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Comment Re:Try this instead. (Score 1) 366

I haven't seen mod points in a very long time (part of why I stopped reading Slashdot almost entirely, if anyone cares), but as a teacher (linguistics, actually), this is how you handle something. It is cute, it is instructive, and it is likely to stay in their memories for a long time.

If you're not teaching, you should be (although it's hard to find well-paying work--but if you do, you hang on like grim death).

Comment Re:Yes. (Score 1) 319

I teach foreign language at a decent university. My need for Powerpoint is minimal, for the same reason. Math and language are things that people need to grapple with slowly and kind of figure out on their own. They are basically new ways of thinking about the world, not lists to be memorized. As such, it's much more important that the teaching be interactive and collaborative.

With a traditional board, if a new word comes up that people don't know, I can put it up on the board, break it into its morphemes, elicit derivations/word family members... All that cannot be done with PPT. Also, teaching 4 sections of the same course (I don't--the most I've ever gotten was 2, and those were halcyon days of minimal prep...) means 4 very different boards, based on what the class needs or is interested in. They already have textbooks and dictionaries. Class time is there to add interactivity and the human component that helps us monkeys learn.

So to address the actual question posed in the title: "Hell no teachers shouldn't be required to use technology in the classroom. It's not necessary or even helpful in many cases."

I use a lot of the modules of Moodle, which I run on my own server. If I didn't have that, class business would be more of a hassle. But in class, I see very little use for most technology invented in the last 100 years.

I like, but kinda suck at, math. I can't imagine learning anything in a math class based on PPT. I want to do things step-by-step with the teacher, by hand, on paper. I also benefit from explaining/having things explained in student groups. It sounds like I'd like your math courses.

Comment Re:Asimov's Profession (Score 4, Insightful) 133

I'm a prof who has worked in both the US and Japanese education systems (Japan longer). As such, I've thought a lot about this.

The problem with your idea is right there in your last line, even though you didn't mean it to be:

Not everyone will become or even wants to be an astronaut and are perfectly happy as a mechanic or something.

The implication is that the former is a "higher" profession than the latter. Now, it is much harder to be qualified for, and therefore worth more money, but there's nothing low about being "a mechanic or something." In fact, if you find a good mechanic--someone who is good at understanding highly complex systems and who has the experience necessary to quickly diagnose problems in those dizzyingly complex systems--you pay through the nose for him, and are happy to do it. He probably still doesn't make that much, though.

This is because we have something wrong with our (US) culture. We don't seem to understand the concept of middle class. We don't seem to understand that the vast majority of people are basically as smart as everyone else, regardless of education level. We also don't want to pay for basic services, so those people have to compete for cheaper and cheaper prices. It also means that we get what we pay for.

I had a German hair stylist in the US for awhile. I loved her to death. She wasn't much for "chairside manners" (she was curt and pushy, without meaning to offend), but she was unbelievable. She could make anyone's hair do anything, and got most of her clientele through her ability to look at totally perm-or-color-ravaged hair, and fix it. I started asking how she did it. She said, "American stylists are terrible. They study for 6 months and wonder why they can't do anything right. I have a four-year degree." "A four-year degree to cut hair?" "Yes, but also coloring. We have to study organic chemistry for that and pass tests on diagnosing problems and coming up with solutions on different kinds of hair. The races have different hair, you see. What I'd use on an Asian wouldn't be what I used on you, for example."

Germany made a choice that vocations were still really important. And they are. But we don't see that in the US.

Japan is not as hardcore about this as Germany, but it still trains people much longer for vocations than we do in the US. Prices are higher, but so is quality, and so is the mode standard of living. I don't mind paying more to have my car fixed if I know that that guy's kids can go to college if they want, because he's very comfortably in middle class.

