Miscellaneous

EFF Busts Podcasting Patent, Invalidating Key Claims at Patent Office

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 12:00


Press Release, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Apr 14, 2015

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) quietly goes about doing some of the most important work on the internet today. "The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key claims in the so-called “ podcasting patent” today after a petition for review from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)— a decision that significantly curtails the ability of a patent troll to threaten podcasters big and small." The full decision is here.

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How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 12:00


Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, Apr 13, 2015

Now let me put this in context: Dennett (author of  Consciousness Explained  and The Intentional Stance) is one of the world's most respected philosophers today. He, probably more than anyone else in the world, knows how a good argument works. Here is his method (and, I might add, my method):"

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’ s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, 'Thanks, I wish I’ d thought of putting it that way.'
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism."

What do you think the point of OLDaily is? Oh sure, I'm known for my razor-sharp witticisms in these pages, and for occasionally offering my own opinion. But the primary effort here is to embrace the first three points. Without reading and summarizing thousands of conflicting and contrasting views, I would not have the credibility to offer criticisms and objections. This is the method Dennett knows well.

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Innovation and the Novelty Factory

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 12:00


Tim Klapdor, Heart | Soul | Machine, Apr 13, 2015

À propos  of  my recent talk on innovation, "Horace Dediu posits a taxonomy which I think is extremely useful to help discern innovation and reduces some confusion:

Novelty: Something new
Creation: Something new and valuable
Invention: Something new, having potential value through utility
Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful

Why is this useful? It helps distinguish actual innovation from mere novelty. T"he pursuit of innovation often means that quality, sustainability and longevity are put at risk," writes Tim Klapdor. "Innovation is a lot harder and more difficult to achieve because it is essentially change. And the reality is that most people don’ t want to do that."

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Integrating Social Learning in the Workplace

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 12:00
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Sahana Chattopadhyay, ID & Other Reflections, Apr 13, 2015

Important advice: "The catch is that “ social learning” cannot just be implemented or enforced. One cannot inset social learning in the training calendar and feel happy about it." It's not the sort of thing that can be imposed from the top down, writes Sahana Chattopadhyay. "Social learning is much more a cultural outcome than a process or a program to be followed." This is what results in a lot of the negative experiences with social learn. A platform is built and opened, and then remains empty, because the organization has no culture of sharing or exchanging information. Examples have to be set: "Senior management must walk the talk; if they don’ t have time to engage on the collaboration platform, the rest of the organization will not have the time either."

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GNU social: Federation against the social model of Twitter

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 09:00
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Manuel Ortega, Las Indias in English, Apr 13, 2015

I haven't seen GNU Social but it might be worth looking it, as it offers a networking model more akin to the one I favour. "The Facebook and Twitter socialization model, the FbT model, is like a large plaza where everyone can shout their slogans, while barely listening to each other," says this article, which can be contrasted to (what it called) the federation model, in which "the intimate relationship between the value of a conversation and the trust that has already been established within the nodes. It is a consequence of the distributed structure of GNU social. Thanks to it, GNU social is free of any recentralizing tendencies." This is the approach we're taking in LPSS (and why your experience in  LPSS.me doesn't being with 'friending' a whole bunch of people). Via Dante-Gabryell Monson.

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Machine Learning Algorithm Mines 16 Billion E-Mails

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 18:00
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Press Release, MIT Technology review, Apr 12, 2015

I'll leave aside the question of where they got 16 billion emails and pause for a moment to ponder the implications of this: "Human e-mailing behavior is so predictable that computer scientists have created an algorithm that can calculate when an e-mail thread is about to end." (I really thing 'created' is the wrong word here - I think the appropriate word is 'found'.) If we're that predictable, what does it say about us? It used to be that one of the major objections to causal theories of the world was the apparent phenomenon of free will. But suppose the data tells us it's just an illusion. If - if they can tell us when an email thread is about to end, is there any way to telling us whether anyone learned anything from it? See the full report here.

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The 60,000 Times Faster Claim Gets Dialed Back to 1982

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 18:00
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Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Apr 12, 2015

Have you heard this? "We can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text?" In my own mind I would question it right away because of its overt employment of a computer metaphor to talk about cognition, which to me is prima facie questionable. But Alan Levine actually looks for the source of the quote. He traces it back to an unreferenced claim made in a Business Week advertising section in 1982, attributing it to Philip Cooper, president of Computer Pictures Corporation. Philip Cooper is still around, but hasn't responded yet to Levine's enquiries. And me, what I wonder is, just how much mythology was created over the years by the business and advertising press? Possibly the bulk of what people today call 'common sense' was at one time or another someone's ad copy.

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The Math Ceiling: Where’s your cognitive breaking point?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 18:00
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Ben Orlin, Math With Bad Drawings, Apr 12, 2015

"A student who can answer questions without understanding them is a student with an expiration date." You'll understand. Good discussion of the question of whether there is some mathematical knowledge that is beyond the innate 'limit' of students, or whether every student is (theoretically) able to master every mathematical concept. The disclaimer in the blog ("I can't draw") also makes me wonder whether there's an art ceiling.

