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So, what do professors do all day, anyway?

Some days I am not Dennis. I am Marky McPaper Markerson. Or Meety McMeeter Meetingson. Days that I’m Ready McReader Readerson, it’s not so bad, but only part of that time am I reading for pleasure — I’m often reading to decide whether to teach a particular text, or wondering whether I should teach Flannery O’Connor again or swap her out for someone else, or reading someone else’s instructional materials…

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Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts

Indeed, in the world beyond grade school, where adults must exercise their moral knowledge and reasoning to conduct themselves in the society, the stakes are greater. There, consistency demands that we acknowledge the existence of moral facts. If it’s not true that it’s wrong to murder a cartoonist with whom one disagrees, then how can we be outraged? If there are no truths about what is good or valuable or…

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The Benefits of No-Tech Note Taking

I quibble with The Chronicle headline writer’s notion that paper & pencil are “no-tech,” but hand-written notes are valuable. Students tested right after a lecture tended to answer factual questions equally well regardless of how they took notes, but students who handwrote their notes did consistently better on conceptual questions. What’s more, when students were tested again a week later, the longhand note takers performed consistently better on both factual…

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Downsides of being a convincing liar

Test subjects whose test papers “accidentally” included the answer key had an inflated sense of how well they would do on a follow-up test that did not include answers, suggesting that the cheaters were not aware how much their performance on the first test was dependent on their access to answers. The people who’d had access to the answers predicted, on average, that they’d get higher scores on the follow-up…

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Google’s AI could probably beat you at Atari

What’s significant in this story is not that a computer can perform tasks more efficiently than a human, but that the computer in question is not deploying a pre-programmed strategy; it is instead teaching itself how to win. When IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997, and the artificially intelligent Watson computer won the quiz show “Jeopardy!” in 2011, these were considered impressive technical feats, but…

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What do students need to know about rhetoric?

I love giving the “what is rhetoric” lecture in my freshman writing seminar. Most students have at least heard of a rhetorical question, but most don’t know what “rhetoric” means, nor have they heard of logos, pathos and ethos. The first thing that students need to know about rhetoric, then, is that it’s all around us in conversation, in movies, in advertisements and books, in body language, and in art.…