Miscellaneous

Robo-readers aren’t as good as human readers — they’re better

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 15:00


Annie Murphy Paul, The Hechinger Report, Aug 24, 2014

When I read that robots are "unable to discern meaning" my first thought is to wonder what the critic thinks it is for a human to discern meaning. Yes, you can fool computers with nonsense - but you can also fool human referees of academic journals with nonsense as well. And - interestingly - it seems that it is becoming less and less easy to fool the computers, while humans remain as fallible as ever. So infallibility is not a criterion for being able to discern meaning.

This article suggests that computers may be better markers because they create a 'disinhibition effect' among students. "A non-judgmental computer may motivate students to try, to fail and to improve more than almost any human." But this isn't a criterion either - indeed, the author would not recommend allowing a computer to give grades. So what, then, is it to 'discern meaning' - and correspondingly, what is it to 'demonstrate meaning'.

I've discussed this in the past. Most writers believe that meaning (and truth) are based in representations, and that learning is essentially the creation (or construction) of these representations in the mind. So demonstration of meaning is a demonstration of the presentation and use of those representations. But this leaves the discernment criteria unfulfilled. Discerning is, I argue, a process of recognition. And computers can and do perform quite well at recognition tasks.

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Why The Education Economy Is The Next Big Thing For The American Workforce

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 15:00


Brandon Busteed, Fast Company, Aug 24, 2014

The author, Brandon Busteed, is executive director of education at Gallup. He argues that there should be a tighter commection between education and the economy to create what we calls the educonomy. The article is largely about how education is failing the economy:

  • "no correlation between the grades and test scores of its employees and their success on the job"
  • "we’ re more likely to see kids with entrepreneurial talent diagnosed as underperforming troublemakers"
  • "seven in 10 K-12 teachers are not engaged in their work (69%)"

All very well, but is increased involvement of the commercial sector in education likely to change this? Busteed calls for "paid and unpaid internships to high school and college students" and for ways to engage teachers and instructors. That sounds good for business - it gives them cheap labour (think of the adjunct professor model applies across the economy). But it's very bad for students and workers, who are already underpaid. Here's a better plan: hire people at full wages, then take steps to enable access to learning while on the job. Oh, but that might cost the commercial sector money. My take: if the economy is not willing to pay the freight, there's no good reason to integrate education and economy.

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Technology Lab / Information Technology How Twitter’s new "BotMaker" filter flushes spam out of timelines

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 15:00
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Lee Hutchinson, Ars, Aug 24, 2014

I still maintain that it's easier to select for what you do want rather than to filter for what you don't want. But a centralized system, I think, can only attempt the latter. It doesn't help when the business model of the service provider involves sending you unwanted advertising messages. Anyhow, this is an interesting article about Twitter's Botmaker anti-spam system (and how it will be used to send you advertising).

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Micro-Learning: Its Role in Formal, Informal and Incidental Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 20:00


Sahana Chattopadhyay, ID, Other Reflections, Aug 22, 2014

Good article on microlearning, especially the list of "forms of micro-learning can be used to create a ubiquitous learning environment" at the bottom. "Microlearning deals with relatively small learning units and short-term learning activities.... the term is used in the domain of elearning and related fields in the sense of a new paradigmatic perspective on learning processes in mediated environments on micro levels."

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Chromebox and Chromebase - definite contenders for desktop replacements

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


David Andrade, Educational Technology Guy, Aug 22, 2014

I'm not yet ready to make the leap to Google's Chromebox and Chromebase but my recent experience with a Windows 8 debacle (downloaded videos that refused to play because I was not online) pushes me away from Mocrosoft and back into thinking there may be alternatives. "The Chromebase is a all-in-one monitor/cpu that comes with a keyboard laid out like the Chromebook with the special keys, and a mouse. The Chromebox is just the box, with a mounting bracket. It also has a notebook lock slot to help prevent 'walking'."

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How 'Google Science' could transform academic publishing

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


Liat Clark, Wired, Aug 22, 2014

According to Wired, "Google is allegedly working on a free, open access platform for the research, collaboration and publishing of peer-reviewed scientific journals." Kent Anderson responds, "I recommend that you read the entire article. As a piece of journalism, though, it is irresponsible. You can see the author straining to make a story out of whispers. There is nothing to report here." What makes the rumour plausible is that it's the sort of thing Google would do, and if it desired, could do. That should set every academic publisher atremble.

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Show Your Work

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00
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Donald Clark, Big Dog, Little Dog, Aug 22, 2014

Donald Clark reviews Jane Bozarth's Show Your Work, which, he says, "beautifully describes how we need to rethink teaching and learning." I am in agreement with be basic premise of Bozarth's argument: "training tacit knowledge and skills often fall short of delivering expert performance because it fails to place the learning in the context of workflow."

