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Can an MIT Computer Learn to Scare You?

In the spirit of Halloween, MIT has produced a program that will learn to scare the user. They call it Nightmare Machine. Three researchers at MIT are using deep-learning algorithm to teach a computer to produce images of faces and places that scare people. One of the biggest fear invoking concepts is the threat that machines will act independently of their operators.

One of the researchers says, “We know AI terrifies us in the abstract sense, but can AI scare us in the immediate, visceral sense?”. He wants to make an algorithm that would create a “fake” set of faces from real images, then another algorithm to extract the image system from one photo and apply it to another. For example, they could choose a zombie-like feature from one image and apply them to a computer-generated face. The result is a contortion that might be called scary.

In order to learn whether the computer-generated images can scare people, the machine needs human participants. The computer will learn from volunteered responses on which kinds of images are considered scary and which aren’t.

One professor that is a researcher on this project knows a lot about fear. The focus of her studies is a sociologist, and she says teaching a computer to scare people will be difficult. Fear is distinctly personal and depends on individual experience. She says that with faces, expressions can be interpreted differently based on one’s culture. However, the idea of that people are repulsed by faces that look nearly human but slightly off – could also be fruitful ground.

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Flipped Classrooms

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With the increase of classroom technology, teachers are finding new ways to structure their classrooms through the use of digital media. The University of Wisconsin’s Engineering cohort has adopted one such teaching style known as the “flipped classroom” method. In this method, the teacher sends lectures to their students to watch at home and then applies those skills in the classroom.

The University of Wisconsin’s first engineering cohort initially started with 4 flipped classrooms but has seen a rise in this style of teaching and even encourages teachers to adopt the model. This model challenges professors to provide the lecture videos, but in return, helps their students gain valuable communications and collaboration skills. Greg Moses, an engineering physics professor, has seen a positive correlation to student grades with this new system and even points out that they have a stronger mastery of the material.

In hopes of spreading the new and innovative classroom model, The University of Wisconsin hosted a workshop lead by their chair of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), John Booske. Over 30 other heads of the ECE department around the US attended and learned about the flipped classrooms and the positive effects of learning through blended instruction.

For more information on this topic visit the main article here.

Take a Trip to the Future of the Ocean

Climate change is adamant, and yet, some people are still having a hard time believing it is happening. Well seeing is believing, and at Stanford, you can use a free virtual reality program to explore a world where climate change kills off coral reefs. The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience, a Virtual Human Interaction Lab, is a free science tool a part of Stanford that transports students to the sea floor then fast-forwards to the end of the century. This is when scientists have predicted that many of the coral reefs we have today are corroding through ocean acidification. The hope is to change people’s point of view and behavior in the world through a virtual reality experience.

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The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience is a 360-dregree video project that addresses the problem of global warming and how it impacts the ocean and the lives it caries. It’s also a tool that allows viewers to explore the deep-sea and collect samples.

The simulation starts with putting the user into heavy traffic where they can they follow carbon dioxide molecules. They then float from car tailpipes leading to the sea where they’re absorbed. The user then steps into the waves and moves around the coral as time passes and they get to experience what it’s like as it loses its life and the acidity levels in the water increase. A narrator will explain what’s happening as this happens and tell them to do certain actions, such as a species count.

This software was created in partnership with marine biologists Fiorenza Micheli and Roy Pea from Stanford and Kristy Kroeker, from the University of California. It took two years to recreate a virtual replica of an actual rocky reef that exists around the island of Ischia in Italy where underground volcanic cents have been emitting carbon dioxide into the reef. The data that was collected from this reef has allowed researchers to measure and predict the impact this will have on marine life as time passes.

Lawmakers in Washington DC also got to experience this VR at a non-profit event, Ocean Conservancy. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island states that: “This simulation shows in rich detail the damage carbon pollution inflicts on our oceans. I appreciate the Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience for calling attention to the peril our oceans face and what we must do to protect them.”

For more information, please visit the main article on Campus Technology.

Forget Accreditation, bring on College Audit!

Audits are familiar for companies and colleges. But can the same techniques now commonly used to assure investors, donors, and governments about spending practices also provide guarantees about the quality of education a college is providing?

As higher education as a whole is becoming more focused on results, the audit approach is becoming much more appealing. General Assembly this year made public a set of standard, developed by an auditor, on how it would measure itself on its educational results. Currently, the two criteria’s, job-placement and graduation rates, are just the current focuses. They hope to add additional ones. The company also released specific information and definitions about its plans to measure those outcomes. Specifically, what counts as a job? How does this go into calculating the placement rates?

General Assembly is a boot-camp style form of education. They teach students how to code and gives them the necessary skills to obtain a high paying job at a top tech company. However, this metric that they are creating could not be applied to a traditional four-year program. Specifically, the demographic and types of people are different. You could have people who have a bachelor but want to transition into programming choose General Assembly. They have more reason to graduate and do well as this determines their next career move.

However, that doesn’t mean that colleges can’t create their own auditing system. Traditional four year colleges would have more specific criteria list, but all the same this can help students know what they’re getting into and the reputation of their university.

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October UDAL Tip of the Month -My Kind of Writing

My UDAL tip of the month is the type of writing I like to do. I like to learn to use tools and help others to use them well, for the benefit of as many people as possible. I believe in content that is accessible to all, or at least to most people regardless of ability or learning preference. Universal Design for Active Learning (UDAL) is UW Bothell Universal Design initiative to promote awareness of universal accessibility and support student learning and engagement. We have a core group of people at UW Bothell from IT, Disability Resources for Student and Advancement who meet and discuss ways to spread awareness and make our campus better. At UW Bothell we have such wonderful people and culture, which remind me everyday how thankful I am to be here and be part of it.

I am in academia because I love making a positive difference. I love seeing the expressions of people when long awaited understanding finally arrive, feel the awe when achievement of a goal is accomplished. My hope is that the little tidbits I find and share are helpful to others.

Maximize Readability and Consistent Look/Feel in Documents

One of the ways to maximize readability and consistency in documents is by using built-in styles instead of just manually adding emphasis and changing font sizes. Whether you are creating a document in MS Office Word or in Canvas, heading levels, bullets and numbered lists provide an easy way to make your document readable, consistent and accessible to screen readers.

Some commonly used styles are:

  • Heading levels are marked as H1, H2, H3, etc. – These mark sections according to its order level within the document.
  • Bulleted lists – Used for unordered items
  • Numbered lists – Used for ordered items

Styles in MS Word

Styles, bulleted and numbered lists are located in the ribbon under the Home tab.

Ribbon - Home Tab - Styles in Microsoft Word 2016

Styles in Canvas

Style and formatting options are located in the Rich Text Editor. Header levels start at H2 because the name of the document is already set at H1 and are located under Paragraph drop-down menu.

Rich Text Editor Styles and sample formatted text