Miscellaneous

What Homework and Adaptive Platforms Are (and Aren’t) Good For

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 20:00


Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, May 19, 2016

This is a follow-up to Michael Caulfield's post on e-Literate earlier this week and looks at the subject of personalized learning in a lot more depth. "Mike’ s  stories show truly significant  learning of the kind that changes students perspectives and, if we’ re lucky, their lives. It is not just personalized but deeply personal. He  was able to reach his daughters because he understood them as humans." Robots aren't going to take on this role any time in the near future, writes Feldstein. But they can play a positive supporting role, and that's the model Feldstein considers. By helping students achieve a level of proficiency at the 'what' question, they allow the teachers to focus on the sort of 'why' question that really engages students. But this homework cannot become an end in itself, and it has to clearly connect the 'what' with the 'why'. 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Status of E-Learning in Public Universities in Kenya

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 14:00


George L. Makokha, Dorothy N. Mutisya, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, May 19, 2016

OK, I get this: "e-learning is at its infant stage in universities in Kenya. Majority of universities lacked senate approved e-learning policies to guide structured implementation. A few lecturers (32%) and students (35%) used e-learning and few courses (10%) were offered online. Majority of online uploaded modules (87%) were simply lecture notes and not interactive. Again, universities in Kenya lacked requisite ICT infrastructure and skills." The strength of this article is that it collects a lot of data on universities in Kenya and the east Africa region.  But I fail to see how this follows: "The study recommends that universities partner with the private sector to improve ICT infrastructure, build capacity, and standardize e-learning programs in the country." It is nowhere supported by the data.  Indeed, looking at things like lack of training and lack of bandwidth, it appears that  the problem in Kenyan higher education is a  lack of money. But  he private sector gets involved in order to take money out of the system.  It seems to me that private sector involvement would simply make the situation worse.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Does Formal Credit Work for MOOC-Like Learning Environments?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 14:00


Engin Kursun, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, May 19, 2016

This article has an almost-decent sample size and the sort of conclusion that magazines like the Chronicle love to publish: "Data was collected via 516 responses to an online survey and achievement tests.... The credit bearing group also scored significantly higher achievement scores than the credit careless group. Credit clearly and significantly affected all dependent variables investigated in this study." Now of course I'd like to see more courses studied (the only one here is 'Ataturk's Principles and History of Turkish Revolution' which while no doubt interesting (I'd take it) is a bit niche). And the sample (which "consisted of faculty of education students who responded to the online survey")  appears to be dangerously self-selective. 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Increasing Social Presence in Online Learning through Small Group Discussions

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 14:00


Mete Akcaoglu, Eunbae Lee, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, May 19, 2016

This could have been such an interesting paper had the authors not succumbed to what is a disease in our field, small (n=33) and unrepresentative (graduate students pursuing a master's degree in education) samples. The idea was to determine the impact of small group size on social presence in learning, where social presence was measured in three dimensions:

  • The Work Group Cohesion Index, developed by Price and Mueller (1986), was used to measure workgroup cohesion in organizational contexts.
  • The Sociability Scale (Kreijns et al., 2007) was originally designed to determine the perceived degree of sociability of computer supported collaborative learning.
  • The Sociability Scale (Kreijns et al., 2007) was originally designed to determine the perceived degree of sociability of computer supported collaborative learning.

Oh, what a larger scale and more comprehensive study could have done with this, actually getting into the differences in these three models, looking at the nuance a large sample size would provide, and perhaps identifying conditions (cultures, subject area, personalities) in which one or another is a more useful tool. Ah, but we get none of this. We get only this: "Our results suggest that by manipulating group size, students' perceptions of cohesion, and sociability were positively increased." Sigh.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

We Have Personalization Backwards

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 14:00


Michael Caulfield, e-Literate, May 19, 2016

I'm glad e-Literate asked Michael Caulfield to elaborate on his post, though it still feels  abridged  to me. Here's the traditional take on 'personalization': "You learn a certain set of things, you get tested, the personalization software finds knowledge gaps and runs you through the set of canned explanations that you need." But this isn't right, says Caulfield. "The biggest advantage of a tutor is not that they personalize the task, it’ s that they personalize the  explanation... students often have very  similar  skill gaps, but the remedy for each student may be radically different." There's a short list of what a truly personalized course would do - this is the part I wish were elaborated. (The  earlier version of the first half of this post  on Caulfield’ s Hapgood site).

