Miscellaneous

Geek Career Paths

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 22 min ago


Tim Bray, Ongoing, Feb 19, 2017

The is a cogent and clear article (laced with some off-colour language because it's tech) on what tech people (programmers, developers, designers) should think about doing later in their careers. The advice was accurate so far as my own experience can attest. Keeping up to date in tech is hard work, because it's constantly changing. The biggest jump for most tech people, I think, is the jump into people-oriented positions, like management or sales. The biggest risk for tech people is exposure to toxic environments, like the world of venture capitalism. And government isn't as bad as people say. Image: Mcleans.

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These are the science concepts you need to know to understand political life in 2017

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 22 min ago


Akshat Rathi, et.al., Quartz, Feb 19, 2017

These concepts don't all relate to education, and their importance most certainly isn't limited to political life, but it's a good list and educators should be aware of all of them. Here's the one-minute version:

  • Scepticism  - "a willingness to evenly assess the scientific evidence available."
  • Iatrogenesis  - illness “ brought forth by the healer," like the  opioid epidemic
  • Social cost of carbon - the damage each ton of CO2 emission costs society
  • Clean coal  - expensive, but "captures the carbon dioxide and buries it"
  • Gene drives  - increase a gene's chance of being inherited
  • CRISPR  - being widely used to manipulate DNA with extraordinary precision
  • NgAgo  - new tech which might manipulate DNA with even greater precision
  • Confrmation bias  - the tendency to select information that supports our existing beliefs
  • IPFS - makes copies of everything instead of relying on links
  • PFOA  - unregulated cancer agent turning up in drinking water
  • Neonicotinoids  - the pesticide that caused widespread bee colony collapse
  • SETI  - search for extra-terrestrial intelligence using powerful new tools

Now you's caught up. :)

 

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Maybe College Isn't the Great Equalizer

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 22 min ago


Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, Feb 19, 2017

Two things have held up through decades of research on education and its impact. First, socio-economic background is the single best predictor of educational outcomes. And second, education is a necessary but not sufficient precursor to increased socio-economic outcomes. These are the findings that are rediscovered in the current study  published in the journal Social Forces. But Facebook devotes a substantial portion of this article repeating criticism from an  outlier study (more here) "finding that college is in fact the great equalizer." According to that outlier critics, "students who graduate from the same Ivy League college -- or any college -- tend to earn similar amounts of money in their adult lives." Well sure - if you ignore selection bias, graduation rates, and the fact that income at age 30 is not an educational outcome, you get similar results. I would caution against making this study the basis of criticism of future studies.

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Building Global Community

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 22 min ago


Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Feb 19, 2017

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a manifesto yesterday afternoon stressing the importance of community and Facebook's role in developing it. It is worth noting that I quit Facebook last September because, in my view, Facebook was subverting community, and replacing it with advertising. Zuckerberg emphasizes, "the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us." I think, though, that there is am important distinction to be drawn between the concept of infrastructure that is owned by, and operated for, the benefit of a community, and a privately owned platform managed for private interests. Zuckerberg believes he is building society, without realizing that society can only be built by all of us.

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Distance Education Price and Cost Report

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 22 min ago


Russell Poulin, Terri Taylor Straut, WCET, Feb 19, 2017

It's no surprise to anybody that distance and online courses cost students more (a least, when they're offered by traditional educational institutions). But more controversial in this WECT report (79 page PDF) is the contention that they cost more to produce. This result is based on 197 responses (from an unknown number of institutions) to an email survey sent to WCET members. Reading the results, the main reason distance education costs more seems to be "distance education costs more" (p.48). Every category of expense was higher for distance education. The main costs are faculty support and development (52%), tech (37%), and student support (28%). The report also makes the point that lowering cost isn't seen as part of the mandate by many institutions. Via Inside Higher Ed.

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Working together for critical thinking in schools

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 22 min ago


Peter Ellerton, The Conversation, Feb 19, 2017

The focus of this article is critical thinking in the South African context, and in particular the recent Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) and Thinking Schools South Africa (TSSA), "a non-profit organisation encouraging and resourcing the teaching of effective thinking in schools." One of the unsung advantages of critical thinking, writes Peter Ellerton, is that it creates resilience, promoting the development of "students who have an ability to think their way through problems, a confidence in their ability to do so, and who can apply critical thinking skills to understand their circumstances and explore options open to them."

