Miscellaneous

View From Nowhere

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00
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Nathan Jurgenson, The New Inquiry, Oct 13, 2014

Interesting article commenting on Dataclysm, "a new book-length expansion of OkCupid president Christian Rudder's earlier blog-posted observations about the anomalies of his dating service’ s data set." OkCupid is a matching site which posed questions to men and women and pairs them with their best matches. The data produced by the responses and other activities are mined for insights into human interactions. Nathan Jurgenson likens the approach employed by this site and other Big Data enterprises with the 19th and 20th century philosophy of positivism, which is the idea that the "world can be known and explained from a value-neutral, transcendent view from nowhere in particular." This is a very light and not altogether accurate take on positivism, but it set the stage nicely for a criticism of the hubris and ethical ambivalence demonstrated by big data enterprises.

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Nigeria: How Policy Somersaults, Corruption, Indiscipline Plague Public Schools, By Educationists

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00
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Ujunwa Atueyi, allAfrica, Oct 13, 2014

I can't reconcile the hadline with the story, which is about Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Massive Oppen Online Courses (MOOCs) in Nigeria. Here's the gist: "When courses are converted to OER, they are delivered as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)." Which is an interesting (though not totally accurate) take. The context is a talk by Abel Caine on the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) conversion of some of its courses to OER. "OER would create a platform for NOUN to share their huge intellectual wealth so that other educational institutions within Nigeria, Africa and globally could use them free of cost, as well as with the legal freedom to adapt them," Caine stated.

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Do the social sciences need a shake-up?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00
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Amanda Goodall, Andrew Oswald, Times Higher Education, Oct 13, 2014

This reminds me of the call not so long ago to reform the teaching of economics. Students in that discipline issued a  manifesto calling for the teaching of less orthodox (and hopefully more accurate) theories. In this case, though, the call comes from an  editorial in the New York Times from  Nicholas Christakis,  head of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University. "The social  sciences have stagnated," he writes. "They offer essentially the same set of academic departments and disciplines that they have for nearly 100 years... social scientists too often miss the chance to declare victory and move on to new frontiers." He wants them to move on from studying "classic topics like monopoly power, racial profiling and health inequality" and instead learn from Yale and Harvard and teach things like "biosocial science, network science, neuroeconomics, behavioral genetics and computational social science." But iws nomenclature really the problem? Goodall and Oswald respond, "What principally matters is whether social scientists are doing their job of helping humans to understand the world and improve life." And it's worth noting that institutions like Yale and Harvard have the effect of preserving monopoly power and inequality, precisely by closing discussion of these topics.

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Microsoft and Other Firms Pledge to Protect Student Data

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 00:00
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Natasha Singer, New York Times, Oct 10, 2014

It may be too early to say that vendors have gone into panic mode, but the idea of large-scale learning analytics is taking a (well-deserved) hit this week as the idea founders on the rocks of individual privacy. The California student privacy statute was signed into law last week by Governor Jerry Brown. And now, Microsoft and several other companies are swearing they won't invade student privacy. "The participating companies are publicly committing themselves not to sell information on kindergartners through 12th graders. They have also pledged not to use students’ data to target them with advertisements, and not to compile personal profiles of students unless authorized by schools or parents." So... do we believe them? Not me.

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A special issue of First Monday on the 15–year anniversary of Napster — Digital music as boundary object

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 00:00
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Raphaël Nowak, Andrew Whelan, First Monday, Oct 10, 2014

It has been fifteen years since Napster - it seems like yesterday to me, it was such a defining moment, yet now it's history. First Monday has published a special issue on Napster, and has done so in fine form, taking MP3 files and interpreting them as 'boundary objects' - "the phrase 'boundary object' can be used to refer to nodal events or entities, situated at the junctures of distinct discourses and distinct local cultures and social realities." I like that notion a lot, and it places MP3s into the same genre as, say, LOLcats.

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Creating a Learning Network

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 21:00
[Slides][Audio]

In this presentation I describe in detail how I created Ed Radio, OLDaily, the first MOOCs, and how I am taking the same distributed and networked approach to develop a personal learning network known as LPSS.

ABED (Brazilian Association of Distance educationP), Curitiba, Brazil (Keynote) Oct 07, 2014 [Comment]
Categories: Miscellaneous

Open Definition 2.0 released

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 21:00


Timothy Vollmer, Creative Commons, Oct 10, 2014

I think that the 'Open Definition' people are doing a lot of harm to the open content movement by defining 'open' in such a way as to exclude non-commercial license (and hence, most of the open content in the world).

The new revised open definition is: "Any content released under an Open Definition-conformant license means that anyone can 'freely access, use, modify, and share that content, for any purpose, subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness.'" When I actually look at the definition, though, I see it still needs work. It's the usual problem. Consider these terms:

  • 2.1.2 Redistribution - The license must allow redistribution of the licensed work, including sale, whether on its own or as part of a collection made from works from different sources.
  • 2.1.9 No Charge - The license must not impose any fee arrangement, royalty, or other compensation or monetary remuneration as part of its conditions.

