Friday, May 22, 2015

Bravo Michigan on Bold Experiments

I may have gotten the story a little wrong and will apply corrections in future blog posts, allowing misapprehensions to continue registering here, but my current understanding being that high schoolers in Michigan are guaranteed by law at least one distance education class as a part of their public schooling experience.

Public Act 205, passed in 2009, allowed the formation of full-time online schools for the first time in fall 2010. In 2006, the Michigan Legislature was the first in the nation to pass a requirement that students have an “online learning experience” before graduating. [ source

Is that opt in or opt out and what if one wishes more than one?

In any case, the Nexus Academy solution looks promising in that it solves the need to authenticate identity.  Those of us in distance learning know a weak spot is what if the student lets her dog do the homework instead.

Most realize they cannot fake it for long on the job, so why fake it now, but adults are more likely to realize this than children maybe?  Not that teenagers are children exactly.

In any case, certified testing centers are a need at all levels for all ages.  The science wants control and supervision, not some going overboard on some "honor system".  Authentication is required, perhaps with biometrics.

One might imagine a combination of experiences, inside one of these centers for some activities, outside for others.  You need not imagine yourself cooped up for days on end, as for academic credit you're required all over the map.

What is distance learning anyway?  Thirty feet away can be pretty far, in human terms, in a room of five hundred.

A lecture hall is distance learning?  Might as well be.

Actually no, there's an audience / speaker rapport that makes live talks a bonus, same with music.

Anyway, it would be up to Michigan whether an obstacle course in cyber-space such as mine, or some other DL activity, would count for credit per the State of Michigan.  That's not my decision, as an online teacher, and besides who want's to learn lambda calculus anyway?

But the very idea of a Nexus Academy wherein I might have students, even if I'm in faraway Oregon or St. Louis, does inspire me, whether it's really practical in the short haul or not.  Thank you USDLA for opening my eyes to the possibilities (that's a conference my school sent me to, and a membership organization).

Raining in Portland, did yard work today.

Decision-making is by many methods, and who has access to all that many boardrooms?  We have our finite experiences.  Democracy does not just mean once a year elections, or once every three or four.  People learn to vote when going out on a group date and picking a restaurant.

But then if you're Quaker and use consensus, maybe you never choose?  "Let someone else program it" might be how the unprogrammed would do it, but presumably "expectant waiting" is more intelligent than that.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wanderers 2015.5.19


Tonight was my turn to give a Wanderers presentation.  I decided to spice it up by saying I was acting a part, not really being my ordinary self.

I wore shiny shoes and my Quaker hat (a Stetson).  I was the "Quaker futurist", like a gig, or act.

Trevor (depicted below), being the Egoist presenter recently, was an inspiration.  "If someone says I'm egotistical, I correct them, saying it's really egoistical that I'm being" (bada boom -- one of my jokes).

Shades of Portland Center Stage...

Anyway, I was a bit gruff and abrupt, and people warmed to that as I'd warned 'em.  I practiced by telling Don to "shut up" a couple times, like I thought I was Bill O'Reilly.

The idea was my Martian-tinged cult had some future in the pipeline and here was a Saturday Academy class, already delivered, that had already passed the torch.  The future just passed you by, did you even notice?

1, 12, 42, 92... I kept harping on that, like a mantra.

I was touting the standard Garden of Eden in a Climatron stuff, a kind of utopianism associated with Whole Earth Catalog if anyone remembers those.  The Bucky stuff, I call it.

Stewart Brand had a hand in this stuff, and so did J. Baldwin.  Stewart pushed to get pictures of the whole Earth, as in "from-space photography" into the public domain.

Shots from space (ET PoVs) were entirely new in those early days of the first orbiting satellites, ala Sputnik et al.

I started my hour-long presentation with two misanthropic cartoons, pulled from my Facebook profile, then flipped through slides from the Martian Math class.

The Martian Math stuff was portrayed as 10-20 years ahead of the pack.  I was purposely somewhat Cabalistic or cliquish one might say, in implying Silicon Forest was moving ZomeTool, as implied by a picture from our field trip to ONAMI, as a part of some cultic process.  We talked about Grunch a lot (Fuller's coin), and Ed Applewhite's Cosmic Fishing.

But I digress.

People were quite engaged and full of insights and questions, as I'd hoped.  We talked about dedicated freeways with self-driving trucks -- but don't we have those already?  They're called trains and only one of the cars, called the engine, needs to drive (the trucks would need some kind of supervision too).

Although I was walking them through some slides, the idea was to inspire conversation.  We were there to think about Futurism as a discipline, and about how Science Fiction works, as distopian-to-utopian.  I mentioned the Paul Allen museum on the subject, in nearby Seattle.

The ratio of science to fiction matters.  That's on one of the slides.