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Choose Science

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 7 hours 22 min ago


Government of Canada, Feb 19, 2017

Choose Science is a website recently created by the Government of Canada to encourage girls to pursue their interests (and may their careers) in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - STEM. It was  criticized by the National Post this week for perpetuating stereotypes (featuring fashion, music and kittens) but after a quick retrofit yesterday it is looking much better, though by no means perfect. The activities  for parents and  for teachers are drawn largely from  Actua and Let's Talk Science, which are private foundations with a lot of federal and industry funding. The resources could be a lot deeper and could be drawn from a much richer repository of actual work by Canadian teachers and educators. And instead of  talking down to girls interested in science, we should invite them to tell their own stories in their own voices. But hey - I'd rather see them do this work imperfectly than not at all.

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These 6 Chinese Tech Giants Are Ramping Up The Pace Of Innovation For The World

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 10 hours 22 min ago


Austin Carr, Fast Company, Feb 19, 2017

Mobile applications that have merged transactions and services have become stables in China. "Hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers now depend on these all-in-one apps to do, well, everything: interact with friends; pay for cabs and utility bills; book hotels, flights, and even dentist appointments; find love; and read news." On the hardware side, innovation is similarly flurishing, with companies like Xiaomi, BBK and Huawei taking the lead. "Huawei recently announced its new Mate 9, the first smartphone embedded with Amazon’ s Alexa voice assistant... Xiaomi’ s Mi Mix smartphone... features a stunning edge-to-edge screen.

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GE’s Bill Ruh on the Industrial Internet Revolution

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 10 hours 22 min ago


Art Kleiner, John Sviokla, Strategy+Business, Feb 19, 2017

Interesting discussion around the topic of internet-based computational services in industry. "Every form of large-scale machinery will be suffused with sensors and software controls, all more and more interoperable. Increasing productivity, raising profits, eliminating waste, ensuring environmental quality, and improving manufacturing processes will all be automated activities, functions of a kind of ghost in the machine." What makes the industrial market different from the consumer-based market is the addition of physics-based modeling. "With a cloud-based, physics-based model, you can run a million scenarios simultaneously and pick one that is optimized for what you’ re trying to accomplish."

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The “Secret Sauce” to Scaling Up Quality Education in Developing Countries

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 13 hours 22 min ago


Julia Gillard, Jenny Perlman Robinson, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Feb 19, 2017

According to this article, "we know that large-scale progress, in both getting children into school and learning, is possible." It being Stanford, a certain amount of scepticism is warranted (83 page PDF). The 'secret sauce' is actually a combination of "14 core ingredients that appear to contribute to scaling quality learning, with the right combination depending on the context," grouped into four areas:

  • Design - "develop  programs and policies that students, parents, or teachers actually want— not ones that governments, practitioners, or funders think they need
  • Delivery - "not new gadgets to replace teachers, but tools to help overcome a specific barrier, such as poor roads or a lack of reading materials."
  • Finance - "stability, flexibility, and predictability in financing are critical for scale that leads to lasting changes in children’ s learning."
  • An enabling environment - "government must accept responsibility for ensuring a quality education for all, reaching out to a range of partners, and considering new ways of improving learning."

It's hard to disagree with any of these points, but the difficulty is always in the details. How do you determine what learners actually want? How do you deal with the scale of delivery problems? What are the mechanisms for stable finance? How do you convince increasingly reluctant governments to take responsibility for education?

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We Are Not Agreed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 22:00


noreply@blogger.com (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Feb 18, 2017

A few days ago University Ventures authored a piece in response to a post from the New America Foundation comparing Republicans who defend for-profit colleges to climate change deniers. The unattributed University Ventures article argues "this piece re-fights yesterday’ s war... the many challenges and opportunities facing higher education lend themselves to bipartisan consensus – perhaps more than any other area of public policy."

Bipartisanship is of course a U.S. phenomenon. But it is worth noting that there are many things U.S. lawmakers agree upon that are opposed in corners around the world. I find myself frequently occupying those corners, and today is no exception. So, setting aside the for-profit colleges debate for another day, I'd like to take the time to point to the points where I disagree with what is taken to the the emerging consensus.

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Ellucian Stops Support for Brainstorm, its CBE platform

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 22:00


Phil Hill, e-Literate, Feb 18, 2017

"Winter is here," writes Phil Hill as Ellucian ends support for Brainstorm, the competency-based education platform it acquired two years ago. This signals a permanent shift in the market, he says. "The business of Ed Tech is changing, and more decisions will be based on whether product lines have a real chance to become self-sustaining based on near-term  revenue." We also reasd that " Ellucian is also putting Banner 8 into sustaining support mode and that customers need to be off that version by the end of 2018."

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How Google Chromebooks conquered schools

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 13:00


Anick Jesdanum, Associated Press, Feb 18, 2017

This is an interesting statistic: "Chromebook's share of the U.S. education market was 49 percent last year, up from 40 percent in 2015 and 9 percent in 2013, according to IDC figures released this week." Who would have thought it? But the Chromebook has several advantages: it's cheap, it's lightweight, and it provides access to a full set of tools. That said, "Macs and Windows laptops are still dominant on college campuses." But will this change? And could it go international? The answer to the latter question might be "no" - for example, "Chromebooks are useless in China because the device depends on Google services that aren't available there." But the concept would work, wouldn't it?

