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The challenge of private investment in education is that companies see children primarily as potential markets and they seek to maximize that even if it's against the law. Case in point: "settlements Tuesday with Viacom, Mattel, Hasbro and JumpStart Games to stop them from using or allowing tracking technology on their popular children's websites." The point here is that these companies knew the tracking was illegal, and knew they should stop it, but didn't. Because companies (unlike people) will act contrary to law unless they are forced not to. That's one reason why it's so expensive to privatize public services; the companies must constantly be monitored for compliance. I wish there were something like a criminal record for companies, so (for example) if they break laws they no longer qualify for government contracts, or are no longer allowed to work with children, or something.[Link] [Comment]
I don't usually link to Big Think because the articles are generally plugs for books, and the books (of course) are not open access and so I can't read them (because I have nowhere near the budget it would take). The same is the case with this post. But I'm linking to it for the video, and despite Amy Herman's third-grade level speaking style, it makes an important point: when you are looking at something - an artwork, say, or a medical diagnosis - what is not there can be as important as what is there. She calls this the 'pertinent negative'. She is by no means the first to make this observation - it dates back thousands of years - but her illustration is compelling and makes its importance clear.[Link] [Comment]
The Government of Canada, has been accepting proposals from the public on how to promote global science excellence. This is a subject of interest to me; I co-signed a submission from NRC researchers on the subject, and have been reading the other submissions. I spent several hours today reading the suggestions and the supplementary material provided by many of the contributors. This post summarizes and comments on some of those other submissions., , Sept 14, 2016 [Link]
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This is a contribution (6 page PDF) signed by 66 NRC researchers, including myself, to the government's consultation on global science excellence. It recommends a departure from the previous policy of having selected industry partners determine NRC research priorities. "NRC scientists will deliver their best creative solutions to the real problems facing Canadians, Canadian industry, and the Canadian environment when under conditions that provide them the freedom to use their expertise and knowledge, including their awareness of the important issues in their scientific fields, related industries, and society at large, to identify important research questions and to find answers to them." View the rest of the submissions here. Read my summary and commentary (long!) on the submissions.[Link] [Comment]
Students at the the University of Manitoba are being sent letters that demand payment and threaten huge sanctions over alleged copyright violations. "It's a tad frustrating when we see some of the messages that have content that really borders on extortion," said Joel Gué nette, the University of Manitoba's copyright strategy manager. The university is advising students not to respond and not to pay the requested amount, because this may just spur the companies to ask for more money in the future. "In the past, Gué nette said, the school simply discarded the notices, but under the new legislation, the university must forward them to students." All this is the result of new copyright laws that came into effect last year. "Gué nette said it's common for students to be threatened with multimillion-dollar lawsuits, especially when the content is pornographic or 'perhaps more of a sensitive nature,' he said. The maximum fine for copyright violation in Canada is $5,000."[Link] [Comment]
Phil Hill summarizes this panel discussion and provides a couple of videos focusing on Kathryn Becker-Blease's experiences using adaptive learning in an Introduction to Psychology course. A couple of worthwhile observations: first, "adaptive learning can mean different things in different contexts," and second, the contrast between this experience and another in which "students worked in the adaptive learning platform, but they also had class time devoted to supporting them with their study and work habits. Learning how to learn, which is very important for students that do not have a history of academic success." When evaluating innovations, you can't just throw people in there and see how they do, especially if they spent a lifetime doing something else.[Link] [Comment]
When both Daniel Willingham and Joanne Jacobs storm the barricades over an article in the NY Times, I figure there's something to recommend it. And novelist Nicholson Baker's Fortress of Tedium is a light romp through his own education at the School Without Walls and the contrasting eyeball-drenching monotony of a more traditional school. "In my experience, he writes, "very high-school subject, no matter how worthy and jazzy and thought- provoking it may have seemed to an earnest Common Corer, is stuffed into the curricular Veg- O- Matic, and out comes a nasty packet with grading rubrics on the back." Lovely. Willingham, ever with the scowl, cites some research that no self-respecting researcher would take as conclusive, quotes Baker as having said something he did not say (specifically, "The school that would have been perfect for me, would be perfect for everyone," which is nowhere to be found in the article), and then writes, "He cannot understand why high school must be so stifling and soulless." I can't understand it either. It probably has a lot to do with grouches like Willingham and Jacobs.[Link] [Comment]
There are some nice touches to this video from Steve Wheeler. And you'll want to make sure to listen to this video, as it includes what Wheeler (accurately) calls the "three founding father of distance education" - Tony Bates, Sir John Daniel and Michael G Moore. Via his blog post. 15 minute video.[Link] [Comment]
Just passing this along. "Consider the following facets of Blackboard’ s openness," writes Lynn Zingraf. "We support a number of integration frameworks... We embrace and support IMS Global Learning Consortium standards... We support a number of standards for authentication and single sign-on (including) SAML 2.0, LDAP, CAS, and Shibboleth... we support the Creative Common standard ... Blackboard Learn supports SCORM and IMS Common Cartridge..." And there's a few more. Does this make Blackboard "open"? OK, maybe not. But then, what is it that it does make Blackboard?[Link] [Comment]
