Monthly Archives: October 2012

Stanford R. Ovshinsky, Self-Taught Genius Dies at 89

On Wednesday, October 17, 2012, the world lost a modern-day genius, one who was rivaled only by the likes of Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. In addition to being creative, innovative, and remarkably intelligent, these iconic men shared another thing in common—they were all largely self-taught.

Having never graced the doors of a college classroom (at least not as a student), Ovshinsky transformed the technology, automotive, and alternative energy industries with his groundbreaking theories and inventions, many of which were initially perceived as highly controversial if not downright foolish by his colleagues. Still, one consultant and colleague of Ovshinsky, Chicago physicist Hellmut Fritzsche, called him “the only genius [he] ever met,” despite his 40-year career at the University of Chicago (as cited in Woo, 2012).

Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of the “energy genius,” as he was called, was the invention of the nickel-metal-hydride battery, which has been used to power such high-tech machines as laptops, cellphones, and even hybrid cars.

It might be said that Ovshininsky’ s legacy left its mark on not just the energy field, but on the education field as well. At the very least, his life’s work begs the questions: Is compulsory education and college education really necessary, or does is, as John Taylor Gatto, author of The Weapons of Mass Instruction, argues, serve only to dumb us down or stifle our creativity? If more of us were given the freedom to learn on our own about the things that most interest us, would we accomplish more as individuals, as a society, as a species? Yes, I believe we would, and although he never officially weighed in on the subject, I happen to think our modern day genius would agree.

Ovshininsky died of prostate cancer at his home in Bloomfield, Michigan.

References

Woo, E. (2012, Oct. 20). Stanford Ovshininsky dies at 89; inventor founded new field of electronics. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/20/local/la-me-stanford-ovshinsky-20121021.

eLearning Based on the Semantic Web

The new Web—what some people are referring to as the Semantic Web—offers a promising solution for the obstacles businesses face when implementing new eLearning methods. In a Semantic Web, content will be made consumable for both machines and humans, allowing “automated agents” (p. 2 ) as Stojanovic, Staab,  & Studer (2001) refer to them, to decipher web content and react to unpredictable scenarios just as people do.

According to Stojanovic et al (2001), in order for this objective to be realized, four main layers of representational structures are required including the XML layer (representing data structure), the RDF layer (representing meaning), the Ontology layer (representing a consensus of the meaning), and the Logic layer (which allows for reasoning). While technologies for the first two layers already exist, the latter two have yet to be fully developed.

The benefits of the Semantic Web will lie in its ability to be shaped by the automated agent into relevant, just-in-time learning experiences for users on an as-needed basis. In essence, an employee who needs to solve a problem or complete a task could create a course of study or training module in seconds simply by typing in a semantic query related to the topic.

Stojanovic et al (2001) argue that in order for such a scenario to be realized, eLearning systems must use ontology-based metadata (i.e. a standardized system of tags by which to organize web data). Furthermore, this system must describe not only the content of web resources, but also their context and structure. A Semantic Web based on this ontology foundation would allow for better communication between machines and humans, making dynamic, real-time learning a distinct possibility.

 

Stojanović, L., Staab, S., & Studer, R. (2001). eLearning based on the Semantic Web. Paper presented at the World Conference on the Web and Internet, October 23-27, 2003, Orlando, Florida, USA.