Miscellaneous

The American Dream is Dead

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 13:24

Georges Abi-Heila, The Startup, Jun 02, 2018

Students have been encouraged to invest in education on the ground that it promises, ultimately, a better life. There is a basis in reality for this belief, but it's limited. "No matter what your educational background is, where you start has become increasingly important for where you end." The point of this article is to remind people (especially the rich) of the role good fortune played in their success, and to encourage them not to think that they are especially gifted or important, and to be less selfish and sanctimonious. It's good advice, but unfortunately, the wealthy do not read the writings of the proles. Meanwhile, we as educators must consider the role we play in perpetuating this state of affairs.

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Can the universities of today lead learning for tomorrow?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:55

Catherine Friday, Lucille Halloran, Ernst & Young Australia, Jun 02, 2018

The authors offer (36 page PDF) four scenarios for the university of the future: the champion university; the commercial university; the disruptor university; and the virtual university. The context is Australian but the trends are global. "Demand for learning is shifting to a fundamentally new paradigm," write the authors. "Once the first new entrant cracks the market, we believe a deluge could follow." The potential for disruption is mapped to a useful grid showing how universities create, deliver and capture value. The trend toward change is depicted in terms of drivers (the usual suspects) and perceptions. The four scenarios are derived by means of government role (hands on vs hands off) and learner preferences (bundled degrees vs unbundled courses). Via Contact North.

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The Theranos Story and Education Technology

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 12:40

John Warner, Inside Higher Ed, Jun 02, 2018

John Warner compares the promises made by AI and personalized learning vendors with tne owner of the blood testing 'vaporware' product Theranos. "Through a combination of secrecy, lies, flattery, and intimidation, she maintained a fiction about having developed a truly revolutionary piece of technology." There was no requirement that the product actually work; her customers were venture capitalists, who only need to be sold on the idea. Theranos was revealed only after the Hippocratic Oath forced insiders to come clean. "I’m thinking we should have a similar "first do no harm" threshold for introducing technology into the classroom," writes Warner. This is an idea that has been around for a while, and I think it's a good one.

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Switching from subjects to skills: Teaching students born in the age of technology

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 20:18

Kurt Söser, Microsoft Education, Jun 01, 2018

Here's the argument: "We as educators have to shift from teaching students in subjects, to teaching students in skills." Why? "It is the human brain (and heart) that has to get behind the simple steps of a solution that lead into bigger things and the mathematical concepts behind them. And that’s where an educator steps in, to have a conversation about skills and concepts." Honestly, that's not a very good argument all. There are good reasons to focus on skills rather than subjects (skills are practical, subjects aren't, for example). This isn't one of them. Worse, it seems to me to be pandering to teachers (as in, 'sure we do technology but we still need you, we really do').

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You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 20:01

Daniel DeNicola, Aeon, Jun 01, 2018

This is a challenging proposition. It is not the assertion that you can only believe things you know to be true - that's too strong. But it is the proposition that you ought not be able to believe things you know to be false (things like: the moon landing was fake, the world is flat, and other more venal beliefs I won't repeat here). Moreover, if the belief is morally wrong, "we condemn not only the potential acts that spring from such beliefs, but the content of the belief itself, the act of believing it, and thus the believer." This contradicts the long-touted idea that people should be able to believe whatever they want. But if belief causes action, and some actions are reprehensible, then so shouldn't be the beliefs? But if we can't believe whatever we want, well, who then decides?

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China’s schools are quietly using AI to mark students’ essays ... but do the robots make the grade?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 18:42

Stephen Chen, South China Morning Post, Jun 01, 2018

I'm not sure what 'quietly' means in this context, given that it's all over the media, but it's no surprise, given China's advanced artificial intelligence capability (as evidenced, for example, by its facial recognition systems). But according to the author, "parents were not informed, access to the system terminals was limited to authorised staff, test results were strictly classified, and in some classes even the pupils were unaware that their work had been read and scored by a machine."

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The Structural Consequences of Big Data-Driven Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 18:12

Zeide Elana, Big Data, Jun 01, 2018

Though such stories are an Audrey Watters hate read, there's no question big data and predictive algorithms are breaking into schools. The question is, what are the long-term effects of this. That's what this paper addresses. "Each shift in pedagogical decision-making has the potential for unintended consequences because of inaccurate or unrepresentative data, algorithmic bias or disparate impact, scientism replacing more holistic and contextualized personal evaluation, and the exclusion of noncomputable variables and nonquantifiable learning outcomes." It should go without saying: let's be careful out there.

