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Comment: Re:This plan has holes (Score 1) 352

by mx+b (#49559451) Attached to: The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher

what's pushing this is the management class's absolute loathing of skilled individuals. they demand that every worker be a replacable component and they simply don't care that that means loss of productivity through loss of experience, skill, and talent.

they have this attitude towards workers in education and every other industry - whether for-profit or not-for-profit. it's what they're taught, and it's what they believe.

I can't speak for K12, but I taught post-secondary (tech school/community college as well as university level) for several years. I'm finally out now because of crap like this.

The tech schools / community colleges are already doing this plan. When I taught classes there, I was given a book and a curriculum and said "teach this, exactly in this way". Very cookie cutter, and since everyone was an adjunct, if you didn't follow the rules in how you governed your class, suddenly there weren't enough classes for you next semester. I absolutely loathed it because there was no room for customization or anything. Follow this path, make sure to give them this specific set of homework questions and tests on this subject, and that's it. Oh yeah, HR told us we have to pay lip service to "academic freedom", you're allowed to teach what you want, but only AFTER you cover the curriculum and give the assignments.

The universities were a little better, in that I did get a little more freedom on how I conducted the class. But it's still a bit of a cookie cutter curriculum, partially because of the reliance on adjuncts (part-timers). You still don't get a say in what textbook is used and what the course description is (I could customize the syllabus, but it needed to say certain boiler plate stuff about the class), and that unfortunately sets low expectations on the students.

So I fear the author's prediction may be pretty correctly. I think education will devolve into a bunch of part-time adjuncts following a "script" from a curriculum established by some far off group of education Ph.D.s, not actual content masters (sure, child psychology plays a factor, but only after you know what is important to a field and can decide what should be covered in the first place).

By the way, a number of years ago I applied to a consulting company looking for people in education. I was a young adjunct, needed extra money, so I thought sure, if I can find an extra part time job, I'd appreciate the money to pay off loans, etc. The company was pretty sketchy, and it turned out the job entailed writing curricula for K12. It was a loophole in the law -- most states require someone with an education degree to write curricula for the state, meaning very few subject matter experts could. So what they started to do was hire consulting companies from out of state to provide the curricula, who took the money and then hired well educated people on a temp basis (3 month employment usually) to write up a class curriculum, then you were fired. Had I have taken the job, I believe I would have wrote some of the algebra curriculum for the state of Minnesota. But not full time and paid well because it's an important job, but as a part time contractor with no benefits. I didn't do it, and in fact, laughed as I walked out of the interview with how terribly they treat me and pitched the job. But as I did, I saw a row of young to middle aged teachers in suits and dresses waiting to interview, and I realized, of course they don't care if they impressed me, they have a line of adjunct teachers in poverty waiting to do this for some quick extra cash.

So yes, unless we as citizens course correct, education will be low-pay part-timers, because we're already headed that way. And since most people hate living in poverty, the well educated ones will go look for jobs elsewhere, and we will end up with mediocre teachers that hate their low-paying jobs.

Comment: Missing the Point (Score 5, Insightful) 482

by mx+b (#49485335) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries

If he's pulling down $5 million a year from company stock dividends, is giving up a $1 million salary that big a deal?

I think these kinds of statements are missing the point.

The real story here is: hey, you can still make an ass-ton of money without leaving your employees as slaves!! Everyone can win and grow together, rather than a subset at the expense of the majority. (and happy employees produce more, willing to work more, etc., so the company and therefore CEO benefit even more -- it's a positive cycle).

If it's not a big deal to lose some salary because it will be made up for in investment income/dividends, then why don't more CEOs do this? I hope this guy starts a movement; even if his intentions were not entirely altruistic, it is still a good thing.

Comment: Does It Have to be Useful? (Score 1) 626

I would think as a philosopher you would understand the need for the human mind to create (which seems to be most of your argument, actually, that people create changes to languages very naturally).

So, if this person wants a hobby of messing around with language and seeing where that takes him, why not? Why not follow his passions, even if not for the rest of his life, just for a year or so to learn more about languages and history of them? I'm very disappointed to see so much negativity amounting to an academic subject; why not encouragement? It's one thing to say "don't expect to create the world's main language in the year 2050", but why such negativity about it?

