April 10, 2013
So you want to know how Bayesian methods work? We’ve found an excellent source of information in a slideshow titled simply, “Introduction to Bayesian Methods” at SlideShare. Created by Corey Chivers for a guest biostatistics lecture at McGill University, the slides illustrate the concepts clearly. The summary gives an idea of the presentation’s scope:
- The output of a Bayesian analysis is not a single estimate of ?, but rather the entire posterior distribution, which represents our degree of belief about the value of ?.
- To get a posterior distribution, we need to specify our prior belief about ?.
- Complex Bayesian models can be estimated using MCMC.
- The posterior can be used to make both inference about ?, and quantitative predictions with proper accounting of uncertainty.
Chivers notes that these slides are also available here [PDF], while the script to run the examples can be found here. Even if you are already fluent in this methodology, we recommend tucking this slideshow away for reference whenever you need to help someone grasp the Bayesian basics.
Cynthia Murrell, April 10, 2013
March 12, 2013
Is this initiative too little too late? We hope not. The blog over at public-sector IT firm GCN informs us, “Bookless Library Foreshadows Next-Gen Students, Learning Technologies.” The post lauds Bexar County, Texas, for its forward-thinking plan to launch a bookless branch. However, it also notes that how they approach the project can make the difference between a crucial resource for study and “just a nice place for a cup of coffee and texting with friends.” Writer Paul McCloskey explains:
“The project, called BiblioTech, would offer about 10,000 titles that patrons could check-out and access remotely via e-readers and mobile devices, as well as about 100 tablets, laptops and desktop computers that will be made available inside the branch. Technical help with computers would be offered to patrons, but reference assistance would be cut.”
He goes on to caution:
“Over the long run, simply offering digital or mobile access to its collection is a pretty old technology model. . . . To maintain a healthy level of patronage, libraries, like schools, will have to keep up with the latest media formats, including social media, intelligent browsing and educational gaming.”
Cutting reference assistants with heartbeats may be the first mistake, he asserts, and I agree. Still, the county is to be commended for changing with the times (even if it seems a bit belated to some of us.) If done well, this could set a good precedent for learning centers in the 21st century.
Cynthia Murrell, March 12, 2013
January 18, 2013
Students are told to stay in school, less their changes for success are diminished. But does that statement apply to teachers? According to Enterprise Efficiency’s David Wagner “Professors Don’t Need Schools Anymore.” It used to be the only way to get a good education was to attend a university, pay thousands of dollars in tuition, and wait two years before you were even allowed to start on core classes related to your major. These tasks revolved around a physical building, but now with Professor Direct students can access professors and classes for $49. Professors can charge more, but everything goes directly back to them. Schools are actually accepting these classes as credit.
Professors have the chance to make more money than an average university stipend, but there are some drawbacks. Students can’t get a degree directly from the professor and professors lose research support and prestige. The price alone will draw students, but this is the start of change in post-secondary education:
“Even if this alone doesn’t bring down the walls of the school, it is clear technology is going to bring the people with knowledge and expertise closer together. If you’re the CIO or president of a school, you’re going to have to find a way to keep putting yourself into the space or facilitating the contact between students and your own professors. If you fail, expect to be disintermediated.”
Is this good news or bad news? It depends on what side of the education creek you are on.
Whitney Grace, January 18, 2013
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Beyond Search
October 17, 2012
Numerous opportunities exist online to assist in the development of education, such as social networking, blogs, and even simple email. However, according to an article I spotted on Phys.org titled “Study Reveals Disparity Between Students’ and Professors’ Perceptions of the Digital Classroom,” the integration of education and information and communication tools (ICTs) is not exactly welcome by many students. A recent study from Concordia University shows that students actually prefer an engaging lecture to some wired supplement.
The article elaborates on the results:
“Instructors were more fluent with the use of emails than with social media, while the opposite was true for students.
‘Our analysis showed that teachers think that their students feel more positive about their classroom learning experience if there are more interactive, discussion-oriented activities. In reality, engaging and stimulating lectures, regardless of how technologies are used, are what really predict students’ appreciation of a given university course,” explains [Magda Fusaro from UQAM's Department of Management and Technology.]”
The countless possibilities that exist online to expand learning and teaching methods could prove to be a mad rush to the Web for many learning establishments as they attempt to explore the options. However, if this study is accurate, students may not be willing to go along on the ride. It appears online information and services may not be able to fill student expectations.
Andrea Hayden, October 17, 2012
October 2, 2012
When looking for new scientists, university search committees can now avoid the trouble of putting candidates through their paces and, instead, let an algorithm decide. ScienceDaily announces, “Predicting if Scientists Will Be Stars: New Formula Reveals if Young Scientists Will Have Brilliant Future.” Why rely on human judgment when there is software to make hiring decisions for you?
