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1. Out and About with Carla in Miami

One of the great parts of being an author is speaking to audiences about my books.   While I enjoy every group, some are extra special.  Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Miami, Florida, to share my book In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry.  This book is about Varian Fry, an American journalist who volunteered to go to Nazi controlled France in 1940 to order to rescue (mostly) Jewish refugees whose lives were in danger.   This true story of one man who believed he could make a difference is filled with intrigue and danger.  Ultimately, Varian Fry rescued more than 2000 people.  Yet few Americans have ever heard his name.

I was invited by the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach to share the work of Varian Fry as part of Holocaust Education Week.  They asked me to speak to three different audiences.   The first night, I presented my program for the public at the Holocaust Memorial.   It was an honor to speak about rescue during the Holocaust at a place dedicated to the memory of so many who were not rescued.  Every Holocaust Memorial is different, and here the centerpiece is the massive statue of a hand reaching toward the sky with human figures huddled around the bottom.  The sculpture is powerful and moving.  It says so much-silently.   In the audience that night, listening to my program were Holocaust survivors and the descendants of some who had been killed at Auschwitz.

The next morning I spoke to university students at Miami Dade College.  Many in the audience – including one of the administrators – had come to American as refugees.  As I shared about the refugees of 1940 leaving their homes, these young adults understood the concept in a much more personal way than my usual audience does.

In the afternoon, I presented my program to students at a private Jewish high school.   These modern American students carrying their backpacks entered the room and chatted as they took their seats.  While relating the work of Varian Fry, I told them about several people who helped him.  One of them was a seventeen-year-old boy named Justus Rosenberg.   He was their age and his life was in danger because he was Jewish.   Rosenberg survived but countless other teens didn’t.
I shared the work of Varian Fry with three different audiences in Miami.  Each one was very special.
Carla Killough McClafferty

We are currently running a giveaway for IN DEFENSE OF READ-ALOUD that ends at midnight on April 1.  (CORRECTION NOTE:  There was a typo in an earlier post that said the end date was April 6.  The correct end date is April 1.)  For more details see Esther Hershenhorn’s post:    

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2. Lament of an educator/parent

My seventeen-year-old son has just completed fifteen examinations in the course of two weeks. They varied in length – some in excess of three hours, with a half hour break before the next exam – and we are still feeling the fallout from this veritable onslaught.

The post Lament of an educator/parent appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. TED-Ed Lesson Explores Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’

Have you ever felt puzzled by Plato’s allegory of the cave? The video embedded above features a four-minute lesson about this ancient text which can be found in Book VII of The Republic.

Over at the TED-Ed website, viewers can access a quiz, a discussion board, and more resources. Click here to download a digital edition of The Republic.

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4. A week of technology instruction

Ian's pollinator talk.

So since I left MetaFilter almost a year ago, my goal was to spend more time “librarianing” I have a part time job with the Internet Archive running Open Library. I write for The Message a Medium publication, sometimes about librarianship and sometimes not. I write monthly for Computers in Libraries. I do my local technology instruction through the Adult Education program at the local vocational high school. In the past I’ve also done a lot of “How I do it” talks on the road at library conferences. I have not been doing that this month. Instead, I’ve been picking up more local tech instruction work, some paid and some unpaid. It’s been a fun busy week here and I thought I’d outline a few things I’ve done that people might be interested in.

  1. I taught an iPad class in a “pop up” university in the local town. Some local folks started Bethel University a local skillshare program. I offered an iPad class. People could read the list of classes via a home made WordPress setup and RSVP via EventBrite. I had ten students, most new-ish to the world of iPads and we talked about a lot of iPad features, did some exercises together and I answered a lot of questions. Fun. Free for everyone. I donated my time. I got photocopies for free. The class was held in the library which donated the space. Win. Win. Win.
  • I taught the last class of my college credit class on integrating technology for teachers at the vocational high school. Through a collaboration with a state university, teachers could take a one-credit continuing education class with me learning how to use the Google Suite of tools for education. We wrapped up with class presentations (ten minute slide presentations demonstrating some of the things we’d learned, Ian discusses pollinators above) and it was a joy to see how much people had learned and seeing them applying it to their own classrooms. I learned a lot and this gig also paid via grant money given to RTCC for teacher continuing education, coordinated through the adult education department.
  • Drop-in time had a bunch of new computer users who were at the “How do I turn it on?” phase of technology learning. There were a lot of people at drop-in time last week, so I grouped them together and got a few of them started with Google and a few basic commands: back, reload, scroll, click. Every so often when I was helping someone else, I’d hear peals of laughter from that part of the room as they took delight in things I’ve become jaded to such as custom 404 pages.
  • I also finished a Computers in Libraries article today about data collection and was pleased to see one of my local colleague, Amber Billey a metadata librarian at UVM, get listed as one of Seven Days’ Seven Vermont Women to Watch. If there’s a meta-story to this post it’s that staying local and working on the digital divide in your own backyard has been, for me, as satisfying as being on the road. And a little more calm.

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    5. How I stopped worrying and learned to love concrete

    Every campus has one, and sometimes more than more: the often unlovely and usually unloved concrete building put up at some point in the 1960s. Generally neglected and occasionally even unfinished, with steel reinforcing rods still poking out of it, the sixties building might be a hall of residence or a laboratory, a library or lecture room. It rarely features in prospectuses and is never – never ever – used to house the vice chancellor’s office.

    The post How I stopped worrying and learned to love concrete appeared first on OUPblog.

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    6. 10 Ways to Use Instagram in the Classroom

    Think there’s no need for sepia-toned filters and hashtags in your classroom? Don’t write off the world of #selfies just yet.

    Instagram is one of the most popular social media channels among generation Z, or those born after 1995 and don’t know a world without the Internet. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this is a generation of visual learners and communicators, where sharing your life-from the food you’re about to eat to your thoughts about anything and everything-is a part of your everyday routine. So, why allow Instagram in your classroom?

