Miscellaneous

Khan Academy as Supplemental Instruction: A Controlled Study of a Computer-Based Mathematics Intervention

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 17:07

Daniel P. Kelly, Teomara Rutherford, International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL), Jun 20, 2017

This post was published in a special issue  of IRRODL on empirical studies of implementations of OER. The authors looks at the use of Khan Academy to supplement traditional mathematics instruction and found "  unremarkable differences in mean post-assessment scores between the combined math and ELA supplement control and treatment groups." The authors agree that the study is limited and that the Khan Academy might have other benefits. Having said that, we need to ask about whether the analogy with medical intervention that defines this paper is appropriate. Should we consider students as equivalent to a "treatment group"? Would we evaluate culture this way ("the treatment group experienced greater self-motivation after being prescribed Led Zepplin")? I recognize researchers want education to be more like a science, but  which science

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With a ‘students-first’ motto, can Udacity make ‘lifelong learning’ mainstream?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 14:34

Harshith Mallya, Harshith Mallya, YourStory, Jun 20, 2017

There are two stories in this item. First is the story itself, which is about Udacity's presence in India, and  its provision of "education across platforms from the  web to its mobile app and even offline sessions and ‘ hiring drives’ , codenamed  ‘ Propel’ ." The second is the YourStory platform itself, which is basically an entrepreneur's network. Not just a database, it creates opportunities for them to tell their story in an interesting and engaging way. "We have published close to 60,000 stories of entrepreneurs and change-makers and helped more than 50,000 entrepreneurs access networking and funding opportunities," they write

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Toward a Better Internet: Building Prosocial Behavior into the Commons

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 20:32

Jane Park, Creative Commons, Jun 19, 2017

This is a longish post devoted to the idea that the license isn't everything in reuse (Alan Levine has been making this point for a dog's age). In this post, prosocial behaviours are contrasted with "negative behaviors that occur with online content sharing more generally." For example: using bots to remix and repost CC-licensed designs; harassment of marginalized groups; not respecting  people’ s desires and expectations about how content will be used;  claiming CC0 public domain works as their own and monetizing them; and more. These are all allowed under the license, but are genuinely anti-social behaviours. What to do? Suggestions included a prosocial behaviour toolkit, tools that make prosocial behaviour easier, or reputational algorithms. But the very concept of 'prosocial' cannot be applied to amoral actors, or to those who follow a different morality: businesses and individuals, for example, who see the making of money as the only moral virtue. The only way to inhibit them is to create risk for anti-social behaviour. But this may require Creative Commons to take a sharply more political stance than I think it is willing to take.

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Open University jobs at risk in £100m 'root and branch' overhaul

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 20:21

Sally Weale, The Guardian, Jun 19, 2017

I'm sorry to read this. I'm taking it to reflect the impact of the transition from more traditional approaches to digital delivery (maybe with a bit of FutureLearn thrown in). And this: "The OU’ s finances have been hit particularly hard by the  significant decline in the number of part-time students  since the introduction of tuition fees, losing a third of students in the past decade." And of course the impact of policies that view education as a commodity to be sold rather than as a public services as core as fire departments, police services, roads and rail. The projected saving amount to about a quarter of the Open University's budget and there's no way the university will be the same again.

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A Guide for Resisting EdTech: The Case Against Turnitin

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

Sean Michael Morris, Jesse Stommel, Digital Pedagogy Lab, Jun 19, 2017

"While students who use Turnitin are discouraged from copying other work," write the authors, "the company itself can strip mine and sell student work for profit." This has been true for some time, and has been tested in court. But the point of this article is to argue that, in general, "we participate in a digital culture owned and operated by others who have come to understand how easily they can harvest our intellectual property, data, and the minute details of our lives." We need to be aware of this and address this, but enacting agency, as Tim Amidon writes, iscomplex  work "… [that] requires an increasingly sophisticated array of multiliteracies." The auithors offer a short rubric for evaluating these technologies, looking at who owns the tool, what data we have to provide to use the tool, and how the tool mediates pedagogy. And it is on these grounds - not merely legal grounds - where Tuirnitin is found wanting. They:  “ undermine students’ authority  over their own work; place students in a role of needing to be policed; create a hostile environment; supplant good teaching with the use of inferior technology; and  violate student privacy."

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Introduction to ePortfolios and Mahara

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 19:58

Kerry Johnson, KerryJ's Neotenous Tech, Jun 19, 2017

This post is an overview of e-portfolios and Mahara. It's basically a first-person video demo of the software, useful for people who don't want to download and install Mahara in order to see how it works.

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Traditional assessment rewards the wrong behaviors-here’s why

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 19:19

Alan November, eSchool News, Jun 19, 2017

"Students as young as first grade can learn to solve complex linear equations— an algebraic concept that generally isn’ t taught until the seventh or eighth grade." How's that for a lede? This article (and accompanying podcast) are the result of marketing from Enlern, "a next-generation personalized learning platform built on the understanding that all learning is contextual and shaped by complex interactions between a student, teachers, curricula, peers, and other interdependent variables in the learning ecosystem." It would be good to see a more sceptical stance from this (and other) articles, but that would require analyzing the research, which would require a rather more in-depth analysis than these authors (or me, for that matter) to complete. But we can approximate. This paper, for example, reduces the problem of solving linear equations to a set of rule-selection patterns (I've seen this approach in logic as well). Compare with Kirschener, who would say the process of 'discovering' the correct rule to apply is unnecessary overhead.  This paper likens rule selection to matrix problem-solving (it reminds me of my categroical converter).  So is that what this is? Does that approach really generalize?   Does the author talk with anyone else about this approach to learning? Sadly, no. 

