by Stephen Downes
Nov 15, 2015
Exploring Alternatives to the Traditional Conference Format
Ben Sweeting, Michael Hohl,
The journal Constructivist Foundations has devoted a special issue to alternative conference formats. As authors Sweeting and Hohl explain in the introduction, "The passivity and predominantly one-way structure of the typical paper presentation format of academic conferences has a number of serious limitations from a constructivist perspective." I've explored the subject in the past, and as a frequent attendee of conferences the subject continues to interest me. Being constructivists, most of the authors focused on dialogue. Design-based activities were also popular. Note that although Constructivist Foundations is free, the publication requires that you create an ID and login to view the contents. I'm not sure why, but I'm suspicious of their motives.
The Future Belongs to the Curious: How Are We Bringing Curiosity Into School?
User Generated Education,
This is a loosely structured post with numerous quotes from thinkers about the nature and value of curiosity, including this one from Paulo Friere, "I believe in the pedagogy of curiosity. That’s why I defend the pedagogy of the question and not of the answer. The pedagogy of the question is the one that is based on curiosity. Without that pedagogy there would not be a pedagogy that augments that curiosity." I definitely believe in the value of curiosity; I am forever peeking around corners, lifting objects, inquiring about capacities and mechanisms, and above all, asking "why?" Oh, and "why not?"
A network of artificial neurons learns to use human language
One of the truisms always repeated by cognitivists and proponents of the physical symbol system hypothesis is that a natural system, like a neural network, cannot learn a language without prior encoding. This why people like Chomsky and Foder assert that we have innate linguistic structures encoded at birth, and that (therefore) learning is a matter of rule formation and the construction of models and representations. I have never believed this. Gradually, slowly, over time, the evidence has been piling up in the opposite direction. Specifically, we are learning that very simple neural networks can do very complex things, like learn languages. This journal article is a case in point. The research describes a system "made up of two million interconnected artificial neurons, able to learn to communicate using human language starting from a state of 'tabula rasa', only through communication with a human interlocutor."
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