Miscellaneous

A Blogger's Springtime

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 21:00
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In this presentation I talk about the practice of blogging in a new and complex media environment. Contrary to what may be popular belief, blogging is not dead, nor even slowing down, though attention has shifted away from the form to new types of social media. But it is part of a much larger content ecosystem which as a whole is experiencing a golden age, and blogging is a major part of that. I show people how I blog, how I use blogs, and how I am encouraging student use of blogs in MOOCs.

Spring Blog Festival, Online, via WizIQ (Lecture) Mar 21, 2015 [Comment]
Categories: Miscellaneous

Doxxing to Defend Student Privacy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 13:00
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Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Mar 24, 2015

Bob Braun's  website was inaccessible when I posted  the story about Pearson's spying on schoolchildren last week, but it's available again and Audrey Watters raises some troubling questions about some of the follow-up coverage. She notes that NJ superintendent Elizabeth Jewett's work address and phone are contained in the image Braun posted, and that NJDOE commissioner Bari Anhalt-Erlichson's home address is posted (I personally don't see a home address in the story, just a property value and the fact that that it's located in Princeton). "Warning bells for me," writes Watters. "This was the second story in a row in which Braun had disclosed the personal information of a female edu employee of the state of New Jersey."

The connection between Anhalt-Erlichson and Pearson is very tenuous. She is married to Andrew Erlichson, who is a VP at MongoDB, which once did work for Pearson. You may equally well connect me to the Pearson spying case, because I've used MongoDB and have  praised it in the past.  But the tenuousness isn't the issue here; the doxxing is - the releasing of people's personal information and documents, their 'dox'. And even that wouldn't an issue were it not for the harassment that follows, which is disproportionately aimed at women. The information is "broadcast across the Internet with the express purpose of having that data be used for punishment." The very first  comment in Braun's article talks about how to punish the offenders.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The dark side of gamification

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 23:00


Ryan Tracey, E-Learning Provocateur, Mar 23, 2015

Every day at lunch I chop a carrot, a pepper, some peas and some cherry tomatoes and add some tuna for lunch. I'm  trying  to get better at chopping food so I appear to be expert when I'm making lunch in the staff kitchen. Yeah, I'm that shallow. Anyhow, Ryan Tracey points to this interesting video, Sight, in which everyday activities, like chopping food, are gamified. "It’ s a clear case of gamification gone too far," he says. "Life is not a game." Now in fact I am generally in agreement with him, but I hesitate to take the attitude that pervasive gamification is inherently wrong. Peer fifty years into the future, and fifty years into the past. What we do today would seem strange to the people of 1965 - imagine spending hours at a time playing a video game! Imagine finding potential partners using video dating services! Why wouldn't like in the future be equally different?

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Categories: Miscellaneous

New structures (MOOCs) demand new ethics?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 20:00
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Jenny Mackness, Jenny Connetced, Mar 23, 2015

Keith Hamon comments, ‘ New structures demand new ethics’ , and Jenny Mackness writes, "On reading this, I immediately wondered whether this is true." I personally don't think that new structures require new ethics per se but I could perhaps be persuaded that we need to frame them differently. I like this: "core values which have not altered in medicine are:

  • doing no harm (non-maleficence);
  • a wish to do good (beneficence);
  • the desire to be fair (justice),
  • and a respect for the individual (autonomy)."

In my mapping of MOOC 'values' I recommend 'autonomy, diversity, openness, and interactivity', basing them on the principles of successful networks (and hence, societies). This is a different set, and maybe I should be including some combination of non-maleficence, beneficence and justice into my values?

