Miscellaneous

I want my data

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 23:00


Mike Sharkey, Blackboard Blog, May 12, 2016

Interesting post from Blackboard talking about the different ways institutions can receive data from their LMS (no word on data for individual students). I like the way the different types of data provision are depicted, ranging from raw data to automatically generated predictions (as compared to fixing up your own car vs taking an Uber). I think that the author needs to get out more, though. He begins the article by saying "The nostalgic 80’ s kid in me reads the title of this blog in my best Sting accent… .” I want my D-A-T-A” … and then I jump into a  frenetic mix of air drums, air keyboards and air guitar riffs," and in so doing gets both the reference to the artist wrong and links to a video with  "content from UMG, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds." Although I guess we can hardly blame him for the latter.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Options for Building Web Forms

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 23:00


Geoff Graham, CSS-Tricks, May 12, 2016

This may seem like a pretty basic thing, but if you don't know how to do it there's no obvious place to start. I've used a number of the form providers listed here (as well as using some server-side scripts, so I have a basis for comparison). If I had to pick from those listed right now, I'd probably go with TypeForm, because the interface (for the user) is beautiful and intuitive. Here's another list  from Zapier, which also provides a handy cost comparison. If you want to create tyour own (and have a backend that can accept input) you can try the JQuery form builder.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Docker as a Personal Application Runner

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 20:00


Tony Hirst, OUseful Info, May 12, 2016

Now that I have a lot more free time (during which I will not be writing program reports) I will have time to investigate what can be usefully done with technology like Docker. There's a lot here that accords with my own thinking about educational applications. Anyhow, this is a good post looking at Docker  not as a virtual machine but rather one which "views containers from a single user, desktop perspective, seeing Docker and its ilk as providing an environment that can support off-the-shelf, ready to run tools and applications, that can be run locally or in the cloud, individually or in concert with each other." The data, meanwhile, resides else, perhaps on a user's desktop or in the cloud. Maybe I'll even be able to do some rapid prototyping in this environment. We'll see. See also:  What is Docker? and  Get started with Docker.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The People's Manifesto

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 17:00


Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, May 12, 2016

Our society exists to provide the means and opportunity for each of us to fulfill our maximum potential and reach our highest aspirations, whatever we perceive them to be...

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Categories: Miscellaneous

What do you see?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 12:00


Jennifer Borgioli Binis, When 140 just isn't enough…, May 12, 2016

Sure, they're just prom pictures. But: "There’ s a pattern there. A pattern girls and boys notice and internalize, to say nothing of the messages transgender children may be picked up. Boys are heroes. Girls  can only be heroes if they stop being a girl. Just ask Mulan." People learn not only from class but from the totality of their environment, and especially from marketing and media. "Representation matters.  Patterns add up. If the images we boost, over and over again because they’ re just 'kids having a good time', what images, voices, and representation are we not boosting?" What we share matters. What we promote matters. Each moment we act in a community, we are educating someone.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Elsevier Complaint Shuts Down Sci-Hub Domain Name

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 09:00


Ernesto, TorrentFreak, May 12, 2016

If you've noticed that the URL sci-hub.io is no longer resolving, this is the result of an injunction by Elsevier, which argues that the website, which shares academic papers, is a form of piracy. However, according to this article, "several ‘ backup’ domain names are still in play, including Sci-Hub.bz and Sci-Hub.cc. This means that the site remains accessible to those who update their bookmarks. In addition to the alternative domain names users can access the site directly through the IP-address 31.184.194.81, or its  domain  on the Tor-network, which is pretty much immune to any takedown efforts." See also: Meet the Robin Hood of Science.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

LinkedIn Just Made a Savvy Business Move and Nobody Noticed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 09:00


John Nemo, Inc., May 12, 2016

LinkedIn has been moving in this direction for several years, and as the Inc. article notes, "Modeled after popular 'freelancer-for-hire' sites such as  Fiverr  and  Upwork, LinkedIn's ProFinder  matches customers looking for a specific type of product  or service  with a qualified professional." It gives rise to a new type of business model on the other end: a commercial entity with few full-time staff employing dozens of professionals on a contract basis. Ah, but here's the rub: what is to prevent a race to the bottom as individual contractors compete against each other?

