Miscellaneous

Natural language understanding (almost) from scratch

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


Adrian Colyer, The Morning Paper, Jul 08, 2016

This article gives you a sense of where one branch of artificial intelligence is working today. Researchers are testing their neural network algorithms against four standard tasks in natural language analysis:

  • Part-of-speech tagging (POS), labels each word with a tag that indicates its syntactic role in a sentence
  • Chunking labels phrases or segments within a sentence with tags that indicate their syntactic role
  • Named-entity Recognition (NER) labels recognised entities within the sentence. For example, as a person, location, date, time, company
  • Semantic-role labeling (SRL) “ gives a semantic role to a syntactic constituent of a sentence.” More.

The challenge here is o succeed at these tasks "without needing task-specific representations or engineering." It is often the case that you can tweak the result with a hint here or there. Anyhow, this paper describes attempts to design neural networks to attempt these tasks, and how we can score the results to see how well the network is doing.

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How to Do Adaptive Learning Right

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


Keith Devlin, Randy Weiner, EdSurge, Jul 08, 2016

Responding to Audrey Watters's examples of how things can go badly wrong with adaptive learning, Keith Devlin and Randy Weiner argue "Watters’ bleak future will only come to pass if the algorithms continue to be both naï vely developed and naï vely applied, and moreover, in the case of mathematics learning (the area we both work in) applied to the wrong kind of learning tasks." I question the use of "only" in that sentence; there are many ways Watters's bleak future could come to pass; this is just one of them. But they still say a lot of the right things in this post

For example, "the most effective way to view K-8 education is not in terms of “ content” to be covered, acquired, mastered (and regurgitated in an exam) but as an experience.... Mathematics is primarily something you do, not something you know." If you view adaptive learning as simply delivering the right content, you have the concept wrong. Also, they argue, in their adaptive learning system, "the main adaptivity is provided by the user... the mastery of specific procedures should be skills that a student acquires automatically, 'along the way,' in a meaningful context of working on a complex performance task." Again, if you think of an adaptive learning system as a 'teaching' system, you're doing it wrong. Via Larry Cuban.

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How to Jump Ship From Evernote and Take Your Data With You

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


Thorin Klosowski , LifeHacker, Jul 08, 2016

Good article describing how people locked in Evennote's silo can get their data out of the system and into another product. "If you have a lot of notes, this is a pretty tedious process, but it’ s the only way to get all your notes over to a new app with any sense of organization." See also Alan Levine, who comments, "Nothing lasts forever, is the appropriate bumper sticker saying. And when the free rug gets tugged, it bears more thought than impulsive indignation and panic jumps. You might not be losing much, or you might adjust, or you might shrug it off. Or maybe you will come to an understanding of paying for a service instead of always expecting free rides."

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Could AI replace teachers? 10 ways it could?

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


Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Jul 08, 2016

Donald Clark reviews a number of the ways artificial intelligence could replace teachers. I read this during the day yesterday and referenced it in passing when I spoke (when I mentioned Georgia Tech bot, Jill Watson; it was too late to make it into the slides). Readers will recall that I focused on three domains: content creation, management of a learning environment, and assessment. I argued that computers could fulfill the instructor's role in all three. I also suggested that the role of faculty in the future will be to act as a role model. Clark discusses this, and while agreeing "the modelling that teachers provide is certainly important to young people," he suggests that "however, we may see the development of attitudinal learning, that was never adequately delivered in classrooms, with simulations and the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others."

Clark also posted  10 important things AI teaches us about ‘ learning’ before I composed my slides, and  This article discusses a number of the ways AI could be used to perform typical instructional design tasks such as search and feedback, content selection, chunking, reinforcement and practice. Good articles worth reading.

