Miscellaneous

Young, educated and underemployed: are we building a nation of PhD baristas?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/19/2016 - 13:00


Usman W. Chohan, The Conversation, Jan 19, 2016

The focus of this article by a World Bank consultant is the Australian labour market, but there are some not-so-flattering references to the Canadian and American environment as well. The gist of the article is contained in the title: some 30 percent of Australian graduates are "underemployed" (and in Canada, some 40 percent). "A sizeable educational investment, both in terms of money and time, is finding unfulfilled returns in mundane work that requires none of the sunk investment in intellectual capital, an idea disparagingly called “ the era of the overeducated barista'". I find it interesting to note the disciplines where this effect is most prominent: business, management, law, and humanities. The impact is bad in  Australia, but "there is far less support for new graduates in Canada. In the US the US$1.3 trillion student debt is now referred to as an unmitigated “ time-bomb".

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Self-organization of complex, intelligent systems: an action ontology for transdisciplinary integration

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/19/2016 - 13:00


Francis Heylighen, Integral Review, Jan 19, 2016

These are sweeping claims, but from my perspective they are fundamentally correct: "the fundamental constituents of reality are seen as actions and the agents that produce them. More complex phenomena are conceived as self-organizing networks of interacting agents that evolve to become increasingly complex, adaptive and intelligent systems. The resulting worldview allows us to address the most fundamental issues of philosophy..." For me, the interesting questions in education and technology revolve around questions like this: what are these agents and actions? What are the principles of self-organizing systems? What sorts of systems learn more effectively? How do we understand concepts like 'knowledge' and 'learning' at all? These are links to preprints of a 2011 paper: 39 page PDF. Another copyRead more from Francis Heylighen. Also, I found it worth while to  quote at length a section on mobilization from this item in my blog.

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The resolution of the Bitcoin experiment

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:00


Mike Hearn, Medium, Jan 19, 2016

I've discussed  Bitcoin and  blockchains on this website before. This article is about the failure of that system, at least in the case of Bitcoin. The reasons are on the one hand technical, but on the other hand, the result of human failure. In a nutshell, the production of new Bitcoins has essentially been monopolized - At a recent conference over 95% of hashing power was controlled by a handful of guys sitting on a single stage - and these people have an incentive to prevent growth, creating an artificial scarcity, even to the point where delays and congestion are causing the network to fail. There are measures that would fix the problem, but discussion of them has been banned in Bitcoin forums and conferences. If it reminds you of, say, the economy of New Brunswick, or any small economy dominated by a few very large companies, it should. Democracy and diversity build networks and economies; authority and centralization destroys them.

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Targeted Learning in Healthcare Research

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/18/2016 - 16:00


Susan Gruber, Jan 18, 2016

This article is focused on the big data in electronic health records and claims data sets being put to secondary use in studying questions of drug safety and efficacy, but it applies equally to learning analytics. The idea of 'targeted learning' is to draw from machine learning algorithms (which would be engaged in pattern matching and cluster detection, for example) which do not use parameters ("these avoid model misspecification bias by making no distributional assumptions") but to supplement it with targeted parameters to answer specific questions from the data. The article is fairle accessible and discusses methodologies and applications in a relatively short 8 page PDF. View more from this  special issue of Big data on healthcare and data. See also Mining the Quantified Self, which is really an excellent overview of the needs and challenges facing personal data analytics. (Note: I have full access to these in my office; if they're subscription-based, please accept my apologies).

 

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The e-health literacy framework: A conceptual framework for characterizing e-health users and their interaction with e-health systems

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/18/2016 - 13:00


Ole Norgaard, Dorthe Furstrand, Louise Klokker, Astrid Karnoe, Roy Batterham, Lars Kayser, Richard H. Osborne, Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal, Jan 18, 2016

This is a paper from a  special issue on e-health literacy. I think defining a  framework (20 page PDF) for the topic is a good idea, but I'm not convinced that the following characterization is as useful as it could be: "Seven domains were identified: 1. Ability to process information, 2. Engagement in own health, 3. Ability to engage actively with digital services, 4. Feeling safe and in control, 5. Motivation to engage with digital services, 6. Having access to systems that work, and 7. Digital services that suit individual needs." The first three might be literacies; the last four definitely are not. But it seems (to judge by the literature review) that there has been a bit of a drift in the field regarding what constitutes a literacy. I think the concept map (pictured) from the first workshop held with professionals is probably a better model. But it's a good discussion overall and should help inform wider conversation around the concept of literacy generally.

