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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Berkeley among top U.S. universities for upward mobility | UC Berkeley

"A new upward mobility report card for U.S. colleges and universities reveals high rankings for California schools, from community colleges to the University of California, including UC Berkeley." inform Kathleen Maclay, Media relations.

Photo: UC Berkeley

The report card researchers, whose work is covered in detail in the New York Times’ The Upshot blog today, say the results may guide efforts to further increase upward mobility through higher education, expand access to the mid-tier, high-mobility colleges and enhance efforts to expand outreach to students in middle and elementary schools.

The report is based on publicly available statistics for all students ages 18-22 enrolled in each college from 1999 to 2013, including the students’ earnings while in their early 30s and their parents’ incomes. Upward mobility rates are determined by the fraction of an institution’s students who come from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution and end up in the top fifth.

Two UC Berkeley economists, Danny Yagan and Emmanuel Saez, are among the authors of the Equality of Opportunity Project’s report card. They worked alongside economists Raj Chetty of Stanford University and John N. Friedman of Brown University and with Nicholas Turner of the U.S. Treasury Department.

Highlights of their research on California include:
Read more... 

Source: UC Berkeley 

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How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next | The Guardian

"The ability of statistics to accurately represent the world is declining. In its wake, a new age of big data controlled by private companies is taking over – and putting democracy in peril" argues William Davies, sociologist and political economist.

Photo: The Guardian
In theory, statistics should help settle arguments. They ought to provide stable reference points that everyone – no matter what their politics – can agree on. Yet in recent years, divergent levels of trust in statistics has become one of the key schisms that have opened up in western liberal democracies. Shortly before the November presidential election, a study in the US discovered that 68% of Trump supporters distrusted the economic data published by the federal government. In the UK, a research project by Cambridge University and YouGov looking at conspiracy theories discovered that 55% of the population believes that the government “is hiding the truth about the number of immigrants living here”.

Rather than diffusing controversy and polarisation, it seems as if statistics are actually stoking them. Antipathy to statistics has become one of the hallmarks of the populist right, with statisticians and economists chief among the various “experts” that were ostensibly rejected by voters in 2016. Not only are statistics viewed by many as untrustworthy, there appears to be something almost insulting or arrogant about them. Reducing social and economic issues to numerical aggregates and averages seems to violate some people’s sense of political decency.

Nowhere is this more vividly manifest than with immigration. The thinktank British Future has studied how best to win arguments in favour of immigration and multiculturalism. One of its main findings is that people often respond warmly to qualitative evidence, such as the stories of individual migrants and photographs of diverse communities. But statistics – especially regarding alleged benefits of migration to Britain’s economy – elicit quite the opposite reaction. People assume that the numbers are manipulated and dislike the elitism of resorting to quantitative evidence. Presented with official estimates of how many immigrants are in the country illegally, a common response is to scoff. Far from increasing support for immigration, British Future found, pointing to its positive effect on GDP can actually make people more hostile to it. GDP itself has come to seem like a Trojan horse for an elitist liberal agenda. Sensing this, politicians have now largely abandoned discussing immigration in economic terms.
All of this presents a serious challenge for liberal democracy. Put bluntly, the British government – its officials, experts, advisers and many of its politicians – does believe that immigration is on balance good for the economy. The British government did believe that Brexit was the wrong choice. The problem is that the government is now engaged in self-censorship, for fear of provoking people further.

This is an unwelcome dilemma. Either the state continues to make claims that it believes to be valid and is accused by sceptics of propaganda, or else, politicians and officials are confined to saying what feels plausible and intuitively true, but may ultimately be inaccurate. Either way, politics becomes mired in accusations of lies and cover-ups.

The declining authority of statistics – and the experts who analyse them – is at the heart of the crisis that has become known as “post-truth” politics. And in this uncertain new world, attitudes towards quantitative expertise have become increasingly divided. From one perspective, grounding politics in statistics is elitist, undemocratic and oblivious to people’s emotional investments in their community and nation. It is just one more way that privileged people in London, Washington DC or Brussels seek to impose their worldview on everybody else. From the opposite perspective, statistics are quite the opposite of elitist. They enable journalists, citizens and politicians to discuss society as a whole, not on the basis of anecdote, sentiment or prejudice, but in ways that can be validated. The alternative to quantitative expertise is less likely to be democracy than an unleashing of tabloid editors and demagogues to provide their own “truth” of what is going on across society.

Is there a way out of this polarisation? Must we simply choose between a politics of facts and one of emotions, or is there another way of looking at this situation? One way is to view statistics through the lens of their history. We need to try and see them for what they are: neither unquestionable truths nor elite conspiracies, but rather as tools designed to simplify the job of government, for better or worse. Viewed historically, we can see what a crucial role statistics have played in our understanding of nation states and their progress. This raises the alarming question of how – if at all – we will continue to have common ideas of society and collective progress, should statistics fall by the wayside.

Source: The Guardian  

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How can we reverse the digital skills gap? | The Open University

The talent pipeline – high on the agenda for HR and L&D professionals but something that is probably causing a few headaches, particularly when filling digital and technical roles.

The problem: high-level skills are in demand but short in supply. Something which, according to the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2016, a staggering 69% of employers are not confident will improve.

So what’s the key to delivering high-level, work-ready skills for businesses?

Read the article 'How can we reverse the digital skills gap?' to find out below. 

There’s been much debate in recent years about the growing digital skills gap and the negative impact is having on business – particularly the ability to innovate and grow.

Part of the dialogue focuses on the automation of current jobs – as according to the Select Committee Report on digital skills, economists estimate that 35% of current jobs in the UK could become automated over the next two decades.[1]

Some of the focus is on how we are already feeling the effects in the workplace, highlighting cyber security systems, mobile computing, cloud computing and data analytics as the most in-demand skill areas we’re currently facing.

And there’s even been some speculation on future skills needs – as according to the World Economic Forum, it’s estimated that 65% of children entering primary school today will likely work in roles in the future that don’t currently exist now.[2]

Shifting skills needs
Whatever your own views are on the seriousness of these impacts and implications, it’s difficult to ignore the changes that are happening in the world around us. Whether we’re working in healthcare, financial services or consumer goods, skills needs are shifting and jobs are evolving in response to advancing technology and the new opportunities it presents.

Source: The Open University

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Competency-Based Learning: A Dropout Prevention Strategy? | Education Week's blog > High School & Beyond

"A new study by the U.S. Department of Education finds that nearly one-third of high schools offer competency-based advancement, the opportunity to move ahead based on mastery, rather than seat time." according to

Photo: Getty

The answer, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Education, is yes. The department found that one-third of high schools offer competency-based flexibility to students
Funded as part of the department's High School Graduation Initiative, the survey asked principals in 2,142 high schools about their use of 13 improvement strategies for the 2014-15 school year. The exploration of competency-based advancement is one of five briefs released from that survey. The others explore early-warning systems, mentoring, career-themed curricula, and student support teams.
Keep in mind as you read the brief that the education department wasn't studying whether competency-based advancement worked as a dropout strategy. It was only asking principals if it was one of the tactics they were using to help struggling students graduate. It defines "competency-based advancement" as letting students move ahead when they show mastery through projects, portfolios, or performance assessments, or through tests given whenever they're ready.
It's probably not too surprising that the survey showed competency-based advancement is more prevalent in high-poverty, urban schools with low graduation rates than it is in more affluent, suburban schools. One possible explanation for this is the expansion of credit-recovery programs, typically computer-based catch-up programs that students can complete at their own pace.
Read more... 

Source: Education Week's blog > High School & Beyond

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Learning from machines: The customer service shift | IDG Connect

Photo: Adrian McDermott
Have a look at this interessting contributed piece from Adrian McDermott, President of Products at Zendesk.
More and more we’re seeing machines become part of our everyday lives, in particular as customers. 

Photo: IDG Connect

Looking back, it’s difficult to think of a time where scanning your own shopping wasn’t an option, or when getting in touch with a brand didn’t involve some sort of automated service.

As we continue to demand quick and easy information and solutions, machine learning is becoming a sought-after option for business in their mission to maintain a strong relationship with customers.

That being said, the advances of machine learning won’t just affect the business/consumer relationship, but will completely revolutionise the way companies approach customer service itself.

Although many businesses are collecting information about their customers’ preferences, few are able to translate this into a better relationship. Businesses that are forward thinking enough are now tracking engagement history, purchase behaviour and support tickets, providing a greater overall view of the customer.

One key development in this area will be the ability to integrate separate information sources to build this view. Machine learning technologies amplify and extend the reach of data analytics, meaning they can help solve customer issues much more efficiently. This not only results in a quicker, more detailed end solution, but also reassures the customer that you understand their preferred outcome.

Even where machine learning is unable to directly resolve customer issues, systems will augment the experience and intuition of highly trained customer service agents by providing a wealth of curated information at their fingertips. Not only will this result in rapid customer service, it means the human element of interaction won’t be lost.

The integration of artificial intelligence into the customer service workflow will reduce the quantum of low-value repetitive work, allowing human resources to focus on high-value, complex service tasks that require a personal touch.

