Miscellaneous

The seven tools of causal inference with reflections on machine learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 19:54

Adrian Colyer, The Morning Paper, Sept 22, 2018

Adrian Colyer has found a delicious paper (The seven tools of causal inference with reflections on machine learning Pearl, CACM 2018) that works (for me, at least) on multiple levels. Here's the story: " To understand why? and to answer what if? questions, we need some kind of a causal model. In the social sciences and especially epidemiology, a transformative mathematical framework called ‘Structural Causal Models’ (SCM) has seen widespread adoption." OK. But contemporary machine learning and artificial intelligence are capable only of associative inference. But what about reasoning requiring interventions, and what about predictive and counterfactual reasoning? So, given all this, what would an SCM combining graphical modeling, structural equations, and counterfactual and interventional logic look like? Could we build a machine learning version? And what does this tell us about the structure of contemporary research models?

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Enhancing Phonological Awareness, Print Awareness, and Oral Language Skills in Preschool Children

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 19:39

Laura M. Justice, Paige C. Pullen, Sept 22, 2018

I admit that I've been sceptical of the hypothes.is annotation service, but this is a very nice example of an annotated PDF using gentle yellow highlighting. I'm still not sure how this would work with large numbers of people doing the annotating, but for a small number of users, or for display purposes (like this) it seems to work really well.

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Paulo Freire (1921—1997)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 19:29

Kim Díaz, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Sept 22, 2018

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a new article on Paulo Freire. The article emphasizes the influences of Hegel and Marx on Freire, as well as that of his parents. "His early ideas were of cooperative decision-making, social participation, and political responsibility.  Freire did not see education as merely a way to master academic standards or skills that would help a person professionally. Instead, he cared that learners understood their social problems and that they discovered themselves as creative agents."

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4D-Printed Aquatic Plants Spring to Life in “Hydrophytes” by Nicole Hone

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 19:24

Andrew LaSane, Colossal, Sept 22, 2018

If you're wondering what your students will be creating next... how about these 4D printed aquatic forms. In 4D printing we have the usual three dimensions, plus an additional dimension of movement (in this case enabled using pneumatic inflation in water. “They can respond to external forces such as gravity, water ripples or currents, and interaction with people or other 3D prints in real life,” Hone said. “Their man-made composite materials behave uncannily similar to living organisms.” Right now they're mostly eye-candy, but no doubt useful applications for 4D printing will be found.

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Grow with Google provides opportunity for all Canadians

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 19:16

Sabrina Geremia, Google Official Canada Blog, Sept 22, 2018

According to this announcement, Google is "furthering our commitment to helping Canadians prepare for the future of work by launching Grow with Google, an initiative to help Canadians acquire the digital skills they need to grow their business or get a job." They're "partnering with Canada Learning Code to provide Canadians with free tools and training." And they're "bringing our Professional IT Support Certification Program to Canada." There's a list of events associated with the initiative, including one in Iqaluit. The announcement makes a particular point of showing how Syrian refugees in Canada were able to make a new beginning through the web.

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JAMStack

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 14:30

Jamstack.org, Sept 22, 2018

A 'JAM stack' is a website built from three major components: Javascript, which runs in your browser; APIs, which are abstracted server-side processes; and templated Markup that is built at deploy time. The key advantage is this: "When your deployment amounts to a stack of files that can be served anywhere, scaling is a matter of serving those files in more places. CDNs (Content Distribution Networks) are perfect for this, and often include scaling in all of their plans." Here are some examples. A JAM stack is typically deployed using a static site generator which retrieves the files it needs from repositories like GitHub.

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Applying 'Winners Take All' To Higher Ed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 11:18

Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed, Sept 22, 2018

This is a short review of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas.  "This is a book that thoroughly skews the elite view of progress, social change, and the appropriate role of the market in society. This a book that utterly takes apart the self-regarding culture that pervades elite gatherings such as TED Talks and the Davos World Economic Forum." I think Joshua Kim meant 'skewers', not 'skews'. Either way, worth a look.

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Is Scientific American a Trustworthy Periodical?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 22:16

Justin Weinberg, Daily Nous, Sept 22, 2018

If Scientific American is publishing really low-quality articles on things we know about, asks the author, how trustworthy is its reporting on other subjects. And 'low-quality' isn't really a judgement call here: " imagine an article on football in which the author uses “touchdown” to refer to a kind of tackle, or wonders how a “field goal” is possible since the crossbar of the goal is not on the field but 10 feet above it, and you’ll get the idea of what has been going on." I don't tknow how (or whether it's even relevant) to judge Scientific American as a whole. Each article anywhere has to be taken on its own merits, and while it's a lot more difficult than just trusting a name brand, it's also safer.