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Interview: Stolen, the problematic app that lets you buy and sell people on Twitter

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/18/2016 - 13:00


Holly Brockwell, Gadgette, Jan 18, 2016

I remember there was once an application called BlogTrader or something like that where you could buy and sell 'shares' in blogs and websites in a fictional stock exchange. This current site is a bit like that, only much more annoying (and as of this morning, has been closed down). In this case, the commodity is Tritter profiles, and they are 'owned' with or without the permission of the profile owner, and the application allows the 'owner' to post messages on the Twitter account. The original BlogTrader was soon dominated by bottom-feeding  trading consortia who manipulated the market to make themselves rich, and made generally useless. In this case, the accounts are being 'stolen' (or 'bought', or whatever) by spammers and trolls and other internet lowlife.

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Big Data as a Service: the Next Big Thing?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/18/2016 - 13:00


Ahmed Banaf, OpenMind, Jan 18, 2016

We are already working with the idea of big data as a service in the LPSS project, so I can easily see it becoming something more widely available in the future. But it's not just data in the cloud; it's tools as well. "In general,  Big Data as a service will offer various kinds of data analytics. For example, a company could use it to monitor a large SEO or Web content campaign that reaches a broad audience. In a BDaaS model, these services will commonly be offered over the Internet with key vendor storage and functionality tools located in the cloud."

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Survey of the Shared Design Elements & Emerging Practices of Competency-Based Education Programs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 16:00


Public Agenda, Jan 17, 2016

This report (36 page PDF) gathers baseline data on competency-based education (CBE) initiatives and looks at the adoption and evaluation of various CBE practices. Competencies and assessments, not surprisingly, take the top spot. But 95 percent of respondents also felt CBE should be learner centred. Engaged faculty and external partners, as well as embedded processes for continuous improvement, also ranked high. The bulk of the institutions surveyed were still mostly in the planning phase, though private and for-profit institutions were further along. Accreditation was also mostly in the planning phase, with the notable exception of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which was into scale-up mode. One of the major challenges is posed by the need for data systems that "are automated and compatible with one another, eliminating unnecessary frustrations for faculty, staff, and learners." Pricing models and cost structures were also issues.

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2015 Open and Online Education Trend Report

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 16:00


Marjon Baas, Janina van Hees, Ria Jacobi, Martijn Ouwehand, Robert Schuwer, Fred de Vries, Nicolai van der Woert, SURFNet, Jan 17, 2016

How is open education impacting on-campus education? Are new target groups being attracted to open and online educations? These are the sorts of questions addressed by this report. It's composed of nine separate reports along with a series of 'intermezzos'. Each of these reports examines an aspect of these two questions (they're all in one big  78 page PDF so I can't link to them separately). Open education, we read, has progressed "beyond the pioneering phase" and into adoption, motivated today mostly by economic and delivery concerns, as opposed to the ideological concerns prevalent in the movement's early days. Yet there are still issues around business models, licensing, and quality. So we see, for example in one contribution from Robert Schuwer and Ulrike Wild, a proposal for an "action plan for the promotion of open education adoption." Such a plan might include an incentive scheme, as proposed by Janina van Hees. There's a lot more here in what is really a very comprehensive document, well recommended.

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Technology and the Imminent Disruption of Higher Education: Is Fear the Path to the Dark Side?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 16:00


David Wheeler, Academica Forum, Jan 17, 2016

Good article from Cape Breton University president David Wheeler examining some of the major trends in university education today. Here's a quick summary (quoted from the article):

  • Gamification - enhancing emotional engagement with learning
  • Rewards - from points and badges to certificates and degrees
  • Adaptive learning - from artificial intelligence to tutoring
  • Simulations - from apprenticeships to virtual reality
  • Social learning - reproducing the classroom and peer support online

One of the strengths of Wheeler's article is that he clearly identifies the impact of the trend on learning and provides examples of companies or applications that are innovating in this space. He also links back to a  Guardian article from a couple weeks ago citing studies which show clearly the idea that knowledge is a web of associations, and not like disk storage or memory tape. And his message has a hard edge: "If an institution cannot support flexible, high quality, and competitively-priced learning journeys for students of all ages and backgrounds, then another institution will, and it may be based anywhere from Arizona to New Zealand."

