Miscellaneous

Are We on the Verge of a New Golden Age?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 11:46

Carlota Perez, Leo Johnson, Art Kleiner, Strategy+Business, Oct 13, 2017

I would like to believe that the answer to the question in the headline is 'yes', but I have far less faith in cycles than economists and astrologers. In any case, that's the logic being applied here, as it traces through five technological waves (industry, steam, electricity, oil, and information) and observes a cycle of distruption, crisis and prosperity. What the author doesn't menton is that each of these waves (except ours, so far) is punctuated with a major war: Napoleonic, Civil, WWI, WWII. So let's maybe hope that we break out of the cycle this time. Having said that, and having expressed a proper scepticism, it does remain true that each wave (including ours) has resulted in a wave of increased prosperity and well-being world-wide. 

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Google created a fun way to learn about simple AI

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 11:27

Devindra Hardawar, Engadget, Oct 13, 2017

Google's Teachable Machine is a fun little tool from Google that uses artificial intelligence to let you train it on a few simple gesture-based commands. The appeal is the simplicity of the interface, but the potential for a new range of alternative interfaces is huge. "Teachable Machine conveys just how important pattern recognition is becoming in the technology world. It's used in photo apps to recognize faces and objects, but it also powers supercomputers like IBM's Watson."

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The “P” in PLN

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 20:25

Doug Peterson, doug - off the record, Oct 12, 2017

Doug Peterson sees the essence of personal learning: "In so many ways, learning with online folks is the antithesis of the traditional professional learning model. Here, you determine the time you want to engage. You determine the topics you wish to explore. You decide when to turn off the noise. You determine which links, videos, or blog posts shared are of interest. You decide where you need to grown and learn. You decide just how deeply you need to dive to fully understand. You decide who your presenter or folks for a group discussion will be. You decide when someone is just a puppet for edu-babble and ignore them. You decide when to turn the computer off." This is the fract of online learning. It's also how people online learn.

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This Is How the World Will Shop by 2025

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 15:21

Juan Martinez, PC Magazine, Oct 12, 2017

2025 is only eight years away, and it's not clear that large parts of the world (including possibly Puerto Rico) will even have reliable power and water by then, so the definition of "world" in this article is very narrow (and probably a 25-block radius around the author's house). The shopping scenario isn't realistic either: your house detects when you've run out of something and automatically orders a replacement. Now tell me that wouldn't be abused by marketers and advertisers! For example: "Your connected razor will know when its blades have gone rusty." No. It will tell you your blades are rusty. But it will be lying! All these things that work automatically (including educational technology) will not be working for our benefit. They will be selling - hard selling - to us.

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'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 13:43

Paul Lewis, The Guardian, Oct 11, 2017

I remember having a conversation once with a friend who was having an existential crisis because she wasn't sure whether any of her thoughts were her own. She had realized (as do I) the extent to which her ideas, beliefs and habits were influenced, even controlled, by external influences. This was before the days of Facebook addition, but all the means were still present: online and mass media, social pressures, the news hype cycle, expectations at home or in the office. So while this article describes the phenomenon on social media addition, my perspective is that it's the same story in new clothing. Since when has social approval not been addictive? Since when has this not been leveraged by advertisers, educators and propagandists to entice people into working against their own best interests? I think of the Civitus Vetus of Rome, the playing grounds of Eton, and the halls of West Point all in the same breath. The only thing that changes is who is in charge.

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Invisible skills

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 13:30

Alastair Creelman, The corridor of uncertainty, Oct 11, 2017

Summry and a bit of commentary on the Skills, Competencies and Credentials report from Alan Harrison (Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario) referenced here last week. The key bit is this: "Universities must come to terms with two facts: their undergraduate programs are where general skills are developed and second, it is these skills that make the graduates of these programs employable." Universities test for the content of these courses, but it isn't the content thata makes them employable, it's the skills. What sort of skills? Well, that's where everybody gets really vague: they include things like critical thinking, communication, collaboration, resreach and learning how to learn, and the like. But instead of enumerating the skills, both Harrison and Creelman focus on assessing them. "The answer lies probably in providing more comprehensive credentials that describe both the knowledge and skills acquired."

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The Open Home Lab Stack

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 12:56

Mighty Womble, HackerNoon, Oct 11, 2017

Eventually all of this will be a black box, and we'll work with features and services rujnning on top of it, but it's useful to look at the details now, so we can understand the capacities that will be avaiklable in the future. What Mighty Womble describes is essentially a hub for virtualized services; these services will be available to any device or appliance in your home or on your network, and they will support your interactions with the rest of the world. There are too many layers to list, but important ones include the virtual servers, storage and directories, firewalls, routers, VPNs, security, and authentication. These are the things that today an enterprise infrastructure contains, but what's described here is almost all open source, which means it is affordable for individual users, and eventually will be paxkaged for them. 

