Miscellaneous

The “Third World” Is Not Your Classroom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 9 hours 24 min ago

Courtney Martin, Bright, Medium, Nov 17, 2017

This is an interesting and well-written article discussing the interactuon between young American university students and the developing world (though of course the observations apply more broadly). The thesis is that when these students come to 'help', they bring with them their own expectations, culture and epistemology, and are often, first, shock, and second, less than helpful. What is required, writes the author, is a clear setting of expectations by the organizers, and greater humility on the part of the students. It's an old message, but it's a good reminder for everyone (including me). Be sure to read the comments; there's a lot more good stuff in there and a minimum of trolling.

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How to Automatically Generate Textual Descriptions for Photographs with Deep Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 19:00

Jason Brownlee, Machine Learning Mastery, Nov 17, 2017

OK, you're not actually going to learn how to do this simply by reading the article, but you will learn how it's done, and more importantly, that it can be done. The task breaks down into three parts: classifying images (do you see a cat, a rabbit?), describing images (providing a natural language summary of the content), and annotating images (generating text descriptions for specific parts of the image). So basically we're associating object recognition with language strings (in English, in French, whatever). Going further, the neural networks can act as feature extractors, which map images to "an internal representation of the image, not something directly intelligible." Language generation algorithms, coder-decoder algorithms, and an attention mechanism mechanism round out the picture. It's pretty interesting.

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The field of AI research is about to get way bigger than code

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 18:15

Dave Gershgorn, Nov 17, 2017

Lots of movement on the algorithmic accountability front (this is the idea that companies need to be able to explain, and be accountable for, conclusions their software draws about people). According to this article, Kate Crawford, principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and Meredith Whittaker, founder of Open Research at Google, "announced today the AI Now Institute, a research organization to explore how AI is affecting society at large. AI Now will be cross-disciplinary, bridging the gap between data scientists, lawyers, sociologists, and economists studying the implementation of artificial intelligence.” We've been hearing this idea, in this article and elsewhere, for example from Cathy O’Neil in the New York Times, that there's no academic reserach being done in this area. But as pointed out in this Chronicle article, "the piece ignored academics and organizations that study the issues.” Said Siva Vaidhyanathan, on Twitter, “There are CS departments and engineering schools that take this very seriously. MIT, Harvard, UVA, CMU, Princeton, GaTech, VaTech, Cornell Tech, UC-Irvine, and others all have faculty and programs devoted to critical and ethical examination of data and algorithms.” 

 

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The Dangers of Tweeting at Conferences

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 12:14

Noah Berlatsky, Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov 17, 2017

At my conference presentations I have the option of using my own backchannel system to allow attendees to use my interface, or a Twitter interface, to post comments in real time. Here's an example of it at work. There are two key differences between my system and the system described in this article, where conference organizers show a Twitter stream behind the speaker. First, I can see the comments in real time, and respond to them directly. Second, I am in control; I can turn off Twitter, and I can turn off the system entirely. This is not to excuse the harassment of women speakers in conferences where Twitter is used. There's no excuse for it, and the attackers should be ashamed of themselves. Putting the speaker in charge of the response, though, goes at least some way toward redressing the power imbalance.

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Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web: 'The system is failing'

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 12:00

Olivia Solon, The Guardian, Nov 17, 2017

It's way too late for those who argued against the commercialization of the internet to say "I told you so." Though they could. We now need to ask the same questions about the education system. By way of context, here is Ttim Berners-Lee on the current state of the web: "“The system is failing. The way ad revenue works with clickbait is not fulfilling the goal of helping humanity promote truth and democracy... We have these dark ads that target and manipulate me and then vanish because I can’t bookmark them. This is not democracy – this is putting who gets selected into the hands of the most manipulative companies out there.”

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Brainwave Headsets Are Making Their Way Into Classrooms—For Meditation and Discipline

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 11:36

Sydney Johnson, EdSurge, Nov 17, 2017

This is an interesting article suggestive of future research (and future debates) but to date it is based on the flimsiest of foundations. The hook is a a Kansas State University study claiming that using a brainwave headset, Muse, reduces student office referrals by some 70 percent. But the best I can find is a small group session on the subject; neither the EdSurge article nor the university press release refer to a published study, nor is the study listed on the Muse site, nor could I find it in a search. Still. Muse won't release its algorithm, which rases questions about the method it uses to collect its data. And a related company, BrainCo, "has plans to use student EEG information to create 'the world’s biggest brainwave database.'" So who takes responsibility over how this data is used, or misused?