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The Importance Of Faculty In The Higher Education Experience

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/08/2016 - 06:00


noreply@blogger.com (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Jul 08, 2016

The new role for faculty is to show how to be a practitioner in the field – be a carpenter, a physicist, etc. More, it is to show how you try, fail, learn, etc. To show the way you think about problems. To be open with your mistakes and your failings as well as your successes. To be a part of the learning community, the one who forges ahead, the one who discovers a new path. Speaking notes for for Instituto Tecnoló gico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey National Faculty Meeting, Mexico City, July 4, 2016. Presentation page

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The importance of faculty in the higher education experience

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/07/2016 - 13:00

The shape of learning is changing with online learning and connective technology creating a new role for students as shapers and creators of knowledge in their own right. Now with the lecture being replaced with online videos and class discussion moving to locations like Facebook and Twitter, what role does the faculty play? How do they remain relevant in a world shaped by publishers and learning management systems? In this talk I focus on this question and offer insights about the future of online learning. View full text of speaking notes.

Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico City, Mexico (Keynote) Jul 04, 2016 [Comment]
Categories: Miscellaneous

Watch “Don’t Be a Sucker!,” the 1947 US Government Anti-Hatred Film That’s Relevant Again in 2016

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 07/05/2016 - 17:00


Dan Colman, Open Culture, Jul 05, 2016

The rise of free thinking (and free love) in the United States the 1960s came as a surprise to many people. In retrospect, it shouldn't have. After the second world war the American government unleashed a propaganda effort to make sure it didn't happen again. This video is one part of that effort. But even more pervasive were the radio advertisements that defended 'the American way' (you can listen to one here; or another; read more about the campaign here) and fueled the demand for an education. These campaigns influenced an entire generation (who also smoked, loved cars, were obsessive about fresh breath, and believed in better living through chemistry). The  content of the radio programs reinforced these values. This campaign was for the most part beneficial. But we know that the effect works both ways, that media can promote  hate and racism and  incite populations to genocide. So it's relevant to ask what media are saying to people today, and more importantly, how society can resist the relentless pull of propaganda. It's hard - the messages get you while you're you and listening to Superman serials, waiting with a willing mind to follow examples and meet expectations.

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Surviving Gamification

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 07/05/2016 - 14:00


Ariana López Di Rocco, teachlr blog, Jul 05, 2016

Good post on the basics of gamification that begins (as it should) by distinguishing between game-based learning and gamification. "Gamification  isn't new, it is based on the nature of human learning. Since the beginning of our species, challenges and threats have propelled us to learn. These are the basis of gamification, just to create an environment in which realism and motivation are used to engage and empower a student." Note that the  Spanish language version probably reads more smoothly.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Sugata Mitra – the professor with his head in the cloud

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 07/05/2016 - 14:00


Peter Wilby, The Guardian, Jul 05, 2016

The Guardian has not had a good few weeks, and this article continues the trend. The thesis is simple: Sugata Mitra "brushes aside all established thinking about education." Why, "Even Jean Piaget’ s supposedly immutable stages of child development – familiar to every trained teacher – now need a rethink, according to Mitra." But there is no research supporting his position. "His claims need to be tested by properly controlled experiments that allow for the galvanising effects temporarily created by any new idea, which will lead to papers published in reputable, peer-reviewed academic journals." So, "to convince us of that, I fear, he needs far better evidence than he has or seems likely to get."

So I ask: why should Mitra be concerned about convincing an editorialist for the Guardian, particularly one that still believes Piaget? Why is Mitra right only if published in certain journals? He's right if the evidence says he's right, no matter who writes it, who it convinces or where it's published. As for the suggestion that "he needs fully independent evaluation, including a means of measuring long-term results after the novelty effects wear off," I say "Fine. You pay for it. You conduct it. It's not up to Mitra to do this, and not a failing of his that he hasn't."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

MOOCs for Research: The Case of the Indiana University Plagiarism Tutorials and Tests

