Miscellaneous

Anatomy of a Moral Panic

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 12 hours 14 min ago

Maciej Cegłowski, Idle Words, Sept 24, 2017

Those of us in education have experience no end to the moral panics about this and that over the years. This article is an extended take on moral panics in the media over sales of charcol, suphur and saltpeter on the internet. These, of course, are the ingredients to make black powder, a favourite of hobbyists worldwide. It reminded me of my own efforts to make rockets when I was a kid. These were not successful; the most notable result was an inch-deep hole gouged in the neighbour's porch (which truly was impressive). But of course, the panic is not just about black powder, it's about cryptography and algorithms and technology in general. "The real story in this mess is not the threat that algorithms pose to Amazon shoppers, but the threat that algorithms pose to journalism.... Moral panics like this one are not just harmful to musket owners and model rocket builders. They distract and discredit journalists, making it harder to perform the essential function of serving as a check on the powerful." Right. Via Doug Belshaw.

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4 Ways We Can Fund Personalized Learning to Create More Equitable Schools

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 13 hours 1 min ago

Ace Parsi, Bryant Best, Getting Smart, Sept 24, 2017

The four methods are listed about half way through the post, and seem reasonable to me:

  • close group-based opportunity gaps and support best practices in teaching traditionally disadvantaged populations
  • acess to learning opportunities such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB)...  through strategies such as universal design for learning
  • targeted and supplemental investments can include support around professional development
  • create equity-based professional-development opportunities for district and school leaders.

The idea here, as I see it, is to fund personalization in such a way as to target those most in need, and to have that funding follow that need through direct investment in learning support, as well as investment in those providing that support. This is quite a contrast from what we usually see in personalized learning, where efforts go to fund initiatives directed at thoe who already have significant advantages.

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Bell Calls for CRTC-Backed Website Blocking System and Complete Criminalization of Copyright in NAFTA

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/23/2017 - 16:29

Michael Geist, Sept 24, 2017

To understand why Bell is calling for ISPs to block infringing sites without any sort of judicial review (and to criminalize commercial copyright infringement) we need to understand that the telecom company is also a content publisher, Bell Media, owning dozens of television stations, radio stations and websites. As Michael Geist argues, "the company’s position as a common carrier representing the concerns of ISPs and their subscribers is long over." This is why carriers and content providers should be separate companies. The carrier should not be responsible for enforcing censorship, especially when the carrier has its own content it is trying to sell. These proposals are about eliminating competition, in my view, and have nothinbg to do with protecting content creators or fostering innovation.

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The Media Has A Probability Problem

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/23/2017 - 14:24

Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight, Sept 24, 2017

This is an excellent article, and while Nate Silver talks about presidential elections, the article really has nothing to do with them. And, interestingly, it begins with hurricane forecasting. The article is an extended discussion of probability that should be required reading for any educator or journalist. The presentations of alternatives as simple on-off or right-wrong decisions is a misrepresentation of a complex world. "properly measuring the uncertainty is at least as important a part of the forecast as plotting the single most likely course." And "most experts — including most journalists — make overconfident forecasts." Things to remember when reading my work, or anyone's.

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ABC – Taking African scholarly books to the world

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/23/2017 - 13:50

Justin Cox, University World News, Sept 24, 2017

After the collapse of its traditonal business in 2007, African Book Collective (ABC) bounced back as a virtual bookseller. "Rather than restricting access it placed the books in as many channels as it could find. In print the books were published in paperback so prices remained competitive... Discoverability drives sales and access can drive sales of printed books; one channel has not consumed another and the market for African published scholarship is healthy." This is having a beeficial effect generally. "Research output in Africa is on the increase.... By working together to bring down the barriers of access to scholarly books in Africa they can fill an important gap in the market and increase their own options."

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Clickbait and impact: how academia has been hacked

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 15:18

Portia Roelofs, Max Gallien, LSE Impact Blog, Sept 24, 2017

I am sometimes challenged to distinguish between networks and marketplaces, and in particular, to explain why advocacy of networks isn't the same as advocacy of libertarianism. My response points to cases of network failure, showing that scale should not dominate, but rather, should be limited, so that other principles prevail. I reference two cases here where this applies. The first is a Washington Post article showing how libertarianism is distinct from meritocracy. Libertarianism enables prejudices, such as preferences for race, pretty people, or relatives, to prevail. The second, from the London School of economics, shows how academic merit has been 'hacked': "When academia is... framed as a confrontation, it favours confrontational people. This has gendered and racialised effects." The marketplace is defined by mass; the laws of supply and demand are laws of mass. But mass fails. Merit and impact are not determined by mass effects. They are determined by relationships. Both items via Daily Nous.