    For starters, preparing students to be college and career ready involves helping them build their digital literacy skills on a professional level, and Instagram is a technological tool that offers educators innovative ways to motivate and engage students, opening up a new platform for collaboration, research, and discussion. Secondly, we all know the importance of interest and ownership for getting students excited about learning, and since your students probably already love Instagram you’ve already won half the battle.

    Teacher/Classroom Instagram Accounts

    Create a private classroom Instagram account that you control and instagramcan use to connect with your students, their parents and guardians, and other grade team members. Invite them to follow your account and catch a glimpse of your everyday classroom moments and adventures.

    1. Student of the Week: Each week, feature a different student on the class Instagram account, posting photos-with their permission- of their favorite classroom projects and other examples of their hard work and achievement. This is a fun opportunity to highlight your students’ individual strengths, positively reinforcing their behavior and progress.
    2. Daily/Weekly Classroom Update: Similar to student of the week, you can instagram your students’ classroom projects and activities on a daily or weekly basis. From photos of new classroom reads to capturing field trip memories, this is an excellent way to build a sense of community while allowing parents to see what lessons, topics, and exciting activities are happening in your classroom. This is also a great way to easily and quickly share your classroom ideas with other grade team teachers.
    3. Student takeover: If you’re not able to encourage students to create their own individual Instagram accounts, invite each student to “take over” the classroom account for a day or week by sharing photos from his or her everyday life. This is a great opportunity for students to learn more about their peers by instagramming their interests, hobbies, routines, and even cultural traditions.
    4. Photo Inspiration: Finding inspiration to write can be one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. Spark your students’ imaginations and help them discover new ideas through instagramming writing prompts by playing with different angles, perspectives, and filters to capture random moments and objects that you encounter throughout your day-to-day.
    5. Caption That! For a variation of the writing prompt, post an interesting photo and ask your students to write a descriptive caption in the comments. Differentiate how challenging this task is by asking students to write their caption using specific sentence types, different parts of speech, clauses, prepositional phrases, and their current vocabulary words.
    6. Daily challenges: If your students are able to follow the classroom Instagram account on a regular basis, you can use it to post daily challenges in the form of visual word problems, review questions, and bonus questions. Instagram photos of important learned concepts and pose questions to your students in the caption, asking them to write their answers in the comments. For example, this fifth-grade teacher used Instagram to review who Henry Ford was and other important events in history.

    Student Instagram Accounts

    Asking your students to follow the classroom Instagram account with their personal accounts is one, highly unlikely, and two, probably not the best idea. What you can do is ask your students to create additional Instagram accounts that would only be used for school or classroom purposes. You know how LinkedIn is your professional Facebook? A similar idea applies here.

    1. A Day in the Life: Challenge students to assume the role of a classroom longfictional literary character and share images that he or she believes the specific character would post, highlighting the character’s interests, personality traits, and development throughout the story. The 15-second video option is a great way to really let students get into character through recorded role-playing and even performance reenactments. These activities can also be applied to important figures in history, such as the creator of Honda, Soichiro Honda, or jazz musician, Melba Liston.
    2. What the Kids are Reading: Students can snap photos of their favorite reads and write a brief 1-5 sentence review in the caption. To take it a step further, ask them to record 15-second long persuasive book trailers to hook their peers. Boost further discussion among your students by asking them to comment on other book reviews and book trailer videos to share their opinions. Tip: Encourage your students to use a unique #hashtag (ex.: #SMSGrade4Reads) for each book review posted, and by the end of the year you will have a visual library of all of the books your class has read.
    3. Math Hunt: “Why do we have to learn this?” “I won’t need this in my everyday life.” Sound familiar? Help your students see the real-world math applications all around them by sending them on a hunt to document or illustrate their knowledge of different math concepts:
    • Geometry: lines (parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting), angles (right, acute, obtuse, etc.) symmetry, and three-dimensional shapes (prisms, cubes, cylinders, etc.)
    • Everyday fractions and arrays
    • Concepts of money
    • Examples of volume vs. mass, area vs. perimeter
    1. STEM Research: Students can watch, observe, and record science experiment data and results over time by documenting any step-by-step process with photo and video narration of learned science concepts. Outside of the lab, students can use their Instagram accounts for observing science in nature or sharing their own scientific findings. What makes this special is how quickly and easily students can share and revisit their visual references and recorded data.
    • Physical & chemical changes
    • Weather patterns and phases of the moon
    • Animal adaptations
    • Habitats in nature

    Note: Instagram, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Snapchat, has a minimum age limit of 13 to open an account, but according to Instagram’s parents’ guide, there are many younger users on Instagram with their parents’ permission since you don’t have to specify your age. Always check with your school’s administrator and obtain parental permission before sharing photos of students or their work.

    Know of any other interesting ways to use Instagram or other social media sites in the classroom? Already using Instagram in the classroom? Let us know in the comments!

    veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

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    7. Does philosophy matter?

    Philosophers love to complain about bad reasoning. How can those other people commit such silly fallacies? Don’t they see how arbitrary and inconsistent their positions are? Aren’t the counter examples obvious? After complaining, philosophers often turn to humor. Can you believe what they said! Ha, ha, ha. Let’s make fun of those stupid people. I also enjoy complaining and joking, but I worry that this widespread tendency among philosophers puts us out of touch with the rest of society.

    The post Does philosophy matter? appeared first on OUPblog.

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    8. Nineteenth and twentieth century Scottish philosophy

    In the history of Britain, eighteenth century Scotland stands out as a period of remarkable intellectual energy and fertility. The Scottish Enlightenment, as it came to be known, is widely regarded as a crowning cultural achievement, with philosophy the jewel in the crown. Adam Smith, David Hume, William Robertson, Thomas Reid and Adam Ferguson are just the best known among an astonishing array of innovative thinkers, whose influence in philosophy, economics, history and sociology can still be found at work in the contemporary academy.

