Miscellaneous

The Case Against Quantum Computing

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 04:00
Mikhail Dyakonov, IEEE Spectrum, Nov 19, 2018

We've seen a number of breathless predictions for quantum computing in the last couple of years. This article throws a cautionary note into our coverage. Here's the problem: "A useful quantum computer needs to process a set of continuous parameters that is larger than the number of subatomic particles in the observable universe." This in itself in't a big deal; the computer on which I'm typing this has 64 Gig RAM, which has ((64*8)^2)-1) possible states. The problem is that unlike my computer, in a quantum computer, each bit is in a probabilistic state, not an on-off state. But so what? Why wouldn't 'gating' work? As one commenter says, you can emulate my computer "on a quantum computer with circuit depth 1 by applying e.g. Hadamard gates to each individual qubit." Of course, like everything else, the proof will come in the form of actual working quantputers.

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The OA Interviews: Arul George Scaria

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 04:00
Richard Poynder, Open and Shut?, Nov 19, 2018

This is an interview with Arul George Scaria, the principle investigator of a landscape survey (175 page PDF) of the current situation in India as concerns open science conducted by the Centre for Innovation, Intellectual Property and Competition (CIIPC) in New Delhi. The document itself is significant, and the interview contains a number of key points, including this: "What we are witnessing today is the capture of shared community resources by a handful of cash-rich conglomerates who want to monopolise every aspect of science communication. We as a community need to fight back against the monopolisation of our resources."

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New Framework: Critical Uncertainties in the Future of Work

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 04:00
Ross Dawson, Nov 19, 2018

After having relaunched his newsletter earlier this year, Ross Dawson has released a new framework on the 'critical uncertancies' in the future of work. These include uncertainties based on the growth of AI, the growth of internet access in developing countries, on-demand work platforms, diversity of the labour force, and rising expectations for quality of life and positive impact.

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ePortfolios: Competing Concepts

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 04:00
Tom Woodward, Bionic Teaching, Nov 16, 2018

This is a combination of text and presentation (that loaded very slowly for me here, but that might be the office VPN squeaking) offering a compelling look at e-portfolios. Tom Woodward begins by sketching some 'competing concepts' of ePortfolios - whether they are trophy or progress, internal or external, etc. There's a bit where he points to a (hilarious) Twitter feed making it clear what happens when ePortfolios are institutionally owned (Taskstream is a classic example of how to take a good idea like ePortfolios and wring all the good out of it, leaving only a useless husk of despair).

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The Future Of Learning? Well, It's Personal

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 04:00
Anya Kamenetz, NPR, Nov 16, 2018

This NPR article on personal and personalized learning (cast here as two types of personalized learning) has a hard focus on U.S. schools sector issues and voices, which is unfortunate. It also lacks some historical depth, and as a result doesn't explore the application and development of personalized learning and competency-based learning in the military (think: Advanced Distributed Learning) and corporate sectors. And for 'evidence' we get Sal Khan's opinions. "We're all learning about factoring polynomials," he says, "but you're doing it in a context of something that interests you, say soccer.. That's not the type that we focus on. There's not evidence it's effective, and it's hard to implement."  It's a well-written but incomplete article and I have quibbles, at the very least.

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Statewide Data on OER Savings

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 04:00
Mark Lieberman, Inside Higher Ed, Nov 16, 2018

According to this article, " North Dakota students saved more than $1 million on textbooks after the state invested just $110,000 to help instructors use open educational resources. Audit identifies successes and ongoing challenges." It's based on a report (62 page PDF) from the State Auditor's office. There's a cautionary note, however. "OER are currently limited for certain academic areas of study and lack the same extent of supplementary materials," reads the report.

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Wars of Conflicting Webs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 04:00
Kicks Condor, Nov 16, 2018

This is an interesting article (from an unusual and interesting website) showing how many of the leading edge technologies for developing a distributed and decentralized web are at odds with each other. If I had to break it down, I'd say the conflict is between static (think HTML web pages, microformats, and RSS) and dynamic (think wiki and Activity Pub) online content. My approach (with gRSShopper and elsewhere) has always been to do both; static works for larger chunks of content, while dynamic is better for smaller content. The battleground, as always, is where these two intersect - which is around the size of a short blog post.