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The Future of Podcasting Is Educational

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 13:58

James McWilliams, Pacific Standard, Sept 22, 2018

Now we need to understand that the headline does not mean that 'the future of education is podcasts'. Though really valuable, podcasts play a niche role in the wider educational ecosystem. Having said that, education is definitely a primary application for podcasts. I use them pretty much every day to advance my own learning. And I provide them in the form of course and lecture recordings. This article plugs Zachary Davis's podcast Ministry of Ideas. I haven't listed to it (I will) but I like the idea that it is trying to empower "responsible citizens to develop skills we need to make wise judgments."

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Applying diSessa’s Knowledge in Pieces Framework to Understanding the Notional Machine

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 12:03

Mark Guzdial, Computing Education Research Blog, Sept 22, 2018

A few days ago I discussed the idea that you don't know something unless you have a conceptual understanding of it. This post caught my eye because it captures in some important ways the idea of knowledge as recognition and the role of relevant similarity. The process for conceptual understanding is described by Lauren Margulieux as follows: "P-prims are only activated when the learner recognizes similarities between a p-prim and the current phenomena. Recognition is impacted by many different features, such as cuing, frequency of activation, suppression, salience, and reinforcement. Because activation of p-prims depends on contextual features of phenomena, novices often fail to recognize relevant p-prims unless the contextual features align." For more see Andy diSessa’s 1993 paper Toward an epistemology of physics (122 page PDF).

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'It's Like Amazon, But for Preschool'

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 11:40

Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Sept 22, 2018

The reason why we prefer government support rather than charity for critical infrastructure like roads, hospitals and schools is to ensure stability, access and public benefit. That's the opposite of what Jeff Bezos is proposing. As Audrey Watters writes, "There is no community, no public responsibility, no larger civic impulse for early childhood education here. It’s all about private schools offering private, individual benefits." I appreciate that Jeff Bezos wants to do good with the money he has accumulated. Watters has two suggestions, both of which I heartily endorse: first, pay the workers more, so they don't need to depend on government assistance to survive. Second, pay your taxes. All of them.

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E-Learning 3.0 - The Outline

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 21:00

Stephen Downes, Google Docs, Sept 22, 2018

I will be offering a MOOC called "E-Learning 3.0" this fall, launching at the Global Online Learning Summit | Online Learning 2018 in mid-October. The course will explore some of the major themes underlying what has been called Web 3.0 or DWeb and how they will impact online learning. My focus, as always, is educational technology, but of course technology can only be discussed in terms of the social, cultural and economic environment in which it is applied. The page linked here is a tentative outline for the course - please feel encouraged to add comments or suggestions. There's no sign-up form or anything like that - I will ask for information only if it's needed either to provide services (like email newsletters) or for research purposes (purely voluntary & with full disclosure).

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Decentralisation: the next big step for the world wide web

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 20:44

Zoë Corbyn, The Guardian, Sept 22, 2018

The web you thought you knew is getting ready for some major changes. "The proponents of the so-called decentralised web – or DWeb – want a new, better web where the entire planet’s population can communicate without having to rely on big companies that amass our data for profit and make it easier for governments to conduct surveillance." DWeb, or Web 3.0 (as it's also called in today's OLDaily) is coming. It's necessary. It has been building momentum for a couple of years now and is getting ready for prime time.

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EU approves controversial Copyright Directive, including internet ‘link tax’ and ‘upload filter’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 20:21

James Vincent, The Verge, Sept 22, 2018

There has been a lot of discussion regarding these regulations. Technology companies and activist organizations like EFF are particularly concerned (BoingBoing says "Europe just voted to wreck the internet, spying on everything and censoring vast swathes of our communications"). The provisions could require that companies pay money to sites for linking to them, and they could require that social networks filter content to prevent copyright breaches and other undesirable content. There's still another vote to go, though the sense it that it is likely to pass. More from EFF. Creative Commons calls it a major setback. Bryan Alexander calls it a dumb stick.