After all, what use is anything we all do? Sports, mathematics, science, philosophy, arts. Culture changes on a whim, sometimes culture never accepts your work, and in a few billion years when the sun explodes perhaps all evidence of human kind will be extinguished anyway.

So why the hell can't a man dream? Why can't we encourage him? Even if his language never gets used by anyone ever, the process of creating will forever alter the submitter's brain in a way that lets him see the world (or at least, subset of the world) differently than before, and that's something I encourage.

I guess my tl;dr is : if he enjoys it, how is it a problem to want to tinker?

If you would like an example of the utter failure of humans attempting to create artificial languages then go look up Esperanto.

I looked into Esperanto and find it a very fun language. As you state, at least as far as I understand your argument, language needs to be adaptable. Esperanto is quite adaptable, as it only has a few essential rules. Subject-verb-object order can be strewn about without loss of understanding, adjectives and nouns can be built up using interesting prefixes and suffixes to get across a point (being only a beginner, I had already noticed there were several concepts I could express in a couple of words that take a sentence or two in English -- I imagine with better vocabulary and maturity one could communicate some very interesting concepts succinctly that perhaps cannot be done at all in English). Really it is a fantastic language, one that has indeed grown since it was first developed over 100 years ago, but the developments have kept in line with that minimalist set of rules.

If nothing else, just the consistent sounds of letters makes me happy. It drives me nuts trying to spell in English. If we had the consistency of Esperanto, it would be much easier to communicate in written word without confusion (or at least, easier to become proficient at writing).

I would encourage the original submitter to look into Esperanto and the design decisions of the language. It really did well in the early 1900s. I do not offhand have the link, but I believe I have read before that it likely would have become a more world-wide trading language (it was growing very fast) if it had not been the world wars that catapulted the U.S. into world power status and therefore English as a major language (prior to then, French had been the dominant international language -- in fact, I believe it said the U.S. supported the switch from French to Esperanto until it looked likely that English would take over). Pretty decent for a constructed language, and would probably be fascinating research for a person interested in languages. I admit my own interest but never the time to fully verify (isn't that everyone's problem though?)

Comment: We Need To Trust Students (Score 3, Insightful) 397

by mx+b (#49379607) Attached to: Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous

Except for maybe hardcore nerds, I've noticed most people in STEM actually are very interested in Liberal Arts ( Literature, Music, Anthropology, History, Graphical Arts, ...) and enjoy experiencing and learning about it on their own time. Of those people who were into STEM in high-school, most achieved higher grades in the Liberal Arts courses given in high school than the so called liberal arts students.

I am one of those people. I absolutely hated the required dumbed-down intro liberal arts classes, but on my own time, I find myself wanting to pick up history books or dabble further in languages more than the 101 level here and there. I found that many of my peers in the math and sciences had some similar part of the liberal arts they were interested in.

Many liberal arts students like to read up on science too. They unfortunately read the pop-sci books that are not always very good (I found myself fielding questions from friends regarding 11-dimensions and quantum theory that didn't make a whole lot of sense, for example), but I think they were interested too. Again, when they could dabble on their own, and not be forced to take a boring intro class.

We need to trust that people in college deserve to be there and are smart enough to make their own decisions (particularly when knowledgeable professors are around for guidance), and let them tool their own curricula based on interest rather than stupid requirements.

Comment: Re:Good thing Android is open source! (Score 1) 579

by mx+b (#48907391) Attached to: Google Explains Why WebView Vulnerability Will Go Unpatched On Android 4.3

We can patch it ourselves! Right? Right?!

Right, it is open source and we can patch it. Actually, Google already did that for us in Android 4.4. It's open source, so just download and enjoy!

Where it all goes wrong is the carriers/vendors. We get phones from carriers that are locked down and encrypted to prevent us from installing our open source patches on our open source operating system. We have to ask their permission, and most of the time the answer is "Fuck off, we're not supporting that".