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Can The Feedback Of A Community Propel Sustainable Innovation? The Case Of Moodle

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 04:00
Moodle News, Nov 16, 2018

I've always been wary of using community feedback as a guide to software design. I know, this goes against the basic principles of the design process. But in my mind I'm after something pretty specific, and it feels to me like the community would lead me back to creating yet another LMS. So what happens when the question is put to an actual LMS, like Moodle? This article doesn't answer, but it mentions (though does not link to) Moodle's answer: The Moodle User Association’s Project Development Cycle. You can see how Moodle is managing it here (you have to agree to abide by their policies to view it) which kis based on voting and committee review.

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A Breakup Letter to Academic Philosophy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 04:00
Map UK, Olly Thorn, Nov 15, 2018

Olly Thorn, host of Philosophy Tube, reflects on how different the practice of philsophy is inside and outside academic institutions (and I feel him). "The philosophy was great, god knows I loved it (I remember staying up late doing philosophy with you, or sneaking off to a quiet bit of the library for a studying tryst), but it was all the other stuff getting in the way that just killed the spark for me...  It felt less about educating people or figuring out the world and more like justifying the university qua the structure and hierarchy that it is."

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Action research in the classroom: Applying spacing and retrieval practice

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 04:00
Damian Benney, The BERA Blog, Nov 15, 2018

I've seen nothing but good about the practice of 'spacing' - that is, teaching something, and then following up after intervals of time to conduct 'retrieval' activities requiring the original content. "An optimal gap should be long enough that information is actively and successfully retrieved from memory, but not so long that nothing can be retrieved." It makes sense to me - it's an application of "use it or lose it". And it underlines why practice is important after you've been shown something. But I'd like to think we can use it for something more imaginatibve than mere memorization of facts.

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Why Canada needs five new digital learning universities

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 04:00
Tony Bates, Online learning and distance education resources, Nov 15, 2018

The main reason, writes Tony Bates, is that "no higher education system, including Canada’s, is moving fast enough to cope adequately with the challenges of a digital society. Universities and colleges in Canada are changing, but not fast enough." So we should "establish five new regional universities-colleges that are designed from scratch as possible prototypes for the higher education institution of the future, but also designed to maximise the impact they have on existing institutions." But he intends them to be blended institutions with physical campuses; for example, Ontario's would be in Waterloo and Toronto. That would be a mistake - if there is to be a physical campus, then it needs to be a network of smaller campuses, serving the entire geographical region. Otherwise, if you're not within commuting distance of these virtual universities, they may as well not exist. (p.s. if anybody wants to actually fund these to get them up and running, send me an email; I'm on board).

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How Much Do You Rely on Research About Teaching?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 04:00
Dan Berrett, Beckie Supiano, Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov 15, 2018

In this article Dan Berrett and Beckie Supiano respond to readers "asking us to cite research more often, and lean a little less on anecdotal classroom experiences." It's a good discussion, but I would want to shift the perspective. Consider this: "if journalism is already several degrees removed from scholarship, the newsletter is further still." It's a world view where research is the foundation, and everything flows from that. But my own view of 'scholarship' is that it is secondary literature, often reporting on things long since developed (and sometimes abandoned) in the field. In may ways, I view my own newsletter as being placed somewhere between that work in the field and academic literature. They also note, " I can think of plenty of examples (that) despite being 'evidence-based,' those interventions don’t work." Me too. We all can. The fact is, the secondary literature (aka 'academic research' or 'scholarship') often gets it wrong. So, for that matter, does everyone else. Including me. There isn't a 'foundation'. It is a conversation, but nobody's voice is privileged.

(P.S. Dear Chronicle, when you send newsletters like Teaching Newsletter, as you did today, please grant your authors the dignity of last names, which you didn't today. It's pretty bad when your writers get more recognition in my newsletter than they do in yours.)

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Get The Research: Impactstory Announces a New Science-Finding Tool for the General Public

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 04:00
Rick Anderson, The Scholarly Kitchen, Nov 15, 2018

According to this article, "Impactstory recently announced a new tool in development. Called, Get The Research and aimed at serving the general public rather than an audience of scholars and specialists, it promises to provide a new level of accessibility (in multiple senses of the term) to published scholarship." Now to be clear, this tool doesn't actually exist yet; you can only sign up to be notified when the pre-release version is available (which I've done). Three things are planned: the search engine, which will be based on the Unpaywall database; "learning tools built on top of the literature" (which makes me wonder whether they'll enclose the literature); and "tools that actually translate articles into plain language" (same question).