    The post Nineteenth and twentieth century Scottish philosophy appeared first on OUPblog.

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    9. Advice on your adventure into the realm of a creative career


    Armed with your sword ( pencil) and shield (sketchbook) there maybe many of you who are soon to leave school education to venture forth into the big wide world. Although like a hero with your map and compass in hand, you now need to start to plot the path you want to take in life and especially if you want to pursue a creative career.

    It’s a tough decision to make but there are lots of options out there for you if you’re driven and passionate enough to want to be creative. You could be an illustrator, graphic designer, photographer, fine artist, fashion designer, pattern designer, ceramist and much more.  Although many people will assume that the career path as a creative can be a pennyless one, this isn’t the case if you’re determined and clever in the plans you’re making.

    Though these options may differ slightly for each country, university, internships and apprenticeships are some ways in which you can pursue you’re creative aspirations. Each have their benefits and disadvantages, so its important you choose a path that’s best for you. For example university can be expensive but it gives you time, facilities and expertise to hone your creatice practice. Internships and apprenticeships give you hands on workplace experience, but you may not have lots of time to experiment creatively.

    These aren’t the only paths to choose, but they’ll hopefully give you food for thought on what to do next. Remember though you can write your creative story however you wish. If you’re not happy with the decisions you make there’s always the option to change the course you’ve set moving towards your aspirations and creative success.

    Featured image is by illustrator Arian Armstrong and you can find out more about her work here.

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    10. Wilberforce University: a pioneering institution in African American education

    What do opera singer Leontyne Price, activist Victoria Gray Adams, civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin, and Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson have in common? They all attended or graduated from Wilberforce University. Located outside of Dayton, Ohio, Wilberforce was the first institution of higher education to be owned and operated by African Americans.

    The post Wilberforce University: a pioneering institution in African American education appeared first on OUPblog.

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    11. Choosing a Workshop

    The first step is to identify what you want and need.


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    12. Does the MOOC spell the end for universities?

    The seemingly unassailable rise of the MOOC – the Massive Open On-Line Course – has many universities worried. Offering access to millions of potential students, it seems like the solution to so many of the problems that beset higher education. Fees are low, or even non-existent; anyone can sign up; staff time is strictly limited as even grading is done by peers or automated multiple-choice questionnaires. In an era of ever-rising tuition fees and of concerns about the barriers that stop the less well-off from applying to good universities, the MOOC can seem like a panacea.

    The post Does the MOOC spell the end for universities? appeared first on OUPblog.

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    13. 2015 PROSE Awards


    Now in their 39th year, the PROSE Awards honor “the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 40 categories,” as determined by a jury of peer publishers, librarians, and medical professionals.

    As is the usual case with this kind of acknowledgement, we are honored and delighted to share several University of Chicago Press books that were singled-out in their respective categories as winners or runners-up for the 2015 PROSE Awards.



    Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile
    By Megan R. Luke
    Art History, Honorable Mention



    House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again
    By Atif Mian and Amir Sufi
    Economics, Honorable Mention



    American School Reform: What Works, What Fails, and Why
    By Joseph P. McDonald
    Winner, Education Practice



    The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools
    By Christopher A. Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski
    Winner, Education Theory



    Earth’s Deep History: How It Was Discovered and Why It Matters
    By Martin J. S. Rudwick
    Honorable Mention, History of STM



    The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Bilingual Edition
    By Pier Paolo Pasolini
    Edited and translated by Stephen Sartarelli
    Honorable Mention, Literature



    How Should We Live?: A Practical Approach to Everyday Morality
    By John Kekes
    Honorable Mention, Philosophy


    Congrats to all of the winners, honorable mentions, and nominees!

    To read more about the PROSE Awards, click here.

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    14. Education, metaphorically speaking

    What do we think education means? What do we believe are teaching’s purpose, status, and function in society? A useful way to reflect on our pre-conceptions and assumptions about anything is to step back and consider the metaphors we automatically apply when thinking or speaking of it. This is a particularly useful exercise for the trainee teacher, who, for obvious reasons, is likely to frame teaching primarily in terms of a performance – something that is observed, analysed, graded and, if all goes well, given the pedagogic equivalent of a five star review. For the experienced teacher, this same metaphor will re-emerge from time to time in the face of inspections, institutional self-evaluations, and peer observations; but it is likely to become obsolete as newer, more productive ideas about teaching develop over time.

    A dominant metaphor can not only tell us about how the teacher positions herself in relation to her role, but also about how that role is regarded by society. We talk increasingly, for example, of a teacher ‘delivering’ the curriculum. The teacher is construed here as a delivery agent, a go-between whose role is to present to learners a curriculum which has been conceived, devised, and constructed elsewhere. The idea of delivery in itself suggests a one way process that discounts the possibility of dialogue, critical enquiry, and mutual learning. So could there be a potential contradiction here between this concept of the role and our wider understandings of what it means to be a professional? And if so, will the teacher who is encouraged to see their function primarily in terms of ‘delivery’ experience any less satisfaction in their work than the teacher who would describe their professional practice in terms of ‘nurture and nourishment’? These are interesting questions; and part of the answer, of course is that most experienced teachers will view their role differently over time and according to circumstance; some days it’s an endless postal round and on others it’s all the joy of conducting the Royal Philharmonic through Beethoven’s Ninth.

    This is not just a question of language; nor is it a roundabout way of posing the key question about the primary purpose of education: whether it is to serve the economy, or to nurture the potential of each individual, or – somehow – to do both. As Lakoff and Johnson (1980) point out, our entire conceptual system is in its very nature metaphorical. We think in metaphors and they play a large part in defining the way we perceive our everyday reality. When we talk of a teacher ‘conducting’ a lesson, therefore, we’re introducing a whole range of assumptions about role and function, and at the same time applying judgements about value, which are quite different to those we may infer when we hear of a lesson being ‘delivered’.

