Miscellaneous

The Facebook emails

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 04:00
Ben Werdmuller, Dec 05, 2018

The Facebook emails (250 page PDF) have been publiched. To me the only thing surprising is that anyone is surprised. Fart of the reveal is that Facebook traded access to data in exchange for ad spending (aka 'neko'). At least one Canadian bank is mentioned (RBC Royal Bank) as being "one of the biggest neko campaigns ever run in Canada" (p. 123). Another part of the reveal is that Facebook would block access to companies if they were getting competitive - for example, when they cut off Vine's access to the API the day it enabled 6-second videos. This is why we can't have nice things.

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Hacking History: Redressing Gender Inequities on Wikipedia Through an Editathon

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 04:00
Nina Hood, Allison Littlejohn, International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, Dec 05, 2018

This article explores the "experiences of nine participants of an editathon at the University of Edinburgh on the topic of the Edinburgh Seven, who were the first women to attend medical school in 19th century United Kingdom." The authors argue "it was through the act of moving from consumer to contributor and becoming part of the community of editors, that participants could not only more fully understand issues of bias and structural inequities on Wikipedia, but also actively challenge and address these issues." It makes me think of the slogan: "no knowing without doing." Image: HeadStuff.

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Companion robot trialled in Victorian classrooms

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 04:00
Campbell Kwan, ZD Net, Dec 05, 2018

It's another story about robot teachers. "La Trobe University has teamed up with Waratah Special Developmental School in Victoria to trial a robot called Matilda as a classroom companion for students with special needs...  at a time when the implementation of robotics and coding technology in schools... has become a growing and controversial trend in education across North America and Europe." It's not clear where the limits will be for robot teachers. "Matilda can recognise human voices and faces, detect emotions, read and recite text, dance, and play music." The story also notes that "a robot teacher is also being trialled to help students living in isolated locations, ABC News reported in June." Image: La Trobe.

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SoTL: the party that no one really wants to go to

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 04:00
Kathleen Bortolin, University Affairs, Dec 05, 2018

The subhead asks, "Why does the scholarship of teaching and learning remain a hard sell to faculty?" I've always thought that the answer was pretty evident: because they spent ten years of their lives studying and earning a PhD in something else. Which is what they're actually interested in. This particular article looks specifically at teaching-focused universities, but here I think the same answer still suffices, only more so - if you're not able to spend time researching the thing that really interests you, why would you spend time researching something that doesn't?

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Why Social Studies is Becoming AI Studies

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 04:00
Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart, Dec 04, 2018

From the "things aren't what they used to be" department: "AI is not just a tech issue, it’s a social studies issue. Teaching youth to code may be part of the response, but even more important is asking them to consider issues of the changing civic and employment landscape." Of course, this means that we'll have to have ways of learning what that is, and how it's changing. There's a good summary in the article of a set of National Council for the Social Studies standards built around 10 themes that are being shaped by AI and ET.

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Skills not Research

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 04:00
Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates, Dec 04, 2018

This article is based on a report written for Canada's ISED (we don't know who wrote it, nor how well it was read or received by government officials) on 'The Scale-Up Gap” report on building 10 $1-billion companies in 10 years'. Here's the takeaway (as summarized by Alex Usher): "The point here is simple: if Canadian universities want to contribute to economic growth, they need to start actually paying attention to how their curriculum and pedagogy is improving skills. That’s the play. Not research." That would be pretty foolish advice to take. Not because curriculum and pedagogy are unimportant (though they're a lot less important than the business writers seem to think). But because at a certain point, curriculum and pedagogy and research are inseparable. I mean, where do they think this stuff that colleges and universities teach comes from? How do we even know that there's a mismatch? Knowledge doesn't spring forth fully formed from the head of Zeus. We make it. And if we stop making it, all hope for all the rest of it - jobs, industry, prosperity, eduction - is lost.

