Miscellaneous

For-Profit Involvement in OER - Part 6

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 04/22/2017 - 13:00


Dan McGuire, Apr 22, 2017

More on Lumen Learning. "The $10-$25 per course that Lumen-Follett is collecting to provide the 'packaging' for free OER courses is a steep price," writes Dan McGuire. "The 'packaging' is essential to good open educational practice and not really 'packaging' or 'added value;' it's essential value."

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Of Progress, Problems, and Partnerships

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 22:00


David Wiley, iterating toward openness, Apr 21, 2017

So we know now why students will have to pay for Lumen learning's new 'open' educational resources. "The partnership also adds, for the first time, the option for students to pay Lumen’ s course support fee rather than the institution. (Previously our model only allowed institutions to pay these fees, and that has made it difficult for some schools to work with us.)" Note the use of the passive voice ("the option to pay...") which suggests that this is something students would voluntarily choose. I'm glad David Wiley is excited, because I'm not. Will the students who opt not to pay still have access to the materials? Or is Lumen now just the Wal-Mart of learning?

In another post,  Wiley answers the questions  pose directly: "No one is ever denied access to the OER in Lumen courses for any reason.... If you don’ t pay, what you won’ t have access to are personalization features, assessments, teacher analytic and communications tools, LMS integration, gradebook write back, and things like that." That's very nice, but: in the case where institutions have chosen to have students given 'the option' can they just get their $25 back? No, clearly not. There isn't any option except to pay the cost (though the cost is now putatively for personalization, etc).

Phil Hill also has an  extended post on the story, but given the close relationship between MindWires and the companies involved I'm not going to consider it arm's length coverage.

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University of California researchers make lithium ion batteries last five to ten times longer

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 19:00


Jayson MacLean, CanTech Letter, Apr 21, 2017

Because of concerns about the  availability of lithium I am not sanguine about this technology in general for the long term. I expect carbon (and more specifically, graphene) to offer a long-term solution. But meanwhile this looks like a nice advance in battery technology. "The new approach came about when researchers coated their lithium ion battery with an organic compound called methyl viologen which form a stable coating on the metal electrode and can eliminate dendrite growth, substantially increasing the battery’ s life and stabilizing its performance." As this article makes clear, though, there are grounds for scepticism. It’ s kind of like cold fusion. Here is an experiment that is unbelievable,” said Dahn, to Quartz Media. “ There could be a small possibility that it is right.”

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Putting data in the hands of students

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 19:00


Timothy Harfield, Blackboard Blog, Apr 21, 2017

This is a key point: "Largely absent from mainstream conversations about educational data and student success is a consideration of the role of the student as a learner." It's not surprising to research underline the importance of this. "Providing learners with relevant analytics can increase their performance by fostering self-regulated learning, particularly among otherwise low-performing students." This is the thinking behind 'quantified self' and self-help applications such as fitness monitors. So it's no surprise to this eventually reaching the LMS.

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University to monitor student social media to gauge well-being

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 19:00


Richard Vaughan, iNews, Apr 21, 2017

This is a couple of weeks old but I don't want to let it pass without comment. The interesting thing here isn't that the school is using analytics to help students succeed - this is becoming common - but rather that they are  drawing content not only from the LMS but also from social networks. "The move is being considered as part of the private university’ s plans to become a 'positive' place of learning, which will teach students modules in mindfulness and positive psychology." The contribution of social media data is, of course, optional. For now.

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Hills Like White Elephants

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 19:00


Ernest Hemingway, Stephen Downes, Apr 20, 2017

Audio recording. I read Ernest Hemingway's 'Hills Like White Elephants'. Just for you. :)

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Open Word—The Podcasting Story

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 19:00


Doc Searls, Doc Searls Weblog, Apr 20, 2017

Doc Searls offers a slightly revisionist history of podcasting, giving us the background but omitting any mention of Adam Curry. A podcast, properly so-called, is an MP3 file the URL of which is distributed through an RSS feed. Curry's first podcast (I think it's this in 2004 but it might be earlier) software used the enclosure tag, first  documented by Dave Winer in 2001. My own  Ed Radio instead scraped the RSS feed for any reference to an MP3, which it then rendered in a playable SMIL file. I don't remember Christopher Lydon being involved in the invention of podcasting at all, and his Radio Open Source doesn't launch until 2005, though I guess Searls, Winer and David Weinberger knew him. Today, it is true, there is no single 'podcast' application, which is great. On the other hand, people have taken to calling any audio file a 'podcast', which is less great. It's a podcast only if it is syndicated; otherwise, it's just an audio file. See also iPodder, from 2005. The  modern version of Ed Radio still runs to this day.

