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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Early math knowledge related to later achievement | Vanderbilt University News

Photo: Joan Brasher
"A new longitudinal study conducted by Vanderbilt has found that children’s math knowledge in preschool is related to their later achievement—but not all types of math knowledge were related equally." notes

Early math skills inform later achievement, according to a new Vanderbilt study. 
Photo: iStock

The findings suggest that educators and school administrators should consider which areas of math study they shift attention to as they develop curricula for the early years.

Photo: Rittle-Johnson (Vanderbilt)

“Counting, calculating, and understanding written numbers already get a lot of attention from teachers and parents, for good reasons,” said Bethany Rittle-Johnson, professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development, who led the study. “However, comparing quantities may merit more attention in preschool, and patterning knowledge may merit more attention in both preschool and the early elementary grades.”

Common Core content standards for school math include shape but not patterning knowledge, and they focus little on comparing quantities. Since patterning skills in the early years predicted math achievement in fifth grade in this study, Rittle-Johnson and her co-authors suggest that teachers and parents engage young children in activities that help them find, extend and discuss predictable sequences in objects (patterns) and compare quantities, without needing to count, such as estimating who has more pennies or more Halloween candy.

A next important step will be to systematically vary how much of this content young children receive and look at their math achievement over time.
Read more... 

Additional resources
Professor Bethany Rittle-Johnson talks about the genesis of her research interests, and why Peabody is the ideal fit for students.
Watch the video

Source: Vanderbilt University News and Vanderbilt University Channel (YouTube)


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Preserving Scientific Software . . . in a Usable Form? | EDUCAUSE Review

Photo: Craig Stewart

"Reusability in the form of virtual machine images provides a way for scientific software to be preserved as it is used in a particular research project and thus enables reproducibility of scientific research." according to Craig Stewart, Executive Director of the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute and Associate Dean for Research Technologies.


The scientific method is based on scientific experiments being verifiable through reproduction.Today, however, some in the scientific community are concerned about the replicability of scientific research. Part of the problem is that given page limits imposed by most publishers, it is generally difficult, if not impossible, to describe scientific methods in sufficient detail to enable the research to be replicated. Furthermore, scientific research is today particularly likely to be viewed as a subject of political debate because there are so many topics of intense concern and interest to the public—from global climate change to genetically enhanced food sources. Those of us who are scientific researchers owe it to each other to make our research as easily replicable as possible. And we owe it to the taxpayers, who fund our research, to minimize the ability of people who critique research to distort its meaning or question the results of research on the basis of politically or financially motivated concerns.

Recently, interesting work has been published related to the replicability of experimental findings, such as an attempt to replicate studies in experimental economic research.1 In this article, I follow earlier distinctions between replicability and reproducibility. By replicability, I mean the ability to replicate an experiment as closely as possible and get generally the same result. The words "as closely as possible" are important: an experiment about an animal population in the wild in a particular area cannot be exactly replicated if the range of the species has moved and is no longer present in the area where an experiment was conducted. On the other hand, if one has the data from a research project, then it should be possible to precisely reproduce the analyses of the data in every detail, extend the analysis if appropriate, and/or correct errors if they exist.

In theory, one should be able to exactly reproduce the data analysis done as part of any research publication. In practice, doing so is hard. Part of the reason this is difficult is that so much of the data analysis is simply not included in published papers, as depicted in figure 1 from James Taylor, one of the creators of the Galaxy bioinformatics software environment.

Another reason it is hard to reproduce scientific data analyses and simulations is because of all the things one must specify in order to make reproducibility possible. Even if you use open-source software, "I used version x of the commonly used open-source software package X" is often all the space one gets. Important details such as which patches, from where, running in what operating system, compiled with what compilers, and using which mathematical libraries are usually omitted. Describing the software environment used for a particular analysis gets very tricky very quickly. 

Source: James Taylor, "Analysis Reproducibility," Speaker Deck, June 4, 2015 (CC-BY), adapted from J. T. Leek and R. D. Peng, "P Values Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg," Nature 520, no. 7549 (2015), 612.
Another reason it is hard to reproduce scientific data analyses and simulations is because of all the things one must specify in order to make reproducibility possible. Even if you use open-source software, "I used version x of the commonly used open-source software package X" is often all the space one gets. Important details such as which patches, from where, running in what operating system, compiled with what compilers, and using which mathematical libraries are usually omitted. Describing the software environment used for a particular analysis gets very tricky very quickly. 
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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tables turned as vinyl sales overtake digital sales for first time in UK | The Guardian


Photo: Hannah Ellis-Petersen
"Records sales hit £2.5m last week compared with £2.1m for digital, with surge partly attributable to Christmas gift buying." reports Hannah Ellis-Petersen, Guardian's culture reporter. 