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Reproducibility of Scientific Results

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 04:00
John Wilcox, Fiona Fidler, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Dec 04, 2018

I am somewhat surprised that the issue of the replication of research results has merited its own article in the Stanford Encyclopedia, but at the same time, I consider the article to be a valuable treatment of the subject. My own interest is in part 3 - which focuses on the epistemology of replication (though I think the formalization based on Bayesian probability was a bit much). Overall, the authors conclude, "The subject of reproducibility is associated with a turbulent period in contemporary science. This period has called for a re-evaluation of the values, incentives, practices and structures which underpin scientific inquiry. While the meta-science has painted a bleak picture of reproducibility in some fields, it has also inspired a parallel movement to strengthen the foundations of science."

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Report Fails to Sufficiently Address the Evidence Surrounding Teacher Evaluation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 04:00
National Education Policy Center, Dec 04, 2018

Normally I prefer to link to the actual links, but this newsletter article excels in providing a summary of the original report and the criticism. "Amy Farley and Leah Chamberlain of the University of Cincinnati reviewed Making a Difference: Six Places Where Teacher Evaluation Systems Are Getting Results. They find that the report does little to enrich an already tired conversation about linking teacher evaluation to student achievement." Here's the money quote: "a $500 million investment in teacher evaluation that heavily weighted student growth measures, with considerable funding from the Gates Foundation, did not improve student outcomes."

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Letter from Australia: the online avalanche?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 04:00
Julie Hare, Wonkhe, Dec 04, 2018

This article is - well - odd. Like the beautifully groomed and very placid snow run used to illustrate 'avalanche' odd. Or the focus on this: “early predictions of an education sector unshackled by borders have not been realised." An odd statement from someone in a country where education is a top export, valued at AUS$32.2 billion (US$24.7 billion) in 2017. And here's the list of companies or institutions that are "disruptors that just might be able to break through" - Minerva, Foundry College, Georgia Tech, MicroMasters, Modern Campus, Udacity and Techtonic. But the best line is by David Pattie in the comments: "Can we please stop thinking about education in terms of markets and product?"

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Another perspective on AI in higher education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 04:00
Tony Bates, Online learning and distance education resources, Dec 03, 2018

Summary of Klutka, J. et al. (2018) Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education: Current Uses and Future Applications. What strikes me about this report is how most of the applications of AI in higher education are really to things that have little to do with the education itself, such as admissions, student services, and so-called institutional efficiency. Even in applications focused on learning, the uses seem peripheral at best: feedback in some STEM classes, feedback on writing, and sentiment analysis. Compared to what AI could be doing, I think this is very tame stuff.

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Framing Self-Directed Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 04:00
Dennis Sale, SoftChalk Talk Blog, Dec 03, 2018

This is the first of a series of five posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (forthcoming)) on self-directed learning. While I don't agree with everything in it (references to Hattie and to cognitive load leave me cold) I nonetheless found it a well-reserach and considered treatment of the subject. I especially appreciated the distinctuion between self-directed learning and the concept of self-regulated learning (that has been in vogue recently). "SDL involves the learner more in the design of the learning environment and its trajectory; whereas in SRL, outcomes and tasks are usually set by the teacher."

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Avoid ‘uncritical use’ of PISA scores, researchers warn ministers

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 04:00
Freddie Whittaker, SchoolsWeek, Dec 03, 2018

No real surprise, but it's nice to see someone actually come out and say it. According to this article, "A new report for Cambridge Assessment by Dr Matthew Carroll and Dr Tom Benton found the focus on essay-writing skills in the GCSE English curriculum is not mirrored in PISA tests, meaning that the international study ignores 'some of the key skills that schools are trying to teach'." PISA, of course, has always had its own definition of what it thinks constitute language, mathematics and science skills, and these are often not represented in actual curriculum, because school boards worldwide design for a wider set of needs than those envisaged by OECD.

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I quit Instagram and Facebook and it made me a lot happier — and that's a big problem for social media companies

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 04:00
Christina Farr, CNBC, Dec 03, 2018

This is yet another example of a genre called "quit lit". It's the post someone writes when they've quit something. These days, what they're mostly likely quitting is social media like Facebook and Twitter. Both have become toxic, serving a bottomless bowl of trivial content, abuse, and advertising. And yet, until the day they quit, people keep going back. But this trend is accelerating - when I quit Facebook more than two years ago, it was unthinkable, but now it's a phenomenon that threatens the company's bottom line. How can they fix it? I'm not sure they can.