Some make fun of GPLv3, but here is a great example of why RMS made the changed to GPLv3 that he did. GPLv3 was designed to prevent vendors from doing exactly this; GPLv3 requires that, if your device uses open source software and you in any way lock the device, then you MUST provide the decryption keys so that a user may reflash the firmware if they so choose. It's fine if you want to do a SecureBoot type thing for security, but you have to give the user an option to disable it or use the key to do whatever they want to accomplish. RMS knew it's not really free if you can never reflash the device to implement your changes.

Android according to their page is Apache licensed (aside from Linux kernel which is GPLv2). Apache is more in the BSD anything-goes category, and while that might be many people's preferred license (and honestly in a perfect world, it probably would be), it is not a perfect world and we need to have rules to prevent people from taking the community's hardwork and then saying "ha-ha!" to that same community as it prevents the community from hacking and modding. Until we live in a world without copyrights and lock-down devices, the GPLv3 attempts to address this, and it may have made a difference in this situation if the carriers were bound to the GPLv3 rather than the Apache license.

Comment: But CERT Also Allows Variances (Score 1) 263

by mx+b (#48831411) Attached to: Google Releases More Windows Bugs

90 days is really long. The US CERT vulnerability disclosure policy is 45 days as described in http://www.cert.org/vulnerabil... (see that more more details). The problem is that you have to balance two conflicting needs; in the words of the CERT, "the need of the public to be informed of security vulnerabilities with vendors' need for time to respond effectively."

It's definitely a fine balancing act, and regardless your opinion on the Google vs Microsoft disclosure debate, I am glad that we are having a public debate about it.

Vulnerabilities cannot really be effectively categorized (look at the attempts from MITRE, for example). Some are due to simple programming errors and can be fixed and rolled out immediately. Some are deeper architectural problems that, even if an "easy" fix, have a whole ecosystem of software built around that wrong behavior. A one-size-fits-all disclosure plan is not necessarily in the public benefit, and I'm glad discussion is being had on what a reasonable timeline looks like, as well as what are extenuating circumstances for changing that timeline.

Comment: Indicative of General Attitudes (Score 5, Insightful) 153

by mx+b (#48777721) Attached to: Fewer Grants For Young Researchers Causing Brain Drain In Academia

This is really a general issue with our society right now. Young people can't be researchers because they don't get grant money, because no one trusts them to be doing research. Young people can't get jobs because everyone knows that you need at least 10 years experience to get a job -- never mind how you get 10 years of experience these days when no apprenticeships or similar seem to exist anymore. If you're lucky enough to find some job that doesn't make a big deal about experience, then young people aren't allowed enough pay to actually cover their bills and student loans. Instead of supporting educated young people and thinking of them as an investment that will bring us new ideas, new businesses, etc., I feel the elders tend to look at this young generation as lazy entitled bums (which is not true at all, at least not in general).

I was a young person college instructor for a few years before I quit. Why? Because pay is low as an adjunct, and the number of courses you can count on kept declining because I was continually at the mercy of what the elder teachers decided to do. (If one of them wanted a class, I was bumped and simply lost pay because I was contract and they could do that.). I had excellent ratings from all my students, many telling me personally that I was one of the best professors they had because I put effort into my lectures... and now academics has lost me, probably for good, because of how I was treated. (Not that I mean to be tooting my own horn here, but I hope you understand it as a situation that is probably being repeated across the country right now with people much more intelligent than I). There was a movement to form an adjunct union at one of my schools, and when I spoke up saying that we young professors need to be able to pay bills and given a chance to grow our careers, I was shouted down by elders saying I was entitled and need to go work a full time job and teach on the side if I wanted to be a professor and heaven forbid also be able to pay my monthly bills. I don't recall past professors having to do all that extra work, but it is expected of a young person now. So I took their advice and got a full time job... but left teaching entirely. I don't want to be in an environment like that, and it's not fair to my students to half-ass a class because I'm exhausted from my full time job. Most of those professors were at least in their 60s -- what will universities do in 10 years when they start to retire, and they've driven off of all the people like me that wanted to teach?

There just doesn't seem to be any opportunity left for a young person, especially in the technical fields. The older people are eeking out what they can until retirement, but at the cost of preventing younger people from having access to jobs where they can build their skills. I fear that in 10 years, our country will be in trouble as the Boomers retire for good and there will be no one left to replace them.

