Miscellaneous

Ten Jobs That Should Be Safe From Automation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 23:19

Sarah Gonser, The Hechinger Report, Sept 22, 2018

I hate to say this, but I don't think that the ten jobs in question are at all safe from automation. Here's the list from the embedded video: musicians, art therapists, watch repairers, manufactured building installers, and manicurists and pedicurists. The article also includes technicians, therapists and teachers. You can see the line of thinking - if it involves a hands-on approach, it will resist automation. But, first, I don't think hands-on jobs will be safe - we will find that robots are able to perform highly technical tasks far more competently and efficiently than humans. But more to the point, many of the jobs simply won't be necessary in the future. Why would we need watch repairers? With self-driving electric vehicles, how much demand will there be for mechanics?

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Education at a Glance 2018

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 23:09

OECD, Sept 22, 2018

The OECD's Education at a Glance report for 2018 is more like a steady gaze, weighing in as a 463 page PDF. You won't need to download the whole thing at once, though, as individual sections and country reports are available as separate documents. The focus of this year's report is on equity in education, and the authors report that parental socioeconomic status continues to be a predictor of education outcome, that while women are making gains in education, men are still favoured in the workforce, and that education for immigrant and refugee populations continues to be a challenge. Canada fares very well internationally, but is not without its challenges, as there continue to be disparities, especially in indigenous communities.

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Blockchain Pixie Dust

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 19:21

Jonathan A. Poritz, Inside Higher Ed, Sept 22, 2018

If there's anything more predictable than the starry-eyed technology hype article, it's the deeply sceptical tech criticism article that follows, on cure, a week later. Case in point: this article on why blockchain isn't some sort of magical miracle. Cue the outrage: " I fear putting more of our economy -- and even our educational systems -- 'on the blockchain' hardwires an extremist neoliberal worldview into the very code of our society." I don't think so, at least, I don't think it will be so any more than it is currently in the financial and stock markets we already have. Moreover, it's difficult to do business on the blockchain without being accountable for what you've done, which is actual an advance over what we have today. As usual, the greater familiarity we have with the tech, the more we see it is both good and bad at the same time, and both part of the solution and part of the problem.

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Is the podcast bubble bursting?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 19:07

Columbia Journalism Review, Sept 22, 2018

We may hear a lot about the "short attention span culture" but my favorite podcast runs more than an hour and other faves two hours long. And I don't think the fact that Slate and Buzzfeed have laid off podcasting staff means the podcast bubble is over - I don't think there ever was a bubble, just some hype that didn't pan out for some profit-takers. As long as people do things that require their primary attention - like driving, say, or writing posts in OLDaily - audio will remain a potent medium. And hence, so will podcasting. The fact that it's hard to commercialize just makes it more attractive.

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Physical models and embodied cognition

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 18:47

Ulrich E. Stegmann, Synthese, Sept 22, 2018

A lot of work in education theory depends on the idea of forming conceptual understanding through the creation of mental models; these models give meaning to the words, ideas and skills being learning. This idea is central to constructivism, and even connectivism relies on it to a certain extent. Recent work in philosophy has considered the question of whether the physical construction of models is important. This is what might be called 'embodied cognition'. There's no doubt that creating a physical model helps cognition; that's why we write down ideas or play with bricks rather than doing it all abstractly in our heads. But does the cognition extend to these models - if we we use blocks, or pencil markings, or a computer, is this a case not only of embodied cognition but also of distributed cognition? Ulrich E. Stegmann argues in this paper that it is not. I'm inclined to agree, but it's not straightforward. Image: Chemero, Radical Embodied Cognitive Science.

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The Value of Consciousness and Free Will in a Technological Dystopia

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 18:28

Allan McCay, Journal of Evolution and Technology, Sept 22, 2018

"According to Harari, we face a bleak future, and may become economically useless, as a result of being superseded by non-conscious AI and/or enhanced humans." This paper argues that we will not be economically useless, but bases this conclusion on an incorrect understanding of AI as algorithm, which leads to the mistaken conclusion that there is a special economic benefit to free will.  The question I ask when I read this paper is why the metric of the future must be "value" and "worth". Being "economically useless" is a bad thing only if economic usefulness is needed in order to survive, but in a world where AIs produce everything, why would that be the case? Happy will be the day when we no longer need economics, or 'economic worth', in order to survive. We can aspire to being more than bean counters.

