Miscellaneous

D2L raises $85 million but growth claims defy logic

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


Phil Hill, e-Literate, Aug 22, 2014

Criticism from some education pundits about D2L's (formerly Desire2Learn) growth claims. Phil Ho;ll looks at the numbers and writes: "That’ s a 29% growth in the number of institutions and a 50% growth in the number of learners in just one year. Quite impressive if accurate. Yet the company went  through a significant round of layoffs in late 2013  that let go more than 7% of its workforce, and according to both LinkedIn data and company statements they have had no significant growth in number of employees over the past year."

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A Response to ‘OER and the Future of Publishing’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


David Wiley, iterating toward openness, Aug 22, 2014

David Wiley has responded to Knewton CEO Jose Ferriera's article arguing that OER cannot effectively compete against the textbook industry. As  mentioned here before, Ferriera raises the old canards of quality and publishing values, but Wiley hits on the publishers' real value: exclusivity. "Publishers will never put OER at the core of their offerings, because open licensing – guaranteed nonexclusivity – is the antithesis of their entire industrial model." Meanwhile, Michael Feldstein  offers a critique similar to my own: "open resources don’ t  have to be supported through volunteerism. It is possible to build revenue models that can pay for their upkeep."

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In Pictures

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


Chris Charuhas, In Pictures, Aug 22, 2014

From the website: "In Pictures tutorials are based on pictures, not words. They walk you through real-world scenarios, step-by-step. There's no complicated multimedia, just screenshots that show exactly what to do. And, the online tutorials are free! No fees, no charge, just click and start." Chris Charuhas writes, by email: "They were developed through a research study funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. We've recently created many new tutorials, on Office 365 and Google Drive applications. Considering the rapid adoption of Google Apps in schools, this might be of interest to readers of your blog." Purists will complain that they're not Creative Commons licensed, but I see no strings attached to the free access and I see no reason why people can't simply link to them if they want to reuse them.

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What makes a conference really irritating?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:00


Sean Coughlan, BBC News, Aug 22, 2014

I've been to more conferences than most, probably (more than 300, anyways) so in addition to being exposed to a lot ideas and opinions about education and technology, I've also learned a lot about conferences themselves. Here's my advice on  how to get the most out of a conference. Anyhow, this list of conference irritants is pretty superficial, but it's worth reading the comments for a chuckle or two.

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The Future of College?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 19:00


Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, Aug 21, 2014

I studied the work of  Stephen M Kosslyn back when I was in graduate school. At the time, he was defending a sophisticated 'picture theory' model of mind against cognitivists such as Jerry Fodor and Xenon Pylyshyn (who argue it's all rules, representations and sentences). I had a lot more sympathy with Kosslyn (though I've since before more of an advocate of J.J. Gibson). Anyhow, this article profiles Minerva - "what sets it apart most jarringly from traditional universities, is a proprietary online platform developed to apply pedagogical practices that have been studied and vetted by ... Stephen M. Kosslyn, who joined Minerva in 2012." I haven't been following Kosslyn recently, but maybe I should have been. Though - frankly - I don't think the Minerva approach described in this article is not one I would support - small and expensive doesn't really do it for me.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

One chart that debunks the biggest myth about student loans

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 19:00


Libby Nelson, Vox, Aug 21, 2014

OK, first of all, people don't actually believe that the average student loan debt is more than $50K, so the supposed 'myth' being busted here is a straw man. Second, by focusing on the average balance the article focuses only on the amount still owing, not the amount that has already been paid back. Finally, it includes both large and small loans in the same calculation, thus lumping together people who need a lot of support and people who don't - it's like taking rich people and poor people and averaging their incomes together, and then using the result to say poor people are not really poor. It's a terrible biased presentation created by a  conservative lobby group to understate the need for public education support and people in educational technology (you know who you are) should not be sharing this piece of tripe. Not, at least, without disclaimers.

