Miscellaneous

The Superintendent Who Turned Around A School District

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 12:00


Michel Martin, NPR | All Things Considered, Jan 15, 2016

I've seen so many "so-and-so turned around a district" stories that proved to be chimeras I am more inclined to greet the next one with more than a little scepticism. Still, this is aa strategy that should have worked, given that we know socio-economic standing is the top predictor of education outcomes. "Anderson has embraced a holistic approach to solving the problems of low-performing students by focusing on poverty above all else, and using the tools of the school district to alleviate the barriers poverty creates." He focused on food aid, a homeless shelter, and a health clinic. There's also support and training for staff.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Thinking Together: A Duoethnographic Inquiry Into the Implementation of a Field Experience Curriculum

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 21:00


Jackie Seidel, Laurie Hill, in education, Jan 14, 2016

As an empiricist, I am both fascinated and challenged by the papers in in education. They do not, to say the least, follow the typical pseudo-scientific methodology of sample group, interventions and analysis employed by putative research journals in our field. This is good. At the same time, they go so far out there it's hard to bring them back to some sort of ground or centre. This paper is one that comes the closest to where I sit (it reminds me of the methodology I applied in Connective Knowledge, in the sense that it "uncovers and reinscribes the complexity and emotionality as well as the time-consuming, life-altering, and deeply challenging personal nature of such pedagogical curriculum work." But we can go further - we can look at ways of seeing  Innu poetry in our ways of seeing (it makes me think of the dissertation published as graphic art). Or  this account of Bush Cree storytelling methodology, told using Bush Cree storytelling methodology. I like stuff like this, and I think you can't understand learning unless you can understand how to embrace it. But it's hard to evaluate, or to turn around and present in terms of a business model. Which may be the point.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Blab

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 18:00


Blab, Jan 14, 2016

I just received an invitation (via Google+ surprisingly) to attend an event on Blab. I wanted a few 'blabs' and have a good first impression overall (though, on the other hand, most of tghe shows were about marketing - sigh). Basically, two people have a conversation, and this can be watched by viewers, who also interact with them by posting comments and questions (questions can be upvoted). The product has been around for about four months and appears to have started well.

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Competency Based Learning and xAPI at Thomson Reuters

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 15:00


Nick Washburn, Connections Forum, xAPI Quarterly, Jan 14, 2016

Short article describing how Thomson uses technology to "losten" for competencies, as expressed by activity reports. "To date, approaches to competency-based training applications involved a challenging and large-scale design process and complex workflows to evidence how competency is attained. With the advent of xAPI, however, working with competencies becomes a more interesting project as we slice through the complex workflows." Related:  Data-driven reuse with xAPI. Also: full table of contents from the current xAPI Quarterly.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Mathematics as an Art

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 12:00


Michael S. Laufer, Utne Reader, Jan 14, 2016

This article is draped in Americana, which international readers will need to ignore, but at its core there's a good argument. Mathematics, writes the author, is currently taught as a means of calculating values for use in the sciences (if it is ever used at all) and is thus taught as formulae and operations. But it is better understood as an art. "Mathematics is about starting with an empty universe, and building abstract structures from scratch. These can be shapes, or ways to count things, or ways of guessing what will happen when you do things randomly, but it’ s not looking for patterns; it’ s about creating them." Why is this useful? Because once you've explored mathematics, you see the world in a different way, just as any art will influence perception. Related: discussion in Quora, Image: Seb Perez-Duarte.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Recognizing personal learning styles and using learning strategies while learning english in an electronic environment

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 12:00


Radka Juřičková, Journal on Efficiency and Responsibility in Education and Science, Jan 14, 2016

I'll admit, I'm posting this item mostly to tweak the people who say there are no learning styles. Like  here and here. Because if learning styles are so definitively refuted, why do they keep appearing in peer reviewed papers? This item discusses the use of learning styles (the traditional set - visual, auditory, kinesthetic) through the use of recommendations in language learning. Note that in language learning you have to do more than simply parrot back answers on a test in order to pass. In this case, the use of learning styles is linked to motivation. "All possible activities need to be done frequently or as often as possible. Therefore we stress that self-motivation and self-discipline are essential for achieving any possible success in learning a second language."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Kitchen coding