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Reading the Word and the World: A Critical Literary and Autoethnographic Analysis of Educational Renovation in Vietnam

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 13:46

Hien Dang Ta , University of Arizona, Jun 19, 2017

This is a lovely PhD thesis (197 page PDF) that explores aspects of Vietnamese education from the perspective of critical pedagogy and critical literacy.   Critical literacy is "about much more than learning to read the 'word'; a learner must learn to understand the political and social practices that constitute their reality before she/ he can make sense of the written words that describe that reality." Conversely (from Olsen and Friere), "what is making them (famous people and intellectuals) cultural illiterates . . . is their prejudice against race, against class, against the nation.” The author focuses on the process of 'educational renovation' where we see that "students reject a class-based conception in favor of a more humanistic conception of the human being" based on "their experiences or interactions with books published outside the classrooms." But the emancipatory perspective of critical pedagogy was not integrated into he educational process. There's a contrast between "the seeming conformity, obedience, and resignation that many present in formal settings, and the torrents of 'critical literacy'  when they express themselves at the cafeteria." Image: Vietnamnet.

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What fake news is doing to digital literacy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 20:46

Bryan Alexander, Jun 18, 2017

The issues of fake news and digital literacy have received a thorough airing over the last year or so, but despite that, we still have too much of the former and too little of the latter. The responses, as Bryan Alexander characterizes them, fall into two camps: (lower-case-d) democrats, who feel people can and should learn to make their own information choices, and neo-gatekeepers, who call on regulations to govern Facebook and Twitter and the rest (and maybe even the traditional media) to help people cope. I fall mostly into the former camp, though I do think that the proliferation of hatred and abuse have no place in any form of media. What also concerns me is that the widely understood definitions of digital literacy, critical thinking, and related concepts, are incorrect. For example, Alexander states that "digital literacy means learners are  social, participatory  makers." Well, no - this describes a  practice, not a literacy. And the western-centric perspective of commentators continues to frustrate. In a world where most people are  young, how can you say "it’ s old people, in big cities, afraid of the sky?" People today need to learn how to read, more than ever - not books and newspapers and such (though that wouldn't hurt), but signs and portents, geographies and cultures, people and technologies. That's not  digital  literacy, especially - that's just literacy - or, as Friere would say, "reading the world".

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eleven-x marches its low-power IoT network across Canada

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 20:19

Ryan Matthew Pierson, ReadWrite, Jun 18, 2017

It's surprising but it also makes sense that there would be a completely separate wireless network for Internet of Things devices. "Existing wireless carrier signals make a lot of bandwidth available, but also require a lot of energy to maintain a connection to. IoT devices don’ t need a lot of bandwidth. They just need enough to send data and receive commands." So using the low-energy network (eleven-x, in Canada, on a  Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN)) these devices can greatly extend their battery life by  "as much as 20 years," according to the article. The drawback is that the rollout is for high-density urban areas only. 

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For-Credit MOOC: Best of Both Worlds at MIT?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 18:45

Nick Roll, Inside Higher Ed, Jun 18, 2017

This article is making the rounds, but there are many reasons to be unhappy with it. The main idea is that MIT students were happy with a for-credit MOOC, according to a recent study. For some reason, Inside Higher Ed doesn't actually link to the study (but you can find it here). But even more to the point, as one commenter says, "If it wasn't massive, and it wasn't open, then why are we still calling this a MOOC? It sounds like all MIT did was experiment with offering a class online. Great, but hardly groundbreaking." And another notes, "Why is it news that a school has finally decided to offer an online course with credits for 30 students?" I know that the press likes to gush over anything with the 'MIT' label attached to it, like this press release, but this is ridiculous.

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These Maps Reveal the Hidden Structures of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Books

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 18:42

Sarah Laskow, Atlas Obscura, Jun 18, 2017

This post is mostly eye candy but it makes clear what is going on in a certain type of game-based learning, specifically, branching scenario learning (see examples here, here, here). They also display pretty clearly the weakness of the branching scenario: students can figure out pretty quickly what's going on and can realize that success can be earned by memorizing the maze rather than learning the content. I remember watching people play branching scenario laser-disk games in the arcade (back in the days when we had both arcades and laser disks). Rather than watching the movie they close their eyes and toggle though the options: left - right - left - left - etc.

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Event Recap: The Future of Work with Coursera and General Assembly

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 15:15

Coursera Blog, Jun 18, 2017

General Assembly  began as a cooperative workspace but evolved into an IT and business skills training company with centres around the world. This short article from Coursera describes its future work with this company. "Both companies found opportunities to help large organizations solve unique learning and development challenges," the authors write. "Peer-reviewed assignments and forum discussions, both of which the Coursera platform offers... develop communication skills, and offer program managers with a reliable means of evaluating employees."

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Sign of the times: Crowdfunding for scientific research

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 20:42

Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen, Jun 17, 2017

I'm thinking that if I had to depend on crowd-funding to support my research I'd be in trouble. It's not that it isn't important and worthwhile - it's just that, of the top thousand things on a person's mind, my work isn't one of them. Which means they'd never get around to crowdfunding it. My newsletter is a bit more top-of-mind for people, but averaging $3000 a year isn't going to pay the bills. One of the reasons government funding - or public funding in general - works really well (and far better than free-market based approaches) is that it leverages the concept of bundling really well. Canadians agree on the whole that scientific research is important, and allocate a few hundred million (out of a budget of a few hundred billion) and let the civil service take care of the rest.

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