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Web Trolls Winning as Incivility Increases

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 16:00


Farhad Manjoo, New York Times, Aug 20, 2014

I don't think there's a "war" on trolls, exactly (the last thing the world needs is another war) but it seems  clear that the web is becoming increasingly uncivil. But rather than simply blaming the usual culprits - users and trolls - I invite readers to consider some related items to question whether it's a structural defect:

  • Reddit launches 'pressiquette' guidelines for journalists  - "Reddit, the social news site, is encouraging journalists who use it to follow new guidelines on ethical sourcing... Gawker reported that more than 4,000 BuzzFeed posts have been removed from the site."
  • What happens to #Ferguson affects Ferguson  - leave aside the presumption that #Ferguson should be international news (it shouldn't). This is nonetheless an important discussion of the idea of algorithms deciding what is important.
  • Twitter vows to 'improve our policies'...  - "Internet trolls bullied Robin Williams' daughter off of Twitter and Instagram just days after her father's death."
  • I liked everything on Facebook for two days...  - "After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages... My feed become a cavalcade of brands and politics and as I interacted with them, Facebook dutifully reported this to all my friends and followers."
  • The Internet's Original Sin  - "Cegłowski explains, 'We’ re addicted to ‘ big data’ not because it’ s effective now, but because we need it to tell better stories.' So we build businesses that promise investors that advertising will be more invasive, ubiquitous, and targeted and that we will collect more data about our users and their behavior."

  It's not simply that there are trolls and it's not simply that our privacy is now for sale, but rather, it's that the fruits of this surveillance are being put to purposes that are mean, nasty and corrosive. The primary use of data analytics has been misuse. We need to build better before we lose the web entirely.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Highest Security for your Files in the Cloud

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 16:00


Aug 20, 2014

So I've been thinking more about data security lately. Not data security in the sense of preventing the NSA or Chinese hackers from getting at my files if they really want to - that's probably not possible. But security in the sense of preventing average criminals and companies like Google from trolling my data and using it for commercial purposes. To make this more difficult, I depend on the cloud. I can't use my employer's security or cloud, because these are now completely quarantined. So I think I need two things. First, something that encrypts text files. I've settled on NotepadCrypt, which uses standard encryption and pass phrases. Then, I upload this data to BoxCryptor, which encrypts everything I store on my various cloud services. Finally, I use  proXPN to secure my communications between my computer and the remote site. Perfect? No. Way better than average? Yeah. Eventually all of this will be built in to any application you use.

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Desire2Learn Raises $85M to Deliver ‘Personalized Education’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 16:00
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Lora Kolodny, Wall Street Journal, Aug 17, 2014

It sounds good, but is (according to the article, at least) essentially about catching up: "For university students, the technology functions like a “ Netflix for education,” recommending courses based on their skills, interests and aptitude ... Ultimately, Desire2Learn is helping educators deliver personalized learning the way that Amazon.com delivered a personalized shopping experience." Though I do wonder how much of it is based on more forward-looking concepts such as the personal learning environment.

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OER and the Future of Publishing

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 16:00


Jose Ferreira, The Knewton Blog, Aug 15, 2014

George Siemens  points to this article on Twitter and suggests that "open is not enough any more." Maybe, maybe not, but the reasons in this article are not convincing. Siemens's new friend lists things like production values, instructional design, and enterprise grade services as things that will keep commercial publishers in business. Well, maybe - you know what they say about one being born every minute. I personally don't see why open content producers can't meet these objectives, especially if they're independently funded. Ferreira makes the classic error of confusing open and amateur.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Active players in a network tell the story: Parsimony in modeling huge networks

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 16:00


Amit Rechavi, Sheizaf Rafaeli, First Monday, Aug 15, 2014

One problem with studying networks is the huge amount of data generated. But what if you just studied the active members of a network, thus reducing significanty the data that hs to be crunched? Would it be reliable? In some cases, yes. "The partial network has several basic topological parameters that correlate with activity parameters of the entire social network and, hence, make it suitable for depicting the dynamic parameters of the huge network." There's a risk, though. By definition, for example, dropouts would no longer be counted in, say, MOOC statistics, effectively eliminating dropout rates as a measure. But then again, that might not be a bad thing.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

There’s no place for lulz on LOLCats

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/15/2014 - 13:00


Kate M. Miltner, First Monday, Aug 15, 2014

I've written and commented on LOLcats on numerous occasions in the past and so this study, though unfortunately narrow in scope, is of interest to me. "A qualitative audience study of 36 LOLCat enthusiasts indicates that individual memes can be used by multiple (and vastly different) groups for identity work as well as in– group boundary establishment and policing." This is validation of the idea that a LOLcat image is a 'word' in a suprasymbolic language.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Deep Learning Tutorials

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 16:00


Juan José Calderón Amador, e-learning, conocimiento en red, Aug 13, 2014

There is a risk - and I see it instantiated in this post - of confusing two concepts with the label 'deep learning'. The one, typified by the chart at the top of the post, focuses on the distinction between understanding and mere memorization. The other, typified by the network diagram below, refers to unsupervised learning in neural networks - that is, learning that occurs without a 'training set' of previously resolved phenomena. We can learn from one about the other. But it is important not to conflate these distinct meanings.

