Miscellaneous

Salon Culture: Network of Ideas

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 09:00
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Andrian Kreye, Edge, Oct 06, 2014

The first three quarters of this article offer an interesting outline of the history of salon culture, that is, the fomenting of ideas through the social gatherings of thinkers and intellectuals. The last quarter devolves into dreck promoting things like TED. Leaving aside the (paid?) placement, however, the article is worth a look. And leave aside the idea that salons are reserved for intellectuals. One of the great things the coffee-house culture did was to (to a degree) democratize the salon. In Canada, every city has dozens of Tim Hortons Coffee outlets where, arguably, our real society is forged. The internet democratizes the salon even more. TED and similar congresses are attempts to countervail that, returning to the idea of salon culture as reserved for the elites. For that reason, they should be resisted.

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Does job success depend on data rather than your CV?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 10/05/2014 - 18:00
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Matthew Wall, Oct 05, 2014

I have written recently about alternative modes of assessments and credentials. This story feeds intot hat trend. "A number of firms are moving beyond automatic keyword matching to find 'suitable' candidates... for example, recruitment technology firm Electronic Insight doesn't even bother to look at your skills and experience when analysing CVs on behalf of clients. 'We just look at what people write and how they structure their sentences,' says Marc Mapes, the firm's chief innovation officer."

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Tech Advances Fuel LMS Identity Crisis

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 10/05/2014 - 18:00


Benjamin Herold, Oct 05, 2014

Things are getting confusing again. "A slew of vendors— many of which eschew the 'learning management system' moniker altogether in favor of terms such as 'virtual learning platform'— are competing aggressively to establish their software as the best available tool to help schools offer more-personalized instruction."

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College is ripping you off: Students are cash cows, and schools the predators

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 10/05/2014 - 12:00
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Thomas Frank, Oct 05, 2014

Another in the ongoing series of articles ripping into the college and university business model. "One day we wake up to discover there is no Santa Claus. Somehow, we have been had. We are a hundred thousand dollars in debt, and there is no clear way to escape it. We have no prospects to speak of. And if those damned dreams of ours happened to have taken a particularly fantastic turn and urged us to get a PhD, then the learning really begins. Meanwhile, the last of the German tuition fees are being abolished, ending an experiment in social injustice that began a number of years ago. And  a study that shows "even relative low levels of tuition fees of around 1,000 euros per year are likely to deter students from lower socio-economic backgrounds from studying."

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The myths about Canada’s skills gap

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 10/05/2014 - 09:00
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Chris Sorensen, Oct 05, 2014

Reasonably coherent article about the skills shortage in Canada. Here's the first major data point: “ There are increasing calls by employers for educators to do more job-ready training. But these calls have been increasing at the same time employers’ spending on training has been dropping.” Why would this be? "A sort of workplace prisoner’ s dilemma: Why spend thousands improving an employee’ s skills only to have him or her poached by a hungry competitor?" That's why our focus is on personal learning, while looking for industry support. By creating a learning network we avoid the prisoner's dilemma, thereby creating a means whereby employers can invest in training, not simply as an on-the-job tool, but also as a recruiting tool.

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German universities face funding fears as states scrap fees

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 10/04/2014 - 09:00
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Alexandra Topping, Oct 04, 2014

Leading the opposition to ongoing plans to eliminate tuition fees in Germany are - wait for it - universities. Dr Holger Fischer, vice-president of Hamburg University, said: "It is a catastrophe for the university." The coverage in this Guardian article is no less apocalyptic. "The German university fee system is on the brink of collapse," it reports breathlessly. From where I sit, it looks like a social democratic government actually following the principles it campaigned on (other left-leaning parties should take note). "Tuition fees keep young people from low-income families from studying and are socially disruptive." The trend toward the elimination of tuition fees in Germany is a good thing, and should be celebrated.

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Learning in an Introductory Physics MOOC: All Cohorts Learn Equally, Including an On-Campus Class

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 10/04/2014 - 09:00
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Kimberly F Colvin, John Champaign, Alwina Liu, Qian Zhou, Colin Fredericks, David E Pritchard, Oct 04, 2014

Ouch: "In spite of the extra instruction that the on-campus students had," reports this study, there is "no evidence of positive, weekly relative improvement of our on-campus students compared with our online students." So, according to this study, MOOC students learn just as well as in-class students. Which raises the question of why, exactly, we would force students to go through the unnecessary time and expense of in-class participation.

