Miscellaneous

Teach schoolchildren how to spot fake news, says OECD

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 13:00


A boy using a computer A boy using a computer. The OECD plans to test the ‘global competencies’ of 15-year-olds around , The Guardian, Mar 23, 2017

I know we would all love to do this, but I don't think you can simply 'teach children to spot fake news'. That's a bit like trying to 'teach children to spot mathematical errors'. Yes, it's a great skill, but you need to acquire a mathematical education to do it; you can't specialize on spotting the errors. In the case of fake news, mastery of critical literacy is required (not just '21st century literacy', but a deeper understanding of how knowledge is created and verified in general). The Guardian article doesn't talk about any of this, but does outline "the OECD’ s plans to test young people’ s attitudes to global issues and different cultures, their analytical and critical skills, and abilities to interact with others." There's no link in the article, but here is an outline (44 page PDF) of the OECD's plan. See more.

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Teacher wins $1M global prize for work in northern Quebec

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 22:00


Benjamin Shingler, CBC, Mar 22, 2017

Salluit  is an an Inuit  community of abut 1450 people in northern Quebec accessible only by boat (in summer) or by air. Maggie MacDonnell has been teaching in the community for six years, facing and witnessing first hand the everyday struggles faced by the community, including 6 suicides in 2015. "I didn't know until I came to Salluit that that was a Canadian reality," she said. But it is, and it's easy to ignore in the affluent south. But it's a little bit harder to ignore now after the award of the $1 million US 2017 Global Teaching Prize by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation. And that's a good thing. See also BBC, which lists the other finalists.

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YaCy: The P2P Search Engine

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 22:00


Archive.org, Mar 22, 2017

The YaCy search engine actually exists and actually works, and I can even find myself on it. But "unlike centralized search engines like google, bing, and duckduckgo, YaCy is decentralized, and run entirely by a network of users, giving you lots more options, and a greater chance of privacy." I like things like this, which is why I'm linking to it. But I'm under no illusion. YaCy started in 2012 and it's not the sort of thing that becomes widely popular. Even now, only "more than 600 peer operators contribute each month [and] about 130,000 search queries are performed with this network each day." Here it is. Read about it here.

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Unpaywall

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 19:00


Heather Piwowar, Impactstory, Mar 21, 2017

Are you or your students trying to get work done but get stuck at a paywall? I know it happens to me often enough. That's why some developers have created Unpaywall - it points you to open access versions of the paper the publisher is trying to charge you money for. Now I can't vouch for how well it works - the Firefox extension is still in the review process. But I like the idea a lot. As Heather Piwowar writes, "We want everyone in the world to have a 'read it free button next to the “ pay us money” button on research articles, powered by open access in repositories worldwide."

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Artificial Intelligence and Law : 
A Six Part Primer

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 16:00


Daniel Martin Katz, Computational Legal Studies, Mar 21, 2017

The 271 slides in this presentation might make you balk, but there are blank slides, and the rest of them move along at a brisk pace. It's a great introduction to the use of AI in law, and you will learn quite a bit AI itself in the process. It describes the impact of rules-based systems in law (50 slides or so) and then shifts to data-driven AI, which is the predominate method used today. This approach does not resonate with lawyers; "there is a borderline pathological numerophobia among lawyers, says slide 87. Despite that "quantitative legal prediction" is coming to law. Where is it doing? Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS). Enterprise open source. The future is in how to assemble these systems for specific applications. Great presentation. Don't miss this.

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Rebuilding a national university after decades of war

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 13:00


Ramadhan Rajab, University World News, Mar 21, 2017

For more than a decade Somalia was a lesson in how a country functions without a government. In a word: poorly. I take it as the definitive refutation of libertarianism. Now that it is emerging from years of violence and chaos control of the  Somali National University is being handed over to the nascent government and facing challenges in everything from finding staff to enrolling qualified students. SNU has free tuition, but a sign of the recent lawlessness is the proliferation of private 'universities' who "cash in on the thirst for education.... Unless regulations are in place it will be hard to deal with this problem. If not checked, we will have too many graduates with no relevant skills."

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Problems with Personalized Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 17:00


Dan Meyer, dy/dan, Mar 20, 2017

Dan Meyer takes a swipe at this article (behind a paywall, for no good reason) in Educational Leadership on “ personalized learning” and in passing also raises questions about potential conflicts of interest on the authors' parts (there's an interesting exchange with the publisher in the comments). "This isn’ t good instruction," writes Meyer. "It isn’ t even good direct instruction. When someone is explaining something to you and you don’ t understand them, you don’ t ask that person to 'repeat exactly what you just said only slower.'" On a related note: they could use the volume switch to have them repeat it louder as well! See also this  MathiaX review (source of the image above).