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The brain in your pocket

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 19:00


Daniel Willingham, May 11, 2016

Daniel Willingham has two tried-and-true tools he goes back to again and again: the unproven theory, and the artificial example. In this post he combines them to suggests that the internet  weakens our cognitive powers. The theory in this case is 'cognitive miserliness', suggesting that  "we think when we feel we have to, and otherwise avoid it." And computers in our pocket give us a new way to avoid thinking, leading to (he says) poorer results on some 'analytical problems' such as the artificial example he provides. I think the sort of study he proposes would be substantially misleading, because as our technology changes, the nature of the problems (and the thinking we have to do) changes as well, rendering  moot the artificial examples Willingham uses so frequently.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Free Artificial Intelligence (AI) software for your PC

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 13:00


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, ZDNet, May 11, 2016

The 'artificial intelligence' part of Braina  (I keep wanting to pronounce it 'bran ah') lies mostly in the voice recognition software and in its ability to interpret natural language requests. "It isn't just like a chat-bot; its priority is to be super functional and to help you in doing tasks. You can either type commands or speak to it and Braina will understand what you want to do." According to the review, "Braina is very utilitarian, practical, and actually very functional." I haven't tried it myself (I'm afraid to overload my laptop so I'll wait until I'm in the office). No matter how it functions, something like this application will provide a lot more support for personal productivity and support some time in the near future. Via Doug Peterson.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Increasing Problem With the Misinformed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Thomas Baekdal, Baekdal, May 11, 2016

This is a long article but an important read. It embodies a lot of the philosophy behind my own work in this newsletter, as well as highlighting the danger that misinformation presents to society as a whole.   This danger is as pervasive in education  technology as anywhere else. And it won't improve until we accept the responsibility  to inform seriously. This is a task not only for journalists - it is also an imperative faced by educators. Especially educators.

The problem is this: "The political organizations, associations and committees are lying sleazeballs with a staggering score of -40%, and 'other', being the media personalities, are -20%... The 'experts' used by the media are less truthful than the politicians. And you are giving them a voice? No wonder people don't trust the news anymore... You can't just report the news and think that people will trust you. If the people you cover aren't trustworthy, you have to  step up and do more. You have to show people what's true and false. You are being dragged down exactly because you don't question the news before reporting it... We don't need journalists who are just reporting what someone else said. That's the old world. Today, we need someone who can  analyseexplain  and  put it into perspective... using unbiased analysis." 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Global Blockchain Project Fermat Revealed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Simon Cocking, Irish Times, May 11, 2016

Don Tapscott was given the liberty to edit an issue of the Toronto Star as his response was to put a picture of himself  on the front page. He has also jumped on to the blockchain  bandwagon. I think it's interesting technology, but I thing there are more interesting forces at work under the surface. Consider, for example, Fermat. "60+ full time contributors now collaborating to develop global open source platform that will launch the 'Internet of People.'" This is something that very much bears further investigation. "The great thing about this  Internet of People, in contrast with the current web, is the option of freedom from third parties. This brings several advantages in terms of privacy, cost reductions and removal of arbitrary rules." This is very much the goal I had for LPSS (though taking a very different approach). Now in my world, this goal has been explicitly rejected. But focusing on the superficial doesn't change the undercurrents of long-term technology development. The personal will prevail. It is in the process of prevailing.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Replace RESTful APIs with JSON-Pure

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Michael S. Mikowski, May 11, 2016

If you're not coding websites and web applications, this post is not for you. But for the rest of us, it's interesting to look at the evolving world of web applications development (formerly known as 'web pages'). "The primary goal is to provide the best possible user experience for modern SPAs (Single Page Applications). Certainly the practices shown below are nothing new or revolutionary. You will see echoes of SOAP, JSON RPC, JSON API, JSend, JSON LD and Hydra in the recommendations." See also: RESTful APIs - the big Lie, and  Thoughts on JavaScript, CoffeeScript, Node.js, and JSON-LD.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

I fly 747s for a living. Here are the amazing things I see every day.

