Miscellaneous

Connection and Locus of Control

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 21:00


Frances Bell, Francesbell's Blog, Aug 24, 2015

Frances bell asks, "is ‘ connection’ an unequivocal good in human learning? and in machine learning?" Not necessarily, she suggests. It depends on intentions. "The difference between Google and the ‘ good teacher’ is that Google wants to sell ads and demonstrate its influence on my purchasing (so it can sell more ads), whereas the ‘ good teacher’ wants us to learn more than they want to teach."

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Material matters for learning in virtual networks: A case study of a professional learning programme hosted in a Google+ online community.

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 21:00


Aileen Acklanda, Ann Swinney, Research in Learning Technology, Aug 24, 2015

The major impact of this article, for me, is that it offers proof that people are actually using Google+. OK, just kidding. But it does raise the question of why they would choose this environment over others. The article talks about the difficulties participants have accessing Google+ (including one case where a warning said "your activities have been logged") and in using the site (one comment says it would be difficult without a software background). Frankly, I don't see how the authors' appears to actor-network theory (ANT) help explain the comments and interactions described in the text. This is, to me, a classic example of over-theorizing.

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Ad Blockers and the Nuisance at the Heart of the Modern Web

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 18:00


Farhad Manjoo, New York Times, Aug 24, 2015

Interestingly, it would be very easy for me to insert ads into OLDaily that no ad blocker could block. Here's one: Drink Coke. The way ad blockers work is that they pick up on features that annoy, interrupt or violate your privacy. The blockers look for URLs that are different from the page, and for types of content associated with ads. That's why this article suggests that people using ad blockers might result in better ads in the long run. Facebook needs to  tread lightly here.

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Open Education and & Personal Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 16:00
[Slides][Audio]

This presentation uses the same slides as the  presentation delivered in Banff in April, and the text of which may be found here. The context is updated a bit based on the last four months experience building the system being described. outline major aspects of the learning and performance support systems (LPSS) program as it relates to open education environments. In particular I focus on understanding OERs as words, aggregating and analyzing OERs, data representation, and learner production and sharing of OERs. I conclude with a number of brief case studies of how work in LPSS supports this perspective.

Lunch and Learn Workshop, Tempe, Arizona (Lecture) Aug 20, 2015 [Comment]
Categories: Miscellaneous

We took a tour of the abandoned college campuses of Second Life

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 11:00
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Patrick Hogan, Fusion, Aug 21, 2015

It's almost as though nobody could have seen this coming. Oh wait. "Most of these virtual universities are gone – – it costs almost $300 per month to host your own island – – but it turns out a handful remain as ghost towns."

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The No. 1 Predictor Of Career Success According To Network Science

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 11:00
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Michael Simmons, Medium, Aug 20, 2015

I don't think I completely agree with this article but it makes some good points. The argument, essentially, is that career success is predicted by membership in open networks. "In the chart, the further to the right you go toward a closed network, the more you repeatedly hear the same ideas, which reaffirm what you already believe. The further left you go toward an open network, the more you’ re exposed to new ideas. People to the left are significantly more successful than those to the right." I think this is true. But I think that some other predictors not addressed by the study are equally important: being born of rich parents or going to Yale, for example. So don't let this article distract you from that fact.

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Deceptive Publishing: Why We Need a Blacklist, and Some Suggestions on How to Do It Right

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 11:00
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Rick Anderson, The Scholarly Kitchen, Aug 20, 2015

One of the weaknesses of Gold Open Access publishing (that's the model where open access is provided by a publisher) has been the rise of predatory publishing, where commercial enterprises set up fake journals with the idea of scamming authors or institutions into paying publication fees. Rick Anderson suggest that a blacklist is in order, and identifies four (or maybe five) types of predatory journals: phony journals, such as promotional sock-puppets; pseudo-scholarly journals, which don't do proper peer review and editing; false flag journals, which fool people into thinking they are submitting to legitimate journals; and Masqueraders, which pretend to have an association with a prestigious institution. The possible fifth category is constituted of legitimate journals who are abusing their position by charging predatory prices (Anderson is obviously far less concerned about them).