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Los Angeles Police Department taught the Canadian way when it comes to using force

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 18:00
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Kim Brunhuber, CBC News, Apr 12, 2015

What's interesting is not that the Los Angeles police are now using training methods employed by the RCMP, but rather, the manner in which training is now being conducted: "When I went through the academy,  everything was compartmentalized... Now, recruits are trained the same way they operate in the field: in teams. Training the whole person rather than training on a specific task, training so that the constitutional policing and use-of-force policy and all the things that are important to the public are contained in every exercise and everyone is graded accordingly." Cadets are run through a simulator which runs through a variety of simulators. The instructors watch the cadets' performance. ""I'm not going to tell you what to do... (if you) understand policy, they will be the one to make that decision when and if to use deadly force."

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Marketing: Avoiding Influencers Enmeshed By Spam Networks

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 12:00
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Walter Adamson, Kinship Digital, Apr 12, 2015

This is a good indication of why you can't just use numbers like frequency of connections and citations to understand the role and influence of someone in a community. This post is an analysis of the network of influencers in the recent Cricket World Cup (congrats to Australia). Many influencers, like celebrities and newspapers, are "context-free", because they appear everywhere, and have no particular connection to the community. Another group of influencers are more densely linked to each other than to the wider community. Finally, there is a group of apparent influencers who have bought lists of followers, thereby linking the genuine community to a collection of interlinked spammers. None of these three groups are genuine influencers, though you would not know this looking only at the numbers. Via Gavin Heaton.

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Sir Ken Robinson: ‘Creative’ with the truth?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 04/11/2015 - 20:00
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Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Apr 11, 2015

Ken Robinson's video on creativity is cited over and over again and was long overdue for this takedown by Donald Clark. It's the classic response: Robinson's observations and anecdotes are (a) not new, (b) not backed by data, (c) except data he has made up, and (d) are false. The piè ce de ré sistance is the wholly arbitrary map of ritalin prescriptions in the RSA video (and equally misleading graph in his own). I'm left pondering a world where Oregon and Washington are a single state, there's an Oklanebraska, east and west Dakota, and a giant interior midwestern state we'll just call Missinois. Some data.

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Task Force on Academic Freedom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 04/11/2015 - 17:00
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Ronald J. Daniels, Robert C. Lieberman, Johns Hopkins University, Apr 11, 2015

Johns Hopkins University last year convened a task force on academic freedom. As reported by Inside Higher Ed, "the administration is seeking feedback on the task force’ s final product." It's a short document, for some reason released only as a PDF image (to prevent it from being edited? Puh-leeese). The article cites a couple of disputes causing a reflection on the principle - "in 2013, when a dean asked a faculty member to remove a blog post," for example, or "tensions between student groups in favor of and opposed to legal abortion in recent years." I took some time this afternoon to analyze the document, present it in the analytical framework, and then pose some pointed questions, which you can read here. My take is that their policy still needs significant revision and rethinking, and that the authors have not thought through many of the more difficult issues around academic freedom. Image: Selangor Times.

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Teaching in a Digital Age

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 04/11/2015 - 14:00
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Tony Bates, OpenText BC, Apr 11, 2015

I've cited chapters from Tony Bates's ongoing online book Teaching in a Digital Age on numerous occasions over the last few months, so I won't rehash all that here. Suffice it to say that the full text is now available as a free download on the BC Open Text website. Not that the  full PDF is 502 pages! This is a monumental accomplishment and I have no doubt that Bates will receive wide praise for his efforts over the last year.

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Competency-Based Education: A Framework for Measuring Quality Courses

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 04/11/2015 - 11:00
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Jackie Krause, Laura Portolese Dias, Chris Schedler, Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Apr 11, 2015

"There are no defined standards that directly address quality of competency-based courses," write the authors. "This problem is exacerbated because competency-based programs are often self-paced, requiring students to be more self-sufficient and self-directed than in instructor-led courses." They survey several other quality rubrics and observe that these typically include an evaluation of the interactivity supported by the course. "This measurement is not relevant in self-paced competency-based courses, as students do not engage in interactions with other students as a means of obtaining learning or transferring knowledge," they write. Additionally, a new rubric should focus on "the need for clear instructions for student success." I think the resulting rubric focuses on a very narrow type of course, and I'm not confident of its wider applicability. Via Tanya Joosten.

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Contributions and Connections

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 21:00


Bonnie Stewart, Inside Higher Ed, Apr 10, 2015

I mostly agree with Bonnie Stewart's comments in Inside Higher Ed (and note in passing that Inside Higher Ed has recently opened up its circle of authors beyond the fairly narrow political spectrum that characterized its contributions until now). Stewart reports on "an in-depth, participatory, ethnographic study of scholars who actively use Twitter in addition to their institutional scholarly endeavours" and identifies "how influence and credibility circulate in academic Twitter." The conversation is what counts, she says, and assessments are based on individual contributions rather than metrics or institutional background. Automated tweets are frowned upon as authenticity is valued, and commonality - "contribution is created and amplified by common interests, disciplines, and share(d) ties and peers" - is key. This latter is either an odd use of "commonality" or just wrong. Also, the caveats against generalization which can be found in the paper (as well as the fact that the study interviewed only 13 people) are not found in the IHE article, which is disappointing.