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When College Students Don’t Understand the Concept of Free Speech

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 15:00

Chester E. Finn, Education Next, Sept 24, 2017

Americans can govern themselves however they want, of course, but they like to export ideas like 'freedom of speech', and when the content of this export is pernicious, it becomes necessary to respond. This is the case here with Chester E. Finn. He takes pains to make it clear that "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…" and then argues that students don't understand this principle. In particular, he finds it offensive that the majority of the students find it acceptable that "a student group opposed to the speaker disrupts the speech by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker." The freedom of speech does not require that I sit quietly and listen to attestations of hate. It entitles me to rise up and shout against it. And common decency requires that I do so.

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franchise

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 14:56

Sept 24, 2017

This is similar to the Jupyter Notebook, except for data. Also, the open source notebook is available online as a no-signing way to play with your data. "If your data is in a CSV, JSON, or XLSX file, loading it is as simple as dropping the file into Franchise. We run a version of the SQLite engine in your browser, so all processing happens locally." I really like this. This item and the next via O'Reilly,

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Distributed deep neural networks over the cloud, the edge, and end devices

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 14:50

Adrian Colyer, The Morning Paper, Sept 24, 2017

The next step: "DDNNs partition networks between mobile/embedded devices, cloud (and edge)... What’s new and very interesting here though is the ability to aggregate inputs from multiple devices (e.g., with local sensors) in a single model, and the ability to short-circuit classification at lower levels in the model." Eacj of these two things is equally important. The network is distributed, and the objects described by the network are not the same as the objects escribed by individual members of the network. This article goes into a lot of detail about how they're built and how they function. "By combining multiple viewpoints we can increase the classification accuracy at both the local and cloud level by a substantial margin when compared to the individual accuracy of any device." Original paper (12 page PDF).

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Why Books Will Always Matter

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 14:29

Lisa Lucas, The Scholarly Kitchen, Sept 24, 2017

It's no surprise to me that the Executive Director for the National Book Foundation would offer a spirited defense of books. “They connect us to one another," she says. "They make people who are not like us more human.” But I find it ironic that this short video would give me more of a glimpse into who Lisa Lucas is and what she's like than any book she's ever written. New media gives us a reach books never did - both as readers and writers. 

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10 Current and Emerging Trends in Adult Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:56

Tom Vander Ark, Education Next, Sept 24, 2017

We are given two sets of ten: first, ten trends in adult learning, which are dated and not worth the effort to read. And more interestingly, ten future trends. It cites the 2017 New Horizon higher education report, but doesn't repeat the predictions. Especially interesting is the prediction of the rise of national service universities citing a presentation from ASU president Michael Crow from last May. "Putting knowledge at the core, Crow described five realms of learning, think of them as developmental phases that HigherEd is going through. Most of HigherEd is migrating from Realm 1 to Realm 2 with experiments in Realm 3 (think MOOCs)." Realm 5 is "infinitely scalable learning".

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Losing out on learning: Action to ensure refugee children get an education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 20:49

Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly, World Education Blog, Sept 24, 2017

According to this article, "More than half of all the refugee children in the world – 3.5 million – are not in school. In the last year alone refugee children have missed more than 700 million days of school, with this figure increasing by 1.9 million days every day." I have two views that have become more firm over the last few years: first, we should use the means at our disposal, including digital media, to ensure refugees do not miss out on an education; and second, we should not use refugee populations to experiment on or to promote our favourite learning theories. 

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Educators Should Steal Google’s Secret About Creativity

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 18:19

Matt Presser, Education Week, Sept 24, 2017

"When we give our students real responsibility to tackle problems connected to their interests, they flourish." So says Matt Presser in this article. I think he maybe should have said "authority" instead of "responsibility" (students are quite used to being held responsible for the failures of those in authority). But the point is clear enough, and the substance of a valuable idea (which has been asserted many times in these pages and elsewhere) shines through. I can't be as enthusiastic about the rest of the article. I'm not sure schools should be learning lessons from Google - at least, not until the antitrust and discrimination lawsuits are settled. And while "a young men’s fraternity" at a high school may well have been inspired by Google, I'm not sure it's either innovative for forward-looking. Nor are, say, field trips. Oh, and Google ended the 20% program cited here back in 2013. Matt Presser seems to be working for the right things, but there's that whole "I'm from Google/Yale/Harvard and I've figured it out" attitude that can at times strike readers as really tone-deaf. As in this instance.

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26 Innovation Breakthroughs at the World's Open Universities

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 17:45

Contact North, Sept 24, 2017

This is a short post (6 page PDF) with one-paragraph descriptions of innovations at open universities around the world. Together, the set provides others with a sort of menu of options they can follow. Most usefully, each one has a link you can follow. Some of the items aren't eactly innovations (such as the Switching from Moodle to Azure item). Others are more aspirational than innovative (such as the Use of Blockchain in credentials). It's hard to describe closing support centres (as at OU) as an innovation. One institution (Open Universities Australia, the former Open Learning Agency) simply names itself as an innovation, which seems a bit over the top. But in areas like libraries, accessibility, loyalty, mobile learningassessment and community there are some genuine innovations.

