2024 Week 18


I finally, after almost a month off the bike, got back on the fancy indoor bike for an easy-ish ride. I’m hoping my excuses to not ride get less valid, and I’ll be able to get outside on my real bike soon. My cardio is about the worst it’s ever been. I’m in horrible physical shape, and it’s affecting my general wellness.

⚙️ Work

  • Our D2L reps came to campus for a visit with our team, to help plan ways to improve the experience for instructors and students. Lots of ideas, and we’ve got several things to start working on. They hosted a social thing for Calgary higher education customers (UCalgary, MRU, SAIT, BVC) downtown at what used to be Melrose on the Red Mile™. It’s been… a long time since I’d been down in that area.
  • Working with an associate dean to help navigate the supply chain process as they finalize a license for a new campus platform. Now, to figure out what the support expectations are for that platform, and what role our team in the TI will have (and what resources may be needed in order to do that).
  • The 2024 University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grants awards were announced this week. Over $1m, for 36 projects across the university. What an amazing list of projects!
  • A new guide from our Taylor Institute Teaching Academy: Students as Partners in Higher Education
  • Recruitment for an acting/interim sr. director is ongoing, with a request going out to associate deans. They’re looking for someone with specific experience to fill the role for a year1.

📚 Reading

I need to get back into reading - I’ve kind of not been feeling like reading outside of work for awhile now. So, fiction. Maybe some sci-fi, ideally “hard” sci-fi? I picked up Farside by Ben Bova - a Hugo award nominee, and I’d read a bunch of his stuff years ago, so figured it was worth a shot. The first chapter is a strong candidate for /r/MenWritingWomen, and I almost stopped because of that. Ugh, especially for a book written in 2013 and not 1953. This review by “Michelle” on GoodReads sums it up nicely:

But what irritates me almost beyond reason is the characters who seem to come straight out of a 1950s pulp novel. The main female character, an accomplished astronomer, on meeting a fellow traveler to the far side of the moon, has only one thought: “He’s an Adonis!” And later, when this man, of course, seduces her because she, of course, has terribly low self-esteem because: girl scientist, and then snubs her at a meeting, she wonders whether she “was hot enough in bed.” OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Everyone is first described by their looks: the women of course by chest size and the men by degree of dashingness. This has no place in today’s SF.

I’ll probably finish reading the book, but maybe not. I’ve got KSR’s The Ministry for the Future on deck.

AI

  • Jennifer Sowa @ UToday: New student-focused centre promotes literacy skills in generative AI. New from UCalgary, a partnership between Libraries & Cultural Resources and the Werklund School of Education: Centre for Artificial Intelligence Ethics, Literacy and Integrity2. I’m hoping that our team in the TI will be able to collaborate with this initiative. I’ve talked with Leeanne (she’s the LCR rep on LTAC) about the new AI lab, and it’s going to be a strong addition to our UCalgary AI Strategy™.
  • David Wiley: Information Age vs Generation Age Technologies for Learning. The premise is that the “Information Age” is over (where we relied on copying and distributing information) and has been replaced with the “Generation Age”, where information is generated on demand. Except “Generation” isn’t “information”, it’s bullshit-on-demand.
  • Web of Science Research Assistant - a new AI tool that integrates with the WoS citation database. Not sure how useful it will be, as it’s only available as a beta to “development partners”, but it looks interesting. It looks like it might be something like elicit’s AI citation tool, which I used a bit while writing my dissertation and was impressed at how it found articles that I wasn’t able to find using regular scholar.goog searches. This approach feels like a MUCH more useful and ethical application of generative AI for academic writing. (via Paul Pival)
  • I tried a few more tests of Ollama and phi3 this week, trying to get it to summarize some PDF documents. For one, it generated something that looked related, but didn’t reflect what was in the document. For another, it said something like “…as a large language model, I can’t access files…”. I restarted Ollama and tried again, and it generated something. Comparing its summary to the actual content, it was obvious that it just generated a bunch of text based on what it thought a document with that filename might contain. Completely unrelated to the actual document contents, despite referring to sections and headings etc. Generative AI is getting more convincing, but it’s suuuuper important to keep in mind what it is doing - and what it literally can’t do, despite how much we want to infer understanding and intent based on plausible-sounding bullshit generated on demand.

Alberta

🍿 Watching

🧺 Other

Note-taking

I decided to try using an iPad pencil to take notes directly in obsidian. The Excalidraw plugin was basically unusable for writing with the Pencil. And then I discovered that you can just start writing/ printing directly in a text note, and it is converted to text on the fly. It’s not 100% but pretty good - and works much better than the old Newton message pad ink input. But. My iPad is 9 years old, can’t install current iPadOS, and the battery doesn’t last very long. For kicks, I checked out the price of a comparable new iPad Pro (with Pencil and keyboard) and it’s over $ 1,600! It’d be cheaper to just buy the expensive remarkable notebook. And, I think I’d spend a bunch of time trying to get it working right, so it makes more sense to give up on the Quest For The Perfect Digital Notebook and just keep using my laptop.

🗓️ Focus for next week

The theme for the week will be working with colleagues in IT to modernize our learning technologies support model. Also, meetings. And AI. And I need to do my own annual performance review self-reflection.


  1. and it’s clear that the background isn’t one that I have, so… ↩︎

  2. the lack of Oxford Comma in the lab’s official name makes me twitch a little… ↩︎

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