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LinkedIn Becomes a Serious Open Learning Platform

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 04:00
Josh Bersin, Chief Learning Officer, Nov 15, 2018

It's true that LinkedIn has been a learning platform for some time now, but open? It depends on how you define it - "it’s now announcing it has completely opened up its learning platform to external content partners." That is, it is open in the sense that "customers who have purchased multiple content sources can offer their employees a single place to discover and access all of their organization’s learning content." That puts LinkedIn (and by extension, Microsoft) squarely in the LMS and Learning platform marketplace. And it has a key advantage: data. "When your employees use LinkedIn Learning, the platform knows a lot about them that your typical LMS does not understand. It has their job history, their connections and their social profile and inferred skills." But it is not in any sense that I would recognize "open".

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Learn With Facebook: A New Training Tool

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 20:46
Aysha Ashley Househ, Chief Learning Officer, Nov 14, 2018

According to this article, "Facebook announced Tuesday that it will launch Learn With Facebook, a career development site that focuses on both the hard and soft skills people need to advance in today’s digital workforce." Meanwhile, "Nearly 100 students walked out of classes at the Secondary School for Journalism in Park Slope last week in revolt against 'Summit Learning,' a web-based curriculum designed by Facebook engineers, and bankrolled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan." I would have thought Facebook would concentrate on fixing some of the things it has already broken - things like democracy, say, and civil discourse - but I guess not.

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Sure, Third Party Service, I Will Give You Permission to Delete My Calendar (?)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 20:40
Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Nov 14, 2018

Alan Levine was not happy with my selection of a calendar service for E-Learning 3.0. "I will also be vigilant and asking you, as well, to give some thought about the permissions you just give. It’s not that I think they are doing anything evil; I want transparency about their needs for these permissions." Makes sense. And also, as he says: "You can say 'no'." (As to: why did I use it? It was free, and I couldn't find any other service that did the same thing, and I wanted that thing.)

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‘The Academy Is Largely Itself Responsible for Its Own Peril’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 13:35
Evan Goldstein, Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov 14, 2018

This is an excellent interview with historian Jill Lepore, who has just released These Truths, a sweeping history of the United States from Columbus to Trump "asking whether the course of events over more than five centuries has proven the nation’s truths, or belied them" (of course one truth would have been to start a few centuries earlier, but I digress).

The interview mostly talks about the work itself, rather than the argument it contains, but in the (very short) segment signaled in the Chronicle headline she argues that "the retreat of humanists from public life has had enormous consequences" and "If we have a public culture that suffers for lack of ability to comprehend other human beings, we shouldn’t be surprised." Surprising insight for someone with a Harvard and Yale pedigree.

There's a lot more (this interview is to be savoured). The idea that American democracy represents the "transformation, from facts to numbers to data, traces something else: the shifting prestige placed on different ways of knowing," for example. And also: "Anyone who makes an identity-based claim for a political position has to reckon with the unfortunate fact that Stephen Douglas is their forebear, not Abraham Lincoln."

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The Coming Social Economy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 13:35
Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart, Nov 14, 2018

According to this article, "More than a third of the American workforce participates in the freelance economy." and "The majority of current high school students will spend at least part of their careers freelancing." They are thus becoming increasingly dependent on platforms like Craigslist, Thumbtack, TaskRabbit, and Upwork that "match buyers and sellers". This leads the author to predict "a social economy of people helping people." There are ways this can be done well and ways (as we have seen with Uber) this can be done very poorly. But really interestingly, "Measured efficacy will unlock the new social economy. Data will tell the value creation story of how well one person supports the growth of another." Or as I've said in the past, the credential of the future will be a job offer.

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‘Secret sharing’ system keeps your personal data safe

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 13:35
Taylor Kubota-Stanford, Futurity, Nov 14, 2018

The article feels more like marketing than data but it does indicate a trend toward secure personal information online. And the Prio mechanism it proposes could work, I think. " Secret sharing is a method for maintaining the security of data that involves breaking up a piece of information into specially formulated parts. That way, if someone gets hold of only one part, they learn nothing about the original piece of information. Prio uses secret sharing to break individual data points—such as whether you chose to change your browser homepage from the default setting—into secret shares and then sends those to two different servers." More about Prio from Mozilla here.

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