Miscellaneous

Dutch student protests ignite movement against management of universities

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 23:00
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Jonathan Gray, The Guardian, Mar 20, 2015

While I don't think anyone wants universities to be unmanaged, as the headline suggests, the protests nonetheless are a response to an approach typified under the heading of 'managerialism', wherein fiscal considerations are paramount, while social and human issues are shunted to the sidelines. There shouldn't be an overlap with online learning, but there is, as we have seen technology often employed in the service of this new style of management. It's interesting that "ongoing financialisation and managerialism that is increasingly coming to dominate academic life" seems also to be associated with "an unprecedented crisis in the university’ s finances."

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Do We Have an Inborn Moral Sense?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 23:00


Marilyn Walker, Open Journal of Philosophy, Mar 20, 2015

When we want people to behave appropriately, either online or offline, to what exactly are we appealing? One school of thought argues that morality is based on reason - this, for example, gives us  utilitarianism or the categorical imperative. But what if morality is more like a sensation, as Hume argued, rather than reason? What might it look like? This paper examines a number of possibilities suggested by recent neuroscience:

  • Altruism - "a neurological adaptation of the mechanisms that support maternal-infant bonding"
  • Emotional contagion - "a form of somatic mimicry; i.e., the tendency to automatically
    mimic and synchronize facial expressions, vocalizations, postures and movements..."
  • Attachment theory - "the initial caring by a parent for an infant and of filial and pair-bonding" and extensible to groups or ideas
  • Empathy - "to experience the psychological life of that person… "
  • Empathy Altruism - "empathic concern-other oriented emotion elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of others in need"
  • Fear - "tendency to freeze in place in mid-task was tightly correlated with their bodily reactions such as speeded-up heartbeat and elevated levels of stress hormones"

Clearly the different explanations of moral behaviour suggest very different strategies to elicit it. Until recently the primary mechanism was fear. But perhaps we can find our way to evoking less traumatic mechanisms.

 

 

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Down With Selfie Sticks?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 20:00
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Rob Watson, Rob Watson Media, Mar 20, 2015

I saw my first  selfie stick last September and the reaction since then has been, well, negative. Rob Watson questions this. "It seems that users of selfie sticks have broken some kind of taboo? A taboo that says that we shouldn’ t be so obvious when we take our self-images using our phones?" But they've been banned from some museums and are the subject of scorn. But Watson resists this response, and I agree, "Just consider for moment what you would be trashing," he says. "The active participation of people as a social group who have strong social ties, and that are embedded in a location or a venue. How can anyone complain about that?" Photo: me!

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Zuckerberg and Gates-Backed Startup Seeks To Shake Up African Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 12:00


theodp, Slashdot, Mar 20, 2015

The WSJ article is inaccessible due to a paywall, but the opinions expressed in this Slashdot are more worth reading in any case (scroll down to read it). Here's the summary: "The WSJ reports an army of teachers wielding Nook tablets and backed by investors including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg is on a mission to bring cheap [$6.50/month], internet-based, private education to millions of the world's poorest children in Africa and Asia. In Kenya, 126,000 students are enrolled at 400+ Bridge International Academies that have sprung up across the country since the company was founded in 2009. Bridge's founders are challenging the long-held assumption that governments rather than companies should lead mass education programs. The Nook tablets are used to deliver lesson plans used by teachers (aka "scripted instruction"), as well as to collect test results from students to monitor their progress."

Note that Slashdot discussions might offend some people. But some comments are quite good. For example: "Looking at our own educational systems, both in the US and Europe, I'm not too sure that we're the right one's to show the Africans how to do it properly." And, "Gates and Zuck want to farm the entire human race for wage slaves. The oligarchs want to pluck the best and brightest from wherever they may be and utilize them."

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Online Learning in Postsecondary Education: A Review of the Empirical Literature (2013 – 2014)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 10:00
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D. Derek Wu, Ithaka S+R, Mar 20, 2015

According to this article, the long-established 'no significant difference' between online and in-class learning outcomes is upheld. Yet "there remains a need for greater methodological rigor in the research on learning outcomes associated with online and hybrid instruction." On the one hand, I agree that academic research in the field is often poor (one of the studies cited is your typical "class of psychology students at a midwestern university"). On the other hand, I don't think the author is fair in his assessment of some of the better studies - the critiques, for example, of Xu and Jaggars (2014, "500,000 online and face-to-face courses taken by more than 40,000 degree-seeking students") are picky and pedantic.

Finally, I would add my usual caution that with online learning, we don't expect merely the same outcome, we expect different outcomes. A study like this is like comparing air and rail by distance travelled and on-time ratings, and finding no significant difference in the outcome. But when travelling by air, we travel much faster, and to locations not accessible by train, and a controlled point-for-point comparison would miss this result.

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Learning and Connectivism in MOOCs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 19:00

In this presentation I argue that learning a domain is like learning a language (as opposed to remembering facts and content) and presupposes the learning of various literacies; the talk then outlines the major literacies MOOCs are designed to support.