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Mark Vanhoenacker, Vox, May 11, 2016

I read this a couple days ago while I was in Malaysia. Now I'm in my kitchen in Ontario, typing this out. This is an obvious point, but it's deep and important: "Everywhere is going on at once...  All this would still be going on if I hadn't flown here. And that's equally true of London, and of all the other cities I passed in the long night, that I saw only the lights of.  For everyone, and every place, it's the present." It applies equally well to my next door neighbours as to Tatevik in Armenia, Viplav in India, Dave in PEI and Doug in the UK.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Unlearning and Other Jedi Mind Tricks – Finding the (Creative) Force

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Amy Burvall, AmusED, May 11, 2016

Creativity isn't something you have to have a special talent for. It is something that results from paying attention, following your own interests, and most of all, hard work. This is the gist of the message offered by Amy Burvall as she prefaces a list of 'Jedi mind tricks' to promote creativity (quoted and lightly edited (my own take in italics)):

  • sense of wonder.... is to be  mindful  of one’ s surroundings and all the things your senses are taking in (I get this from travel, the beauty of everyday life, from animals and from people).
  • hone your skills of observation... be curious, stay in the question longer, take in different perspectives of things as well as people and processes (I use photography for this).
  • challenge assumptions - learn the rules so you can break them  -  and don’ t take things at face value (not just rules - patterns, expectations, order and organizations...)
  • the best way to complain is to make things - so after you’ ve deconstructed or assessed something, it’ s important to  move on (for me, making things usually means coding, though sometimes it means carpentry).
  • an  incubation period  is also necessary - this is when you step away from the creative endeavor and chill out or do something mundane (for me, this is things like cycling)
  • chefs of creativity must have a variety of tools at hand - it’ s important to achieve  fluency  with your creativity (and this requires practice with your tools, even for no purpose).
  • being able to  learn, unlearn, and re-learn anew  will be imperative (just ask anyone who does web development)
  • creativity inherently involves remix and connecting the dots - dot-connecting takes practice. It’ s a balance of curating (“ dot collection” ), finding, sense-making, and associating (this is the work I do with OLDaily, an essential part of my creative exercise).
  • having a  creative mentor  is so important – even if it’ s not someone in your real life (these, to me, are the people who struggle with genuine enquiry - David Hume, John Stuart Mill, Ludwig Wittgenstein - and   not those who simply see it as a game)
  • while we don’ t want something to be overprescribed - we  can thrive  on conditions  -  rules  -  challenges (This isn't me so much -  I don't like people telling me what to do, or not to do).
  • creativity should be scheduled (OLDaily first thing in the morning at at 4:00 p.m., morning time for priority tasks, afternoon for routine, evenings and weekends for me).
  • Focus will yield flow - Let all the extraneous stuff whiz by – at least for a little while – while you are  intent (yes) 
  • it’ s key to have other, more tedious aspects of the creative task at hand that you can tackle when the big work is difficult (like doing email, reading the RSS feeds, some paperwork, cleaning and sorting).
  • we want our work to touch people- We need people to work with us and spark us on – a  creative posse (I've thought about this a lot - mostly I just need someone to tell me I've done good).
  • if you are hating you are not creating (I need to work on this).

