Hide Navigation

About Spartan Ideas

Spartan Ideas is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and opinions independently written by members of the MSU community and curated by MSU Libraries

Categories

Contributing Authors

Tags

When Research Gets Misused

There’s a comic that illustrates a phenomenon known all too well by researchers – the tendency for the complex findings of rigorous studies to be boiled down to facile comments about what is or is not true. Press releases and the media seek to pull complex findings together into sound bites that can impact a …

More

Von Neumann and Realpolitik

“Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” — Thucydides, Melian Dialogue. Von Neumann, Feynman, and Ulam. Adventures of a Mathematician (Ulam): … Once at Christmas time in 1937, we drove from Princeton to Duke University …

More

Michael Anton: Inside the Trump White House

Michael Anton is head of strategic communications for the National Security Council. See related Politico article. The Atlantic: Michael Anton warned last year that 2016 was the Flight 93 election: “Charge the cockpit or you die.” Americans charged. Donald Trump became president of the United States. And Anton, the author of that now-notorious essay, is …

More

New publication: Using TPACK to Analyze Technological Understanding in Teachers’ Digital Teaching Portfolios

Over the past four years, I’ve participated in research projects on a few different topics, but most of them can be grouped into the broad category of “digital educational research.” As I like to put it, this involves exploring how digital technologies afford not only new spaces for teaching and learning but also new ways …

More

Michigan Schools Face Uncertain Futures

January 20th, 2017 marked a pivotal day for the future of thirty-eight schools across the state of Michigan. Parents received letters from the Michigan State School Reform/Redesign Office (SRO) that spelled out dire consequences for their children’s schools.  The SRO announced publicly that these thirty-eight schools had been identified as chronically low achieving and had …

More

Independent Streams (Week of April 17)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems In Richmond, High Number Of Homicides Go Unsolved (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate David Carter talks homicide investigation practices in Richmond, Virginia. Few Democratic Voters Back Syria Bombings. So Why Do So Many Democrats In Congress? (link is external) IPPSR Director Matt Grossmann discusses foreign …

More

Yann LeCun on Unsupervised Learning

This is a recent Yann LeCun talk at CMU. Toward the end he discusses recent breakthroughs using GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks, see also Ian Goodfellow here and here). LeCun tells an anecdote about the discovery of backpropagation. The first implementation of the algorithm didn’t work, probably because of a bug in the program. But they convinced …

More

History of Bayesian Neural Networks

This talk gives the history of neural networks in the framework of Bayesian inference. Deep learning is (so far) quite empirical in nature: things work, but we lack a good theoretical framework for understanding why or even how. The Bayesian approach offers some progress in these directions, and also toward quantifying prediction uncertainty. I was …

More

To Teach and Delight

The last two weeks of March this year brought sadness twice over to the College of Arts & Letters. On March 18, 2017, we lost Anna Norris, a beloved professor of French Literature who taught at Michigan State University for 18 years. On March 30, 2017, we lost Jim Seaton, an eloquent advocate for the …

More

Ratings Revelations from the First Batch of State ESSA Plans

     Although the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) rolls back federal education mandates to allow states more authority over their accountability systems, it nonetheless requires that the Secretary of Education approve each state’s accountability plan to be implemented in the 2017-18 school year. Under an Obama Administration policy, states (and Washington, DC) could submit their …

More

New York Takes the Lead

  At the end of last week the New York state legislature passed a state budget, which will include tuition-free college at the state’s public colleges and universities. The plan is to phase in the program by first waiving tuition for students from families with incomes up to $100,000 during the initial year, up to …

More

Elie Mystal on the Chief Justice

Here is “John Roberts, Silent During The Garland Process, Suddenly Worries About Partisanship.” An excerpt: When Mitch McConnell decided that black presidents only get to be president for seven years and refused to hold a hearing on Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, there was only one man in the country who could have …

More

Implications of the Next Generation Science Standards for Students, Teachers, and Teacher Education

The recent rollout of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has paved the way for revised K-12 curricula, the redesign of course sequences, and the piloting of assessments tied to more challenging academic goals. While the notion of using standards to cohere elements of the science-learning infrastructure together seems promising, the document cannot fix the …

More

Michigan’s Future is Tied to the Great Lakes Region: Findings from the Urban Institute

The Urban Institute, a non-partisan research institute and think-tank out of Washington D.C. recently released a report titled “The Future of the Great Lakes Region”. The report is timely, with intense interest in the postindustrial Midwest from both an electoral and policy perspective, and it contains findings that should be of great interest to policy …

More

Independent Streams (Week of April 10)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems Border Tax Could Add $2,500 To Price Of Car Or Truck (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Charles Ballard comments on potential consequences of a border tax. Political Corruption Knows No Party, History Shows (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Eric Freedman discusses historical political corruption. Michigan …

More

There is Something Fishy about this Privy

It’s official… the fish skeletal material recovered from the Saint’s Rest privy, the toilet associated with the first dormitory on campus contained walleye! Walleye. Image source. Walleye are the largest member of the perch family and can be caught in shallow bays and inland lakes. As there are plenty of inland lakes surrounding East Lansing, …

More

Saying ‘YES’ to Teaching

Relative to other college graduates, teachers prefer to work close to their hometowns. One study found that teachers typically work about 13 miles away from where they attended high school as opposed to college graduates in other fields, who move about 54 miles away from where they grew up. These geographical preferences can create problems …

More

And with that I’ll take both good and bad questions…

When scientists give talks/seminars/colloquia/presentations/speeches/lectures/lessons/defenses/instructions, questions are welcomed, and (probably to give themselves time to think), they often start by stating that that is a good question. What they don’t do is designate a question as dumb or stupid, because that’s offensive, and scientists are frail like quails when it comes to their intellects. “Good” questions: …

More

Dialog 2017

Too busy to take many photos, but here are a few. First one is of a conversation between Tyler Cowen and Peter Thiel. Dialog is an biannual 2-day thought retreat, gathering 150 global leaders to discuss how to change the world. Dialog was created in 2006 to bring together global leaders across industries to discuss …

More

What Was I Thinking?

The LTEE has run for over 10,000 days and almost 67,000 generations. It’s time to shut it down, as of today. It’s been a hell of a lot of work, and we have almost nothing to show for it. As some astute commentators have noted around the web, the creatures in the flasks are still …

More

Independent Streams (Week of March 27)

Our weekly roundup of policy-relevant reads and IPPSR-connected research. Problems 6 Ways Trump’s Budget Cuts Hurt All Americans (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Charles Ballard comments on the new presidential administration’s budget release. Analysis: A-F Grades For Schools A Tough Sell In Legislature (link is external) IPPSR Affiliate Josh Cowen discusses the possibility of giving …

More

The Plight of Adjunct Faculty

  While reading about the state of the adjunct teaching force on college campuses recently, I began to see some parallels between college adjuncts and early childhood teachers. Just a few weeks ago I discussed the deplorable amount of money that early childhood teachers bring home, leading to a large portion of them to depend …

More

Adventures with TeX Live

Since I use the Linux Mint operating system, the obvious (if not only) choice for a LaTeX distribution is TeX Live. (If you are not familiar with, or are not interested in, the LaTeX typesetting system, you have already read too far in this post.) On Mint, Ubuntu and other Debian-type operating systems, you typically …

More