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#unrules26 - Biologically, the necessary order of learning is: explore, then play, then add rigor.

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


Clark Aldrich, Unschooling Rules, Aug 22, 2014

As Clark Aldrich writes, "It is almost impossible not to believe play is absolutely essential to mastery." He continues, "the most successful academic use of 'play' is not, as one might expect, the extension of successful socializing and educational play from kindergarten to subsequent first and second grades... the closer to the point of the real use of content, and the more sophisticated the content, the more play is encouraged."

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D2L raises $85 million but growth claims defy logic

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


Phil Hill, e-Literate, Aug 22, 2014

Criticism from some education pundits about D2L's (formerly Desire2Learn) growth claims. Phil Ho;ll looks at the numbers and writes: "That’ s a 29% growth in the number of institutions and a 50% growth in the number of learners in just one year. Quite impressive if accurate. Yet the company went  through a significant round of layoffs in late 2013  that let go more than 7% of its workforce, and according to both LinkedIn data and company statements they have had no significant growth in number of employees over the past year."

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A Response to ‘OER and the Future of Publishing’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


David Wiley, iterating toward openness, Aug 22, 2014

David Wiley has responded to Knewton CEO Jose Ferriera's article arguing that OER cannot effectively compete against the textbook industry. As  mentioned here before, Ferriera raises the old canards of quality and publishing values, but Wiley hits on the publishers' real value: exclusivity. "Publishers will never put OER at the core of their offerings, because open licensing – guaranteed nonexclusivity – is the antithesis of their entire industrial model." Meanwhile, Michael Feldstein  offers a critique similar to my own: "open resources don’ t  have to be supported through volunteerism. It is possible to build revenue models that can pay for their upkeep."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

In Pictures

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


Chris Charuhas, In Pictures, Aug 22, 2014

From the website: "In Pictures tutorials are based on pictures, not words. They walk you through real-world scenarios, step-by-step. There's no complicated multimedia, just screenshots that show exactly what to do. And, the online tutorials are free! No fees, no charge, just click and start." Chris Charuhas writes, by email: "They were developed through a research study funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. We've recently created many new tutorials, on Office 365 and Google Drive applications. Considering the rapid adoption of Google Apps in schools, this might be of interest to readers of your blog." Purists will complain that they're not Creative Commons licensed, but I see no strings attached to the free access and I see no reason why people can't simply link to them if they want to reuse them.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

What makes a conference really irritating?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


Sean Coughlan, BBC News, Aug 22, 2014

I've been to more conferences than most, probably (more than 300, anyways) so in addition to being exposed to a lot ideas and opinions about education and technology, I've also learned a lot about conferences themselves. Here's my advice on  how to get the most out of a conference. Anyhow, this list of conference irritants is pretty superficial, but it's worth reading the comments for a chuckle or two.

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The Future of College?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 19:00


Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, Aug 21, 2014

I studied the work of  Stephen M Kosslyn back when I was in graduate school. At the time, he was defending a sophisticated 'picture theory' model of mind against cognitivists such as Jerry Fodor and Xenon Pylyshyn (who argue it's all rules, representations and sentences). I had a lot more sympathy with Kosslyn (though I've since before more of an advocate of J.J. Gibson). Anyhow, this article profiles Minerva - "what sets it apart most jarringly from traditional universities, is a proprietary online platform developed to apply pedagogical practices that have been studied and vetted by ... Stephen M. Kosslyn, who joined Minerva in 2012." I haven't been following Kosslyn recently, but maybe I should have been. Though - frankly - I don't think the Minerva approach described in this article is not one I would support - small and expensive doesn't really do it for me.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

One chart that debunks the biggest myth about student loans

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 19:00


Libby Nelson, Vox, Aug 21, 2014

OK, first of all, people don't actually believe that the average student loan debt is more than $50K, so the supposed 'myth' being busted here is a straw man. Second, by focusing on the average balance the article focuses only on the amount still owing, not the amount that has already been paid back. Finally, it includes both large and small loans in the same calculation, thus lumping together people who need a lot of support and people who don't - it's like taking rich people and poor people and averaging their incomes together, and then using the result to say poor people are not really poor. It's a terrible biased presentation created by a  conservative lobby group to understate the need for public education support and people in educational technology (you know who you are) should not be sharing this piece of tripe. Not, at least, without disclaimers.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Web Trolls Winning as Incivility Increases