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 01/13/2016 - 15:00


Brett Terpstra, BrettTerpstra.com, Jan 13, 2016

I found this via Doug Belshaw's weekly newsletter. It identifies the similarities between cooking and coding. According to Brett Terpstra, "There are algorithms that cross all boundaries in cooking. Understanding things such as glucose breakdown, deglazing, and ordering ingredient combination to allow the optimal heating time for different cellular structures are all valuable skills across any genre of cooking." Quite so. But the importance isn't just, as Belshaw suggests, "the ways of thinking it encourages." Rather (and importantly): the ways coding and cooking are the same is an expression of the critical literacies underlying all thought. These algorithms fall under the heading of pattern and syntax. The differences between Italian and Thai are reflections of context.

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Ought and Is

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/11/2016 - 22:00


noreply@blogger.com (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Jan 11, 2016 Experts are typically expert in two types of things:
what is the casewhat ought to be the case And for that matter, we all have attitudes and beliefs regarding both types of statement. For example: it's 20 degrees in hereit ought to be warmerThat's fair enough. Science and research are sometimes depicted as consisting necessarily only of the first sort of statement: that is, researchers should confine themselves to discussing what is, and not what ought to be the case. I don't agree with this. I think that unless research is guided by some sense of ought there is no motive nor even mechanism for determining what is. For example, if it didn't matter what the temperature is, why would anyone bother measuring it, and indeed, what sort of scale would we even use? Indeed, it's pretty hard to make sense of any human endeavour without invoking both an is and an ought. Any action plan, indeed, contains these two elements: the action plan is a description of the route from the is to the ought. And all research is based on this formulation. Having said all of this, there are two hard and fast rules that apply regarding inferences involving is and ought: 1. You cannot derive an ought from an is Suppose it's 20 degrees in here. Does it follow that it should be warmer or colder? No. It depends on your point of view. If you're a duck, you're probably OK with 20 degrees. But if you're me, you want it warmer. And if you're a rock, it doesn't matter at all. It's sometimes hard to see this. "Look at that starving child," someone will say. Well, yes, the child is starving. But that by itself doesn't allow us to infer that the child should be fed. The inference follows only if we have an expression of need or value, for example, "allowing children to starve is wrong." This is sometimes called the 'naturalistic fallacy'. People say, for example, "It's human nature to do such-and-such, so such-and-such is OK." Or, conversely, they say something is wrong because "it's not natural." 2. You cannot derive an is from an ought "If wishes were horses," goes the old saying, "then beggars could ride." There's wisdom in that. Certainly we may believe things ought to be one way or another. But this belief doesn't mean that anything actually is one way or another. This would be nothing more than wishful thinking. These lead to a third rule: 3. An ought is derived only from an ought, and an is is derived only from an is. It follows from these two rules that the veracity of is and ought statements is determined very differently for each. There are two very different forms of logic. The first - the logic of wants and desires - is called deontic logic. Other forms of logic (propositional logic, for example) describe the other sort of inference. So why is all this important? Well, as I said, or pretty much any enquiry, including scientific research, you need both an is and an ought. So, on the one hand, you need data, to tell you what is the case, and on the other hand, you need some sort of problem or domain of enquiry, which tells you why you need the data and what you hope to do with it. This means that the citations for any research should include some from column A and some from column B. Good research requires a clear context, problem, or domain of application, and it requires facts, data and evidence. And - even more importantly - the references supporting each of these need to be of the right type. 4. Define context, problem or domain of application from expressions of need or obligation, including social, political and economic perspectives, and not from data. This should be obvious, but isn't. Even your unit of measurement is going to incorporate these perspectives, and will in some sense define the desired state. The units of measurement are not inherent in the facts of the matter. We often hear sentences like "the data dictates that...". No. The data does not dictate anything. The only thing a set of data can produce for you is more data. For example, the data may say "5 percent of the people finish the course." Nothing about the quality of course design follows from this. You only get this sort of statement if you've already agreed that "not finishing reflects a design flaw" or some similar ought statement (which in turn needs to be substantiated). I see in the academic community a lot of expressions of value or obligation criticized on the basis that it's not derived from data. The idea these critics express is that all reference in an academic paper ought to be peer reviewed, and the statements of value and obligation therefore grounded in some sort of fact. But that's an error. There is not some sort of fact-based mechanism for determining value or obligation. 5. Define data in terms of empirical measurement, and not in terms of expression of need or obligation. This is probably the most consistent flaw of research provided by the education policy 'think tanks'. The 'data' they provide owes as much to the center's political orientation as it does to 'facts'. Take a statement like this: "The professional expectations for today’s teachers are undoubtedly high." This looks like data; it looks like a statement of fact (as indicated by the word 'undoubtedly'). But it's a statement of what ought to be, in two senses: first, it describes 'expectations', and second, it uses a relative value-laded term of measurement, specifically, 'high'. Of course, it's OK to make statements like that. But they need to understood as expressions of what ought to be the case, and subject to assessment in terms of value and obligation, rather than represented as data and misused as the starting point for an action plan. There's a lot more that could be said on the subject of ought and is, but I'll leave it here for now, happy if I've managed to alert the reader to be sensitive to these two types of statement. More reading: Is ought - University of Texas The Is-Ought Problem - Wikipedia The Is-Ought Gap - YouTube Hume on Is and Ought - Philosophy Now Is/Ought Fallacy - Fallacies Files [Link] [Comment]