But maybe it's not so bad. Bill Rosenblatt, who has a long history of being reasonable in these matters, describes the bill as a "watered down" version of the original proposal, and expects more amendments before the final vote. And Ben Werdmuller draws what I think is the correct lesson from this: it's time to embrace decentralization. " While the internet economy has been dominated by services that leverage network effects to date, this directive is one way that monolithic networks have changed from an asset into a liability. Because the cumulative value in a network is owned by a single party, that party becomes subject to enormous rules and regulations over time."

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Why We Need Web 3.0

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 19:30

Gav Would, Medium, Sept 22, 2018

More and more, as Ethereum co-founder Gab Would says, we are seeing that "the internet today is broken by design." It is centralized, it is driven by "the greedy, the megalomaniacs, or the plain malicious," and it provides no defense against fake news, cyber-attacks and surveillance. Hence the need for what is being called web 3.0 (backed by a suite of applications called web3). "Web 3.0 is an inclusive set of protocols to provide building blocks for application makers," writes Would, " empowering users to act for themselves within low-barrier markets, we can ensure censorship and monopolization have fewer places to hide." Now maybe the new web won't quite be the "executable Magna Carta " Would says it will be. That seems a bit much. But it's certainly not going to continue in the model of Facebook and Twitter either.

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The Side Effects of Education: Research and Practice

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 11:26

Beth Holland, Education Week, Sept 22, 2018

The author considers the use of scientific evidence in education research in the light of Yong Zhao's  new book: What Works May Hurt - The Side Effects of Education. The major argument is this: " educators, policymakers, and researchers need to acknowledge that "the effect of any treatment is the result of interaction between the characteristics of the treatment and characteristics of the individual" (p. 90)" (the use of the word 'treatment' speaks to the analogy people are trying to draw between health and medicine). Research and evidence are important. But individual variability means that approaches that average and standardize are not just misleading, the may be harmful. You can also view the hour-long video with Yong Zhao.

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ALTC 2018: to student data, and beyond!

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 21:36

Sarah Knight , ALTC Blog, Sept 22, 2018

This is a preview for the Alt-C conference, which is on right now in Manchester. Sarah Knight surveys the major issues on the agenda this year, including the use of data and analytics in learning design, "the digital skills of students and staff," and "understanding of how staff are actually using technology in their practice." The Alt-C conference Twitter feed is currently filled with awards and food picks.

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Reclaim, reframe and realise: culturally sustainable ECE

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 21:13

Education Review, Sept 22, 2018

This is an aspect of 'reclaim' that doesn't get talked about a lot in technological circles. As this article notes, "Lesley Rameka noticed that a lot of New Zealand early childhood education centres were adopting international philosophies and practices that bore little cultural relevance to the attending children." Technology and commercialization have a tendency to homogenize, but education needs to attend to the individual in culture and society.

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Work-Integrated Learning: We Can Do Better

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 20:42

Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates, Sept 22, 2018

The good news is that businesses are taking work-integrated learning (WIL) seriously. Hence the Business Higher Education Roundtable (BHER) letter to the Finance Minister on the subject. But I find myself in unusual agreement with Alex Usher in questioning the merit of advocacy for a national strategy. It's not that I think a national strategy is "a substitute for action." Nor is it that I am worried about integrating WIL into the curriculum, though certainly don't think it's the place of a national strategy to do that. No, it's that a single central platform (with funding to other single central platforms) is a bad idea. If WIL is really so important to businesses, then as Usher suggests, they should do more than just write letters. They should put real money into it and make it happen.

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A Rubric for Evaluating E-Learning Tools in Higher Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 17:59

Lauren Anstey, Gavan Watson, EDUCAUSE Review, Sept 22, 2018

The article delivers what it promises, a rubric for choosing educational technology. There's a link to a nice downloadable version - 7 page PDF. The rubric has some technical requirements, including mobile design, accessibility and functionality, and it has security and privacy requirements, and then along the educational dimension it invokes the Communities of Inquiry (CoI) model, adding rubrics related to social, teaching and cognitive presences. The rubric is course-based and includes 'playing well' with the institutional LMS, and it also has a condition that "requires that instructors be able to identify students." But will this rubric help you actually select e-learning technologies? It seems to me that most commercial products could satisfy all these criteria. My Nine Rules pose tougher criteria, my Network Design Principles tougher criteria still, especially principle 6, the 'Semantic Principle', looking for technology that promotes autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity. Maybe you don't like my approach, but you will need some more stringent principles than those captured in this rubric.

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