Miscellaneous

Thinking About Mozilla

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 08:09


Erin Kissane, Incisive.nu, April 4, 2014

Mozilla - the organization that makes Firefox - has been roiled recently by the appointment of a new CEO who supports a Californian law called 'Prop 8', which eliminates same-sex marriage.  Erin Kissane makes it clear that the concept of 'open' is central to Mozilla and are enshrined in the principles of the organization. And yet opposition to same-sex marriage seems to run counter to this. It's the classic dilemma of openness - what happens if people use the open system to promote some way in which it should be closed? What if (to ciite Socrates) people use democracy to argue for dictatorship? The answer is, in my view, that the meanings of 'freedom', 'openness' and 'democracy' are not so clear that they are beyond debate. We need to be constantly testing what we believe these things to be. If we do not allow the opponents of some right or freedom to make their case as well as possible, we risk others using those same laws to stifle those people arguing for more freedom. 'Open' means allowing people to advocate unpopular positions, even if they are CEO. If it really bothers people, they can vote him out. But, you know, people can have redeeming features despite being wrong on important issues.

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The Secular Problem of Evil

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 19:51


James Paul Gee, Weblog, April 3, 2014

James Paul Gee looks at the problem of evil from a secular perspective and comes up with the old Taoist maxim that life in the balance is the recipe for good. "Cooperation on a large scale— that is, any sort that could lead to cultures, institutions, cities, and states— requires solving what I will call 'hard continua problems'.  These are problems where too much of something is bad and too little of it is bad, but finding the 'middle-ground' is hard." But this isn't the answer to the question of why there is evil - it's the answer (or an answer) to the question of why it's so hard to eradicate. But if he wants the answer to the deep question, it's this (also, I would say, found in ancient Taoist texts): good and evil are something we create. The world is neither inherently good nor evil, but as soon as we begin to describe it, we begin dividing according to our perceptions, tastes, and objectives and needs. And hence we create out of natural events the classification of 'good' and 'evil'. And, over time, it becomes something we recognize, more like a feeling than like a law.

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Open Access Research

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 19:39


Adam Cooper, Cetis Blogs, April 3, 2014

Adam Cooper reports: "Last week was a significant one for UK academics and those interested in accessing scholarship; the funding councils announced a new policy mandating open access for the post-2014 research evaluation exercises. In the same week, Cetis added its name to the list of members of the Open Policy Network, (strap-line, 'ensuring open access to publicly funded resources')." One day, maybe my employer will adopt the same policy.

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Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 19:26
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Valerie Steeves, MediaSmarts, April 3, 2014

As we suspected: "Canadian youth are not as digitally literate as adults may think they are, according to new research released today by MediaSmarts. Though today’ s young people have grown up immersed in digital media, they still rely on parents and teachers to help them advance their skills in areas such as searching and verifying online information." 64 page PDF.

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Canadian Researchers’ Publishing Attitudes and Behaviours: A Phase 5 Report

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 07:47


Press Release, Canadian Science Publishing, April 3, 2014

This survey released by Canadian Science Publishing suggests that for scientists "open access was 8 times less important than impact factor and 13 times less important than journal reputation when selecting a journal." These results aren't surprising whn you consider that "The sample for this survey was drawn from two databases maintained by Thomson Reuters: BIOSIS and Web of Science." Even so, if you read the survey itself (36 page PDF) you find significant and growing support for open access publishing (interestingly, Canadian Science Publishing is what became of the  NRC Press after it was privatized a few years ago; it has adopted a form of author-pay open access publishing).

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NL government to reduce student debt burden by replacing all student loans with grants

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 07:19


Press Release, Canadian Federation of Students, April 3, 2014

The story is in the headline. The Newfoundland government is also freezing tuition. It's rare enough in Canada to be worth highlighting here (by contrast, I lived in oil-rich Alberta for 17 years, faced nothing but rising tuition rates and accumulated $25K in student debt it took me decades to repay). More, via Academica: Budget, Budget Highlights, CBC News.