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Teachers’ Awareness of Guidelines for Quality Assurance when developing MOOCs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 14:00


Ulf Olsson, Seminar.Net, Mar 20, 2017

This article at least gives a nod to Martin Weller's plea to let MOOCs define their own standards for quality. "Let people play and explore in this space without tying it down with the types of quality overhead we already have in formal education." And then it shrugs as says "whatever". "MOOCs must be shown to meet some of the same quality standards that other online courses are expected to meet," writes the author, without justification. It then proceeds to question "How aware are teachers of quality assurance systems when developing MOOCs?" along the usual lines. I've offered alternative accounts of quality in MOOCs: how diverse are the participants and technologies? How interactive is it? How open is it to different people and different types of participation? How free are people to define their own objectives and learning strategy? 

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​The college transcript of the future — and the processes holding it back

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 14:00


Brian Peddle, EdScoop, Mar 20, 2017

Discussion of the concept of a "modernized transcript". It's similar to what I have been calling a "personal learning record", with the main difference being that it is specific to a single institution, as opposed to incorporating data from multiple institutions and specific to a single individual. And it also seems to be focused more on academic record - "secure, verifiable credentials that reflect more comprehensive data on student learning" - rather than a more general statement of competencies and achievements. What's holding it back? "A better way to track, communicate, and authenticate the depth and diversity of these experiences in a reliable and coherent way." That, I guess, and an affinity for fax machines.

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Group Process Design Principles in Times of Turbulance

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 14:00


Nancy White, Full Circle Associates, Mar 20, 2017

This is an article that deserves a deeper discussion, but in the space I have here I want to make just one point: the list of effective leverage points in a system, as described by Donella Meadows, is exactly the inverse of the list of effective leverage points in a network. And we can understand this by understanding how any sufficiently complex system becomes, effectively, a network. To change a system, you change paradigms, objectives and rules. But a network is not based on paradigms, objectives and rules, and trying to change them is like trying to push a fog bank. In a system, a change to a small parameter, like the rate of return on a rental property, is insignificant. In a network, these small parameters are everything., because there are no higher-level parameters to which these must conform

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Houston school allows students to make rules

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 14:00


Tera Roberson, Click2Houston, Mar 20, 2017

I'm not sure whether this is an experiment that will spread (because its successes won't be measured in any traditional metric) but I'm still happy to see it taking place. “ You're in charge of figuring out who you are, what you will do with your time, what you want to learn, who you want to be, what kind of person, and kids who spend their whole life growing up in that system, when they go to college, they know who they are,” DeBusk said.

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How Higher Education Leaders Are Making Great Teaching A Priority On Their Campuses

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 20:00


Higher Education Today, Mar 19, 2017

This to me reads like those articles from the 90s and 00s about how newspapers were making quality writing and reporting their top priority. I can see them now: "yes, even though we employ more lower-paid stringers than ever before and are walking all over each other to commercialize the offering, we will save our declining market share by doubling down on our core offering." OK, here's what they're really saying: "ACUE’ s recommended teaching techniques are steeped in four decades of research. 'That was critical for faculty buy-in,' she said." Note: 40 years ago it was 1977.

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Rationalizing Those 'Irrational' Fears of inBloom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 17:00


Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Mar 19, 2017

On certain levels, I think this is a good article. It makes the point that "while 'personalized learning' might be a powerful slogan for the ed-tech industry and its funders, the sweeping claims about its benefits are largely unproven by educational research," and makes the case that "the public’ s 'low tolerance for uncertainty and risk' surrounding student data is hardly irrational." But there's a false dichotomy in the idea that "the unreasonable effectiveness of data will supplant theory." For one thing, I think "theory" argues for its own replacement with something, anything. Maybe "data" isn't it (and certainly not the narrow data available to most systems extant today).

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FutureLearn’s New Pricing Model Limits Access to Course Content After the Course Ends

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 17:00


Dhawal Shah, Class Central, Mar 19, 2017

As this article notes, MOOC provider FutureLearn is putting the squeeze on students, cutting off access to MOOC contents unless they pay. It's what we're seeing in the market as a whole. "As Matt Walton — Chief Product Officer at FutureLearn — notes, charging for certificates hasn’ t proven to be an effective business model for MOOC providers. For many learners, certificates are not a priority. So now MOOC providers have started charging for course content." Of course, at a certain point, all of these enterprises are going to have to relinquish the name MOOC and go back to using the original product category name: commercial courseware.

