Miscellaneous

2018 Map of the Complexity Sciences

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 10 hours 51 min ago

Brian Castellani, Jan 18, 2018

This is a great visualization of the major streams of thought in the field of complexity theory. I like the way it shows the links between the different strands, and also that ti is an interactive graphic - click on an area and be taken to the relevant Wikipedia page. From my perspective it seems that the more recent topics signal an end-game for the field. In the 2010s we see 'applied complexity', 'complexity policy & evaluation', and 'mixed methods'. Via Dave Snowdon.

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Adaptive Learning: The Premise, Promise, and Pitfalls

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 11 hours 42 min ago

Petr Johanes, Larry Lagerstrom, American Society for Engineering Education, Jan 18, 2018

This is a review paper intended to "explain what adaptive systems are and what kinds of data they require,... to categorize the main use cases and possibilities of adaptive systems [and] to outline the current limitations and concerns surrounding adaptive systems." In two paragraphs it deftly summarizes the landscape, listing new companies (Acrobatiq, Knewton, CogBooks, Cerego, Realizeit, LoudCloud, Smart Sparrow) as well as the work of publishers, LMS companies and universities. The article lists a number of studies showing effect sizes nearly matching that of 1-to-1 tutoring. But it also references a number of studies where "the results were decidedly mixed." And it describes three potential pitfalls: discrimination and labeling of students, creating consequential feedback loops; nNarrow constraints of knowledge, knowing, and learning; and questions around transparency, availability, and security of data. This isn't a long paper, but it's well-written and informative.

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The Promise of Performance Assessments: Innovations in High School Learning and Higher Education Admissions

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 14 hours 35 min ago

Roneeta Guha, Tony Wagner, Linda Darling-Hammond, Terri Taylor, Diane Curtis, Learning Policy Institute, Jan 18, 2018

"Like doctoral candidates with university dissertations," write the authors, in performance assessments "students often defend their projects and papers before panels of judges, who rigorously evaluate them against high standards; students typically revise their work until they meet the standards." The suggestion in this report (42 page PDF) is that performance assessments can (and should) replace more traditional (and test-based) assessments of high school graduates. On the one hand, I agree. Performance assessments would be a better measure. But they would also add more assessment on a system already overloaded with assessment. They would consume too much time and require more resources than the schools could provide. Where we are actually headed with this is automated performance assessment.

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Why I Left Silicon Valley, EdTech, and “Personalized” Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 19 hours 50 min ago

Paul Emerich, Inspired, Jan 18, 2018

This is a post describing a teacher's experiences "opening a brand new micro-school and to work on technology tools that were intended to personalize my students’ learning." It was AltSchool, the Silicon Valley startup where Emerich worked for three years, leaving last June. The company changed course last year from running schools to selling software. Emerich suggests a possible reason for the change in course: "It was isolating with every child working on something different; it was impersonal with kids learning basic math skills from Khan Academy; it was disembodied and disconnected." This is a good article, describing the experience at length and from a first-person perspective.

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Coffee, communities, and condescension

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 20:55

Harold Jarche, Jan 18, 2018

Harold Jarche uses a Twitter discussion to make the point that networks are not the same as communities. "Our networks are great places for serendipitous connections," he writes. "But they are not safe places to have deeper conversations or to expose our points of view." I think he is right but I'm not convinced by his example. The tweets are not (for the most part) addressed to him; they constitute a conversation by a set of third parties. Moreover, it felt to me that a number of these participants could easily have been robots autotweeting in response to the mention of an MBA. Jarche writes, "In an open network the potential for online outrage and group orthodoxy is large." Well yes, but that's true in a community as well.

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A New Impact Investing Model for Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 20:42

Rahil Rangwala, Jan 18, 2018

This post describes a funding model for private schools in India where owners can get loans and, if the students achieve certain educational outcomes, they can get rebates on those loans. "As philanthropic investors," writes Rahil Rangwala of the Dell Foundation, "we get a double-whammy win. We achieve what we care about most—improving education in a fragmented, otherwise hard-to-reach market of small-time school entrepreneurs—and only pay when schools demonstrate measurable change in learning outcomes." But why focus this investment on loans to private schools? Why not develop public education by offering loans (and the same conditions) to the government? Why do people so often feel private sector loans and financing are good things, and public sector dept is an evil?