Comment: They Deserve It Too (Score 4, Insightful) 545

by mx+b (#48535187) Attached to: Should IT Professionals Be Exempt From Overtime Regulations?

Medical is likely to remain that way because of how hospitals work

Hospitals don't need doctors and nurses pulling insane 24-48 hour shifts (I know they do this because a friend is a nurse), they just do it to save money and not have to hire anyone new. We should let them get overtime and force hospitals to hire more staff and make better shift schedules -- maybe that would help cut down on the crazy wait time just to see your general practitioner, as well as medical mistakes from sleepiness too.

managers pretty much have to have OT on big projects

How about managers (upper management?) learn to make realistic project schedules instead of overworking the employees while they high-five and go to the golf course to celebrate getting a job "done early". Again, let's let managers get paid overtime, and expect employers to make real schedules.. or if they need it to be faster, hire more people before the project starts!

salesmen often work in a manner that makes tracking actual hours of work impractical.

Salesmen often have to travel and I agree that makes it more difficult. However, we can treat it like we would for truck drivers, etc. -- salesmen are allotted x number of hours/days of travel (the travel itself should be considered work, meaning they work 14-16 hour days if we don't include sleep and food), and when they get back, they MUST have mandatory paid time off or they earn overtime on their regular work in the office for the rest of the month. I'm just spouting off an idea here, I'm sure it has some flaws and could be refined, but the point is there is a way to handle odd schedules and still be fair to the employee.

IT could certainly use updated laws. Too many times you have to be on-call, come in on weekends at 3am to fix a server, rush a software project out the door, etc. Same things as above hold -- companies will learn to make better schedules or hire more people if such labor laws are in place. They will bitch about it at first, but they will adapt. There is nothing sacred that makes 60+ hour weekly schedules the only way to do work in these fields.

Comment: Tired of this Mozilla Bashing (Score 1) 488

by mx+b (#48509663) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Non-Coders, Why Aren't You Contributing To Open Source?

Mozilla is particularly bad. They've trashed the UI of their most popular product, to an extent that only hipsters can manage. They've employed a strict "we know better than you" hipster attitude toward user complaints about these changes.

I know its fashionable lately to bash Firefox, but since I know a few Firefox employees watch these forums, I want them to know: THANK YOU for your work.

The UI is about the same as it was before, just instead of a button at the top left, now its on the right. You can still hit Alt to get menus if you like them. But honestly I almost never find myself looking at settings or menus or whatever. I just want to browse, and you know what, Firefox stays out of my damn way and lets me browse. All that config crap is hidden in that button on the right - easy to find if I want it, but normally I just want it out of my way. Isn't that normally what people say? "Stop wasting screen real estate, I just want to do my thing". That's pretty much what Firefox gives you. You get a URL bar and the whole rest of the interface is web page. Awesome.

Plus, Firefox has been super fast for me lately. It's snappy, and since the change to the UI, it looks and feels the same (nice and snappy!) on Windows and Linux. I appreciate that. It loads up fast, switches tabs fast, and the memory leaks of the past seem to have been patched up perfectly many releases ago.

I tried to use Chrome just a couple weeks ago, and honestly, that browser felt down right sluggish to me compared to modern Firefox. Plus, it's always harassing me to log in with a Google account. Damnit I just want to browse, not constantly check Google+ or whatever they want. Again, Firefox wins hands down.

They waste resources on fucking idiotic projects like Firefox OS, just because they want to me-too the hipsters at Google and Apple.

My understanding is they want to provide a phone OS that isn't going to lock you into the Google/Apple walled garden, and that is important to me. I have an Android phone currently, and the Google Play updates drive me nuts. I just want a phone like my browser -- do its job well and stay out of my way. I don't feel I get that with Google at least. No experience with Apple but I bet it is the same.

