Miscellaneous

Working in Blackboard

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 19:00
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Jenny Mackness, Jul 08, 2015

Once many years ago I authored a course on introductory ethics in Blackboard. It was a good course; sadly I've lost all the content. Anyhow, what I remember was that I had to insert my own links from page to page, writing the code myself, to give students an intuitive flow from one page to the next in the environment. It is this sort of attitude I think that characterizes Jenny Mackness's post on working in Blackboard today. Sure, she writes, there are a lot of restrictions. But what do you tell people who have to work in the system? "We have to recognise what the positives of working within an LMS might be," she argues, "acknowledge the constraints, keep an open mind, be willing to experiment (and fail sometimes) and look for ways to overcome the constraints."

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Why character development in education might not be such a good idea

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 19:00
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Nick Hassey, Think Tank Review, Jul 08, 2015

"This is something I often ponder," writes Doug Belshaw in his newsletter. "I've been discussing it recently with friends and family recently, too. 'Character education' or 'grit', however, is a very right-wing concept taken down pretty well in this response to a recent Demos report." The report essentially asserts that there is no scientific basis for promoting character or 'grit' - either is is an inherent personal trait resistant to enhancement by education, or it is irrelevant in educational outcomes. We don't know. But more, to my mind, appeals to 'grit' are code for saying someone's culture (or race, or religion) makes them constitutionally resistant to education, which is a pernicious position at best (and flat out false at worst).

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Prior Learning Assessments Done Right

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 19:00
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Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, Jul 08, 2015

Longish article about prior learning assessment (PLA) at Empire State College, "everything to do with the kind of humane and truly personal education that we should be talking about when we throw around phrases like 'personalized education.'" The focus is on PLA for women of colour; according to Feldstein "PLA (is) more impactful than average for women and people of color... By recognizing that they have, in fact, already acquired college-level skills and knowledge, PLA helps them get past the insults to their self-image and dignity and helps them to envision themselves as successful college graduates."

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The Social-Network Illusion That Tricks Your Mind

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 13:00
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MIT Technology review, Jul 08, 2015

The subhead is this: "Network scientists have discovered how social networks can create the illusion that something is common when it is actually rare." It depends on the number of connections. Three people might own motorcycles, but if they're loners, it might seem like nobody owns motorcycles. But if they're really well connected, it might seem like everybody owns motorcycles. It's called "the majority illusion", and as the authors say, "the majority illusion can be used to trick the population into believing something that is not true." Here's the full paper.

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HOTS for Bloom’s, part 1

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 13:00
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Kathy Schrock, Discovery Education Network, Jul 08, 2015

When you use an acronym in your title you have some obligation to define it in the article, but that doesn't happen here, so I did some  searching to determine that 'HOTS' means 'Higher Order Thinking Skills' (presumably 'LOTS' means 'lower order thinking skills). This article relating HOTS to  Bloom's Taxonomy (and Bloom's revised) gives some pause for thought, which is useful. But the meaning of 'higher order' bothers me. Verbs related to 'creating' are counted as HOTS. But ants create. Beavers create. Birds create. Are they capable of higher order thinking? We can find similar examples of lower-order thinkers such as cats and raccoons 'analyzing' and 'evaluating'.  Are these even 'skills'? My first thought on reading the acronym was that they were 'strategies'. So while this characterization seems natural at first blush, something else is going on.

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New ADL #mLearning Design Reference model: adjust to your needs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 14:00
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Inge de Waard, Ignatia Webs, Jul 06, 2015

Inge de Waard reports that Peter Berking, lead of the MoTIF project, has released the newly adapted mLearning Design Reference model, and is now inviting us all to have a look at the reference model, and adapt it to our own needs." The  MoTIF project (Mobile Training Implementation Framework) is an  ADL initiative currently focused on a model that "embodies and integrates mobile learning constraints and best practices at the fundamental level of the design process itself,  leading the ISD to consider using alternative learning approaches, unique mobile device capabilities, and leveraging context and usage patterns of users in ways that desktop  DL and classroom learning do not usually address."

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Universities push for higher fees

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 14:00
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Sean Coughlan, BBC News, Jul 06, 2015

British universities are learning very well what North American universities have known for some time, that it is easier to convince governments to increase fees paid by students than it is to increase direct government expenditures. Any old excuse will do. 'These changes should be made now to ensure universities can continue to provide high quality education that meets the needs of students,' she (Janet Beer, vice-president of Universities UK) said." Yeah. 'Quality'.

