Miscellaneous

Perspective and Empathy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/15/2015 - 01:00
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Maggie Hos-McGrane, Tech Transformation, Aug 14, 2015

This diagram has been making the rounds in social media recently (reminding me that I wish Facebook would remember what I've seen and not show me the same memes over and over). It's a useful diagram in that it shows how two apparently contradictory perspectives - orange square vs blue circle - can be perfectly consistent and both perfectly true. I have just one really important thing to add: we can't access the object in the middle. All we have are our various perspectives, and they under-determine the many possible shapes of reality. We have to keep this in mind when we proclaim that we know 'the truth'. Nobody knows the truth.

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Classroom Blogging Options (August 2015)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/15/2015 - 01:00
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Wesley A. Fryer, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, Aug 14, 2015

It has been a while since I ran a good 'blogging in schools' post, but the activity - and the advice - still makes as much sense today as it did in the heyday of blogging. Maybe even more sense, because unlike the early 2000s, there are many other shorter and less-structured ways students can communicate online, and blogging pulls them back into the realm of extended descriptions, arguments, explanations, and actual efforts to communicate thoughts and feelings rather than quips and reactions (or should I say, reax). Theere are many reasons to write; conveying information is just one of them. Wes Fryer also summarizes a number of the tools available as we start the 2015 fall session. Nice graphic, too.

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Teaching with the Internet; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Google In My Classroom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/15/2015 - 01:00
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Adeline Koh, Hybrid Pedagogy, Aug 14, 2015

"Why is it that although as educators we largely understand that there are valid criticisms of the lecture format, that we continue to reproduce that format whenever we meet professionally?" Adeline Koh is here questioning the use of lectures as keynote addresses at conferences, and actually presents one where she has people do a literature exercise in small groups. It's one of a number of things (like backchannels, or  self-defining communities) you can do. But as I read her post I was bothered by the fact that what she calls a DOOC (Distributed Open Collaborative Course) is actually just a cMOOC. I've  commented on this before. Would I have detected this error (and yes, I think it's an error) had she simply given me some activities to do? Why I wouldn't have learned was this: should I hire her as a consultant? Should I trust her views on technology? If she were a student, should she graduate? When people give talks, they aren't just giving you a bunch of stuff to remember. There are many other purposes, and good lecturers know that.

We have to stop depicting education as though it were just a process where we get people to remember stuff. It's mostly not that.

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Is It Really Possible to Re-do Ed Tech From Scratch?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 22:00
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Matt Crosslin, EduGeek Journal, Aug 14, 2015

As Matt Crosslin summarizes, "Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris asked an interesting question at Hybrid Pedagogy a couple of days ago: 'Imagine that no educational technologies had yet been invented — no chalkboards, no clickers, no textbooks, no Learning Management Systems, no Coursera MOOCs. If we could start from scratch, what would we build?'" He then asks, "would it even be possible to surgically remove educational technology from the larger world around them?" Probably not, he thinks. I agree. I've often challenged the presumption, for example, that 'learning is remembering'. But if we don't change what we think learning is, and why it's important to have some, we lose the motivation to make many of the changes we might otherwise thing the education system needs.

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Random Thoughts on Passive Learning and Lectures

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 22:00


Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Aug 14, 2015

Let's begin here: “ Passivity isn’ t wrong because it’ s boring; it’ s wrong because it doesn’ t work.” The post is on lectures and it surveys the evidence. But in an inference like this I tend to ask whether we understand the premise. What does it mean to say "it doesn't work"? Karl Kapp cites this: "undergraduate students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail." But as Allison Littlejohn writes, student motives - and motivations - vary. It's not all about passing the test. When I lecture - and I give talks a lot - I am never trying to give the audience a bunch of stuff to remember (and I give them slides and sometimes text in case they want the information later). I'm trying to get them to ask questions they haven't considered, to imagine previously unimagined possibilities, to see things from a different (sometimes warped) perspective, or to question their own assumptions. Sure, if you want people to remember stuff, give them active learning. But if you want to shake them up, ask them questions.