Categories: Miscellaneous

Newton’s New Law of Teaching: When Quality Instruction and Technology Intersect

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/11/2016 - 16:00


Gary Waddell, EdSurge, Jan 11, 2016

According to this article, " we can borrow from Sir Isaac and posit that in terms of student outcomes, Achievement equals Quality Instruction times Innovation (A = QI x I)." The point the author is trying to make here is that "Both of these variables— good teachers and good technology— can transform a student’ s learning experience. Each of them are also compromised by the absence of the other." Why is this important? They argue, "Providing just-in-time support while also assessing growth over time and providing appropriate supervision and evaluation are key to ensure that continual growth is underway."

Both this item and the next one is a result of a confusion and obfuscation between the language and logic of is and ought. I discuss this briefly here. But with that in mind, we ask, why does the author of this article take such pains to represent what is surely a statement of values and expectations about achievement in the form of a scientific formula? It's obviously to represent it as a fact. And why do this? Because that fact becomes the beginning point for an action plan (even though it is not a fact!). I hate stuff like this. It seems so transparent, and so deliberately misleading.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Review of Smart, Skilled, and Striving: Transforming and Elevating the Teaching Profession

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 01/11/2016 - 16:00


Elizabeth J. Meyer, Research, Great Lakes Center for Educationm Policy, Jan 11, 2016

This review basically shreds the recent Center for American Progress (CAP)  report outlining a vision for elevating and modernizing the teaching profession. According to the review, the CAP recommendations "include policy changes that would increase surveillance of teachers, reduce teachers’ job security, evaluate teachers by students’ test scores, and create merit pay systems that would likely have the opposite effect." Additionally, "the report relies too heavily on popular rhetoric, sound bites, opinion articles, and advocacy publications."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Three Vegas psychics predict the year in tech

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/10/2016 - 23:00


Joseph Volpe, Engadget, Jan 10, 2016

This will be my first and last article featuring psychics in OLDaily. But I have to admit Joseph Volpe's article in Engadget held me spellbound. It's actually two psychics making predictions and one psychic trying to scam him, but it is Las Vegas, after all. But what was most interesting is that is I didn't know the predictions were coming from psychics, it would be hard to distinguish them from actual pundits (although actual pundits would be able to remember and pronounce 'Oculus'). So why would these readings be so convincing? Well, for one thing, we're reading this through the interpretation of a tech writer who prompted the psychics. And the psychics are good at understanding human nature and in reading and mirroring their clients. Put this all togetjher and yoiu get pretty reasonable tech predictions. No spirit world required.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/10/2016 - 23:00


