are called alternative-academic jobs -- skills like public outreach, assessment, administration and curriculum development. In fact, some of these skills were significantly more likely to be listed than were traditional skills such as advanced knowledge of British or American literature. 

Because the overwhelming majority of the jobs listed were for positions for which teaching and research are the stated priorities, the data challenge the idea that those coming on the market today are going to find traditional academic jobs and can best prepare with more and more research, says Beth Seltzer, the study's author. 

Seltzer should know. She earned her Ph.D. in Victorian literature. But her job at Bryn Mawr College (in which she's very happy) is as an educational technology specialist.

Seltzer said that she did the analysis because she hopes it will prompt discussion about the nature of doctoral training. Many new Ph.D.s in the humanities and other disciplines are exploring alt-ac careers in parts of academe beyond the faculty. But what her findings show, 
Seltzer said, is that those seeking teaching positions also need alt-act skills. And Seltzer said she doubted many were picking them up from those faculty advisers who are focused on traditional faculty jobs at research universities. 

Here are Seltzer's findings.
Read more...

Source: Inside Higher Ed

Who Is Studying Online (and Where) | Inside Higher Ed - Digital Learning

New federal data show continued growth in online course taking in 2016, even as overall college enrollments were flat or falling. Big gainers: Western Governors and Arizona State. Big losers: the big for-profits.

Photo:  Inside Higher Ed
The number of college students enrolled in at least one online course -- and the proportion of all enrolled students who are studying online -- continued to rise at U.S. institutions in the 2016 academic year, newly released federal data show.

The statistics, part of a major release of provisional data on enrollments, employment and other topics from the Education Department's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, provide the most up-to-date information on enrollments in online and distance education.

The overarching story is a familiar one: even as overall enrollment in postsecondary institutions stays flat (unlike recent numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse, the federal data show enrollments staying roughly constant, not declining), online enrollments climb.

As a result, so, too, does the proportion of all students at institutions eligible to award federal financial aid who are taking at least one course at a distance, as seen in the table below.
Read more... 

Source: Inside Higher Ed 

Maryam Mirzakhani: Remembering a brilliant mathematician who inspired a world of possibilities | ABC Online - Science

Photo: Nalini Joshi"Australian mathematician professor Nalini Joshi, ARC Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellow in Mathematics at the University of Sydney. A spoken version of this piece will be broadcast on Ockham's Razor on ABC RN on Sunday 21 January, pays a personal tribute to the life and legacy of Maryam Mirzakhani, the first female winner of the Fields Medal, who died in 2017."

Maryam Mirzakhani, a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, died of breast cancer in July.
Photo: Supplied - Stanford University
On 16 June 2014, I received an email from the President of the International Mathematical Union.

The subject of the email was a question "Will you be at ICM?" and the body of the email consisted of just two lines: "And will you have some disposable time? I have a favour to ask ... Best, Ingrid."

The sender was Professor Ingrid Daubechies and ICM is the International Mathematical Congress, which is held every four years. The most anticipated event at each ICM is the award of the Fields Medal, arguably the most celebrated prize in mathematics. In 2014, the ICM was to be held in Seoul, Korea.

When I answered Ingrid's email, I learnt that I was to be part of a small group of female mathematicians entrusted with a special job in Seoul, involving such amazing news that it set a bell ringing in my heart — a bell that is still ringing today.

This group learnt that a Fields medal was to be awarded to a female mathematician for the first time in its long and luminous history. We were asked to be "on call" to provide support and help for the recipient at ICM.

The prestigious medal, often dubbed the Nobel Prize for mathematics, is awarded to recognise extraordinary results in mathematics by a mathematician under the age of 40.

Before that news arrived in my inbox, 52 Fields medals had been awarded, all of them to men.
Now, the established ranks of the mathematical world were going to acknowledge not only that women can do maths, but that their achievements can be as brilliant as the highest achievements ever recognised in recorded mathematical history.

Photo: Maryam Mirzakhani, third from the right, with Iranian school students departing for the 1995 Maths Olympiad in Canada
One of the four brilliant mathematicians who were awarded Fields medals at the 2014 ICM was Maryam Mirzakhani, who was born and educated in Iran, and completed a PhD in mathematics at Harvard University. Behind that brief outline, there was an exceptional person with an astonishing history.