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 16:00


Farhad Manjoo, New York Times, Aug 20, 2014

I don't think there's a "war" on trolls, exactly (the last thing the world needs is another war) but it seems  clear that the web is becoming increasingly uncivil. But rather than simply blaming the usual culprits - users and trolls - I invite readers to consider some related items to question whether it's a structural defect:

  • Reddit launches 'pressiquette' guidelines for journalists  - "Reddit, the social news site, is encouraging journalists who use it to follow new guidelines on ethical sourcing... Gawker reported that more than 4,000 BuzzFeed posts have been removed from the site."
  • What happens to #Ferguson affects Ferguson  - leave aside the presumption that #Ferguson should be international news (it shouldn't). This is nonetheless an important discussion of the idea of algorithms deciding what is important.
  • Twitter vows to 'improve our policies'...  - "Internet trolls bullied Robin Williams' daughter off of Twitter and Instagram just days after her father's death."
  • I liked everything on Facebook for two days...  - "After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages... My feed become a cavalcade of brands and politics and as I interacted with them, Facebook dutifully reported this to all my friends and followers."
  • The Internet's Original Sin  - "Cegłowski explains, 'We’ re addicted to ‘ big data’ not because it’ s effective now, but because we need it to tell better stories.' So we build businesses that promise investors that advertising will be more invasive, ubiquitous, and targeted and that we will collect more data about our users and their behavior."

  It's not simply that there are trolls and it's not simply that our privacy is now for sale, but rather, it's that the fruits of this surveillance are being put to purposes that are mean, nasty and corrosive. The primary use of data analytics has been misuse. We need to build better before we lose the web entirely.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Highest Security for your Files in the Cloud

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 16:00


Aug 20, 2014

So I've been thinking more about data security lately. Not data security in the sense of preventing the NSA or Chinese hackers from getting at my files if they really want to - that's probably not possible. But security in the sense of preventing average criminals and companies like Google from trolling my data and using it for commercial purposes. To make this more difficult, I depend on the cloud. I can't use my employer's security or cloud, because these are now completely quarantined. So I think I need two things. First, something that encrypts text files. I've settled on NotepadCrypt, which uses standard encryption and pass phrases. Then, I upload this data to BoxCryptor, which encrypts everything I store on my various cloud services. Finally, I use  proXPN to secure my communications between my computer and the remote site. Perfect? No. Way better than average? Yeah. Eventually all of this will be built in to any application you use.

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Desire2Learn Raises $85M to Deliver ‘Personalized Education’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 16:00
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Lora Kolodny, Wall Street Journal, Aug 17, 2014

It sounds good, but is (according to the article, at least) essentially about catching up: "For university students, the technology functions like a “ Netflix for education,” recommending courses based on their skills, interests and aptitude ... Ultimately, Desire2Learn is helping educators deliver personalized learning the way that Amazon.com delivered a personalized shopping experience." Though I do wonder how much of it is based on more forward-looking concepts such as the personal learning environment.

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OER and the Future of Publishing

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 16:00


Jose Ferreira, The Knewton Blog, Aug 15, 2014

George Siemens  points to this article on Twitter and suggests that "open is not enough any more." Maybe, maybe not, but the reasons in this article are not convincing. Siemens's new friend lists things like production values, instructional design, and enterprise grade services as things that will keep commercial publishers in business. Well, maybe - you know what they say about one being born every minute. I personally don't see why open content producers can't meet these objectives, especially if they're independently funded. Ferreira makes the classic error of confusing open and amateur.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Active players in a network tell the story: Parsimony in modeling huge networks

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 16:00


Amit Rechavi, Sheizaf Rafaeli, First Monday, Aug 15, 2014

One problem with studying networks is the huge amount of data generated. But what if you just studied the active members of a network, thus reducing significanty the data that hs to be crunched? Would it be reliable? In some cases, yes. "The partial network has several basic topological parameters that correlate with activity parameters of the entire social network and, hence, make it suitable for depicting the dynamic parameters of the huge network." There's a risk, though. By definition, for example, dropouts would no longer be counted in, say, MOOC statistics, effectively eliminating dropout rates as a measure. But then again, that might not be a bad thing.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

There’s no place for lulz on LOLCats

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 13:00


Kate M. Miltner, First Monday, Aug 15, 2014

I've written and commented on LOLcats on numerous occasions in the past and so this study, though unfortunately narrow in scope, is of interest to me. "A qualitative audience study of 36 LOLCat enthusiasts indicates that individual memes can be used by multiple (and vastly different) groups for identity work as well as in– group boundary establishment and policing." This is validation of the idea that a LOLcat image is a 'word' in a suprasymbolic language.

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