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Partnering with Fishtree brings digital courseware at scale to Blackboard Learn

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 14:00


Blackboard Blog, May 19, 2016

Blackboard is partnering with yet another entrant in the adaptive learning marketplace, FishTree. It's a "personalization platform that combines standard-aligned resources and social media-based tools with world-class analytics to save teachers time, and help students learn." Blackboard writes, "Fishtree at its core is a productivity platform that enables teachers, instructional designers, and administrators to author and share digital courseware, and curate the best resources from a range of content— licensed, OER, user-generated— that is then measured by its effectiveness on student outcomes." As always, these claims must be evaluated. But this shows that adaptive learning using analytics is an increasingly crowded market.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The 2016 Dean's List: EdTech’s 50 Must-Read Higher Ed IT Blogs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 14:00


Meg Conlan, Ed Tech Magazine, May 19, 2016

All lists are suspect, of course, but I'll echo Martin Weller's comment: "no @audreywatters, the acid test for respectability." Some new ones to me: Code Acts in Education, by Ben Williamson; sketch artist Professor Josh; tech-tools blog Higher Ed Webtech, by  Mike Richwalsky; wearables-focused Digital Bodies, by  Maya Georgieva; Emerging EdTech, by Kelly Walsh; Cat Food, which features tools and podcasts; and  Gross Point-Blank, by Liz Gross. I've added these to my list of sources. Note: The Ed Tech 50 is heavily weighted to North America. If you know of blogs from around the world that I should be reading, please send me a note at  stephen@downes.ca  My full list of blogs I read via RSS (in OPML) is here.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Future of Learning: Digital, Distributed, Data-Driven

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:00


George Siemens, elearnspace, May 18, 2016

"We know the names," writes George Siemens. "Vygostky, Freire, Illich, Papert, and so on. We know the ideas. We know the vision of networks, of openness, of equity, and of a restructured system of learning that begins with learning and the learner rather than content and testing. But why doesn’ t the positive change happen?" The answer, he suggests, is that these reformers were not able to integrate their ideas with systems or networks. "  Ideas that change things require an integrative awareness of systems, of multiple players, and of the motivations of different agents. It is also required that we are involved in the power-shaping networks that influence how education systems are structured, even when we don’ t like all of the players in the network." Ah, it's that last phrase that contains the rub.   Will Richardson chimes in with a helpful reference to Sarason  in the comments. 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Why a staggering number of Americans have stopped using the Internet the way they used to

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:00


Andrea Peterson, Washington Post, May 18, 2016

The internet used to be so cool. But now people are afraid to use it. That's the gist of this article in the Washington Post which cites statistics showing that  privacy and security fears are preventing people from using the net the way they'd like to. There are many aspects to this, ranging from spying and intrusion, hacking and identify theft, catfishing and fraud, spam and spoofing, cyberbullying and more. I read from time to time (and people tell me in various meetings) that people aren't really so concerned about these issues, that it's the new reality. I don't buy it. I think people crave a secure and safe internet.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Pedagogy out of Fear of Philosophy as a Way of Pathologizing Children

