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Tag: procrastination

Statistics Education and Wikipedia

The summer before my freshman year of college I discovered Wikipedia. I had known about and used it for some time before (I thought the list of events, births, deaths, etc. for each day was both novel and fascinating), but I really discovered it through finally editing and contributing. Photographs, copy editing, mundane tasks. I performed them all and then some. What I did not do, however, was contribute meaningful content in the form of articles (new articles or expansions of existing ones). Once college began, the flurry of editing I had done stopped. A typo here, a broken link there, but I was no longer considered myself an editor of Wikipedia.

What I did still do was use Wikipedia (as so many millions of others do). For everything from linguistics to parts of the automobile, Wikipedia remained in my life. Of course, one should not cite Wikipedia, but it was a fantastic place to get a quick, broad overview of a topic and to find more search terms to use. When I tried this same technique with concepts in my new field (Statistics Education for those of you just tuning in), Wikipedia began to turn up empty. When it didn't turn up empty, the articles related to statistics and education (usually separate) were rarely adequate. I decided to do something about it.

Now, I haven't done much yet (in the grand scheme of things), but I am actively contributing to Wikipedia again. Some stuff has changed since 2006, but not all that much. I've even met a fine chap who goes by the name of Statistisfactions that is also pursuing Statistics Education and has similar interests to me! Oh, Wikipedia. (He also runs a pretty neat blog that I had discovered independently of his Wikipedia user page, so that is worth checking out.)

Right now, there isn't much to show for 'it all,' but there is plenty of time. I view editing Wikipedia as engaging in the Scholarship of Service (from Boyer's Domains of Scholarship, a model that my department adopted some years back). Wikipedia's power to inform the public and possibly shape discussions is tremendous, and I don't want to sit by idly while others write the story of Statistics Education. (Of course, avoiding conflicts of interest, self-promotion, and other related issues that arise from writing about one's own field is on my mind. I don't think it is that big of an issue for the time being.)

A few final notes on a long overdue post: I'm trying to be productive while procrastinating this year, and I think I can do a lot worse than watching TED talks, editing Wikipedia, and doing this blog. Also, hello to the 130 visitors this website had on Valentine's Day from Palo Alto. Anyone care to share why I was so popular then? (I only had 151 visitors total that day, and that is an order of magnitude more than I usually have.)


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On habits and writing

One cannot be a prolific writer without the noun part of that, so I've got to get better about it. Here, there, everywhere. Spending time in a college of education is... interesting. Many of my colleagues are returning to school following periods of work as teachers. They've experienced public schools as students, teachers, and parents. They see the micro effects of macro issues. They see the macro issues, and to some extent, understand them. I do not share their perspective (having been raised in Catholic schools, taken no breaks in my education, and having no children), and I recognize this as a deficiency.

To that end, I'm trying to at least acquaint myself with macro issues facing the whole of the (US) educational system while I simultaneously thoroughly explore the field of statistics education. TED has furnished some good talks about issues facing education, as have documentaries on Netflix. TED talks are usually rather well done, and in the future I'll likely post some that would serve statistics courses well.

Of course, just writing for the sake of writing isn't all it is cracked up to be. I was discussing poor writing with a colleague and Mathgen came up. Mathgen creates mathematics papers that look professional but are actually just... randomly generated nonsense. Some have even been accepted to journals.

Lastly, I'll leave with a few thoughts I'm ruminating on due to the qualitative methods course I am taking (more for me to remember later on, but if you, the reader, want to chime in that, that'd be great):

  • If one rejects a gender-binary in a philosophical (not political) sense, is it possible to still subscribe to a feminist epistemology/theoretical framework (again, in a philosophical not political sense)?
  • Feyerabend seems to place Science on equal footing with Magic and Religion, but puts the onus on science to prove its claims in arguments. That is, a 'scientist' would be required to use science in an argument, but a religious devotee could participate validly in the same argument with 'because I believe' or something similar. Is this an accurate perspective? What role does critical introspection have in all philosophies such as science and religion?

Both of these ideas may have (reasonably) clear-cut answers of which I am not aware. I'm new to qualitative research and epistemologies and frameworks therein. Moreover, I'm still not through with Against Method yet, so there may be obvious answers in there. Just my thoughts for now, though.


On a return to blogging after a hiatus

With the winter holiday I returned to my lazy, non-blogging habits. A New Year's resolution did little to change the situation. I suppose one just jumps in, though. I'll try to keep up with things more this semester. Really.

Plans for this semester

I'm currently taking a seminar on statistics education and an introductory course on qualitative methods. While the former is clearly my area of interest, the latter is proving to be more enjoyable than I had anticipated. One of the books for the course is Crotty's The Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process which is a bit more abstract than I was expecting, focusing on epistemologies and theoretical perspectives. It is a refreshing change, and I'm currently working my way through Feyerabend's Against Method after having my views on post-positivism challenged. (They seemed to be most aligned with Popper before this academic year.) Other plans include a trip to San Diego for LOCUS-related things and In-N-Out Burger, insha'Allah.