Hackademia, Online, to Brazil (Keynote) Mar 16, 2015 [Comment]
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Developing students’ digital literacies

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 19:00
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Grainne Conole, e4innovation.com, Mar 19, 2015

In my presentation today I discussed what I call the 'critical literacies' and put them in context with other aspects of the connectivist pedagogy I have been describing over the years. You can see this diagram here. This can be contrasted with 'digital literacy' (or any of the other literacies that have been touted over the years) which, from my perspective at least, represent content areas rather than literacies. So how do they get to be called literacies at all? Well I think if we see them in a certain light, we can see the relation. Here, for example, is a guide released last year by JISC on the seven elements of digital literacies. To understand them as literacies (or as elements of a literacy), we have to understand the critical literacies for each of those. This creates the following grid:

Why do I represent it this way? Well, I argue that the underlying literacies are the new literacies in today's environment. They are what traditional literacy, digital literacy, numeracy, emotional literacy, and all the other literacies have in common. To become digitally literate, you must become literate in syntax, semantics, and the rest. (I would also argue JISC should reconsider their categories - why put collaboration and carfeer together? Why join identity and career?)

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Pearson’s Yellow Brick Road

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 11:00
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Sarah Blaine, parentingthecore, Mar 19, 2015

"I have never been happier that we refused to allow my fourth grader to take the PARCC," writes Sarah Blaine. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the  storm that's beginning to build up against Pearson's practice of monitoring students' social media for discussion of 'test elements' (which might be as simple as stating that the test uses excerpts from The Wizard of Oz. And Blaine asks, "It seems an odd person who would choose to make his or her living by delving into individual children’ s social media use to the extent that the person can figure out the school the child attends." Image: Donna Mace.

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Five Labs Facebook Analysis

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 20:00
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Various authors, Five Labs, Mar 18, 2015

According to this analysis, my Facebook posts reveal that I am inventive, analytical, and reserved. All true but how accurate is the analysis? I have to wonder a bit about the categorization - for example, the key words the site uses to identify 'Agreeableness' include "prayers, awesome, lord, amazing, great, christ, thanksgiving, psalm, proverbs, christmas, amazing, church, praise" and the like. That may indicate religiosity, but I'm sure most people would not equate religiosity with agreeableness.

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Friend or faculty: Social networking sites, dual relationships, and context collapse in higher education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 17:00
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Cassidy Sugimoto, Carolyn Hank, Timothy Bowman, Jeffrey Pomerantz, First Monday, Mar 18, 2015

I'm not really happy with this article because it expends a lot of words while not really saying anything, but on the other hand I don't want to pass it by because it draws attention to - and is reflective of - the confusion that surrounds staff-student relations in online social media. I recall that when I first started university it was accepted - and common - for faculty to exchange a pint and off-hours conversation with students, while by the time I was teaching the practice had become much less common and was even discouraged a bit. The same sort of flux exists online, the uncertainty compounded by the fact (as the authors observe) that not all faculty-student relations are the same. And then there aree issues like academic freedom. I think as well the changing style of learning online - where faculty are seen less as authority figures and sometimes even as co-learners - changes the nature of social interactions online. Authority and friending probably don't go well together, but maybe learning and friending still do. (Some good reads in the references, such as  this item on friending in pharmacy class, this article on whether to friend, the  right to be forgotten ruling in Europe, and this  faculty ethics group on Facebook). (Image: The Student Years)

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Investing in Curation: A Shared Path to Sustainability - The 4C Roadmap

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 17:00
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Various authors, 4C, Mar 18, 2015

You will have to search around a bit and then use a little intuition to discern that '4C' stands for "Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation". Other than the issue of nomenclature, though, the road map describing the next five years of the project looks pretty good. Basically the idea is to take a systemic approach to curation costs, identifying and then requiring that cost-effective curation processes be required. "The costs, benefits and the business cases for doing so will be more widely understood across the curation lifecycle and by all relevant stakeholders. Cost modelling will be part of the planning and management activities of all digital repositories."

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I’m a 12-year-old girl. Why don’t the characters in my apps look like me?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 15:00
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Madeline Messer, Washington Post, Mar 18, 2015

This article caught my eye not only because it flags a pervasive issue in the gaming community but because it also reflects considerable interest and initiative by a 12-year old net-generation student. The bad news first: "Of the apps that did have gender-identifiable characters, 98 percent offered boy characters. What shocked me was that only 46 percent offered girl characters. Even worse, of these 50 apps, 90 percent offered boy characters for free, while only 15 percent offered girl characters for free." In one app, Disney’ s Temple Run Oz, it costs $29.97 to become the only girl character. There's no excuse for this; it's outrageous, and companies like Disney are (knowingly) creating long term  problems with this sort of policy (one wonders what their  education products look like). The good news is in the response: Madeline Messer, a student in the 6th grade, is taking on this inequality with a damning exposé in the Washington Post. That's the good that internet access for all can do

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How Valve's secret meeting got devs on board with Steam VR

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 15:00
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Jessica Conditt, Engadget, Mar 18, 2015

If I had to place my wager on whether usable VR will be created by either sketchy Kickstarter start-up Oculus Rift or game developers Valve, I'd place my money on Valve? Why? Well, Valve didn't enter the world by  betraying its supporters, it has a strong history of game development, and it has a  21st century management style. Plus, there's the Winnipeg connection, which means the [project has strong Canadian genes. Also, their stuff appears to work really well (after all, it it doesn't create nausea in the woman eight-months pregnant with twins, it probably won't create nausea in me).