It's hard for me to imagine any scenario in which both those conditions can be true at the same time. The sale of a work is the imposition of a restriction which prevents access unless money is paid.

Now in his introduction Timothy Vollmer says "it’ s helpful to be able to point policymakers and data publishers to a neutral, community-supported definition with a list of approved licenses for sharing content and data." But he gets it exactly wrong. The community does not support this definition; only the commercial publishers do. And slapping a price tag on content is the exact opposite of 'open'.

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edX Now Offers Professional Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 09:00


Anant Agarwal, EdX, Oct 10, 2014

While  promising that "delivering free education to everyone, everywhere will always be our focus," EdX has launched a series of 'professional' MOOCs for which fees will be charged. And they're not cheap.  This course at Rice, for example, costs $495 for a four week course. It's hard to see how "free" will remain the focus.  Other courses are equally pricey. According to EdX CEO  Anant Agarwal, "Corporations have approached edX and our partners looking for specialized courses to arm their employees with knowledge necessary to stay at the forefront of their industries." Yeah. Their arms were twisted. Via Financial Review.

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Jason Kenney tells private sector: stop 'freeloading', invest in training

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 09:00
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Jason Fekete, Ottawa Citizen, Oct 09, 2014

The federal government is coming around to my way of thinking. :) Here's Employment Minister Jason Kenney speaking to a conference in Ottawa: "At the end of the day, yes, I’ m a Conservative and I stand up in front of business audiences and say, ‘ You guys have been, to some extent, freeloading on the public training system.’ We need to see businesses put more resources into skills development.” He's quite right, and one of the major objectives of  LPSS is to develop a way for business and industry to make this investment in a way that both servers their own interests and also benefits students.

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A few comments on MOOCs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 09:00


Linda Harasim, online learning and distance eductaion resources, Oct 09, 2014

A long-time proponent of online learning (and co-editor of the 1995 book Learning Networks) Linda Harasim is openly critical of MOOCs, and notably, in this comment on a Tony Bates post, argues that cMOOCs are no better than xMOOCs. "One of the things that baffles me about the whole MOOC phenomenon," she writes, "is the 'magical thinking' that surrounds this concept and its various articulations... Siemens and Downes propound a disturbing quality to technology, one in which technology becomes an active participant in the learning process. And not merely an active participant but inevitably superior agent." The whole comment is worth a read. I respond here.

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MOOC U: The Revolution Isn't Over

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 09:00
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Jeffrey Selingo, Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct 09, 2014

I generally agree with Jeffrey Selingo in this post, especially on the main point, and that's because the big push for MOOCs isn't coming from the supply side, it's coming from the demand side. People want (in massive numbers) open online learning. The challenges ahead relate to how traditional educational institutions will handle this demand. How, for example, says Selingo, will they define 'open'? "MOOCs are not really open in a way that allows anyone to adapt and redistribute courses or that allows open collaboration among users... Andrew Ng of Coursera told me he wants to run courses more frequently and to allow the content to always be available. But that means colleges and faculty members would need to allow intellectual property to live online indefinitely."

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Updated Report Version 3: Personalization vs. Differentiation vs. Individualization

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 00:00


Barbara Bray, Personalize Learning, Oct 07, 2014

We're getting into the leading edge of a terminological whirlwind as technology increasingly offers us ways to personalize, I mean individualize, um, whatever, education. Now when I write about 'personal learning' I don't mean any of these things, though there is some overlap in concept. I have my own explaining to do, but meanwhile, this post (which links to a PDF) is a useful account of the distinction between three major approaches to learning. Each of these describes ways a teacher responds to the distinct needs of a student.

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Constructivist Ship In A Bottle

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 00:00
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Matthias Melcher, x28’s new Blog, Oct 07, 2014

I think Matthias Melcher quite rightly points to the constructivists' objectivist problem. Quoting Potter: "Constructivists, analogously, do not realize the extent to which they work with objectivist ideals in objectivist contexts." But he then suggests that connectivism has the same problem. "All the notions of gradual, slow emergence of such patterns, or of 'seeing' them, makes no more sense for the explicit knowledge now extant." I wish he had drawn out this point in more detail, so I could see just where the problem lies for him. For me, for example, mathematics is just the formalized recognition of operations, similar perhaps to the process outlined by Kitcher. Our developing a knowledge of it is no more mysterious a natural phenomenon than is the development of a path to the ocean by rainwater in the form of a river.

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Let’s get systematic, baby…

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 00:00
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Brian Lamb, Abject, Oct 07, 2014

Good overview of a number of posts looking at the post-LMS LMS, which (to me at least) seems like the same old LMS, but with a cloud back-end and maybe some social. I think he could have mentioned our non-LMS (ie., our LPSS personal learning environment) but we need to stretch its legs a bit before claiming any street cred.