The collapse of ITT Technical Institutes' chain of schools in the United States should counsel as warning about the perils of privatizing education. "U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, at the time of the Education Department action, compared ITT to the Corinthian chain, which collapsed amid federal and state scrutiny. 'For too long, ITT Tech and its executives have gotten rich off taxpayers while misleading and taking advantage of their students with Corinthian-style deceptive and abusive practices.'" Business as usual. The closure involves 130 campuses, 40,000 students and 8,000 employees. A ton of links, via Trace Urdan's excellent newsletter from Credit Suisse:
Next time you're considering the cost of public education as compared to the private sector, consider these costs.[Link] [Comment]
I read Bas C. van Fraassen's The Scientific Image (248 page PDF) not too long after it came out. I had been studying the positivists in depth and while the rejection of positivism (and consequent embrace of continentalism and existentialism) was all the rage, I found in van Fraassen the essence of what I considered the right response to the positivists (which did not involve rejecting empirism). van Fraassen's approach, called 'constructive empiricism', asserted that "science is a large scale, human enterprise and we need boundaries to determine what we can say is true or not about the world around us. Empiricism is a stance, a pragmatic attitude that is self-constrained by what I call 'bridled irrationality.' That means that the data itself restricts what is rational to believe about the world; it creates a boundary." van Fraassen is one of the towering figures of 20th century philosophy, and this interview is well worth a read.[Link] [Comment]
"The World Economic Forum’ s Future of Jobs study predicts that 5 million jobs will be lost before 2020 as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and other socio-economic factors replace the need for human workers." Keep in mind that the World Economic Forum have been champions of austerity over the years. According to this article, the two 'skills' needed are math skills and social skills. We read from David Deming, associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University, that educators should "complement their teaching of technical skills like mathematics and computer science, with a focus on making sure the workers of the future have the soft skills to compete in the new jobs market." But if we look at his chart (pictured) mathematical skills appear to be almost irrelevant, while the clear line of demarcation is the requirement for social skills. Keep in mind: computers do math. So if you do math, chances are than a computer can do your job.[Link] [Comment]
I've never supported Chomsky's theory of language learning. So to me, this is old and unsurprising news: "cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’ s 'universal grammar' theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages." The real mechanisms for language learning are network mechanisms. "Children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all— such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things." To my mind (and how I argued in papers like 'Conditional Variability' and 'Why Equi Fails') Chomsky's approach founders on the question of context. This is borne out in the new research. "The contributions from usage-based approaches have shifted the debate in the other direction to how much pragmatics can do for language before speakers need to turn to the rules of syntax."[Link] [Comment]
There's a good Technology Review summary of this article. In a nutshell: why do deep learning algorithms, which simulate neural networks, work so well? Mathematically, they should be much less effective, because they are attempting to select the best answer from an enormous number of possible outcomes. According to this paper, the reason is that the laws of physics are biased toward certain outcomes, and neural networks - which emulate physical processes - are biased in a similar manner. “ We have shown that the success of deep and cheap learning depends not only on mathematics but also on physics, which favors certain classes of exceptionally simple probability distributions that deep learning is uniquely suited to model.” It's an important lesson: the universe may be described by mathematics, but it is not defined by mathematics.[Link] [Comment]
I've messed around with web apps in the past and I've never really been interested in developing for the mobile app ecosystem. So I'm hopeful something comes of this. "Web apps represent an optimistic view of the world, in which users are free from walled garden app stores, and developers don't have to rebuild their software for a half-dozen platforms." That's not to say there aren't issues beyond the competitive edge mobile apps enjoy, and this article is lavish in its description of them. And it's not a short article. But the work behind "Progressive Web Apps" offers room for hope. "Building immersive apps using web technology no longer requires giving up the web itself," writes Alex Russell, a developer at Google. "Progressive Apps are our ticket out of the tab, if only we reach for it."[Link] [Comment]
In this presentation I place the development of the MOOC in the context of innovative and transformational change. I then describe what will need to take place in MOOCs to support tranformational change - connectivist design, personal learning, and a distributed ecosystem.International MOOC Colloquium, Anacapri, Italy (Keynote) Sept 09, 2016 [Comment]
I'm following in the footgsteps of Dean Shareski, who originally posted the challenge, and Chris Kennedy, who posted a response of his own. The idea is to identify some key events in our own professional development, some 'watershed moments', if you will. Shareski writes, "Watershed moments are those occasions where there the lightbulb came on or something profound was shared or understood.", , Sept 09, 2016 [Link]
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I would be remiss if I did not observe what was a watershed moment not only for myself, but for many of my colleagues. I was eight years old when Star Trek first aired fifty years. I'm not sure whether my memories of watching it are from the original airing, or reruns, but my childhood was filled with dreams of interplanetary explorers. Thank you Gene, Leonard, William, DeForest, James, and all the rest. Fifty years passes in a flash, doesn't it? Star Trek Continues.[Link] [Comment]
I've experience what might be called 'threshold concepts' on numerous occasions in my life, some of which are documented above. I think it's likely every person goes through moments of realization (though, of course, different moments). "Learning them is generally transformative, involving 'an ontological as well as a conceptual shift . . . becoming a part of who we are, how we see, and how we feel' (Cousin 2006). Once understood, they are often irreversible and the learner is unlikely to forget them. They are integrative, demonstrating how phenomena are related, and helping learners make connections. They tend to involve forms of troublesome knowledge, what Perkins refers to as knowledge that is “ alien” or counterintuitive (qtd. in Meyer and Land 2006, 3)." Image: Carr, et.al.[Link] [Comment]
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