Miscellaneous

Practical artificial intelligence in the cloud

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 22:00


Mike Barlow, O'Reilly, Jan 13, 2017

We are rapidly approaching a world in which software and service designers simply plug their application into an AI service to perform increasingly useful tasks. It's a question of the need for scale. "If you’ re talking about systems that... do difficult things like natural language processing and unstructured data mining... it makes sense to centralize them in the cloud." But opportunity makes a virtue out of necessity . We can have light-weight applications that access numerous services on an as-needed basis. Note: O'Reilly requires social media sign-in to read this article (and probably sell your data).

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Can Edtech Support—and Even Save—Educational Research?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 22:00


Jay Lynch, Nathan Martin, EdSurge, Jan 13, 2017

Traditional educational research is (to my mind) often misleading or irrelevant. I am not alone in this assessment, as this article suggests. And while I'm quite properly sceptical about the research that may be offered up by a commercial enterprise (in this case, Pearson) I think the arguments in this post are sound, and in particular endorse this: "For research to meaningfully impact teaching and learning, it will need to expand beyond an emphasis on controlled intervention studies and prioritize the messy, real-life conditions facing teachers and students."

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10 everyday things on the web the EU Commission wants to make illegal: Oettinger’s legacy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 17:00


Julia Reda, Jan 13, 2017

If gthe descriptions in this post are accurate (and there's no reason to suppose they aren't) then proposals from the European Commission to greatly extend copyright law would render many common online behaviours (including this newsletter) illegal. European Parliament member Julia Reda writes, "These proposals are pandering to the demands of some news publishers to charge search engines and social networks for sending traffic their way (yes, you read that right), as well as the music industry’ s wish  to be propped up in its negotiations with YouTube." Among the illegal behaviours: sharing snippets of news articles, tweeting a news headline, pinning photos to Pinterest, having a search engine index the web for you, and more.

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Siri, Who Is Terry Winograd?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 14:00


Lawrence M. Fisher, Strategy+Business, Jan 13, 2017

This article contains all kinds of goodness as it profiles Terry Winograd, one of the pioneers of human-computer interaction (though I wonder how many people in HCI have even heard of him). Winograd's story is intertwined with the history of philosophy of mind and artificial intelligence (AI) as at MIT he is taught by and interacts with the likes of Marvin Minsky, Hubert Dreyfus and John Searle. Then there's a stint a Xerox PARC. Then at Stanford a student named Larry Page had the good fortune to have him as an advisor. Winograd himself marks the transition from the belief that AI is based on symbolic representations of the world to the belief that AI is based on "bringing forth of the world through the process of living itself.” (All this, as an aside, is also much of the philosophical basis for connectivism.) Don't miss this article.

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Philosophy can teach children what Google can’t

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 11:00


Charlotte Blease, The Guardian, Jan 13, 2017

The headline would make more sense if you couldn't use Google to learn philosophy, but in fact, you can. Of course, learning philosophy (or anything else) means doing much ore than merely reading about it and remembering stuff. You have to do philosophy, and online or off, it is every bit as hard as Charlotte Blease says it is. "It requires us to overcome personal biases and pitfalls in reasoning. This necessitates tolerant dialogue, and imagining divergent views while weighing them up." Having said that, I have long argued for the teaching of philosophy - and especially critical thinking - in schools, as have many others before me. Far better to learn to think that to learn to memorize.

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Whatever happened to …

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 20:00


Doug Peterson, doug — off the record, Jan 12, 2017

I noticed this too: numerous incorrect (and indeed, impossible) reports that the shooter in Florida had boarded a flight in Canada. What's significant here is that this fake news (for that's what it was) had nothing to do with social media: it originated, was spread, and was not properly corrected by traditional media. Not social media. If young people are spreading fake news, it's only because they are following the example set by the authorities and role models in society. Sadly, some of those same role models argue that they young should not be given the tools of critical literacy, thereby depriving them of any remedy they might have had. Photo: ABC News

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Build a Custom CMS for a Serverless Static Site Generator

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 20:00


John Polacek, CSS-Tricks, Jan 12, 2017

This is a pretty technical article so if you aren't inclined just read the first few paragraphs and skim the rest. Or if (like me) you like to get your hands dirty, set this one aside for a Saturday afternoon project. Here's the concept: by using an Amazon cloud account, we can create our own website without using a web server. Amazon provides basic services like storage and authentication; the rest of the word is performed by Javascript you run on your own browser. Why is this significant? Look at the  Contentful website and you'll see: it shifts the primary interface to the API, the presentation is content-centric, and the service is scalable on an as-needed basis. It's like everything on the web before this was books, and now we're moving to something that is not books. This is the future; don't miss this.

