Friday, May 26, 2017


Study on Students and 'Authenticity' in Classroom

By Colleen Flaherty, May 26, 2017, Inside Higher Ed

“Authentic” professors are preferred by students, many of whom learn more from them as a result, according to a new study in Communication Education, the journal of the National Communication Association. The authors questioned some 300 college students on their perceptions of professors’ authentic and inauthentic behavior and communication, and found that authentic instructors were perceived as approachable, passionate, attentive, capable and knowledgeable. Inauthentic professors, meanwhile, were perceived as unapproachable, disrespectful, inattentive, lacking passion and not capable. Students also reported higher levels of learning and deeper understanding in learning experiences they described as authentic, and at-risk students are positively impacted by teachers whose communication is perceived as authentic, according to the study.

The paper says that that professors may work to seem more authentic -- only to the degree that it feels natural -- by conversing with students before and after class, and sharing experiences and really interacting with them as part of teaching. “‘Authentic’ Teachers Are Better at Engaging With Their Students” was written by Zac Johnson, assistant professor of communication at California State University at Fullerton, and Sara LaBelle, assistant professor of communication at Chapman University.

Instructors perceived as authentic were willing to share details about their lives, told personal stories, made jokes and admitted mistakes, according to the study. They also showed concern for their students as individuals, such as by emailing sick students to see how they were doing. “Our participants made it clear that a teacher’s efforts to view themselves and their students as individuals had a lasting impact,” Johnson and LaBelle say. “The process of teaching authentically need not be more complicated than making simple and direct statements regarding the level of concern and care that a teacher holds for their students. … Our implication is not simply that teachers should engage in limitless amounts of self-disclosure. Rather, by making efforts to engage with students beyond their expected roles in the classroom, teachers can greatly impact students’ perceptions of them and their course.”
There could be a problem here:

You know enough, don't you?

Click on image to enlarge.
You know enough not to reply to, or click on links embedded in, messages like the one above. Right?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Uh Oh

UC-Berkeley Researchers Have Created an AI That Is Naturally Curious

Tom Ward, May 24, 2017, Futurism

Researchers at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, have produced an artificial intelligence (AI) that is naturally curious. They tested it successfully by having it play Super Mario and VizDoom (a rudimentary 3-D shooter), as the video below shows.

While the AI that was not equipped with the curiosity ‘upgrade’ banged into walls repeatedly, the curious AI explored its environment in order to learn more. Pulkit Agrawal, a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, a member of the team, compared it to babies, who “do all these random experiments, and you can think of that as a kind of curiosity.”

Most current AIs are trained using ‘Reinforcement Learning’ — they are rewarded when they perform a task that helps them to reach a goal or complete a function. This is a useful and effective strategy for teaching AI to complete specific tasks — as shown by the AI who beat the AlphaGo world number one — but less useful when you want a machine to be autonomous and operate outside of direct commands. This is crucial step to integrating AI into the real world and having it solve real world problems because, as Agrawal says, “rewards in the real world are very sparse.”

Brenden Lake, a Data Science Fellow at New York University said in an email to MIT that this work is encouraging. “Developing machines with similar qualities is an important step toward building machines that learn and think like people.”

However, to some, this could be extremely worrying. Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have already discussed AI as a serious threat to humanity, and we must consider the consequences of introducing improvements to thought capacity to a process of learning that we already don’t fully understand.


You never know where this could lead:

The Strawberry Saga Moves On

Jury rules with school in fight over California strawberries

Scott Smith, Associated Press, May 24, 2017
San Francisco Chronicle

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A renowned strawberry researcher in California broke patent law and violated a loyalty pledge to his former university by taking his work with him to profit from it in a private company, a jury in San Francisco decided Wednesday.

Professor Douglas Shaw formed his own research firm with others after retiring from the University of California, Davis, where for years he had overseen the school's strawberry breeding program, developing a heartier and tastier fruit. Jurors in the federal court decided that he used seeds developed at UC Davis without gaining the university's permission.

The rift struck fear in some farmers in California, the No. 1 strawberry-growing state, that it would stymie research and cause them to lose their competitive edge. California last year produced 1.6 million tons of strawberries valued at roughly $2 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The university's strawberry breeding program is now under new leadership, providing farmers and consumers with new generations of the fruit, school officials said.

"This federal jury decision is good news for public strawberry breeders at UC Davis and all strawberry farmers throughout California and the world," said Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

After reading the verdicts, Judge Vince Chhabria, who oversaw the trial, scolded both sides, expressing doubt about the sincerity they claimed to have for the strawberry industry.

"If you really care about strawberries, and if you really cared about California's Strawberry Breeding Program, you would figure out a way... to avoid subjecting them to this custody battle," he said.