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Dutch boycott of Elsevier – a game changer?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 11:00


Danny Kingsley, Unlocking Research, Jul 06, 2015

According to this article, "Koen Becking,  chairman of the Executive Board of Tilburg University  who has been  negotiating with scientific publishers about an open access policy on  behalf of Dutch universities with his colleague Gerard Meijer,  announced  a  plan to start boycotting Elsevier." The Dutch have been attempting to negotiate open access, where content would be "born free" with no barriers or subscription fees, but have not been able to to come close to an agreement with Elsevier.

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Personal Learning Graphs (PLeG)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 20:00
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George Siemens, elearnspace, Jul 05, 2015

After connectivism and MOOCs George Siemens followed the path leading to learning analytics, while I took the path leading to personal learning. In this article it looks like he sees the paths as converging. Certainly a lot of what he is saying here is what has been current in personal learning. Witness this: "Many of the personalized learning systems now available begin with an articulation of the knowledge space – i.e. what the learner needs to know. What the learner knows is somewhat peripheral and is only a focal point after the learner has started interacting with content. Additionally, the data that is built around learner profiles is owned by either the educational institution or the software company. This isn’ t a good idea. Learners should own the representation of what they know." There's a longish slide presentation to support the short post.

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Digital Storytelling for Transformative Global Citizenship Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 20:00


Hoa Truong-White, Lorna McLean, Canadian Journal of Education, Jul 05, 2015

From the abstract: "This article explores how digital storytelling offers the potential to support transformative global citizenship education (TGCE) through a case study of the Bridges to Understanding program that connected middle and high school students globally using digital storytelling." I'm not really a fan of storytelling, but I think that this is just my own personal preferences; other people love stories and swear by them. Having said that, my interest in storytelling is probably more around the way the teller is transformed in the telling of the story than in the way the listener is transformed in the listening to it. More articles form the just-released issue of the Canadian Journal of Education.

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U of Phoenix: Losing hundreds of millions of dollars on adaptive-learning LMS bet

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 20:00


Phil Hill, e-Literate, Jul 05, 2015

Adaptive learning is one of those ideas that sounds great in theory but is virtually impossible to make effective in practice. People familiar with the early days of video games (and especially the first video-disc games) will understand why - the best games are open-ended environments in which you attempt to achieve goals in increasingly challenging circumstances, rather than closed processes that take you through branches and loops based on specific responses and outcomes. And so the University of Phoenix, which is learning this lesson the hard way. "And after spending years and untold millions on developing its own digital course platform that it said would revolutionize online learning, Mr. Cappelli said the university would drop its proprietary learning systems in favor of commercially available products."

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Nine Ways to Help Students Embrace the Revision Process

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 17:00
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John Spencer, Jul 05, 2015

I am really of two minds about this. On the one hand, I understand the need to refine and revise your work, especially if you're just developing your writing style and your voice. So I can see how these tips would be useful. On the other hand, I hate doing revisions. Almost everything you see that I've written - from blog posts to published articles - is first-draft work. If I must revisit the same ideas again, I'd rather write a new first-draft from scratch, because enough will have changed between yesterday and today so as to make it necessary. I view writing as - at best - a snapshot, not something that captures eternal truths to be treasured for all time. Perhaps it's my background in journalism and writing for tight deadlines. So instead of honing skills to help me revise, I hone skills that help me get it right the first time. All in perspective, I guess.

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What Sports Teaches Kids About Bigger Roles in Life

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 17:00
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Patti Neighmond, NPR | Mind/Shift, Jul 05, 2015

Some people think that it is odd that I am interested in and follow sports. Why, I even have a signed and framed photo of Jose Bautista on my wall. Why would I, a putative philosopher, thinker and researcher, be interested in sports? And the answer, quite simply, is that sports teaches me lessons, sports offers me role models, and sports inspires me. And even in my (ahem) advanced years, I need all three. "Parents think that the organized way you participate in sports — the leadership and fellowship — is actually preparing people not only for the next game but for much broader roles in life." I think this is true. It means that someone needs to be there to help kids cope not only with the thrill of victory but also the agony of defeat - how you can train hard, do everything right, perform at your best - and still lose.

