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Useful paper from Daniel Dennett summarizing some of his major arguments about consciousness. What he says about the origin of consciousness seems right to me: "the rich and complex interplay between neurons, hundreds of neuromodulators, and hormones." Crucially, there isn't some sort of internal 'viewing screen', there isn't some 'viewer', and these basic elements of perception ('qualia') are not used as 'raw materials' by some other sort of cognition, but are cognition itself. Everything we thing cognition does is actually happening in the interplay between neurons, hundreds of neuromodulators, and hormones. Because as Dennett says, where else would it be happening? The later stages of the paper are more challenging and less well supported by evidence, in my view, but constitute essentially the view that this interplay is moderated not only by our experiences of the world, but also of others' experiences of us. Consciousness is, in other words, a community phenomenon, and not merely an individual phenomenon. It becomes something like a lingua franca that enables us to interact effectively.[Link] [Comment]
The newly released Pokemon Go is an instant hit, though the technology has been growing for a while. What's interesting about it is that it creates virtual entities that inhabit the real world. More, you can interact with them by capturing them, training them, and pitting them in combat against each other. It's funny that Google ran this as an April Fools prank a couple of years ago. The Wikipedia article is a good overview. There will no doubt now be a slew of articles from the usual suspects about the impact of Pokemon Go in the classroom, the dangers of interacting with strangers, and the problem of people being too involved in playing the Pokemon game.[Link] [Comment]
Group awareness and self-regulation separately influence student learning, write the authors, but how well do they work together? Specifically, how do they influence assessment, participation and peer interaction? That's the focus of this study. In a nutshell, the two working together increase task completion and requests for help, but not whether people respond, which seems to be governed solely by group awareness, and not influenced by self-regulation. But of course all sorts of other things might have played a role, as they admit in their conclusion; for example, the quality of the requests for help may have mattered. As usual, I caution that the numbers involved are so small that no generalizations can be drawn from this data; the paper is relevant only for the questions it asks and the experimental design. More from the current issue of IRRODL.[Link] [Comment]
The publicity - for and against - MOOCs did not hurt Coursera a bit. Rather, it gave it the exposure it needed, and served to help them refine their business model. So says Daphne Koller: “ It’ s impossible to learn quickly enough and iterate enough to make massive improvements, [but online courses change that] because of the number of students that engage and because a new cohort starts every two weeks, so you tweak something and a couple of weeks later you already know if it’ s working." P.S. I notice the Time Higher Education has a new policy that limits the number of articles you can view, and an aannoying lock icon that follows you as you read. A response to recent events in Britain? As always, subscription fees smack of desperation.[Link] [Comment]
Discussion of some of my recent comments on whether a neural network needs domain knowledge in order to learn. As Matthias Melcher suggests, many artificial neural networks will have the benefit of training by human experts. But what of human neural networks? And how does this play into the idea that learning is sequential? "I think," writes melcher, "while artificial networks need some prerequisite input, human neuronal networks use recognizing from the very beginning and require no indispensable prerequisites." This is enabled by thinking of learning as a process of recognition rather than of representation. "Recognition explains the deeper mechanism of learning as not linear/ sequential (not via fixed isolated representations) but as laminar/ all-at-once (multiple connected features of a pattern)."[Link] [Comment]
I don't really cover blended learning but I found this article quite useful from the perspective of understanding what's happening in the world of education according to Microsoft (Google and Apple also have similar programs). Things like OneDrive, OneNote and Microsoft Forms play a major role (again, see the same thing in Google). It's worth noting that most people working with educational technology are working in this world. Also, I liked this: "An expert is someone who isn't afraid to share how they mess things up while they are learning."[Link] [Comment]
I haven't reported on fMRI research here over the years nog because I magically knew that it was flawed - obviously I didn't - but because I don't trust it. The problem is that the fMRI images are data being interpreted with no way to validate the interpretation. You may as well try to read hard drives by scanning the heat signatures; who is to say your reading is wrong? How bad is the current result? "Some results were so inaccurate, they could be indicating brain activity where there was none." It's the sort of thing that people should have expected. The winner of a igNobel used an fMRI to detect brain activity in a pumpkin and a dead salmon. "The authors note that at the time the poster was presented, between 25-40% of studies on fMRI being published were NOT using the corrected comparisons."[Link] [Comment]
This post reminds me of my own article on change from a few years ago, but it has many more models than I include. I would have preferred to see more discussion of each model, with examples actually included in the text, but the grid format makes for a handy reference. Also, I think it would have been useful to specify that all of these models are at work to one extend or another, varying across contexts and domains. There's a link to a large PDF version. Via Ross Dawson. Related: Six basic emotional arcs of storytelling.[Link] [Comment]
After events such as the changes to Evernote or the shut-down of Google Reader we get constant reminders like this one, that we cannot depend on free. That's true. But crucially, we cannot depend on paid, either. Like when I bought iMovie from Apple and the first update eliminated the timeline view of my movies. After that, all it ever did was generate thumbnails. Or how about those people who bought WebCT and Angel, counting on continued service and support. Or closer to home, my Windows 8 was almost forceably updated to Windows 10, which obsoleted my laptop. I could go on and on about how undependable the stuff we pay for is. So undependibility has nothing to do with whether the software is free. It has everything to do with the business model behind the software, free or otherwise.[Link] [Comment]
A few years ago we invited Clark Aldrich into the Chande 11 online course, where he talked about simulations for learning. Over the years he has created and collected a variety of these under the heading 'short sims' and the slogan 'simple educational simulations work better." He explains that short sims provide a richer experience. They "can present complex processes for students to perform, remembering past decisions." They "can put students in social situations with many possible options." Try one here.[Link] [Comment]
It's a pretty easy way to write a story: ask the Twitterverse a question, and then write about the responses. Of course you have to have a Twitterverse to make this work (my network of some 8500 followers is probably too small) and your qquestion has to touch a nerve. And this question touched a nerve: "why are university websites often terrible?" The article lists a number of common deficiencies (such as bad menus) and the oft-observed fact that "site structure reflects what the institution thinks is important, not what site users actually want to know." As well, there is a "conflation of promotional and informational material and approaches." But does this really get to the question of why they are so bad? Not really. Image: XKCD.[Link] [Comment]
I'm totally agreed with this: "We propose the use of networking approaches that enable negotiation and exchange to encourage heterogeneity rather than emergent definition of community." The authors describe the progression of community in a MOOC in different social network services. They note that the number of participating drops, but the participation increases, with the result that a small group of people dominates discussion. This group (I would argue) is the 'group' that I have talked about that introduces negative influences in a learning to environment, that ‘ warm glow’ communitarian notion of community... as a shared meaning".
