by Stephen Downes
Apr 06, 2015
Half an Hour,
Patrick Dunleavy offers this list of ten typical questions that might be asked on your PhD oral exam. I always felt I would have aced my oral exam, but I never got to take it because my examiners did not want me to work on network theory. So how would I have answered these questions? Dunleavy's post begs a response, and I offer it here in this article.
Policies and Conversation
E. Gordon Gee,
Inside Higher Ed,
The echos of childhood still resonate in my mind. Not all of them are positive. Some of them are like "don't be such a sissy" and "don't be such a knowitall". They also include sanction to treat women as objects and some disparaging observations about the tendencies of the feminine gender. In certain ways, they've messed me up. That is why, indeed, frank conversations are needed in university - "truly grown-up conversations about sexual violence led by and among our student bodies" - are needed. They were for me; not that I would ever perpetuate sexual violence (I was brought up better than that) but because the effects of childhood linger in everyone. But this points to the deeper need. We have to stop telling children sexual violence is OK. We need to stop telling them violence of any kind is OK. If we don't do this while they're children, everything is a holding action against the inner voices, those echos from childhood, that dominate their attitudes and, sometimes, their actions. Image: UNFPA.
The Commoditization of Credentialism: Why MBAs and JDs Can’t Get Jobs
I don't think this is the greatest presentation of the issue - the definition of "highly credentialed individuals" extends well beyond Harvard MBAs - but it's an interesting account of the push to obtain credentials and the cost of paying for them once they've been obtained. And while I don't agree with one conclusion - that people thing they're done when they get their credential - the other part of it is undeniably correct: "In a world where competence was scarce and information was opaque, credentials were valuable. In a world where competence is abundant and information is transparent, they care what you’ve done. In a Complex world, track records, relationships and skillsets, not credentials, reign supreme."
Your Nostalgia Isn’t Helping Me Learn
Michael Oman-Reagan takes a (well-argued) stand against the recent spate of stories claiming students "learn better" using notebooks and pens. He writes, "The pressure to use 'real books' and write in a notebook (preferably a moleskine, right?) has emerged as part of a growing anti-technology fetish among academics, and popular culture broadly. I get the appeal and I love books! I would love it if I could do that, I want all paper books, a room full of them, with ferns and armchairs and whisky and whatever — but it just isn’t how I learn. And it’s expensive, and you have to move them around. And you can’t search in them in the same way. The more precarious academic lives become the more a book collection is a luxury many can’t afford in terms of cost and other factors." Via Doug Belshaw.
Scientists have launched the first open-access database for neurons
By 'scientists' they mean computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, and by 'database for neurons' they mean 'an open-access database indexing all the known physiological information about neurons, which can be roughly classified into 300 types.' They are edmploying data-mining from scientific research to build their model: "These algorithms extracted portions of the text identifying the type of neuron studied, which enabled these papers to be categorised. The algorithms also isolated and retrieved information relating to how these neurons functioned, how the experiments on them have been conducted, and which data were recorded."
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