The Evolution of Study Notes: From Lazy to Downright Slothful

April 22, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Study guides, Cliff Notes, movie versions, comic books, and bribing elder siblings or past students for their old homework and class notes were the how kids used to work their way through classes. Then came the Internet and over the years innovative people have perfected study guides. Some have even made successful businesses from study guides for literature, science, math, foreign language, writing, history, and more.

The quality of these study guides range from poor to fantastic. is one of the average study guide websites. It has some free book guides while others are behind a paywall. There are also educational tips for different grades and advice for college applications. The information is a little dated but when it is combined with other educational and homework help websites it still has its uses. describes itself as:

“…a "G" rated study resource for junior high, high school, college students, teachers and home schoolers. What does PinkMonkey offer you? The World’s largest library of free online Literature Summaries, with over 460 Study Guides / Book Notes / Chapter Summaries online currently, and so much more. No more trips to the book store; no more fruitless searching for a booknote that no one ever has in stock! You’ll find it all here, online 24/7!”

YouTube, TikTok, and other platforms are also 24/7. They’re also being powered more and more by AI. It won’t be long before AI is condensing these guides and turning them into consumable videos. There are already channels that made study guides but homework still requires more than an AI answer.

ChatGPT and other generative AI algorithms are getting smarter by being trained on sets that pull their data from the Internet. These datasets include books, videos, and more. In the future, students will be relying on study guides in video format. The question to ask is how will they look? Will they summarize an entire book in fifteen seconds, take it chapter by chapter, or make movies powered by AI?

Whitey Grace, April 22, 2024

Harvard University: William James Continues Spinning in His Grave

March 15, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

William James, the brother of a novelist which caused my mind to wander just thinking about any one of his 20 novels, loved Harvard University. In a speech at Stanford University, he admitted his untoward affection. If one wanders by William’s grave in Cambridge Cemetery (daylight only, please), one can hear a sound similar to a giant sawmill blade emanating from the a modest tombstone. “What’s that horrific sound?” a by passer might ask. The answer: “William is spinning in his grave. It a bit like a perpetual motion machine now,” one elderly person says. “And it is getting louder.”


William is spinning in his grave because his beloved Harvard appears to foster making stuff up. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Working on security today or just getting printers to work?

William is amping up his RPMs. Another distinguished Harvard expert, professor, shaper of the minds of young men and women and thems has been caught fabricating data. This is not the overt synthetic data shop at Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab and the commercial outfit Snorkel. Nope. This is just a faculty member who, by golly, wanted to be respected it seems.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (the immensely popular online information service consumed by thumb typers and swipers) published “Here’s the Unsealed Report Showing How Harvard Concluded That a Dishonesty Expert Committed Misconduct.” (Registration required because, you know, information about education is sensitive and users must be monitored.) The report allegedly required 1,300 pages. I did not read it. I get the drift: Another esteemed scholar just made stuff up. In my lingo, the individual shaped reality to support her / its vision of self. Reality was not delivering honor, praise, rewards, money, and freedom from teaching horrific undergraduate classes. Why not take the Excel macro to achievement: Invent and massage information. Who is going to know?

The write up says:

the committee wrote that “she does not provide any evidence of [research assistant] error that we find persuasive in explaining the major anomalies and discrepancies.” Over all, the committee determined “by a preponderance of the evidence” that Gino “significantly departed from accepted practices of the relevant research community and committed research misconduct intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” for five alleged instances of misconduct across the four papers. The committee’s findings were unanimous, except for in one instance. For the 2012 paper about signing a form at the top, Gino was alleged to have falsified or fabricated the results for one study by removing or altering descriptions of the study procedures from drafts of the manuscript submitted for publication, thus misrepresenting the procedures in the final version. Gino acknowledged that there could have been an honest error on her part. One committee member felt that the “burden of proof” was not met while the two other members believed that research misconduct had, in fact, been committed.

Hey, William, let’s hook you up to a power test dynamometer so we can determine exactly how fast you are spinning in your chill, dank abode. Of course, if the data don’t reveal high-RPM spinning, someone at Harvard can be enlisted to touch up the data. Everyone seems to be doing from my vantage point in rural Kentucky.

Is there a way to harness the energy of professors who may cut corners and respected but deceased scholars to do something constructive? Oh, look. There’s a protest group. Let’s go ask them for some ideas. On second thought… let’s not.