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Multi-Cloud & Kubernetes: Cloud Academy November 2018 Data Report

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 04:00
Alex Brower, Cloud Academy, Dec 03, 2018

The main story here is that we are in a 'multi-cloud universe'. However, by 'multi-cloud' we mean mostly AWS (Amazon) and Azure (Microsoft), with Google Cloud trailing in a distance third. The author also suggests that the multi-cloud phenomenon is enabled by Kubernetes, which is a container management service. The survey was based on an analysis of job descriptions seeking employees in cloud technologies.

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The Academic Market in China: An Overview

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 04:00
Tao Tao, The Scholarly Kitchen, Dec 03, 2018

This post is directed toward people trying to sell academic journal subscriptions in China, and thus has limited appeal on that front, but also in so doing offers a pretty good summary of the structure of China's higher education system, describing different types of institutions, and providing statistics on each, including the primary teaching and research focus overall. The take-away? Chinese research appears to be almost entirely dedicated toward science and engineering (78%), with humanities and medicine taking second and third spots respectively.

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How to Be an Artist

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 04:00
Jerry Saltz, Vulture, Dec 03, 2018

Good advice that could be applied not only to art but to anything (substitute 'research scientist' for 'artist' and you get the same useful tips): "How do you get from there to making real art, great art? There’s no special way; everyone has their own path. Yet, over the years, I’ve found myself giving the same bits of advice. Most of them were simply gleaned from looking at art, then looking some more. Others from listening to artists talk about their work and their struggles. (Everyone’s a narcissist.) I’ve even stolen a couple from my wife."

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Opensource Apps for Educators

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 04:00
Nov 30, 2018

I explored this after the link was passed along to me on Mastodon. The idea is that you can log into the service and quickly launch any of a large number of open source applications. It was set up by a group of people in British Columbia (Grant Potter, Tannis Morgan Brian Lamb, Clink Lalonde. The choices range from RocketChat to EtherPad to Wordpress and more. I signed in with Google, click once to open the app marketplace, and clicked one more time to install and launch a fully functioning WordPress site. The service runs on Sandstorm, an open source application, and you can install your own version for your own school or university.

Here's what Grant Potter says, "If we did not have Sandstorm, we would be significantly limited in the range of applications we could offer to BC faculty and be burdened by layers of required administrative and technical oversight." Lovely. For more on this whole idea, read this page about Open ETC. Brian Lamb comments, "We have gotten this underway in a low-key, organic way... but we're growing steadily and we have some cool stuff seeded and ready to sprout."

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Education Blockchain Market Map

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 04:00
HolonIQ, Nov 30, 2018

Though dated last June this market map appeared in my inbox from Holon only today. It reports five sectors of the education blockchain market: credentials and certifications (the largest by far), peer-to-peer ecosystems, payments, knowledge and marketplace. The website describes each briefly and links to some representative startups. The site reports, "Blockchain’s significant potential in education – from powering efficiency to collapsing costs or disrupting the current system – is becoming clearer to technologists, educationalists and governments alike."

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Everything on Social Media Is for Sale

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 04:00
Taylor Lorenz, The Atlantic, Nov 30, 2018

Everything described in this article is also true of the education social media scene, to more or less a degree. Certainly there are repost and retweet networks, paid placements, 'guest' articles, and more. Microfinance is well-entrenched, with websites (yes, even this one) asking for donations. There are commerce networks, such as TeachersPayTeachers. It's all about earning large numbers of followers and then monetizing them. How widespread is it? It's hard to say - a lot of this microcommerce takes place behind the scenes.

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Teens and social media: Study finds connections and support outweigh the drama and pressure

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 04:00
Frank Catalano, GeekWire, Nov 30, 2018

According to this article, "A new Pew Research Center study of youth ages 13 to 18 released on Wednesday finds teens credit online platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook with strengthening friendships (81 percent), letting them interact with a more diverse group (69 percent), and feeling as if they’ll have support during tough times (68 percent)."

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