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Man, Machine and Work

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 17:00


Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Jul 05, 2015

This is my take as well: "What if, rather than asking the traditional question - What tasks currently performed by humans will soon be done more cheaply and rapidly by machines? - we ask a new one: What new feats might people achieve if they had better thinking machines to assist them?"

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BuiltWith

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 14:00
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Jul 04, 2015

From Robin Good's list today - this website lets me find out what any website is built with. See it in action for my website. It covers everything from encoding formats to javascript libraries to frameworks, servers and platforms. "Know your prospects platform before you talk to them. Improve your conversions with validated market adoption." You can also use the site to research technology and e-commerce trends.

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When a Company Is Put Up for Sale, in Many Cases, Your Personal Data Is, Too

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 14:00
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Natasha Singer, Jeremy B. Merrill, New York Times, Jul 04, 2015

The story is in the headline. That's why it doesn't matter how much a company reassures you that "all your data is safe with us." As soon as the company is sold, all bets are off. The definition of "us" has just changed dramatically. That's why some of these startup companies become so valuable. Microsoft didn't simply buy Minecraft technology for $2.5 billion, for example - it bought access to data on millions of children using Minecraft, which is now being leveraged to support its  educational offerings.

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Were All Those Rainbow Profile Photos Another Facebook Study?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 14:00
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J. Nathan Matias, The Atlantic, Jul 04, 2015

Although I was on one of those celebrating the recent Supreme Court decision in the United States, I did not join the roughly one million Facebook users who converted their profile photos to rainbows. Why? Not because I'm insufficiently enthusiastic, but because I don't trust Facebook, and I trust Facebook applications even less. This lack of trust is well-founded. "Even with same-sex marriage now legal across the United States, coming out or claiming those rights by getting married will continue to be a socially courageous act., Facebook's past research on marriage equality has helped answer a question we all face when deciding to act politically: Does the courage to visibly— if virtually— stand up for what a person believes in have an effect on that person’ s social network." Sure, I'd love to know the answer to this. But conducting research on uninformed subjects facing potentially serious consequences is unethical.

Related: if the government told you to change your profile image, would you comply? What would research on this look like? The other day in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on people to takee selfies with their daughters. India's netizens responded in the thousands. It's a good cause - "Gender inequality has long been a major problem in India’ s highly patriarchal society, where female children are being perceived as inferior and even killed in the womb or as infants — a phenomenon Modi has fought to reverse." But at a certain point, call-and-response becomes compliance.

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Schema for Courses

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 14:00
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Phil Barker, Google Docs, Jul 04, 2015

One of the things we encountered when harvesting things like Coursera courses is that they are complex entities - you have the 'course', which is the course itself, the 'course section', which is a particular offering of the course, and 'courase events', which are individual online classes and other events. These are all over and above any learning resources that may be used. We're not the only aggregators to encounter this, obviously, and this structure has not made its way to the standards community. Phil Barker provides two links, one  raising the issue in the LRMI shema.org Github, and a  work package in the the DCMI LRMI Task Group.

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Year One With a 3D Printer: 17 Tips

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 14:00
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Vicki Davis, Edutopia, Jul 04, 2015

The very first piece of advice makes this item worthwhile: "Find a video about loading the filament properly. After an hour of frustration with the written directions, I watched a video and did it perfectly." Online learning FTW! And here's a shout dfor personal learning: "Let students use software that's comfortable for them. Most 3D printers can import any kind of .STL file. You can use the software that came with your printer, but don't stop there. Free programs including Google Sketchup might be easier."

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ISTE 2015 Roundup: All the Company News You Need to Know

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 14:00


Mary Jo Madda, EdSurge, Jul 04, 2015

Good overview of the announcements made at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia, which is just wrapping up. ISTE is a schools-based organization mostly centred in the U.S. Some of the more interesting announcements (quoted):

  • Samsung and McGraw-Hill announced “ Classroom in a Box,” a collection of hardware, software and services geared at K-12 schools.
  • Software company  Follett announced Lightbox, a collection of tools and resources that function like e-books, but with quizzes, read-aloud support
  • updates to the  iTunes U store - now features a “ Free Books by Educators” section, and a “ Real-World Learning” section

 

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