Dealing with Protected/Secured PDFs

Occasionally I'll come across a PDF that is Protected/Secured (it says 'SECURED' in the title bar of Adobe Reader) which are rather annoying to deal with. I've been using Mendeley to organize the articles/books I've read, and I copy the abstract into the software so that it can be searched. Alas, one journal whose articles I often read secure every single PDF so that copying cannot be done. Really frustrating.

Thankfully, this "secured" state is not encrypted or password protected. From what I gather, the state is determined by setting a bit in the file to disable certain features and Adobe, upon finding this information, respects the file's instructions. Not all software respects the file's instructions, and those that don't allow copying without issue. Two such readers are Evince (part of GNOME) and Okular (part of KDE). Both are open source, and both at least have options for disabling the DRM on the files. They are also both available on Windows (as well as many other platforms and are exceedingly common on Linux); if you're just looking for a quick download on Windows, Evince might be better. Either way, problem solved.

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Grad school update

This semester I only have class two days per week. I knew going into this semester that I would be busy every day and not just the days I have class (this isn't my first time in grad school after all).

But wow — I've really stretched myself thin this semester. I just tried to list it all... and it didn't seem like much, but underestimating some of the time commitments is what is getting me.

A lot of the smaller projects I've wanted to work one have gotten pushed back, and keeping up with this blog has been harder than I anticipated. I don't quite have time for the Monday/Wednesday/Friday update schedule that I had planned, so I'll be switching to Monday/Thursday to see if I can stick to it.

Also, I took a trip to San Antonio in conjunction with LOCUS. That was fun and served to confirm that I'm on the right career path.

And now, a few quotable things I've heard this semester:

  • "We have the curse of multidimensionality... that'd be a good idea for a Halloween costume." -- Dr. Leite
  • "Better out than perfect." (on manuscripts and journal submissions) Said by Dr. Bondy, but not sure the original source. (Maybe a Dr. Johnson?)
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Grad school update

Add/Drop and the first full week of school are over. A few thoughts from the past month or so:

On teaching...

  • Having taught hundreds of students, some are bound to recognize me. Some excitedly wave to me. Some smile. Some glare. Some say cryptic statements as we pass each other: "Hey Doug: you gave me a B+." (Is that a good or bad thing in your mind?) I guess this goes with the territory. I remember none of their names.
  • I feel a little weird not teaching this semester.

On research...

  • Working with coauthors can be tricky. Working with seven coauthors is trickier.
  • The pace of research can be slow.
  • I'm trying to learn to stand my grand at times. (Come on, let's get this paper out there!)
  • I've got to get better about following up with people.

On technology...

  • I'm need to remain vigilant to avoid getting stuck in old paradigms. A friend/colleague of mine uses DropBox to share files with her students (and ostensibly to move her research around to different computers). I have 7 flash drives, several of which are identical. Yeah. DropBox would have been great for sharing some giant files with my students over the summer (I wanted to distribute JMP to my students because UF has a site license for it, but the short semester and some emails that JMP never responded to precluded me from including it in the course). I've resisted using DropBox because of privacy and security concerns, but for non-sensitive, non-critical data it seems like a good solution. I've been wanting to investigate running my own DropBox-like service, but I just... don't have the time. There are some open source alternatives I've looked at, but the time factor is really a key thing. The two main FOSS alternatives I've heard of are Sparkleshare and ownCloud, but as I've never used any, consider that more of a starting point for looking.
  • My current work-flow is more or less working for me. My computer boots Linux by default, and 90% of what I do is there. When I need Windows, the flash hard drive is fast enough that I can be in Windows in less than two minutes.

On classes...

  • When three hour blocks become standard, 50 minute classes feel really short.
  • Parking on campus after restrictions are lifted is more awful than I realized. (I'd really like UF to implement an after-hours permit that cost $50/year or something but allowed one to park in any lot that is restricted during the day. Who knows, this might not fix the problem and just cost more money. Something should be done, though.)
  • Textbooks are still really expensive. Many of my textbooks have been available on SpringerLink in previous semesters... this semester, not so much. In fact, an ebook I did find can only be checked out by one person at a time (really EBSCOhost? way to stay relevant).
  • I don't mind homework. I don't like exams.
  • Spanish class is terrifying, mostly because it isn't in English.

On growing up...

  • Because eventually I'll need a REAL ID to fly on an airplane, I headed to the DMV. The DMV really isn't that bad. I mean, it is byzantine, but helps. Having GatheredWentGot, the initial "do you have the right papers?" part was a snap (despite a queue that began outside). Of course, they did mess up my address and hoped that I wouldn't think it was a big deal. All in all, about 75 minutes was all it took to get my new ID. Not terrible.
  • I no longer consider the majority of undergraduates my peers. Somewhere along the way a perspective shift happened and that was that.

I've got a few technology-related posts in the works (mostly about ThinkPad/Linux issues), but I figured a general blog post would be nice now.

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