The age of artificial intelligence/machine learning has the potential to replace cognitive functions of the human mind in many business decision-making contexts.  As with all previous technology shifts, we will not replace ourselves completely. More likely knowledge worker capabilities will be massively amplified. We are entering a major technology inflection point.  

The human brain functions as a pattern matching machine; machine learning computing has infinite memory capacity for patterns via modern big data storage, and effectively infinite capacity for pattern discovery and matching - way beyond the capabilities of the primate mind. We are just beginning in our journey to use these now accessible techniques in everyday business problems.

Source: IDG Connect

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Africa’s first programming language to teach kids code | IDG Connect

Vincent Matinde, international IT Journalist notes, "Kennedy Kanyi has developed arguably Africa’s first programming language."

Photo: IDG Connect

BraceScript is a new, simplistic coding language that has been launched in Africa to teach local kids how to code and to develop future software engineers. Kennedy Kanyi, a 25 year old software programmer, came up with the language after seeing the need for a customised platform to teach kids how to code.

When he was in college he taught himself coding skills and then he began to teach his classmates. Once he graduated from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) with a Bachelor’s degree in IT, Kanyi realised that more needed to be done to get younger people interested in technology.
“I still felt the urge to teach code but now my interest was in kids,” Kanyi tells IDG Connect in an interview.

With funds from his development company, Oneplace Technologies Ltd, Kanyi went ahead and created BraceKids an initiative to teach children how to code. “The initiative aims to teach one million kids in Africa how to write software. That includes [everything from] basic coding to Artificial Intelligence.”
Kanyi tells us that once he launched the BraceKids site, he got a lot of positive feedback especially from parents who wanted to enrol their children.
However, his offices at Even Business Park, along Airport North Road in Nairobi, could only accommodate up to 15 children at a time. So, he decided to create his own platform to teach children how to code online...

Kanyi strongly believes this will help transform the fortunes of the continent. And he urges many more players in the education sector to introduce more kids to the latest technology.
“Programming is actually the key to a bright future for our continent,” Kanyi concludes.

Source: IDG Connect

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Mobile 'Click Injection' Fraud Projected To Rise This Year | Real-Time Daily

Photo: Tobi Elkin
Tobi Elkin, Editor of MediaPost's Real-Time Daily and the RTBlog says, "Another form of ad fraud is on the scene."
"Adjust, a mobile attribution and analytics firm and provider of fraud prevention tools, on Thursday said so-called “click injection” fraud is set to become one of the dominant forms of mobile marketing fraud in 2017."

Adjust said the “click injection” approach allows app publishers to make money by injecting fake “clicks” from a user’s device just as the user installs an app. The clicks are generated from within a fraudulent app and timed to be received within a second of the app download.

Adjust said that currently, click injection is effective on Android only, as it uses so-called “install broadcasts” to time the click.

As a result, the fake clicks are frequently credited for the user’s conversion. This steals organic conversions and conversions from legitimate publishers.

“This new scheme is technically similar to 'click-spamming,' which we described early last year, but evades the tools that prevent click spam,” stated Andreas Naumann, fraud specialist at Adjust. He said the company expects "click injection" to supplant and equal click-spamming activities in size, which accounted for an estimated 5 % of ad engagements on Android.

The company is currently testing different algorithms to prevent the fraudulently claimed conversions as part of their Fraud Prevention Suite of software tools protecting advertisers.

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The math behind hitting in baseball when the game's not on the line | Baltimore Sun

Photo: Jonathan Pitts
"Now 34 and preparing for his 13th year in major league baseball, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is perceived by some to be in a state of athletic decline."according to Jonathan Pitts, Contact Reporter | Baltimore Sun.

Photo: Baltimore Sun

The player who slugged 30 home runs as recently as 2011, for example, belted just eight last year, and injuries have forced him to miss about 30 percent of his team's games over the past two years.

But there are many ways to measure success in a sport as complex as baseball, and if a team of computer scientists at the Johns Hopkins University is to be believed, Oriole fans might have reason to feel hopeful about the two-time All-Star.

A new statistic measures how well a baseball player hits in clutch situations vs. "low stress" situations.
Watch the Video

A study led by Anton Dahbura, a research scientist in the computer sciences department at Johns Hopkins, revealed a striking dichotomy: While Hardy was all but useless as a hitter in 2016 when the outcome of games was already more or less decided, he hit nearly 200 points higher — more than .290 — when the results hung in the balance.

The finding is among the more interesting nuggets to appear in "Padding the Stats: A Study of MLB Player Performance in Meaningless-Game Situations," a 55-page paper that Dahbura made public in December. A lifelong baseball nut, Dahbura wrote with the help of Jaewon Lee and Evan Hsia, student researchers and engineering undergraduates who also love the game.