This has significant implications to the question "can the community be the curriculum?" Does, in other words, community define praxis, values, thinking abilities and intended actions? It shouldn't, I think. Diversity is more important. The authors write, "Tensions between the lack of agreed objectives, minimal curriculum and the need to form community impacted on the experiences of learners. This may have been an intentional element in the course design, yet from a theoretical perspective Rhizomatic Learning is intended to encourage heterogeneity rather than convergence to the discourse acceptable to the most active participants amongst hundreds."[Link] [Comment]
There are some really interesting and important bits in this article, mostly near the beginning (it rambles quite a bit). Let me highlight them:
- first is that with a few small pieces you can make almost anything. "There are twenty amino acids. With those twenty amino acids you make the motors in the molecular muscles in my arm, you make the light sensors in my eye, you make my neural synapses."
- second, you're not designing for the outcome. "The twenty amino acids don't encode light sensors, or motors. They’ re very basic properties like hydrophobic or hydrophilic."
- third, what these small parts do is essentially to digitize reality. "Digitizing fabrication in the deep sense means that with about twenty building blocks— conducting, insulating, semiconducting, magnetic, dielectric— you can assemble them to create modern technology."
- fourth, what digitizing does is to eliminate error in replication. "The heart of it isn't ones and zeroes, it's the threshold property— the exponential scaling, the exponential reduction in error."
You see - it looks like a representational system, but we haven't created representations, we have merely substituted one physical medium for another, so it isn't the signs that are important. It's not a physical symbol system, it's just a physical system that reduces errors. "Computer science is one of the worst things to happen to computers or to science because, unlike physics, it has arbitrarily segregated the notion that computing happens in an alien world."[Link] [Comment]
I'm familiar with all of these 'mental models' so I can't simply dismiss them. But they strike me as a contemporary folk-psychological understanding of the world, representing a loose collection of context-free truisms rather than a comprehensive understanding. As with any list of principles it faces what can be known as the 'selection problem' - which principle applies now? How do I know that this principle, rather than that, will apply? Even more, what principles are missing - I can think of a whole list of truisms from carpentry and building that aren't here ('measure twice, cut once', 'use two thin coats, not one thick coat', etc). Yes, it's a useful toolkit, but a carpenter has an understanding that goes beyond the tools. This, not the tools, makes a carpenter. See also Farnham Street, Creating a Latticework of Mental Models. Also Tren Griffen, Charlie Munger and Mental Models.[Link] [Comment]
Following the retirement of Helen Galatis, ACER Research Fellow, who has curated Australia's Digital Education Research Network (DERN) newsletter since 2012, and maintained the research reviews following Dr Gerald White's retirement., DERN (Distance Education Research Network) services are being reviewed. For those who use DERN a survey is available to allow you to provide your feedback.[Link] [Comment]
I wonder how much of this is genuine concern and how much of it is a campaign of fear, uncertainty and doubt. True, some materials were genuine infringements and removed from Amazon's OER site. On the other hand the service runs squarely against the business model of sites like teacherspayteachers.com, described by the NY Times (accurately) as "a rival instructional resources site where educators offer lesson plans they have created." For the most part, resource sharimng among teachers is free and unfettered (and one wonders how many open resources have found they way into teacherspayteachers content). But when open content sharing is commercialized, as it is on Amazon, suddenly the standards rise. As soon as someone slaps a copyright on some material, whether justified or not, all instances of that material are called into question.[Link] [Comment]
There's a book on critical thinking in me somewhere trying to get out. But in the mean time people will have to make do with the many resources already available on the internet, for example, this set of videos on the fundamentals of critical thinking. Where I think traditional critical thinking goes wrong is that it is mostly based on formal reasoning methodologies. These are important, but our thinking and reason encompass far more.[Link] [Comment]
The short answer to this question in that, yes, they are a bad mix. They offer choice, but "these publicly financed arrangements come with great risks, however, due to the high failure rates of charter schools." Additionally, there is the danger of loss of control of the school system. "Charter schools, for instance, are fundamentally less democratic than public schools... a system in which charter school real estate and operations are controlled by private equity takes control out of the community." See also the New York Times, When you dial 911 and Wall Street answers. Image: Eton, from geograph. See also SpinWatch: The final frontier for privatisation: schools.[Link] [Comment]
This is another useful attempt to help people get a base-level understanding of what a blockchain is and does. Transactions are encrypted and put into blocks. "A block is the ‘ current’ part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed goes into the blockchain as permanent database."[Link] [Comment]
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