Miscellaneous

Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00
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Andy Greenberg, Wired, Aug 03, 2014

I'm not saying this has anything to do with certain recent cases of hacking, but the flaw seems serious and pervasive. "Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan to present next week, demonstrating a collection of proof-of-concept malicious software that highlights how the security of USB devices has long been fundamentally broken." The malware is embedded not in the data stored on the USB, but in the firmware itself, making it invisible to screening software. And no, it's not just the bad guys who could use this. "The USB attack may in fact already be common practice for the NSA (in) a spying device known as Cottonmouth, revealed earlier this year in the leaks of Edward Snowden."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Canadian University Social Software Guidelines and Academic Freedom: An Alarming Labour Trend

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Taryn Lough;Toni Samek, International Review of Information Ethics, Aug 03, 2014

Most universities have adopted guidelines for the use of social media, but their reach and impact has not been benign, according to the authors. "The guidelines attempt to blur what is appropriate in what space, revealing a repressive impulse on the part of university administrations. These guidelines are read as obvious attempts to control rather than merely guide, and speak to the nature of institutional over-reach."

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Student Privacy: Harm and Context

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Mark MacCarthy, International Review of Information Ethics, Aug 03, 2014

As the author notes, "Education is on the verge of dramatic changes in the collection, flow and use of student information." One approach, the "harm approach," seeks to advocate the use of these technologies that cause the least harm to students. By contrast, writes Mark MacCarthy, "the theory of contextual integrity counsels caution about transgressive changes that violate intuitive context-relative norms governing information flows." What that means is that the violation of ethics occurs not when harm is done, but when the extraction of information violates what people would expect of normal information flows. Thus, for example, information about personal physical properties, or the sharing of information to unrelated third parties, violate ethics because they go beyond the bound of normal information flow, even if no actual harm is caused.

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The Ethics of Big Data in Higher Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Jeffrey Alan Johnson, International Review of Information Ethics, Aug 03, 2014

Interesting look at the effect of data mining in education (8 page PDF). The author makes the point that research based in data mining works quite differently from traditional research. I quote:

  1. Data mining eschews the hypothetico-deductive process, relying instead on a strictly inductive process in which the model is developed a posteriori from the data itself.
  2. Data mining relies heavily on machine learning and artificial intelligence approaches, taking advantage of vastly increased computing power to use brute-force methods to evaluate possible solutions.
  3. Data mining characterizes specific cases, generating a predicted value or classification of each case without regard to the utility of the model for understanding the underlying structure of the data.
  4. Data mining aims strictly at identifying previously unseen data relationships rather than ascribing causality to variables in those relationships.

The author surveys the ethical implications of this. On the one hand, the good news is that model-based theories which treat all students as though they were the same are replaced with an approach recognizing the individuality of each student. But on the surface, the approach risks revealing information about students they don't want revealed, and risks fostering paternalism through the recommendation process, and at a deeper level, the risk of "scientism," or " he temptation to un-critically accept claims that purport to have scientific backing."

The  current issue of the International Review of Information Ethics is a special issue on the digital future of education (it's issue number 21).

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An Applied Learning Experience Field Research and Reporting at the 2012 National Party Conventions

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Carolyn S. Carlson;Joshua N. Azriel;Jeff DeWitt;Kerwin Swint, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching, Learning, Aug 03, 2014

One example of a developmental experience is to include students in conference proceedings, including (in this case) acting as researchers and reporters, as  covered here before. "Students engaged in such experiential learning projects develop a more substantive understanding of the subject matter under study, enhanced motivation for learning, and greater feelings of academic achievement and citizenship."

This and the next two items are from the  current issue of International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, just released.

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Disentangling The Effects Of Student Attitudes and Behaviors On Academic Performance

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Susan Janssen;Maureen O'Brien, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching, Learning, Aug 03, 2014

commented the other day that a study was misleading because it didn't take into account motivation. This paper documents that effect. "Separate analyses of ability and motivation groups are conducted," write the authors. "We find that motivation and ability explain variation in both homework and exam scores." The literature explains the link: "motivation influences performance through its effect on selfregulatory behaviors and study strategies... Self-regulated students engage in increased effort by completing supplemental problems, managing time effectively, and seeking help in solving problems." 31 page PDF.

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Creating a Transformational Learning Experience: Immersing Students in an Intensive Interdisciplinary Learning Environment

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Shelley K. White;Mindell Reiss Nitkin, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching, Learning, Aug 03, 2014

As the authors note, "The literatures on transformative, student centered, active, experiential, cooperative, and self-directed learning all focus on reframing the learning process." Consequently this paper looks at "the Simmons World Challenge (in which) the program immerses students in an intensive learning experience in which students take ownership of their learning and develop an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems... problems such as immigration, poverty, and hunger." The paper describes the program methodology in detail and documents the outcomes: "life-changing, educational, interdisciplinary, exciting, challenging, exhausting, illuminating and thrilling." 32 page PDF.

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Campus Tech 2014: Reinventing Higher Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 18:00
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Tara E. Buck, Ed Tech, Aug 02, 2014

I like data as much as the next person. Probably more. But I'm fussy. And while I'm impressed by 3 billion data points in EdX, I first of all know that this is a relatively small amount of data, only a fraction of the actual reading and learning that happens online, and that it is a terribly unrepresentative sample, coming from only one platform representing only one approach. But based on the Universal Theory of the Social Sciences ("every person is like the students taking my class") we obtain some generalizations. “ We know what parts of the learning experience contribute to successful outcomes, and whether that’ s tied to certain kinds of students. We are using this to learn how students learn," says edX CEO Anant Agarwal. “ Now we can show them the data and say, ‘ If you really want to improve the outcomes, keep the video short.’ ” Wait, did I just read an entire article to find out  that? And he adds, “ The last time we gave teachers a new tool was 1862: a piece of chalk and a chalkboard.” I guess he missed the 1970s entirely, when they rolled TVs into the classrooms, or the 1990s, with computer labs and Smartboards, and... oh, what's the use?