Iran admitted girls to their International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO) team for the very first time in 1994. The contest is difficult, involving six problems, each worth seven marks and distributed over two consecutive days. Maryam was a member of that first team to include girls. 

Maryam did not just participate; her performance was spectacular. She dropped only one mark in 1994, and in the next year, she achieved a perfect score. She was the first Iranian ever to have been awarded two gold medals and a perfect score in the IMO.

An observer who witnessed the IMO medal ceremonies in 1994 and 1995 wrote to me that: "The two girls in the Iranian team were completely covered in black — except for their feet. 

When the Iranians went to collect their medals, one had to infer what was underneath from the confident way the girls' trainers strode visibly across the stage. It was very, very impressive — if a rather unusual way to witness/infer youthful ambition."

Much later, that drive and ambition led Maryam to move to the US to pursue graduate study in Mathematics at Harvard University, where her PhD advisor, Curtis McMullen, also a Fields medallist, said she showed "determination and relentless questioning."

Most research mathematicians spend their working lives as highly accomplished technical specialists working within one subfield of mathematics, much like a performer might interpret and play glorious music on just one instrument.
Read more...

Source: ABC Online  

Maths can be fun if students discover it themselves: Fields Medal winner | Times of India

Photo: Manjul BhargavaNumbers have always been the best friend of Manjul Bhargava, a Canadian-American mathematician who has won the Fields Medal, known as the mathematician's Nobel Prize

Photo: Storyblocks.com
Speaking to TOI on the sidelines of the ICTS at Ten event, the maths professor from Princeton University cracks the code on why mathematics is different for a researcher when compared to a student. According to Bhargava, mathematics gets an altogether different look when poetry, history and more are weaved into it.
You approach mathematics from an artistic perspective. How hard is it to bridge the gap between maths and fun? 

Most mathematicians think of their works as art rather than science. Any pure mathematician would be delighted if they hear their work is elegant or beautiful. But the problem is that today's kids are unable to look at the subject this way. I was lucky to learn maths on my own. My mother was a mathematician who always asked me to figure out problems in the subject by myself. This was how I started perceiving the subject as fun.

Why aren't we able to achieve these forms of learning and teaching in today's classrooms? How is it different from the maths pedagogy in US?

Our textbooks today have largely remained the same since the pre-colonial era. Students are forced to learn rote and not given the opportunity to explore the subject on their own. There's not much difference in the way it's taught in the US either. Maths isn't taught too well there much like here.

What inspired you to take up mathematics and how are people getting attracted to research in this field? 
Read more...

Source: Times of India

Math Reveals Your Royal Roots | Inverse - Culture - Math

Photo: Eileen Guo"Congrats, you're descended from royalty! But so is everyone else" says Eileen Guo, Inverse's weekend editor and culture writer. 

Photo: Inverse
DNA testing has made tracing family trees into a common past-time for our globalized world, but according to one mathematician, we might be overthinking it.
Joseph Chang, a statistician at Yale University, applied statistical modeling to find the most recent common ancestor of all humans on earth. His model, using the number of ancestors of each individual as well as current population size numbers to calculate the point at which all possible family bloodlines converge. He finds that it was a lot more recent than we think.
For those of European ancestry, the most recent common ancestor lived 600 years ago — making him/her a contemporary of Johannes Gutenberg (1400-1468), the inventor of the printing press. Expanding from Europe, the most recent common ancestor of everyone alive today walked the earth in 1400 B.C., or 3,400 years ago — and, taking migration patterns into account, likely lived in Asia.
The number of ancestors that each person has grows exponentially the further back that we go. Everyone has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and sixteen great-great-grandparents, and if you follow that back a thousand years, or approximately forty generations, everyone has over a trillion direct ancestors.
Except that the total number of humans that have ever lived doesn’t come close to a trillion people, so this only makes sense when we remember that our ancestry is shared.  Read more...
Source: Inverse 

Research Book Written By FNU Lecturer Released | Fiji Sun Online - Nation

The theme of the book is related to French travellers and adventurers, which have played a pivotal role in the expansion of their nation’s colonial expansion in Asia.