Our over-emphasis on the individual in the US hurts us in many, many ways. We idolize the rich and blame poor individuals for not working hard enough or something. We impose a moral hierarchy on the socioeconomic structure, and it is killing us. A large middle class means political and economic stability, lower crime, higher standard of living, longer lifespan... Everything great about Japan, I think, is due to their commitment to taking care of and respecting everyone (of course there are exceptions--nowhere is perfect). In a very real sense, the US's obsession with superstars, captains of industry, and themselves as individuals, I think, is the reason that We Can't Have Nice Things.

Comment Re:It's for 'Statistical' computing (Score 1) 91

R is growing faster and is used much more by serious statisticians to implement new ideas.

I definitely agree with you there. It's easy for them to get their ideas into motion with R, since it's open.

That doesn't necessarily make it better for most people, though. That makes it better for statisticians. Most users of statistics don't need to be on the cutting-edge. In fact, they might need to lag a bit, because peer-reviewers may not accept your paper if they don't actually understand it. I work a lot with IRT, and when I write a paper, I basically have a big chunk of boilerplate I paste in to explain what it is and how the various models work. My research is only as good as my ability to explain it, and if it swerves off-course and becomes a statistics lesson, that just isn't good.

I use SPSS because that's what most people in my field use.

Comment Re:It's for 'Statistical' computing (Score 1) 91

I use R from time to time. It's great for banging out a quick-and-dirty graph or something. It's so straightforward that if you really know exactly what it is you want to do, it's really fast to do it in R.


I don't think I'll be using it that much now that I was able to get SPSS with the Advanced Stats pack onto my research budget. I'd been using a cracked copy of 11.5 for years, and that's why I had migrated to R. Now that I have SPSS, and didn't have to pay for it... I guess I don't really see the point.

Don't get me wrong. R is unbelievably awesome for free, and isn't even that hard to get the hang of. But when someone else is picking up the tab, SPSS is also free, is easy to use, has very nice documentation, and is supported by all sorts of other software tools I use. Out of all the stuff I use, only LimeSurvey (also FOSS) explicitly supports kicking out files formatted nicely for R, whereas everything else (a bunch of IRT software--I'm a tester--people not programs) just supports .xls and .sav for SPSS...

R is great. Great. But SPSS (I just realized that it's been called PASW for a couple years, but no one uses that name--it's unpronounceable) is the whole package. Overpriced, definitely, but most of its users don't actually pay for it.

Comment Re:Wrong way to go about it (Score 1) 162

I haven't seen mod points in over a year, otherwise you'd have some right now.

WTF? Is he applying to PhD programs just out of undergrad? I kinda just picked a place for my master's, but I wish I'd known more about who was doing what; I would have gone somewhere else.

Picking PhD programs to apply to (coming up) isn't hard. It's more a case of narrowing them down, since they're a lot of work. By the time you're looking at PhDs, you should probably know some of the people you're trying to study under. At the very least, you should already know their work, and for that reason want to study under them.

Also... Who the hell says "study mentor?" Your advisor/supervisor isn't really your mentor. He's not there to lead you to secret knowledge. He's there to put hoops in front of you to jump and to tell you when your work isn't up to snuff. A PhD is almost entirely done on your own!

Comment Re:And mass unjustified mass hysteria spreads... (Score 4, Insightful) 446

Its only Apple who thinks that one product can be perfect for everyone, from the serious developer and power user to Joe Six-Pack.

See, I always read this on Slashdot, and then I read "I love my iPhone" everywhere else. I don't think Apple ever said they were to be all things to all people. They try to be the important things to most people. And that's how they succeed. They find out what people want to do, focus on those features and make them basically perfect and intuitive, and then disable anything that doesn't work right enough of the time or which gets in the way of the important things. I was sick of buying phones with feature lists the length of my arm--none of which worked reliably enough for me to ever really mess with them. With the iPhone, I actually use those things. I use them because they work. Every time.

Finally, just to put this out there again: I live in Japan; I have had none of the signal/net-speed issues I hear about all over the internet. None. None. Never once a dropped call. It's not the phone; it's the network.