Stephen E Arnold, March 15, 2024

Stanford: Tech Reinventing Higher Education: I Would Hope So

March 15, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I read “How Technology Is Reinventing Education.” Essays like this one are quite amusing. The ideas flow without important context. Let’s look at this passage:

“Technology is a game-changer for education – it offers the prospect of universal access to high-quality learning experiences, and it creates fundamentally new ways of teaching,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), who is also a professor of educational technology at the GSE and faculty director of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “But there are a lot of ways we teach that aren’t great, and a big fear with AI in particular is that we just get more efficient at teaching badly. This is a moment to pay attention, to do things differently.”


A university expert explains to a rapt audience that technology will make them healthy, wealthy, and wise. Well, that’s the what the marketing copy which the lecturer recites. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Are you security safe today? Oh, that’s too bad.

I would suggest that Stanford’s Graduate School of Education consider these probably unimportant points:

  • The president of Stanford University resigned allegedly because he fudged some data in peer-reviewed documents. True or false. Does it matter? The fellow quit.
  • The Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab or SAIL innovated with cooking up synthetic data. Not only was synthetic data the fast food of those looking for cheap and easy AI training data, Stanford became super glued to the fake data movement which may be good or it may be bad. Hallucinating is easier if the models are training using fake information perhaps?
  • Stanford University produced some outstanding leaders in the high technology “space.” The contributions of famous graduates have delivered social media, shaped advertising systems, and interesting intelware companies which dabble in warfighting and saving lives from one versatile software and consulting platform.

The essay operates in smarter-than-you territory. It presents a view of the world which seems to be at odds with research results which are not reproducible, ethics-free researchers, and an awareness of how silly it looks to someone in rural Kentucky to have a president accused of pulling a grade-school essay cheating trick.

Enough pontification. How about some progress in remediating certain interesting consequences of Stanford faculty and graduates innovations?

Stephen E Arnold, March 15, 2024

Education on the Cheap: No AI Required

January 26, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I don’t write about education too often. I do like to mention the plagiarizing methods of some academics. What fun! I located a true research gem (probably non-reproducible, hallucinogenic, or just synthetic but I don’t care). “Emergency-Hired Teachers Do Just as Well as Those Who Go Through Normal Training” states:

New research from Massachusetts and New Jersey suggests maybe not. In both states, teachers who entered the profession without completing the full requirements performed no worse than their normally trained peers.


A sanitation worker with a high school diploma is teaching advanced seventh graders about linear equations. The students are engaged… with their mobile phones. Hey, good enough, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Good enough.

Then a modest question:

The better question now is why these temporary waivers aren’t being made permanent.

And what’s the write up say? I quote:

In other words, making it harder to become a teacher will reduce the supply but offers no guarantee that those who meet the bar will actually be effective in the classroom.


Using people who did not slog through college and learned something (one hopes) is expensive. Think of the cost savings when using those who are untrained and unencumbered with expectations of big money! When good enough is the benchmark of excellence, embrace those without an comprehensive four-year or more education. Ooops. Who wants that?

I thought that I once heard that the best, most educated teaching professionals should work with the youngest students. I must have been doing some of that AI-addled thinking common among some in the old age home. When’s lunch?

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2024

iPad and Zoom Learning: Not Working As Well As Expected

November 10, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

It seemed (to many) like the best option at the time. As COVID-19 shuttered brick-and-mortar schools, it was educational technology to the rescue around the world! Or at least that was the idea. In reality, kids with no tech, online access, informed guidance, or a nurturing environment were left behind. Who knew? UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) has put out a book that documents what went wrong, questions the dominant ed-tech narratives from the pandemic, and explores what we can do better going forward. The full text of "An Ed-Tech Tragedy?" can be read or downloaded for free here. The press release states:

"The COVID-19 pandemic pushed education from schools to educational technologies at a pace and scale with no historical precedent. For hundreds of millions of students formal learning became fully dependent on technology – whether internet-connected digital devices, televisions or radios. An Ed-Tech Tragedy? examines the numerous adverse and unintended consequences of the shift to ed-tech. It documents how technology-first solutions left a global majority of learners behind and details the many ways education was diminished even when technology was available and worked as intended. In unpacking what went wrong, the book extracts lessons and recommendations to ensure that technology facilitates, rather than subverts, efforts to ensure the universal provision of inclusive, equitable and human-centered public education."

