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by Stephen Downes
March 26, 2009

Introducing YouTube EDU!
Google's response to iTunes University: Dan Colman writes, 'Today, Google has launched YouTube EDU, which centralizes the content from over 100 universities and colleges. This robust collection gives you access to lectures by professors and world-renowned thought leaders, new research and campus tours. At the moment, you can access over 200 full courses from leading universities, including MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Yale and IIT/IISc. And it's all searchable within YouTube EDU." All very nice, but I would not equate a collection of large American universities with "Education". If Google is serious about 'Google Education', it should be posting educational videos, whatever their source, and not just acting as a proxy for marketing for the U.S. university system. Dan Colman, Open Culture, March 26, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , ] [Comment]

Your Computing Life, On a USB Thumb Drive
This is the way of the future - build-it yourself computers you carry around with you on your keychain. "You can put an entire bootable operating system on these tiny flash-memory devices, or just carry around a few key files. The glorious in-between is using portable applications-software that runs off a USB drive, full installation on a PC not required." The idea is that you can just plug the USB into any system with a processor, monitor, keyboard, whatever, and be running your computer. Eric Griffith, PC mag, March 26, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Desire2Learn Proposes Desire2Learn Million$Mission for Education
Instead of spending money on litigation, says Desire2Learn CEO John Baker to Blackboard, why don't we spend it on education? This is in response to yet more legal actions being filed by Blackboard, one, an unsuccessful motion of content based on the previous lawsuit, and the other, a new lawsuit based on a just-announced new Blackboard patent. "Desire2Learn does not infringe, and does not want to infringe, on the latest or any Blackboard software patents," says the desire2Learn Statement. "We are asking Blackboard to make a choice: support education or litigation. By taking this immediate action together we can make a positive and lasting impact on education, while still respecting each other's intellectual property," Baker requested. Baker proposed a $1 million fund be set up to support the education of needy children instead of squandering the same amount on lawsuits. Press Release, Desire2Learn, March 26, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment]

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data
Seb Schmoller points to this article by three Google researchers. First, read Eugene Wigner's article The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences to set the stage. Then follow the data. I note, specifically, the observation that the process of constructing a theory, then interpreting the data according to parameters set by the theory, is an ineffective way to proceed. Observe the data itself. "Represent all the data with a nonparametric model rather than trying to summarize it with a parametric model, because with very large data sources, the data holds a lot of detail. For natural language applications, trust that human language has already evolved words for the important concepts. See how far you can go by tying together the words that are already there, rather than by inventing new concepts with clusters of words." Alon Halevy, Peter Norvig, and Fernando Pereira, IEEE Intelligent Systems, March 26, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Multicolr Search Lab Flickr Set
Rod sent me this link and I wasted invested time this morning playing working with it. Basically, it searches a set of Creative Commons images on Flickr by colour. Note that you are not restricted to the colours on the palette; you can set them manually in the URL, which is how I searched for white and hot pink. I can think of all kinds of uses for this, from suggesting images to go with your colour palette to the evaluation of images based on their colour balance. Various Authors, Website, March 26, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

HTML & CSS - The VERY Basics
"I don't know anything about web design, where should I start?" Does this sound like you? If you have no idea how a web page is created, this video is for you. Web pages are, in the end, simple text files. This video shows how to create these text files so they will look like proper web sites when you view them in your browser. It's a screencast, so you can watch and listen to see how it's done. For everyone else - note how easily someone has been able to create an entire program of studies (58 videos as of this writing) and post it online very simply and cheaply. Chris Coyier, CSS Tricks, March 26, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

The Impact of Dropping the SAT
It turns out that universities could have done without various programs designed to increase diversity if they had simply dropped the one mechanism - the SAT - that effectively eliminated diversity (and one wonders what sort of impact, with respect to diversity, so-called 'standardized' tests are having at lower grade levels - are these, too, selecting for a particular demographic?). "Any move away from the SAT or ACT in competitive colleges results in significant gains in ethnic and economic diversity. But the gains are greater for colleges that drop testing entirely, as opposed to just making it optional." Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, March 26, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective
Bas C. van Fraassen burst onto the scene in 1980 with his groundbreaking work, The Scientific Image. The dark cover of my well-worn edition has faded with use over the years. van Fraassen proposed in his book something called "constructive empiricism" in which - with a nod to Kuhn - science is based on the creation of models that aim to be "empirically adequate" but which are not (necessarily) literal representations of the world. In Scientific Realism, van Fraassen wrestles with the tensions inherent in this view regarding the 'theory' layer and the 'data' layer of a theory. The theory may fit the data, sure, but if the data were collected according to the needs of the theory, how does one respond to a challenge of the data? The result, says the reviewer, is an even more radical anti-realism than had characterized even van Fraassen's earlier works. Reviewed by Gabriele Contessa, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, March 26, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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