Miscellaneous

Here's how artificial intelligence could solve the biggest problem in education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/31/2016 - 15:00


Rafi Letzter, Tech Insider, May 31, 2016

I confess, I read this item because I wondered what the author considered "the biggest problem in education." Here's what it is: "of the  hordes of students that  sign up for massive open online  classes (MOOCs),  an average of less than 7% finish." Well, education has its problems, but I think this is far from the biggest of them. It's like saying that the biggest problem in music is that people just listen to one song instead of a whole album. Maybe the biggest problem in education is something else - something like, say, engineers and developers designing teaching  systems based on their shallow and folk-psychological  knowledge of learning and education. P.S. I can't even begin to list all the things that are wrong with the image accompanying this article.

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Africa getting impatient for the dawn of e-learning era

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/31/2016 - 15:00


Tom Jackson, Disrupt Africa, May 31, 2016

I've read a dozen or so press releases and articles about the recently concluded eLearning Africa conference in Cairo and this one seems to summarize best the general tenor of the discussion. "There is growing frustration at the time it is taking for e-learning to truly become a reality in Africa, with attendees at this year’ s eLearning Africa conference in Cairo, including ministers, businessmen and education experts, expressing impatience." (Note to self: add 'have dinner by the pyramids' to the list of things to do.)   See also this reflection  from Donald Clark, who was there.

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Scriba Disaster: Sakai-based LMS for UC Davis is down with no plans for recovery

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/31/2016 - 15:00


Phil Hill, e-Literate, May 31, 2016

There's open source and then there's open source. One type of open source is more properly called 'community source', and that's what Sakai is. It was a large and complex LMS, designed by and for major institutions, with no real expectation of a community outside that exclusive group. Michael Feldstein describes the concept - and its failings - in his post from two years ago, Community Source is Dead. "Community Source borrows the innovation of the open source license while maintaining traditional consortial governance and enterprise software management techniques." Given this analysis, this week's collapse of the Sakai installation at UC Davis should not come as a surprise. 

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The collapse of the press and the rise of anti-social media put democracy in peril

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 05/31/2016 - 15:00


Iain Martin, CapX, May 31, 2016

In this, "the final weekly newsletter from Iain Martin, Editor of CapX,"  the blame for the fall of media is laid squarely at the feet of social media, criticizing "those ostensibly up-market titles that opted for a friendly approach, cosying up to Facebook, pumping out more and more free rubbish," and of course, lamenting that "the tech giants blend inherent anti-conservatism, liberal elitism and hatred of regulation." 

My first visit to the UK was in 1976, long before the web and social media. I asked for a newspaper at my hotel room door. "Which newspaper?" I was asked. Well I would like world news, I replied. "How about News of the World?" Perfect! I said. Imagine my surprise to see a scandal rag complete with pinup girls the next morning.  Yes, the press may have outed the occasional politician, as Martin notes, but it has been an abject failure otherwise, completely ineffective in response to real world problems: environment, the concentration of wealth, militarization and corporate corruption.

Democracy was in peril long before the internet. We who turn to social media do so because there is no free press, and indeed, has  never been in our lifetimes. It certainly did not exist in my childhood, and the press of the present day slavishly prints whatever its well-heeled employers demand.

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Why the tablets in schools debacle is over

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 15:00


Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, May 30, 2016

I'm writing this post on a three-year old laptop  even though I could be using a tablet. Why? The screen is larger, so I don't need to squint to read. The keyboard is hefty and responsive. It's really light (the carbon fibre construction is actually lighter than my iPad). It has HDMI and USB and earbud ports.  It's more powerful than a tablet, and runs productivity software as well development environments. but it cost less. It doesn't require special 'apps'. Donald Clark points to all this in his post. Of course, my laptop is  an ideaPad, which means it can become a tablet if I want. It has six hours of battery life, which makes it OK for airplane use (my next laptop will have more). The touch-sensitive screen means I can draw on it (I need to learn how, though). So the point here isn't that tablets are bad - it's that the way they were designed and marketed was bad. Apple  could have designed a teriffic tool, but it had other priorities.