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Artist Walead Beshty Shipped Glass Boxes Inside FedEx Boxes to Produce Shattered Sculptures

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 20:00


Christopher Jobson, Colossal, Jan 12, 2017

This is a funny story with a surprise inside. The funny part is the artwork: an artist created glass blocks exactly the dimensions of a FedEx box and then shipped them in those boxes, producing unique art out of the cracks and breakage that resulted. The surprise is that it turns out that Fed Ex has corporate ownership over that space. "There’ s a copyright designating the design of each FedEx box, but there’ s also the corporate ownership over that very shape. It’ s a proprietary volume of space, distinct from the design of the box." Now I'm afraid I might accidentally violate FedEx's ownership over that specific shape should I decide to, I don't know, create my own mailing box.

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3 Areas Where Having “The Innovator’s Mindset” is Crucial

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 12:00


George Couros, Jan 12, 2017

George Couros discusses three key areas on an innovator's mindset: entrepreneurial spirit, ethical citizen, and empowered learner. The first is a bit of a tautology if you accept the current definition of innovation. But the latter two are important. 'Ethical citizen' involves "humility, fairness and open-mindedness... respect, empathy and compassion; and ... teamwork, collaboration and communication." And the last requires one "who thinks critically and makes discoveries; who uses technology to learn, innovate, communicate, and discover." Of course all of these constitute much more that mere innovation. They are required for citizenship generally.

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The Men Who Started a Thinking Revolution

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 18:00


Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics, Jan 10, 2017

I listened to this podcast in the middle of Thursday night, while sleeping, so my first recollection of it is all mixed up with dreams (example: as a social experiment, Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky swimming together out into the mid-Atlantic to reset standard time as it approaches from Europe). I woke up just enough to realize how good this podcast was, and reading the transcript today reinforces that. The core of their work (at least as interpreted by Freakonomics) is that people make decisions irrationally for a variety of predicable reasons. There is that, but I first  encountered Tversky's work in the 1990s, and to me it made the case for the employment of salience in a definition of  relevant similarity (it's not that people are irrational, it's that they're rational in different ways than economic theory would predict). See also: Select All, where I describe this influence; Tversky and Gati, Studies of Similarity; Kanhneman, Thinking about Thinking.

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The Teach to One Math Experiment in Mountain View, CA Is a Trainwreck: A Cautionary Tale of Digital Math Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 15:00


Dan Colman, Open Culture, Jan 10, 2017

Programmed math instruction is fraught with potential pitfalls, as any designer knows, and some of them appear to have caught the  Teach to One math program being piloted in California. But this article is as much a study in perceptions as it is about technology. In the  letter written to the school board parents complain that (in addition to some bugs in content alignment) the Teach To One system isn't the way it used to be. Look at the criticisms: it doesn't follow a 'logical pathway', it spends less time on some topics, teachers spend less time with students, the content isn't organized by levels, there are no textbooks, and collaboration isn't working. None of these are flaws in and of themselves. If students aren't engaged - yes, that's a real flaw. But it's not wrong just because it's different.

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Did Media Literacy Backfire?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 15:00


dana boyd, Points, Jan 10, 2017

Danah boyd, despite the provocative title, sticks to a relatively mainstream analysis of recent media failures. She criticizes people's misuse of what might be called the basic elements of media literacy: questioning sources, empowering readers, and doing your own research. She suggests this leaves people unprepared deal with fake news or to even grasp what counts as truth in a chaotic and confused media landscape, and that media literacy (as depicted here) is leading us (or, at least, the U.S.) deeper into tribalism. But a return to the old order of experts and traditional media (which she seems sometimes to support and sometimes not) will not lead us out of the current morass. Nor, probably, is there a technological solution. We need to learn to see the world differently.

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Digital Literacy Challenge: Create an Information Filter Bot

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 13:00


Wesley Fryer, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, Jan 10, 2017

This would be pretty advanced digital literacy, I would say, but it focuses on some pretty basic skills: using tools to scan content and extract informatun related to your particular interest or need. In this case, Wesley Fryer wants to useTwitter as the data source, aggregating content on universal basic income (UBI) using IFTTT and saving it into Pocket. He would then send the Pocket to a Twitter feed and display it using Flipboard. Not everything went as planned and he bogged down writing a Python application. I probably wouldn't use Flipboard, but if I had to, I'd import the feed to Flipboard using the RSS from Pocket modified by IFFTT to feed into Flipboard's RSS reader. Or just use a specialized application.