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Microsoft Neural Net Shows Deep Learning Can Get Way Deeper

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 13:00


Cade Metz, Wired, Jan 17, 2016

"neural nets use hardware and software to approximate the web of neurons in the human brain. This idea dates to the 1980s, but in 2012, Krizhevsky and Hinton advanced the technology... Deep neural networks are arranged in layers. Each layer is a different set of mathematical operations— aka  algorithms. The output of one layer becomes the input of the next."

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The Banality Of Death

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 04:00

No matter how pointless or meaningful we are told that it is, each death is to someone the ultimate tragedy. All deaths are the same. Once we come to realize this, together, we can begin thinking about how we can live together, work together, and begin to cherish this most beautiful thing in the world: life.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Making Networked Sharing Socially Beneficial, Not Just Predatory and Profitable

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 13:00


David Bollier, News and perspectives on the commons, Jan 16, 2016

The so-called 'sharing economy' will almost certainly impact education, but what form will it take? Now is the time to be thinking about it. The economy actually breaks down into four types of practice, according to this article (quoted):

  • the “ access economy” that is renting things rather than selling them permanently;
  • the “ gig economy” that hosts contingent work in digital marketplaces;
  • the “ collaborative economy” that fosters peer-to-peer governance and production processes; and
  • and the “ pooling economy” that enables collective ownership and management.

Each of these is structured differently, and each impacts on the traditional economy and wider society differently. To counter 'free riders' like Uber from exploiting existing infrastructure while providing no social return, policies need to be in place to address the following (again quoted from the article):

  • impacts, including tax avoidance, unfair competition and violations of local and regional regulation;
  • personal economic security and social welfare (such as pay, working standards, benefits);
  • open data sharing for public purposes, allowing newcomers into the market;
  • trust and reputation must be accurately and independently managed.

I think one of some of the major bodies in education (a foundation, UNESCO, CoL or OIF, etc) should tackle this conversation with respect to learning.

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Personalization, Not Isolation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 13:00


Jennifer Carolan, Medium, Jan 16, 2016

Personalized learning, writes Jennifer Carolan, is on everyone's minds these days. But effective teachers know that personalization means much more than simply working on one's own. "More powerful learning comes from interaction and idea sharing that drives greater understanding and empathy." For example, an application called  Newslea outputs versions of news articles at different reading levels so people at all levels can contribute to a discussion about the item. "The most promising new school models," she writes, "go forward with the mindset that personalization will help achieve a constellation of goals —  both personal and community —  that are higher and broader, aimed at serving the larger, democratic society."

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Supporting Open Textbook Adoption in British Columbia

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 00:00


Mary Burgess, David Porter, BC Campus, Jan 15, 2016

Short article, supplemented with video clips from innovators such as Brian Lamb and Scott Leslie, on the progress and development of the Open Textbook project in British Columbia. "It hasn’ t been a straight-line development process over the past 13 years," say the authors, "nor has it been completely planned and there have been many of twists and turns, all the while building a community from the successes and the missteps along the way."

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Ed-Tech Patents: Prior Art and Learning Theories

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 00:00


Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jan 15, 2016

Good overview of some recent history regarding the (now-abandoned) Blackboard patent, as well as some more recent patents held by the Khan Academy. What's interesting is what is essentially a two-step method of shifting discourse in the field: first, the data-driven approaches described by companies like Khan are held to be "theory-free"; then, second, the method described in the patent embodies what we would previously have called the theory. For example: the method of "method for providing computer programming instructions," which bears a striking resemblance to "languages like Logo and Scratch as well as a plethora of online tutorials." Or for example: "a patent for using A/B testing to determine the “ effectiveness” of an educational video." Audrey Watters comments cynically, "One might say then that Khan Academy does have a theory of learning; but I’ d suggest that it’ s behaviorism." But "Regardless, all these practices – these 'systems and methods' – are now going to be patented if the pressures and culture of the tech sector hold sway."

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