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The Rise of Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomenon

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 19:00


D'Arcy Norman, D'Arcy Norman Dot Com, Apr 20, 2017

D'Arcy Norman summarizes and reviews The Rise of Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomeno by George Veletsianos and Rolin Moe in EDUCAUSE, an article worth reading in its own right. The EDUCAUSE article makes three major assertions:

  • The edtech phenomenon is a response to the increasing price of higher education (aka 'market-driven')
  • The edtech phenomenon reflects a shift in political thought from government to free-market oversight of education (aka 'privatized')
  • The edtech phenomenon is symptomatic of a view of education as a product to be packaged, automated, and delivered (aka 'commodified').

Now as I read this article I became increasingly agitated. This is because I have been involved in educational technology my entire life and yet none of these statements is true regarding my own method and motivation. As Norman says, "it’ s important to make a distinction between 'online courses and commercial MOOCs' and 'educational technology'." People who identify educational technology with privatized commodified market-driven education, as Veletsianos and Moe do, are part of the problem, as they lead people to believe there can be no benign educational technology, which is a pernicious message to spread.

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Follett and Lumen Learning to Expand Adoption of OER Courseware

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 19:00


Lumen Learning, Apr 20, 2017

I received email from David Wiley today announcing this partnership with Follett, a company that manages college bookstores. The crux of the announcement is here: "Follett will make Lumen Learning’ s OER courseware available to institutions... students pay low-cost Lumen course support fees ranging from $10 to $25, far less than the average cost of a commercial textbook." I ask: what if students don't want to pay money for these 'open' educational resources? Are they denied access? Isn't this exactly one of those closed marketplaces people said  would never happen? This is why I defend the use of the non-commercial clause in open educational resources. Image:  Tahleasin Skye

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Can There Be a Microscope of the Mind?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 16:00


Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, Apr 20, 2017

This is a valuable post because it brings together and explains a number of elements of what we might call a  cognitivist theory of mind. From where I sit, though, it brings together a lot of nonsense, and the overall theory of mind proposed here is seriously flawed. 

Here's the theory, in a nutshell: cognitive processes (like encoding, planning, solving) are mirrored  by brain processes (or, reductively, cognitive processes  are brain processes). These processes can be observed using  Functional  Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). fMRI is limited, but various types of machine learning (ML) are used to analyze the images "to create a fingerprint of brain activity that is distinctively correlated with a particular mental state." Knowing that these are cognitive processes, we can now fill in the gaps in a sequence of images using prior probability.

So, why do I say this is nonsense?  There is no good reason to suppose cognitive processes are mirrored by brain processes. What Feldstein describes here is equivalent to using heat maps of hard drives to understand the narrative structure of Moby-Dick. Nothing in the former bears any resemblance to the latter. This is because 'narrative structure' is an interpretation of the data, and not inherent in the data. It  seems to us that Ahab is obsessed with the great whale, but no study of the hard drive will ever uncover that obsession.

And the key to why this is nonsense is actually found in the statement of the theory. When we process fMRI images, why don't we use a sequence of 'encoding, planning, solving...'? There's no way to actually do that; the data underdetermines our choice of cognitive structure. That's why we use machine learning. But suppose  humans use  machine learning? After all, machine learning is based on neural networks! But if humans use machine learning, then the cognitive processes the fMRI analysis supposedly reveals  don't actually exist. It's like we're studying clouds, and asking our software to find images of bunnies in the cloud, and then concluding "we have discovered that clouds contain bunnies."

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The Cuomo College Fiasco

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 16:00


David Brooks, New York Times, Apr 20, 2017

David Brooks hauls out all the old chestnuts in this criticism of New York's free tuition plans. Let's review:

  • It doesn't do enough for poor people (they already get free tuition, it doesn't cover part time students, etc)
  • It harms for-profit colleges
  • it demotivates students, because people value only what they pay for

Now of course it is a matter of logic that these three can't all be true at once. If  it's a problem that it doesn't help poor students, for example, then it is not demotivating them. They  can all be false at the same time, but in fact, they are not all false. Free tuition  will hurt private fee-charging colleges. But if it comes to a choice between helping the poor and supporting private colleges, I choose the former.

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There Are No New Social Networks

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:00


Molly McHugh, The Ringer, Apr 20, 2017

The answer to the question in the title is succinctly given by Niv Dror: “ Once an app becomes significant enough to pose a threat to the big players, they either get acquired or significantly handicapped by a competitive feature or restricted access.” This we might call 'normal ecosystem' (styled after Kuhn's 'normal science'). Eventually there will be sufficient dissonance in the normal to generate what we might call an 'ecosystem revolution'. But what's key is that the new ecosystem will be incommensurate with the existing ecosystem. Instead of depending on Facebook and Twitter and the rest it will replace them.

