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Comment Definitiely Unethical (Score 1) 190

I can't speak to legality of the researcher's actions, but as a Social Scientist (cue jokes about not being a real scientist), I can tell you that their actions were unethical. Specifically, I'm shocked that their Internal Review Board (IRB) thought it was ok to upload this data to a forum where all can have access.

Social Scientists, when conducting research, are under a moral obligation to make sure that their participants are not under more than 'minimal risk' as a result of the research. The most common heuristic for that minimal risk is whether the researchers are making the participants susceptible to more risk than they would normally be susceptible to. In this case, while the participants had provided data to a semi-public forum (i.e. OkCupid), make the data more easy to extract and able to be mined is definitely putting the participants at higher risk for data related crimes (e.g., identity theft, bank fraud).

If those researchers aren't in proverbial hot water yet with their institutions, they will be when the law suits come. The lesson to be learned here if you are a researcher....your IRB exists for a reason; check with them before creating a new protocol.

Comment Re:ask Shatner who gets credit (Score 1) 218

[Sarcasm On] Now that's some clear logic. You must studied a lot of Math to know that we should give credit to one person who has not a shred of empirical evidence to suggest that his approach has led to positive learning outcomes. Let's keep to anecdotal claims - that will surely help us to understand how kids learn Math better. I'll even have a go:
From my experience with kids of this generation, there's one teacher who's responsible for most of the positive increase in mathematical competency in recent years: The Flying Spaghetti Monster.
I'm sure you'll find any number of politicians and their cronies at the textbook corporations who will claim credit, but when they mess everything up and the children find themselves mystified and befuddled, they turn to the Flying Spaghetti Monster for help.

Comment Re:Al-Jazeera USA was doing some shady things (Score 1) 276

While 'Semites' are people with a middle-eastern language, 'Anti-Semitism', as defined in ALL dictionaries, is prejudice against Jews.
On a side note, I find it ironic that people who hate Jews will often include arguments that the term anti-semitism should not exclusively mean prejudice against Jews. They hate Jews so much that they don't even want to allow Jews a term to label that hatred!

Comment Re:You mean parents? (Score 1) 150

If you are interested, the data shows that parental involvement isn't all that big of a factor in determining learning gains. Which kind of makes sense since their are plenty of individuals who achieve large learning gains despite having terrible parents. But I'll be the first to note that parental involvement is likely super important in an indirect way.

Comment I'm conducting research on this very topic! (Score 1) 95

I'm glad that the original post presented both sides of the argument because the truth is that no one really knows whether gamification of anything is a good idea....yet.

My own research is in education where scientists have been looking at how games can teach and motivate since at least 1987 (I'm talking about research and not educational games which go further back). Classically the debate has always been two fold:
1. Can anyone prove that knowledge transfers from a game to another setting?
2. Can games increase intrinsic motivation to learn or are they just another extrinsic motivator?

The first question is still undetermined for a lot of reasons (i.e. how does one even determine whether someone knows something).

The second question is important because education research has proven pretty conclusively that extrinsic motivators don't work - people driven by extrinsic motivators drop their motivation as soon as motivator is removed. But new research in motivation has illuminated what drives individuals to learn; that framing motivation as extrinsic vs intrinsic is possibly a misrepresentation of what drives us to learn something. In addition, integrating a badge or achievement system is different than what we are used to thinking about when making something game like. The badges aren't necessarily replacing goals, just supplementing them. And if that is true (TBD) then that could also increase a type of motivation necessary for learning (or accomplishing other goals).

Does gamification work? Sit tight and I hope to have an answer in the next 6 months. ;)

Comment Re:Too Much Hype for the Khan Academy! (Score 1) 133

the absence of better methods

There are plenty of NEW and possibly better methods awaiting funding.

I wouldn't advise waiting for their resolution to begin making those fruits available for consumption.

Excellent. Neither would I. How do you feel about scientific research? Do you think it's a good idea or do you hate that it holds things up? I mean, would you like to take a potential drug cure before its trial?

Comment Re:Not Enough Hype for the Khan Academy! (Score 3, Interesting) 133

I'll stay away from your Flame-bait (you really think I demonized them?) and show how you made my point for me.

This seems like an excellent opportunity to throw a little money at an interesting education opportunity, and see how it pays off.

Where is anyone talking about see how this 'pays off'? How do you tell if it 'pays off'? Anecdotal evidence is just that and not the substitute for a scientific evaluation. How about we spend some of the money to explore that?

Now you're demonizing Google for giving 1/289th that amount to an institution that will likely reach 50+ times the audience, who are probably more in need of a better education anyway?

Don't you think that something that has the potential to reach a much wider audience should be carefully tested before released into the wild?

Comment Re:Too Much Hype for the Khan Academy! (Score 1) 133

But it IS an excellent way to prime yourself for an upcoming class by seeing some example problems, or simply to gain an introductory level knowledge through recorded survey-type courses requiring little technical background (iTunes U has a lot of this kind of material).

No and that's the point. There is nothing to say that this is a good way to introduce anyone to the subject. It might be but we have no way of knowing short of conducting research on the problem.

This isn't the same as Wikipedia, which is a resource designed to serve as a reference. These videos are meant to teach and must bear the burden of being able to do so.

No matter who the learner is, there will be some better and some worse ways to learn something. How do you know that this is a good way to learn something for anyone? There is a real problem with people miss-learning concepts and requiring extensive, if even possible, re-education to get the concept right. Take for example the average explanation of why we have seasons - completely wrong and requires significant explanantion.

And I can lament the fact that the very little money given to educational projects is being spent on unproven concepts. Applaud all you want but know that you might be applauding for nothing more than entertainment.

Comment Re:Too Much Hype for the Khan Academy! (Score 1) 133

Maybe. Current research would point out that unless you gave the students something specific to do with their knowlesdge that they might not actually learn something.

But your larger point is exactly what I was trying to convey! No one knows how best to use these videos and that is what we should spend money discovering before sending them out to the world.

Comment Too Much Hype for the Khan Academy! (Score 2, Interesting) 133

As a former educator (middle and high school Social Studies) and a current researcher of new technology and learning science I get frustrated about the amount of praise given to the Khan Academy.

I applaud Khan's effort and I'm sure the videos do help some people but I draw the line at it deserving a two million dollar grant for growth. What are these videos other than direct instruction (i.e. the traditional lecture)? We have a lot of evidence that direct instruction is a very inefficient way to learn something. Furthermore, access to videos only helps those who have the required internet connection and are intrinsically motivated to seek out the knowledge (the typical Slashdot user might fit that model but I assure the rest of the world does not).

Shouldn't there be some some scientific testing of the effectiveness of the Khan Academy before giving it $2million to expand. The summary even calls the videos courses! Courses have an implied pedagogical trajectory that helps learner gain some level of mastery on the subject being taught. These videos barely qualify.

Submission + - Google Instant Search (

Lomegor writes: Google presents Instant Search after much speculation. From the official blog: 'Search as you type. It’s a simple and straightforward idea—people can get results as they type their queries. Imagining the future of search, the idea of being able to search for partial queries or provide some interactive feedback while searching has come up more than a few times. Along the way, we’ve even built quite a few demos (notably, Amit Patel in 1999 and Nikhil Bhatla in 2003). Our search-as-you-type demos were thought-provoking—fun, fast and interactive—but fundamentally flawed. Why? Because you don’t really want search-as-you-type (no one wants search results for [bike h] in the process of searching for [bike helmets]). You really want search-before-you-type—that is, you want results for the most likely search given what you have already typed.'

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