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Marriott fined $600,000 by FCC for blocking guests' Wi-Fi

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 15:00
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Katia Hetter, CNN, Oct 07, 2014

What a lot of people do, including me, is use their mobile phone as a wireless access point. Mobile LTE sppeeds are good enough now to support at least minimal internet access. But hotels, who have historically overcharged for internet access, find this to be unreasonable competition. So they've been blocking the signals. This turns out to be against the law, at least in the U.S. (and probably in most places). This is good for students, and not so good for people who are trying to control access (like schools). Just don't tell them about Firechat. It may be too much for them.

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Ed Radio Reimagined

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 18:00
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Stephen Downes, Ed Radio, Oct 06, 2014

I find it interesting to note that audio podcasting has almost dropped off the internet map. For someone like me, audio is a lot more useful than video, and almost any time of the day, unless I'm actually in a meeting, I'll be listening to something online (in my car I still listen to radio, but my mobile phone connects to it by Bluetooth and gives me a lot more content). Bryan Alexander has listed  a number of podcasts he listens to, so I'm not alone.

So. I've been puttering away off and on for the last few months to convert Ed Radio into something that's fresh and valuable, and not just playing canned content. So I've set up my aggregator to harvest a number of ed tech podcasts; these in turn are used to create a single podcast feed you can subscribe to, an M3U and PLS file you can download as a playlist, and a live Shoutcast stream you can listen to over your computer or mobile phone. I've also set up an AudioBoo account as one of the sources. There's new content every day, and I have the capacity to broadcast live events. I love radio, and even if nobody ever listens, I love being able to create something like this.

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Academy of Art University student's CS6 licenses canceled

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 18:00
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David Lawrence, Creative Cow, Oct 06, 2014

You used to buy software on a disk and it would always run. But software companies are convcerting to an annual license model, where there's no disk, and like content streaming, you get to use the software only so long as you keep paying for it. I've bought movies this way, but to this day I can't even watch the movies I've paid Microsoft for (which to me means that they've simply stolen several hundred dollars from me). No appeals, no refunds. That's just entertainment. When you have a similar dispute over software worth thousands of dollars, and on which your career depends, you can find yourself in a difficult position if the purchase goes south.

That's what's happened to students at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. They were told that their tuition would purchase Adobe Creative Suite licenses. "We were told," they write, "that these licenses would never expire and all forms of professional and student work were permitted." But Adobe doesn't work that way any more, and so has started cancelling the students' licenses. The students (quite rightly, in my view) are crying foul. But they have no rights, and no appeal. They're upset, and I don't blame them. More here, and some  press coverage here.

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Hack This Book: Announcing Open Music Theory

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 09:00
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Kris Shaffer, Hybrid Pedagogy, Oct 06, 2014

While I still have my criticisms of  this textbook (music notation is not my thing) I think it represents a useful innovation and, I hope, further undermines the traditional publisher paradigm of university textbooks. It's not just that the published books cost money (though there is that) but also that they convey a single authoritative voice. These open textbooks disrupt that. "OMT is open-source and not simply open-access. We have made it legally and (as much as we can) technically possible for instructors, and even students, to contribute to the text, translate it, publish it in other formats, copy it— in a word, to hack it."

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LinkedIn University Rankings

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 09:00
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Various authors, LinkedIn, Oct 06, 2014

This has to be better than the made-up rankings provided by entities like U.S. News & World Report, or Macleans in Canada, but even so the purpose remains the same: the rankings reflect the values held by the ranker, and are intended to push the rankees into pursuing those metrics (hence, the U.S. News rankings, for example,  push universities away from opening access to lower income students). Just so, the LinkedIn rankings are "based on career outcomes". The  LinkedIn blog defines outcomes based on "desirable jobs," for examples, where "we define a desirable job to be a job at a desirable company for the relevant profession. For example, we define desirable finance jobs as finance jobs at companies desirable for finance professionals." So my university, the University of Calgary, which educated me very well indeed, would fail, because I did not get my (not so desirable) desirable job as a philosopher.  More from PS Web. Via Academica.

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New York Times Plans to Eliminate 100 Jobs in the Newsroom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 09:00
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Ravi Somaiya, New York Times, Oct 06, 2014

The New York Times was one of the earliest and most prominent news sources to set up a paywall and opt for subscription-based online services. Though the newspaper has consistently claimed that the move was a success, it's not clear that it has been. This latest item suggests that the digital option is not paying its way. The  economic model has peaked - the newspaper isn't getting any more new subscribers, and it's niche mobile products aren't expanding its reach. As Matthew Ingram tweets, "The NYT's apps are like untargeted mini paywalls -- they were built to serve the paper's needs, not users' needs." It's the  software driving the journalism, argues Financial Times editor Lionel Barber. Links via American Press Institute.

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