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JSTOR, Daily

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 10/04/2014 - 09:00
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Colleen Flaherty, Oct 04, 2014

Although I'm the first to support increasing the accessibility of scientific research, every time I think of JSTOR I think of the persecution of Aaron Swartz, so when JSTOR announces it is launching "content a little more digestible and to engage a different kind of audience" in the form of " JSTOR Daily. The slick-looking home page already features some 100 blog posts and original articles," I wonder what the catch is. And the catch, I suppose, is that most of "the world’ s knowledge" is locked behin a subscription wall, and JSTOR Daily just becomes, in effect, advertising for that.

OK, in fairness, the articles are really well written and the content is interesting and engaging. I looked at the most recent half dozen and checked the references and all the JSTOR articles, though dated, were accessible even from my non-subscription home desktop. I'm definitely subscribing (O love general interest publications like this). So maybe my prejudices can be overcome.

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How Diversity Makes Us Smarter

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 21:00
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Katherine W. Phillips, Oct 03, 2014

I have frequently cited diversity as one of the key ingredients of network design. This is not an arbitrary choice; emergence is not possible without diversity. So it's not surprising to see articles like this pointing to how diversity makes us (ie., society) smarter. "Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving." The lesson to draw from this is that diversity is equally important in learning. "This is how diversity works: by promoting hard work and creativity; by encouraging the consideration of alternatives even before any interpersonal interaction takes place. The pain associated with diversity can be thought of as the pain of exercise."

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Datapalooza

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 21:00
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Jose Ferreira, Oct 03, 2014

Knewton's sales representative, Jose Ferreira, is making some big claims. "We literally have more data about our students than any company has about anybody else about anything, and it’ s not even close.... We literally know everything about what you know and how you learn best, everything." Except, responds Philop Kerr, it's not that simple. "The basic premise here," he writes, "is that the more data you have, the more accurately you can predict what will work best for any individual learner" But is this true? Not without good theory. "Knewton’ s claim that they know how every student learns best is marketing hyperbole and should set alarm bells ringing." Moreover, I would add, it should set everyone's  privacy alarm bells ringing. Do we  really want textbook publishers to know everything about us?

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Education at a Glance 2014

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 12:00
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OECD, Oct 03, 2014

This is a comprehensive compendium of mostly authoritative statistics and data related to education in a selected set of OECD and developing nations. I spent a good hour this morning reading various charts, but think that if you want the best quick summary it's best to read the editorial (pp. 13-15) because while the story it tells is a familiar one, it is underlined in urgency as social mobility decreases and income disparities increase. While young people are better educated than their older peers, the levels of education required for employment are rising even more rapidly. This is not just a social justice issue. "The increasing social divide between the educational 'haves' and 'have-nots' – and the risks that the latter are excluded from the social benefits of educational expansion – threatens societies as a whole." The report covers attainment level by country, the influence of parents' education, the effect of education on participation in the labour market, advantages from education, investment in education, teachers' salaries, education spending and demographics. See also  the supporting website for the report.

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Why Academics Stink at Writing

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 09:00
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Steven Pinker, Oct 03, 2014

"Fog comes easily to writers," writes Steven Pinker, "it’ s the clarity that requires practice." I completely agree. In this article bemoaning the obscurity of academic writing and offering some possible causes for the phenomenon, Pinker hits the nail on the head over and over again. I am not a Pinker fan, but this article may just make me one. Who cares about the nature of cognition, if we can agree on the problems with academic writing?!? " Even scientists, with their commitment to seeing the world as it is, are a bit postmodern.... It’ s just that good writers don’ t flaunt that anxiety in every passage they write; they artfully conceal it for clarity’ s sake."

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The Most Popular Social Network for Young People? Texting

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 12:00
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Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, Oct 02, 2014

I can't say I'm surprised that texting would be more popular than Facebook or Twitter - it is, after all, the medium you can use to talk to your friends that doesn't leave a content trail, isn't monetized by advertisers, and won't accidentally become the next internet meme. "Messaging is an everything network. It's identity, it's social,  it's intent ("hey do you want to see Spider-Man"),  it's location ("yo I'm in the theater"). It's the purest form of social network, so simply social that we scarcely consider it a network."