P.S. the list format here, which would work well on slides, is especially for Amy. :) Via Doug Belshaw, who also recommends this Tilt Brush  video. See also Amy Burvall, Everybody is an Artist.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Unbundled

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/10/2016 - 22:00


Chris Saad, Medium, May 10, 2016

"Unbundling," says this article, "is the process of  breaking apart rigid, man made structures (i.e. bundles) into individual, atomic parts." This article is a superficial look at the process, as suggested by the definition (taking a house apart qould qualify as 'breaking apart rigid, man made structures' but is certainly not 'unbundling'). It is nonetheless useful to have a look at the different enterprises impacted by the phenomenon - everything from news media to work, war and government. And while, yes, there is "an  increased flexibility for empowered individuals to have more choices and more personalized experiences," the effect is not nearly as pervasive as the author, a manager from Uber, suggests.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

DSP in the Kentucky Derby

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/10/2016 - 19:00


Mark Liberman, Language Log, May 10, 2016

I have always considered Moore's transactional theory  of distance learning to be based on information and communications theory. This post looks at some of the foundational literature of that field, though obliquely through a reference to a racehorse named after Harry Nyquist. As Mark Lieberman points out, the theory has numerous authors, and perhaps most notably Claude E. Shannon (here) where we get the concepts of 'signal' and 'noise'. Nyquist's contribution (found here) is written from an engineering perspective and contains enough math to get you kicked off  an American Airlines flight. Here's a detailed history. These works describe the basis of sampling theory in digital signal processing (DSP) defining the means of extracting information from analog signals (where 'information' is basically the identification of a given state from a set of possible states). Moore's theory, which looks at the roles of dialogue, structure and autonomy in distance learning, defines a "psychological and communications space to be crossed, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of the instructor and those of the learner." The analogy with "noisy office speaker phones" is clear.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/10/2016 - 16:00


Motoko Rich, Amanda Cox, Matthew Bloch, New York Times, May 10, 2016

On average, "Sixth graders in the richest school districts are four grade levels ahead of children in the poorest districts." As usual with American sources, the data is also distributed by race. But race doesn't define the trend; socio-economic status does. "A higher proportion of black and Hispanic children come from poor families. A  new analysis  of reading and math test score data from across the country confirms just how much socioeconomic conditions matter." Of course, knowing about the impact of inequality and doing something about it are two very different things. Here's the data,  based on 200 million test scores. P.S. maybe this explains results  showing lower scores for online schools.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Is Big Data Taking Us Closer to the Deeper Questions in Artificial Intelligence?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 05/07/2016 - 21:00


Gary Marcus, Edge, May 07, 2016

It's easy to get excited about thee potential for big data and deep learning in artificial intelligence, but as Gary Marcus argues in this item, we are still a long way from the goal. Even a one-year old child is further ahead than a robot with it comes to doing things like climbing couches. Machine reading and comprehension is a long way from what humans can do. Siri is not really much of an advance over ELIZA. We should look again at psychology, argues Marcus. "I felt like the field had lost its way," he says. "The field started with these questions. Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Allen Newell, Herb Simon, those guys were interested in psychology. The work that's being done now doesn't connect with psychology that much." True, but we have to be careful to assess what it is we think psychology tells us. Do we really recognize a cat by the way it walks? Are we really able to create an infinite number of sentences? Do we mean the same thing when we use words? Do we really have beliefs? 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

“Never get sucked into the ‘company knows best’ approach to your career”

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 06:00


Jane Hart, Learning in the Modern Social Workplace, May 06, 2016

I think this should be sort of obvious (and I've mentioned it in this newsletter in the (distant) past) but it always bears repeating that your employer is  not looking out for your best interests when it makes decisions. Nor should it. "For this reason, every one of us must have a career strategy, and that strategy should be guided by your industry’ s trajectory. You should be fine-tuned to  the intricacies of your profession.  You have no choice. You  have  to self-develop to stay relevant." That's why I'm still learning even as we speak and why you should be too. 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Why it’s so hard to succeed in Silicon Valley when you grew up poor

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 06:00


Ricky Yean, Vox, May 06, 2016

This takes me back to many of the points I addressed in Arlington  when I talked about the real advantage elite universities offer their students. "Tangible inequalities  —  that which can be seen and measured, like money or access  —  get the majority of the attention, and deservedly so. But inequalities that live in your mind can keep the deck stacked against you long after you've made it out of the one-room apartment you shared with your dad." It doesn't apply to everyone, and it doesn't apply evenly, but it applies. What's important to understand it that it is addressing  this - and not access to learning content - that will enable  equity.

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