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ASU wants to be a new sort of University and they're getting there

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 11:00
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Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Aug 20, 2015

I will be visiting Arizona State University as this post appears in the newsletter and it will be interesting to see how my experiences match up with Clark's. He focuses on the changes described in Designing the New American University (2015), authored byMichael Crow, who has run ASU since 2002. "The next step is to match student expectations on the quality of online courses. They all have smartphones, good laptops and experience exemplary content on all of these devices. Education needs to meet those expectations. This is really hard."

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10 reasons why Salman Khan is a more important educational theorist & practitioner than Ken Robinson or Sugata Mitra

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 11:00
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Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Aug 20, 2015

It is easy to be dismissive of Salman Khan (and I am guilty of this at times) because his seminal innovation was to use YouTube videos of light text on dark backgrounds. It is true, writes Donald Clark, that " There would be no Khan Academy without YouTube." But Khan has built a much greater record of innovation than this. Clark lists them: the flipped classroom, mastery learning, streak assessment, Khan Academy in schools, the One World Schoolhouse, multi-teacher classrooms, stop marking, staggered holidays and decoupling of learning from assessment. It is true that many of these innovations were described prior to Khan. But the important point here is that Khan demonstrated that they can work. "Khan is highly reflective and critical of the failure of education to pick up on valid research on lectures, competences, homework, efficiencies, cost, forgetting and learning styles," writes Clark.

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Kohlberg's moralising and its revival - character education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 11:00
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Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Aug 20, 2015

Donald Clark uses Lawrence Kohlberg's  account of education "as the development of moral judgement and behaviour" as a frame to introduce this commentary on the recent revival of character education (and I would include my least favourite word, 'grit'). Influenced by Piaget, Kohlberg describes six stages of moral development, cumulating in universal ethical principles. " Kohlberg was simply reinforcing stereotypical male character traits," responded Carol Gillighan, and research showed Kohlberg's stages were not in the least accurate. The 21st century equivalent is character education. "In the US the character education movement is often pushed by conservative and religious sources that see the creep of liberal values as equivalent to moral decline," writes Clark. According to the research, however, "school-based character education programs produce no measurable improvements in student behaviour or academic performance." Image: Sperreng Middle School.

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And So, Without Ed-Tech Criticism...

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 11:00
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Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Aug 20, 2015

Drawing on Seymour Papert's 1987 essay 'Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking,' Audrey Watters offers a defense of ed tech criticism. She writes: "Without ed-tech criticism, we’ ll still be stuck – stuck without these critical practices, stuck without critical making or coding or design in school, stuck without critical (digital) pedagogy. And likely we’ ll be stuck with a technocentrism that masks rather than uncovers let alone challenges power."

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Experts and Authority

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 11:00
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Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, Aug 20, 2015

In an article last year (and soon-to-be book) Tom Nichols complained about the new relativism brought about by Wikipedia and Google and bemoaning the declining authority of the expert. I encountered his article yesterday via Facebook. This is my refutation of that article.

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Synesthesia: From Cross-Modal to Modality-Free Learning and Knowledge

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 08/18/2015 - 14:00
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Roy Williams, Simone Gumtau, Jenny Mackness, Leonardo, Aug 18, 2015

Really interesting paper looking at the phenomenon of synesthesia as it relates to concept formation, using as its basis two case studies where children create complex ideas out of simple experiences without benefit of verbal or textual guidance. Synesthesia is the name given to a cross-over of one sensory input into another - sounds are perceived as shapes, for example, or words are perceived as colours. Concept-formation, or abstraction, viewed from this perspective, might be seen as the creation of learned synesthesia - I would read this as an association between modalities (like this, in a sense), but the authors don't. Matthias Melcher,  reviewing this paper, asks what the nature of a concept is in this picture; "s the metaphor that bridges two domains (or often two senses), really withdrawn, removed, abstracted from the two domains, is it no longer grounded in any of them?" In any case - from my perspective - it seems clear that concept-formation is the result of a perceptual process, rather than a cognitive process.

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Controlling the Social Construct

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 08/18/2015 - 14:00
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Leigh Blackall, Aug 18, 2015

I agree with Leigh Blackall that constructivism should be criticized, but I don't agree with his argument. "I'm wondering if individuals and their societies really do freely construct their knowledge and understanding, or is it more likely constructed for them," he writes. Well, what then? That still leaves constructivism the theory intact, but with unpalatable consequences. It reminds me, indeed, of George Lakoff's theory of framing. But you can't argue against a theory simply because you don't like the consequences. Fortunately, constructivism is wrong for different reasons; we don't construct knowledge by creating models of reality, and so media and education have less of an influence than feared in this post.

