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

AI Education: India Emulates UAE

November 17, 2019

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) located in Madras, India is dedicated to helping its students advance their knowledge and careers. India is the second most populous country in the world and it is still considered a developing nation, but it has one of the fastest growing technology economies. IIT Madras wants to help young Indians succeed and plans to double the amount of students enrolled in their Inter-Disciplinary Dual Degree for Data Science, which is an ambitious goal. IIT Madras is even more ambitious with its recent announcement published in Analytics India Mag: “IIT Madras Researches Develop ‘AISoft,” An Algorithm To Solve Engineering Problems.”

Assistant professor Vishal Nandigana, based in the Fluid Systems Laboratory in the Mechanical Engineering Department, led the development team that designed AISoft. AISoft was designed to solve problems across all engineering fields, including semiconductors, automobiles, thermal management, aerospace, and electronics cooling applications. It has already been used to solve problems in thermal management and the test group said it was faster at solving problems compared to existing solutions, such as CNN or C-GAN.

IIT Madras believes there is a brand new market for AI that has not been developed yet:

“The institute believes that AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning are now being used for over a decade but traditionally only in areas such as signal processing, speech recognition, image reconstruction and prediction. Very limited attempts have been made globally in using these algorithms in solving engineering problems such as thermal management, electronics cooling industries, automobile problems like fluid dynamics prediction over a bonnet or inside the engine, aerospace industries like aerodynamics and fluid dynamics problems across an aero-foil or turbine engine.”

AISoft offers solutions on generalized rectilinear and curvilinear input geometry, but its biggest advantage is saving computational time. Computational time eats up a lot of hours, but AISoft can eliminate some of that time which can be better spent on research and applying knowledge.

IIT Madras hopes its startup plans will assist industries as well as be used in education. AISoft, if the costs are kept low, would also generate income for IIT Madras that can be used for scholarships, growing educational programs, and on research projects.

Whitney Grace, November 17, 2019

UAE: More AI, Less PE

November 9, 2019

The field of artificial intelligence has reached a milestone—the first graduate-level university dedicated to it is set to open next year. Interesting Engineering reports, “World’s First AI University Has More than 3200 Applicants Already.” The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is being built in Abu Dhabi. It is named for the country’s crown prince, who is big on using science to build up his nation’s human capital. The school received those thousands of applications in its first week of admissions. The aspiring grad students are located around the world, but most are in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, India, and China. It is no surprise interest is so high—students will get a sweet deal. Reporter Donna Fuscaldo writes:

“The school aims to create a new model of academia and research for AI and to ‘unleash AI’s full potential.’ Students get access to some of the most advanced AI systems as part of the program. Students can earn a Master of Science (MSc) and PhD level programs in machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing. All admitted students get a full scholarship, monthly allowance, health insurance, and accommodation. The first class will commence in September 2020.”

The time is ripe for such an institution. With AI now permeating nearly every industry, research firm PwC Global predicts that by 2030 it will have a $25.7 trillion impact on the global economy ($6.6 trillion from increased productivity and $9.1 trillion from “consumption-side effects”) and provide a 26% GDP boost for local economies. It is no wonder many students are eager to get in on the ground floor.

Cynthia Murrell, November 09, 2019

Even Genius Kids Need Teachers

November 14, 2017

Geniuses are supposed to have the innate ability to quickly learn and apply information without being taught.  It is almost like magic what they can do, but even with their awe-inspiring intellects, geniuses need their own mentors.  The Independent wrote about a study that proved geniuses need guidance, “Psychologists Studies 5000 Genius Kids For 45 Years-Here Are Their 6 Takeaways.”

Started in 1971, the “Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth” (SMPY) followed 5000 American children with intelligence measured in the 0.01%, 0.1%, and 1% of all students.  The study’s facilitators learned that the children led extraordinary lives that ranged from them being patent holders, they earned doctorates or graduate degrees, and are in the top 5% of income earners.  One problem is that these children were often ignored by their teachers because they were already meeting their potential.  Teachers had to spend more time helping lower students achieve their academic requirements.

They also learned that skipping a grade can help and intelligence is varied.  The latter means that intelligence cannot be prepackaged, one size fits all, instead, it comes in different forms.  Also despite how much they are loathed, standardized tests do have some predictive ability to measure genius kids success in life.  Perhaps the most interesting factoid is something that is taught in business classes, mindfulness, and other life coaching strategies:

The psychologist Carol Dweck has found that successful people tend to keep what’s known as a “growth mindset” as opposed to a “fixed mindset.” They view themselves as fluid, changing beings that can adapt and grow — they are not static.


SMPY agrees with that assessment, but it also has found that the earliest signs of cognitive ability in kids can predict how well they’ll do later in life, ignoring all the practice that may or may not come in between.

Genius kids are valuable as individuals and their intellect can help the world, but the bigger problem is trying to find ways to help them achieve when the rest of the world is trying to catch up.

Whitney Grace, November 14, 2017

You Too, Can Learn Linear Algebra

January 24, 2017

Algebra was invented in Persia nearly one thousand years ago. It is one of the fundamental branches of mathematics and its theories are applied to many industries.  Algebra ranges from solving for x to complex formulas that leave one scratching their head.  If you are interested in learning linear algebra, then you should visit Sheldon Axler’s Web site.  Along with an apparent love for his pet cat, Axler is a professor of mathematics at San Francisco State University.