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Introducing Education Resources, a source of Open Educational Resources within Office 365

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 20:38

Microsoft, Oct 09, 2017

"Open Up Resources is a nonprofit working to develop the highest quality full-course OER curricula," according to this announcement, and "Microsoft Education is offering this curriculum through OneNote Forms and custom dashboards." This is the sort of thing I've been lookinbg to see more of - the idea is that open educational resources can be used in other applications by students or teachers as stuff they can use to create things. This works on all levels. "Teachers can distribute the Illustrative Mathematics course materials on any device via OneNote. Students can write, draw, collaborate and save their work automatically in a personal digital notebook. Real-time collaboration can occur around the materials: teacher-to-class, teacher-to-student, and student-to-student. OneNote Class Notebooks integrate seamlessly with common LMS and SIS platforms." Now I haven't tested this, but it's the ambition that interests me here far more than the execution.

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Elements of a Successful Panel

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 18:56

Academic panels are often awful. It's not just their all-white all-male constitution. They are self-indulgent, inward looking, dull, pretentious and boring. Duncan Green writes, "They end up being a parade of people reading out papers, or they include terrible powerpoints crammed with too many words and illegible graphics." In the aggregate, all the elements in this article are equally important for successful panels, and the omission of one or another in each case represents a specific sort of blindness to form and function in society.

, , Oct 06, 2017 [Link]
Enclosure: Panel_of_Experts.JPG
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Categories: Miscellaneous

Skills, Competencies and Credentials

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 12:00

Alan Harrison, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, Oct 09, 2017

The current system of courses, grades and transcripts does not serve students well, according to a recent report (24 page PDF) from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. "While the current system does an excellent job documenting students’ knowledge of content, it provides neither students nor potential employers with an overview of the skills they have developed while studying." What's interesting is that this would suggest not merely a different system for documenting aachievement, but also completely new assessment metrics. This would in turn change the objective of higher education from that of imparting knowledge to that of training for skills. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if we're going to open the door to renegotiate the purpose of universities, we need to have more options on the table, because higher education is about more than just skills and competencies.

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ResearchGate: Publishers Take Formal Steps to Force Copyright Compliance

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 11:30

Robert Harington, The Scholarly Kitchen, Oct 09, 2017

A time-honoured principle among researchers is the sharing of individual copies of published papers. One researcher says to the other, "Oh, could I have a copy of that?" and the other happily obliges. Like everything else that is good, this was automated and commodified on the internet and turned into sites like ResearchGate and Academia. Now requests for papers go through these centralized social networks, and the networks, in turn, ask you to upload your published papers. The sites also aggregate copies of open access publications. I don't like it because they force readers to log in to access the papers. Publishers don't like it because they think it's piracy, and they have formed a coalition to fight the practice: "the Coalition for Responsible Sharing, which includes publishers and societies ready to take action, ranging from legal requests asking ResearchGate to remove infringing articles, to litigation.

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Our eyes are drawn to meaning, not shiny objects

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 20:49

Andy Fell, Futurity, Oct 07, 2017

We're looking at something, a display in a classroom or video, say. "How do we decide where to direct our attention, without thinking about it?" Well, we don't 'decide', because that just is a cognitive process. But our attention is directed. To what? Bright and shiny things? Not so much. The right answer is 'salience', which in this article is depicted as 'meaningful'. Something is salient if it is important or connected to what is happening or being discussed (see a much deeper account of this in Stalnaker's Thesis in Context). Sadly the paper cited in this short article is behind a paywall, but you can find similar work by the same author in this paper on scan patterns. Of course, some of these principles have been old saws in graphic design for decades. See also here and here for the same content as repeated in Futurity (the original source is probably the publisher's marketing department).

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Why Canada’s New Cultural Policy Will Be Terrible for the Arts

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 20:38

Ira Wells, The Walrus, Oct 07, 2017

I don't agree with this argument, but let's hear it out. The context is a recent Canadian government "$500 million deal with Netflix to establish a permanent production presence in this country." A lot of this money will end up in the pockets of Canadian aretists. So what's the problem? "It’s that it treats those artists as tech entrepreneurs. The ethos of Silicon Valley is encoded into the very dna of our new policy framework. Artists, says Creative Canada, are valued not for the art they produce but for 'playing a critical role in driving innovation.' The plan answers the call “for developing the business, technology and entrepreneurial skills of Canadian artists and creators... (but)  Creative Canada profoundly misunderstands the place of art and culture in our society. No lasting or meaningful monument of Canadian art will ever emerge from the desire to benefit the middle class.”