    Metaphors can also succinctly encapsulate certain expectations or models of educational practice. A good example here is Paulo Freire’s description of the hierarchical and instrumental approach to teaching and learning as a ‘banking’ model. Here, the teacher is seen as the repository and dispenser of knowledge, and the learner as recipient; an unequal power relationship in which knowledge or skill is viewed as a commodity and which offers no potential for genuine development either of the learner or the teacher. We might contrast this with the metaphor of education as exploration, a joint enterprise and mutually fulfilling adventure undertaken by teacher and learners together. And then there is the metaphor of the farm or the garden in which the teacher nurtures successive ‘crops’ of learners; or even the image that sometimes surfaces of education as war, in which the teacher is pitted against the learners in a battle of wills to subdue, shape, and eventually socialise them. Indeed, the metaphors we find ourselves inhabiting can provide us with insight into just what it is we think education is for.

    Image Credit: Orchestra by Hans Splinter. CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr

    The post Education, metaphorically speaking appeared first on OUPblog.


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    15. Jonathan Nagler: writing good code

    Introduction, by R. Michael Alvarez

    Today’s data scientist must know how to write good code. Regardless of whether they are working with a commercial off-the-shelf statistical software package, R, python, or perl, all require the use of good coding practices. Large and complex datasets need lots of manipulation to wrangle them into shape for analytics, statistical estimation often is complex, and presentation of complicated results sometimes requires writing lots of code. To make sure that code is understandable to the author and others, good coding practices are essential.

    Many who teach methodology, statistics, and data science, are increasingly teaching their students how to write good computer code. As a practical matter, if a professor requires that students turn in their code for a problem set, that code needs to be well-crafted to be legible to the instructor. But as increasing numbers of our students are writing and distributing their code and software tools to the public, professionally we need to do more to train students how to write good code. Finally, good code is critical for research replication and transparency — if you can’t understand someone’s code, it might be difficult or impossible to be able to reproduce their analysis.

    When I first started teaching methods to graduate students, there was little in the methodological literature that I found useful for teaching graduate students good coding practices. But in 1995, my colleague Jonathan Nagler wrote out some great guidance on good methodological practices, in particular guidelines for good coding style. His piece is available online (“Coding Style and Good Computing Practices”), and his advice from 1995 is as relevant today as it was then. I use Jonathan’s guidelines in my graduate teaching.

    Over the past few years, as Political Analysis has focused resources on research replication and transparency, it’s become clear that we need to develop better guidance for researchers and authors regarding how to write good code. One of the biggest issues that we run into when we review replication materials that are submitted to the journal is poor documentation and unclear code; and if we can’t figure out how the code works, I’m sure that our readers will have the same problem.

    We’ve been thinking of developing some guidelines for documentation of replication materials, and standards for coding practices. As part of that research, I asked Jonathan if he would write an update of his 1995 essay, and for him to reflect some on how things might have evolved in terms of good computing practices since 1995. His thoughts are below, and I encourage readers to also read Jonathan’s original 1995 essay.

    *     *     *     *     *

    Coding style and good computing practices: it is easy to get the style right, harder to get good practice, by Jonathan Nagler, NYU

    Many years ago I was prompted to write Coding Style and Good Computing Practices, an article laying out guidelines for coding style for political scientists. The article was reprinted in a symposium on replication in PS (September 1995, Vol. 28, No. 3, 488-492). According to Google Scholar, it has rarely been cited, but I’m convinced it has been read quite often because I’ve seem some idiosyncratic suggestions made in it in the code of other political scientists. Though re-reading the article I am reminded how many people have not read it, or just ignored it.

    Ladies coding event by Jon Lim. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

    Here is a list of basic points reproduced from that article:

    • Labbooks: essential.
    • Command files: they should be kept.
    • Data-manipulation vs. data-analysis: these should be in distinct files.
    • Keep tasks compartmentalized (‘modularity’).
    • Know what the code is supposed to do before you start.
    • Don’t be too clever.
    • Variable names should mean something.
    • Use parentheses and white-space to make code readable.
    • Documentation: all code should include comments meaningful to others.

    And I concluded with a list of rules:

    • Maintain a labbook from the beginning of a project to the end.
    • Code each variable so that it corresponds as closely as possible to a verbal description of the substantive hypothesis the variable will be used to test.
    • Errors in code should be corrected where they occur and the code re-run.
    • Separate tasks related to data-manipulation vs data-analysis into separate files.
    • Each program should perform only one task.
    • Do not try to be as clever as possible when coding. Try to write code that is as simple as possible.
    • Each section of a program should perform only one task.
    • Use a consistent style regarding lower and upper case letters.
    • Use variable names that have substantive meaning.
    • Use variable names that indicate direction where possible.
    • Use appropriate white-space in your programs, and do so in a consistent fashion to make them easy to read.
    • Include comments before each block of code describing the purpose of the code.
    • Include comments for any line of code if the meaning of the line will not be unambiguous to someone other than yourself.
    • Rewrite any code that is not clear.
    • Verify that missing data is handled correctly on any recode or creation of a new variable.
    • After creating each new variable or recoding any variable, produce frequencies or descriptive statistics of the new variable and examine them to be sure that you achieved what you intended.
    • When possible, automate things and avoid placing hard-wired values (those computed ‘by-hand’) in code.

    Those are still very good rules, I would not change any of them. I would add one, and that is to put comments in any paper citing the piece of code that produced the figures or tables in the paper. In 20 years a lot of things have changed about how we do computing. It has gotten much easier to follow good computing practices. Github has made it easy to share code, maintain revision history, and publish code. And the set of people who seamlessly collaborate by sharing files over Dropbox or one of its competitors probably dwarfs the number of political scientists using Github. But to paraphrase a common computing aphorism (GIGO), sharing or publishing badly written code won’t make it easy for people to replicate or build on your work.

