Miscellaneous

The 10K Hour Rule: Deliberate Practice leads to Expertise, and Teaching can trump Genetics

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 23:00
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Mark Guzdial, Computing Education Blog, Oct 16, 2014

This is a pretty good article, not only because it invokes the classic 'make a PBJ' example, and not only because it cites the  proper source for the 10,000 hours of practice rule (hint: not Gladwell), but also because it provides an intelligent discussion of how the rule applies, offers a telling argument against the counterproposal (that skills are innate and not learned), and teaches us the value of focus and reflection in learning. But there's a not-so-subtle shift from "people can learn" to "people can be taught" and an invocation of the  mysterious "power of a great teacher to go beyond simple rote practice to create deliberate opportunities to learn," as though no other means were possible to accomplish the same thing by oneself, or with the aid of friends, projects, life experience or software. See also: Practice Does Not Make Perfect.

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Facebook’s Identity Authentication Is Broken

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 21:00


Alec Couros, Open Thinking, Oct 15, 2014

Centralized systems eventually break down. In the current case, it's Facebook's identity service. As Alec Couross has described in the past (here’ s the original post  which outlines the problem and here is the followup) he has been beset with an endless series of people faking his account. "These profiles have shown up on sites such as Twitter, VK.com, Match.com, Christian Mingle, and most prominently, Facebook." And now, to add insult to injury, he writes, "while I have successfully had Facebook take down hundreds of profiles, apparently they no longer believe that I am Alec Couros."

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Is It Ever Okay to Make Teachers Read Scripted Lessons?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:00
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Terrance F. Ross, The Atlantic, Oct 15, 2014

I guess that if the teachers were completely unqualified, and the students unable to read, then there might be a benefit to reading scripted lessons. But I think the benefits would be pretty minimal, and as critic Kate Redman says, “ Such an education is unlikely to spur the imaginations of the students or encourage critical thinking or social mobility. It is more likely to lead to rote-learning, and would likely leave little flexibility. There is no evidence it can serve as a permanent approach.” Nonetheless, such an approach has been taken by Bridge International Academies, a for-profit company that has has more than 350 locations and 100,000 students in Kenya. And if it's true that "at the only schools available to these families there was very little education being delivered," then this is better than nothing. But I still think (from a very distant first-world perspective) that they money they take from the system could be better spent. Via Doug Belshaw / Audrey Watters.

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The Battle for Beauty

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:00
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Peter Vanderauwera, Petervan, Oct 14, 2014

I don't agree with all of this, but I do agree with the core sentiment, especially as it regards my work and my reserach. "It was about architecture that had been taken over by businessmen, and artists not being allowed to carry out their rich hunger for beauty. A bit like Evgeny Morosov’ s fight against “ solutionism” , where the world is taken over by VCs and commerce in stead of asking the real big questions related to ethos and quality of life." Sadly, however, beauty has already been acquired by businesses and VCs. Books like  Lovemarks make it clear how they draw on human emotion to connect people to brands. So to me this article has the flaavour of wanting from humans what VCs and commerce already (promise to) deliver. There is a space, though, beyond even this, perhaps captured most evocatively by the phrase in Moulin rouge and reflected in my Moulin Ching.

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaks out on data ownership

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 21:00
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Alex Hern, The Guardian, Oct 13, 2014

According to this article, "The inventor of the web says data must be owned by its subject, rather than corporations, advertisers, and analysts." I agree with him, but I think the approach here will have to be technological, rather than legal, if only because I have no faith that corporations, advertisers and analysts will obey the law. After all, look at their track record.

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Adobe is Spying on Users, Collecting Data on Their eBook Libraries

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00
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Nate Hoffelder, The Digital Reader, Oct 13, 2014

Another company joins the ignoble ranks of those spying on its users. "Adobe is gathering data on the ebooks that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order.  All of this data, including the title, publisher, and other metadata for the book is being sent to Adobe’ s server in clear text." Here's a timeline:

"But wait," says Nate Hoffelder, the writer who broke the story. "There’ s more. Adobe isn’ t just tracking what users are doing in DE4; this app was also scanning my computer, gathering the metadata from all of the ebooks sitting on my [e-Reader], and uploading that data to Adobe’ s servers." Seriously Adobe?

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Can Scientists Speak?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00
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Karen Magnuson-Ford, Katie Gibbs, Evidence for Democracy, Simon Fraser University, Oct 13, 2014

I'm not sure what I can say about this report. :) Just kidding. I can say what I want about it (though I can't issue a press release about it, which I can't say surprises me). This report co-sponsored by an organization called 'Evidence for Democracy' and Simon Fraser University criticizes the Canadian government for imposing speech limitations on its scientists. My own division, the National Research Council, was given a score of 69, or C+, scoring most poorly in "safeguards against political interference" and "protects scientific free speech". these scores, which count for more than half the overall grade, seem a bit harsh to me. I think the report would have been improved had it looked not just at the policies in place but also the practice. The full report is a 24 page PDF; here's the summary.

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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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Categories: Miscellaneous

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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Categories: Miscellaneous

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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