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Posts Tagged ‘black

Earlier this month I reflected on an experience I had when I was pursuing a Masters degree in the US in 2000. Long story made short: A white guy tried to run me off the road with his truck while I was cycling.

To bring some balance to that story, I thought I should share another one. This was a few years later and I was in another state in the USA and pursuing a Ph.D. 

It was roughly this time of year and winter was slowly melting away. But it had a nasty habit of creating slippery patches of road called black ice. These were sheets of ice on roads that were so thin as to be unnoticeable. That is, until you slipped or skidded on them.

Photo by Gladson Xavier on

I was riding home on my usual route and did not realise there was black ice around a street corner. My bike slid and I had a bad fall. I stopped the little traffic there was on the road, but everyone waited patiently.

I struggled to pull my bike off the road while lying prone on the ground. Like my first story, this one featured another white guy in a truck. However, this one approached me with a first kit and asked me if I was all right.

Later I found out that I had some badly bruised ribs, but at that the time I was more concerned about my wounded pride. After all, I had regularly ridden on snow and braved -25°C weather. But I had never lost my balance on black ice.

The second white-guy-in-a-truck experience could not have been more different from the first. He was concerned and caring. Unlike the press that likes to sensationalise negativity, I prefer balance. I still think there are more of the second type of people in the world than the first.

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The gist of this episode might read: Neural networks, anyone?

Neural networks are commonplace, but we might not be aware of them. They are used when Facebook suggests tags for photos, a diagnostic lab analyses cell samples for cancer, or a bank decides whether or not to offer a loan.

So knowing what neural networks are and how they work are important. However, this episode provided only a small taste of both with this schematic.

My marked up version of the PBS/CrashCourse graphic on a basic neural network schematic.

Marked up version of the PBS/CrashCourse graphic on a neural network schematic.

If the input layer is a query we might have and the output layer is an answer, the black box is where rules and algorithms break down and process the input.

What happens in the black box is still a mystery. We might not care how exactly a social media system knows what tags to suggest for a photo, but we probably want to know why a financial system denies us a loan.

Perhaps the next episode might shed more light on the black box.

A reply like “I’ve done my part” sounds innocuous, right?

This is was what an adult learner said to me when I asked him why he was not contributing to his group’s discussion.

I was surprised, angry, and disappointed, roughly in that order. He had not “done his part” despite sharing his views because he did not listen to his peers, offer responses, or raise questions.

He did the bare minimum and expected the rest to carry the weight of the discussion.

Anyone who has done group work or projects for school or work knows at least someone like that. People with bad attitudes is why group work and projects have a bad name.

I did not let “I’ve done my part” get away with it. I gently but firmly reminded him of his other responsibilities to the group.

He was not done. But he might be in a different way. I do not forget a face and I will remember his name. I take my role as watchdog as seriously as I do educator.

As a teacher educator, I was aggressive in making sure that student teachers who had bad attitudes did not go on to affect and infect children in schooling.

As an educator of future faculty, I will not claim “I’ve done my part”. I still have lots to do.


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