And also:  is it about humans expanding elsewhere, or being expanded upon, as in invaded?  A little of both maybe?  I talked about "angels and devils" as the old days ETs.

Regrets poured in from some of the people Don had invited (that's his role) but who couldn't make it and maybe wanted to be polite and all, but as you can see from the picture (above), it's a small room.

Thanks for thinking of me, and lets get together soon!  Life is short.

Trevor in character at Mother Foucault's

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Voting Machines

Project Vote

Those of you US people without amnesia (Gore Vidal said this was the United States of Amnesia we live in, if you'll recall), may remember the voting machine fiasco.

We all lost confidence in the machines because they would not share the algorithms or submit to auditing by students of computer science, who might be high school aged.

One of the nonprofits I work with is experimenting with state of the art e-voting software that not even an election administrator can rig.

It's a vote-by-email type of system, with one ballot going out to each eligible person.  I'm not saying it's either fool proof or applicable in its present form to just any election for whatever office.

DemocrayLab is the NGO I've written about most in connection with providing "democracy in a box" ideas, i.e. turn-key software that's democracy-enabling.

However eVote and Helios are already open source, not saying you need to bother Mark just because you're interested in either of these two packages.

Every high school needs voting machines as a part of its civics curriculum, with votes counted often, on myriad topics, experimenting with different modes.

In some systems, even the voters are secret e.g. you don't know who in the audience is really the critic for the New York Times.

With Quakers, we tend to move by consensus but that only works in a non-trivial way when the players are communicative.

When people stay strangers, you lose a lot of the inertia that comes from shared access to organizational memes.

That's why companies do team building and such, even encounter groups in some walks of life, to break down the barriers to speedy / timely / efficient communications.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Conference Call

Foreground:  Linus Pauling House

In case my Gift Shop proposal flies, I've talked to Glenn about a tour.  Area Program Committee is considering a proposal to fill in for the missing Laughing Horse Book Store and Video Collective ("nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky" -- Kansas).

There's a hole in this town that Friends could help fill, both programmed and unprogrammed.

501(c)(3) nonprofit corporations are allowed to sell swag.

But this would be more than a swag shop.  We'd have vintage Peace buttons, educational materials. Proceeds fund our non-profit programs.

We get around needing to provide ADA compliance to this rickety old building (the one we're touring) by having the organizing meetups elsewhere.

We can do sales outside on summer days, so if you're on crutches you'll still get access.

The competition wants a strictly back office low profile in a little trafficked part of town (comparatively).

Their building is for sale and unstable in that sense but the back office people don't seem to worry as they have few responsibilities and no programs.

Our program people are in the field.

Why a small city like Portland should get Philadelphia-type jobs is a bit of a mystery.

"Back office" is what Friends Center is for, is what we thought, not West Region where we need to be public-facing and engaged.


Saturday, May 09, 2015

PR for Earlham College

:: thanks! ::

Sunday, May 03, 2015

May Day 2015

I haven't been to the postmortem / analysis meeting yet, and I missed the last several before the event itself, having participated in the fundraising phase more than the route planning phase.  I was in favor of a counter-clockwise route, but the fact that it ended up going clockwise was perhaps unintentional.  The newspapers are saying we were off the planned route.  That's credible.

However, walking against traffic in the bus mall, all professional drivers with union sympathies, right passed the Apple Store and other centers for the more privileged work-study players, highlighted the contrasts, as we made it to our R2DToo campus.  I took the pedestrian crossing to traverse the west-traveling lanes and revisited the Door Project, per storyboard.  Other than that, I was free to cross paths with the march haphazardly and took breaks at both Rogue Hall and Melting Pot.

Our plan was to keep moving and not assemble on the steps of the Justice Center in quite that way, but then all these plans were before Baltimore and continued escalation in tensions through the media.  Given all these storms, our relatively festive and orderly mobilization was not the unruly mob portrayed by the children writing for The Oregonian and such, i.e. journalists of low stature ready to react without much thought or reflection. 

The operation was both professional and to the point, criticisms to the contrary notwithstanding.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Closing Keynote: USDLA

The closing keynote by Burck Smith focused on mega-trends for the future.

Non-accredited institutions are muscling in to the same teaching space occupied by accredited institutions.

Accreditation has been a kind of monopoly allowing those on the inside to keep their tuitions high.

With the falling cost of course delivery thanks to distance education, profits have been fattening for the accredited, but at high cost to students.

In the next chapter, the competition from the players outside the accredited sphere are likely to make deeper inroads into diploma space, offering certificates instead.

Monday, April 27, 2015

USDLA Keynote

Hal Plotkin, with experience in the Obama administration, is now with Creative Commons.  His abbreviated history of the copyleft movement (skipping the GNU / GPL chapter) led to this punch line:  in some scenarios, dropping proprietary content in favor of equally high qualtiy open content saves enough money to assure students get a properly equipped personal workspace to get on-line.