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An Obstacle to the Ubiquitous Adoption of OER in US Higher Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 22:00


David Wiley, iterating toward openness, Aug 14, 2015

I don't want to be the sort of person who always says "I said this first", but I would be remiss in not pointing out that the solution advocated here by David Wiley was the central recommendation, oft-repeated, of  my paper on OERs written for OECD in Malmo. Of course, Wiley uses different (and better) terminology. "As a contrast to 'disposable' assignments, it seems appropriate to call these renewable assignments," he writes (my emphasis). "These renewable assignments result in meaningful, valuable artifacts that enable future meaningful, valuable work." And of course student work from one year should become the OERs of the next year. There's no other rational way to create a sustainable system for producing OERs.

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CHRO Pulse Survey 2015

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 19:00
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Korn Ferry Institute, Aug 14, 2015

According to this study (10 page PDF), the major issues facing HR staff are employee engagement and retention (the similarity to education is interesting). And "HR leaders say that the most important competency for a CHRO in today’ s business environment is tolerance of ambiguity— defined as the ability to work in conditions of uncertainty and change — followed by the ability to make bold, yet informed decisions and the ability to sustain analytical thinking and motivate others."

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'The Universe is slowly dying,' study shows with unprecedented precision

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 19:00
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Ben Brumfield, CNN, Aug 14, 2015

Anybody who understands entropy already understood this, but news reports out today point to a study arguing that the universe is in its sunset years, in old age as universes go. "It will just grow old forever, slowly converting less and less mass into energy as billions of years pass by until eventually, it will become a cold, dark and desolate place, where all of the lights go out," said astronomer Luke Davies. What this means, says Alex Balk, is that nothing we do matters. "It’ s all temporary. Everything is. Every victory, every defeat, every choice made or decision deferred adds up to nothing. You feel pain for a certain amount of time— or happiness, or wonder, or bliss, but more likely pain— and then it’ s over. The universe makes no value judgment because the value of everything is zero and the concept of judgment is meaningless."

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The Theory of Walter Benjamin, Ludwig Wittgenstein & Sigmund Freud Sung by Kenneth Goldsmith

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 19:00
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Dan Colman, Open Culture, Aug 14, 2015

These are three separaate theories, of course, not just one theory. And if the learning style opponents are right, converting the austere writings into song should help either everybody or nobody (singe if it helps some people more than others, then you have a group of people who are more inclined to learn 'musically' (if that's even a thing) than others). Still. Who could object to the Philosophical Investigations  in song rather than sparse German?

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Embarrassingly Bad Reformy Metaphors: Charter Schools & Uber

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/14/2015 - 19:00


Jersey Jazzman, National Education Policy Centre, Aug 14, 2015

It's tempting to want to compare education with the (mis-named) 'sharing' economy because, well, Uber. But according to this article, it's a bad comparison. For one thing, your access to Uber depends on your having a smartphone and your having a good customer rating - if you swear at your drivers, you're  less likely to be picked up. That's fine for a luxury service like quick and convenient rides.But when we're looking at education, we don't want the school to simply turn down prospective students because they don't like them. Do we?

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Tell us who the most influential HE professionals on social media are

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/13/2015 - 17:00
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Jisc, Aug 13, 2015

I'm not sure this is exactly the way to do it, but JISC has issued a call to identify the most influential higher education (HE) professionals on social media. "You can nominate yourself or someone you know – although please do check with them first. These will then go to an experienced judging panel of social media experts from Jisc and the wider community to decide who are the most influential."

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The Future of Morality, at Every Internet User's Fingertips

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/13/2015 - 12:00
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Tim Hwang, The Atlantic, Aug 13, 2015

Ethics have always been at the core of education. But now as learning escapes the classroom walls, so do the associated ethical issues. Consider, for example, decisions about whether to link or whether to click. Does a reference to Reddit imply an endorsement of the offensive groups hosted there? It certainly does help pay for them - a fraction of a cent here, a fraction of a cent there. Do recommendations impact how we are governed? Maybe Google or Facebook ranking can  influence elections. What about ad blocking? Is it unethical to stop Google from listening to your audio or watching you through your camera? What about blocking facial recognition with special sunglasses? What about using  personal email to keep private information private?

