Thursday, October 16, 2014

A history of the blackboard: How the blackboard became an effective and ubiquitous teaching tool.

Corollary: The most effective tool for conceptual data modeling is a whiteboard.

The blackboard-centered classroom offers more than pedagogical efficiency; it also offers an effective set of teaching possibilities. In such a classroom students are focused on the teacher (on a good day), but most importantly, they are focused. The teacher is not the focus of the class but rather a lens through which the lesson is created and clarified. The teacher draws the class toward her, but she projects the lessons onto the blackboard behind her, a blank surface upon which smaller ideas may be gathered into larger ones. The blackboard is the surface of thought.

At Maddy’s middle school, Smart Boards are now front and center, and on these interactive whiteboards, she and her fellow scholars and their teachers can connect to the Internet and display bits and pieces of information, work out problems and ideas, annotate and edit their work, shuffle digital objects spatially in order to find new connections. The Smart Board is futuristic, yet it serves the same purpose as the blackboard of my childhood. It gives the student more than something to look at; it provides a necessary focus.

A history of the blackboard: How the blackboard became an effective and ubiquitous teaching tool.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Premium offerings for reader engagement look an awful lot like news literacy : Columbia Journalism Review

News literacy—an important component of information literacy—includes having some sense of how media outlets collect and disseminate the news.

Still, characterizing paid, “behind-the-scenes” access to reporting-and-publishing processes as an opportunity to increase news literacy seems excessively cheery…

This behind-the-scenes access to journalists, their reporting secrets, and their reading habits sounds a lot like what goes on in most journalism classes—journalism professors (many of whom are working journalists) regularly share tips for reporting in the field, how they broke stories, and which news sources to pay attention to. But online, these anecdotes are being offered to consumers rather than aspiring creators of journalism. And while it might be a novel revenue model (successful or not), it’s a tried and true news literacy model.

…especially when those who buy in must think they can afford it…

While the impetus for these new premium offerings is revenue, and they don’t purport to be an educational service, they are indeed fulfilling a desire for news literacy-type information, and they end up being learning opportunities—though exclusively available to those who can pay for them.

…and those premium subscribers are probably news groupies in the first place.

Premium offerings for reader engagement look an awful lot like news literacy : Columbia Journalism Review

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Language Log » The state of the machine translation art

And here’s an example of poor unstructured data yielding useless results.

However, to be fair to the statistical machine translation industry, we must allow for any defects in the quality of the input. And after the above paragraphs were posted, Daniel Sterman, an experienced editor with a thorough knowledge of Hebrew, gave me this very useful analysis, which makes a considerable difference:

The original Hebrew is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, which is why machine translation didn't work. You mentioned in your post "with limited errors" – this sentence's errors go well beyond that, and far into the realm of "my translation software was never designed to handle this level of idiocy".

Language Log » The state of the machine translation art

Extemporaneous Comments on Data Quality

At the MIT Chief Data Officer & Information Quality Symposium last week, I sat down for an on-camera chat with theCube, a production of siliconangle.  Topics included:

  • Why the state of the art in unstructured data quality lags so far behind that for structured data quality.
  • A few ways to apply structured-data DQ techniques to unstructured data.
  • Why Big Data is not revolutionary, and why every Chief Data Officer needs to recognize that.

Watch the video.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It's Time to Push Back When Government Controls the Message -

Public relations experts and their clients will frame this as an attempt to honor data quality by keeping the message tight and on point.  But those who see this as a threat to data quality are correct.

Rick Santorum was talking — but not quite without interruption. In a 2005 interview with Mark Leibovich, then of the Washington Post and now of the New York Times, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania was describing how he felt at the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

As Mr. Leibovich wrote it, part of the Santorum interview went like this:

“It’s part of the awe of this job that I do,” he says. “Every day. You’re making these decisions and … ” He fights for the right words. “It’s a great — —”

“Is it humbling, senator?” Robert Traynham, his communications aide, interjects.

“Yes, it’s very humbling!”

“And it’s uniquely American, isn’t it, Senator?” prompts Traynham.

“Oh, absolutely.”

That telling snippet — superbly handled by Mr. Leibovich — was pointed out recently by Ron Fournier, the National Journal columnist and former Associated Press Washington bureau chief, who is one of many journalists pushing back against a pervasive practice: Interviews with government officials that include public relations “minders.”

It's Time to Push Back When Government Controls the Message -

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Speaking and Writing; Complexity and Agility

Lurking within this post is a rebuttal to the following principle of Agile Development:

The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.

Near the end, the post compares spoken and written communication:

In a sense, RSVP [Rapid Serial Visual Presentation – Ed.], with its inflexibility in the timing of information flow, turns reading back into something a lot more like spoken language comprehension, though without some of the nuanced information we get from intonation or facial and body movements. Clearly, we do manage to cope with spoken language, even without the benefits of regressive listening or control over the presentation rate of speech. What written language does, though, is liberate language from the temporal tyrannies that are present during the comprehension—and production—of language. This is one of the main reasons why written language often achieves a complexity that is seldom heard in spoken language. [Emphasis mine – Ed.]