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Actualizing the Online Community College

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 11/15/2017 - 20:52

Kelvin Bentley, EDUCAUSE Review, Nov 17, 2017

This is a bit of an odd article, but I'm including it here to keep at the top of mind an important initiative where "California Governor Jerry Brown asked the head of the state's community college system to develop a proposal for a fully online community college by November 2017." Why do I say it's odd? Well, for example, were he begins by saying "community colleges are open-access institutions" as a lead-in to accessibility issues. Yes, accessibility is important, and we should design for accessibility first, but it's not what people usually mean when people say something is an open access institution. Another is the suggestion that the college "using a model course approach". Does he mean a pilot course? A course template? Course design standards? The article also conflates flexible start-times with competency-based learning, the need for "online and face-to-face " faculty meetings. None of this is wrong per se but feels odd. Could be me.

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The Real Goal of Open Educational Resources

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 11/15/2017 - 20:43

I continue to debate David Wiley in this post (skip if you're not interested). I believe the goal of OER is access for all. This is my goal, though I don't think it's just my goal. But it's not David Wiley's goal, and it bothers me when he says we should reframe our advocacy of OER to de-emphasize cost and access.

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Does Avoiding Social Media Limit An Alt-Ac Career?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 11/15/2017 - 14:44

Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed, Nov 17, 2017

The short answer to this is "no". I work in a building full of academics who are not university professors and who are almost invisible on social media in any professional sense. I know hundreds of others in other government, corporate and private research facilities. Their careers are doing just fine. Joshua Kim argues that social media is pretty essential, though. "Alternative academics, lacking many of the traditional disciplinary-based assets that bind traditional academics (journals, conferences, professional organizations etc.), have seemingly adopted social media our medium of communication, collaboration, and exchange." The key word here is seemingly. You can't judge the world by what you see on Twitter. You just can't. Image: University Affairs.

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Virtual Reality as Possibility Space

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 18:16

monika bielskyte, Medium, Nov 17, 2017

Here are some resources from a sidebar discussion on virtual reality in learning. The first, Virtual Reality as Possibility Space, suggests that "The advent of digital realities is an opportunity for us to rethink the way we could be experiencing information. We are leaving the glowing rectangular screens behind to step into computational space where the world is our desktop." But what there is isn't necessarily what we see. We need to ensure that our new VR worlds are humane, shared, collaboprative, and human. We project our ideas into the world (as in this world of dogs). And VR can project other people's images of reality back to us, creating and shaping those objects in our mind. As this third item notes, "Reality’s portrayal and depiction varies depending upon how it is being represented, and by who is doing or producing the representation of reality. It affects our ethical judgments about how to act and treat other people in the real world."

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Introducing Spirited Media 2.0

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 17:44

Chris Krewson, Medium, Nov 17, 2017

If you're not charging for content, and you're not running advertisements, then how are you going to make money with educational content (or any other content) in the future? Spirited Media answers this question with a three-part business model: it will sell memberships, it will have sponsored events, and it will offer consulting. All of these preserve the accessibility (and mobility) of content, and yet allow the company to trade on its reputation for knwoledge and insight in a way that offers specific services for compensation. If I were still in the local news game, that's what I'd be doing. And as a content provider in the future, something like this is probably my future business model. 

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The Neuroscience of Consciousness – with Anil Seth

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 17:01

Anil Seth, YouTube, Nov 17, 2017

This is a nice talk recommended as part of a collection of resources from Theodore Hoppe in a comment on my consciousness post and it prompted me to add a couple of paragraphs to the work. One is the idea that there are degrees of consciousness, and that the degree is proportional to the complexity of neural interactions taking place. There's a discussion of how the brain fills in perceptions with its own expectations - don't miss the video of the doggy university courtyard. Another is the idea that the human brain, as a neural network, is not a knowing system, but rather, a predictive system. I mentioned this back in September. I don't agree with the idea that prediction "is the brain trying to understand what causes our perceptions" - we don't need to involve causation to make predictions, but this isn't a comment about the content, just the way it's expressed.  It's a great talk, well worth the how to view it. You can also download this talk as audio and watch the Q&A. If you don't have an hour there's a short and poppy TED version.

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Consciousness

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 16:56

Consciousness seems to be mysterious to most people. How does subjective experience arise? What is the relation between the perception of redness, say, or the thought that "Paris is the capital of France," and the purely physical mechanisms that philosopher Daniel Dennett believes - and I believe - constitute human processes of thought? In this article I use David Bentley Hart's article criticizing Dennett as a frame through which to offer my own thoughts on consciousness. Note that at 14,500 words this is one of my longer articles. Also note that I'm still making edits and updates, not so much to polish it, but to fill gaps and round it out where needed.