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The Great British Bake Off copyright grab: We can use your #ExtraSlice Twitter images but not give you credit

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 12:00
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Paul Bradshaw, Online Journalism Blog, Oct 02, 2014

It's almost certainly not legal, but who is going to stop them? In case you haven't seen it (and you almost certainly haven't), here are the terms posted on the BBC TV show An Extra Slice website: "By submitting a photograph or other material ("Material") to twitter.com and instagram.com using #ExtraSlice, you grant to Love Productions Ltd ("we/us") the right to edit, modify, adapt, translate, exhibit, transmit, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute and otherwise use the Material, at no charge and in any medium for the purpose of the full period of copyright and therefore insofar as possible, in perpetuity (the "Rights") and for such purpose you agree to waive irrevocably all moral rights of whatever nature in the Material." I'd like to do the same thing to hashtags of my choosing. Like, say, #BBC.

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The ABC of Hand Tools (1945)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 09:00
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Disney, YouTube, Oct 02, 2014

Disney produced training video for GM about proper use of hand tools in 1945. Because educational technology wasn't invented in 1995. Via Metafilter.

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The Current Ecosystem of Learning Management Systems in Higher Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 21:00
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Eden Dahlstrom, D. Christopher Brooks, Jacqueline Bichsel, EDUCAUSE, Oct 01, 2014

As Audrey Watters comments, the LMS is back and humming like it's 1997. "Global learning management system (LMS) revenue was estimated at $1.9– 2.6 billion in 2013, with projected growth to $7.8 billion by 2018.3 These estimates include the K– 12 market, corporate training, and higher education segments and demonstrate clearly the considerable scope of the LMS market." Related: Instructure  launches a learning object repository.

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The Learning Machine, pecking pigeons and the Sending of Being

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 12:00
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nick shackleton-jones, aconventional, Oct 01, 2014

When people interact with each other, the social learning produced is not the replication of content from one mind to the next to the next. It's not even contained in any individual mind at all. Rather, society as a whole develops new learning. This is the meaning of "We think, therefore we am." Nick Shackleton-Jones captures the effect of this nicely. "Although we frequently stumble upon these bigger, emergent, purposes - evolution, religion, capital, technology – we don’ t like to think of ourselves as their component parts. Because we glimpse but not grasp them, we like to think of them as products of human activity... Heidegger understood this: he realized that at best we glimpse these higher purposes, and that we experience them as an unfolding, as uncanny – as a revealing, a ‘ destining’ and a ‘ sending of Being’ . We sense that something is being done to us, but we can’ t guess what until we see it."

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Why the Unskilled Are Unaware: Further Explorations of (Absent) Self-Insight Among the Incompetent

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 12:00


Joyce Ehrlinger, Kerri Johnson, M. Banner, D.Dunning, Justin Kruger, PubMedGov, Oct 01, 2014

It is well known that low-skilled people tend to over-estimate their performance. This is typically thought to result from their inability to recognize what poor and good performance looks like. But in this paper, the authors suggest there may be more to it than that. "What appears to be an inability to assess the quality of one’ s performance on the part of the unskilled might actually be an unwillingness to do so accurately." People don't want to admit their own incompetence. But suppose this were accompanied with the knowledge that their performance can improve. "Recent research reveals that individuals who hold a view that intelligence is malleable make far more accurate assessments of the quality of their performance than do those who believe intelligence to be fixed." It's easier to be honest about our level of competence if we know that this is something that can, and will, improve. Via Doug Belshaw.

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'Connectivism': Creating Learning Communities

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 12:00
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Balthas Seibold, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Oct 01, 2014

Short, crisp and well-written article on connectivism connecting it to Albert Bandura’ s social cognitive theory and "the early notion of 'Bildung' that sees education as the process of shaping oneself and the world as put forth by German writers and thinkers Wilhelm von Humboldt and Friedrich Schiller in the late 18th and early 19th century." I think, though, connectivism is characterized not by the Brown and Adler quote, but by this variation: "We think, therefore, we am." See also more  trends in open innovation at GIZ - a lot of good stuff here, including sections on tech hubs, crowdfunding, Africa's mobile revolution, and more.

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Want even more mind-blowing TED Talks? Let’s get more STEM teachers in the classroom. Starting with … you!

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 00:00
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Baratunde Thurston, TED Blog, [Sept] 30, 2014

Sorry about the super-long title. It's typical of this post, which in turn is typical of the TED approach to education. Which is sad, and (as we see in this video) disappointingly patronizing. "Today,  Cultivated Wit launches a co-funded digital campaign to inspire math, science, tech and engineering (or STEM) undergraduates and recent grads to teach." Yes, teaching science and technology and the rest are important. But a video titled (so help me) "I blow minds" isn't going to convince graduates to teach these subjects. Offering them a competitive salary and professional standing will. But I'm still waiting for that TED video.

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