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Pearson, PARCC, Privacy, Surveillance, & Trust

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 17:00
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Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Mar 23, 2015

The Audrey Wattrers column on the Pearson spying case raises more questions than answers, but that's OK. And it still carries the inimitable Watters style: "So what is Pearson doing in this particular case? Pearson doesn’ t care about individual students’ struggles with queer identity, homework, cyberbullying, college applications and college affordability, homework, after-school jobs, homecoming king drama, the basketball team’ s season, band tryouts, drama tryouts, drama, a parent’ s death, parents’ divorce, or standardized testing. Wait. No. Pearson 'cares' about that last one." Good comprehensive article raising some things (like the disappearing Tracx  case study for Pearson) that I haven't seen elsewhere.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Coding is not the new literacy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 17:00


Chris Granger, Mar 23, 2015

"Being literate isn't simply a matter of being able to put words on the page," writes Chris Granger, "it's solidifying our thoughts such that they can be written. Interpreting and applying someone else's thoughts is the equivalent for reading. We call these composition and comprehension." Fair enough, and while this account could use more precision, it's enough to make what I think is the fairly obvious point that coding is not the new literacy (neither are many of the other 'new literacies'). So what is? Grager argues that it's model-building. "We build mental models of everything - from how to tie our shoes to the way macro-economic systems work. With these, we make decisions, predictions, and understand our experiences." I don't agree with this exactly, but the view is pretty mainstream, and there's enough solid thought to make it worth sharing.

And this, especially: "To put it simply, the next great advance in human ability comes from being able to externalize the mental models we spend our entire lives creating. That is the new literacy. And it's the revolution we've all been waiting for." Which is very interesting, because the previous approach to literacy has been about getting us to internalize the models (like language and objects and mathematics) that we have created externally. This is probably the true 'flipped learning'. Instead of memorizing, we are building. Instead of internalizing, we are externalizing. But now we need to attend to vocabulary: verbs like 'build' and 'make' and 'create' and 'construct' refer to things we do externally - but internally we function very differently and these verbs are no longer appropriate to describe what we do.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Believe it or not, "learning styles" don't exist

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 15:00
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Simon Oxenham, Big Think | Neurobonkers, Mar 23, 2015

Sure, let's revisit this old debate and its one-note protagonist, Daniel Willingham. Here's my (definitive) response: The research doesn't tell us that learning styles don't exist, it tells us that differentiated instruction based on learning styles does not significantly improve educational outcomes. These are two completely different theses the conflation of which presumes a specific instructivist educational methodology based on content delivery rather than individual learning and learning experiences. That's why most people's intuitions conflict with this conclusion; most people learn by experience, not by being taught specific content in a classroom, and the nature of experience varies according to the individual.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

What do cMOOC participants talk about in Social Media? What do cMOOC participants talk about in Social Media? A Topic Analysis of Discourse in a cMOOC

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 12:00
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Srecko Joksimovic, Research Gate, Mar 23, 2015

One of the major differences between connectivist MOOCs (cMOOCs) and content-focused MOOCs (xMOOCs) is that participation in the former isn't limited to one single site, but is instead spread all over social networks. This presents unique challenges to learning analytics, some of which are explored by Srećko Joksimović and Marek Hatala in their paper Learning Analytics for Networked Learning Models. In  What do cMOOC participants talk about in Social Media? In  What do cMOOC participants talk about in Social Media? paper the authors find "learners tend to focus on several prominent topics that emerge very quickly in the course. They maintain that focus, with some exceptions, throughout the course, regardless of readings suggested by the instructor." That's a really interesting finding and, on reflection, consistent with my own experiences in cMOOCs. (There are 6 authors; I list only the first above).

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Categories: Miscellaneous

How Millennials Get News: Inside the habits of America’s first digital generation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 12:00
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Media Insight Project, American Press Institute, Mar 23, 2015

Publications are adjusting to the changing interests of millennials. "Adults age 18-34 do not visit news sites, read print newspapers, watch television news, or seek out news in great numbers," reports Media Insight Project. We might conclude they are not interested in the news, but this is far from the case. "Millennials consume news and information in strikingly different ways than previous generations, and their paths to discovery are more nuanced and varied than some may have imagined." This is significant because online publications are adjusting to this by incorporating news content into their offerings. Refinery29, for example, a fashion site aimed at Millennial women, is  hiring news reporters and expanding its offering into tech news. “ When it comes to straight politics, the guiding principle for Refinery29 is: Our Party is Women," said Refinery29 editor in chief Christene Barberich. It is also  expanding into breaking news, again reflecting the  changing interests of young Americans. Journalism education will have to adapt, as will education generally.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Performance funding: The burden of proof