A man browses records for sale in Bristol. Supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco now also stock records.
Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

It was once a pastime dominated by audiophile dads and nostalgic hipsters. But last week, for the first time in history, the amount of money spent on vinyl records in the UK overtook that spent on digital downloads.

Vinyl sales hit £2.4m last week compared with the £2.1m made from digital music purchases, further proof that record shopping has gone mainstream.

The interest in buying a physical format of music on vinyl has experienced a resurgence in the past 12 months. This time last year, the sale of vinyl albums reached £1.2m while digital sales were £4.4m. 

Vinyl has also experienced eight consecutive years of growth, despite almost dying out around 2006.

Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association, attributed the surge in part to the number of places now selling records across the UK. An increasing number of vinyl-only record shops have opened, while supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco, and even high street interiors shop Tiger, now stock records, making them easily accessible.

Bayley said vinyl had experienced a particular boost in the past week because it was becoming an increasingly popular choice for Christmas presents.

“The vast majority of releases are coming out in vinyl now,” said Bayley. “It used to be that only heritage acts or niche albums would come out as a record, but now everything does – pop albums, compilations, film soundtracks, all genres.”

The top 10 records sold this week speak to the variety of people now buying vinyl. Kate Bush, Amy Winehouse and Busted are in the chart, alongside the Guardian of the Galaxy film soundtrack and Now That’s What I Call Christmas compilation album.

Bayley added: “We have a new generation buying vinyl, lots of teenagers and lots of people under 25, who now want to buy their favourite artists on vinyl and have something a bit more tangible, a bit more collectible. People have become keen to support their favourite artists by buying into that ownership concept. It’s very difficult to demonstrate your love of an artist if you don’t have something to hold on to.”

Sean Forbes, who manages record shop Rough Trade West in London, which has been selling vinyl since 1979, said there was a “massive increase” in people buying vinyl and that new racks had been put in all Rough Trade shops to meet demand. 
Read more... 

Additional resources

By Harriet Gibsone, Guardian's music news editor

Source: The Guardian


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Beyond the hype: A more nuanced look at cloud adoption | IDG Connect

"Why keeping business applications on-premise is not necessarily flying in the face of reason, or even prevailing IT trends" insist Lindsay Clark, freelance journalist.
  

Photo: IDG Connect

PAL Group, a medium-sized manufacturing firm based in the English midlands, faced a challenge shared with businesses worldwide. It needed to replace ageing business applications which had served their purpose for many years but were now lacking the speed, ease of use and functionality of modern systems. Naturally, the business considered migrating to new applications in the cloud, and benefiting from the rapid upgrade cycles and low capital costs the computing model allows.

Cloud computing has achieved phenomenal growth in recent years. Organisations’ spending on the model for hosting software remotely in virtualised environments will reach 54 percent of their IT budgets next year, according to IDC [PDF]. The market for cloud computing software will be worth more than $75 billion, achieving 22 percent average annual growth rate, the research firm showed.

Given this growth, it would be easy to assume the PAL Group’s decision was a no-brainer. But it was not.

The firm makes plastics and adhesive products and has been using a manufacturing system from Swan Business Solution for more than 20 years, but needed to upgrade, says Ross Herbert, business system manager.

“The way you did things in the software was quite cumbersome and difficult. We want to take orders, push through production planning, control stock, and pick dispatches in the most flexible manner. We were doing that with Swan, but it was quite heavy handed,” he says.  

The company considered a range of ERP alternatives before deciding on Infor, which had bought Swan several years ago. It also considered adopting the system in the cloud, but rejected the idea.

Firstly, PAL Group wanted to tailor Infor’s product to a degree which was not possible in the cloud.

“We realised that to get the best from the product we would need to use ‘personalisations’ developed by our implementation partner Inforlogic, and that could not be achieved via the cloud offering at present,” Herbert says.

Also, the system needed to connect to some legacy workstation technology within the PAL manufacturing plant. Herbert says that going to the cloud might force an upgrade to these systems as connections to them become unsupported.

The evidence of a cautious approach to the cloud for business applications is more than anecdotal. Although the headline growth in cloud adoption seems impressive, research from US IT industry group CompTIA shows that if you speak to users, the trends are much more nuanced.