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John Hancock Will Only Sell Interactive Life Insurance with Fitness Data Tracking

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/20/2018 - 15:38

Suzanne Barlyn, Insurance Journal, Sept 22, 2018

I read a post from Ryerson this morning that began "It’s getting more and more difficult to make a case for privacy when so many people are willingly sharing so much of their personal information online." The answer had hardly begun to form in my mind when I encountered this item from the BBC which makes it clear as crystal. "John Hancock, one of the oldest and largest North American life insurers, will stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones." I enjoy sharing my activities online. But when this sharing becomes involuntary or required, I begin to feel violated. It's the same thing with learning analytics. I might share my activity reports if I think it might help me, but if I am required to share these reports, the course begins to feel intrusive.

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Amid Low Adoption, DoD R&D Will Keep xAPI Alive And That’s Good News

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/20/2018 - 14:16

Cristian T. Duque, Moodle News, Sept 22, 2018

I'm not worried about the future of xAPI, even if the adoption rate has been low thus far. The value proposition of xAPI becomes apparent once you begin using multiiple e-learning applications and want a single activity record. That's not so clear a value when you only use one LMS, but as the technology landscape becomes more distributed, the benefits of xAPI (or something like xAPI) will be come much more clear. For my own part, xAPI is something I want to integrate into gRSShopper (I just have to figure iut the API).

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Lessons on Disagreement from a Psychologist of Human Error

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/19/2018 - 22:28

Justin Weinberg, Daily Nous, Sept 22, 2018

The Daily Nous (which despite appearances employs no fewer than 13 separate CSS stylesheets)  discusses an essay from psychologist Lee Ross describing "the illusion of personal objectivity." This is the belief we tend to have that our own beliefs were formed objectively, and that therefore other people would believe what we do if we explained it to them, and that if they persist in not believing they are being irrational and unreasonable. And it's not easy to see the matter from the other person's perspective, as illustrated by the difficulty people feel when in an exercise that "obliges those on the two sides to try to present the other side’s position—and to keep trying until those on the other side agree that they are getting it right."

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Explore the immersive web with Firefox Reality. Now available for Viveport, Oculus, and Daydream

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/19/2018 - 22:20

Sean White, The Mozilla Blog, Sept 22, 2018

Firebox announces anouther step closer to the immersive web (which isn't what we will all use all the time, but which will make for a really interesting experience some of the time). And they're beginning to comprehend some of the finer points of the new medium. For example, "the ability to search the web using your voice. Text input is still a chore for virtual reality, and this is a great first step towards solving that. With Firefox Reality you can choose to search using the microphone in your headset." In addition to clients announced here there are dev resources and a call for feedback.

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Introducing Blackboard Open LMS – the New Face of Our Moodle-based SaaS Product

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/19/2018 - 22:10

Kathy Vieira, Blackboard Blog, Sept 22, 2018

The next act in the Blackboard versus Moodle saga is finally playing out as the former has announced that 'Moodlerooms' is now 'Blackboard Open LMS'. No expense was spared picking the new name. Here's the new website. According to this Campus Technology article, quoting Blackboard, "The decision to exit the partner program allows Blackboard to focus its resources on continued development of the Blackboard Open LMS platform." The focus will be on "improved IMS Global standard support, new features offering improved in-app help [and] a focus on universal access."

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If you think Fortnite is just a video game, you’re missing the big picture

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/19/2018 - 13:37

Burt Helm, Fast Company, Sept 22, 2018

When professional sports leagues like Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League want to promote attendance, they invest in youth leagues. This isn't merely to develop players but to give potential viewers a point of contact with the sport. I love baseball because it's what I played as a kid; when I watch a major league pitcher on the mound, I can see myself. Fortnight is proving that it's the same with video games, drawing the connection for the first time between playing and watching. Of course, it's that way with anything - watching the professionals influences our own game, and practice at our own game helps us appreciate the professionals. And it's not just games. I spent a half hour watching this video about the Ikarus electric "rocket" - thrust-vectored flying ducted fan. The world is watching these (this one has 585,000 views). Think about it.

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Peter Thiel: Crypto vs AI Dichotomy Will Determine the Future of Humanity

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/19/2018 - 13:03

Avi Mizrahi, Bitcoin.com, Sept 22, 2018

The dichotomy here is dramatically overstated, and yet there are these two tensions, characterized by these two technologies, that illustrate a tension between competing technological approaches. On the one hand we have AI, characterized by big data and machine learning, which conjures up the sceptre of the surveillance state. On the other hand we have crypto technologies, including Bitcoin and anonymity and secret messages, that conjures up the sceptre of the libertarian ideal. Obviously neither end state is desirable, but these are both presented to us as though there could be no compromise, no dilution. I don't believe that's true, of course, and I think there are other technologies at work as well. This is a short article and long (2 hour) video of the Peter Thiel interview.