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Revisiting 70:20:10

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 14:31

Clark Quinn, Learnlets, Nov 17, 2017

I think that Twitter is a terrible place to hold a conversation, but if you can get past how annoying these tweets would be to a non-participant you get what is actually a pretty good stream of comments in Will Thalheimer's debunk session. What are my takeways from it? Well, first of all, the numbers don't matter - what the phrase expressdes is the idea that there is a split between formal, social and espetiental forms of learning (except the numbers do matter; if it's 90% formal we're not having this debate). Also, that the numbers report activities as reported by learners, as opposed to impact on outcomes. And what would a measurement of outcomes even look like - Thalheimer seems at one point to suggest that since there's no way to evaluate the outcomes of informal learning, it doesn't exist. Finally, we find near the end of the chat a pretty good diagram using much better termionology, using education-exposure-experience instead of formal-social-informal.

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Why philosophy is so important in science education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 14:11

Subrena E Smith, Aeon, Nov 17, 2017

"Why," asks Subrena Smith, "do college students so often treat philosophy as wholly distinct from and subordinate to science?" She suggests four reasons: a lack of historical awareness, the desire for concrete results, the idea that science is purely objective, and the philosophers' violation of the preceeding three expectations. "Why do they think this way?" she asks. "It’s  not because this is the way that science is practised but rather, because this is how science is normally taught." So she argues that they could be - and should be - taught differently. "Our scientist colleagues should continue to teach the fundamentals of science, but they can help by making clear to their students that science brims with important conceptual, interpretative, methodological and ethical issues."

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Working memory

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:23

Matthias Melcher, x28s new Blog, Nov 17, 2017

I while back I addressed the topic of working memory in a post pushing back against the idea that it is simply a buffer for storage in long-term memory. Matthias Melcher finds some antecedents to the idea in "Baddeley’s model (which) contains, among others, the 'phonological loop' (audio over time) and the 'visuo-spatial sketchpad'." Now there's a lot to the model I don't subscribe to, especially the idea (shared by many others) of an 'executive function'. It (and Baddeley's model as a whole) resembles a web platform more than it resembles a mind. But the idea that short-term memory plays "a great role in processing both temporal and spatial perceptions" makes sense to me.

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What’s New in Firefox Quantum, the Firefox You’ve Been Waiting For

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:16

Chris Hoffman, How-To Geek, Nov 17, 2017

I had switched over from Firefox to Chrome not becuase I wanted to browse the Google way but because Firefox the browser was having bad (and worsening) performance problems (the worst was that the entire browser would freeze while downloading something). With its new version, released today, Firefox turns over a new leaf. It's a brand-new multi-threaded browser that significantly improves performance. I'll be trying it today but I might not switch over fully until the extensions (which have all been disabled by the switch) catch up. Especially ad-blocker. I don't want to browse without ad-blocker. Here's an account of why it's faster - coded in Rust, smarter CSS, optimized for multi-core processors... Update I've installed and run it. It's fast. I need to fix my forms so they're work properly. But I like what I see.

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‘Why does Canada have so much online learning?’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 13:16

Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Nov 15, 2017

Interesting post from Tony bates answering the question in the title. Well, first he responds along the lines of "aw, shucks, it isn't that much really." But when he gets to it he makes some obvious points (history and geography, government policy) and one really interesting one: "where there has been a large and important open university, this has resulted in slower growth in online learning." Why? For one thing, "a heavy, front-ended print development model requiring a very large investment." And second, "where a fully distance institution or open university operated, this seems to have inhibited or slowed down the adoption of distance and hence online courses in the campus-based institutions." 

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Educational Technology and Education Conferences for January to June 2018, Edition #38

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 12:35

Clayton R. Wright, Nov 15, 2017

The 38th edition of the conference list covers 1,529 confirmed professional development opportunities that primarily focus on the use of technology in educational settings and on teaching, learning, and educational administration. When the 39th version of the list is distributed in May 2018, additional events will be added to June 2018. MS Word Document.

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#OpenedMOOC Week 6: The Triumph of the Immaterial

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 20:47

Jenny Mackness, Jenny Connected, Nov 13, 2017

I don't know if it counts to say I've been 'attending the Open Education MOOC' for the last six weeks if all I've done is create some videos ahead of time and read some blog posts during the course. But hey, it counts for me, and I'll chalk it up as a 'completed MOOC' even if I didn't really visit the course website (sorry Dave and George, it was an EdX page-turner, I hope you understand). As usual, Jenny Mackness captures some really useful insights, including especially the idea of OER as ephemeral art. Anyhow , the course did what it was supposed to, generated some controversy, and a good time was had by all. Now we'll all wait for the open analytics from the course. 

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