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/22/2015 - 18:00
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Graeme Stewart, Academic Matters, Mar 22, 2015

As someone who has been a supporter of online learning for something like the last 25 years I can certainly attest that the burden of proof has been on those proposing the change. So it's reasonable to impose the same burden of proof on those who propose new business and funding models for learning. So this burden should fall on those arguing that "the public funding received by universities should be determined by the ability of a given institution to meet certain performance targets." This is important because, according to this article, the research thus far shows that performance funding (as the practice is called) has not met this burden. The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) for example  found "little evidence that these policies are associated with improved student outcomes." So why do people keep advocating them?

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Vloggers increasingly target children with ‘covert advertising’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/22/2015 - 15:00
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Chris Green, The Independent, Mar 22, 2015

I think advertising messages are the most pernicious sort of content children can access, and in the long run far more harmful than content typically hidden behind 'restricted' ratings. So at a minimum I think advertisers should be regulated (I am also an advocate of good media literacy programs to give children some means of defending themselves). So I think that Vloggers engaged in a business transaction with corporate and other sponsors have an obligation to at the very least be open about that fact, and ideally to limiting the worst excesses of advertising. Because they know it's wrong: "Many firms respect the ASA rules in their television adverts but 'push the boundaries' on their own websites, Mr Bailey said."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Rutgers and ProctorTrack Fiasco: Impact of listening to regulations but not to students

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/22/2015 - 01:00


Phil Hill, e-Literate, Mar 21, 2015

We see more of the tip of what is looking like an ugly privacy iceberg, as Rutgers not only watches students through their video cameras, it charges students for the privlege. "This is a fiasco," writes Phil Hill. "Student privacy is a big issue, and students should have some input into the policies shaped by institutions. The February 12th student paper put it quite well in conclusion.... 'monitoring and recording our computer activity during online courses is not the solution, and failing to properly inform students of ProctorTrack’ s payment fee is only a further blight on a rather terrible product. If Rutgers wants to transition to online courses, then the University needs to hold some inkling of respect for student privacy.'"

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Categories: Miscellaneous

How did competencies come to dominate talent management in little more than three decades?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/21/2015 - 22:00
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Sarah Beckett, HRSG, Mar 21, 2015

This is a short post that unintentionally illustrates the dangers inherent in a competency-based approach. As an example it says that while a conventional job description might say "A client focused employee will pay attention to clients’ needs and ensure those needs are met," the competency-based description will offer a list of "concrete examples' rather than such a vague description, such as "Clearly show clients that their perspectives are valued" or "Enhance client service delivery systems and processes." From my perspective, the competency-based description has simply exchanged one vague statement for three new vague statements. How do you show clients their perspectives are valued? What do they mean by 'enhance'?

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Twitter puts trillions of tweets up for sale to data miners

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/21/2015 - 22:00
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Juliette Garside, The Guardian, Mar 21, 2015

Just in case you weren't clear that Twitter has the right to sell your tweets, this post makes it clear that Twitter is selling your tweets to advertisers. How creepy can it get? "As you board the aircraft, the cabin crew address you by name and congratulate you on the arrival of a bouncing baby boy. On your seat, you find a gift-wrapped blue rattle with a note from the airline." Because, you know, you tweeted about the newborn you've been caring for.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The difference between social learning and social collaboration

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/21/2015 - 19:00
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Jane Hart, Learning in the Social Workplace, Mar 21, 2015

