Miscellaneous

Marketing: Avoiding Influencers Enmeshed By Spam Networks

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 12:00
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Walter Adamson, Kinship Digital, Apr 12, 2015

This is a good indication of why you can't just use numbers like frequency of connections and citations to understand the role and influence of someone in a community. This post is an analysis of the network of influencers in the recent Cricket World Cup (congrats to Australia). Many influencers, like celebrities and newspapers, are "context-free", because they appear everywhere, and have no particular connection to the community. Another group of influencers are more densely linked to each other than to the wider community. Finally, there is a group of apparent influencers who have bought lists of followers, thereby linking the genuine community to a collection of interlinked spammers. None of these three groups are genuine influencers, though you would not know this looking only at the numbers. Via Gavin Heaton.

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Sir Ken Robinson: ‘Creative’ with the truth?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 04/11/2015 - 20:00
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Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Apr 11, 2015

Ken Robinson's video on creativity is cited over and over again and was long overdue for this takedown by Donald Clark. It's the classic response: Robinson's observations and anecdotes are (a) not new, (b) not backed by data, (c) except data he has made up, and (d) are false. The piè ce de ré sistance is the wholly arbitrary map of ritalin prescriptions in the RSA video (and equally misleading graph in his own). I'm left pondering a world where Oregon and Washington are a single state, there's an Oklanebraska, east and west Dakota, and a giant interior midwestern state we'll just call Missinois. Some data.

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Task Force on Academic Freedom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 04/11/2015 - 17:00
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Ronald J. Daniels, Robert C. Lieberman, Johns Hopkins University, Apr 11, 2015

Johns Hopkins University last year convened a task force on academic freedom. As reported by Inside Higher Ed, "the administration is seeking feedback on the task force’ s final product." It's a short document, for some reason released only as a PDF image (to prevent it from being edited? Puh-leeese). The article cites a couple of disputes causing a reflection on the principle - "in 2013, when a dean asked a faculty member to remove a blog post," for example, or "tensions between student groups in favor of and opposed to legal abortion in recent years." I took some time this afternoon to analyze the document, present it in the analytical framework, and then pose some pointed questions, which you can read here. My take is that their policy still needs significant revision and rethinking, and that the authors have not thought through many of the more difficult issues around academic freedom. Image: Selangor Times.

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Teaching in a Digital Age

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 04/11/2015 - 14:00
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Tony Bates, OpenText BC, Apr 11, 2015

I've cited chapters from Tony Bates's ongoing online book Teaching in a Digital Age on numerous occasions over the last few months, so I won't rehash all that here. Suffice it to say that the full text is now available as a free download on the BC Open Text website. Not that the  full PDF is 502 pages! This is a monumental accomplishment and I have no doubt that Bates will receive wide praise for his efforts over the last year.

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Competency-Based Education: A Framework for Measuring Quality Courses

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 04/11/2015 - 11:00
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Jackie Krause, Laura Portolese Dias, Chris Schedler, Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Apr 11, 2015

"There are no defined standards that directly address quality of competency-based courses," write the authors. "This problem is exacerbated because competency-based programs are often self-paced, requiring students to be more self-sufficient and self-directed than in instructor-led courses." They survey several other quality rubrics and observe that these typically include an evaluation of the interactivity supported by the course. "This measurement is not relevant in self-paced competency-based courses, as students do not engage in interactions with other students as a means of obtaining learning or transferring knowledge," they write. Additionally, a new rubric should focus on "the need for clear instructions for student success." I think the resulting rubric focuses on a very narrow type of course, and I'm not confident of its wider applicability. Via Tanya Joosten.