Christie Aschwanden, FiveThirtyEight, Jan 10, 2016

We could probably substitutre the word 'education' for 'nutrition' in this headline and still have the same article. I read (and you probably do too) a lot of articles relating this or that think to educational outcomes. The more data we get, the more we are seeing these (along with the  scatter plots educational economists love so much). But “ Big data sets just confer spurious precision status to noise,” wrote John Ioannidis in his 2013 analysis. Sure, this article is about foods and nutrition. But it also 'cites' data to show potato chips are linked to higher scores on SAT math vs. verbal. As if. But how many educational studies are reporting noise as if it were fact? A preacher who advised parishioners to avoid trimming the fat from their meat, lest they lose their religion, might be ridiculed, yet nutrition epidemiologists often make recommendations based on similarly flimsy evidence."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Triumph of Email

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/10/2016 - 23:00


Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic, Jan 10, 2016

I had a long and interesting conversation with someone from a technology company on Thursday and he asked me for examples of connectivist-style learning networks in practice. The closest think I could think of was the cMOOC, but on reflection I was able to think of two really good examples: the telephone network, and email. Why? Well, consider how these differ from traditional learning management systems or social networks: each person has their own identify (a number, or email address) and manages their own client (phone, or email reader). They have connections (in a rolodex or contact list). It's mostly peer-to-peer. But a lot of other services have been built around these networks (phone-in shows, mailing lists). And that - if I may be so bold - is what explains the success (and persistence) of email.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Journals to solve ‘John Smith’ common name problem by requiring author IDs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/10/2016 - 21:00


John Bohannon, Science Insider, Jan 10, 2016

The solution is a technology called ORCID - Open Researcher and Contributor ID. "The letter published today is signed by the American Geophysical Union, eLife, EMBO, Hindawi, the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, the Public Library of Science, and the Royal Society— the latter began mandating used of ORCID IDs as of 1 January but the rest have just pledged to reach that stage by year’ s end." My ORCID IS is http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6797-9012 (for what it's worth).

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Flawed Assumptions about School Reform Strengthening the U.S. Economy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/10/2016 - 21:00


Larry Cuban, National Education Policy Center, Jan 10, 2016

This article is worth reading for the opening quote alone:

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.”
―  John Maynard Keynes

As Larry Cuiban says, "Economists Krugman,  Robert Reich, and  others  see the prevailing ideas of new technologies powering economic growth and productivity– the theories that have fueled the 'human capital' thrust to school reform for over thirty years– as flawed." All very good, but what replaces it? The prevailing alternatives seem very shallow.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

10 Products From CES That Will Impact the Classroom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/10/2016 - 21:00


Leila Meyer, Campus Technology, Jan 10, 2016

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is on in Las Vegas, and this article (as the title suggests) highlights some of the innovations with an impact on education. Because I like to play spoiler with listicles, here's the list:

To me this list is a mixture of meh and wow, mostly meh. But the Klaxoon looks like a big step forward ("Based on your content, you can propose simple, playful and effective activities: quizzes, surveys, challenges, brainstorming activities, live messaging..."), and the DAORI smart helmet might catch on as well.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Coffee — new U.S. dietary guidelines say you can have up to 5 cups a day

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/10/2016 - 21:00


Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, Jan 10, 2016

Given that OLDaily and pretty much everything else I produce is powered by coffee, this is very good news for me.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

How data matters for school leaders

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/10/2016 - 15:00


Eric Ticker, Michael, Susan Dell Foundation Blog, Jan 10, 2016

On the Dell Foundation blog: "Cortex is a secure, dynamic, web-based platform that brings together instructional tools, digital content through playlists, student goal-setting and feedback, formative assessments, and administration applications... Our Personalized Math program exemplifies this approach." The idea is to promote a type of mastery-learning using student data and analytics to enable students to self-manage their learning. It's based on the the MyWays Framework, which codifies the key competencies to postsecondary success: habits of success, content knowledge, creative know-how, and wayfinding activities. These in turn are reflected in a set of 20 competencies in core areas. Via EdSurge. (As an aside, I find it odd that Cortex is using the depreciated  hashbang style link).

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