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Tales of the Undead…Learning Theories: The Learning Pyramid

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 09:46
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Candice Benjes-Small, ACRLog, April 2, 2014

It's worth re-running this item (shared this week by Doug Belshaw). "Since the 1960s, experts have been trying to convince people that the learning pyramid is bogus.  But for every article written exposing its weaknesses, there seem to be dozens of instances where it is invoked as truth in presentations, websites, and trade publications." If you want proof someone hasn't done real research, watch for the cone of experience to show up in their work.

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Crows Understand a Fundamental Part of Logical Reasoning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 09:40
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Jason G. Goldman, Animals, April 2, 2014

David Hume wrote, "It is certain that the most ignorant and stupid peasants — nay infants, nay even brute beasts — improve by experience, and learn the qualities of natural objects, by observing the effects which result from them." We see this over and over again; this link adds to that evidence, as we see crows using heavy objects to raise the level if water in a glass in order to reach food floating in it. Whatever theory of learning we have, it seems ervident that it must be simple enough that children and animals can use it, and this seems to me to rule out theories requiring complex constructivism or the making of meaning. Because crows don't make meaning.

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Robotics Inspiring Students to Pursue STEM

Imagine America as a place where the percentage of students involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is higher than average.   Imagine America as a place where students are motivated to pursue STEM-related degrees and careers.  On December 3, 2013, Bill Chappell of NPRreported, “…only 50 percent [of] students agreed that they are interested in learning mathematics, slightly below the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ) average of 53 percent” (9).

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Reflections on the First Half of #FutureEd at Duke: The Here and the Not Yet

Currently in The History and Future of Higher Education, taught by Dr. Cathy Davidson at Duke University, we are focused on completing the final assignment: designing a university from scratch.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Stanford scientists put free text-analysis tool on the web

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:24
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Andrew Myers, Stanford Engineering, March 31, 2014

As this prromotional article states, "Ever wondered whether a certain TV show had a slant in favor of a political candidate? Stanford computer scientists have created a website that gives anyone who can cut and paste the ability to answer such questions, systematically and for free. The website is known as etcML, short for Easy Text Classification with Machine Learning." The story says two things to me. First, learning analytics is becoming a commodity, which will manifest itself as a service that other applications can access. Second, if you're developing something and want to develop a market for it, the way to be successful is to create a publicly-accessible protototype and then promote it - I know lots of people have been working on emotional and sentiment analysis, but the world beats a path to the door of the people who actually show how it's done. Via Geoffrey Rockwell.

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Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:19
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Marc A. Smith, Lee Rainie, Ben Shneiderman, Itai Himelboim, Pew Research Internet Project, March 31, 2014

I think that the structure of Twitter (specifically: the fact that wheen you post, you post to an audience of all your pollowers) limits the range of possible types of 'conversatuon networks'. So don't take this post as all-inclusive. Where the value lies, however, in the recognition that very distinct forms of networks can form in an environment where people have conversations, some dysfunctional (such as 'polarized crowds') and others less so (such as 'community clusters'). Via Brent Schlenker.

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Moneyball

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:12


Jim Groom, bavatuesdays, March 31, 2014

People are beginning to notice the the proponents of learning analytics need to brink some new data and examples forward to support their case, as the old ones are not only, well, old, they have also been thoroughly discredited. Jim Groom comments, "a lot has happened since 2010. Mike Caulfield pointed out  six months ago, and Michael Feldstein re-iterated, the research claims of the effectiveness of Course Signals to increase retention are deeply problematic."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Game of Wrong, and Moral Psychology

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:05


John Holbo, Crooked Timber, March 31, 2014

Some interesting post-MOOC reflections on learning and moral psychology from Crooked Timber, another example I think of how a MOOC well done results in the creation of new knowledge, as opposed to the mere transmission of the old (this may not be so much true for the students of a Coursera course as it is for the instructor). Anyhow, the reflections cause in me some thoughts about the apparent contradition between two principles I have long held, the first of which is a form of utilitarianism, and the second of which is a version of Kant's principle that each person is inherently valuable. Silly problems like the  Trolley Problem are designed not merely to test these principles but to drive a wedge between them. But in fact, the two principles are different aspects of the same principle of ethics, to my mind.

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