From The Editor

  Study shows for first time that a free, online course can change students’ mindsets towards their mathematical abilities, leading to increased academic achievement.”

The above quote is from a May 10, 2018 ScienceDaily article from Frontiers (the open-access journal Frontiers in Education). The study describes how A free ‘massive, open, online course’ (MOOC) designed to change students’ attitudes towards mathematics makes them more engaged in class — leading to significantly higher test scores.”  See below, Changing students’ attitudes to mathematics improves test scores. (Also see the QESP Blog below, which gives links to a range of free Australian and global MOOCs.)

Talk about changing students’ mindsets, a new software tool offers an approach using the eyes rather than the brain which could help us all to grasp complex issues. “Our tool turns complex data into intuitive 3-D shapes that can be visually examined and compared. Essentially, we are leveraging the visual system’s amazing ability to find patterns in the world around us to also find patterns in complex scientific data.” This research is from Dartmouth College, reported in a 7 May 2018 ScienceDaily paper which also notes that “The insights revealed by the tool can also be used to guide the development of machine learning algorithms”

Coincidentally, in an 8 May 2018 ScienceDaily study from North Carolina State University,  ‘League of Legends’ to gain insights into mental models, “Psychology researchers have used the game League of Legends to advance our understanding of how people build ‘mental models’ — the mental tools that allow people to make use of complex systems.“

And it’s not just mental models. A 24 May 2018 ScienceDaily study from Drexel University, New parts of the brain become active after students learn physics, shows that parts of the brain not traditionally associated with learning science become active when people are confronted with solving physics problems.

Some further mixed news about AI comes in a  May 10, 2018 NYT, article Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t, and in a 24 May 2018 ScienceDaily study from University of British Columbia,  Hey Alexa: Amazon’s virtual assistant becomes a personal assistant to software developers.

See below, New Software Tools Improve Your Memory and More.

The Blog in our April issue featured a social media video on Google invasion of privacy via our mobile phones, even when those phones have no connection to a network! Further details and advice comes in an article by Richard Matthews, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide. published in The Conversation on May 10, 2018.  “Aside from networking, companies use ultrasonic signals (or beacons) to gather information about users. That could include monitoring television viewing and web browsing habits, tracking users across multiple devices, or determining a shopper’s precise location within a store..” See below, How silent signals from your phone could be recording and tracking you.

“The underlying cryptography hasn’t been updated since the 1990s, even though better techniques have long been available…”

This quote is from a May 14, 2018 ScienceDaily article from Ruhr-University Bochum, which notes “A research team has demonstrated that the two most common email encryption standards are vulnerable to attacks. Their attack, referred to as Efail, proved successful in 25 out of 35 tested email programs using the S/MIME encryption standard and in 10 out of 28 tested programs using OpenPGP.”   See below, Email encryption standards hacked.


Current Issue

Articles in the current Issue cover:

Changing students’ attitudes to mathematics improves test scores

The US and many other countries have widespread mathematics underachievement and anxiety, which threatens the development of science and technology. I really hope that the impact this online class had on students’ mindsets and achievement shows the importance of the class itself, but also of changing students’ attitudes towards mathematics”

New Software Tools Improve Your Memory and More

55 percent of STEM classroom interactions consisted mostly of conventional lecturing — a style that prior research has identified as among the least effective at teaching and engaging students.” 

How silent signals from your phone could be recording and tracking you

“If a digital filter is being used to extract the ultrasonic data, the temporary storage of the full audio spectrum could be considered a recording. And that requires consent.”

Email encryption standards hacked

“The intercepted message is manipulated by the attacker as he adds his own malicious commands in encrypted form. Thus altered, the message is sent to one of the recipients or to the sender, i.e. where the data is stored that’s necessary for deciphering it.”



The above article on MOOCS deals with the use of maths MOOCS to change students’ mindsets. However there is a wide range of other free Australian and global MOOCs on subjects including Education in a Changing World (EduChnge), Big Data for Better Performance (BigData) and Computing and Information Technology.

One site offers “1300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities”, including Design Courses, Computer Science Courses, Engineering (Mechanical, Civil and Electrical) Courses and a range of free Movies, Audio Books, eBooks, Textbooks, Language Lessons, Business Courses and  K-12 Education (kindergarten through high school students) and their parents and teachers. See Australian and global MOOCs



Yes, we are still planning ACOSM18 as a QESP/ACS event. The plan is for an evening event, 5.30 for 6.00, keynote, 2 speakers and  Forum till 7.30, drinks & fingerfood till  8.00. Further details to be provided in the June 2018 Newsletter.



Quote of the Day

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three. – Alice Kahn

Quote from Yesteryear

The direct use of physical force is so poor a solution to the problem of limited resources that it is commonly employed only by small children and great nations.  – David Friedman


Ted Smillie

QESP Chair