Opportunities for online learning

Let’s get a couple things out of the way:

1. Italian seismologists convicted of manslaughter for failing to predict earthquake.  Naturally the intellect-o-sphere of the internet is apoplectic, as well we should be — this is Just World thinking run amok.  “Something bad happened; it must be because bad people did something bad!”  And yet when bureaucrats, officials, and opinion leaders pull exactly the same shit against more convenient targets like the pharma industry, or Wall Street, or genetically-modified food (OH MARK SISSON NO!), that same damn intellect-o-sphere grabs their torches and their pitchforks and heads off to lynch people they don’t like.  Humans are funny creatures.

2. Jason Kuznicki is making depressing amounts of sense lately.  Go, read.


Okay, so the really important news of the day is that I had a great bench workout for the first time in nine fucking years, despite the fact that the only bench I could get was one of those adjustable-incline fuckthings with a three-inch gap right about where my ass should have been, and my piece of shit KOSS earphones broke halfway through the warmup, so instead of doing my work sets to Bolt Thrower I got to listen to Gangnam Style.

Why did I have such a good day on my most hated major lift?  Why, because Dave Fuckin’ Tate coached me, that’s why.

Well, he didn’t coach me directly.  What he did was post a set of instructional videos to YouTube, wherein he offered a great deal of insight that pretty clearly just scratches the surface of his knowledge.  But they took time and effort to produce (and produce well), and they’re available free for the watching.

A lot of diligent and well-meaning people are spilling a lot of ink (or, more likely, inconveniencing a lot of electrons) on the subject of online learning, creating acronyms like “MMOC” (Massively Multi-user Online Courseware, I think) and probably conjuring up high impact factor journal special issues and swanky conferences.  Still others, like Coursera and MITx and the Marginal Revolution University, are actually doing stuff in the online learning sector, prototyping enterprise-grade solutions to higher-educational architectural requirements.  But a thundering herd of knowledgeable and insightful people, like Dave Tate and Sal Khan, never bothered to check with the experts to see if a plausible solution to online instruction had been derived from properly accredited theoretical developments, or if an expert consensus had been reached by the education community.  They just did shit and made it available.

This morning as I waited for the bus, a rather deliberately pleasant and inoffensive gentleman struck up a conversation about whether I felt good about the world, or disappointed “like so many people these days”.  He was trying to sell me some Christian sect or other, and when I answered in the affirmative he interpreted that as an affirmation that I’d heard the Good News.  Nope.  Between the internet and global trade, shit is fucking amazing and it’s getting better.  “So you think you can bench?” is just one small supporting example.


5 Responses to “Opportunities for online learning”

  1. 1 Erik
    October 23, 2012 at 23:18

    So how much rounding-off is there between this Nature article and your “for failing to predict earthquake”?

    Picuti says that the commission was more interested in pacifying the local population than in giving clear advice about earthquake preparedness.

    “I’m not crazy,” Picuti says. “I know they can’t predict earthquakes. The basis of the charges is not that they didn’t predict the earthquake. As functionaries of the state, they had certain duties imposed by law: to evaluate and characterize the risks that were present in L’Aquila.” Part of that risk assessment, he says, should have included the density of the urban population and the known fragility of many ancient buildings in the city centre. “They were obligated to evaluate the degree of risk given all these factors,” he says, “and they did not.”

    The public prosecutor may be lying, but he doesn’t seem to have quite the amount of dumbworms that I expected…

    • October 24, 2012 at 09:38

      Consider this precedent, in which a different Italian seismologist was threatened with prosecution for “spreading alarm” when he warned about the possibility of an earthquake in Abruzzo (which did in fact happen, killing about 100 people).

      Time reported Guido Bertolaso, head of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, saying last week, “These imbeciles enjoy spreading false news … Everyone knows that you can’t predict earthquakes.”

    • October 24, 2012 at 10:06

      I suspect those ancient buildings have been known to be fragile since before seismology, but you’re right, he’s not quite as moronic as the first impression would have it.

  2. October 29, 2012 at 15:07

    Dude. I haven’t listened to Bolt Thrower in probably 20 years.

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