The book is divided into four parts. Act 1 recalls the hopes and promises behind the push to move quarantined students online. Act 2 details the unintended consequences: The hundreds of millions of students without access to or knowledge of technology who were left behind. The widened disparity between privileged and underprivileged households in parental time and attention. The decreased engagement of students with subject matter. The environmental impact. The increased acceptance of in-home surveillance and breaches of privacy. And finally, the corporate stranglehold on education, which was dramatically strengthened and may now prove nigh impossible to dislodge.

Next an "Inter-Act" section questions what we were told about online learning during the pandemic and explores three options we could have pursued instead. The book concludes with a hopeful Act 3, a vision of how we might move forward with education technology in a more constructive and equitable manner. One thing remains to be seen: will we learn our lesson?

Cynthia Murrell, November 10, 2023

Gen Z and Retro Tech

March 7, 2023

I read an interesting write up about people who are younger than I. Keep in mind, please, that I am a dinobaby. “Gen Z Apparently Baffled by Basic Technology.” The write up says:

But when it comes to using a scanner or printer — or even a file system on a computer — things become a lot more challenging to a generation that has spent much of their lives online

Does this mean that a younger employee will not be able to make a photocopy of a receipt for an alleged business expense?

I learned that a 25-year-old wizard was unable to get the photocopy to produce something other than a blank page.

Okay, the idea of turning over the page eluded the budding captain of social media.

Will these future leaders ask for assistance? Nah, there’s something called tech shame. Who wants to look stupid and not get promoted.

Need another example? No, well, too bad. The write up points out that these world beaters cannot schedule meetings? Like time is hard. Follow ups are almost like work.

I am glad I am old.

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2023

Learning Is Supposed to Be Easy. Says Who?

October 26, 2022

I am not sure what a GenZ is. I do know that if I provide cash and change for a bill at a drug store or local grocery store, the person running the cash register looks like a deer in headlights. I have a premonition that if I had my Digital Infrared Thermometer, I could watch the person’s temperature rise. Many of these young people struggle to make change. My wife had a $0.50 cent piece and gave it to the cashier at the garden center along with some bills. The GenZ or GenX or whatever young person called the manager and asked, “What is this coin?”

I read “ Survey Shows 87 Percent of College Students Think Classes Are Too Difficult, But Most Fail to Study Regularly.” I know little about the sponsor of the research, the sampling methodology, or the statistical procedures used to calculate the data. Caution is advised when “real news” trots out data. Let’s assume that the information is close enough for horseshoes. After all, this is the statistical yardstick for mathematical excellence in use at synthetic data companies, Google-type outfits, and many artificial intelligence experts hot for cheap training data. Yep, close enough is good enough. I should create a T shit with this silkscreened on the front. But that’s work, which I don’t do.

The findings reported in the article include some gems which appear to bolster my perception that quite a few GenZ etc. cohort members are not particularly skilled in some facets of information manipulation. I would wager that their TikTok skills are excellent. Other knowledge based functions may lag. Let’s look at these numbers:

65 percent of respondents say they put a lot of effort into their studies. However, research findings also show that one-third of students who claim to put a lot of effort into their schoolwork spend less than 5 hours a week studying.

This is the academic equivalent of a young MBAs saying, “I will have the two pager ready tomorrow morning.” The perception of task completion is sufficient for these young millionaires to be. Doing the work is irrelevant because the individual thinks the work will be done. When reminded, the excuses fly. I want to remind you that some high-tech companies trot out the well worn “the dog ate my homework” excuse when testifying.

And this finding:

Thirty-one percent of respondents spend 1-5 hours, and 37 percent spend 6-10 hours studying for classes each week. Comparatively, 8 percent of students spend 15-20 hours, and 5 percent spend more than 20 hours studying.

I have been working on Hopf fibrations for a couple of years. Sorry, I am not at the finish line yet. Those in the sample compute studying with a few hours in a week. Nope, that time commitment is plotted on flawed timeline, not the real world timeline for learning and becoming proficient in a subject.

I loved this finding:

Twenty-eight percent of students have asked a professor to change their grade, while 31 percent admit they cheated to get better grades. Almost 50 percent of college students believe a pass or fail system should replace the current academic grading system.


Net net: No wonder young people struggle with making change and thinking clearly. Bring back the dinobabies even though there are some dull normals in that set of cohorts as well. But when one learns by watching TikToks what can one expect in the currency recognition department? Answer: Not much.