    I was motivated to write that article because as I stated then, most political scientists aren’t trained as computer programmers. Nor were most political scientists trained to work in a laboratory. So the article covered both style of code, and computing practice to make sure that an entire research project could be reproduced by someone else. That means keeping track of where you got your data, how it was processed, etc.

    Any computer code is a set of instructions that produces results when read by a machine, and we can evaluate the code based on the results it produces. But when we share code we expect it to be read by humans. Two pieces of code be functionally equivalent — they could produce identical results when read by a machine — even though one is easy to read and understand by a human; while the other is pretty much unintelligible to a human. If you expect people to use your code, you need to make the code easy to read. I try to ask every graduate student I am going to work with to read several chapters from Brian W. Kernighan and Rob Pike’s, The Practice of Programming (1999), especially the Preface, Chapters 1, 3, 5, 6, and the Epilogue.

    It has turned out to be easier to write clean code than to maintain good computing practices overall that would lead to easy reproducibility of an entire research project. It is fairly easy to post a ‘replication’ dataset, and the code used to produce the figures and tables in a paper. But that doesn’t really tell someone everything they need to know to try to reproduce your work, or extend it to other data. They need to know how your data was generated. And those steps occur in the production of the replication dataset, not in the use of it.

    Most research projects in political science pull in data from many sources. And many, many coding decisions are made along the way to a finished product. All of those decisions may be visible in the code; but keeping coherent lab-books is essential for sifting through all the lines of code of any large project. And ‘projects’ rarely stand-alone anymore. Work on one dataset is linked to many projects, often with over-lapping sets of co-authors.

    At the beginning of a research project it’s important for everyone to agree where the code is, where the data is, and what the overall structure of the documentation is. That means decisions about whether documentation is grouped by project (which could mean by individual paper), or by dataset. And it means reaching some agreement on whether there is a master document that points to many smaller documents describing individual tasks, or whether the whole project description sits in a single document. None of this is exciting to work out, certainly not as exciting as doing the research. But it is essential. A good goal of doing all this is to make it as easy as possible to make the whole bundle of documentation and code public as soon as it is time to do so. It both saves time when it is time to release documentation, and imposes some good habits and structure along the way.

    Heading image: Typing computer screen reflection by Almonroth. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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    16. Writer to Writer by Gail Carson Levine

    Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink by Gail Carson Levine Harper. 2014 ISBN: 9780062275301 Grades 4 -12 I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library Looking back at a book from 2014. In Write to Writer: from think to ink, Levine guides hopeful writers on creating stories that will captivate readers. Picking up where she left off in Writing Magic: creating stories that fly--and

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    17. How being with the right kind of people can make your creativity grow.



    Being a creative at times can be hard, whether you love to scribble, paint, take a picture, shape clay and more all you know is you’re passionate about what you do. No one said it was going to be an easy path to follow when you start out, taking each day as it comes trying to direct your creativity in so many ways for opportunities to come your way.

    Although there is that one bump in the road we all come across countless times called the “pennyless art believers”. Many of us have no doubt been there and got the t-shirt when we’re asked “What do you want to do as a career?”.

    With a huge cheesy grin and sketchbook in hand we enthusiastically reply… “I want to be an illustrator” or fine artist , ceramic designer or any other type of creative professional. Its then that you suddenly see the person cringe with the assumption you’re going to struggle to make it as a creative. Yes its easy for others people to assume in the comfort of their everyday job that you’ll be a pennyless artist.

    However if you’re wise about how you do things you can achieve great things , avoiding the assumption of being a pennyless artist drawing doodles for macaroons and a starbucks ( or is that just me?). If you encounter people with a negative view of your career path , don’t let that upset you and take this advice:


    “Be around the right kind of people who will help your creativity grow and who believe in what you doBelieve in yourself and the right people will support you on your journey to do and achieve great things”.

    Image is by Leah Bergman and you can find out more about her work here.

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    18. My Librarian is a Camel by Margriet Ruurs

    My Librarian is a Camel: how books are brought to children around the world By Margriet Ruurs Boyds Mills Press. 2015 ISBN: 9781590780930 Grades K-12 I went into my local public library and borrowed a copy of this book. In My Librarian is a Camel, author Margriet Ruurs contacted librarians around the world and asked them to share their stories about their efforts to connect books with

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    19. Investing in My Students

    Today’s guest bloggers is Lindsey Roache, Assistant Principal at University Heights Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana.

    IMG_1923As a principal, I know that if my students are going to care about school, they have to know their school cares about them. Sometimes this means our school buys clothes, purchases bus passes, provides a Thanksgiving meal or adopts a family around the holidays. It also means we make sure our students have great books.

    We do our best, but we have limitations. My school has no library, therefore we have a limited amount of books. Our teachers dig into their own pockets to buy books for their students and we apply for grants. We also have First Book.

    IMG_1920Last year, when I delivered brand new books and dictionaries to classrooms, the looks on the students’ faces were priceless. The students were incredibly thankful. They felt their importance. They knew that we were committed to investing in their future and helping them in any way possible.

    This holiday season, please help our students and others know we care by giving them brand new books. Join me in creating a generation of invested learners who will read, learn and succeed. Please donate to First Book today — every $2.50 you donate through December 31, 2014 will be matched with an in-kind donation of two books from Disney.

    The post Investing in My Students appeared first on First Book Blog.

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    20. 3rd Annual Christmas Spectacular

    Authors in the Park, the long-running showcase for local authors, is coming back to downtown Mount Dora with the 3rd Annual Christmas Spectacular set for December 20th.

    This year’s event will feature Steve Boone of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band The Lovin’ Spoonful. Boone will be on hand to promote his memoir, Hotter Than a Match Head.