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Contributions and Connections

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 21:00


Bonnie Stewart, Inside Higher Ed, Apr 10, 2015

I mostly agree with Bonnie Stewart's comments in Inside Higher Ed (and note in passing that Inside Higher Ed has recently opened up its circle of authors beyond the fairly narrow political spectrum that characterized its contributions until now). Stewart reports on "an in-depth, participatory, ethnographic study of scholars who actively use Twitter in addition to their institutional scholarly endeavours" and identifies "how influence and credibility circulate in academic Twitter." The conversation is what counts, she says, and assessments are based on individual contributions rather than metrics or institutional background. Automated tweets are frowned upon as authenticity is valued, and commonality - "contribution is created and amplified by common interests, disciplines, and share(d) ties and peers" - is key. This latter is either an odd use of "commonality" or just wrong. Also, the caveats against generalization which can be found in the paper (as well as the fact that the study interviewed only 13 people) are not found in the IHE article, which is disappointing.

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Digitally Connected: Global Perspectives on Youth and Digital Media

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 15:00
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Sandra Cortesi, Urs Gasser, Social Science Research Network, Apr 10, 2015

This open (I think; it uses an SSRN redirection service) online book contains the proceedings of a conference funded by an array of charitable institutions and United Nations agencies that only an institution like Harvard can assemble. From the abstract: "With a particular focus on voices and issues from the Global South, the symposium addressed topics such as inequitable access, risks to safety and privacy, skills and digital literacy, and spaces for participation, and civic engagement and innovation. The event also marked the launch of Digitally Connected — an initiative that brings together academics, practitioners, young people, activists, philanthropists, government officials, and representatives of technology companies from around the world who, together, are addressing the challenges and opportunities children and youth encounter in the digital environment." 130 pages PDF.

I can't even remotely do justice to this large work (which I'll be nibbling at for days) in a single post, so let me confine myself to a quibble.  Nishant Shah writes, "The edge, then, is not an outer limit, but a route that marks the transfer of data from one point to another. Moreover, the nodes are also not predefined permanent points but rather points in a network that gain intensity (and hence value and valence) because of the frequency with which data travels and intersects at that particular point." No node is more or less valuable. If the node gains sufficient intensity as a result of incoming signals, then (according to a probabilistic signalling function) it fires, and the intensity is set to zero (or some other function-defined number). A node that fires frequently is not more valuable than one that fires rarely; indeed, extremes at either end subject the node as a candidate for deletion. Do not, in a network, confuse frequency with value. Ever.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 12:00
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Susan Patrick, Kathryn Kennedy, Allison Powell, International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), Apr 10, 2015

The School Improvement Network sponsored a post in  EdSurge linking to this white paper, and the paper is heavy with self-referential linking (so take some of it with a grain of salt) but it is on the whole worth a read as an outline of the major elements (and supporting technologies) for personalized learning. The key point (and probably why it's the subject of a marketing campaign) is that personalized learning and competencies go hand-in-hand. Well, this is true, if the object of learning is some sort of certification or standardized outcome. That's a pretty big 'if' and publishing companies are pushing hard toward making it a fact, because they see a gold mine in standardized learning materials. Non-standard outcomes, though, notwithstanding questions about certification, are far more valuable toward individual growth and development. Interestingly, many of the same technologies described in the report promote both standardized and non-standardized outcomes. (Note that OLDaily does not accept sponsored posts and receives no remuneration for any content posted in this newsletter).

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Online Test-Takers Feel Anti-Cheating Software’s Uneasy Glare

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 12:00
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Natasha Singer, New York Times, Apr 10, 2015

More on ProctorTrack, the service that stares at you through your camera while you take an online exam. Not surprisingly, students don't like it. According to the article, "Even for an undergraduate raised in a culture of selfies and Skype, Ms. Chao found the system intrusive. 'I felt it was sort of excessive,' she said... [it] seems to impose more onerous strictures on students than a live proctor would. Among other things, it requires students to sit upright and remain directly in front of their webcams at all times, according to guidelines posted on the company’ s site."