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Has ‘Write Daily’ Become Dogma?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/19/2018 - 12:49

Chris Smith, The Scholarly Kitchen, Sept 22, 2018

The headline is a bit silly. But the subject of whether we should write daily resonates with me because that's what I tell people I do. Writing this newsletter every day is core to my professional development. The story covers the preliminary results of a our survey (that's still open) of academics on the subject. "First off," writes Chris Smith, "the study indicates that daily writing – if you can do it – does work." But not for everyone, which of course could have been predicted. "When you see daily writing as the Holy Grail of academic writing practice, it’s understandable that failing can cause negative emotions, stress and low productivity as procrastination takes hold." The most important question for any activity, in my view, is, "Does it work for you?"

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Approaching E-Learning 3.0

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 21:28

In this article I outline the objectives of my upcoming E-Learning 3.0 course, talk a bit about how the topics are organized, describe how the course will be offered, and offer tips on how participants can learn from this connectivist-style course.

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eBook DRM and Blockchain play CryptoKitty and Mouse. And the Winner is...

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 21:21

Eric Hellman, Go To Hellman, Sept 22, 2018

I have been investigating Crypto-Kitties as part of my wider work looking at distributed ledger technologies. So I found interesting to read Eric Hellman's discussion of our digital feline friends in the context of digital rights management. "What if were possible to 'CryptoKittify' ebooks?" he asks. "Would that mitigate the sins of DRM, or even render it unnecessary? Would it just add the evils of blockchain to the evils of DRM? Two startups, Publica and Scenarex are trying to find out." Good questions. What is it that we even want to record - the sale of the book? Or the relation between the reader and the content. "Once Publica understands that memorializing readers supporting authors is where their success can come from, I think they'll realize that DRM, by restricting readers and building moats around literature, is counterproductive."

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Should Students Listen to Background Music While They Read?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 20:57

Daniel Willingham, Science & Education, Sept 22, 2018

This is interesting because it represents Daniel Willingham backing off a bit from a strict and unthinking application of the cognitive load theory. The idea of cognitive load is that we can only handle so much information at a time, and so in the past we've been told we should eliminate any distraction - extra content, background music, whatever. This would drive me crazy, in no small part because I have tinnitus and have to have background noise. And what's important here is that Willingham explicitly recognizes that sometimes background music, and even background talking, might actually help a person learn. "While mean of the grand distribution may show a small hit to comprehension when background music plays, it's NOT the case that every child reads a little worse with background music on." So, this is great. Understanding individual variability is key to understanding research in education.

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A portal into a decentralised universe

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 19:08

Doug Belshaw, Thought Shrapnel, Sept 22, 2018

This is one of these thinhgs that has been in development for a number of years and will suddenly arrive everywhere. The IPFS - InterPlanetary File System - is a distributed network of hash-addressed resources that you store and share with your IPFS application. As Doug Belshaw says, it hasn't been easy up to this point to use IPFS. But this is changing as Cloudflare, a well-known content distributiuon network, has launched an IPFS gateway, "an easy way to access content from the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) that doesn’t require installing and running any special software on your computer."

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More than marks

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 20:27

Doug Peterson, doug - off the record, Sept 22, 2018

One of those formative experiences that you have when you're young came for me when I attended a Model Commonwealth conference at Ashbury College in Ottawa. Ashbury is a private school in a chi-chi part of the city with a reputation and tuition fee schedule that ensured I would never go there. It was clear students there had every advantage, and if you're an Ashbury student you're probably going to university. A far cry from Osgoode Township High School, out in the country. So, yeah, as Doug Peterson says, it's no surprise to read about a university’s secret list to judge applicants by their high schools – not just their marks. But here's the kicker - here's what I learned this and other events at Ashbury: the private school kids weren't any smarter than we were. They just got more support, and special privileges. It's a lesson I never forgot. #smallstories

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Defining high-quality project-based learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 20:16

Emily Liebtag, eSchool News, Sept 22, 2018

eSchool News articles are frustrating because there's virtually nothing to them (and then that's spread out over two pages). But in this base we have an exception, not because the article is great, but because we get some links to a warren of services and resources. I'll mention two in particular, the Framework for High Quality Project Based Learning, from the HQPBL website, and an article, Defining High Quality PBL: A Look at the Research, by John R. Mergendoller at the Buck Institute for Education. If you look at the whois for both organizations you see the usual list of the same partners and foundations (I wonder whether anyone has mapped them all). Related: Ben Williamson, The tech elite is making a power-grab for public education.

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