Stephen E Arnold, October 26, 2022

Australian Study: Not Likely to Be Popular at Apple

June 12, 2020

Australia’s published “Study Casts Doubt on School iPad Benefits.” Although narrow, the information appears to confirm what DarkCyber has believed for a long time: A technology bandage does not fix underlying systemic failures. Example: Students without a home, a knowledge supporting peer group, and capable human instructors may not magically learn when equipped with a computing device. Bummer. Silver bullets, magic wands, and next big things are just supposed to solve problems. At least, that is how the logic appears to go when apparently educated people try to remediate the things schools do wrong.

The write up states:

New research has found using iPads and other technology in schools may not support brain development particularly in young children, according to James Cook University’s Professor Helen Boon.

Yikes. The write up continues:

The study found the technology did not enhance specific school learning areas such as mathematics, English, and science.

“Some studies have suggested that mobile technology promotes collaborative learning, communication and access to information,” Dr Boon said. “On the other hand, the potential for mobile technology to be a distraction in the classroom has also been frequently reported.” Dr Boon says another concern is the effect their physical use has on young brains.

Imagine. Books, paper, pencils, drills, and old-fashioned methods may deliver skills while computing devices teach distraction.

The fix? Order up more Chromebooks, iPads, and smartphones.

Stephen E Arnold, June 12, 2020

The Online Cohorts: A Potential Blind Sport

April 15, 2020

In a conversation last week, a teacher told me, “We are not prepared to teach classes online.” I sympathized. What appears trivial to a person who routinely uses a range of technology, a person accustomed to automatic teller machines, a mobile phone, and an Alexa device may be befuddled. Add to the sense of having to learn about procedures, there is the challenge of adopting in person skills to instructing students via a different method; for example, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and other video conferencing services. How is that shift going? There are anecdotal reports that the shift is not going smoothly.

That’s understandable. More data will become available as researchers and hopefully some teachers report the efficacy of the great shift from a high touch classroom to a no touch digital setting.

I noted “Students Often Do Not Question Online Information.” The article provides a summary of research that suggests:

students struggle to critically assess information from the Internet and are often influenced by unreliable sources.

Again, understandable.

The article points out a related issue:

“Having a critical attitude alone is not enough. Instead, Internet users need skills that enable them to distinguish reliable from incorrect and manipulative information. It is therefore particularly important for students to question and critically examine online information so they can build their own knowledge and expertise on reliable information,” stated Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia. [Professor Olga Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia from JGU. The study was carried out as part of the Rhine-Main Universities (RMU) alliance.]

Online is a catalyst. The original compound is traditional classroom teaching methodologies. The new element is online. The result appears to raise the possibility of a loss of certain thinking skills.

Net net: A long period of adaptation may be ahead. The problem of humans who cannot do math or think in a manner that allows certain statements to be classified as bunk and others as not bunk is likely to have a number of downstream consequences.

In short, certain types of thinking and critical analysis may become quite rare. Informed decisions may not be helpful if the information upon which a choice is based operates from a different type of fact base.

Maybe not so good?

Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2020

Poisoning Smart Software: More Than Sparkley Sunglasses

March 22, 2020

DarkCyber noted “FYI: You Can Trick Image-Recog AI into, Say, Mixing Up Cats and Dogs – by Abusing Scaling Code to Poison Training Data.” The article provides some information about a method “to subvert neural network frameworks so they misidentify images without any telltale signs of tampering.”

Kudos to the Register for providing links to the papers referenced in the article: “Adversarial Preprocessing: Understanding and preventing Image Scaling Attacks in Machine Learning” and “Backdooring and Poisoning Neural Networks with Image Scaling Attacks.”

The Register article points out:

Their key insight is that algorithms used by AI frameworks for image scaling – a common preprocessing step to resize images in a dataset so they all have the same dimensions – do not treat every pixel equally. Instead, these algorithms, in the imaging libraries of Caffe’s OpenCV, TensorFlow’s tf.image, and PyTorch’s Pillow, specifically, consider only a third of the pixels to compute scaling.

DarkCyber wants to point out:

  • The method can be implemented by bad actors seeking to reduce precision of certain types of specialized software. Example: Compromising Anduril’s system
  • Smart software is vulnerable to training data procedures. Some companies train once and forget it. Smart software can drift even with well crafted training data.
  • Information which may have national security implications finds its way into what seems to be a dry, academic analysis. If one does not read these papers, is it possible for one to be unaware of impending or actual issues.

Net net: Cutting corners on training or failing to retrain systems is a problem. However, failing to apply rigor to the entire training process does more than reduce the precision of outputs. Systems simply fail to deliver what users assume a system provides.

Stephen E Arnold, March 22, 2020

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