The project examined how every major league hitter performed last season when, by the authors' calculations, either team in a given game had at least a 95 percent chance of winning.

Dahbura said it's beyond the study's scope to assign definitive meaning to such figures, but the baseball fan in him can't help speculating that they open up new lines of inquiry in a sport that is already one of the most rigorously analyzed in the world.

"What does it tell you that Hardy did so poorly when a game was already decided, batting a mere .100 in those situations, but so dramatically better when it wasn't?" he asked. "It's hard to say with certainty at this point, but the numbers are so striking they're very likely telling us something."

The goal of the study, Dahbura said, was to raise awareness about the fact that not all at-bats during a season are equally important.

Hardy's performance was actually a striking exception to the trend the team set out to explore.

"Some players have been able to significantly improve their overall season statistics by maximizing their performance" in so-called meaningless game situations, the article reads.

Dahbura, 56, is one of those baseball geeks lucky enough to have a passion and a gift for mathematics and statistics. It's a blend of talents in growing demand in baseball front offices as franchises increasingly seek to blend the benefits of computer-aided analytics with the intuitive wisdom of more old-fashioned scouting.

Source: Baltimore Sun

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Math difficulties may reflect problems in a crucial learning system in the brain | Knowridge Science Report

"Children differ substantially in their mathematical abilities. In fact, some children cannot routinely add or subtract, even after extensive schooling. Yet the causes of these problems are not fully understood." says Knowridge Science Report.

Photo: Knowridge Science Report

Now, two researchers, at Georgetown University Medical Center and Stanford University, have developed a theory of how developmental “math disability” occurs.

The article, in a special issue on reading and math in Frontiers in Psychology, proposes that math disability arises from abnormalities in brain areas supporting procedural memory.

Procedural memory is a learning and memory system that is crucial for the automatization of non-conscious skills, such as driving or grammar.

It depends on a network of brain structures, including the basal ganglia and regions in the frontal and parietal lobes.

The procedural memory system has previously been implicated in other developmental disorders, such as dyslexia and developmental language disorder, say the study’s senior researcher, Michael T. Ullman, PhD, professor of neuroscience at Georgetown.

“Given that the development of math skills involves their automatization, it makes sense that the dysfunction of procedural memory could lead to math disability.

In fact, aspects of math that tend to be automatized, such as arithmetic, are problematic in children with math disability.

Moreover, since these children often also have dyslexia or developmental language disorder, the disorders may share causal mechanisms,” he says.

The study’s lead author, Tanya M. Evans, PhD, who specializes in reading and math, was a graduate student at Georgetown. Evans is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University.

Ullman says that their theory, called the procedural deficit hypothesis of math disability, “offers a powerful, brain-based approach for understanding the disorder, and could help guide future research.”

The paper shows that previous findings are consistent with the theory, and lays out specific predictions that can be thoroughly tested through subsequent research.
Read more... 

Additional resources
Georgetown University Medical Center 

Source: Knowridge Science Report

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This app doesn't just do your homework for you, it shows you how | The Verge

Photo: Paul Miller
"A little confession from me. I was homeschooled (that's not the confession part), and in 8th grade my algebra textbook had the answers to half the problems in the back. And when I was stumped, I would cheat." summarizes Paul Miller, has been a professional writer since 2005.

Sorry, mom!

Of course, cheating at math is a terrible way to learn, because the whole point isn't to know the answer to 2x + 2 = 7x - 5, it's to understand the methodology that can solve any like problem.

'But what if you could cheat at your homework and learn? That seems to be the premise behind app called Socratic. Or at least that's my takeaway. The app lets you take a picture of a problem (you can also type it in, but that's a little laborious), and it'll not only give you an answer, but the steps necessary to to arrive at that answer — and even detailed explanations of the steps and concepts if you need them.

Socratic - now with Math!  

The app is actually designed to answer any kind of school question — science, history, etc. — but the math thing is the slickest part. For other kinds of questions, Socratic kind of does a bit of Googling, and in my experience can typically find similar word problems on the wide internet, or from its own database of answers. On about half the middle school science problems I tried, the app was able to identify the topic at question and show me additional resources about the concepts involved, but for others it was no more powerful than a simple web search.

But for algebra this thing is sick. I pointed it at 2x + 2 = 7x - 5, which I wrote down at random, and it gave me a 10 step process that results in x = 7/5. It has trouble with word problems, but if you can write down a word problem in math notation it shouldn't be an issue. I also tried it on a weird fraction from an AP algebra exam, which it kind of failed at, but then I swiped over and it was showing me this graph, which included the correct answer:

Read more... 

Source: The Verge and Socratic Channel (YouTube)

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