    Authors in the Park is an author event series which supports local authors and community literacy. The event is sponsored by MillerWords.com and Arts for the Community, Inc. (a local non-profit).

    “It is great to have Steve at this year’s event. Not only is he a rock legend, but also a Florida author,” Mark Miller, founder of Authors in the Park, said.

    In addition to Boone and Miller, other local authors will be on hand including: Sharon Coady, Illustrator Victor Donahue, De Miller, Olivia Miller, Theresa Oliver, D.G. Stern, C. Kevin Thompson and Colleen Wait.

    “Another great thing about these authors is their commitment to their community,” Miller said. “This year’s line-up features educators, inspirational speakers and more.”

    The Christmas Spectacular will take place Saturday, December 20th from 5p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Donnelly Building at Fifth Avenue and Donnelly Street in the center of festive downtown Mount Dora. It is free to attend and the authors will be available for photos and autographs. The city will be showing off its holiday light display and local shops will be open.

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    21. Gary King: an update on Dataverse

    At the American Political Science Association meetings earlier this year, Gary King, Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University, gave a presentation on Dataverse. Dataverse is an important tool that many researchers use to archive and share their research materials. As many readers of this blog may already know, the journal that I co-edit, Political Analysis, uses Dataverse to archive and disseminate the replication materials for the articles we publish in our journal. I asked Gary to write some remarks about Dataverse, based on his APSA presentation. His remarks are below.

    *   *   *   *   *

    An update on Dataverse

    By Gary King

    If you’re an academic researcher, odds are you’re not a professional archivist and so you probably have more interesting things to do when making data available than following the detailed protocols and procedures established over many years by the archiving community. That of course might be OK for any one of us but it is a terrible loss for all of us. The Dataverse Network Project offers a solution to this problem by eliminating transaction costs and changing the incentives to make data available by giving you substantial web visibility and academic citation credit for your data and scholarship (King, 2007). Dataverse Networks are installed at universities and other institutions around the world (e.g., here is the Dataverse network at Harvard’s IQSS), and represent the world’s largest collection of social science research data. In recent years, Dataverse has also been adopted by an increasingly diverse array of other fields and protocols and procedures are being built out to enable numerous fields of science, social science, and the humanities to work together.

    With a few minutes of set-up time, you can add your own Dataverse to your homepage with a list of data sets or replication data sets you make available, with whatever levels of permission you want for the broader community, and a vast array of professional services (e.g., here’s my Dataverse on my homepage). People will be able to more easily find your data and homepage, explore your data and scholarship, find connections to other resources, download data in any format, and learn proper ways of citing your work. They will even be able to analyze your data while still on your web site with a vast array of statistical methods through the transparent and automated connection Dataverse has built to Zelig: Everyone’s Statistical Software, and through Zelig to R. The result is that your data will be professionally preserved and easier to access — effectively automating the tasks of professional archiving, including citing, sharing, analyzing, archiving, preserving, distributing, cataloging, translating, disseminating, naming, verifying, and replicating data.

    Dataverse Network Diagram, by Institute for Quantitative Social Science. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

    Dataverse is an active project with new developments in software, protocols, and community connections coming rapidly. A brand new version of the code, written from scratch, will be available in a few months. Through generous grants from the Sloan Foundation, we have been working hard on eliminating other types of transaction costs for capturing data for the research community. These include deep integration with scholarly journals so that it can be trivially easy for an editor to encourage or require data associated with publications to be made available. We presently offer journals three options:

    • Do it yourself. Authors publish data to their own dataverse, put the citation to their data in their final submitted paper. Journals verify compliance by having the copyeditor check for the existence of the citation.
    • Journal verification. Authors submit draft of replication data to Journal Dataverse. Journal reviews it, and approves it for release. Finally, the dataset is published with a formal data citation and back to the article. (See, for example, the Political Analysis Dataverse, with replication data back to 1999.)
    • Full automation: Seamless integration between journal submission system and Dataverse; Automatic Link created between article and data. The result is that it is easy for the journal and author and many errors are eliminated.

    Full automation in our third option is where we are heading. Already today, in 400 scholarly journals in the Open Journal System, the author enters their data as part of submission of the final draft of the accepted paper for publication, and the citation, permanent links between the data and the article, and formal preservation is taken care of, all automatically. We are working on expanding this as an option for all of OJS’s 5,000+ journals, and to a wide array of other scholarly journal publishers. The result will be that we capture data with the least effort on anyone’s part, at exactly the point where it is easiest and most important to capture.

    We are also working on extending Dataverse to cover new higher levels of security that are more prevalent in big data collections and those in public health, medicine, and other areas with informative data on human subjects. Yes, you can preserve data and make it available under appropriate protections, even if you have highly confidential, proprietary, or otherwise sensitive data. We are working on other privacy tools as well. We already have an extensive versioning system in Dataverse, but are planning to add support for continuously updated data such as streamed from sensors, tools for online fast data access, queries, visualization, analysis methods for when data cannot be moved because of size or privacy concerns, and ways to use the huge volume of web analytics to improve Dataverse and Zelig.

    This post comes from the talk I gave at the American Political Association Meetings August 2014, using these slides. Many thanks to Mike Alvarez for inviting this post.

    Featured image: Matrix code computer by Comfreak. CC0 via Pixabay.

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    22. DeSTEMber: STEM Activities for Girls

    This December, one organization is working to give girls a gift that will last a lifetime: resources to reach their potential in science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM is a prominent part of current educational models in the U.S., but girls are traditionally underrepresented in STEM-related professional fields. DeSTEMber aims to change that.

    DeSTEMber is hosted by non-profit organization Girlstart. “Half of the world’s potential ideamakers—women and girls—are discouraged from developing their ideas because of social bias or inequity. More girls with more ideas create more solutions,” notes the organization. Girlstart has been working since 1997 “to increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM through innovative, nationally-recognized informal STEM education programs.” Their work covers girls in grades K-16. (See their About Us page for more information.)

