awarm.spacenewsletter | fast | slow

Imagining new learning technologies

Things for an introverted, veteran-wfh-er are pretty much business as usual. If anything I've been getting more social interaction because of all the zoom calls.

You're reading A Warm Newsletter, a weekly newsletter about what I've been doing sitting at the intersection of decentralized systems, learning technology, and websites.

On the latter front, this Thursday I hosted a tour of Joel Dueck's in progress personal website, you can catch the recording here if you're interested. Put it on in the background while you're chilling and relax to the soothing sounds of a bunch of nerds talking about websites, publishing, and some dirty hacks. 1

A quick side-note: I'm going to be doing one of these tours for my own site this Thursday. You can RSVP here.

Anyways, one of Joel's goal's for the site is to have it be a book _and a website, both as first-class concerns. Meaning, you can visit it as a website, but periodically he can print out parts of it as a book, from the same source code. Oh man. It's really hard to not get excited about the intersection of book making and hacking on the web. Specifically, Joel's work is inspiring to me in an educational context. It would be so powerful to have textbooks written in code, published online and available as books to anyone who wants them. They could even be contributed to by the community!

Exploring in

Speaking of learning infrastructure, and digital books, this past week I tried out Michael Nielsen and Andy Matuschak's 2 Quantum Computing for the Very Curious. It's an essay on Quantum Computing presented in a "a new mnemonic medium".

Interwoven throughout the text are flash-card style questions about what you've just been reading. But, it's not meant as a test 3, but as a memory aid. Each card reveals the right answer with a click, and you self report whether you got it or not. They only take a couple seconds to process. If you didn't remember, the essay just pops up the same card sometime later! Once you're done with the whole thing, it emails you in a couple days to review the cards again. If you're getting them right (i.e remembering what you read!) the medium won't ask you again for slightly longer i.e a week, then a month, then 6 months, then forever!.

I obviously haven't got anything past a week so I can't speak to long term results, but I had an absolute blast working through the first two essays.

If you trust that the medium will help you remember what you're reading, you can just focus on reading, and fitting what you're reading about into your head. I don't think it obviates the need to take notes, but it makes a whole class of them redundant.

This type of educational technology is fascinating, and woefully underexplored. Spaced repetition flash cards are already used by students in all sorts of fields, so why not make them way easier to produce, and crucially, authorable. Then they can be improved over time, instead of just being reinvented and re-experimented constantly.

If the subject of quantum computers is even kinda up your alley, I highly recommend giving the essay a try. It's got a decent amount of math, but nothing you can't brush up on with 3Blue1Brown's Essence of Linear Algebra series. And, if you're interested in this kind of education technology, definetly try it out.

Looking back on v1

These kinds of tools, mnemonic media, dual web/print publishing, are the kinds of things I want to achieve with V2. A truly digital networked school!

To help with my work on that that I wrote a retrospective on the first version of the project. It feels a little silly to say but I think this is the first time in the history of the many fathom experiments that I've doing a public retrospective like this.

My first draft of it was far too negative. I was having a fun time imagining all the exciting things I wanted to do in version two, and so was mining the first version for problems that I could fix. This was doing it a huge disservice. It was an off the cuff MVP, meant as a foray into the problem space, and it produced really lovely artifacts: channel's full of references, a blogchain about blogging, and a youtube channel of people nerding out over websites.

Well, that's all I have for y'all today! Next week look forward to hearing more about the final form of hyperlink v2. Also, I feel like these newsletters are getting to be a bit of a wall of text, so I'm going to try and make/take/find some images for the next one. No promises on their quality.

Thanks for your time. I hope you're staying safe and secure in these scary times. If there's anything I can do to help, or you just want to email someone, let me know :)

Til next week.

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  1. Joel's website is so cool. He uses a thoroughly themed Fossil instance as an extension of the site. He's writes it in Pollen and has a pipeline that can generate both html and a pdf. He's got 20 years of posts in there! Seriously, watch the video.

  2. Yeah, it seems fair to basically call this an Andy Matuschak fan newsletter at this point.

    3: This is such a powerful example of how useful assessments can be as learning tools if liberated from the chains of testing.