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My #Netnarr Reflection

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/28/2018 - 17:13

Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, May 31, 2018

This is a wrap-up from Levine's Networked Narratives class at Kean University. Mostly it's what we would expect, but I wanted to highlight this: "I have grown to love the concept I learned from Mia of having an over all shape or major parts of the course outlined as a “spine” but filling in details as we went, rather than committing everything to a detailed syllabus." Ah, the spine, linking in resources and services as needed. Enjoy my hand-drawn version of this old standby from 1997.

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The 3 Types of Diversity That Shape Our Identities

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/28/2018 - 14:24

Celia de Anca, Salvador Aragón, Harvard Business Review, May 31, 2018

I talk about diversity as a core value in learning networks, so the question for me is whether this discussion of diversity adds to that. According to the author, reporting on a Spanish study, "diversity usually means one of three things: demographic diversity (our gender, race, sexual orientation, and so on), experiential diversity (our affinities, hobbies, and abilities), and cognitive diversity (how we approach problems and think about things)." Each of these seems to me to be trivialized in this article. None of the following are mentioned: culture, background, language, experience and trauma, disability, competencies, values, religion, and origin of a sense of self-worth.

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Now playing: a movie you control with your mind

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/28/2018 - 11:18

Rachel Metz, MIT Technology Review, May 31, 2018

The headline should probably read 'influence' rather than 'control'. Still, the idea of a movie you can influence with your mind raises new possibilities for interactive media. Whileyou wear a NeuroSky MindWave headset, "scenes, music, and animation change every time you watch it, depending on the meanderings of your mind." The movie, "a 27-minute avant-garde tale called The Moment," was created by Richard Ramchurn, a graduate student at the University of Nottingham.

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Hosting Futures

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 18:47

Jim Groom, bavatuesdays, May 28, 2018

I'm still in the mindset of "about what piloting a mashup of LAMP and Docker-container based hosting might look like." So I'm just as interested as Jim Groom in QUBES: “a community of math and biology educators who share resources and methods for preparing students to tackle real, complex, biological problems.” Groom adds that "QUBES is built on top of a project that came out of Purdue University called HUBzero, a service which provides focused community sites, course spaces, open educational resource sharing, and access to applications used heavily in the sciences, such as R, Latex, Jupyter Notebooks, etc." This whole space is moving forward at breakneck speed; it's exciting but really hard to keep up.

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First Law of Robotics

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 18:28

Metafilter, May 28, 2018

The problem isn't with automated systems or artificial intelligence. The problem is with companies deploying such systems with the same due care and attention they pay to their customers needs and interests on a day-to-day basis. Case in point: Uber. "There were no software glitches or sensor breakdowns that led to a fatal crash, merely poor object recognition, emergency planning, system design, testing methodology, and human operation." For example, "Uber chose to disable emergency braking system before fatal Arizona robot car crash, safety officials say." I think we can trust artificial intelligence in learning, but not artificial intelligence managed by Silicon Valley corporations in learning.

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The Great Remake is Underway

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 18:21

Sunanna Chand, Ani Martinez, Remake Learning, May 28, 2018

This is a bold claim: " One of the biggest shifts in the history of education is underway across the country as rote memorization makes way for deeper learning, standardized tests are replaced by whole-student assessments, and lecture-style classrooms turn into collaborative hands-on learning spaces." Bold, but backed up with examples of funded projects "to support new learning opportunities that equip students with deep content knowledge and creative capacities, but also the skills and traits needed to thrive in a rapidly changing world." No links for any of them, sadly, but a diligent reader wielding the project titles and Google search could find enough background reading for a full weekend.