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:00


Arie Kizel, Journal of Unschooling, Alternative Learning, May 18, 2016

This article has the most awkward title ever, but represents a logical progression from Friere's characterization of the 'pedagogy of the oppressed' (and more positively, 'pedagogy of hope'). The pedagogy of fear "stunts the active and vital educational growth of the young person, making him/her passive and dependent upon external disciplinary sources. It is motivated by fear that prevents young students— as well as teachers— from dealing with the great existential questions that relate to the essence of human beings." It's based on two major ideas: "The child as 'not-knower'" and "The model of demand as the pedagogic basis." I think this is a good insight. What would pedagogy look like if we removed these two constraints? (Other 'pedagogies of fear':  Leonardo and PorterMcdermott, Lumenfeld). Image: Pinterest.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

E-Learning in K-12 Schools: The Prospects for Disruptive Innovation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:00


Paul W. Bennett, The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), May 18, 2016

I wasn't expecting much from this report as the  Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) typically parrots a hard-right neo-liberal political agenda, but it is actually fairly comprehensive and reasonably accurate. Cleaning up the prejudicial language a bit (especially in the introductory paragraphs) would go a long way to making this a credible report. Where it goes wrong is in its pointless criticisms of 21st century learning initiatives; these have long been a bugbear of AIMS and related institutions, despite their being a key feature of online learning. Aside from that, the report captures some of the major problems with the approach in Atlantic Canada, especially the top-down provincially-based organization and management (which makes the system especially sensitive to politics and changes in government (which is the main reason innovation has not been sustained in this part of the world)). Overall I would support the 9 recommendations listed in the article.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Interested In The Moodle Academy?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:00


Moodle News, May 18, 2016

In what looks like "a direct response to the  Canvas Network," Moodle's  Gavin Hendrik has announced the Moodle Academy, "a centralized MOOC hosting platform run and managed by Moodle. This is for institutions or Moodlers who want to hold a MOOC but don’ t necessarily have the bandwidth to deal with the short term (massive) hit on their internal resources from a much heavier user load." Unless this platform is open in ways I don't know about, this appears to me to be more of a response to things like MoodleRooms. I'm guessing it will be located here -  http://www.moodleacademy.org/  - since we have a pre-splash page Moodle install  (and  http://www.moodleacademy.com  is still up for sale). But hey, I've been wrong before. Anyhow, the biggest problem for the use of Moodle with MOOCs has always been the need to sign in to do  anything - for example, to access this page  to ask Gavin Hendrik for more information. See the rest of the Moodle Moot keynotes here.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Future of Work and Learning 2: Chatbots

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:00


Jane Hart, Learning in the Modern Social Workplace, May 18, 2016

Ah, chatbots. Everyone's favourite potential robot teacher. They've been around for a while - here's me interviewing one that ran for president  in 2000. Today they're a lot more sophisticated and sometimes even passing the Turing test (here, here  and here). But bots come in all shapes and sizes and as this article suggests are already pervasive. "There are already bots for  property searchesgetting up to date news bots,  as well as for  booking hotels.... Esther created her own  resume bot....   there is now talk of the  “ conversational office”   (which Slack is spearheading) and  how messaging bots will change workplace productivity  over the next five years."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Whatever happened to … Logo?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:00


Doug Peterson, doug – off the record, May 18, 2016

Logo was an almost magical tool in its time designed to help students learn to program. "Of course, it wasn’ t 'real programming,' writes Doug Peterson. "That was reserved for the assignments given in class.  This was just fun, trying to design the most intricate things that we could." As it turns out, though, it was 'real computing' - more real than the other sort. Today, students have many more options for programming creativity. "Students might get a chance to learn using  Lego Mindstorms  or any of the other languages that have been created with developing coders in mind –   HopscotchScratch, and so much  more.  With the right budget, you might even get a programmable device like  Sphero." For me, languages like Basic and C were my toys, and I created games. 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Culture and effective online learning environments