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/04/2016 - 21:00


Theodore Frick, Cesur Dagli, , Indiana University Bloomington, Jul 04, 2016

This paper was  recommended as a "must read" by David Merrill. I don't agree. Essentially the paper describes a short self-study course revised according to Merrill's "first principles" of instruction, and the revision found to have improved outcomes, as measured by testing. The course, which was launched in 2002, has become popular over the years, reaching more than 10 million "web requests" last year (assuming this number filters for non-human traffic such as search engines, this is similar to the traffic downes.ca receives). According to the authors, the large quantity of data collected allows them to generalize the results, thus confirming the first principles. I have a lot of issues with this paper, beginning with the author's suggestion that the course is a MOOC (if this is a MOOC, then so is my 1995 Guide to the Logical Fallacies). The account of MOOC itself is problematic - is a course really "a coherent academic engagement with a defined set of learning outcomes?” I'm not happy with the definition of "first principle" either as "a relationship that is always true under appropriate conditions, regardless of the methods or models used to implement the principle." And the methodology here is wrong - you can't generalize to anything on the basis of one course.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Massive Open Online Courses and Economic Sustainability

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/04/2016 - 19:00


Tharindu R. Liyanagunawardena, Karsten O. Lundqvist, Shirley A. Williams, European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning (EURODL), Jul 04, 2016

Good article looking at the question of economic sustainability for MOOCs. There's a good account of the costs generated through the use of platforms like Coursera and EdX. For example, "Coursera would receive USD 25 per participant and USD 3,000 per course... the first USD 50,000 generated by the course, or the first USD  10,000 from each recurring course, will be taken by edX." And "the cost of an eight-week MOOC offered by Teachers College, Columbia University was estimated to be USD 38,980 while a five- to eight-week MOOC offered by Large Midwestern University was between USD 203,770 and USD 325,330." For these prices maybe I should start selling access to  gRSShopper! The authors list and discuss briefly a variety of funding mechanisms (readers want to compare my own paper on  sustainability for OERs as there is a lot of overlap in the models).

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Business Leaders Have Abandoned the Middle Class

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/03/2016 - 21:00


Umair Haque, Harvard Business Review, Jul 03, 2016

It's so nice to see Umair Haque emerge from the shadows, so to speak. And isn't this true of education? "The truth is that today’ s business leaders have failed in the simplest, starkest, hardest terms... business needs to play a more active, engaged role in creating the kind of thriving, vibrant economies that inoculate societies from self-implosion... The backlash from people who’ ve been left behind by a broken model of prosperity is too sharp, too fierce, and too destructive. Just as it will be when climate change really accelerates, when the next financial crisis rolls around, when unemployed, education-debt-burdened young people reach their breaking point, and so on... There will come a point when abandoned people are willing to see the whole playing field  burn down, so that it can be level again. And they  might burn you down with it." (p.s. Haque says the 'middle class' - it should not be forgotten that they abandoned the poor and indigent a long time ago.)

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Can a Classroom Be a Family? Race, Space, and the Labour of Care in Urban Teaching

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/03/2016 - 18:00


Kathleen Gallagher, Canadian Journal of Education, Jul 03, 2016

"Does the idea of 'family' as a pedagogical compass get a classroom more efficiently from one idea to another, or safely through the sometimes turbulent seawaters and challenging relationships of an urban classroom?" asks  Kathleen Gallagher. "I arrive ultimately at a qualified yes," she writes. "For better and for worse, the logic of the family and the 'bond of obligation' in the classroom holds us to account and serves to raise the stakes on classroom relations and possibly widen compassion for human frailty." This is a lot to draw from a single case, but I get the fact that Gallagher is trying out an analytic strategy linking broader theoretical themes with specific practice. The family analogy, though, doesn't resonate with me. There are  many different conceptions of family, and many different experiences of family. The term is being used here as a vague catch-all to describe an atmosphere of caring. In this particular case, it works. In many cases, it would not. See more articles from the  special issue of CJE on Reflecting Canadian Diversity.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

What media companies don’t want you to know about ad blockers

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/03/2016 - 18:00


Trevor Timm, Columbia Journalism Review, Jul 03, 2016

I've made this case before but this article substantiates with data and examples the three major benefits of Ad Blockers:

  • they protect you from scams and malware that are served by news media and content sites
  • they protect your privacy from trackers and bugs
  • they speed up page load time a lot

As I've said before, news media need to find a new business model, a new advertising model.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

What does a CBE course look like?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/03/2016 - 18:00


Karen Yoshino, Blackboard Blog, Jul 03, 2016

Pretty basic but if you don't set out a baseline it's hard to progress. So here's what would probably be regarded as a basic framework for competency-based courses (all quoted, as usual):

  • a welcome section and course map
  • an order to program competencies and the learner’ s pathway
  • communications protocol and assistance resources
  • standard delivery model across CBE courses
  • alignment among competencies, sub-competencies, content, and assessments
  • visibility of progress

Now you could go a couple of ways here. You could say this description omits this or that, which is fair enough. Or alternatively you could ask what problem is solved by this framework as opposed to some other. This is where I lean - it's an awful lot of overhead to reach results that could have been obtained without that overhead.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Gameful Design

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/03/2016 - 15:00


Edmond Manning, Allen Interactions, Jul 03, 2016

There are some nice tricks in this article that convince you to read to the end (I won't reveal them because that would be to give away the game). The conclusion is ultimately disappointing, but there's enough clever here to make it worth passing along.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Critical Design Decisions for Successful Model-Based Inquiry in Science Classrooms

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/03/2016 - 15:00


Ronald W. Rinehart, Ravit Golan Duncan, Clark A. Chinn, Trudy A. Atkins, Jessica DiBenedetti, International Journal of Designs for Learning, Jul 03, 2016

I like this post because it embraces a much more contemporary account of scientific work than most typical research in learning and design. The traditional account "often lacks the social epistemic practices embraced by scientists that are integral to the production of knowledge." But through reference to documents such as Next Generation Science
Standards [NGSS] along with reference to writers I have found personally influential, such as  Ronald Giere and Philip Kitcher, the authors embrace an account of science as a "combination of evaluating evidence, coordinating evidence and models, and arriving at evidence-based judgments that are communicated through argumentation." They refer to the corresponding pedagogical approach as "modeling or model-based inquiry." OK, that's just the introduction. The paper presents a case including two lessons designed according to the Promoting Reasoning and Conceptual Change in Science (PRACCIS) model. Guidelines are described for choosing phenomena to be studied, developing models, developing evidence, and productive disciplinary engagement. This is a terrific paper, carefully considered and thought out, clear and insightful. Don't miss it. More from this IJDL  special issue on K-12 Classroom Implementation.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Makerspace Classrooms: Where Technology Intersects With Problem, Project, and Place-Based Design in Classroom Curriculum

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/03/2016 - 15:00


Christian McKay, Tarrence D. Banks, Scott Wallace, International Journal of Designs for Learning, Jul 03, 2016

You have to read all the way to the end to get the money quote from this article: "As these two teachers engaged in their
everyday practices in designing this tiny house project, they were involved in the very cycles and processes they worked to make explicit to their students. What is interesting they is not simply that they were doing this, but that they did not appear to be aware of the parallels between their own design practices as teachers and those they were explicitly encouraging the students to engage." It's a good argument for working openly - documenting what you do allows for reflection on practices that might not be noticed while they are being practiced. I also like the use of 3D printing to create models of houses - I used to do this with construction paper and glue. But the technology these students had allowed for the creation of much better models (I'm envious). More from this IJDL  special issue on K-12 Classroom Implementation.

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#GoOpen District Launch Packet

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/03/2016 - 10:00


U.S. Department of Education, Jul 03, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education has launched its #GoOpen initiative District Launch Packets. "The U.S. Department of Education’ s #GoOpen campaign encourages states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials to transform teaching and learning." I find it interesting that they refer throughout to "openly licensed educational materials" rather than "open educational resources" - I wonder what the reasoning was behind that. Via EdSurge.

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