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Want Change In Education? Look Beyond The Usual Suspects (Like Finland)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 16:50

Anya Kamenetz, NPR, Mind/Shift, Oct 07, 2017

I know Anya Kamenetz means well, but her examination of global initiatives to improve education collapses into a raft of tired rhetoric. It starts off well, identifying two major problems: first, too many children around the world are not learning the basics, and second, the basics are no longer sufficient to prepare us for a changing world. But after stating the problem, the clichés flow unabated: students need to "find motivation and meaning, and take a playful attitude that makes it safe to try and fail.... schooling is fundamentally a human enterprise... Change can’t just be a matter of mass-producing some technological marvel and pushing it to market... it has to be both/and... kids can learn small things on the way to big things... We’re not doing poor kids any favors by the drill-and-kill method... Leapfrogging isn’t about supplanting traditional schools...  the need to change how they do business... Identifying great ideas is one thing, but getting them to spread is another... they often don’t even know much about what the teacher down the hall is doing... thinking about new ways for teachers to collaborate and co-teach... We’re moving to a global world." Gak! Gak! Gak gak gak! No more, please!

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How Machine Learning Is Easing OER Pain Points

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 15:39

David Raths, Campus Technology, Oct 07, 2017

One of the issues I have with so many education technology projects, especially in the area of OER, is the reduction of the education problem to a search or discoverability problem. That's mostly what's happening here, and mostly how the application of machine learning to education is characterized generally. The holy grail of these applications seems to be Netflix. But we don't want to simply watch or consume learning resources, we want to do things and create things. But even thinking is treated as a search problem in this article: "If you are thinking about a topic, the machine can say, 'well based on that, have you thought about x?'" No, no, that's not how we think and learn.

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New Quality Measurement Initiatives

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 14:36

Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates, Oct 07, 2017

Interesting article describing to recent approaches to evaluations of institutional quality: one from the Netherlands called "Measuring and Comparing Achievements of Learning Outcomes in Higher Education in Europe" (CALOHEE) which (interestingly) assesses each institution measures outcomes according to the objectives set at each institution. The other, from the United States, is the A Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Learning Outcomes Assessment (MSC) which "samples of ordinary student course work are scored according to various rubrics designed over a decade or more (see here for more on the rubrics and here for a very good Chronicle article on the project as a whole)." Alex Usher also asserts, incorrectly, that "how none of it (measurable accountability) is happening in Canada, which is demonstrably false.

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How Communities of Inquiry Drive Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 14:21

Terry Anderson, Contact North, Oct 07, 2017

Terry Anderson revisits the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model and looks at some more recent suggestions for extensions and revisions in this paper (16 page PDF) produced for Contact North in advance of the upcoming World Conference in Distance Learning in a couple of weeks (yes, I will be there). It's one of a series of insight reports being produced for the conference (yes, I contributed one, to be released soon). "Humans evolved in groups (mostly families and larger kin and tribal groups)" writes Anderson, "and these have evolved to create the social glue that facilitates learning and enhances motivation in the COI model. The continuing popularity of the model, through different technologies, shows that group based learning is still highly valued and the most common way in which at least young people engage in both formal and informal learning."

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Is it time for a Photoshop button on Instagram?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 11:12

Isaac Fanin, BBC News, Oct 07, 2017

There is discussion this week about the role of Photoshop after a new French law stipulates that "it will be mandatory to use the label ‘retouched photo’ alongside any photo used for commercial purposes when the body of a model has been modified by an image-editing software to either slim or flesh out her figure." In this post British actress Mel Wells argues that the thinking should be extended. ""The aspirational body types are just not realistic for 95% of the population and because of that it's really damaging people's self-esteem." But almost all photographs are altered, without an editing history it's difficult to tell whether a body has been reshaped or whether a blue hue created by the camera has been corrected. But it's worth keeping this in mind: advertising is the original fake news.

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Wikipedia graph mining: dynamic structure of collective memory

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 20:55

Volodymyr Miz, Oct 06, 2017

A lot of AI analysis consists in taking individual entities and then making graphs out of them through training or making categories using some sort of algorithm like Nearest Neighbours (kNN). What I am interested in, though, is understanding the graph that is already created by the interactions of people online (and in society generally). A good example of this is shown in this paper. The author examines the Wikipedia graph through time and across various events. We see society working the way a mind works. "We see that the core events trigger relevant memories." 

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Analysis of the Top 200 Tools for Learning 2017

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 20:44

Jane Hart, Oct 06, 2017

Jane Hart offers a brief analysis of the list of the top 200 tools for lerarning posted here yesterday. Mostly what we find is that pretty much everyone on the list is an educator or developer of some sort (ie., not a student). So these aren't tools for learning per se but tools for people who work in the education industry. She also points to top 3 risers: Unsplash (up 71 places), Grammarly (up 70 places) and Snapchat (up 64 places). I didn't list any of these because none of them are very high on the list. She notes, correctly I think, that "messaging apps and team tools are particularly on the rise." This to me points to a trend toward work (and maybe learning) taking place more frequently outside formal learning environments rather than inside them.

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