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What Colleges Should Know About A Growing 'Talent Strategy' Push By Companies

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 11:00


Jeffrey R. Young, EdSurge, Mar 19, 2017

The purpose of this post is to advertise the founding of the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy at Northeastern University. Based on the premise that there is "a mismatch between what employers say they want and what they believe colleges and universities are producing" the article looks at what are called  'talent strategies', a euphemism for the use of non-academic data to evaluate job applicants. "For one thing, bad grammar is a proven red flag.... (and) it turns out that which Web browser a candidate uses to apply correlates to later success for some coding jobs." What the article does not say (but should) is that a person's online presence and social media are rife with the data companies need to make these evaluations, and that this (and not college credentials, microdegrees or badges) will be the hiring data of the future.

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Build a talking, face-recognizing doorbell for about $100

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 11:00


Lukas Biewald, O'Reilly, Mar 19, 2017

Even if (like me) you don't have the time and space in your life to construct one of these, just reading the article is enough to give you inspiration. It also gives you a 20-20 glimpse into the future. The idea is to hook up a camera to a $40 minicomputer called Raspberry Pi, take pictures of visitors, and then send them to the cloud where you'll apply Amazon Web Services (AWS) face-recognition technology to them. The expensive bit is the $50 Echo Dot, a hands-free, voice-controlled device that you use to control your device.

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AT&T dismissed the idea that providers would redline

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 14:00


doctornemo, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Metafilter, Mar 18, 2017

I first noticed this in the 1980s when I discovered that groceries in the suburbs were way better than the ones in the inner city where I lived. And now it's an internet is a problem I'm living with right now. I live in Casselman, a small town in rural Ontario, and even though fibre-optic internet cable passes right through town we cannot obtain high-speed internet. The phenomenon is known as 'redlining'. According to  Wikipedia it's "the practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices, to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas." Wikipedia's definition is too narrow, of course. "The data... show a clear and troubling pattern: A pattern of long-term, systematic failure to invest in the infrastructure required to provide equitable, mainstream Internet access to residents of the central city (compared to the suburbs) and to lower-income city neighborhoods." This article notes "AT& T dismissed the idea that providers would redline or cherrypick communities, and legislators apparently believed them." Of course, that's exactly what happens - in the U.S., in Canada, and around the world.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Who lost the most marks when cheating was stopped?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 14:00


Bill Hicks, BBC News, Mar 18, 2017

I found this to be an interesting result. After cheating in Romanian exams was curtailed, "the pass rates of poorer students - those in receipt of financial assistance payments - fell by 14.3%, compared to 8.1% for better-off students." Now it might be tempting to say that the anti-cheating policy was anti-poor. But that would be simply to blame the messenger. "When corruption was widespread, we couldn't know the true scale of inequality… Our findings have revealed just how much greater the equality gap is. Once we know the true gap in attainment, the government can tackle the source of the inequality."

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Microlearning: What It Is Not and What It Should Be

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 14:00


Alexander Salas, Learning Solutions, Mar 18, 2017

'Microlearning' is one of those terms that is becoming increasingly vague with use and popularity. According to this article, "the term 'microlearning' was coined by the Research Studios Austria as "learning in small steps," and it has been heavily popularized due to most of its interventions being Web 2.0 friendly." It is not itself a theory but can be associated with cognitive load theory (CLT). According to t he article, "CLT was first described by John Sweller, and it proposes that 'learning occurs in two mechanisms: 1) schema acquisition, or forming a mental map, and 2) transfer of knowledge into working memory.'” The idea is derived from  George A. Miller's work in the 1950s (setting our cognitive capacity at 7 items, plus or minus 2). Microlearning, says the article, "is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a good companion for formal instruction. Microlearning may not be an optimal solution for complex tasks in workplace learning."

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Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 14:00


Kevin Ngo, CSS Tricks, Mar 18, 2017

Every day I'm online, it seems, there's a whole new technology to learn. Yesterday I was messing around with Bower, which has been around  a while but which I hadn't time to learn previously. Today it's on to WebVR. This article looks at Mozilla's A-Frame, a web framework for building virtual reality experiences. A-Frame is based on HTML and the Entity-Component pattern." There's a demo based on "a basic VR voxel builder." Think Minecraft. "The voxel builder will be primarily for room scale VR with positional tracking and tracked controllers (e.g., HTC Vive, Oculus Rift + Touch)." It also works on desktop and mobile - see the demonstration here, and play with it yourself by downloading code from GitHub.

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