That's a lesson learned in the software industry a generation ago.  Perhaps the Linux / GNU chapter got skipped given Microsoft's interests in this area?  Free software and free curriculum content (free in the sense of liberated) certainly have a lot in common.

A focus of Hal's keynote was CC-by within TAACCCT, a US Department of Labor program.  We got to watch a fun little video (above) and learn about some success stories.

Translating into computerese, he's into gamification of learning e.g flight simulators for everything (chemistry etc.).  "Nobody can cheat on a flight simulator".

The geek world memes of "Ignite" (as in Ignite Portland, or and "open licenses" appear to have permeated this education world.  Several of the talks have the word "ignite" in them.

I'm here with some of my co-workers from O'Reilly School of Technology, nothing to do with the auto parts company, everything to do with publishing e.g. Safari On-line.

We got some statistics that only 7% of the world's humans have post secondary school education, but that's measured in terms of having academic degrees.

If you're like my friend Lindsey in Nepal, deeply involved in the study of Newar Buddhism, you might not have a PhD in that, yet still be highly educated.

Education and academic schoolwork are overlapping non-synonymous concepts in my book.  That might be heresy in this group, not sure (I'm a newbie).  The pro open source ignite flavored memes we're getting here are quite familiar to me however.

OSCON will be in Austin TX next year.  Portland and Austin have a lot in common.  They're both into staying weird.

The first talk I attended after the keynote was about "the four stages of SAMR" meaning Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition, an approach to giving new technology a foot in the door into course delivery.  Share PDFs with Dropbox, use a Learning Management System (e.g. Blackboard) for grading.  Basic stuff.

We're hearing a plug for Microsoft Office Mix + Powerpoint + Notepad, adding to my sense that F/OSS (free and open source software) is not a primary focus here.  "All students use Evernote or OneNote for all notes" (Powerpoint slide) -- that's Augmentation, after Substitution lets them use any app for notes. 

OneNote is free as in beer at least, if not open source.  I'll first need to upgrade my OS to use it though.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Back in St. Louis

I woke up to telecommunications in Campaign Illinois, after seeing Johnny Rawls Blues Band at Iron Post, in Urbana, to learn of the devastation in Nepal, a 7.8 earthquake.

Lindsey is in the middle of the chaos.  She had taken disaster training seriously in Portland, little knowing she would confront disaster in Kathmandu Valley, in the shadow of the Himalayas.

My Altima Nissan (actually Alamo's) served me well on this trip, a jump into the future from my 1997 maxi taxi, a Maxima.   Push button start, rear view camera, comfortable and strong.  Quite and expensive piece of equipment, and I was relieved to get it back in mint condition, though with 700 plus additional miles to its credit.

I've updated some of the people who know Lindsey, and of her whereabouts, that's she's still alive.  Many were not so lucky.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spherical Trig

I've been brainstorming with my peers on math-teach about how to make spherical trig more accessible, starting with a set of tools and not staring at a lot of cryptic scripting language right off the bat.  On a sphere, the Pythagorean Theorem has a different form.

Imagine a curriculum that used a code such as:  sTem; STem; steM... to highlight which of the four domains (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) gets the most emphasis in a given Lesson Plan. Multiple letters might be highlighted.  Superimposed (stacked), the Lessons reinforce one another and build up a multi-layered surface (spherical) or system (global matrix).

The acronym STEM is perhaps peculiar to English and need not be taken too seriously.  The pun on STEAM, with A = Anthropology, seems to be one of STEM's chief values as a marketing device.  We get another bridge to the Humanities through Anthro / Animal, thereby unifying the Liberal Arts in true Trivium / Quadrivium fashion.

In Synergetics, the spherical triangle is emphatically a face of a tetrahedron with edges to the planetary center.  Saying "planet" for "system" has a somewhat Little Prince flavor.  But then we already use the word World for a namespace, as in Python World, or Python Planet (both references to the computer language, but of course Monty Python resonates as well).

My travels took me through Salt Lake City recently and I found myself reading about Pink Floyd, the pink flamingo that escaped from the zoo and lived in the wild with the other birds for a number of years.  Brine shrimp are plentiful in those lakes (a patchwork of shallow mini-lakes), though I'm not sure if that's what flamingos actually eat.  Tourists would spot Pink Floyd from time to time, but he or she drifted off and was last seen in Idaho.

Among the tools a student might use:  Google Maps and/or Google Earth for finding locations and getting their lat / long coordinates.  These might be fed to a Web resource (URL) that spits back XYZ coordinates, taking Planet Earth to be centered as some origin.  Straight line distances through the Earth's crust would correspond to chords, whereas on the surface we have geodesics or great circles.  Going from lat / long to XYZ to spherical coordinates helps us translate between data sets.