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The Virtues of Moderation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 10:00
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James Grimmelmann, The Yale Journal of Law & Technology, Apr 10, 2015

This is a careful, deep, sophisticated article that consumed a large chunk of my morning working my through its 68 pages of detailed explanation and rich referencing. In many respects, this account of internet moderation can be considered authoritative. To view the taxonomy itself, view the table of contents, where we can see listed techniques, distinctions between types of moderation, and community characteristics. There are four case studies. As a note of caution, however, I draw attention to the author's four overall conclusions: moderation is complex; moderation is diverse; moderation is necessary; and moderation is messy. These conclusions are used to draw some 'lessons for law' in the area of the Communications Decency Act and copyright enforcement. This to my view, however, represents a not-so-subtle shift from communities on the internet to the internet as community. And it is by no means clear to me that the taxonomy, nor the conclusions, apply to the internet as a whole. And yet I feel that legislators and critics, on reading this article, will feel such a pull inevitable. At any rate, this is a must-read. Image: Best of Metafilter. Via Jessamyn West, Facebook.

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The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 13:00
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Paul Campos, New York Times, Apr 09, 2015

I saw this post the other day and was suspicious when I read the phrase "legislative appropriations to higher education" being compared to U.S. military spending. This could mean anything! The point the author is trying to make is that government investments have not declined, while costs meanwhile have soared due primarily to higher spending on administration. Fredrik deBoer does a proper  refutation of the article. "He cites essentially none of his data," argues deBoer, and "he constantly mixes federal and state spending." Worse, "Campos is contradicted by other data that actually spells out a methodology and where the numbers came from." Campos focuses on the larger overall cost of the system, but as deBoer, far more students are enrolled today, and the government investment per capita has dropped. To me, the core question is, why would the NY Times publish such sloppy argumentation in the first place? There was once a time when the newspaper had standards. Those times are long gone. Via Bryan Alexander.

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Inside America's Subscription-Box Obsession

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 13:00
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Elizabeth Segran, Fast Company, Apr 09, 2015

One of the great things about the internet is that it's possible to find entire communities devoted to things you've never heard of. This article describes the phenomenon of subscription boxes: the idea is that for a set fee you receive a box every month or so with a selection of items around a theme.  My Subscription Addiction lists hundreds, maybe thousands, of these, with reviews. For example, there's Prospurly is a brand new subscription box that focuses on natural and artisan products (review), Tippy Taste, a monthly jewelry  box (review), or the  My Geeky Goodies box (review). The idea is not only that you get these boxes in the mail, but you can also join the online community that forms around the boxes, contributing videos of the  opening and discussing the items. Birchbox, which started the trend, for example has dedicated  YouTube and  Instagram channels.

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Competency-based education is all the rage: What is it?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 13:00
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Kimberly K. Estep, The Tennessean, Apr 09, 2015

James Morrison recommends this article as "the clearest explanation of CBE that I have read." As the author, Kimberly K. Estep, makes clear, "simply put, competency-based education measures learning rather than seat time." Put like that, how could anyone possibly object to competency-based education? And here's why it works: "He enrolled in WGU Tennessee and moved quickly through basic IT coursework and was able to spend more time on material he was unfamiliar with. Phillip completed his bachelor's degree in 10 months and then went on to earn his master's degree in Information Security Assurance in a single term." On your way to certification, you zip through the stuff you already know and linger on the stuff you're unfamiliar with. Why would you do it any other way?

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Gathering requirements for a student app for learning analytics

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 20:00
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Niall Sclater, Sclater Digital, Apr 08, 2015

"What data and analytics should be presented directly to students?" This is the question posed by Niall Sclater in his review of a JISC workshop in London a month ago. The group was prompted with suggestions related to information provision (progress, engagement, exam times) and prompts for action (reminders, prompts, uploads). The result is a long list of possible types of analytic information to be presented to students (not sorted by preference or anything, and you'd need a different group to do that). So is it anything a reasonably informed person could have come up with on their own? Well, no. Is it important to go through the process? Yes. From the same author: a  taxonomy of ethical, legal and logistical issues of learning analytics

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Open ends?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 17:00
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Brian Lamb, Abject, Apr 08, 2015

I answer this in the affirmative: "Would the cause of open be better served if we go further in this direction, and stop talking about 'open' as a goal and instead focus on using it as a tactic to support allies who care about authentic, engaged, accessible, sustainable, and relevant public education?" In Sausalito last week one person said that people were convinced to adopt OERs only when pointed out that they help the students learn. And I kept talking about the reason why we support open education and open educational resources. I think that this may create some divisions in the movement, as talking about objectives will cleave the publishers and the educators. But I think that's a good thing.

