WolframAlpha Facebook Report

This is a delightful exercise that everyone seems to love. WolframAlpha will provide you with an extremely detailed analysis of your own Facebook data including visualizations, world clouds, graphs, and more.

Graph of Facebook Activity over time

 

 

 

Here’s how:

  1. Go to WolframAlpha.com.
  2. Type “Facebook Report” and execute the search.
  3. Allow WolframAlpha to have access to your Facebook account by clicking on “Analyze my Facebook Data” and following the directions.
  4. Wait while the data is analyzed.

Note: Sometimes the report seems to stall after 100% of the data is analyzed. If this happens, simply repeat steps 1-3. The second time, the report seems to load just fine.

Enjoy!

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Data Sleuthing

Khan Academy Idaho is a grant-funded initiative to help K-12 teachers in Idaho integrate digital devices and the Khan Academy program into their math classrooms. Yesterday I gave a keynote there called “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” about (1) the challenges facing math educators and (2) Data Sleuthing, a way to encourage math curiosity and data literacy in students.

Resources from this presentation:

Homework from the Presentation

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Are Math Instructors the next to be outsourced?

Have I mentioned lately that math instruction will be outsourced to technology? (oh yeah, pretty much every time I find myself speaking at a conference)

See NCAT’s latest initiative “Changing the Equation” email, which I’ve copied below:

Changing the Equation Selects 38 Institutions

The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) is pleased to announce that 38 two-year institutions* have been selected to participate in Changing the Equation, a new program focused on redesigning remedial/developmental math supported by a $2.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Institutions participating in the program will improve student learning outcomes while reducing costs for both students and institutions using NCAT’s proven redesign methodology. Collectively, these 38 redesigns will impact more than 100,000 students annually.

Each participant in Changing the Equation will redesign its entire developmental math sequence-all sections of all developmental courses offered-using NCAT’s Emporium Model and commercially available instructional software (ALEKS, Carnegie Learning, Hawkes Learning Systems and MyMathLab.) Each redesign will modularize the curriculum, allowing students to progress through the developmental course sequence at a faster pace if possible or at a slower pace if necessary, spending the amount of time needed to master the course content.

You know how they are reducing costs, right? Less instructors, more technology.

I think NCAT and The Gates Foundation have their heart in the right place (they want to see improvements in student success rates in math).  However, I think this will pretty much kill any hope of engaging students in a love of mathematics. Students might pass (some question about the fact that homework counts for larger percentages of the grades in these NCAT courses), but I doubt very much that students will ever voluntarily take more math than the minimum requirements.  Why is this a problem? Because WE NEED MORE STEM GRADUATES, not less.  If students don’t have the desire to take more math, they are also cut off of careers in Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Biology, Economics, and Computer Science.

On the one hand, I think we (math instructors) are reaping what we’ve sown. Math classes are, for the most part, pretty boring.  When there is engagement, it’s mostly between the instructor and the student (not student to student).  Classes that function in this manner (mine included) probably deserve to be replaced by technology.

But there is also another way … we could improve the classes. We could make them more engaging.  We could use play and exploration to get students interested in math again.  We could personalize the learning to the interests of each student (more on this to come).  We could use class time to let students work together to solve problems in innovative classroom environments.

This movement to the emporium model pushes colleges even more towards the “industrial model of education.”  I think this is a huge mistake.  We need to engage students in learning and wanting to learn.  We need for students to be excited about learning math.  I’m trying really hard to imagine students talking excitedly to their friends about how fun the Emporium method is for learning math.  I have a good imagination, but I’m just not seeing it.

This? This is 100,000 new students going down the math assembly line.

Come on … we have better ideas this.

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What IS a Learning Futurist?

One of the things that’s been keeping me busy is my new position as the Learning Futurist for The LIFT Institute at Muskegon Community College.  This is, essentially, an advisory position (read: not full-time), and really, I think I’ve been doing the job for a couple years, but without any kind of official designation.  So I’m thrilled that the college has chosen to acknowledge the role I play at the college by incorporating it into our new faculty center.  (by the way, LIFT = Learning. Innovation. Futuring. Technology)

I got to choose the specific job title for our futurist position at LIFT and I was torn between Education Futurist and Learning Futurist.  Ultimately I chose the second, because I wanted to acknowledge that plenty of learning happens outside of formal education.  I also wanted to make sure that attention is paid to the non-formal learning that the college can foster in our students and in the surrounding community.

So, what is a futurist? First, a futurist does not “predict” the future, they use foresight skills to complement insight and hindsight.  One foresight skill is basic forecasting (trend analysis), but this only works if the field under investigation is relatively stable.  In unstable fields, futurists use scenario planning to project several possible outcomes – by examining the possibilities, an organization can plan for the most common outcomes, or at least think through some of the planning necessary for extreme possibilities (often, several extreme possibilities have some commonalities).  Futurists have to think creatively about the direction and meaning of trends, not just within a field, but in the surrounding fields.  You could say that Futurists have to be excellent systems thinkers.

Who does futuring? Well, technically, if you’ve ever made a budget for the next year, or participated in a strategic planning process, then you do.  In both of these activities, you look at the trends, social, technological, environmental, and political indicators to make your best plan for the future.  Is it a guess? Yes. But it is an informed guess, and we do it to help us to weather change.

So, what is a Learning Futurist, in particular? A learning futurist looks at characteristics of intelligence and brain development. They examine educational research to look for valid learning methods that might develop into technologies and learning strategies in the future.  They help people to recognize the necessity and importance of lifelong learning (with the acceleration of technology, you’re losing ground if your learning is not keeping up).  A learning futurist examines the available and predicted science and technology, social trends, and shifts to the political, economic, and cultural environment to thinks creatively about how learning will be impacted.   Because education, in particular, tends to move slower than business and other industries, it is particularly important to pay attention to the trends and technologies outside of education.  A learning futurist also keeps tabs on the future of careers and watches how “work” is changing.  After all, students eventually become workers, and even workers should still be learning.  To prepare our students (especially in higher education), we must pay attention to trends in the work force.

As far as I know, I am the first person to identify myself as a “Learning Futurist” (but you can find examples of many well-known education futurists).  In particular, I focus on higher education and adult learning in a timespan  5-15 years out.  I read voraciously, everything from academic journals to blog posts.  I rely on my social network (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and social connections) to keep me informed about new developments in other fields that might be important to learning and education.  I share what I learn and think in open spaces, to encourage conversation and idea development about the future of learning.

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TED Talk on Wolfram Alpha

The talk is titled “Computing a Theory of Everything

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