Thought of the Day: “Probability theory is telling us something about the way our own minds operate”

I have started to read the book Probability Theory: The Logic of Science, by the late E. T. Jaynes.  From what I understand so far, I think there is a high plausibility that it will help me have a more unified and deeper understanding of probability (and hence statistics).   In reading the preface, he makes some interesting observations about probability and human thinking, and it seems quite apropos, and relevant to the recent advances in the fields of artificial intelligence, such as the recent match of Go.

A quote from the book that particularly struck me was the following:

… it is clear that probability theory is telling us something about the way our own minds operate when we form intuitive judgments, of which we may not have been consciously aware. Some may feel uncomfortable at these revelations; others may see in them useful tools for psychological, sociological, or legal research.

My Review of the Aspen SIS from Follett based Upon a Short Demo

Yesterday, I saw a demo of the Aspen SIS from Follett.  For full disclosure, Dylan Holcomb, the Sales Consultant who came out, was a friend of mine from high school, but honestly I wasn’t expecting it to be an SIS that we would be interested in, especially because the price tag is high for the size of school that Highlands Community Charter currently is.  But, after seeing how Aspen works, and how they addressed my blog article about the 3 features that SIS providers are missing, it is on our school’s radar as a potential. Here is a quick review of what I was impressed with, and what things I still think they could do better.

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My Comments on an Economist Article about having Masters Students Reproduce Published Studies

Recently, the Economist had an excellent article about the importance of reproducibility in science, and a new academic journal dedicated to reproducing medical studies.  I believe that reproducibility is critical, and that our institutions of higher education could support this, as I wrote in the following comment:

It would be good for many universities to have Masters students to have the option of repeating a previously published study as part of their graduation requirements. This would help prepare these students to do better original research as part of their doctorate, as well as contribute to the field in a meaningful manner.

How a Virtual Onshored University can break into the U.S. Market

Yesterday, I posted about the concept of Virtual Onshoring, and how I believe that a university from a developing nation could use this concept to serve the U.S. market, which could lead to significant economic gains for the developing nation.  But how can they do this, and what is stopping them right now?  The following is a summary of what I see would be necessary to succeed.

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What Virtual Onshoring Is, and Why Higher Education is Ripe for Virtual Onshored Universities

I first coined the term Virtual Onshoring in an Open Letter I wrote to Paul Kagame of Rwanda, in 2008. The idea is simply that with power of the Internet, we are now a “global village”, and anyone who has intellectual goods or services in a developing nation, can sell them to customers in more developed nations, in a manner that would be no different than if they were actually located in the developed nation.  This could be very lucrative in the online higher education market, since the University of Phoenix alone makes over a 1/2 billion dollars per year in profit!

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My comment on an Economist article about Virtual Onshoring Universities

A few weeks back, The Economist had an excellent article talking about students going to college in other countries, and it surprised me that they didn’t talk about the idea of virtual onshoring (which I will be posting a series of articles about starting tomorrow.   Here are the comments I posted to their article:

It still seems amazing to me that there hasn’t been more “virtual onshoring” of online universities to lucrative markets, such as the United States. For instance, while the University of South Africa offers relative high quality doctoral programs at a fraction of the cost of U.S. universities, it has not done many of the relatively basic things (such as gaining U.S. accreditation) that would allow it to be much more successful, and potentially earn millions of dollars. Thus, I believe that whichever developing nation realizes that they could dramatically improve their economy through the virtual onshoring of education, they have a chance to dominate this niche.

What Educational Reform Attempts Could Learn from Software Backward Compatibility

In technology, backward compatibility is a common issue.  Some software companies like Microsoft have tried to keep most of what they created being backward compatible, so that files created in older versions will still work on newer versions.  Even if this causes contortions to arise to be able to do new features, and makes the software less “elegant” and simple.

But, software that isn’t sufficiently backward compatible can have some big problems with getting people to adopt it.  For example, the Python programming language is still having troubles getting programmers to switch from version 2.x to 3.x.  Even though there are relatively few changes between the two, they are profound enough to make it very difficult in switching.  This same problem faces attempts at education reform.

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Udacity is Guaranteeing Graduates will Get Jobs, is there a catch?

I wrote recently about my thoughts on whether MOOCs have been a failure.  Udacity is showing that they are not, and is an example of where the potential of technology to “disrupt” a market is finally entering the realm of education.  And it has now put its “money where its mouth is”, by doing something no college (that I know of) has done: guarantee its graduates a job. But what is the catch (if there is one)?

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Blame Common Core?

With the hype about Powerball, I am reminded of a quote, that the lottery is a tax on those who can’t do math. Further, the meme that is going around Facebook that if we divide the current Powerball pot by the population of the U.S. we all would get $4.3 million, also shows a lack of math ability.  (Although the counter meme is grammatically wrong, and many posting the original meme are doing it as a ruse).  What is worth looking at deeper is the lack of understanding of big numbers and probabilistic thinking in the U.S., which our education system has not yet solved.

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Three Missing Features in Most Student Information Systems (SIS)

There is a paradox:  Humanity’s most developed organizations and systems are based upon what is learned in our education systems; yet, the field of education lags behind nearly all others.  One such area I have seen, is how feature-poor Student Information Systems (SIS) are.  Despite such systems being case studies in many database books, most of these systems do not use any data science methods to improve operations.  Specifically, I have usually not seen active security, predictive analytics, nor even resource optimization as features.  Here is why these are important to have, and my invitation for SIS providers to come into the 21st century.

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