Miscellaneous

Grim Athabasca University report says ‘future is now,’ but faces a different future than the one its authors anticipated

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 06/14/2015 - 17:00
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David Climenhaga, Alberta Politics, Jun 14, 2015

As I read  the report outlining the causes and possible solutions to Athabasca University's problems, I was struck more of all by its non-specificity. Blaming as it does the university's location, faculty structure, and staff contracts (and ignoring as it does systemic underfunding and administrative mismanagement) the report has drawn the ire of faculty and staff. Only one of the four options envisions the university continuing as is (and even this option highlights cost-cutting and contracting out core functions). You have to think that the committee and Board's response to the putative 'insolvency' crisis is what any businesses would be: fire sale. But that's not really an acceptable outcome for an essential public service.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Anti-Vaxxers Are Using Twitter to Manipulate a Vaccine Bill

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 06/13/2015 - 23:00
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Renee DiResta, Gilad Lotan, Wired, Jun 13, 2015

According to Gary Finnegan, editor of Vaccines Today, "it is essential that when people go online for information they are left with the clear impression that vaccines are safe and effective.” As the author of this interesting article on the analysis of use of social networks to spread the anti-vaccine message. "If that’ s going to change, the people fighting misinformation  need to understand how it gets spread in the first place."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Block Universe of Special Relativity

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 17:00


Jun 12, 2015

My old friend Mike Rochfort sent me this link after a discussion online  about events today determining what happened yesterday. No, this is not revisionist history, it's an artifact of space-time. So what is space-time realism? "The basic idea of using the special theory of relativity to prove determinism is that time can be treated mathematically as a fourth dimension. This gives us excellent results for experiments on moving objects and explains the strange Lorentz contraction of objects in space and dilations of clock speeds for observers in fast moving frames of reference (coordinate systems)." I'm not a space-time realist - but that's only because I think none of it is real!

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Mesage to OpenEd Community

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 17:00


Unattributed, University of Guelph, Jun 12, 2015

The University of Guelph appears to have reconsidered its plan to trademark the term 'OpenEd'. It was not intended to compete with, um, OpenEd, but "it is evident that the various meanings of the term 'OpenEd' will be challenged to co-exist and therefore, the University of Guelph is taking steps to release the official mark in its entirety, although this will make the mark available for others to attempt to make it their official mark or to apply to register it as a traditional trade-mark." I think we understand that. And I would like to think the community will make a similar noise the next time it's tried (note that this item does not appear as a freestanding web page, but just a note punned to the 'News' page, and probably has a short lifespan).

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Is Slack the new LMS?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 14:00
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Mathias Elmose, Synapse, Jun 12, 2015

Slack  is a team communications tool. I've heard a lot of  good things about it recently, though I haven't used it myself for anything serious (it's an enterprise tool, and our enterprise doesn't use it, so...). This article, by  Mathias Elmose in Synapse, suggests that Slack would make an excellent LMS. "Slack is a team chat app that enables great communication and collaboration. What I like about Slack —  when thinking about learning —  is that it’ s by default an active environment. No matter where you are in Slack you can write, post, share, comment and more. Discussion is not an add-on element buried deep within the course —  Slack is discussion." So, OK, this article wins because it has the best gif ever depicting old-school learning. My big issue with Slack is that it is all about team, not network. It's about enterprise, not environment. It's something I would like to see work  with a PLE, but it is manifestly  not a PLE. See also:  SlackEdu Slack Chat. Via Sean Connor, by email.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Apple News vs. Facebook Instant Articles: How they compare

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 14:00
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Lucia Moses, Digiday, Jun 12, 2015

A month ago  I commented on the launch of Facebook's 'Instant Articles', in which news providers were encourage to publish directly on Facebook (this is a natural for a Facebook-only internet service as we see in the plans for Internet.org). Now Apple has announced a similar program. "As with Facebook Instant Articles, Apple suggested publisher branding in News would be strong. But Apple talked more about discovery and curation  and  stressed personalization in its presentation."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Messaging App Jott Is Blowing Up Among Junior High And High Schoolers

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 11:00
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Sarah Buhr, TechCrunch, Jun 12, 2015

I'm not really sure how schools could block Jott, though I'm fairly certain they will try. The program sets up an off-grid mesh network that allows people (young teens in schools, mostly) text each other even then they have no data plan or internet access (this is very similar to the way the One Laptop Per Child set up interactivity in under-serviced schools worldwide). You could try to ban the application, but people can easily hide it. Cutting off wifi, internet or cellular signal access won't help, since the application sets up its own network. "Jott started testing the closed, or mesh network idea with a few select schools in March. That seems to have been the spark that led to a ginormous amount of growth for the startup. The effect was viral. Kids using the app in each school told their friends." They're now up to half a million users.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Richard Prince, Instagram 'ripoff artist,' has own art appropriated

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 11:00
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Matt Kwong, CBC News, Jun 12, 2015

So who is right here? We have an artist, Richard Prince, who appropriates images from Instagram, makes small changes to them, and then posts them in galleries as high-priced art. Some of the images came from the Suicide Girls Instagram account. So they ahve taken the Prince image, made some small chnages, and are selling it on their site for a fraction of the price. Irina Tarsis, the Brooklyn-based director of the Center for Art  Law, suggests that Price may be able to make a case for infringement. "What Prince is bringing with his artwork is so  strange, this change of context. Maybe nobody else can copy that," said Meyers. But to the Suicide Girls founder, right is squarely on their side. "By making these available, we're showing we still have power. We still  own our images," she said.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

7 reasons why kids right to have went apeshit over this GCSE maths question

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 14:00
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Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, Jun 10, 2015

I mentioned this item last week. Now, Donald Clark lists seven reasons why the question is unfair. "It sets you up with a probability question, they bait you with probability, then switch to algebra," he says. "it lays a trap for students. The appearance of an equation in the question n2 – n – 90 = 0 suggests that this needs to be solved." Well, yeah. All of these are good points. Again, though, let me emphasize that the point of a question like this is to test whether you think like a mathematician. When you look at the world, what frame do you see it through? The entrepreneur will 'see' spreadsheets of sweets and profit margins. The chemist will 'see' chemical processes and reactions. The explorer will 'see' possibilities and discoveries. And the mathematician sill 'see' everything in equations (yes, even probabilities). The core question is: do we need to 'see' the world this way? Well, some of us (especially physicists) need to. But by no means all of us. And therein lies the problem with standardized tests.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

I have 227 browser tabs open, and my computer runs fine. Here’s my secret.

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 14:00
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David Roberts, Vox, Jun 10, 2015

Via Doug Belshaw's weekly newsletter comes this tip: vertical tabs. "Almost all computer monitors these days are widescreen. Vertical space is at a premium, while there are wide areas off to the side of your browser that go unused. So why not move the tabs over there?" It's something I've also recommended as a feature for personal learning environments.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Test Preppers, Take Note: Free SAT Study Tools Could Signal Sea Change

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 14:00
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Eric Westervelt, NPR Ed, Jun 10, 2015

The SAT has taken a lot of  criticism over the years. This appears to be a response. One side-effect, suggests NPR, is that ti may make the test-prep industry slightly less lucrative. There are two major strands. The first is the introduction of a set of free study tools to level the playing field for less-affluent students." SAT and Khan Academy will partner to produce the online materials, and the Boys & Girls Club of America will focus on in-house tutoring and support. This is an instance of the Triad Model. The second addresses the test itself, which will be revamped. "The essay section will now be optional, and students will no longer be penalized for wrong answers. And obscure SAT words that are little used in everyday conversation will be dropped. The emphasis now will be on relevant, useful vocabulary in context."

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