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September 19, 2012

An overview of Nietzsche's philosophy...
Brian Leiter, Leiter Reports, September 19, 2012.

This is an excellent overview of the thought and influence of Friedrich Nietzsche, a 19th century German philosopher who came up with concepts such as 'beyond good and evil' and 'superman'. What I like about Nietzsche is not only his thought, but also the manner in which he puts it together, since as artfully described in this paper, he "will not partake of this charade of offering post-hoc rationalizations for metaphysical theses that simply reflect his evaluative judgments which, in turn, reflect the psychological facts about who he really is." Or as Hume said, "reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions," where the passions are things like our sensations and perceptions, our moral sentiments, and our mental habits. There's a lot more; take some time and give this paper a thoughtful read.

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On the benefits of a philosophy major
Katrina Sifferd, Pleas and Excuses, September 19, 2012.

The point of the chart is of course to tout how well philosophers perform (yay us!) but what I find striking is how poorly communications majors and computer science majors perform. Oh, and there's a nice definition of critical reasoning in there, where "Critical is defined as 'the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.'" I think communication and critical reasoning are closely related.

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What Do We Mean By "Open"?
Audrey Watters, Hack Education, September 19, 2012.

I'm rapidly losing patience with people who read my stuff for free and then complain that it isn't free enough. I've been writing and posting openly since long before there was even a Creative Commons, much less commerical publishers who want to redefine 'free' and 'open' as meaning they put up a fence around it and charge access. The Creative Commons license generator says to me "This is not a Free Culture License" and as Audrey Watters says "and that’s a whole other can of worms, a judgmental one at that." As she says, "I think the important thing is to recognize a continuum of openness and restrictions -- licensing, access, source code, transparency, reusability -- and to think about the context in which 'open' is invoked." As for myself, I'll continue to define the words the way any competent speaker of the language would: 'open' means anyone can get in, and 'free' means you don't have to pay. If you want to do something different, that's fine, just don't give me the attitude. For me, for my courses, "free and open" is the way I roll.

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Udacity Statistics 101
Delta, AngryMath, September 19, 2012.

Suppose somebody hosted a MOOC at it wasn't very good? That's the verdict offered by AngryMath after reviewing Sebastian Thrun's Statistics 101 course on Udacity. Some of the points are less convincing ("the lectures and the overall sequence feel like they haven't been planned out in advance") but some of the points are pretty telling:

  • "never in all my years of teaching has a course so massively diverged from the initial plan or course description"
  • "(it) manages to go almost its entire length without ever mentioning or making any distinction between the population and sample"
  • "(it) passes without ever calculating any values for normal curves."

So, in theory, because these courses are online, they can be updated and the problems corrected. But in practice, suggests AngryMath, they won't. Via Computing Education Blog.

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MOOC Course List
Stephen Downes, MOOC.ca, September 19, 2012.

I put up an interim list of course lists from MOOC course providers. It's not ideal but it's a start, and it will help people who have gone to MOOC.ca looking for open online courses, rather than news and theory about MOOCs in general.

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MOOC Host Expands
Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed, September 19, 2012.

Coursera has doubled its list of university paertners. The expansion raises questions about how many colleges will eventually sign on - perhaps double the newly doubled number. "The company’s rapid expansion also raises questions about how broad a range of disciplines might be effectively adapted to the MOOC format." See also coverage in the Chronicle.

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