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:00


Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, May 18, 2016

Tony Bates has some sharp and insightful points on culture. "Culture is a critical component of any learning environment," he writes. "However, changing a pre-existing, dominant culture is very difficult." Depending on your perspective, these cultures may also be damaging to learning. For example, a segregated education determined to teach girls 'poise' and ladylike behaviour can scarcely be called comprehensive, he suggests. And Canada's residential school system designed to assimilate aboriginal students was openly destructive. But online learning gives us the means to build our own cultures, he suggests, and he would foster openness, recognition and respect while "making explicit and encouraging the underlying values and epistemology of a subject discipline."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

An international education strategy with no vision

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:00


Craig Whitsed, Wendy Green, University World News, May 18, 2016

This is a review of the recently released  Australian National Strategy for International Education 2025  (40 page PDF) and it is not a positive one. Australia has been noted in recent years for an explicit focus on revenue generation from international education, and this report represents a continuation of that strategy. "The strategy has three pillars: strengthening the fundamentals, transformative partnerships and competing globally. To operationalise these pillars, the Australian government will provide A$12 million (US$8.8 million) over four years." Without commenting on the objective, I find this a small amount of money to support such wide objectives, in particular given "the closure of the Office for Learning and Teaching – the major source of funding for teaching innovation in Australian higher education."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Books are back. Only the technodazzled thought they would go away

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 15:00


Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, May 17, 2016

This is just an example of some of the ridiculous assertions still being published in the traditional media. I realize that opinion columns should represent all perspectives, but the denial of reality should not be one of them. If you go into your local bookstore (if you can  find a local bookstore) you'll find it selling knick-knacks, toys, food, and pretty much everything but books. People don't buy Kindles any more because they don't even want another device to read books,    I'm sitting in a café right now and  nobody is reading print on paper. Writing a column like this is the surest way to undermine your credibility. See also: eBook sales are not falling, despite what publoishers say.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Universities must enter the digital age or risk facing irrelevance

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 15:00


Don Tapscott, Toronto Star, May 17, 2016

I have to admit that I am impressed by the way Don Tapscott has found something current, used it to reinforce his core message, and released a book with a slew of publicity that is going to keep himself (and his son Alex) employed for some time into the future. This is how you manage your career as a pundit at a high level. And maybe it will even do some good. Tapscott writes, "The digital world is challenging the very notion of a walled-in institution that excludes large numbers of people. Yet the Industrial Age model of education is hard to change. Vested interests fight change. And leaders of old paradigms are often the last to embrace the new." I see this on a daily basis. Time for a change.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

CASS / Competency And Skills System

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:00


Various authors, Website, May 17, 2016

To be launched  on May 24, the Competency and Skills Systems project aims "to facilitate the transition to competency-based education, training, and credentialing through the development and dissemination of open source infrastructure and tools." It is being coordinated by the American Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) proigram, which develops technology on behalf of the U.S. military. It's also working with a number of other organizations, including IMS, IEEE LTSC, LRMI, and more. This could be big. "Competency portability  enables multiple organizations, learning resources, and software systems to reference common sets of competencies. In the CASS vision, diverse authoring tools, learning management systems, learning record stores, learning object repositories and registries, intelligent tutors, simulations, online courses, certificates, transcripts, and ré sumé s could all refer to and retrieve information about the same competencies via persistent URLs in a standardized manner."

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Announcing SyntaxNet: The World’s Most Accurate Parser Goes Open Source

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/16/2016 - 13:00


Slav Petrov, Google Research Blog, May 16, 2016

Language parsing has long been a challenge for artificial intelligence, as (contrary to myth) language defies easy formalization. So it's significant that Google has not only developed this tool, but also that they're making it available online. Even better, it has been given a name that properly reflects its seriousness as a research tool:  Parsey McParseface. "One of the main problems that makes parsing so challenging is that human languages show remarkable levels of ambiguity. It is not uncommon for moderate length sentences - say 20 or 30 words in length - to have hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of possible syntactic structures. A natural language parser must somehow search through all of these alternatives, and find the most plausible structure given the context." There's a really nice example of this in the article. 

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