On his Web site, Axler lists the various mathematics books he has written and contributed too.  It is an impressive bibliography and his newest book is titled, Linear Algebra Abridged.  He describes the book as:

Linear Algebra Abridged is generated from Linear Algebra Done Right (third edition) by excluding all proofs, examples, and exercises, along with most comments. Learning linear algebra without proofs, examples, and exercises is probably impossible. Thus this abridged version should not substitute for the full book. However, this abridged version may be useful to students seeking to review the statements of the main results of linear algebra.

Algebra can be difficult, but as Axler wrote above learning linear algebra without proofs is near impossible.  However, if you have a grounded understanding of algebra and are simply looking to brush up or study linear principles without spending a sizable chunk on the textbook, then this is a great asset.  The book is free to download from Axler’s Web site, along with information on how to access the regular textbook.

Whitney Grace, January 24, 2017

IBM Watson in the Third Grade, Doing Math

October 5, 2016

The IBM Watson PR hyperbole machine seems to have been idling. Summer’s over. IBM Watson marketers are back at their work stations.

I read “Next Target for IBM’s Watson? Third-Grade Math.” Keep in mind that you may have to pay to read this bit of PR inspired content. That’s not my fault, gentle reader.

The write up reveals:

For the past two years, the IBM Foundation has worked with teachers and their union, the American Federation of Teachers, to build Teacher Advisor, a program that uses artificial-intelligence technology to answer questions from educators and help them build personalized lesson plans.

When I was a student, sleeping, talking, and day dreaming had a high priority. I didn’t have a mobile device to distract me.

The idea is that IBM Watson is going to make the students of the 21st century drop their mobile phones and learn mathematics.

How will IBM Watson pull off this trick? I learned:

For teachers, one thing Watson will do is help them digest the Common Core standards and incorporate them into daily lessons. The standards are learning goals, a map of what students should be able to do at a given level. Third graders should be able to measure area, for example, by counting out units, like square centimeters or square inches. But rather than just listing a group of skills, Watson serves up the prerequisites those skills are built upon and a set of exercises to break down the standard.

Sounds darned good. I am confident that IBM Watson will make learning today a really fun experience. Great assumption. However, I think schools may find that IBM Watson could end up with a dunce cap or texting with friends. IBM may be sitting next to the innovator who predicted that Apple iPads would energize Los Angeles’ classrooms. How did that work out? Oh, I remember. Not too well.

Stephen E Arnold, October 5, 2015

Viva The Academic Publisher Boycott!

July 30, 2015

Academic databases provide access to quality research material, which is key for any student, professor, or researcher to succeed in their work.  One major drawback to academic databases is the high cost associated with subscription fees.  Individual researchers cannot justify subscribing to an academic database and purchasing a single article runs high.  This is why they rely on academic libraries to cover the costs.  Due to changing publishing trends, academic publishers are raising subscription fees.

Elsevier is one of the largest and most well-known scientific journal database, but it is also the most notorious for its expensive subscription fee and universities are getting tired of it.  Univers reports that “Dutch Universities Start Their Elsevier Boycott.”  The Netherlands, led by state secretary Sander Dekker, want all scientific content to be free online.  In order to be published, the university or financier pays to be so.  All content by Dutch scientists will hopefully be open access by 2024.

In the meantime, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands has asked all Dutch scientists that work with Elsevier to resign from their positions.  As to be expected, some are willing and others are more reluctant.  The goal is to pressure Elsevier to change its practices.

“In Univers nr. 8, in January, professor Jan Blommaert called the current publishing system ‘completely absurd’. Not only because of the costs for subscription, but also because the journals have a lot of power over the content: ‘A young PhD student who has been able to get an article accepted by a journal may still have to wait 18 months for it to be published, because the editors prefer well-known names. It is not unthinkable that if I would submit a love letter, it would be published sooner than an intelligent scholarly article by a young researcher.’ ”

The Dutch universities are setting a standard that many libraries and universities will also follow, but the hardest part is encouraging more to participate.  Libraries and universities have an obligation to provide needed materials to researchers and a boycott will hinder the step.  Large boycotts, rather than individual, will be more effective and instrumental in changing Elsevier’s practices.

Whitney Grace, July 30, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Chris McNulty at SharePoint Fest Seattle

June 18, 2015

For SharePoint managers and users, continued education and training is essential. There are lots of opportunities for virtual and face-to-face instruction. Benzinga gives some attention to one training option, the upcoming SharePoint Fest Seattle, in their recent article, “Chris McNulty to Lead 2 Sessions and a Workshop at SharePoint Fest Seattle.”

The article begins:

“Chris McNulty will preside over a full day workshop at SharePoint Fest Seattle on August 18th, 2015, as well as conduct two technical training sessions on the 19th and 20th. Both the workshops and sessions are to be held at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.”

In addition to all of the great training opportunities at conferences and other face-to-face sessions, staying on top of the latest SharePoint news and online training opportunities is also essential. For a one-stop-shop of all the latest SharePoint news, stay tuned to Stephen E. Arnold’s Web site,, and his dedicated SharePoint feed. He has turned his longtime career in search into a helpful Web service for those that need to stay on top of the latest SharePoint happenings.

Emily Rae Aldridge, June 18, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


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