The study of 500 US businesses in July 2016 found only 26 percent use cloud computing to support core business application such as enterprise resource planning, a fall from 34 percent in 2014. There were similar falls in HR software while finance systems remained steady at 32 percent. In financial applications, 60 percent of businesses still support the software on-premise. The majority of all major enterprise applications continue to be hosted in-house, it found.  

The trends reflect a change in the understanding of the nature of cloud computing, coupled with a long-standing caution when making changes to reliable, trusted business applications, says Seth Robinson, senior director of technology research, CompTIA.
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Source: IDG Connect 


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A Memo to Students about Studying for Finals | The Teaching Professor Blog

To: My Students
From: Your Professor
Re: Studying for Finals

Photo: Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D.
  summarizes, "The end of the semester is rarely pretty. You’re tired; I’m tired. You’ve got a zillion things to get done—ditto for me." 

Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog
You’ve also got grades hanging in the balance to be decided by how you perform on the final exam. The pressure is on, and it’s not just this course. It’s all of them.

I’d like to offer some advice on how to prepare for these last tests. Am I hearing groans? But the suggestions I want to offer are evidence based and have repeatedly been shown to improve performance on exams. In other words, they work! And there’s more good news. Most of what the research recommends isn’t all that hard to implement.
I know you’ve got your own ways of studying. You’ve used them for years. They work for you. But maybe some other approaches work better. You’ll never know if you don’t try them.

The Teaching Professor Blog

Start with a game plan. 
Think about sports and how there’s a game plan based on what a team needs to do to beat the next opponent. The same applies to a game plan for studying. What do you need to review? What don’t you understand? What’s mixed up in your mind?

Be realistic. 
There’s one week before the exam. How much time can you devote to studying—not how much you’d like to—but what’s reasonable? Then make a schedule of those practice sessions, and yes they should be thought of as practice sessions.
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Source: The Teaching Professor Blog


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A Blueprint for Successful Arts Education | Education Week

Photo: Laura Perille
Laura Perille, president and CEO of EdVestors, an urban school improvement nonprofit based in Boston summarizes, "Five strategies for investing in students' creative capital"

Photo: Getty

We have all heard the story: Arts education has suffered from years of neglect and decline in our schools to make room for tested subjects and to balance squeezed school budgets. This trend has played out in many communities across the country and particularly in large urban school districts. Students of color and those from low-income backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by the decline in arts education during the school day.

In recent years, a number of cities have worked to counter this trend by forming coordinated networks of schools, cultural organizations, funders, local governments, and other groups to work in partnership toward high-quality arts education for all young people. These new models have ranged from city-initiated endeavors such as The Creative Advantage in Seattle to enterprises managed by external partners such as Ingenuity in Chicago and Dallas' Big Thought. Boston, too, has been engaged in expanding arts education over the past seven years through an effort known as Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion, or BPS-AE, a mixed private and publicly funded coalition facilitated by my nonprofit organization, EdVestors.

The efforts of these four cities stem from the belief that by investing in young people's creative capital today, we are nurturing the entrepreneurs, inventors, policymakers, and active citizens of tomorrow. While each city is unique, the public-private partnerships involved in this work employ common strategies.

All of them:
  • Bring together multiple stakeholders to advance the goals of expanding arts education;
  • Use data-based assessments to identify gaps in access and equity, establish measurable public commitments and policies, and track progress;
  • Regularly communicate with community members about progress toward goals and funding to encourage community members to advocate for and take ownership of these efforts;
  • Invest in the people (families, youths, teachers, teaching-artists) engaged in this work at the deepest level and connect them with others (elected officials, philanthropists, school leadership) to help move the needle; and
  • Employ a "both/and" approach that prioritizes increasing the number of in-school, certified arts educators while augmenting arts education through organized partnerships with their own city's rich cultural resources and teaching-artists.
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Source: Education Week


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Mind Tricks: Bishop Berkeley and the Idea of Everything | CALIFORNIA

Mind Tricks: George Berkeley and the Nature of Reality.
Berkeley's namesake philosopher didn't beileve in the objective reality of matter, an idea surprisingly resonant in modern physics.
 


Photo: Pat Joseph
"Lately, I’ve been spending time at Founders’ Rock trying and mostly failing to get a grasp on reality." writes Pat Joseph, editor of California and has been observed to exist.