And even if it ends up not working (which I would be disappointed!), I appreciate that they tried something. Do you see anyone else trying? The thing about research is you never know how it will turn out -- but it absolutely won't work if you don't try! So some times you have to commit resources to something that looks like a failure, because you don't know until you try. Since all of their research projects are about freedoms, I respect that and say more power to them. Keep it up. For example, I'm itching to try the feature in the newest Firefox to do a WebRTC video chat straight through the browser. It is peer-to-peer meaning it doesn't go thru Google Hangouts servers or whatever where it can be recorded etc, and it is encrypted. Hell yeah. Awesome. Again, freedom. Will it work out long run and gain traction? I hope so, but no idea, but we won't know unless someone tries. So thank you Firefox for trying. I donated $50 to Mozilla not long ago because I appreciate their work. Everyone that agrees, help me let them know we appreciate their work and to keep it up -- keep focusing on the important things, even if not everyone agrees they are important.

Comment: Jefferson (Score 4, Insightful) 446

by mx+b (#48509441) Attached to: 18th Century Law Dredged Up To Force Decryption of Devices

America's modern left often argues that portions of the US Constitution can be safely ignored because it's old and was written by white dudes. Here's a (fairly calm) piece that explores that argument. (Also look up "constitution living document".)

Thomas Jefferson was concerned greatly about the "Tyranny of the Dead" -- that the laws and debts of dead elder generations will inhibit progress in younger generations that are facing entirely new types of problems not envisioned by the older generations. He wanted the Constitution (or at least federal law) to be effectively completely rewritten every generation -- every 18-20 years or so. You can read about it in his letters.

I would say that probably the results of that poll are not people being "stupid" and "forgetting" that the Constitution is important, but rather, evidence of a yearning that the current system is not entirely working and it needs modification. Just like we have done so 27 times in the history of the US (i.e., the Amendments). It's not relevant today, but we Amend it to be more relevant. For example, the move to get a 28th amendment that strikes down the Citizens United ruling and makes more free and fair elections (see any number of organizations: Move to Amend, WolfPAC, etc.). We know there's money in politics, and here's one proposed solution to it. Not by ignoring the constitution or laws, but actually, working the way the constitution is supposed to work! The people can call for an amendment if our national leaders do not.

I don't think I've heard anyone make the argument that they can ignore laws because old white dudes wrote them. I *have* heard that we need to change laws because they are stupid and we want to make a more perfect union, though. Don't let people like the ones that wrote the article in your link trick you into think their opinion is public opinion (its easy to spot because of the use of words like "The Left thinks blah" and "The Right does blah" -- there is no Left and Right as one huge bloc, but a spectrum of smaller groups with differing opinions, and even if it was one big bloc, who is this author to be able to speak for half the country? I've never heard of him.).

I'm not that worried. I think when our current leaders that have been in office for 30+ years finally retire or are voted out as the younger generation comes up, we will see laws and constitutional amendments that fix problems. Not ignored, fixed.

Comment: Re:Soon, this will be normal (Score 3, Informative) 83

by mx+b (#48176383) Attached to: NSA CTO Patrick Dowd Moonlighting For Private Security Firm

I like how your solution to corruption is censorship. Yep, the best way to prevent this is prevent people from putting on ads for campaigns unless the federal government deems them allowed.

In what way is it censorship? The proposed constitutional amendment can be seen at this link. Note that there is nothing that says you can't put out ads or campaigns; no one in government has to approve your campaign. The only restriction is that CORPORATIONS are not people with voting rights and therefore cannot contribute money to campaigns. Which makes sense; a corporation is not a thinking entity, "it" only does what its CEO and upper management decide. Effectively, the corporation becomes a vehicle for the opinions of upper management, which the new amendment to the constitution will say is wrong. The CEO can have whatever opinion he wants as a private citizen, and back any campaign he wants as a private citizen, but he is NOT allowed to use the money and influence of his company to spread his message further -- it is an unfair advantage over the rest of the voting public and subverts true democratic debate and processes.

The only thing this is likely to solve it making it illegal to point out this is happening, which might be your objective.

Again, nothing about this amendment stifles a citizen's rights, only CORPORATIONS (which we declare are not people). You still have full 1st amendment rights, for example, and are free to speak out against government. We just require that you disclose publicly who you gave money to as a private citizen; you aren't allowed to funnel money through a company anymore to hide the fact that you are donating way more money than the average person (which is what some are doing with corporations and PACs, effectively using them to skirt already on-the-books current election law on donation limits). We want to make sure every citizen has the chance the speak up, rather than only the elite that can go around laws with the corporations.

