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Closing the Loop between the Brain and Education: Dr. Adam Gazzaley at TEDxASB

Dr. Adam Gazzaley obtained an MD and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, completed clinical residency in Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, and postdoctoral training in cognitive neuroscience at UC Berkeley. He is the founding director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at the UC San Francisco, an Associate Professor in Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry, and Principal Investigator of a cognitive neuroscience laboratory. His laboratory studies neural mechanisms of perception, attention and memory, with an emphasis on the impact of distraction and multitasking on these abilities. His unique research approach utilizes a powerful combination of human neurophysiological tools, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)). In thespirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
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There seems to be something in the water at Stanford University that’s making faculty members leave their more-than-perfectly-good jobs and go teach online.

Coursera co-founders Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller

Stanford computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng are on leave to launch Coursera, which will offer university classes for free online, in partnership with top schools.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Coursera is backed with $16 million in funding led by John Doerr at Kleiner Perkins and Scott Sandell at NEA. It has no immediate plans to charge for courses or make money in other ways.

Compared to Udacity, a similar start-up from former Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun that’s creating its own classes, Coursera helps support its university partners in creating their own courses, which are listed under each school’s brand.

Some might doubt that universities would want to share their prized content for free online with a start-up, but Coursera has already signed up Princeton, Stanford, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania as partners, with a set of classes launching April 23.

Coursera evolved in part out of the hugely popular Stanford classes that Ng and Thrun taught last fall on machine learning and artificial intelligence, respectively. Ng’s course had 104,000 people enrolled, with at least 46,000 completing at least one homework assignment. Of those, 23,000 completed a “substantial” amount of the class, and 13,000 received a “statement of accomplishment,” Ng said. He’ll be offering that class again starting next week.

Koller and Ng are particularly committed to developing pedagogy for this new medium, and have built their own course software and student forums. They describe their philosophy as similar to that of Salman Khan and the Khan Academy, where students are encouraged to take the time to master material at their own pace.

Coursera students help other students — in the fall, the median response time to a question asked on the class forum was 22 minutes — and the system will also learn from the students.

For instance, 2,000 of the 20,000 or so students in Ng’s online class had the exact same wrong solution on one problem set, he said. That’s an opportunity to recognize what’s happening and teach those students in that moment.

Plus, Koller and Ng have also conceived of an ambitious plan to grade humanities classes with thousands of students enrolled.

Coursera’s content is naturally heavy on computer science — where problem sets are fairly straightforward to grade — but it will also offer poetry, sociology and medical courses. These classes will be graded crowdsourcing style, with peer assessment and review. Figuring out how to grade masses of assignments on a subjective scale is a machine learning problem, Ng said.

Another ambitious venture-backed college-level online education start-up I recently covered is the Minerva Project, which is planning to launch its own mostly virtual elite university.

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In his lab at Penn, Vijay Kumar and his team build flying quadrotors, small, agile robots that swarm, sense each other, and form ad hoc teams -- for construction, surveying disasters and far more.

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Seven weeks into Occupy Wall Street, the movement continues in locations both large and small. There have been recent clashes between protesters and police in several cities, most notably Oakland, California. Some of the first protesters arrested in New York are due to appear in court today, facing charges related to mass arrests made earlier in Manhattan and on the Brooklyn Bridge. Meanwhile, financial support has been pouring in. OWS organizers have raised more than half a million dollars and are now struggling to manage such a large pool of donations. Gathered here are recent scenes from the Occupy movement across the U.S. and overseas. [43 photos]

Occupy Oakland protesters cheer as they climb on tractor trailers loaded with shipping containers at the Port of Oakland, California, on November 2, 2011, effectively shutting down the United States' fifth busiest port during a day of non-stop protesting in Oakland. (AP Photo, Kent Porter, Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

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