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W3C Approves Encrypted Media Extensions as Web Standard

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 14:32

Bill Rosenblatt, Copyright and Technology, Sept 24, 2017

Bill Rosenblatt returns a lukewarm review of the the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) recommendation issued Monday. "It’s not really a standard DRM scheme," he writes. "It has turned out to be a way to compromise the interoperability of web browsers by using CDMs to tie browsers to specific DRM clients; in other words, to use DRM as a way of bringing walled gardens into browser environments that are supposed to be interoperable via HTML." It's like a narrow version of Flash or Silverlight. More. The W3C's decision to side with content providers against the open web last led some to suggest that this may be beginning of the end - that we will no longer have a single World Wide Web. 

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WebRoom - Free Online Conferencing With Virtual Whiteboard

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 14:03

Richard Byrne, Free Technology for Teachers, Sept 24, 2017

WebRoom appears to be a loss leader for iteach.world, a service that offers (very) limited free hosting and commercial online learning services for business and individual teachers. It's based on WebRTC, which "provides browsers and mobile applications with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple APIs." Here's the code on GitHub. What's interesting about WebRTC is that it enables connections without an internediary server, however this may create issues in intranets, where services such as STUN and TURN are used to find a browser's real internet address in real time. However, this may be seen as a security issue, so extensions exist to disable WebRTC in your browser, and your network provider may also have disabled it.

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A Decade of Remake Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 13:49

Remake Learning Blog, Sept 24, 2017

Centered in Pittsburgh, Remake Learning has spent the last ten years reaching out into the community to build a model of learning based on engagement. "Gone is the notion of a student passively receiving knowledge while seated in a classroom. Today, learning is an active, anytime, anyplace, lifelong experience that challenges both learners and educators to fulfill their potential," they write in their blog. To mark the ten years they have released two publications: the first is an eBook (29 page PDF) that "eports on the impact Remake Learning has made during its first decade, sharing examples of learning remade and tallying up what the network and its members have accomplished;" and second, a revised mission and values (8 page PDF) that redefines it as "a network that ignites engaging, relevant, and equitable learning practices in support of young people navigating rapid social and technological change." Via DML Central.

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Opening Up Higher Education against the Policy Backdrop of the ‘Knowledge Economy’ – Navigating the Conflicting Discourses

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 16:55

Gabi Witthaus, SlideShare, Sept 23, 2017

Once again I find myself wishing people would record their conference sessions - even an audio recording would be far better than slides, padlet and an outline. And this looks like an interesting one. While I don't believe counting words will lead us to a deep understanding of the discourse, it nonetheless points us in some interesting directions, and that's what happens here with this discussion of the discourse around open education. The paper asks, "to what extent does the Discourse of groups arguing for a market-driven approach to higher education overlap with, or diverge from, that of groups who are seeking to open up education?" It's a question I wrestle with. Market principles are very similar to network principles, and yet market principles are subject to failures where the poor and vulnerable are most impacted. So the way we talk about open education is an important indicator of whether or not we think this is a problem. I do - I think it's the problem. 

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Learning as Artifact Creation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 16:17

George Siemens, elearnspace, Sept 23, 2017

"One aspect of connectivism that has great potential for development is the role of the artifact in learning," writes George Siemens. "he web had its velveteen rabbit moment and became real to people who had previously been unable to easy share their creative artifacts. Eventually we were blessed with the ugly stepchildren of this movement (Twitter, Facebook) that enabled flow of creative artifacts but in themselves where not primarily generative technologies." Quite so. This has been one of the aspects oif the internet that has always fascinated me. It represents an explosion of creativity. We haven't seen the end yet. "Change is happening, often under the radar of enthusiasts because it’s harder to sell a technology product or draw clicks to a website when being nuanced and contextual."

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The Open Faculty Patchbook

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 16:06

Terry Greene, et.al., PressBooks, Sept 23, 2017

I like the idea of a 'patchbook', which draws on the idea of a quilt, in which each contribution is distinct, as opposed to a wili, where the contributions are melded into a single whole. In this patchbook 26 authors create "a quasi-textbook about pedagogy for teaching & learning in college. Each patch of the quilt/chapter of the book will focus on one pedagogical skill and be completed and published by an individual faculty member." There are some good momements, for example, George Fogarasi saying "friends don't grade friends" or Katrina Van Osch-Saxon pleading "for educators to re-think the need for students to memorize all of the pertinent basic knowledge in a course." 

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