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Articulate 360 – Initial Product Review

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 13:00


Godwin Vinny Carole, Swift eLeanring, Jan 10, 2017

This is a generally favorable review of Articulate 360. The software is now subscription based such that one account provides access to a wide set of services designed to help in the creation, review, storage and playback of e-learning resources. The review does not go much beyond a description of these services. It's not cheap, though, with  pricing between $US 700-1000 per year. You can get a  much more detailed review from Joe Ganci in learning Solutions. Upside Learning has a short article and video. Learning Tech offers a mixed review.

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VRLearn: Virtual Reality and Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 14:00


Bobby Carlton, Masie Center, Jan 09, 2017

Elliott Masie still understands branding as this 'VRLearn' report shows. Do yourself a favour, skip the user-hostile web presentation (unless you like simulated paper (complete with page-turning sounds)) and go straight to the 12-page PDF. Virtual Reality has a lot of potential, writes Masie in the introduction, but it brequires three things to grow: authoring systems, a marketplace of VR/AR learning content, and an assessment focus. According to the report, applications exist in hands-on occupations such as aviation and space, medicine and health care, military, sports and even warehousing. Related: THE - VR in Education - Don't believe all the hype.

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Norway to become 1st country to switch off FM radio

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 14:00


Thomson Reuters, CBC News, Jan 09, 2017

OK, so there's dab, but there's also DAB, which is changing the face of radio. DAB stands for 'Digital Audio Broadcasting' and it's doing to radio what HD did for TV - switching from analog radio signals to video. It's controversial. As this article notes, Norway is switching from FM to DAB, a move opposed by many because it renders millions of radios (and especially car radios) obsolete. But proponents say the audio quality is better and more channels can be broadcast. The key issues are coverage (since DAB is little-used in many countries (and not at all in Canada)) and receivers (since DAB requires more power to receive). For more see WorldDAB.

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Talk

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/09/2017 - 14:00


Various authors, The Coral Project, Jan 09, 2017

This is Talk, Mozilla's new open-source comment system. The link takes you to a working Alpha version. Be sure to explore the options in the left-hand menu to see the possibilities in the new system.  It's coming together nicely, with a few special touches we know you'll like. The source is on GitHub. I can't wait to begin using it for OLDaily. Talk can be integrated with some other upcoming Mozilla tools such as  Trust and Ask. Related: article on noxious online comments.

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How the Occupy School Movement is Pushing Connected Learning in Brazil

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 17:00


Carolina Rodeghiero, DMLcentral, Jan 08, 2017

"In response to the critics, a Paraná 16-year-old’ s speech addressing her state Parliament went viral: 'Who is school is for? It belongs to whom? It’ s an insult to us, who are there, dedicating ourselves, looking for motivation every single day, being called indoctrinated. It’ s an insult for us, students, as well it is for the teachers.'" Yeah.

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Baby’s First Virtual Assistant

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 17:00


Felix Gillette, Bloomberg, Jan 08, 2017

After all the talk of digital natives and the live, what will we make of children who grow up with having had the services of a virtual assistant since birth? That's the scenario we face according to this article. "My purpose in life," it says in an engaging, even-keeled female voice, "is to help comfort, entertain, teach, and learn from you."

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How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/08/2017 - 17:00


Tristan Harris, Medium, Jan 08, 2017

This title of this post should be "How to use technology to hijack people's minds." There's nothing inherently technological in these methods; they've flourished for thousands of years (as the reference to magicians should tell us). Here are the tricks (paraphrased with some quotation and links added):

  • disempowering by design - if you control the menu, you control the choices
  • intermittent variable rewards - you immediately receive either an enticing reward (a match, a prize!) or nothing
  • fear of missing out  -  it will be hard for you to turn me off, unsubscribe, or remove your account —  because (aha, I win) you might miss something important
  • manipulation of social approval  - I imagine him making a conscious choice to tag me but I don’ t see how Facebook orchestrated his doing that in the first place
  • manipulation of social reciprocity  -  creating social obligations for each other (by accepting a connection, responding to a message, or endorsing someone back for a skill)
  • bottomless bowls  - to keep them consuming things, even when they aren’ t hungry anymore
  • maximizing interruptions  - to heighten the feeling of urgency and social reciprocity
  • bundling your needs with theirs  - make the thing customers want (milk, pharmacy) inseparable from what the business wants
  • nudging  - make choice inconvenient to focus on one outcome or another
  • foot in the door  - asking for a small innocuous request to begin with and escalate from there

Originally published in  the Observer last June.

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