Fiji National University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Nigel Healey (left) with Dr. Sakul Kundra [Assistant Professor in History] faculty of Centre of Humanities and Education at Fiji National University.
Photo: Supplied
Fiji National University’s Assistant Professor in History Sakul Kundra has released a research book.

The lecturer for the Centre of Humanities and Education at FNU, research book is titled Insights of Mughal India: Exploring the Perceptions of French Travelers and Adventurers In Northern India during Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries from USP Press, University of South Pacific.

FNU Vice Chancellor Professor Nigel Healey said:  “This important book analyses historical written accounts of French travelers to India in the 17th and 18th centuries to understand the way that the French viewed the politics and economics of Indian society.

“The book uses these written travelogues to explore five broad themes: the actual accounts of their travels and the backgrounds of the travelers themselves; the role of the travelers as agents, merchants and mercenaries; the travelers’ assessments and  understanding of the political landscape of India; their attitude to gender relations, at a time when widow burning in India was still practised; and their view of Indian education and beliefs, at a time when Europe was undergoing a period of rapid scientific advance during the so-called ‘Age of Enlightenment’.

“It provides fascinating and thoroughly researched insights into the way India was perceived by Europeans during this critical period in world history.

This work has been accomplished with motivation given by FNU Pro-Vice Chancellor, Learning and Teaching, and Dean of College of Humanities and Education Eci Nabalarua.
Varied facets of Mughal India are explored through the eyes of French travellers and adventurers in the 17th and 18th centuries...

Author Information
Mr Kundra is the Assistant Professor of History at the Department of Social Science, FNU.

He has an M.A. degree from Hindu College, University of Delhi, University topper in Masters in Philosophy and a Ph.D degree from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.

He also holds two Post-Graduate Diplomas in Journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Book Publishing from the University of Delhi. He has immense teaching experience in several colleges affiliated to the University of Delhi and Indraprastha University.

He also has vast experience of working on research projects, has published 25 research articles in reputed peer-reviewed international and national journals, and 24 articles in local newspapers.
Read more...

Additional resources  
Academic publishes book by Solomone Rabulu.
"A new research book by Dr Sakul Kundra, assistant professor in history at the Fiji National University's College of Humanities and Education, was successfully published in Fiji last month."

Source: Fiji Sun Online

The life and work of Alan Turing | OUPblog - Mathematics

"Alan Turing was one of England’s most influential scientists of the twentieth century" according to Academic Science marketing team.

Photo: Enigma by Rama. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
He is best remembered as having cracked the codes used in the Enigma machines, enabling the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many important battles, particularly in the Atlantic Ocean. While this achievement which arguably helped to bring the Second World War to a quicker end has been brought to the fore through popular histories (including The Weinstein Company’s The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing), much of Turing’s less well-known work has shaped the field we know today as ‘artificial intelligence’.
 
Pioneering the field of ‘machine intelligence’, today we celebrate all of Turing’s achievements and the legacy his research left. Find out more about some of the key events that shaped his investigations with this interactive timeline.
Read more... 

Recommended Reading

The Turing Guide
Alan Turing’s lost notebook by Jack Copeland, FRS, NZ, Distinguished Professor in Arts at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, where he is Director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing. He is also a co-author of The Turing Guide. 

Source: OUPblog

DigiSkilled helps you learn key tech skills for any career | Popular Science - Stack Commerce

"Get 100 hours of bite sized videos on Microsoft Office, social media, coding, and more"v according to Stack Commerce.

Learning new skills is the easiest way to improve your prospects, but many of us struggle to find the time. DigiSkilled solves this problem by keeping the lessons short and sweet.
Photo: Stack Commerce

In most sectors, the best jobs are only open to people with outstanding digital skills. From Microsoft Office to custom coding, DigiSkilled helps you stay up to date with the latest tech through bite sized videos. The library offers over 100 hours of instruction, with every lesson counting towards your professional development. You can currently get lifetime access for $29 at the PopSci Shop...

The library covers a vast range of subjects, including Microsoft Office, Windows, social media, Apple tech, Google apps, coding skills, and more. Along with the videos, you can test your knowledge with quizzes. This training also counts towards your Continued Professional Development (CPD), meaning you pick up credits along the way.
Read more... 

Source: Popular Science

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