    The DeSTEMber website offers a STEM activity for each day of December. The downloadable activity PDFs include instructions for the activity and a short explanation to go along with it. Each one also features links to additional resources, plus a Career Connection section that describes a profession relating to that activity. These are intended to be far more than one-time activities; they are springboards into the future, both for short-term learning and long-term education and career goals.

    Interested in participating? Although DeSTEMber is almost over, these activities are relevant all year long. Girlstart also maintains a link to the DeSTEMber 2013 activity page, meaning users can access 62 free STEM resources.

    Librarians and other educators interested in getting involved with Girlstart should visit their educator page.

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    23. Discovering microbiology

    Microbiology should be part of everyone’s educational experience. European students deserve to know something about the influence of microscopic forms of life on their existence, as it is at least as important as the study of the Roman Empire or the Second World War. Knowledge of viruses should be as prominent in American high school curricula as the origin of the Declaration of Independence. This limited geographic compass reflects the fact that the science of microbiology is a triumph of Western civilization, but the educational significance of the field is a global concern. We cannot understand life without an elementary comprehension of microorganisms.

    Appreciation of the microbial world might begin by looking at pond water and pinches of wet soil with a microscope. Precocious children could be encouraged in this fashion at a very early age. Deeper inquiry with science teachers would build a foundation of knowledge for teenagers, before the end of their formal education or the pursuit of a university degree in the humanities.

    Earth has always been dominated by microorganisms. Most genetic diversity exists in the form of microbes and if animals and plants were extinguished by cosmic bombardment, biology would reboot from reservoirs of this bounty. The numbers of microbes are staggering. Tens of millions of bacteria live in a crumb of soil. A drop of seawater contains 500,000 bacteria and tens of millions of viruses. The air is filled with microscopic fungal spores, and a hundred trillion bacteria swarm inside the human gut. Every macroscopic organism and every inanimate surface is coated with microbes. They grow around volcanoes and hydrothermal vents. They live in blocks of sea ice, in the deepest oceans, and thrive in ancient sediment on the seafloor. Microbes act as decomposers, recycling the substance of dead organisms. Others are primary producers, turning carbon dioxide into sugars using sunlight or by tapping chemical energy from hydrogen sulfide, ferrous iron, ammonia, and methane.

    Bacterial infections are caused by decomposers that survive in living tissues. Airborne bacteria cause diphtheria, pertussis, tuberculosis, and meningitis. Airborne viruses cause influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and the common cold. Hemorrhagic fevers caused by Ebola viruses are spread by direct contact with infected patients. Diseases transmitted by animal bites include bacterial plague, as the presumed cause of the Black Death, which killed 200 million people in the 14th century. Typhus spread by lice decimated populations of prisoners in concentration camps and refugees during the Second World War. Malaria, carried by mosquitos, massacres half a million people every year.

    Contrary to the impression left by this list of infections, relatively few microbes are harmful and we depend on a lifelong cargo of single-celled organisms and viruses. The bacteria in our guts are essential for digesting the plant part of our diet and other bacteria and yeasts are normal occupants of healthy skin. The tightness of our relationship with microbes is illustrated by the finding that human DNA contains 100,000 fragments of genes that came from viruses. We are surprisingly microbial.

    Agar kontaminaatio. Photo by Mädi. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
    Agar kontaminaatio. Photo by Mädi. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

    Missing the opportunity to learn something about microbiology is a mistake. The uninformed are likely to be left with a distorted view of biology in which they miscast themselves as the most important organisms. For example, “Sarah” is a significant manifestation of life from Sarah’s perspective, but her body is not the individual organism that she imagines, and nor, despite her talents, is she a major player in the ecology of the planet. Her interactions with microbes will include a healthy relationship with bacteria in her gut, bouts of influenza and other viral illnesses, and death in old age from an antibiotic-resistant infection. Sarah’s microbiology will continue after death with her decomposition by fungi. In happier times she will become an expert on Milton’s poetry, and delight students by reciting Lycidas through her tears, but she will never know a thing about microbiology. This is a pity. Learning about viruses that bloom in seawater and fungi that sustain rainforests would not have stopped her from falling in love with Milton.

    Even brief consideration of microorganisms can be inspiring. A simple magnifying lens transforms the surface of rotting fruit into a hedgerow of glittering stalks topped with jet-black fungal spores. Microscopes take us deeper, to the slow revolution of the bright green globe of the alga Volvox as its beats its way through a drop of pond water. A greater number of microbes are quite dull things to look at and their appreciation requires greater imagination. Considering that our bodies are huge ecosystems supported by trillions of bacteria is a good place to start, and then we might realize that we fade from view against the grander galaxy of life on Earth. The science of microbiology is a marvel for our time.

    Featured image credit: BglII-DNA complex By Gwilliams10. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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    24. Alternative access models in academic publishing

    Disseminating scholarship is at the heart of the Oxford University Press mission and much of academic publishing. It drives every part of publishing strategy—from content acquisition to sales. What happens, though, when a student, researcher, or general reader discovers content that they don’t have access to?

    For example, while a majority of Oxford Handbook Online (OHO) and Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) users have access through their institutions, not everyone does; sometimes even those who do need to conduct research at home or while on leave, when they aren’t connected to their campus networks. To facilitate such research, Oxford has partnered with the Copyright Clearance Center to begin offering chapters on a pay-per-view basis. Pay-per-view is a well-established business model in journal publishing but is only recently gaining traction for book-based content.

    Beginning in October, unauthenticated users of Oxford Handbooks began seeing buy buttons on articles. Clicking the button will allow them to purchase 24-hour access or, for a premium, unlimited perpetual access. And starting in the New Year, just in time for the start of the new term, this option will be available at the chapter level in Oxford Scholarship Online.