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Digitally Connected: Global Perspectives on Youth and Digital Media

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 15:00
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Sandra Cortesi, Urs Gasser, Social Science Research Network, Apr 10, 2015

This open (I think; it uses an SSRN redirection service) online book contains the proceedings of a conference funded by an array of charitable institutions and United Nations agencies that only an institution like Harvard can assemble. From the abstract: "With a particular focus on voices and issues from the Global South, the symposium addressed topics such as inequitable access, risks to safety and privacy, skills and digital literacy, and spaces for participation, and civic engagement and innovation. The event also marked the launch of Digitally Connected — an initiative that brings together academics, practitioners, young people, activists, philanthropists, government officials, and representatives of technology companies from around the world who, together, are addressing the challenges and opportunities children and youth encounter in the digital environment." 130 pages PDF.

I can't even remotely do justice to this large work (which I'll be nibbling at for days) in a single post, so let me confine myself to a quibble.  Nishant Shah writes, "The edge, then, is not an outer limit, but a route that marks the transfer of data from one point to another. Moreover, the nodes are also not predefined permanent points but rather points in a network that gain intensity (and hence value and valence) because of the frequency with which data travels and intersects at that particular point." No node is more or less valuable. If the node gains sufficient intensity as a result of incoming signals, then (according to a probabilistic signalling function) it fires, and the intensity is set to zero (or some other function-defined number). A node that fires frequently is not more valuable than one that fires rarely; indeed, extremes at either end subject the node as a candidate for deletion. Do not, in a network, confuse frequency with value. Ever.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 12:00
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Susan Patrick, Kathryn Kennedy, Allison Powell, International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), Apr 10, 2015

The School Improvement Network sponsored a post in  EdSurge linking to this white paper, and the paper is heavy with self-referential linking (so take some of it with a grain of salt) but it is on the whole worth a read as an outline of the major elements (and supporting technologies) for personalized learning. The key point (and probably why it's the subject of a marketing campaign) is that personalized learning and competencies go hand-in-hand. Well, this is true, if the object of learning is some sort of certification or standardized outcome. That's a pretty big 'if' and publishing companies are pushing hard toward making it a fact, because they see a gold mine in standardized learning materials. Non-standard outcomes, though, notwithstanding questions about certification, are far more valuable toward individual growth and development. Interestingly, many of the same technologies described in the report promote both standardized and non-standardized outcomes. (Note that OLDaily does not accept sponsored posts and receives no remuneration for any content posted in this newsletter).

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Online Test-Takers Feel Anti-Cheating Software’s Uneasy Glare

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 12:00
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Natasha Singer, New York Times, Apr 10, 2015

More on ProctorTrack, the service that stares at you through your camera while you take an online exam. Not surprisingly, students don't like it. According to the article, "Even for an undergraduate raised in a culture of selfies and Skype, Ms. Chao found the system intrusive. 'I felt it was sort of excessive,' she said... [it] seems to impose more onerous strictures on students than a live proctor would. Among other things, it requires students to sit upright and remain directly in front of their webcams at all times, according to guidelines posted on the company’ s site."

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The Virtues of Moderation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 10:00
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James Grimmelmann, The Yale Journal of Law & Technology, Apr 10, 2015

This is a careful, deep, sophisticated article that consumed a large chunk of my morning working my through its 68 pages of detailed explanation and rich referencing. In many respects, this account of internet moderation can be considered authoritative. To view the taxonomy itself, view the table of contents, where we can see listed techniques, distinctions between types of moderation, and community characteristics. There are four case studies. As a note of caution, however, I draw attention to the author's four overall conclusions: moderation is complex; moderation is diverse; moderation is necessary; and moderation is messy. These conclusions are used to draw some 'lessons for law' in the area of the Communications Decency Act and copyright enforcement. This to my view, however, represents a not-so-subtle shift from communities on the internet to the internet as community. And it is by no means clear to me that the taxonomy, nor the conclusions, apply to the internet as a whole. And yet I feel that legislators and critics, on reading this article, will feel such a pull inevitable. At any rate, this is a must-read. Image: Best of Metafilter. Via Jessamyn West, Facebook.

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The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 13:00
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Paul Campos, New York Times, Apr 09, 2015

I saw this post the other day and was suspicious when I read the phrase "legislative appropriations to higher education" being compared to U.S. military spending. This could mean anything! The point the author is trying to make is that government investments have not declined, while costs meanwhile have soared due primarily to higher spending on administration. Fredrik deBoer does a proper  refutation of the article. "He cites essentially none of his data," argues deBoer, and "he constantly mixes federal and state spending." Worse, "Campos is contradicted by other data that actually spells out a methodology and where the numbers came from." Campos focuses on the larger overall cost of the system, but as deBoer, far more students are enrolled today, and the government investment per capita has dropped. To me, the core question is, why would the NY Times publish such sloppy argumentation in the first place? There was once a time when the newspaper had standards. Those times are long gone. Via Bryan Alexander.

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