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You’re the Variable

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 12:00


Alfred Thompson, Computer Science Teaacher, May 30, 2016

Algebra has once again come under challenge and in response there have been the usual defenses, such as this article on why we need algebra. To me  (as I do things like measure the amount of paint required to cover a four bedroom house) the answer is pretty clear. But people like  Andrew Hacker  argue it should be dropped from the curriculum because it's a leading cause of dropouts. In my own education, the concept of abstraction confounded me; I didn't really get it until graduate school. That's because it was always based on memorization, which renders it pointless and abstruse.  But it doesn't have to be this way. What if we taught it differently,  experientially, by making  people the variables. Imagine, for example, this wonderful technique employed by  Alfred Thompson where students form the variables. He intends it for basic computing algorithms, but there's no reason students couldn't be challenged to create more and more involved and complex 'human machines'. The possibilities are endless. (p.s. have them communicate by email instead of by voice and you've also invented rudimentary people-based service-oriented architecture).

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Reclaim the Internet

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 12:00


Various authors, Reclaim the Internet, May 30, 2016

Several studies have just come out describing the uneasy reality of gender non-parity in social networks:

  • First, this study from Pew  sets the stage, reporting that in the U.S. people now get most of their news from the internet. As Mashable reports, "Those surveyed also reported getting news from Yahoo’ s Tumblr, Vine(!) and Snapchat, which didn’ t even make it onto the 2013 survey."
  • Second, a study published on PLOS One  reports that men and women conduct themselves differently on social networks. As reported in the New York Times, "women's writing largely reflected compassion and politeness compared with men, who were hostile and impersonal."
  • Third, a study published by Demos  reveals a staggering scale of social media misogyny on Twitter. As the Guardian reports, "over three weeks from the end of April.. it found that 6,500 individuals were targeted by 10,000 aggressive and misogynistic tweets."

This link points to a British initiative, Reclaim the Internet.  "Here you'll find questions, discussion, personal testimony and ideas on how we can take a stand against online abuse." I'll make one comment: this is not unique to the internet. Visit any pub or locker room or barracks and you'll find the same. This sort of behaviour is currently socially acceptable; that's why we see it. It shouldn't be. Reports via MediaSmarts.

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Tallahassee Community College boosts affordability, access in math courses using open educational resources

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 00:00


Press Release, Lumen Learning, May 29, 2016

In 2015 there were roughly 20 million  students in the United States. Why is this significant? According to this release from Lumen Learning, which is similar to others I've seen, the use of open educational resources - specifically, open textbooks - saved 4,825 students some $535,000 in that same year. That's more than $1,000 per student, which means that this program alone, if applied nationally in the U.S. would save students $20 billion - with a B. Now this number is probably high - the average student spends only $900 on textbooks, and the entire market size  is only $14 billion, so we're not going to hit $20 billion. But no matter what, the numbers are staggering. Which begs the question:  why is this not happening?

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“Transforming” Public Schools: Enough already with an Overhyped Word!

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 00:00


Larry Cuban, Larry Cuban on School Reform, Classroom Practice, May 29, 2016

At a certain point of overuse a word loses its meaning. "Transform" is one such word, according to Larry Cuban. "When it comes to school reform, as the quotes above indicate, the word 'transform' hits the jackpot of overhyped words in reformers’ vocabulary....  Yes, I have gotten allergic to the word 'transform' when it is applied to schooling. That allergy has prompted me to ask any policymaker, researcher, practitioner, high-tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist, or parent using the word, certain questions about what he or she means." What follows is a lost of questions that should be asked of people promoting transformation. What does it mean? What problems are being solved? What exactly is transformed? What does it become? How fast? Why is it better? But, of course, these questions could be asked against any of our buzzwords today - analytics, reform, open, online, whatever. And they should be asked. Slogans aren't plans.

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MediaSmarts launches comprehensive digital literacy framework for secondary schools

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 05/30/2016 - 00:00


Press Release, MediaSmarts, May 29, 2016

MediaSmarts (which once upon a time had a much better name, the Media Awareness Network) has released  the final installment of Use, Understand & Create: A Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools. The framework "includes over 50 lessons and interactive games, organized by grade level from kindergarten to grade 12, that are aligned with seven aspects of digital literacy: finding and verifying; ethics and empathy; privacy and security; digital health; consumer awareness; community engagement; and making and remixing." View the framework here. For the theoretical background, see this "mapping of the features and focal points of digital literacy and digital citizenship from across the country": 75 page PDF.

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