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My Viva

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 15:00
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Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, Apr 08, 2015

Patrick Dunleavy offers this list of ten typical questions that might be asked on your PhD oral exam. I always felt I would have aced my oral exam, but I never got to take it because my examiners did not want me to work on network theory. So how would I have answered these questions? Dunleavy's post begs a response, and I offer it here in this article.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Future of On-Campus Higher Education?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 15:00


Margaret Andrews, Inside Higher Ed, Apr 08, 2015

I'm not sure exactly when this came out (it's copyrighted 2100) but it's more Stanford hubris, 'discovering' a future the rest of us have been talking about for years. Here are the major elements:

  • Education will be fully envisaged as a lifelong journey, rather than a one-shot, four-year stint
  • The education will focus more on skill acquisition than disciplinary topics and therefore the university will be organized around competency hubs, rather than academic fields
  • The education model will move from an industrial revolution-style, one-size-fits-few freshman/sophomore/junior/senior classification to a personal-paced learning program
  • The school will move away from having students declare a major, toward having them declare a purpose

Of these, the last is the most interesting. But I have the feeling that, in the end, 'purpose' will be selected from a drop-down list. Because, you know, standardized vocabulary.

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ClassDojo: Do I Want it in My Kid's Class?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 15:00
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Manoush Zomorodi, New Tech City, Apr 08, 2015

According to this article, "one out of every two U.S. schools has a teacher  tracking  that kind of data with  one extremely popular app,  ClassDojo." According to their blog, they have a user base of "millions more in over 100 countries." The application encourages and rewards specific behaviours in class (see the introduction) such as teamwork, participation, working hard, participating and persistence. Penalties are applied for things like disrespect, talking out of turn, being unprepared or being off-task. The marketing is viral, with one teacher  recommending it to others. There have been  criticisms of the service, notably from the NY Times, over privacy concerns, to which the company  has responded. New Tech City reports, "Sam Chaudhary, co-founder of ClassDojo, tells us flatly 'we are not a data company.' He explains how  he plans to grow a tech company without harnessing user data." Via Alexander Russo.

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edX MOOC Research Gives Clearer Picture, Challenges Assumptions

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 15:00
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Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, Apr 08, 2015

The results from one LMS and 68 courses do not define the picture of learning for all time. But it's hard to deny that they're in a different league from the stereotypical 'class of 40 psychology undergrads' when it comes to research on students and learning. So I'll grant them that. And their research replicates much of the work that  Fournier and Kop have found working with connectivist MOOCs (a far more substantial body of research that doesn't make the pages of Campus Technology because it's not from MIT, but should). Some of the significant things: First, "equity cannot be increased just by opening doors." Second, "researchers have taken a stand against the idea that energy needs to be put into improving completion rates of MOOCs." Third, "emphasis on formalizing the 'flow of pedagogical innovations' between the MOOCs and their face-to-face counterparts on campus." Image: NY Times.

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Policies and Conversation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 12:00
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E. Gordon Gee, Inside Higher Ed, Apr 08, 2015

The echos of childhood still resonate in my mind. Not all of them are positive. Some of them are like "don't be such a sissy" and "don't be such a knowitall". They also include sanction to treat women as objects and some disparaging observations about the tendencies of the feminine gender. In certain ways, they've messed me up. That is why, indeed, frank conversations are needed in university - "truly grown-up conversations about sexual violence led by and among our student bodies" - are needed. They were for me; not that I would ever perpetuate sexual violence (I was brought up better than that) but because the effects of childhood linger in everyone. But this points to the deeper need. We have to stop telling children sexual violence is OK. We need to stop telling them violence of any kind is OK. If we don't do this while they're children, everything is a holding action against the inner voices, those echos from childhood, that dominate their attitudes and, sometimes, their actions. Image: UNFPA.

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