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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.[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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...[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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 22.214.171.124, or its domain on the Tor-network, which is pretty much immune to any takedown efforts." See also: Meet the Robin Hood of Science.[Link] [Comment]
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?[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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 analyse, explain and put it into perspective... using unbiased analysis."[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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)):
"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.[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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?[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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.[Link] [Comment]
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