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American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 19:36

Gallup, Knight Foundation, Jan 18, 2018

According to the Knight Foundation and Nieman Report summaries, "Americans say greater access to news sources is actually making it harder to stay informed." The analogy in education would be that greater access to educational resources makes it harder to become educated. But does it hold? According to the report (71 page PDF), "Not only is more information readily available, but so is more misinformation, and many consumers may not be able to easily discern the difference between the two." Is the same the case in education? I think a case could be made. 

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What Oberlin reveals about higher ed’s vulnerable business model

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:43

Alana Dunagan, Christensen Institute, Jan 18, 2018

This post almost makes me feel sorry for a university that has an $800 million endowment and charges $70K tuition per year. Almost. The argument is that if the school falls even 2.8 percent short on enrollments, it leads to a $5 million budget gap. Lowering prices or lowering spending threaten the school's prestige status. And it depends on being a prestige institution, because students aren't attracted by the prospect of a big paycheque; "the median Oberlin student earns $2,864 a year more than the median high school grad." Oh what will Oberlin do? 

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No Way, JOSE! Javascript Object Signing and Encryption is a Bad Standard That Everyone Should Avoid

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 12:21

Scott Arciszewski, Paragon Initiative Enterprises Blog, Jan 18, 2018

I have no position on the issue described in this post because it's all new to me. But because it's all new to me it's inherently interesting, and the discussion perhaps points the way to the future of signing and encrypting Javascript objects (such as data or executable code). The argument here against Javascript Object Signing and Encryption (JOSE) is that it is often abused, and that it makes forgery trivial. The options allowed for JSON encryption have security issues, according to the article. More. From my own work recoding gRSShopper I can see that this will be directly relevant to learning systems in the near future that intend to exchange data and executable code. 

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Announcement: OLDaily Reader Survey

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 09:00

First of all, thank you to the generous donors who contributed more than $1800 to keep the lights on at OLDaily for another year. Now comes your chance to give me some feedback. This is a basic one-minute survey asking what you think of the newsletter overall. Later this year I will look more deeply at topics and modes of coverage. Please contribute: click here to complete the survey.


Categories: Miscellaneous

How we scaled professional recognition for staff working with Learning Technology at the University of Edinburgh

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 20:50

Santanu Vasant, ALT, Jan 18, 2018

This is a quick case study combining professional development with the University of Edinburgh's strategic digital plans describinbg “a digital culture that will culminate in a university where: every core service is fully digital; every educator is a digital educator; and every student is a digital student.” I'm actuallyu hoping the students will be real students. ;) Anyhow, the idea here is that the university identified "Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) as an appropriate professional qualification for staff development" and then supported staff by holding regular meetings of the CMALT applicants group providing them with support to put together a portfolio. 

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UBC Strategic Plan

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 20:42

Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates, Jan 18, 2018

Alex Usher captures an item of significance in UBC's new strategic plan. "Under Draft Strategies for Transformative Learning (page 14) it says: ”Reframe undergraduate academic program design in competencies rather than credit hours: we will move towards competencies as a primary metric of program structure and completion." I think this is areflection of a wider trend. Usher advocates caution. "Trying to move an entire major institution from one system to another in one go is like trying to do wheelies in a Sherman tank." Actually it's not that hard tp pop a wheelie in a tank; you just have to be going fast enough (pictured).

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Google Memory Loss

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 20:35

Tim Bray, Ongoing, Jan 18, 2018

My experience is oddly the opposite: I am constantly setting Google to search only the last year because I keep getting irrelevant results from 2002. This is because the things I am searching for are often truly obscure. Tim Bray notwithstanding, Lou Reed’s Rock n Roll An­i­mal al­bum is not obscure. But the main point here is that Google "cares about giv­ing you great an­swers to the ques­tions that mat­ter to you right now." It keeps track of things like how popular a page is. Bray says Google "it needs to be in­dexed, just like a li­brary." It does not.

