DSP in the Kentucky Derby

Mark Liberman, Language Log, May 07, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I have always considered Moore's transactional theory of distance learning to be based on information and communications theory. This post looks at some of the foundational literature of that field, though obliquely through a reference to a racehorse named after Harry Nyquist. As Mark Lieberman points out, the theory has numerous authors, and perhaps most notably Claude E. Shannon (here) where we get the concepts of 'signal' and 'noise'. Nyquist's contribution (found here) is written from an engineering perspective and contains enough math to get you kicked off an American Airlines flight. Here's a detailed history. These works describe the basis of sampling theory in digital signal processing (DSP) defining the means of extracting information from analog signals (where 'information' is basically the identification of a given state from a set of possible states). Moore's theory, which looks at the roles of dialogue, structure and autonomy in distance learning, defines a "psychological and communications space to be crossed, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of the instructor and those of the learner." The analogy with "noisy office speaker phones" is clear.

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