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Blockchain technologies face a maturity problem

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 17:56

Dan Swinhoe, IDG Connect, May 28, 2018

The first problem is scalability, which shows up immediately in the amount of time it takes to verify that a transaction is authentic. Visa performs 40K transactions per second, while Ethereum and Bitcoin are capable of between 7-15 per second. You see the issue. The energy cost is another factor, "currently around 180 million KWh for just 200,000 transactions." Again, you see the issue. A third issue centres around hacking; while the blockchain itself is secure, the systems around it might not be. This is how the recent Ethereum hack worked. Choice is also becoming an issue; "there are dozens of different networks you can employ, each with their own features and capabilities." Where is this headed? The article suggests (and it's hard to disagree) that we'll see more emphasis on private blockchains; "pragmatists understand that businesses need solutions that are both scalable and flexible to their needs, even if in being ‘permissioned’ they aren’t true to Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision." Oh well, I guess I'll just go play with cryptokitties.

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Implementation of an Intelligent Library System Based on WSN and RFID

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 17:23

Yuping Gao, International Journal of Online Engineering, May 28, 2018

This paper describes the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) to automate the process of finding, borrowing and returning books at the library. This would be an advance over scanning barcodes, which still require a lot of human intervention. The obvious analogy here is with the no-checkout store unveiled by Amazon earlier this year. The paper described the algorithms in detail and describes a test of the system. My only criticism is to question why we still need to borrow physical books. But of course the same approach can work with any educational resource.

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Government of Canada launches Future Skills Centre call for proposals and Future Skills Council call for applications

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 17:36

Employment and Social Development Canada, Cision, May 27, 2018

There's a lot of detail, but here's the gist: "$225 million over four years, and $75 million per year thereafter, in Future Skills. The Future Skills Centre and Future Skills Council will be tasked with exploring new and innovative approaches to skills development, identifying the skills employers will need now and in the future and sharing information to inform future investments and programming." Here's the backgrounder. Here's a background paper from last year. Here's the application process. There's a webinar June 7.

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New York Doubles Down on Open Educational Resources

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 11:28

Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, May 27, 2018

Overview of how SUNY is focusing on open educational resources (OER), including this definition of 'open pedagogy', which I like: "Much of the focus in the year ahead will be trying to shift from OER adoption to 'open pedagogy,' in which faculty members don't just use existing open content but take the next step toward involving their students in modifying it, 'so they're involved deeply in the content,' Hatch says. 'When you get students involved in creating is when you start to build their creativity.'" See also: Amplifying Student Voice Through Digital Resources, part one, part two.

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Progress report for Educational and Occupational Credentials in schema.org

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/23/2018 - 19:17

Phil Barker, Sharing and learning, May 26, 2018

I've been watching a lot of discussion about this on the mailing lists and so think of this as a snapshot rather than the final word. The document basically "summarizes information from the community group wiki for those use cases that we have addressed, with links to the outline use case description, the wiki page showing how we met the requirements arising from that use case, and proposed new terms on a test instance of schema.org." Some major outstanding issues are reported, including "whether accreditation is a form of recognition." There are also some proposed Schema.org changes.

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A Learning Design Methodology for Developing Short Learning Programmes in Further and Continuing Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/23/2018 - 17:47

Lillian Buus, Marianne Georgsen, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, May 26, 2018

This paper addresses a common issue faced by designers who are working with instructors. "The teachers’ actions in the design process are clearly centred around the role and work of the teacher, and their ideas about the new design are heavily influenced by their existing teaching practice and by the logics of their face-to-face courses. Technology is added to what they already do..." So the authors ask, "How can one combine the levels of activity: strategic level; tactical level and operational level; in such a way, that teachers’ design work is facilitated, regardless of their previous experience?" The authors test an approach called the Collaborative e-Leaning Design method (CoED). Though it's based on data collected over 4-5 years, the paper leaves me wondering about the answer to the question. I wish we'd seen something specific by way of a conclusion rather than vague generalities about online communities of practice.

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Will Blockchains Revolutionize Education?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/23/2018 - 17:32

David McArthur, EDUCAUSE Review, May 26, 2018

The idea of blockchain has caught the imagination of decision-makers recently not only in finance but also in government and education. This article is a pretty good overview of how blockchain technologies might be applied in education (specifically, to support competencies and credentials, beginning maybe with badges), along with an outline of some of the costs and limitations of the technology. Some of the major differences between government and educational applications and financial applications include the use of 'permissioned' ledgers, which limits who can add data to the blockchain, and interoperability with government and educational data systems. See also: Cross-Platform Scaling:The Way Forward for Businesses on Blockchain.

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