Book Review – The Red Queen

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Darwin’s theory of natural selection opened a can of worms. Matt Ridley adds to the support for the case by attempting to explain: Why sexual and not asexual reproduction? Why males and females? Why do some species switch sexes? Why is human behavior around sex so peculiar?

The arguments are well composed and organized to build the case. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I especially enjoyed how others were interested in borrowing the book to read it themselves.

View all my reviews.

(Created on Goodreads.com. Inspired to compose my own by the review of Twilight by Jocelyn.)

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Gravatars

Probably I missed or didn’t understand the announcement.

For the past month or so, I’ve noticed all these comments with the poster’s picture next to it on various blogs. I knew them to be WordPress blogs. I noticed my own WP had some default icon in the admin user interface. Today I finally put it all together.

A recent WordPress version incorporated Globally Recognized Avatars into the main code. (They are also known as GRAvatars) Using a hash on the email address, it locates a WordPress commenter’s 96×96 picture for including in the comment. Naturally, you need to register your email account with the gravatar service.

So, now many of you get to see my ugly mug!

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Eduyawn

Edupunk is “Do It Yourself” in education or instruction technology. Free or at least cheap tools suitable for classroom use are so ubiquitous, the faculty have plenty of alternatives to the monolithic “enterprise” LMS.

If edupunk was a boat, then what would it be? A bamboo raft?

Kid at an Apple IIeThis is not something new. My mom conned her principal into letting her have an Apple IIe for her classroom where she refused the computer teacher’s help. Instead, Mom found and installed programs herself for what she wanted to do. She was not going to become an extension of the computer teacher’s classroom. She maintained this DIY approach throughout her career. She was always annoyed with technology in education classes because she already knew about most of the technology they taught teachers to use and offered her experiences in not only how to make it work better but more recent technology which looked more promising.

Her approach was simple but methodical.

  1. Try something.
  2. Covertly pay attention to what the students are doing.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness.
  4. Keep successful approaches and ditch failures.

This was her method in both K-12 and higher education. If she were faced with using something like Blackboard Vista or Academic Suite, then I have no doubt she would be looking for greener pastures. At the same time, she is proud of me for having the job that I do: running the monolithic “enterprise” LMS.

* Picture by Greg G. It was licensed Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

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Confidentiality

A student wants Blackboard Vista to not reveal his or her last name. The student has already gone to the Registrar and gotten a confidentiality flag placed on the record. As I understand it, this flag in Banner is a FERPA protection to prevent the record from being provided to parties external to the university. It does not provide anonymity within the university. That electronic systems are being scrubbed of the student’s last name means something more than just confidentiality.

We only create new and not update from our student information system (SIS). So in general, the last name should not revert.

The instructor must know who the student is in order to correctly assign grades. If grades were automatically sent back to the SIS, then it would match the IMS id to the what is in the SIS. The user name or any other name is immaterial and not a confounder to the process. Unfortunately, our faculty has to manually transfer the grades. Some rely on the WebCT id / username. Others rely on the first and last name. I guess without names, this latter group is going to have to deal with relying on the WebCT id.

Only username, first and last name, and role are populated into the grade book. So moving the last name to another name field (like other, prefix, or suffix) would not help.

The last name appears to be part of their scheme for creating usernames, so they will likely need to change the username if the point is to not let anyone know what it is. The school in question does not appear to populate their Vista user records with a school email address. So I don’t know if the same would need to be done with it as well.

Blackboard Vista 3.0.7 does have issues with renaming the last name. While many things are immediately updated (good), some things are not. This is not a comprehensive list.

  1. The last name in the grade book was not updated. Removing the user from the section and restoring it to the section changed the name to the correct one.
  2. The last name in discussions was not updated.

So while renaming the account is easy to do, not everything takes place as quicklly as we would like.

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Trust and Transparency

One of the books I am reading, Gut Feelings, made a statement:

Transparency and trust are two sides of the same coin.

without much elaboration.

To place the statement in context, Gerd Gigerenzer was writing about moral systems. Specifically, how the Ten Commandments was so effective because it they are so simple. The American tax code is less obeyed precisely because even experts cannot possibly understand every detail.

People cannot trust or obey what they do not understand. Simply stated rules are more easily understood and thus obeyed. Contrast: “You must file your income taxes by a certain date” against the whole tax code. Compare the certainty of compliance when the taxes are filed versus the certainty all the forms are completed correctly.

Maybe I need to go back and read Easier Than You Think? The beauty of the book is stating everything in a single sentence and then a short explanation for why.