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Connecting with faculty

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 18:00


Clint Lalonde, ClintLalonde.net, Aug 02, 2014

What I really like about this post is the discovery of entire networks of educators in places unexpected. "I had no idea," writes Clint Lalonde, "no idea that there would be such a strong education track at a general conference." And so we are introduced to the the  Chemwiki project, the IONiC (Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists) and VIPEr (Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource) (more). Though I'm not familiar with these groups, I'm not surprised, because everywhere I go, I find another cluster, another community, another little network of reserachers and educators.

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SIMULACRE: A proposal for practical training in e learning environments

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 18:00


Alba Colombo, Muriel Gómez Pradas, RUSC Universities, Knowledge Society Journal, Aug 02, 2014

This article "a new proposal for practical training called SIMULACRE, which is based on a model that combines the theory of simulation games, problem-solving and cooperative learning." As the description suggests, students work cooperatively in a virtual environment to solve problems. "The students compare and contrast various views and then opt for a single proposed solution after taking into account the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats." (This sounds more like collaboration than cooperation) The paper describes an application of the model and evaluations after the learning process (n=80, so don't interpret the data quantitatively, as the sample is too small). See more articles from RUSC Universities and Knowledge Society Journal, including Theresa Koroivulaono, Open Educational Resources: a regional university’ s journey.

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Melbourne University pulls Teach for Australia "criticism"

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 12:00


Jewel Topsfield, The Age, Aug 02, 2014

Here's the  original criticism of Teach for Australia, which is similar to the U.S.-based Teach for America program: "“ Programs like Teach for Australia - while five times more expensive than traditional programs - are increasing despite an absence of a reasonable evaluative basis to continue this support." Needless to say, the decision to remove the criticism from the final submission has resulted in much more publicity for the criticism, not to mention undermining the Melbourne University's academic integrity.

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Learning theories and online learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 09:00
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Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Aug 02, 2014

If you need a short chapter-length overview of (educational) learning theories, this is the place to look. Tony Bates reviews the major contenders from Behaviourism on down. He takes the perspective that a lot is known about the field: quoting Knapper, "there is an impressive body of evidence on how teaching methods and curriculum design affect deep, autonomous, and reflective learning. Yet most faculty are largely ignorant of this scholarship..." Maybe so, but the underlying question has to be answered: how much of this evidence is actually accurate and useful? My own take is: almost none of it. As time goes by, we get more theories of education, not fewer. That's not how it should work. (One more quibble: Bates says, "Connectivists such as Siemens and Downes tend to be somewhat vague about the role of teachers or instructors." I can't speak for George, but I think my  papers and  presentations on the topic are pretty precise.)

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Open Access and the Public Purse

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 09:00


Julia M. Wright, Academic Matters, Aug 02, 2014

The argument about whether open access (OA) mandates should express support for article processing fees (APC) has hit Canada, which a  policy paper leaning in that direction. Julia Wright responds to the proposal: "if the goal is 'Opening Canadian Research to the World,' are per-article requirements the best route? What if that $4.1-13.9 million were kept in Canada to help our journals convert to or maintain OA with minimal or no APCs? Canadian journals as a group could be truly OA, affordable and high-quality— a haven for researchers dealing with per-article OA requirements on their grants." Agreed. More from Michael Geist. Via Academica.

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Chinese cyberattack hits Canada's National Research Council

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 09:00


Rosemary Barton, CBC News, Aug 02, 2014

So this was the big news in the office yesterday. I have nothing to add to the media coverage of the story, except to confirm that we are being told internally basically the same story (less, actually) as is being reported externally: "A 'highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor' recently managed to hack into the computer systems at Canada's National Research Council, according to Canada's chief information officer, Corinne Charette." Note that all my websites (OLDaily, mooc.ca, Half an Hour) are on completely separate systems from the NRC and are not impacted by the current incident. More: Toronto Star, BBC, GovInfoSec, CTV. Related: watch the cyberwars in real time. Warning: addictive.

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http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/07/27/why-lectures-are-dead-or-soon-will-be/

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/01/2014 - 12:00
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Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Aug 01, 2014

As a test of Tony Bates's assertion, go to  Codeacademy and try it out for an hour, and then come back. OK, back? Now ask yourself, could you even stand having the same content delivered to you by lecture? Keep in mind that you would have to do another hour's worth of work to practice it and actually learn it. And that's why the lecture is dead as a learning device. But, as Bates remarks, "This does not mean that lectures will disappear altogether, but they will be special events, and probably multi-media, synchronously and asynchronously delivered. Special events might include a professor’ s summary of his latest research, the introduction to a course, a point mid-way through a course for taking stock and dealing with common difficulties, or the wrap-up to a course." The point of a lecture isn't to teach. It's to reify, rehearse, assemble and celebrate.

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Early Review of Google Classroom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 08/01/2014 - 09:00
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Phil Hill, e-Literate, Aug 01, 2014

The fade-to-black transition in the slide show was so distracting I couldn't finish (yes, it's that bad). And that's the main problem I can see with Google Classroom - tight integration with Google tools. This is great if you love Google tools, but I find that other companies do user interface better than Google. Also, other companies don't spy on you (as much or as pervasively).

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