Photo: Founder's Rock.
Credit: Pat Joseph

Founders’ Rock is an outcropping at the northeast corner of the UC Berkeley campus, where Gayley Road and Hearst Avenue meet, a lonely spot shaded by coffeeberry, oak, and eucalyptus. The rock itself—lichen-encrusted and moss-fringed—is an unassuming jumble.

Aside from the squirrels and transients—and lately, me—it receives few visitors. Most students and passers-by never pay it any mind. For them, it may as well not exist.

Yet for all its relative obscurity, Founders’ Rock is, as the name suggests, at the very heart of the University’s story, for it was here that the both the campus and the city that grew up around it came by their name, 150 years ago.

It was in the spring of 1860, just days after the first Pony Express rider made it to California, that the trustees of the College of California in Oakland first met to survey the land they had secured upon which to establish a new university. The real estate was an open swath of oak-studded savannah that sloped gently downward toward the bay and was reliably watered by a stream that spilled from the hills. The trustees, four of whom were reverends, hitched their teams by that stream, and gathered at the rock, then a prominent landmark in the surrounding landscape, to consecrate the site as a “seat of Christian learning.”

They would meet again at the “great rock” six years later and from it, they looked out to the Golden Gate, where ships weighed anchor and set sail. Observing the scene, one of the men was moved to recite a snatch of verse.

Westward the course of empire takes its way; the first four acts already passed. A fifth shall close the Drama with the day; Time’s noblest offspring is the last.

It was the final stanza in a poem by one George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne. An Irishman who would have pronounced his surname to rhyme with “darkly,” Berkeley had himself once dreamed of creating a university in the New World—specifically Bermuda—where he hoped to educate both settlers and Native Americans. Whether it was due to that fact or simply in appreciation of his enthusiastic expression of manifest destiny, Berkeley struck the men as a capital name for the new institution.

As for the rock, it remained for many decades an important spot for campus observances, and its north-facing flank was long ago graced with a marble tablet bearing the date of the trustees’ original rendezvous: April 16, 1860. By then, the good bishop had been dead more than a hundred years, his own course having never run farther west than colonial Rhode Island, where he waited three years for the funds he needed to start his college in Bermuda. As is so often the case in academics, the money never materialized, and Berkeley returned home to the British Isles. Today, he is best remembered not as an educator or poet but as the philosopher whose famous dictum esse est percipi—to be is to be perceived—is a cornerstone of idealism.

We now tend to think of idealism as a naïve devotion to high-minded principles, but philosophical idealism is something different—an assertion that reality is fundamentally mind-dependent.

The well-known thought experiment about the tree that falls in a forest when no one is around to hear it is often erroneously, if understandably, credited to Berkeley. The question is, does the tree make a sound? The answer is no. When the tree falls, it creates a disturbance in the air that spreads outward in all directions, but it only registers as a sound if it chances upon an ear capable of hearing it. The sound’s esse, in other words, is indeed its percipi.

But while the example is certainly in keeping with Berkeley’s basic philosophy, his own notion of reality cut deeper still.

In his conception, it isn’t just the sound of the falling tree that requires a perceiver in order to be realized; without a perceiver, the tree itself does not exist. Nothing does. As he wrote in his 1710 treatise, Of the Principles of Human Knowledge: “All the choir of heaven and the furniture of the earth—in a word, all those bodies which compose the frame of the world—have not subsistence without a mind.”

Though Berkeley’s school of thought is now generally referred to as idealism, he himself called it “immaterialism.” Whatever –ism you prefer, the astonishing fact remains: The greatest public university in the world is named for a man who denied the objective reality of matter.

Founders’ Rock is part of the furniture of the earth—a piece brought up from the basement, apparently. According to the late Berkeley geologist Garniss Curtis, it began as intrusive rock that cooled and crystallized deep underground before being carried to its present site, considerably altered by chemical processes, and thrust to the surface by the forces of the Hayward Fault.

That fault is, of course, an underlying physical reality of life on the Cal campus, and its presence—largely unseen and only infrequently felt—explains much about the local topography. It was the action of the fault that created the backdrop of the Berkeley Hills, which rise abruptly to catch the Pacific sea-fogs and send them back to the bay as runoff. Strawberry Creek, the drainage that cuts through campus, crosses the fault zone in a culvert buried beneath Memorial Stadium. In the short space from where it plunges beneath the bleachers to where it emerges behind the Women’s Faculty Club, the creek is offset by more than a thousand feet, its course shunted sideways by the inexorable, slow-motion creep of the plates.
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Source: CALIFORNIA


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What Smart Aliens Could Teach Us About Survival | NPR

Photo: Marcelo Gleiser
"Once we mix in real science with the possibility of extraterrestrial life, we can learn much about our current dilemmas and, hopefully, about our survival as a species." according to Marcelo Gleiser, theoretical physicist and writer — and a professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. His latest book is The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher's Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything.
 
