Miscellaneous

Why and How Does Consciousness Seem the Way it Seems?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 07/12/2016 - 20:00


Daniel C. Dennett, Tufts University, Jul 12, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Pokémon GO

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 07/12/2016 - 20:00


Nintendo, Jul 12, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Effects of Group Awareness and Self-Regulation Level on Online Learning Behaviors

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 07/12/2016 - 17:00


Jian-Wei Lin, Yu-Chin Szu, Ching-Neng La, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, Jul 12, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Coursera president: bursting the Moocs bubble a boon for us

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 07/12/2016 - 17:00


Chris Havergal, Times Higher Education, Jul 12, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

On Immigration

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 21:00


noreply@blogger.com (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Jul 11, 2016 The following is a set of questions and my responses to a Canadian government request for feedback the future of immigration in Canada (it would be nice if these surveys had a 'blog this' button; in the mean time they advise that the results will eventually be posted on Open.Canada.ca, which of course I support.
How many newcomers should we welcome to Canada in 2017 and beyond?I don't want to fix on a specific number that might be interpreted as a maximum, but I strongly encourage increased immigration into Canada How can we best support newcomers to ensure they become successful members of our communities?This second question would require a book. I think we should be drawing on community support and community organizations more, because in the case of the Syrian refugees resources that were available were untapped. I think that we should encourage settlement in the Maritimes, if possible, as this region is insular and depopulated and would benefit from the infusion of new people; make it clear federal resources are flowing into these provinces (and hence helping the locals). The obvious support services are language training in the official language of their choice, housing and basic income, employment support and placement, other education, access to health care, etc. Do we have the balance right among the immigration programs or streams? If not, what priorities should form the foundation of Canada's immigration planning? No we do not. We are currently favouring people who can buy their way into Canada. The points system is recognized internationally as a fair approach, however, we should understand that people who have not benefited from economic activity are equally viable immigrants. We should greatly increase our support for refugees. We should support students on student visas, focusing on people in developing nations who would not otherwise have access to further education. How can immigration play a role in supporting economic growth and innovation in Canada?If you look at the enormous wealth in supposedly 'poor' nations generated simply by virtue of their human resources, this question would not be necessary. Adding more people supports additional development in Canada, and we can show that this development is possible without generating poverty and inequality as seen elsewhere. Immigration is basically an economic stimulus program; our resources are focused into the lowest income strata, where it is more likely to be spent (we should expend similar resources on the lowest income strata already resident in Canada, and especially First Nations). As we work to improve the strengths and abilities of newcomers, they will devise strategies for economic growth and innovation (we don't need to manage it for them, just create opportunities). Services developed for newcomers - such as innovation zones or business development hubs - can be made available to all Canadians. Our economy will grow best not by giving more money to companies that are already successful, but by helping new companies take root and flourish. Should there be more programs for businesses to permanently hire foreign workers if they can't find Canadians to fill the job?I don't agree with programs designed to help business hire foreign workers. When they say they "can't find Canadians" what they often mean is they can't find people willing to work at the wage they are offering in the location (often remote) offered. These programss for business are effectively business subsidies, and I would rather see subsidies reach people directly, rather than support otherwise unviable business models. What is the right balance between attracting global talent for high-growth sectors, on the one hand, and ensuring affordable labour for businesses that have historically seen lower growth, on the other?Again, the purpose of immigration is not "ensuring affordable labour". This is an approach to immigration that will fail, and will spark resentment among people whose wages will be depressed as a result. I'm not sure what business you mean that "have historically seen lower growth" but usually, it seems to me, they are agricultural or resource-based. I would rather see Canada focus on creating value-add to these resources to stimulate growth, which would be a result of immigration where people create their own companies or products, and would not be a result of creating a lower-income workforce, which would simply encourage existing businesses to harvest and export, leaving a minimum of value in Canada. With respect to high-growth sectors, first, the fact that they are high-growth suggests that they do not need additional support, and second, a more generous immigration policy, as recommended above, would address this need. How can immigration fill in the gaps in our demographics and economy?I don't know what you mean by "fill in the gaps" but it vaguely suggests we use immigrants for janitors and McDonalds clerks. I would rather see companies pay these employees more money, and therefore do not see employment shortages in these sectors as "gaps". I don't think that there's some sort of demographic 'balance' we should be seeking. It's hard not to be offended by this question. What Canadian values and traditions are important to share with newcomers to help them integrate into Canadian society? Canada is not a 'melting pot' and so it is important to understand that we do not expect newcomers to 'fit in' to the dominant religion and culture. Having said that, we are a nation based on "peace, order and good government," and so it is paramount that newcomers accept that they will be subject to the law of the land. We expect peaceful and orderly conduct. This in Canada is established by various legal codes and in particular the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which should be respected by all Canadians. We allow and embrace the fact that people have different religions, different cultures, and different ways of life, and we negotiate difference and conflicts between these peacefully, by rule of law. Nobody has the right to impose their way of life or cultural beliefs on another. Ideally, we would like to have people embrace these differences. Our freedom to be ourselves, and our sharing and compassionate society, are defining features of Canada, and we would hope people embrace this in the same spirit in which it is offered to them. Currently, immigration levels are planned yearly. Do you agree with the thinking that planning should be multi-year?I think immigration should be planned as a capacity rather than according to targets. Think of the immigration system as a flow, an incoming stream of people that is supported on an ongoing basis. We should be looking (and adjusting) how many immigrants we can support per day, rather than per year. Targets create ebbs and tides of immigration, which alternately underuse or strain capacity. What modernization techniques should Canada invest in for processing of applications?I'm not really sure what modernization techniques would be appropriate because, first, I don't know what level we're at, and second, a lot of this depends on the capacity of other countries to support our system, and this varies a lot. probably there is no single standard. We shouldn't do silly things like require police records from countries where there is no functional police, or paper records from a country that is fully computerized. Importantly, Canada should recognize that it is not a part of the United States and that American policies and procedures are neither relevant nor necessary. I did not appreciate having by full background information shared with the United States when it happened about five years ago; as a native-born Canadian there was no demonstrated need, and no right to this information had been established (I do benifit occasionally by being TSA pre-approved on flights). What should Canada do to ensure its immigration system is modern and efficient?To stay modern and efficient we should make the investment. We should research and test new technologies and processes, running pilot programs, and implementing incrementally rather than all at once. We should offer full training and support to officials required to implement the new technology, and fully document the new processes and procedures to enable people offering support systems outside government to adapt and upgrade. Is there any rationale for providing options to those willing to pay higher fees for an expedited process? Offering an expedited process for a higher fee runs contrary to the manner in which we run Canada in general (or, at least, it should). People who are right do not have special rights or preferred access to government services. In the same way, the payment of fees should not secure premium access to health care, preferred outcomes in court cases, or modifications in public policy. There are sometimes good grounds for an expedited process, and these grounds should be made clear, and an efficient application process should be able to make this adjudication. Is it important for Canada to continue to show leadership in global migration? If so, how can we best do that?It's not that we're showing leadership in migration; there is no preferred level of migration. Rather, we should be showing our commitment to the rest of the world, our willingness to share our wealth and our good fortune, and our desire to see a better world for all. We should be clear that we would like to do as much to support people living in their home country as to those wanting to or needing to relocate to Canada. We need to offer an example to show how good governance and a generosity of spirit can overcome the tensions inherent between different nationalities and cultures. How can Canada attract the best global talent and international students?I don't think we should be interested in attracting "the best global talent and international students" - immigration is not about raiding other countries for their most valuable citizens. In any case, I'm not even sure how to define "the best". Usually the most reliable predictor is wealth, but I would be very unhappy with a system that selected immigrants according to their wealth. I think that as an alternative we should look for those who would benefit most by immigrating to Canada. In a sense, we should be looking for potential, not existing achievement. In what ways can Canada be a model to the world on refugees, migration and immigration?The way we can be a model, therefore, is to offer a different approach to immigration. We do not approach immigration in a selfish manner, though we do recognize the benefits that will accrue to the nation as a whole when we support immigration. We do not think of immigrants as cheap labour, or a permanent subclass, but we welcome them into the fabric of society, embracing (rather than tolerating) their culture, backgroun, and individual perspective. We are interested in immigration from a human development perspective, and our priority is to support and improve the lives of immigrants, in the sure knowledge that they will pass on the same benefit to other Canadians, and to the world at large. [Link] [Comment]

Categories: Miscellaneous

Sequential requirements

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 18:00


Matthias Melcher, x28’s new Blog, Jul 11, 2016

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)."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

10 Steps to a Blended Learning Classroom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 18:00


Miguel Guhlin, Around the Corner, Jul 11, 2016

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."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

A bug in fMRI software could invalidate 15 years of brain research

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 18:00


Bec Crew, Science Alert, Jul 11, 2016

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."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The map of future models

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 16:00


turchin, Less Wrong, Jul 11, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

You Can’t Depend on Free

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/10/2016 - 22:00


Tim Stahmer, Assorted Stuff, Jul 10, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

ShortSims

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/10/2016 - 19:00


Clark Aldrich, Jul 10, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

University websites: The so-so, the bad, and the egregious

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/10/2016 - 19:00


Melonie Fullick, University Affairs, Jul 10, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Participant association and emergent curriculum in a MOOC: can the community be the curriculum?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/10/2016 - 17:00


Frances Bell, Jenny Mackness, Mariana Funes, Research in Learning Technology, Jul 10, 2016

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."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Digital Reality

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/10/2016 - 17:00


Neil Gershenfeld, Edge, Jul 10, 2016

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."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/10/2016 - 10:00


Gabriel Weinberg, Medium, Jul 10, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

DERN 2016 Survey

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/09/2016 - 15:00


Distance Education Research Network, Jul 09, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Amazon Inspire Removes Some Content Over Copyright Issues

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/09/2016 - 15:00


Natasha Singer, New York Times, Jul 09, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

32 Animated Videos by Wireless Philosophy Teach You the Essentials of Critical Thinking

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/09/2016 - 15:00


Dan Colman, Open Culture, Jul 09, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Campaign for America’s Future: Are Public Schools and Private Equity a Bad Mix?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/09/2016 - 15:00


Jeff Bryant, National Education Policy Centre, Jul 09, 2016

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.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Bitcoin and Blockchains explained

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/08/2016 - 14:00


David Hopkins, Technology Enhanced Learning Blog, Jul 08, 2016

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."

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