    As with any change, we didn’t take this lightly. Oxford, like any other publisher, needed to fully weigh the risks against the benefits. Our partnership with the Copyright Clearance Center is focused on expanding access while maintaining our robust global institutional partnerships. The benefits were clear from the start: allowing more users to access our content—from any device at any hour of the day—and in a multitude of currencies. A student rushing to finish a paper at the end of the term or a researcher away from her library can have full access to the best scholarship with just a few clicks and a credit card. They can cite with confidence.

    With just a few months under our belt, the early results are incredibly encouraging. Customers from around the globe are accessing award-winning content—some for just 24 hours, others choosing to retain the article in perpetuity. We’re working with these users throughout to learn more—from their geographical location to the ease of the transaction. All of this feedback helps us further develop this new access model, our platform, and the overall user experience. Over the next year, we will further experiment with discounting, personalization, and recommendations to make the most of this important project.

    In the end, we hope to have learned great deal about getting the best research into the hands—and minds—of as many users as possible. That, after all, is our mission.


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    25. #Force2015 – back to the future of scholarly communications

    Oxford University Press is delighted to co-sponsor this year’s Force2015 conference which takes place in Oxford’s new Mathematical Institute on 12-13 January 2015. Conference sessions will be live-streamed for a global audience.

    This year marks the 350th anniversary of the scholarly journal, as recorded by the first publication of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions in 1665. In a dedicatory epistle to the Society’s Fellows and the Introduction, editor Henry Oldenburg set forth its purpose to inform the scientific community of the latest and most valuable discoveries.

    Roughly eighty years earlier, in 1584, a Supplicatio — effectively a 16th century business case — was made to Robert Dudley, the earl of Leicester and chancellor of the University of Oxford, to establish a university press. In seven brief ‘considerations’ it sets out the reasons why a press was necessary as both intrinsic to the act of scholarship and to establish Oxford’s profile as an international seat of learning.

    The turmoil of technology, innovation, and transformation in the 16th and 17th centuries is recognizable today. Then, the printing press had been established for some decades. Now, the World Wide Web hurtles towards age thirty. Then, those institutions that understood and harnessed the press’s power were establishing the beginnings of a scalable scholarly communications infrastructure. Now, previously unfeasible or unimagined businesses are being created, and are transforming established industries.

    What can we learn from centuries of successful and continuous publication of science in the face of changing scholarly practice? Is the scholarly article still fit for purpose in this data-driven world? What is the role of scholarly publishers in this evolving landscape?

    Over two days in January, attendees of FORCE2015 will be grappling with such questions. Indeed, many of the core questions of scholarly publishing were identified by the authors of the epistle and Supplicatio.

    How can we address the challenge of discoverability?

    “Whereas there is nothing more necessary for promoting the improvement of Philosophical Matters, than the communicating to such, as apply their Studies and Endeavours that way, such things as are discovered or put in practice by others;” [Philosophical Transactions]

    “there lie hidden away in the libraries of that University many excellent manuscripts, now shamefully covered in dust and dirt, which, by the boon of establishing a press in the same city, could be rescued from perpetual obscurity and distributed in other parts of Europe to the great credit of the whole nation.” [Supplicatio]

    How can one demonstrate research impact?

    “This is my Solicitude, That, as I ought not to be unfaithful to those Counsels you have committed to my Trust, so also that I may not altogether waste any minutes of the leasure [sic] you afford me. And thus I have made the best use of some of them, that I could devise; To spread abroad Encouragements, Inquiries, Directions, and Patterns, that may animate, and draw on Universal Assistances.” [Philosophical Transactions]

    “given now the opportunity of a press, they might swiftly and easily remove and shake off the imputation of idleness which foreigners daily lay against them.” [Supplicatio]

    How is publication integral to academia and the wider scholarly community?

    “To the end, that such Productions being clearly and truly communicated, desires after solid and useful knowledge may be further entertained, ingenious Endeavours and Undertakings cherished, and those, addicted and conversant in such matters, may be invited and encouraged to search, try, and find out new things, impart their knowledge to one another, and contribute what they can to the Grand design of improving Natural knowledge, and perfecting all Philosophy Arts, and Sciences.” [Philosophical Transactions]

    “where there is a settlement of learned men there should be printers, so that books may be printed more correctly and texts more diligently collated, universities may not be deprived of printers without the greatest loss to literature.” [Supplicatio]

    What considerations might a crowd-sourced epistle or supplicatio for a twenty-first century research communications system include? The boundaries between the act of research and the act of publication are blurring (think data curation and publication). It probably wouldn’t propose a platform per se but a web of protocols, services, and best practice (after all ‘the web is the platform’). To guarantee permanence, core services would be built on a sustainable cyberinfrastructure. It would include identifiers, both for things (datasets, publications, maybe even equipment) and people. It might mandate a schema for attribution. It would need to tackle reproducibility. It would support not just computational sciences, but discipline-specific needs such as digital humanities. It would need to address various concerns around openness (access, source, code, data) while ensuring a sustainable, long-term business model. It should be extensible to a future of networked research objects while retaining the rhetorical power of the scientific paper. There may be several hundred considerations.

    The Force2015 conference chair, Oxford’s Professor David de Roure, has argued for the reimagination of scholarly communications as networked research objects – ‘a sense making network of humans and machines.’ This scale of evolution and development will not be achieved by any one organization acting alone. Many of the questions are human or organizational (motivation, reward, governance) rather than technology-based. Much of this new world is in place or on the horizon, but collaboration and engagement by all parties – researchers, universities, funders, publishers – is essential to make it a reality.

    As the methods and outputs of research evolve, so too must the services of scholarly publishers. We look forward to joining Force2015 attendees in Oxford and online worldwide, where we’ll continue to engage in discussion and work together on the next phase of scholarly communications.

    The opinions and other information contained in this blog post and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.

    Headline image credit: 54 St Aldates. Photo by London Road. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

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