Comment Re:Formula change (Score 1) 534

Dear Apple, please note that shifting the blame to your crappy, and exclusive, network partner won't work.

I don't have an iPhone4 yet, but when I get it, I don't anticipate any signal problems whatsoever. In fact, I've never had signal problems as long as I've had my iPhone. I've never had a dropped call. Never. None of these problems I read about all the time on the intarblogs.

I think it's because I live in Japan and have a network that was set up with the intention of people actually using it.

I just realized that I lied in the second paragraph. I have had major reception issues--when visiting my parents in the US.

So sorry to pee on the anti-Apple parade, but it seems totally clear to me that AT&T is to blame.

Comment Just to be clear... (Score 1) 279

Call me a nerd if you like, but I need to ask this:

Do you know how to write? Writing a journal article isn't just "Check out this cool thing I worked on." You need to do a review of lit., provide a rationale for your work (i.e. show the gap in the research or failings of other algorithms which make your work necessary/useful), explain your work, show your results, and conclude with some manner of discussion of further work to be completed, holes in your design, implications, etc. Like 40 pages, double-spaced.

It's not something you just whip out when you're done. It sounds to me like you've looked at some other people's work and jumped straight to fiddling. This is fine, and honestly, most research at least starts that way. The paper is where you are going to legitimatize it by showing that you did your homework and you're not just some guy who did some fiddling--even if that's what you are!

So, on the one hand, there's absolutely nothing stopping you from getting into Science, except for maybe a lack of understanding of the genre and the expectations of the reviewers. All peer-reviewed journals do blind reviews, so the fact that you're just some dude will just knock their socks on their asses if they accept your paper.

In short, if you've never done this kind of writing before, you'll need someone to help you get the hang of it and proof it for you.

Just a word of warning, though: Since you didn't already start with a review of lit, and went straight for the fun stuff, you might end up finding that your idea isn't good or necessary when you're doing the research you were supposed to do at the beginning (probably before the project got so big and complex that you thought, "I wonder if there's a paper in this?"). That's a bummer. It's happened to me. Just don't be too crestfallen if you find something like that.

Good luck and I hope you pull it off!

Comment Re:Internet hypochondria is already a phenomenon (Score 1) 245

That might be the difference between nerds and normals. When I do medical research, mostly I figure out what it's not. If it's still bugging me, I go in and say, "Here are the symptoms, but I read that it could be something or could be nothing, so I decided to get it checked out." When he says "it's nothing," I say, "Thanks! I feel better now."

I think part of the problem is that people often have a hard time fathoming how much more someone can know about something than they. I'm a college prof, so I think I've gotten used to feeling stupid--I know a lot more about my field than Joe Sixpack, but I can give you a 2-page list of people I know or know of who know more than me. And then there are the profs in other departments. Even the least-experienced ones know more about their fields than I ever, ever will.

I respect experts. I understand that mistakes happen, but they have a much better chance of knowing that I do.

I once had an anxiety attack, but I didn't know why. I was worried that there was something wrong with my heart, since there are heart problems in my family. After being checked out, my doctor very carefully and with a clear sense of dread, said, "I think the problem might have been... Mental." He watched my face for my reaction. I said, "So it's all in my head?" "I think so." "Thank god. I can control that."

We both felt relieved. Me, because my heart was fine. Him, because I didn't take offense at being told that I had just freaked out.

Comment Readability (Score 1) 210

I've been using Readability for over a year in Firefox to do the same thing. Any long reading that I have to do online gets the Readability treatment. This project has been around for a long time, and no one complained about it "trying to force an e-book style interface on the web." They just said it made things easier to read.

I don't see how this is an "arms race." Most web pages are unreadable. That is the fault of the designers. The text is too small for a high-resolution display, and it is too cluttered. There are sites out there that have ads and remain readable, but they are a tiny minority.

Bravo to Apple for making the web something you can read!

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