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Democratizing digital learning: theorizing the fully online learning community model

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 16:00


Todd J. B. Blayone, Roland vanOostveen, Wendy Barber, Maurice DiGiuseppe, Elizabeth Childs, International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, Apr 17, 2017

From the abstract: "As a divergent fork of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model, FOLC describes collaborative learning as a symbiosis of social and cognitive interactions amplified through effective use of synchronous and asynchronous digital affordances." According to the authors, "The underlying argument is that self-regulating and transformative learning communities can be established and sustained in fully online environments." I don't think the original CoI authhors would have ever disputed that. So what makes FOLC different? The "foregrounding democratized and emancipatory learning processes that are adaptable to the socio-cultural context of institutions and learners." This is a point where I've felt some tension with CoI (Garrison, for example, saying "strong communities must build upon strong pedagogic leadership.")

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A Marketplace in Confusion

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 16:00


Rick Seltzer, Inside Higher Ed, Apr 17, 2017

This article takes the perspective of private colleges that are reacting with concern after the state's announcement of a free college tuition program. They "reacted with a mix of dismay, confusion, criticism and, in some cases, resolve in the days after New York leaders struck a deal to start a tuition-free public college program this fall." At the same time, public universitties in the state are launching a  major expansion of OER programs (which make much more sense once tuition is free). “ This isn’ t a nice one-off innovation,” Hatch said. “ This is something that can be incredibly impactful for our students. If you can save students $700 a semester, that’ s a month’ s rent.”

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Why VR Is Failing

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 16:00


Rob Enderle, E-Commerce Times, Apr 17, 2017

It might be a bit early to say that virtual reality (VR) is "failing" but the arguments in this article are sound (and have been the basis behind my own caution to fully embrace the technology (as much as I really really want to)). "Where VR gets into trouble is in RPGs (role-playing games) and FPSes (first-person shooters). This is because when VR demands movement from the player, it gets not only less realistic but also dangerous."

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It’s Time to Mobilize Around a New Approach to Educational Assessment

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 16:00


Alvin Vista, Esther Care, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Apr 17, 2017

We know there are better models of assessment than they typical tests and assignments being used today. Even so, these models are not changing rapidly at all. So what's going on? "It seems to us," write the authors, "that both the education (including educational assessment) and economics fields face two primary barriers... 1. The status quo is more profitable for those with vested interests... 2.T here’ s not enough of an impetus to drive change. Essentially, the public does not see that there’ s reason enough to bring the necessary pressure to bear to cause the shift." While I'd love to believe that the public would be able to drive change, I don't. That leaves the first reason as the only reason. So long as the vested interests are making the decisions, the models of assessment won't change. The solution is obvious, but not really explored by the authors.

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Burger King Ad Creates Whopper of a Mess for Google Home

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 16:00


Richard Adhikari, E-Commerce Times, Apr 17, 2017

This is funny in a couple of ways. First, it's funny because the Burger King television spot succeeded in prompting Google Home to look up 'whopper burger' and read back the response to people. See also: "I love the little girl saying 'Alexa order me a dollhouse,' during a newscast." Oh course, this is not behaviour want from their audio interface, so Google needs to think about how to prevent random activations. But it's also funny because Burger King, in relying on Wikipedia for content, made it possible for people to insert their own content into the response. "Internet trolls struck minutes after the ad debuted... editing the Wikipedia entry to describe the burger variously as 'cancer-causing' or 'a chocolate candy'." The unfunny part isn't the damage caused to the companies involved, but rather, the increasing incursion of corporate media into private spaces.

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New machine learning models can detect hate speech and violence from texts

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 16:00


Myriam Douce Munezero, Phys.org, Apr 17, 2017

This dissertation presents "a framework that can be used for the automatic detection of antisocial behavior in text. The framework is based on the emotion and language theories." I'd call this an early study as it depends on models of anti-social behaviour and then detects for them; a fuller study would develop its own models to capture a wider range of anti-social content. Still, we can see how this is useful in the context of online and learning communities. Via Helge Scherlund.

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New Systems, Old Thinking

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 04/16/2017 - 16:00


George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset, Apr 16, 2017

The point of this article is that we have to get past old systems of thinking when we employ new technology. Couldn't agree more. But does the example make that point? George Couros writes that ionstead of saving all his stuff in folders (which is the old way of thinking) he just saves it wherever and makes sure it is tagged (that's the new way). But tagging - ie., metadata - seems to me to be fraught with peril. At least you can reorganize or split folders, but if you need to adapt materials to a new tag then you have no way to do it. My own method is to write a short description and then use regular expressions; this allows me to make new categories out of old materials even if the new tag hasn't been developed yet.

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Building APIs for the University and the Student

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 04/16/2017 - 16:00


David Raths, Campus Technology, Apr 16, 2017

Creating an API for a university system is more of a challenge than you might think. ""The inconsistency was such that if you wanted to write a mobile app that dealt with a student, it was possible you would have to deal with 25 different APIs using five different identifiers, and multiple data formats." Yeah. And that's for a small university. Picture now a large enterprise or a government. But you start with some services, and eventually you have a single consistent interface. Start simple and expand as you go.

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