Note: In this context, RSVP involves presenting sentences to the reader one word at a time—at a fixed location on a screen—using a controlled rate of presentation. That removes an essential aspect of reading: the ability to backtrack to reconcile a parsing ambiguity, a homograph, or any other source of confusion.

Language Log: So much to read, so little time

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

Data Accessibility in Linguistics Research

Praiseworthy information responsibility in linguistics research.

I'll spare you the details, though I intend to try some of the ideas out myself later. What I want to underline here is something that the six papers in the session had in common.

What they all had in common was that they reported results on published databases. Two papers used NIST SRE 2008 data. Three papers used theNIST RT05, RT07, RT08, and/or RT09 datasets. One paper used the AMI corpus. And one used the REPERE collection.

None of the presentations used proprietary or unpublished data. This illustrates the fact that in most speech processing fields, it has become normal to cite the performance of new algorithms on data that is also available to others, so that comparisons are quantitatively meaningful.

In some sense, this is also really about accessibility. When you want to evaluate or extend someone's ideas, it's critical to be able to replicate their work — and that requires access to the datasets they analyzed.

Language Log: Accessibility and diarization

Friday, May 2, 2014

To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand

This news reminds me of this earlier post. And this one.

“We don’t write longhand as fast as we type these days, but people who were typing just tended to transcribe large parts of lecture content verbatim,” Mueller told me. “The people who were taking notes on the laptops don’t have to be judicious in what they write down.”

She thinks this might be the key to their findings: Take notes by hand, and you have to process information as well as write it down. That initial selectivity leads to long-term comprehension.

From To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Language Log: Is A Fish A Tangible Object?

Another example of appellate courts grappling with a problem familiar to data modelers: defining the boundaries of a seemingly well-understood category. The comments section is a treasure trove of other examples.

Or more precisely, is a fish a "tangible object" in the sense that throwing undersized fish overboard would fall within the purview of 18 U.S.C. § 1519, which states that

Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

John Brewer alerts us to the fact that the Supreme Court has recently agreed to review the holding of a lower court that the noun phrase "'tangible object,' as § 1519 uses that term, unambiguously applies to fish.”

Language Log: Is a fish a “tangible object”?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The App-Filled Future of Luxury Is Avoiding People - Ian Bogost - The Atlantic

The medium is the message, and the message is “You’re too cool to do it the low-tech way.”

Using a smartphone to rent a car is superfluous at best, annoying at worst, but its utility is beside the point. Given the personalized drop-off service, this is technology for show, produced for rhetorical effect rather than functionality. The point is to have an app, to interact with customers by text rather than voice, to be with-it and modern. When tech startups flaunt their apps, they’re often pandering to an audience that identifies with mobile and web technology, rather than one that needs to make use of it.

The App-Filled Future of Luxury Is Avoiding People - Ian Bogost - The Atlantic

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Republicans Say No to CDC Gun Violence Research - ProPublica

Alongside known unknowns and unknown knowns, we can also add we-don’t-want-to-know unknowns.

After the Sandy Hook school shooting, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) was one of a few congressional Republicans who expressed a willingness to reconsider the need for gun control laws.

"Put guns on the table, also put video games on the table, put mental health on the table," he said less than a week after the Newtown shootings. He told a local TV station that he wanted to see more research done to understand mass shootings. "Let's let the data lead rather than our political opinions."

More than a year later, as Kingston competes in a crowded Republican primary race for a U.S. Senate seat, the congressman is no longer talking about common ground.

In a statement to ProPublica, Kingston said he would oppose a proposal from President Obama for $10 million in CDC gun research funding. "The President's request to fund propaganda for his gun-grabbing initiatives though the CDC will not be included in the FY2015 appropriations bill," Kingston said.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), the vice chairman of the subcommittee, also "supports the long-standing prohibition of gun control advocacy or promotion funding," his spokeswoman said.

CDC's current funding for gun violence prevention research remains at $0.

Republicans Say No to CDC Gun Violence Research - ProPublica

My Students Don't Know How to Have a Conversation - Paul Barnwell - The Atlantic

Remedial Information Literacy.  I ain’t got all the fancy talk fer it, so I’m gonna call it mouth-texting.

As I watched my class struggle, I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single-most overlooked skill we fail to teach students. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and one another through screens—but rarely do they have an opportunity to truly hone their interpersonal communication skills. Admittedly, teenage awkwardness and nerves play a role in difficult conversations. But students’ reliance on screens for communication is detracting—and distracting—from their engagement in real-time talk.

It might sound like a funny question, but we need to ask ourselves: Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain confident, coherent conversation?

My Students Don't Know How to Have a Conversation - Paul Barnwell - The Atlantic

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Language Log » "We're updating our novel-length Terms of Service?"

From a company hereafter known as HotAirbnb.

The Terms of Service tab  is a document comprising 28,246 words of legalese. The Privacy Policy tab comprises 8,729 words. The Host Guarantee Terms and Conditions  comprises 16,700 words. There's Guest Refund Policy tab weighing in at a mere 1,406 words, and a couple of other tabs that are merely magazine-article size.  Ignoring them, we get 28246+8729+16700+1406 = 55081 words, or about the size of a short novel, though much less readable.

I'm used to long click-through agreements that no one has the time or interest to read, but this seems to be some kind of a record.

Language Log » "We're updating our novel-length Terms of Service?"