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Can You Really Teach a MOOC in a Refugee Camp?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 16:00
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Steve Kolowich, The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog, Aug 13, 2014

The answer - just barely - is "yes". It takes power, of course, and internet access. In this case, "Some refugees have day jobs in the U.N. compound, and Ms. Moser-Mercer arranged to have officials let two men watch videos and complete assignments when they were not working." But it seems to me that if power,  internet and access devices could be provided not just to UN offices but to the camp as a whole there could be a significant benefit produced. "My real conviction is you’ ve got to start on the ground,"  Barbara Moser-Mercer, "You have to go from bottom up.” Yes, these do not trump the need for food, water and shelter. But they do remind refugees that life is not just about existence.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Are Courses Outdated? MIT Considers Offering ‘Modules’ Instead

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 16:00


Jeffrey R. Young, The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog, Aug 13, 2014

More on the move to shorter courses. "That question is a major theme of a 213-page report released on Monday by a committee... exploring how [MIT] should innovate to adapt to new technologies and new student expectations." It's the sort of thing, though, that works uniquely online: "The logistics of 10-minute lectures on a residential campus would be infeasible— the setup time and the time to walk between classrooms would be too great.” What this tells me, though, is that things like the setup time and the walk are essentially waste produced by in-person learning. But I guess the Chronicle wouldn't see it that way.

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Bad practices in mobile learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 16:00
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Michael Trucano, EduTech, Aug 13, 2014

Yes, there are failures in the deployment of learning technology, writes Michael Trucano. For example, "the one tablet per child project in Thailand 'has been scrapped' [and] the decision of the school district in Hoboken, New Jersey (USA) to 'throw away all  its laptops'." But "Learners would not be terribly well served if educational planners in 2014 simply decided to emulate the impulses and actions of Silesian weavers back in 1844 and smash all the machines in reaction to the spread of new technologies."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Content and continuous learning: The cornerstones of a learning architecture

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 16:00
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Melanie Moffett, Dawn of Learning Blog, Aug 13, 2014

I sort of wonder about this observation: "What separates powerful learning and development organizations from the middling crowd? A May 2014 report... identifies what high-impact learning organizations (HILO's) are. In short, they actively make use of their technology, modalities and learning architecture in support of L& D objectives." I doubt that this is what distinguishes them. Perhaps what distinguishes them is that they do it successfully. But from my observation, they're all using the technology, and all pursuing L& D objectives.  The superficiality of analysis is choking the discipline!

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From Open To Connected

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 16:00
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Gardner Campbell, Gardner Writes, Aug 13, 2014

One of the points I've tried to make over the years is that open learning requires commented learning, and vice versa. That's why the drive to trivialize the 'open' in MOOC isn't just an accessibility problem, it's a pedagogical problem. Campbell writes, "we may well have missed the greater and more important aims that “ open” strives toward. And while there’ s no way to protect words from being twisted or co-opted, the phenomena of “ openwashing” and the long long O in MOOC are troubling indicators that what initially seemed to be the language of openness may have fought shy of the question of what the openness was for. How otherwise to explain a world in which broadcast lectures are touted as innovations or disruptions?"

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Incredible Images via Wellcome

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 16:00
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Doug Peterson, doug - off the record, Aug 13, 2014

Another source of free (Creative Commons licensed) images. Doug Peterson writes, "You would be hard pressed to find a comparable collection.    I came across the site while looking for some World War I images the other day and, I’ ll confess, I stayed and explored the site far longer than I ever expected."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Mobile Learning - No Pedagogy Required!

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 16:00


Brent Schlenker, Corporate eLearning Strategies and Development, Aug 13, 2014

There's a bit of a discussion following this short post, not surprisingly. The core of the argument is this: "Pedagogy is defined (according to a quick Googling) as a method or practice of teaching.   Mobile learning is not about teaching.   Mobile learning is about...well...learning. What's the word for 'a method or practice of learning'?" Learnagogy? Learnology? The idea is that mobile learning is not about teaching... well, ok, but then, what's this?

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