"Social learning," writes Jane Hart, "is too often deemed to be achieved primarily through an organised educational or training experience that involves people brought together explicitly to learn from one another." This presumes that learning objectives and the rest have been defined in advance. But "most social learning takes place well outside of formal learning interventions and in the workplace, in particular." Hence the need for a term, she argues, where the result may be learning, but where the instent is not definitively to create a learning experience. I wouldn't so easily give up the term "learning" to the formalists; "education" may require defined outcomes, but learning is a thing people do whether or not outcomes have been defined in advance. Still, I like her diagram.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Solving the Nation’s Teacher Shortage

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/21/2015 - 11:00
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Mallory Dwinal, Christensen Institute, Mar 21, 2015

This white paper has two separate and very distinct parts. In the first part it analyzes the causes of teacher shortages, noting that women are migrating to higher-paying professions outside teaching, that technology in other traditionally women's sectors such as nursing and accounting, and that women staying in the profession prefer not to relocate. These could all be addressed simply by paying teachers more money, which would both retain staff and convince districts of the need to increase teacher productivity through technology. The second part is more convincing, pointing to the utility of online learning in addressing teacher shortages. This is an argument that has been made with respect to other skilled professions. The report states, "in the same way that online learning unbundles the education experience to make it more flexible for students, it also unbundles the teacher labor market to make it more flexible for teachers and districts." But remember that with higher skills there is still an expectation that higher pay would follow. 24 page PDF.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Udacity's Nanodegrees Get Accredible-d

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/21/2015 - 11:00
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Unattributed, EdSurge, Mar 21, 2015

This coverage from  EdSurge is interesting: "Accredible, an Imagine K12 graduate that aims to offer trustworthy credentials for online learning providers and students, has nabbed one of its biggest partners yet: Udacity. Under the agreement, Udacity will leverage Accredible's API to let students enrolled in its Nanodegree programs to build professional profiles to show off projects, coursework and other achievements with potential employers. (Here's a profile example.) More details from Accredible and TechCrunch." Watch for Accredible to be purchased post-haste by an LMS company.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Privacy Pitfalls as Education Apps Spread Haphazardly

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/21/2015 - 11:00
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Natasha Singer, New York Times, Mar 21, 2015

“ A teacher can sign up for anything, without the knowledge of anyone else in the district,” said Steve Young, the chief technology officer of the Judson Independent School District (in the U.S. 'independent' is a synonym for 'private'). This article has it a bit backward. It blames teachers (and to a lesser degree students) for "signing up for anything" with the result that students' privacy isn't always resepected. So, implicitly, the recommendation is to regulate what teachers can access. It sounds like a content publisher's dream, and they have the usual voices supporting it. "The Federal Trade Commission recommends that schools not delegate that decision to individual teachers. 'Companies are soliciting teachers to breach the obligations of schools,' said Joel R. Reidenberg, a professor at Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan." But wouldn't a better approach be to restrict what companies can do with people's information? After all, even if you regulate the teachers, you've still left students (and everyone else) vulnerable evenings and weekends.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

UNESCO's Open Access (OA) Curriculum is now online

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/21/2015 - 11:00


Sanjaya Mishra, UNESCO, Mar 21, 2015

As the headline says, UNESCO has released its new open access curriculum. Here it is:

Curriculum for Library Schools

Curriculum for Researchers

Each of these is a substantial document in its own right, consisting of several units worth of information and examples. Below is one of the many resources available:

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Dutch student protests ignite movement against management of universities

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 23:00
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Jonathan Gray, The Guardian, Mar 20, 2015

While I don't think anyone wants universities to be unmanaged, as the headline suggests, the protests nonetheless are a response to an approach typified under the heading of 'managerialism', wherein fiscal considerations are paramount, while social and human issues are shunted to the sidelines. There shouldn't be an overlap with online learning, but there is, as we have seen technology often employed in the service of this new style of management. It's interesting that "ongoing financialisation and managerialism that is increasingly coming to dominate academic life" seems also to be associated with "an unprecedented crisis in the university’ s finances."

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Categories: Miscellaneous
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