Comment: Re:As Linus said "Fuck you NVIDIA" (Score 2) 192

by mx+b (#48009391) Attached to: NVIDIA Begins Requiring Signed GPU Firmware Images

Surely it is impossible to have an opensource software if it needs a key to build it into a runnable program?

I mean you have the binary but you cannot recreate it from the source without that key to sign it with. The key is part of the source and you don't have it.

This is pretty much the reason the GPLv3 was written, to take care of this loophole in other licenses. If there are other parts of the GPLv3 that people don't like, perhaps we can update it and make a nice GPLv4, but many people throw the baby out with the bathwater with their hatred of GPLv3. I think having the ability of signing the keys yourself is an important topic.

Comment: Re:Please describe exactly (Score 3, Insightful) 392

by mx+b (#47957103) Attached to: Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout

I used to have affordable insurance for my wife and I. The ACA killed it. Were forced to go to a new plan that:

I used to not have insurance at all because I couldn't afford it, because teaching jobs want to pay you part time salary with no benefits, and two part time jobs don't magically qualify you for benefits. The ACA helped get me that insurance for the first time this year.

1) Has much higher monthly premiums (we went from roughly $230/month to about $500/month)

The premiums in my area were about $500/month for a single person (never mind a family plan). They are now about $150/month, and actually cover more medications and scenarios than before.

2) Has a hugely higher deductible (we went from $2,500 a year to about $12,000 a year). This means that we are much, much farther out of pocket every year, especially if we actually need medical care beyond one or two simple visits annually.

The deductibles for the plans in the past were, if I could even afford them, roughly $6-10k per year here. After the ACA, our deductibles are down to about $2500-3500 depending on the plan. Again, huge savings.

3) We are past any risk of pregnancy. None the less, we are being forced to pay for elaborate maternity care that we cannot possibly use.

This is, from a strictly money point of view, true. But instead of thinking of "I'm paying for something I don't use!", your family tree very likely has some daughters/granddaughters/nieces/cousins somewhere. Your premium helps keep it cheap for them. So why the complaints here? Your maternity care portion of your premium can't be very much, what, 5% of the total?

4) The new plan forced us to give up the doctor we've been using for 15 years unless we want to pay cash for that in a way that doesn't help with our deductible. 5) The two best local hospitals are no longer available to us unless we want to pay retail for their use, and get no benefit against our deductible.

I can't visit every hospital in the area either, but this isn't because of anything to do with the ACA, as much as it is a major insurance provider in the area is acting like a huge douche, and refusing to negotiate new contracts with the city and other insurance providers that allow the prices to remain low. This is a corporate decision, not a government one.

I share my story, not because I am trying to belittle your situation -- I definitely feel for you, having been insurance-less for a long time because of high payments, I understand worrying about costs -- but because I do not like the immediate jump to "I'm having a lot of trouble, therefore, this law was evil and wrong". It has its problems, but two things: (1) it has helped a lot of people, so completely scrapping it isn't helpful, we need to explore ways to keep the benefits in place while lowering your premium so everyone gets help; and (2) a lot of your complaints regarding losing doctors and hospitals and even premiums to some degree rely on the free market. It largely depends on how much competition is in your area, and the decisions made by your employer, the insurance company, and the doctors/hospitals themselves, as to what insurance they will provide or take. Nothing in the law says they are required to drop plans; that was a business decision they made, and businessmen are not always that smart. So instead of directing all the anger at the law, you should also be questioning why your company and insurance feel they need to raise prices so much.

If you are having trouble with your current premiums, the people on the Healthcare.gov hotline are very helpful. I would call them up and ask about private insurance plans are in your area. They can price check plans for any provider in your area, and check different levels of coverage, and tell you the cheapest one. From there you can contact the insurance company directly if it sketches you out to apply on the phone, but at least you know what's out there. It's entirely possible you can get a way better deal than you currently have, and don't even realize. I know people that dropped their employer coverage for a plan they paid out of pocket for, because the out-of-pocket personal plan this year was actually MUCH CHEAPER than the employer-provided one (which the employer just renewed old contracts, and so had the same old crummy insurance for larger premium/deductible than the year before, much like you are describing). You may not be as stuck as you think you are. I don't know your situation, and I wish you the best, but let's please not act like the ACA destroyed everything and insurance was rosy for everyone in the country before this. Let's work toward fixing the ACA's problems for EVERYONE (you and me included) instead of just propagating negativity.