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European MOOC Platform Expands to 5 U.S. Universities

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 13:00


Rhea Kelly, Campus Technology, Feb 18, 2017

I can think of all sorts of policical questions that might be asked in the U.S. following this announcement (especially if the British import succeeds where the US-based alternatives failed). On the other hand, there is the global trade argument: "The partnership with FutureLearn will allow the universities to extend their reach internationally and tap into new communities of potential learners, according to a statement from the company."

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The Myth of Apple's Great Design

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 20:00


Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, Feb 17, 2017

As a counter to yesterday's post celebrating Apple, a couple of articles are out today with the opposite view. One of these points to the longstanding issue of Apple's software (where 'upgrade' is defined as 'removing features people use'). "Take the iPod," writes Ian Bogost. "It made listening to a whole music library easy, but iTunes always made managing that library difficult and confusing— even destructive. The other article asks Is Apple Over? Longtime Mac  aficionado Shelly Palmer writes, "To be incompatible with the competition is expected. But for Apple's products to be incompatible with thousands of dollars' worth of equipment that Apple forced you to purchase borders on insane."

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Amazon Launches Chime Video & Voice Chat

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 17:00


Amazon, Feb 17, 2017

Amazon has launched a new video-chat and conference service called Chime. I can't say I'm a fan of the name. I downloaded the software and it seems slick if simple - note the nifty URL it give me, http://chime.aws/Downes - and I'll probably run some tests this week (so watch my Twitter account for announcements of ad hoc conferences) (note that the URL won't be useful unless I'm actually hosting a meeting).

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Tracking innovations in online learning in Canada

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 14:00


Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Feb 17, 2017

Tony Bates reports on a project that sees him criss-crossing the country talking to education and technology innovators. He is "developing a comprehensive national survey of online learning and distance education in Canadian public post-secondary education" and working on "a project for Contact North, identifying pockets of innovation in online learning in Canadian post-secondary institutions outside Ontario." Both of these respond to oft-stated needs for more data on learning techn ology in Canada. He writes, "there seems to be a widening gap between what is actually happening on the ground and what we read or hear about in the literature and at conferences on innovation in online learning." That disconnect has always existed; it's why I report here on blogs and projects as well as on companies and academic literature.

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Regulating “big data education” in Europe: lessons learned from the US

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 14:00


Yoni Har Carmel, Internet Policy Review, Feb 17, 2017

I found this item while doing some background reading related to the IEEE-LTSC's approval today of a new proposal to look at standards for the ethical sharing of child and student data. The main point of the analysis - and indeed, the main reason for the IEEE project - is that the responsibility for the management of student data is shifting from the school to the technology company. We've seen how that can turn out badly. There's the risk of "disclosing sensitive information about children, like data about learning disabilities, disciplinary problems or family trauma." There's also a concern that "monitoring of students’ online activities may overly limit creativity, free speech and free thought, by creating a 'surveillance effect'." There are "concerns big data techniques prematurely and permanently labeling students as underperformers." And there are worries that "decision-making based on algorithmic models will exacerbate bias and create new forms of discrimination." Image: JISC, The future of data-driven decision-making.

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Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers Is Out

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 14:00


Michael Caulfield, Hapgood, Feb 17, 2017

Not the best headline (I thought it referred to a new U.S. government policy). But Michael Caulfield has released a new eBook (127 page PDF) on web literacy for students who are fact-checkers. There's some really useful and relatively novel content here: "how to use date filters to find the source of viral content, how to assess the reputation of a scientific journal in less than five seconds, and how to see if a tweet is really from the famous person... how to find pages that have been deleted, figure out who paid for the web site you’ re looking at..." and a lot more. These are things I do on a daily basis to make sure I don't pass along junk in this newsletter. I'm glad Caulfield has rolled these techniques up into a single document and explained them for everyone.

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Social Media Research Toolkit - Peer Tested & Peer Reviewed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:00


Anantha Soogoor, Philip Mai, Ryerson University | Social Media Lab, Feb 17, 2017

As the website says, this "is a list of  50+ social media research tools curated  by researchers at the Social Media Lab at Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University.   The kit  features tools that have been used in peer-reviewed academic studies. Many tools are free to use and require little or no programming. Some are simple data collectors such as tweepy, a Python library for collecting tweets  and others are a bit more robust such as Netlytic,  a multi-platform (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) data collector and analyzer, developed by our lab. All of the tools are confirmed available and operational."

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