Shaw had first sued UC Davis after he retired, saying that the university unfairly destroyed some of his work and keeps some of his other research locked in a freezer, depriving the world of a better strawberry. He had sought $45 million for lost research. The university countersued.

Shaw, 63, is a giant in the strawberry world, heading the university's lucrative breeding program for more than two decades alongside plant biologist Kirk Larson. Most of California's strawberry farmers grow plants developed by Shaw and Larson. The two men developed 24 new varieties, allowing growers to double the amount of strawberries produced while retaining the fruit's succulence. They created strawberries that were more pest- and disease-resistant, more durable during long-distance travel and capable of growing during the shorter days of spring and fall.

The partners say their work netted the university $100 million in royalties. How much they themselves made at UC Davis is unclear, but they say they contributed more than $9 million of their own royalties toward the university's breeding program. They retired from the university in 2014 because, they said, the school was winding down the program. Working in partnership with growers and nurseries, they launched a business called California Berry Cultivars, based in Watsonville, to develop new strawberry varieties.

Attorney Sharyl Reisman, who represents the professors and the California Berry Cultivars, said that despite the disappointing verdict, her clients wish to find a way to collaborate with the university.

Damages the professors owe in the case will be decided later, the judge said.* 

A.G. Kawamura, a strawberry farmer, former California agriculture secretary and part owner of the California Berry Cultivars, said the judge's comments signal a need for much more work to settle the dispute, even after the trial.

"We still believe there's good reason to hope for a collaborative progress for all parties to move our strawberry industry forward without litigation," Kawamura said. "We are still committed to being an important part of the California strawberry industry.*

*So there are likely to be more negotiations in the future before the strawberry matter is finished..

Heading Down the Wrong Road - Part 2

Lest you think - from our prior post - that the dysfunction in the legislature is only on the GOP side, Democratic efforts to kill the constitutional autonomy of UC continue:

..."It’s long overdue that the citizens of California impose more constraints on UC’s $32.5 billion budget. When the California Constitution was ratified in 1879, UC was deemed a 'public trust.' Its governing board enjoys almost complete autonomy in how it operates. To rein in the excessive spending and administrative inflation, I am authoring State Constitutional Amendment 13, a bill that will amend the state Constitution and force a recalcitrant UC to stick to a new budgetary constraint: No tuition increases can be implemented if the number of administrators making a salary above that paid to the governor exceeds 600. Right now, UC has 112 well-paid administrators beyond that ceiling..."

From state senator Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Political Dysfunction/Editorial Dysfunction

The LA Daily News picks up the state audit report story in an editorial and calls for a subpoena after hearing from some GOP legislators. Excerpt:

"A group of Assembly Republicans has called on Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-South Gate, to issue a legislative subpoena to compel the University of California to produce all financial records and correspondences pertaining to the $175 million fund. Rendon has declined to do so."

But subpoena what? UC and the state auditor seem to have an agreement over the next steps to be taken. So as far as a subpoena is concerned, there is no there there. The state auditor in fact has the legal authority to get whatever records she wants.

Apparently, the editorial board of the LA Daily News didn't watch or listen to the recent Regents meeting at which the state auditor reported, discussion ensued, and steps were taken. The GOP is marginalized in the legislature with the Democrats now having supermajority status, so it's understandable - as a matter of politics - that Republican legislators are hanging on to this issue. And gone are the days when Republicans, such as former Gov. George Deukmejian, actually liked UC,which they saw as contributing to economic growth in California. But the LADN editorial board might have consulted members of the Regents - including Republican appointees - before writing.

You can find the editorial at:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Listen to the Regents May 17, 2017 Afternoon Session

We conclude our collection of audios of the May 2017 Regents meetings with links to the afternoon sessions of May 17.

Three committees met in the afternoon. Below is a summary of the agendas:

Agenda – Open Session: Public Engagement & Development

Action: Approval of the Minutes of the Meeting of March 15, 2017
Discussion University of California Alumni Relations Overview
Discussion Community Outreach and Impacts, Los Angeles Campus
Discussion Overview of the Federal Budget and Its Impact on the University of California
Discussion State Government Relations Update
Agenda – Open Session: Compliance and Audit
Action: Approval of the Minutes of the Meeting of March 15, 2017
Discussion: Draft Internal Audit Plan for 2017-18
Discussion: Compliance Risk Assessment Process Update
Agenda – Open Session: Governance & Compensation
Action: Approval of the Minutes of the Meeting of March 15, 2017
Action: Approval of Appointment of and Compensation Using Non-State Funds for Senior Managing Director, Office of the Chief Investment Officer as Discussed in Closed Session

Action: Recommendations for Election of Officers and Appointments to Standing Committees and Subcommittees for 2017-18

Below is a link to Governance & Compensation. There was push-back by some Regents over approval of the big buck salary on the agenda until after the full board had discussed the state audit the following day:
You can hear all three committee sessions by going to: