Miscellaneous

Mapping brain activity at scale with cluster computing

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 01:00
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Jeremy Freeman, Nature, [Sept] 09, 2014

O'Reilly published and then deleted a post by Jeremy Freeman describing this article. I'm not sure why it went down, but it was fascinating, as it described how scientists are mapping the hundreds of thousands of neurons in the brain of a larval zebrafish. Part of the focus (and the focus of the original scientific article) was on the need for large clusters of computers to perform what essentially amounts to big data analysis. But Freeman also comments (in the O'Reilly article) about the results of the analysis. "In most artificial networks, each node does essentially the same kind of thing, whereas everywhere we look in the brain we see diversity. There are hundreds or thousands of different kinds of neurons, with diverse morphologies, functions, patterns of connectivity, and forms of communication." I'm not sure if this link will continue to work but I've saved the articles for future reference.

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Twitpic is shutting down

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 22:00
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Press Release, TwitPic, [Sept] 09, 2014

I don't know whether Twitpic is actually shutting down or whether this is just posturing to get Twitter to pack down, but either way it demonstrates how we can't depend on web service providers to have our interests in mind when they begin fighting (as they always do) among themselves. "Twitter contacted our legal demanding that we abandon our trademark application or risk losing access to their API," writes Twitpic, which has been operating since 2008. "We do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe whole heartedly is rightfully ours. Therefore, we have decided to shut down Twitpic." I'll have to rescue my Twitpics, I guess.

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The Windows Store is a Cesspool of Scams — Why Doesn’t Microsoft Care?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 22:00
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Chris Hoffman, How-to-Geek, [Sept] 09, 2014

I learned firsthand about the cesspool of scams around the same time this article came out, in mid-August, when I was struggling with the Windows video player app. Windows 8 didn't come with a native DVD player (something I find incredible) so I went searching for one, and found scam after scam (including the many many fake-VLC apps described in this article. Normally this would be illegal (you can't use another company's logo and name like that) but Windows doesn't care. This has the potential to be a widespread and long-term as commercial apps overwhelm searches for real (and especially free or open source) content with fake paid front-ends. Exactly, Rory, as I've predicted they would.

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College in a Box

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 22:00
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Gabriel Kahn, Slate, [Sept] 09, 2014

As textbook publishers are now effectively 'teaching' college classes, students can't be blamed for wondering why they're paying tuition. "Both students worked their way through the same online textbook, watched the same series of videos, and took automatically graded quizzes pulled from the same question bank. All the teaching that might have taken place in a classroom was handled by the MyPsychLab software."

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Mute the Messenger

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 22:00
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Jason Stanford, Texas Observer, [Sept] 09, 2014

Walter Stroup offered evidence to show that standardized tests measure test-taking ability more than they measure knowledge, and that the teacher has only a small impact on the final assessment. "According to Stroup’ s initial calculations, that constancy accounted for about 72 percent of everyone’ s test score." A later recalculation suggests it's more like 50%. But still, that's pretty significant. "Regardless of a teacher’ s experience or training, class size, or any other classroom-based factor Stroup could identify, student test scores changed within a relatively narrow window of about 10 to 15 percent."

The publishers and testing industry, of course, struck back - not in open debate, but in the shadows. "Stroup had picked a fight with a special interest in front of politicians. The winner wouldn’ t be determined by reason and science but by politics and power. Pearson’ s real counterattack took place largely out of public view, where the company attempted to discredit Stroup’ s research." *sigh* See also. Photo: University of Texas.

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Bootstrap 3 Less Workflow Tutorial

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 22:00
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Erik Flowers, HelloErik Experience Design, [Sept] 09, 2014

Responsive design, JQuery libraries, Bootstrap, HTML templates, CSS  preprocessors... the world of web page design has become impressively complex. At the same time, if you're able to step lightly over these tools, it has never been easier to design complex pages that display well on any media. No single page will explain everything, but this article hits, for me, just the right note. Grammar teachers will wince in a few places, and not everything will be clear (follow the suggested links but don't gt lost in them), but the workflow described will give you a sense of the thinking behind modern web design.

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Malawi app 'teaches UK pupils 18 months of maths in six weeks'

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 22:00
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Spencer Kelly, BBC News, [Sept] 09, 2014

There's all kinds of ways this can be an overstatement and that the results in widespread practice would be nowhere near the test case (or not long-lasting, nor not transferable, or some such thing). But then there's this: "What was so incredible was that in both countries we saw the same gain. One week of working on the iPads for 30 minutes a day [equalled] three months of formal education," she told me. "We were amazed." So, OK, this is what we were expecting from e-learning once upon a time, so maybe they've figured out math. But I'm suspicious, because it's an iPad project for Malawi, and why would they select iPads for Malawi, the most expensive tablets out of the box? But hey - maybe.

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Beyond the LMS

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 19:00
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Audrey Watters, Hack Education, [Sept] 08, 2014

Let's start off with Audrey Watters with what I think is a pretty good theme for this week: "Ed-tech must be not become an extraction effort, and it increasingly is. The future, I think we'll find, will be a reclamation project. Ed-tech must not be about building digital walls around students and content and courses. We have, thanks to the Web, an opportunity to build connections, build networks, not walls."

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Rise of Online Booksellers Brings Complaints From Campus Bookstores

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 19:00
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Rebecca Koenig, The Chronicle of Higher Education, [Sept] 08, 2014

I actually find this pretty funny: "When the orange  Chegg bus rolls onto a campus, one person is unlikely to be excited about its free swag and energy drinks: the college-bookstore manager. The rise of online textbook retailers such as Chegg, Amazon, and Half.com, has put official college and university bookstores on the defensive." It's funny to think of an online bookstore having its own bus, and it's funny to think of college and university bookstores clinging desperately to their traditional business models.

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The Challenges (and Future) of Networked Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 16:00
[Slides][Audio]

A conversation about challenges (and future?) of networked learning. A broad understanding of the meaning and potential of networked learning can help educational institutions to rethink their role beyond the provision of LMS and centralized information systems. What skills are needed? What happens if we don't develop them?  What kind of technology supports the development of said skills? What’ s the relation between this and issues of information property and citizenship in a digital context (POSSE models, Indie web movement)?

, Online, to Medellin, Colombia, via Vidyo (Seminar) [Sept] 05, 2014 [Comment]
Categories: Miscellaneous

Meet the shadowy tech brokers that deliver your data to the NSA

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 16:00
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Zack Whittaker, ZD Net, [Sept] 08, 2014

As I commented in a meeting this morning, I just act as though all of my data is open and scrutinized by any number of external parties. If it's not the Chinese, then it's the American NSA, or my own government, or corporations like Apple, Microsoft or Google, and any number of their agencies, representatives and/or spies. What prevents everything I have from being stolen is not my firewall, but the laws that prevent my wealth (limited though it may be) from being taken and used by others. We will have to learn to live openly because it's a fallacy to think we can live securely.

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Tropes vs Anita Sarkeesian: on passing off anti-feminist nonsense as critique

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 22:00
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Ian Steadman, New Statesman, [Sept] 07, 2014

Misogyny is of course not limited to video games, but it is of particular concern there, and its prevalence explains why critic Anita Sarkeesian  raised $158K from more than 6,000 backers to make a series of videos on "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games". As Ian Steadman writes in this commentary, it's nothing we wouldn't expect from informed critique in any other discipline. "There’ s nothing in what Sarkeesian says about games that you wouldn't expect in a Kael-type film essay," he writes, "but the bile that she’ s had to put up with for saying it has been extraordinary." And that's what this article is about - looking at "some of the common ways in which Anita Sarkeesian is portrayed in the gamer community, and how to assess and critique the mistakes that are made in responding to her work." Why is this important here? Because education technology and learning resources can be critiqued in the same way, and and when critics - especially female critics - raise the same sort of issue (or pretty much any issue) in our field (I could name a few) they get essentially the same reaction, and we see the same tropes. To stay silent or to pretend it doesn't happen is to consent, and of course, I do not consent.

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FOSTER

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 10:00
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Various authors, FOSTER, [Sept] 07, 2014

From the press kit: "FOSTER (Facilitate Open Science Training for European Research) is a 2-year, EU-Funded (FP7) project, carried out by 13 partners across 8 countries. The primary aim is to produce a European-wide training programme that will help researchers, postgraduate students, librarians and other stakeholders to incorporate Open Access approaches into their existing research methodologies." I once had a cat named Foster. See also the video recording and slides of all the presentations and a preview of the training portal

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What is Educational Technology? An Inquiry into the Meaning, Use, and Reciprocity of Technology

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 10:00


Arun Lakhana, Canadian Journal of Learning, Technology, [Sept] 07, 2014

The concept of 'technology' has two facets: one is 'hard' technology, which focuses on the actual tools and hardware. The other is 'soft' technology, which focuses on methods, theories, or practices. This is the basis of AECT's definition of technology, writes Arun Lakhana in this engaging paper. But, "why does the AECT limit their current definition of soft technology to: 'human-made processes that systematically apply scientific knowledge'?" Why, in other words, is it rooted in systems that are, essentially, exclusively a priori and inflexible? "The AECT’ s linear model, “ input→ process→ output,” is easy to digest. However, it fails to account for the hidden agentive potential for processes to transform their inputs, as in Dewey’ s theory. A more appropriate diagram might not only feedback on itself (connecting output back to input), but feedback also within itself: 'input↔ process↔ output.'" Quite so. But making this change in itself changes the definition from 'system', which is unidirectional (toward objectives or goals) to 'network' (which does not presume a priori objectives or goals). Anyhow, great paper, engaging, and carefully crafted.

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Ed-Tech's Monsters #ALTC

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 10:00
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Audrey Watters, Hack Education, [Sept] 07, 2014

Audrey Watters is a gifted writer with a unique perspective that allows her to give an insightful talk about educational technology without really mentioning educational technology at all. Witness: "Ed-tech now, particularly that which is intertwined with venture capital, is boosted by a powerful forms of storytelling: a disruptive innovation mythology, entrepreneurs' hagiography, design fiction, fantasy." In this talk, she explores one stand of these fantasies, the interaction between monsters and men. And she raises the question of whether we are wrong not because we made our monsters but because we failed to love them? "My nod to the Luddites or to Frankenstein," she writes, "isn’ t about rejecting technology; but it is about rejecting exploitation. It is about rejecting an uncritical and unexamined belief in progress. The problem isn’ t that science gives us monsters, it's that we have pretended like it is truth and divorced from responsibility, from love, from politics, from care." See also:  David Hopkins

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Improving Copyright’s Public Image

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 10:00
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Bill Rosenblatt, Copyright, Technology, [Sept] 07, 2014

This post summarizes a talk from Peter Menell addressing copyright's image problem head on."‘ My Generation’ did not see copyright as an oppressive regime.  We thrived in ignorant bliss well below copyright’ s enforcement radar and were inspired by content industry products.   The situation could not be more different for adolescents, teenagers,  college students, and netizens today." Quite right. Among the suggestions to fix this: a database of rights-holder information, different tiers of liability for individuals and corporations, clarification of fair use, and a compulsory licence and royalty payment. These are good proposals, but the opposition would come not so much from the public, but rather from copyright owners and publishers. Which is why copyright has an image problem.

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The First Successful Demonstration Of Brain-To-Brain Communication In Humans

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 01:00
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George Dvorsky, io9, [Sept] 06, 2014

Awesome (and a little bit scary): "For the first time ever, neuroscientists have demonstrated the viability of direct — and completely non-invasive — brain-to-brain communication in humans. Remarkably, the experiment allowed subjects to exchange mentally-conjured words despite being 5,000 miles apart. It's the neuroscientific equivalent of instant messaging." Meanwhile, DARPA's tiny implants will hook directly into your nervous system. And reserachers are studying the use of  brain signals to operate drones. Via Metafilter.

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The End Of Neighborhood Schools

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 22:00
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Anya Kamenetz, NPR, [Sept] 06, 2014

So I found this interesting, especially the way the discussion looked at two major aspects of the New Orleans school reform: first, the conversion of the system to public to private charter schools (and consequent firing and de-unionization of the school system), and second, the conversion from neighborhood schools to a city-wide system that offers choice. Well - sort of choice, since admission is by lottery and funding is such that there are really only a few good schools everyone is trying to get into. But it reminded me of the school system in Edmonton, where they managed to achieve the same degree of choice, without firing all the teachers and privatizing the system - and where they are producing some of the best graduates in the world (as measured eg. by PISA) and not a C-grade average. Creating choice and diversity, I think, helps - but if you destroy the system of public education, you undermine any benefit you may have attained. Meanwhile, the flood of charitable money that propped up the privatized system in the early years, the test score improvements are looking a little hollow, and the sheen is coming off the NOLA rose.

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Adding Some TEC-VARIETY

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 10:00


Curtis J. Bonk, Elaine Khoo, [Sept] 06, 2014

Curt Bonk is offering his latest book for free as an eBook - you can download the whole thing or individual chapters. He writes, "We propose the TEC-VARIETY framework as a solution to the lack of meaningful engagement. It can shift learners from nearly comatose states to actively engaged ones. Adding Some TEC-VARIETY helps instructors focus on how to motivate online learners and increase learner retention. It also is a comprehensive, one-stop toolkit for online instructors to inspire learners and renew their own passion for teaching. "

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Standard Options Apply

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 10:00
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Aaron Silvers, MakingBetter, [Sept] 06, 2014

As the development of the xAPI (Experience APO) continues, questions of development and implementation are beginning to arise. As Aaron Silvers says, the upcoming formalization by IEEE will break existing implementations. He suggests adopting a modular approach to xAPI, breaking it into different functions, modelled (for example) along the lines of WiFi, as a family of standards. "A modular approach is certainly atomic; it helps to ensure there’ s consistency going forward for each component; it isolates the potential impact of changing any one component without needing to change the other components," he writes. (This also reminds me that I am, or was, a member of IEEE-LTSC, but maybe my membership has lapsed.) Related: Tin Badges.

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