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What I Wish I Knew When I Started ‘Active Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 20:17

Cathy Davidson, Jan 18, 2018

Discussion of active learning from the perspective of lessons learned. Some of it is overstated ("Students always come through (despite their fears).") Some of it is trivial ("I can’t control everything.  Neither can they.") But there are some good points: "Students are as afraid of active learning as we (profs, teachers) are" and "Almost nothing about the way we learn in school is 'natural.'" There's an emphasis on preparation in active learning which I think translates well to online lerarning.

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What Will You Do When They Come for Your Proxy Server?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 14:07

Lisa Janicke Hinchcliffe, The Scholarly Kitchen, Jan 18, 2018

This article begins on a negative note about the RA21 authentication project, but reconciles itself by the end. The premise is that IP-based access to paywalled scholarly publications is coming to an end and will be replaced by (something like) RA21, which is an identity federation. This makes sense because the current system for accessing publications - even ones your institution has paid for - is irredeemably broken. But the cost is pervasive tracking and data collection. And the intent is probably to end anonymous access as a counter to services like Sci.Hub. It will also create a greater burden on smaller publishers, which works perfectly for the majopr players. More: Aaron Tay’s Understanding Federated Identity, RA21 and Other Authentication Methods

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The Rise and Fall of Baby Einstein

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 17:56

Ruth Graham, Slate, Jan 18, 2018

This is a case study that will probably be repeated for some time. Baby Einstein launched more than 20 years ago with the proposition that selected videos could propel children into advamced achievement. It was acquired by Disney in 2001. However, "Disney was forced to admit that the videos had no educational value and offered full refunds to parents who had bought them... The idea that a vaguely highbrow video can make a child smarter now sounds like a kind of old-timey tech utopianism, like the idea that social media would democratize the flow of information and unite people around the globe." Via Joanne Jacobs.

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Scientists Put a Worm Brain in a Lego Robot Body - And It Worked

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 17:33

Fiona MacDonald, Science Alert, Jan 18, 2018

It's not an actual worm brain, of course. It's simulated, based on the OpenWorm project that "mapped all the connections between the worm's 302 neurons and managed to simulate them in software." It also uses digital sensors in places of the worm's senses. I find the demonstration (there's a video) interesting conceptually. We know the worm doesn't have internal representations of concepts such as 'wall' or even 'space', yet it manages to navigate. This suggests that perceptual understanding is important in a way that conceptual understanding is not. Learning isn't about making meaning, it's about being able to observe and perceive. Full report.

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Alibaba's AI Outguns Humans in Reading Test

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 17:26

Robert Fenner, Bloomberg, Jan 18, 2018

Systems from both Alibaba and Microsoft outscored humans on a a Stanford University reading and comprehension test. "Based on more than 500 Wikipedia articles, Stanford’s set of questions are designed to tease out whether machine-learning models can process large amounts of information before supplying precise answers to queries." Follow as well the discussion on Reddit for more scepticism and more speculation about the results.

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An Interview with Sarah Lalonde

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 17:20

Doug Peterson, doug - off the record, Jan 18, 2018

This interview with student teacher Sarah Lalonde gives us some insight into the current state of teacher development today. I found this interesting: "social media is not used as part of my Education program and I think it is very unfortunate. I had one, and only one teacher, speak about and incorporate Twitter in one of her courses and there was tons of pushback." This isn't really encouraging. But the rest of the interview - including her description of work in podcasting and media - give me more hope.

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Getting in the groove

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 13:56

Jenny Judge, Aeon, Jan 18, 2018

Does music show that resonance without representation is a form of consciousness? "Human attempts at making sense of the world often involve representing, calculating and deliberating. This isn’t the kind of thing that typically goes on in the 55 Bar, nor is it necessarily happening in the Lutheran church just down the block, or on a muddy football pitch in a remote Irish village. But gathering to make music, play games or engage in religious worship are far from being mindless activities. And making sense of the world is not necessarily just a matter of representing it.

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