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Philosophical Investigations

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 15:00
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Ludwig Wittgenstein, Mar 18, 2015

If you've never read Philosophical Investigations you owe it to yourself to do so. This is not an easy book; it doesn't have a neat narrative and structure (though Wittgenstein's students tried to create one when assembling the notes from which it is comprised). Take your time with it, read only a few pages a day. Pause to think of the implications of passages like this one: "The more narrowly we examine actual language, the sharper becomes the conflict between it and our requirement... Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language." (paras 107, 109) Or this: "A main source of our failure to understand is that we do not command a clear view of the use of our words.— Our grammar is lacking in this sort of perspicuity. A perspicuous representation produces just that understanding which consists in 'seeing connexions'." (para 122)

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We Do Have Memories of the Future; We Just Cannot Make Sense of Them

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 15:00
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Stephane Rogeau, PhilSciArchive, Mar 18, 2015

This paper is a conceptual exercise but it's important in its implications. Basically the idea is that it is theoretically possible to have memories of the future, because our recall of a memory is decoupled with the mechanism that created the memory. In this paper, the author argues that we would not be able to make sense of these memories of future events. Maybe not. But we have false memories, inaccurate memories, and yes, could have memories of future events. And it points to the fact that our memories - even vivid recollections of events and experiences - are reconstructions of sensory experiences. When we remember, it's like we relive an experience - but this experience has been recreated from scratch in the mind, and then is experienced anew, so that in our mind we see and feel and hear the experience (this is what we call consciousness (cf phantom limbs)).

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Innovative MOOCs Take Learning in New Directions

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 12:00
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Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, Mar 18, 2015

This article looks at a couple of specialized MOOC initiatives, one from the University of Michigan based on Coursera's expansion into China, and the other a non-MOOC MOOC initiative from Harvard on 'Small Private Online Courses' (SPOCs) directed toward alumni. The Michigan project is interesting, as the Chinese MOOC will yield a lot of new analytics data and will also enable instructors to hone their practice in a diverse environment. The SPOC work tells us some things we already knew: first, that email still works well as an engagement tool, and second, that online courses work well when they target already-established clubs or interest groups.

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Translation for massive open online courses to be developed by the traMOOC project

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 12:00
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Unattributed, Open Education Europa, Mar 18, 2015

According to this short report, "The traMOOC project launched in  February 2015 aims at tackling this impediment by developing high-quality automatic translation of various types of texts included in MOOCs from English into eleven European and BRIC languages." Automated translation is on the cusp of becoming everyday. In addition to the well-known Google project there are numerous focused research projects, including NRC's world-leading machine translation system called  Portage (which we will be integrating into LPSS). Where things really become interesting is when this is combined with speech recognition to create real-time video captioning. "The (traMOOC) project results will be showcased and tested on the Iversity MOOCplatform and on the VideoLectures.NET digital video lecture library." (Image)

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Walmart pledges $100 million to boost jobs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 12:00
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Patricia Sellers, Fortune, Mar 18, 2015

This story is revealing because of what WalMart says about the initiative as it launches it: "'The education-to-employment system is broken,' says Walmart Foundation president Kathleen McLaughlin... Harvard Business School’ s Bridge the Gap report details the pressing need: 51% of retailers have trouble filling middle-skills roles." It would also be nice to see the company raise wages further to provide a stimulus for people; there's not a lot of incentive to take training for a $9/hour job, but a return to the days when a person could make a decent living working in a store would be a welcome change in the social landscape.

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$1.55M MOOC Project to Expand Global Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 12:00
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Kellye Whitney, At Whit's End, Mar 18, 2015

I think it's interesting that a course review site has achieved enough legitimacy to be able to use its data to develop a MOOC-centric training network (I'm less thrilled that international development funds are diverted to do this). But maybe it will provide a lasting benefit. "The  U.S. Agency for International Development  (USAID) and  CourseTalk.com, an online course review company, are launching a two-year, $1.55 million project to expand quality education and career training globally..." The Technology & Social Change Group "will analyze more than 70,000 course CourseTalk  reviews from students to study awareness and usage of MOOCs among 18 to 35 year olds in Colombia, the Philippines and South Africa."

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Coursera's Stiglitz: MOOC revolution is just beginning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 12:00
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Roger Riddell, EducationDive, Mar 18, 2015

Coursera's  director of business and market development Julia Stiglit says the MOOC revolution is not over. "I think it’ s just beginning. I really do... It’ s something that’ s still evolving, but the place where I see Coursera and MOOCs in right now is in the space of lifelong learners, who are really looking for educational opportunities." I think that open online learning will continue, and maybe even a form created specifically for older learners who like traditional courses. My vision of the future of open online learning, though, is wider than this.

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