The magic formula, purported to predict a scientist’s success a decade into the future, comes from a new Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine study recently published in Nature journal. Schools have been basing their decisions on a mix of instinct and a prospects “h index“, a measure of the quality and quantity of papers they have published. Journalist Marla Paul writes:
“The new formula is more than twice as accurate as the h index for predicting future success for researchers in the life sciences. It considers other important factors that contribute to a scientist’s trajectory including the number of articles written, the current h index, the years since publishing the first article, the number of distinct journals one has published in and the number of articles in high impact journals.”
Developed in the lab of Feinberg associate professor Konrad Kording, with additional funding from the National Science Foundation, the algorithm could also be applied to tenure and funding decisions. The article notes that the formula will not totally replace the peer evaluation process, but could be a “complementary tool.” It seems to me that users will have to be diligent to make sure the complementary does not become the primary. That, though, may be something we must all guard against as technology continues to gain on human reasoning.
Cynthia Murrell, October 02, 2012
September 15, 2012
A surprising case of research misconduct has been uncovered recently at Harvard University. A psychology professor at the Ivy League school resigned ten months after being accused by faculty of fabricating data and manipulating results in experiments. In “Feds: Ex-Harvard Prof Faked Data in Experiments” on Phys.org, we learn about the report from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity that states that former professor Marc Hauser was solely responsible for eight instances of scientific misconduct.
The article tells us more about the trouble at Harvard:
“The federal document found six cases in which Hauser engaged in research misconduct in work supported by the National Institutes of Health. One paper was retracted and two were corrected. Other problems were found in unpublished work. Hauser says he has fundamental differences with the findings but acknowledges he made mistakes.”
We are surprised to see such misconduct at a prestigious university and are left to wonder if search has become so difficult that even trusted professors have resorted to just winging it. We are also disappointed as researchers that such forged documents are likely abound online.
Andrea Hayden, September 15, 2012
September 5, 2012
Want to know how to build software that makes smart software capable of doing work once done by humans? A new book tells you how, we learn from Google Research‘s blog post, “Machine Learning Book for Students and Researchers.” The description reads:
“Our machine learning book, The Foundations of Machine Learning, is now published! The book, with authors from both Google Research and academia, covers a large variety of fundamental machine learning topics in depth, including the theoretical basis of many learning algorithms and key aspects of their applications. The material presented takes its origin in a machine learning graduate course, ‘Foundations of Machine Learning’, taught by Mehryar Mohri over the past seven years and has considerably benefited from comments and suggestions from students and colleagues at Google.”
The book is published by MIT Press, and Mehryar Mohri teaches his related course at New York University‘s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. The book is designed to serve as both a textbook and a reference for researchers. It makes an effort to fully address topics the authors felt have been given short shrift, like regression, multi-class classification, and ranking.
At 70 dollars, this tome is not exactly free. However, if you are in the machine learning field, it may well be worth the investment.
Cynthia Murrell, September 05, 2012
August 3, 2012
An interesting approach to language learning recently caught my attention as I was browsing the Web: part crowd-sourcing project to translate the Web and part language-learning site.
Duolingo is a free service using real-world content to help users learn and practice a new language as they simultaneously help translate Websites and other online documents. The project was started by Professor Luis von Ahn, creator of reCAPTCHA, and currently only offers support for Spanish and German, as well as English for Spanish speakers.
The company website shares more about the service:
“The Service allows users to learn or practice a language while they translate content from the Web. Users are presented with different types of educational activities; while they perform these activities, they also generate valuable data such as translations of Web content.”
The service currently offers a beta version for learning French and there are reports that Portuguese, Italian, and Chinese are on the way. The company also announced on its Facebook page in July that a mobile version would be added soon.
We think this free service may be as good as commercial alternatives because of the tremendous features that it offers that work surprisingly well. I tried out the Spanish version and was pleasantly surprised and how fun and useful the service was. Now I’m eagerly awaiting the Italian service to really get involved in the site.
Andrea Hayden, August 3, 2012
July 27, 2012
Thetus just took a big step for education by jumping on board a special education program at the local college. The Thetus site proudly announced their future in education in the article, “Thetus Joins the Portland Cooperative Education Program.”
The Portland Cooperative Education Program (PCEP) connects local software companies with Portland State Universities Computer Science students. The students participate via internships with approved companies. Thus, students gain hands on experience in an internship atmosphere. PCEP hopes the end result will help students to focus their development and integrate more easily into a work atmosphere.
The students involved will have a specific regime, which is:
“Students round out their classroom experience by working 20 hours a week for four consecutive 6-month terms in the three tracks: Software Engineering/Software Development, Quality Assurance, and/or Developer Operations. The student changes companies at least once during their 24-month program.”
Thetus was created in 2003 and has provided semantic knowledge modeling and discovery solutions ever since. They specialize in extracting and managing information to support business decision making.
The internship program is a great way to further education with real life skills. By interning at Thetus students will gain insight into a variety of markets, such as energy, environmental, law enforcement, defense and intelligence.
Thetus is doing really good in Portland and joining the PCEP just earned them a spot on the honor roll.
Jennifer Shockley, July 27, 2012