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Learning Styles, Mindsets, and Adaptive Strategies

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 15:00
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Matt Bury, matbury.com, Aug 17, 2015

This is a really nice contribution in support of the concept of learning styles that reinterpretings it away from the 'fixed mindset' model, where styles are more like innate properties of a person, and toward a 'growth perspective', where learning styles can change and develop as a person matures. Matt Bury points to the oft-noted distinction between how experts learn as compared to novices. "Rather than being psychometric tests which diagnose our intrinsic personality traits, learning styles preferences can be better understood as indicators of our levels of cognitive development within particular domains of knowledge." And clearly, we would not want to teach the expert the same way we teach a novice (not even with direct instruction!) and worse, we would not want to teach the novice the way we teach experts.

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What’s the difference between skills and competencies?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 13:00
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Sarah Beckett, HRSG, Aug 17, 2015

According to Sarah Beckett, skills represent the 'what' while competencies represent the 'how'. "Skills define specific learned activities, and they range widely in terms of complexity (“ Mopping the floor” and “ performing brain surgery” can both be classified as skills) ... But skills don’ t give us the “ how.” How does an individual perform a job successfully? How do they behave in the workplace environment to achieve the desired result?" Skills, write Beckett, comprise one of three parts of competencies: "the other two are knowledge and abilities." To me, skills represent the ability to complete a process, while competencies include knowledge of why you're completing the process.

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The Problem With Group Projects

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 13:00
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Alfred Thompson, Computer Science Teacher, Aug 17, 2015

I was never a fan of group projects, for two reasons: first, someone else, usually without a firm grasp on the material, wanted to take charge; and second, no matter who was in charge, I ended up doing all the work. (I did once let the other person do all the work; we got 160/200, so we agreed she would get 100% and I would take my easy 60 - this was in my rebellious high school years). The lesson (drawn in the comments) is that "if we are not explicitly teaching how to be effective in a group, how can we expect students to just "pick it up" from an imposed assignment structure?"

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Open peer review at Collabra: Q&A with UC Press Director Alison Mudditt

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 13:00
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Richard Poynder, Open and Shut?, Aug 17, 2015

Richard Poynder looks at an open-access open-review journal called Collabra, launched by the University of California Press earlier this year. Authors have the option of having paper reviews signed and published alongside the paper (as an aside, this would make me much more attentive as a reviewer; also, what would be fun would be to see the rejected papers with reviews). Interviewee UC Press Director Alison Mudditt says, "Speaking on behalf of UC Press (I’ m not sure it’ s appropriate to speak as 'Collabra' in this context), we think that the inner workings of the peer review process are, purely and simply, interesting for any reader, but in particular for people who would like to see more transparency in this process." Agreed.

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5 massive MOOC lessons learned by colleges and universities

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 13:00
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Meris Stansbury, eCampus News, Aug 17, 2015

Although they seem sound at first, I don't really agree with any of these 'lessons' drawn about MOOCs. Yes, MOOCs are more expensive than expected, but they shouldn't be, they should be using OERs. Yes, access is more than just getting into the MOOC, but this should not be a reason to stop people from getting into a MOOC. Yes, it's becoming possible to post mini-lectures on video, but this ignores the social network aspect fundamental to helping people succeed in MOOCs. Yes it's an art form, but lessons from University of Phoenix videos don't demonstrate this. And yes, MOOCs need to fit into institutional stuctures, but we need to remember that credentialing isn't the end-goal.

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Defining College

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 13:00
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Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed, Aug 17, 2015

Summary of an address by Carol Geary Schneider, longtime leader of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. She points to the ways education will have to change in the future, much of it motivated by the internet and MOOCs. "We have a radical idea that the aims of education ought to be the outcomes of education,” she says, adding that “ we shouldn’ t use the digital revolution to continue outdated forms of higher education, like the lecture.” Also: “ Students’ educational experience needs to be designed so that it adds up,” she says, with an end product that is “ integrative and applied.”

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