Comment: Re:Fundamental issues (Score 2) 182

by mx+b (#47897391) Attached to: The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

Having done several online MOOCs, I can say that I learned a lot but mostly by myself. I followed a syllabus provided by an instructor and some homeworks as a guideline to what was important to learn or know, but other than that, the lecture format online is terrible. In particular, many courses have a habit of slapping powerpoint videos online that not only are boring, but simply regurgitate word for word the textbook. I hate to sound unappreciative, because I'm sure the professor put a lot of time into the powerpoints, but I wish he/she would have spent that time on something more helpful to us! When the book glosses over an important topic, I am relying on the instructor to explain that to me, and powerpoints of the book do not add any information.

In this sense, I think the MOOCs are not in general any worse than most in-person classes. Unfortunately many professors do the same thing in person. Thru much of my degree program, I was left adrift by professors that taught to the book, and books that gave only simple obvious examples then expected you to prove PhD theses for homework (for you mathematicians out there, the dreaded "Yellow Books" for a good example). They never updated and fixed their book-writing style or lecture style in person, so why are we surprised that its not working for MOOCs either? (Aside: maybe it isn't a matter of poorly written book so much as poor choice of book -- professors tend to choose more research-oriented books rather than teaching-oriented books, but again, this shows a problem where the teachers are not understanding the needs of the learners.)

The flipped classroom as you describe is much better. For a MOOC, I can imagine each section being given at least two small assignments. One to hit your head against the wall with as your read the book, then there are videos that go over problems on a whiteboard, then you are given a second chance to complete a new homework assignment (similar questions but different numbers, etc.) to boost your grade. This may work out a bit better. If I was told that you'd get second chances after we go over some examples, but think about it, I probably would be more interested. Instead, the lectures are no help, the homework is hard, and we're immediately moving on to something new. Help!

I have not finished many MOOCs, but not lack of interest or trying; partially was courseload vs work schedule, and the other part was that the title of the course sounded more interesting than the actual class was, so after seeing the intro videos, I withdrew because I found out I wasn't going to learn what I was hoping I would. I actually have finished and enjoyed a few MOOCs, that didn't do too badly with the lecture format. Again, I appreciate the professors investing time in making MOOCs to share knowledge, but if they are sincere in spreading that knowledge, they also need to realize that treating a MOOC as an online lecture hall for a typical college student in a typical degree program is not helpful. Don't make the content easier, per se (I don't want it watered down, I want to actually learn something!), but do realize that you are working around people's work schedules, time commitments. And most of all, boring powerpoint lectures that reiterate the book -- which itself only gives basic examples then leaves you to work out the rest of it yourself in the homework -- are not really suitable. I understand an interactive MOOC is not particularly feasible, but we need better experimentation in how to present the material online.

But for that matter we need better presentation in person as well. Hopefully more will embrace things like flipped classroom learning -- or maybe even try their own totally new techniques -- but we need an effort to improve learning overall no matter what medium, and not just focus on "MOOCs are failing". Our educational system in general is failing, if you really want to get picky about it.

Comment: Different Kernels in OpenSUSE (Score 3, Interesting) 282

by mx+b (#47856219) Attached to: Is It Time To Split Linux Distros In Two?

One of my favorite distros is OpenSUSE. In its repos, it has several different kernels -- there is a default one, but also ones for virtualization and a desktop specific one. I always figured they had the different kernels that were tuned/tweaked for the different needs. If you wanted to switch from a desktop to a server or vice versa, simply install/uninstall the packages you need, including switch the kernel, then reboot and you're done.

I don't know enough about their tweaks to know if the desktop vs server kernel makes a difference, but I imagine it does or at least could in the right circumstances. I think the power of being able to change around some packages and get the effect you want is better than fragmenting the distro. I appreciate having access to all the features and being able to mix and match.

The perversity of nature is nowhere better demonstrated by the fact that, when exposed to the same atmosphere, bread becomes hard while crackers become soft.

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