Bookmarked Running a Jekyll Site on Reclaim Hosting by Tim Owens (Throw Out The Manual)
Python and Ruby are not languages I've played much in but I figured this was a perfect opportunity to see if I could install Jekyll and get it to run right inside my Reclaim Hosting account to remove some of the barriers to using it. And I'm happy to say I was successful! Here's how it works.
I have long wondered about Jekyll, in part inspired by Kin Lane. I like Tim Owens breakdown of how to use Reclaim Hosting to set this all up using a virtual environment. Now to find some more tinkering time.
Bookmarked Opinion | YouTube, the Great Radicalizer by Zeynep Tufekci (nytimes.com)
In effect, YouTube has created a restaurant that serves us increasingly sugary, fatty foods, loading up our plates as soon as we are finished with the last meal. Over time, our tastes adjust, and we seek even more sugary, fatty foods, which the restaurant dutifully provides. When confronted about this by the health department and concerned citizens, the restaurant managers reply that they are merely serving us what we want.
Zeynep Tufekci highlights the problems with YouTube’s algorithm. There is a bias built in to support inflammatory content. In response to the post, Clive Thompson explains it this way:

It’s not that Youtube radicalize politics specifically. It radicalizes everything, and politics just gets swept along in the slurry of zomg.

Bookmarked Labor proposes a new $280m Evidence Institute for Schools, but where is the evidence we need it? by Emma Rowe (EduResearch Matters)
The ALP’s pledge to fund an ‘Evidence Institute for Schools’ lacks attention to what is needed most—funding for schools and classrooms. Further, the effectiveness of this large sum of funding spent on an institute is premised on the notion that it will produce significantly more effective research than is already available. Here’s what could be done
Emma Rowe and Trevor Gale suggest that rather than spending money on a new institute, the government should instead:

  • investigating more efficient ways to encourage the uptake of educational research in our schools and universities
  • improve overall accessibility of education research to the public
Bookmarked Why the PDF Is Secretly the World's Most Important File Format (Motherboard)
The story of the invention of the PDF may not have a legal battle at the center of it or a hook like a Suzanne Vega song to push its story forward, but it does have this scandal. And love it or hate it, Manafort's awkward use of a tool used by basically everyone really highlights how prevalent the PDF really is.
Along with David Brock’s investigation into Powerpoint, this article is important in reminding us of two things, that things have not always been the way that they are and the way we got to now.
Bookmarked Social Inequality Will Not Be Solved By an App by Safiya Umoja Noble (WIRED)
The entire experiment of the internet is now with us, yet we do not have enough intense scrutiny at the level of public policy on its psychological and social impact on the public.
In an excerpt from Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, Safiya Umoja Noble highlights the part that technology plays in reinstating inequality and oppression. This is a topic that Cathy O’Neil touches on in her book Weapons of Maths Destruction. One point that stood out was the ability to use algorithms to find the ‘best’ school:

These data-intensive applications that work across vast data sets do not show the microlevel interventions that are being made to racially and economically integrate schools to foster educational equity. They simply make it easy to take for granted data about “good schools” that almost exclusively map to affluent, White neighborhoods. We need more intense attention on how these types of artificial intelligence, under the auspices of individual freedom to make choices, forestall the ability to see what kinds of choices we are making and the collective impact of these choices in reversing decades of struggle for social, political, and economic equality. Digital technologies are implicated in these struggles.

Another introduction to Noble’s book is her video, found here.

Bookmarked The Building Blocks of Interpretability by Chris Olah (Google Brain Team)
There is a rich design space for interacting with enumerative algorithms, and we believe an equally rich space exists for interacting with neural networks. We have a lot of work left ahead of us to build powerful and trusthworthy interfaces for interpretability. But, if we succeed, interpretability promises to be a powerful tool in enabling meaningful human oversight and in building fair, safe, and aligned AI systems (Crossposted on the Google Open Source Blog) In 2015, our early attempts to visualize how neural networks understand images led to psychedelic images. Soon after, we open sourced our code as De...
Is it just me, or is this new article exploring how feature visualization can combine together with other interpretability techniques to understand aspects of how networks make decisions a case of creating a solution and then working out how or why it works? Seems reactive or maybe I just don’t get it.
Bookmarked Excellent teachers in an age of fads by Mark Enser (Teaching it Real)
Many things that get labelled as “fads” might work for an individual teacher (although many things might work better) but they only become fads when divorced from their original meaning and then are spread around and are imposed on other teachers. Teachers, being brilliant, are able to make these things work as best they can, or at least to minimise harm, but they still have an opportunity cost. Worst still they add to our workload and drive teachers out of teaching. The solution is to give teachers time to study how pupils learn and time to reflect on and discuss their own learning – and then to allow them to teach. If someone wants to discuss a new method then that is wonderful; but it needs honest critique and the ideas behind it need to be explored.
This is an interesting post. I had never thought about the ability of teachers to make the most of a bad situation.

Another approach to this situation is to support teachers with structures, rather than solutions. Some of these approaches include Modern Learning Canvas, Agile Leadership and Disciplined Collaboration.

Discussing the teaching of literacy in Australia, Deb Hayes talks about uncommon pedagogies and the development of an oeuvre:

How might we support teachers to develop their oeuvre? What might the public discourse of schooling look like if it were to be based upon a deep respect for teachers, their knowledge and their understanding of the local conditions of teaching and learning?

Each of these perspectives provide a different approach to implementing change in education.

h/t John Johnson

Bookmarked Do Trees Talk to Each Other? (Smithsonian)
A revolution has been taking place in the scientific understanding of trees, and Wohlleben is the first writer to convey its amazements to a general audience. The latest scientific studies, conducted at well-respected universities in Germany and around the world, confirm what he has long suspected from close observation in this forest: Trees are far more alert, social, sophisticated—and even intelligent—than we thought.
From Beech Trees in Germany to Douglas Firs in Canada to Acacia Trees in Sub-Saharan Africa, this post documents a change in the way that we appreciate trees and the connections to their environment.

“Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web,’” says Peter Wohlleben in German-accented English. “All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks. Trees share water and nutrients through the networks, and also use them to communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, or insect attacks, and other trees alter their behavior when they receive these messages.”

via Clive Thompson

Bookmarked How to Write an Edu-book (The Confident Teacher)
I wanted to share my own edu-bookery. It is important to state that for me, regular blogging and writing separate to a book is an excellent mental work-bench for writing a book, offering me the discipline needed to write habitually and at length. Still, my book writing process is really quite specific and I have fell upon a helpful habit in writing my latest book.
Alex Quigley discusses his six steps to writing a book:

  1. Coin an idea and chapter structure
  2. Delve into the research
  3. Review the notes
  4. Transfer notes to seperate word files
  5. Write the book
  6. Draft and edit

In addition to the reflections from Mary Myatt, Tom Sherrington and Ryan Holiday, they offer a useful insight into the writing process. It is interesting to compare these with the process often taught in schools. So often students get straight into writing without giving time to the initial planning process.

Bookmarked 3 Simple Ways to Differentiate Instruction in Any Class (A.J. JULIANI)
Differentiation definitely makes sense, but again the question is HOW to do it in a class of 27 students.
AJ Juliani shares three strategies to support differentiation:

  • Assess the Process, Not the Product
  • Flip the Lecture, Flexible Groups the Following Day
  • Pick-Your-Station Activity