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#aha_project discovering the Grit Scale #plog

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 13:00
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Inge de Waard, Ignatia Webs, Aug 12, 2015

There are three things in this post.  The first is a link to Jay Cross's new book: "The book offers insight into learning, and more specifically increasing learning efficiency to a point of a long-lasting AHA-moment, hence the title: "AHA! 75 ways to work smarter". The second is the concept of 'plog' - "writing daily. Short passages (15 min is enough), reflecting on your day, but on a daily basis (something my mom has been doing for over 20 years or more, talking about a role model!). A proven action to increase your mental health, while also adding to your focus, patience, planning and personal growth (research by Teresa Amabile  , nice name). Jay calls it: writing a Plog." I've been doing it for years, but I can't guarantee the claims about mental health. And finally, the  grit score. I still question the concept of grit. But my grit score, for the record, was 4.63, which makes me pretty gritty - some would say abrasive. 

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The Web Feels Fine to Me

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 13:00
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Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Aug 12, 2015

Alan Levine says the web feels fine to him. He cits a pretty impressive list of doom and gloom predictions: " It’ s lost. It’ s dead. No the same folks say it’ s not dead. We have to save it. It’ s boring. It’ s lost that loving feeling. It needs to be made fun again." And he writes, "I think they are looking at the wrong end of the web donkey. Does anyone not remember the Long Tail? All of the lamenting, hand wringing, crying to the moon is focused completely on the head of the curve. The bag of gold is in the tail." Good point.

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LIMITS '15: First workshop on computing within limits

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 13:00
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Various authors, First Monday, Aug 12, 2015

An interesting issue of First Monday just published, its theme devoted to the study of limits - mostly, but not exclusively, software limits. It's relevant at a time where we're contemplating the end of Moore's Law. Papers include an  exploration of "how various forms of civilizational collapse would affect the software development process," the  psychological limits of computing, and Cacophony, software that addresses "the difficulties inherent in collecting, fusing, and reasoning with data from a heterogeneous set of distributed sensors."            

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Did these researchers just create an autistic computer program?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/12/2015 - 13:00
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Graham Templeton, ExtremeTech, Aug 12, 2015

I don't understand autism thoroughly, but this seems right: "one theory of autism claims that many of the  disorder’ s most characteristic symptoms could  be the result of just a single, chemically induced modification: autistic brains may simply be too noisy." If this is true, then the thesis advanced in this article is plausible: "the results suggested that many of autism’ s varied  symptoms could all be  an emergent property of a single low-level computational irregularity in the brain."

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Riviere du Loup

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 19:00


Stephen Downes, Flickr, Aug 11, 2015

Photos from my recent visit to Riviere du Loup, Quebec.

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How to do a learning (r)evolution: perspective from Finland

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 19:00
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Teemu Leinonen, Aug 11, 2015

Education has to do more than adapt to change, write the authors of the SITRA’ s New Education Forum (20 page PDF). "We insist that education must not settle for adapting to change, but also act as a driver. To raise brave, compassionate citizens capable of independent thought and bearing the responsibility for themselves and for others; curious people, capable of finding things out for themselves and assessing the reliability of whatever information they come across." Or as Tiina Silander says: "“ We have long ridden the wave of Pisa hysteria, telling ourselves that our schools are good. And they are excellent – by yesterday’ s standards. Our schools do not meet current or future needs.”

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Ethereum Launched

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 19:00
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kliuless, Matafilter, Aug 11, 2015

First, the background: "A blockchain is like a place where you store any data semi-publicly in a linear container space (the block). Anyone can verify that you’ ve placed that information because the container has your signature on it, but only you (or a program) can unlock what’ s inside the container because only you hold the private keys to that data, securely."

Now, the cool bit: "Ethereum announced its first developer release a week ago. What is Ethereum? According to the video it's a "planetary scale computer powered by blockchain technology." Why is this important? "This computing paradigm is important because it is a catalyst for the creation of decentralized applications, a next-step evolution from distributed computing architectural constructs.... a system with the benefits of a centralised, shared infrastructure but without the centralised point of control: if the data and business logic is shared and replicated, no one firm can assert control, or so the argument goes." Image: Etherscripter.

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The Teen Who Exposed a Professor’s Myth

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 19:00
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Ben Collins, The Daily Beast, Aug 11, 2015

After University of Illinois-Chicago history professor Richard J. Jensen published a paper saying that the "no Irish need apply" signs were a myth, 14-year-old Rebecca Fried did some research on her own and disproved the paper. This article is a good account of that exchange, noteworthy not only because it shows that anyone can be a scholar with the right tools, but also because of the intransigence Jensen displayed when confronted with the evidence.

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