Elliott, played by Henry Thomas, talks with E.T. in a scene from the 1982 movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Photo: Getty Images

Judging from the deluge of recent movies featuring aliens of all sorts — Dr. Strange, Arrival, the upcoming Star Wars movie Rogue One — we can't help but be fascinated with these imaginary creatures.

They live deep in our collective unconscious, mirroring the good and evil we are capable of. In a real sense, the aliens are us. They reflect what we know of the world and ourselves, our expectations and fears, our hopes and despair.

But there is something else with aliens, something we rarely pause to consider. Not so much the fictional types that live on our pages or screens, but the ones that may actually exist out there, in a corner of our galaxy, or possibly in other galaxies far, far away. Once we mix in real science with the possibility of extraterrestrial life, we can learn much about our current dilemmas and, hopefully, about our survival as a species.

Let's do some quick numbers for context.

Like us, aliens (at least the ones with life forms similar to ours — carbon-based, water-dependent) would live on a planet or moon circling a star. Their survival would depend crucially on the energy output from that star, and on how that radiation interacts with their planetary or lunar atmosphere. In our case, Earth absorbs about 71 percent of the total incoming solar energy: about 23 percent by water vapor, dust and ozone in the atmosphere, and 48 percent by the surface. We get roughly 140 watts per square yard on the ground. Imagine covering the Earth's surface with 140-watt light bulbs and have them all illuminated during Christmas. Not a very smart use of resources — but beautiful, especially if seen from space.

In any case, for a planet to harbor life for a long time, it needs to be fairly stable: Its orbit can't be erratic. Its atmospheric composition can't change very quickly. Its climate must be fairly stable. It needs to receive and generate large amounts of energy. Aliens out there would need to have planets that have similar properties to these.

Our species has been here for about 200,000 years, a mere trifle compared to Earth's age of 4.5 billion years. From a cosmic perspective, we are a baby smart species, with many challenges ahead to ensure our long-term survival. This is where "they" could be useful.
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Source: NPR


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Renamed Arts and Science department deepens cross-disciplinary focus | Vanderbilt University News

Photo: Ann Marie Owens
"Cultural history, literature, film, media, political culture and thought are among the interdisciplinary areas that faculty and students will explore in the newly named Department of German, Russian and East European Studies." inform

Lutz Koepnick, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of German, Media and Cinema Arts
Photo: John Russell/Vanderbilt

”The department’s former name, Germanic and Slavic Languages, did not capture the range of expertise of our superb faculty or represent the diversity of courses available to our students,” said Lauren Benton, dean of the College of Arts and Science and the Nelson O. Tyrone Jr. Professor of History. “The new name reflects the department’s international leadership in the study of cultural change in a vast and enormously important world region spanning Russia, Eastern Europe and Germany.”

“The past three decades have witnessed a radical expansion of the materials studied and the methodologies used by scholars in German,” according to Lutz Koepnick, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of German, Cinema and Media Arts and department chair. “While language and literature studies remain a critical component of our curriculum, we now have faculty and students who also work on film, music, media art, intellectual history and much more. Our objects of study are German-speaking cultures in general, and we no longer view language and literature as the only keys to understanding these cultures.”

He also said that traditional concepts such as “Germanic” and “Slavic” have become deeply problematic in times of multicultural openness and global connectivity. They fail to describe the diversity of these cultures and are confusing for students when exploring the curriculum’s offerings.

​Koepnick pointed out that about 20 percent of Germany’s population today comprises people with migrant backgrounds, a majority of whom come from Turkey. One reason to expand the focus of the discipline has been to address the heterogeneity of European cultures in a globalizing world.
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Source: Vanderbilt University News


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Philosophers of the year: Aristotle, Kant, and Plato [quiz] | OUPblog


"This December, the OUP Philosophy team marks the end of a great year by honoring three of 2016’s most popular Philosophers of the Month!" notes John Priest, Marketing Assistant at Oxford University Press. 

Photo: The School of Athens by Raphael. 
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The immeasurable contributions of Aristotle, Kant, and Plato to the field of philosophy ensure their place among history’s greatest thinkers. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a quiz highlighting the lives and works of each. 

Test your knowledge of these legendary philosophers!
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Source: OUPblog (blog)


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