Miscellaneous

The real 10 algorithms that dominate our world

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 10:00


Marcos Otero, Medium, Jul 31, 2014

This is an interesting and alternative way of looking at how our world is structured. For people who design systems, these algorithms are second nature. Yet I would wager that they are virtually unknown to the wider public.

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Confound it! Correlation is (usually) not causation! But why not?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 13:00
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gwern branwen, LessWrong, Jul 30, 2014

When somebody proposes a simple mechanism to improve (say) learning outcomes, they're most always wrong. But why? It's because they have ascribed a simple cause-effect relation onto a complex phenomenon. But why should complexity impact causation? Complex phenomena are densely connected networks where correlations are increasingly likely to be the result of underlying conditions rather than the result of one thing causing another. This article makes the point, with mathematics, and a good example drawn from the literature on cancer research.

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Municipal nets, municipal electric power, and learning from history

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 13:00
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David Weinberger, Joho the Blog, Jul 29, 2014

David Weinberger writes, "The debate over whether municipalities should be allowed to provide Internet access has been heating up. Twenty states ban it. Tom Wheeler, the chair of the FCC, has said he wants to “ preempt” those laws. Congress is maneuvering to extend the ban nationwide." This is not just a U.S. issue because similar pressures exist worldwide. There`s a good list of four lessons from the deployment of electricity: private firms won't provide universal service (or even close to it); unregulated growth leads to the emergence of huge monopolies; these monopolists will use their wealth to influence policy; and the best way to keep process low and service high is to ensure competition from the public sector. All these are also true of learning and learning resources.

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MOOCs get schoolified: Two reports predict MOOCs will simply be absorbed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 18:00


Mark Guzdial, Computing Education Blog, Jul 28, 2014

You have to actually read this to realize how silly this sounds. Here it is: "MOOCs are like free gyms, says Mr. Kelly. They might enable some people— mostly people who are already healthy and able to work out without much guidance— to exercise more. But they won’ t do much for people who need intensive physical therapy or the care of a doctor." Well of course, then, MOOCs will just be absorbed by the syste... wait. What?

If we actually read this analogy, it is suggesting that the vast majority of us need constant and ongoing intensive physical therapy or the care of a doctor. If health and fitness worked that way, we would all die. But what is actually the case is that we only occasionally need these specialized services, can access a gym if we need, but for day-to-day purposes have a wide range of (generally free or low cost) games and activities, parks and recreation, or tools like balls, bats, bicycles, etc., which we decide how to use for ourselves. Oh yes, I can see the objection - "sports and recreation would never work in society - just think of all the training required just to learn the rules!" Yeah, it's a hurdle all right.

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I am a young person who solves crossword puzzles and maybe you should be one too

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:00


Boone B Gorges, Teleogistic, Jul 28, 2014

It's probably not for everyone but as Boone Georges says, crossword puzzles are great for augmenting pattern recognition skills. I don't solve nearly the number he does, but I enjoy my Sunday Times crossword - I save them and solve them on flights to Montreal or Toronto (which gives me about a two-hour window). I don't always finish them in that time but I usually do.

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Responses to Personalization and Monopolies

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 09:00


David Wiley, iterating toward openness, Jul 28, 2014

I'm not enthusiastic about David Wiley's definition of personalization (" personalization comes down to being interesting") but I think he shares a great example of personalization done wrong: " Imagine if your only option for watching movies was to login to Netflix and watch the movies it recommended to you, in the order it recommend them. Who wants that? Who would pay for that?" Exactly. That's why I use the term "personal" learning: to disassociate myself from systems like that.

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Help Joy help you. On the unusability of internal systems.

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 09:00
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Leisa Reichelt, disambiguity, Jul 28, 2014

I went through SAP training a couple of weeks ago and now I inhabit the same world Joy does - working with a software system with a paper notebook by my side (I also took extensive digital notes, which means I will have two support systems). "You’ ll find that notebooks like Joy’ s are not uncommon. They’ re everywhere." This is why we need integrated personal support systems - so the assistance we need is accessible seamlessly within the software we use.

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Ten useful reports on MOOCs and online education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 09:00


Unattributed, ICDE, Jul 28, 2014

Like the title says. Some of these have been previously covered here; others are new.

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Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 13:00


William Deresiewicz, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118747/ivy-league-schools-are-overrated-send-your-kids-elsewhere, Jul 27, 2014

As I commented on Twitter the other day, I rarely agree with what I read in New Republic, but this article hits much more than it misses. So while you shouldn't consider this post to be a blanket endorsement of everything in the article, it is certainly recommended. "The more prestigious the school, the more unequal its student body is apt to be," writes William Deresiewicz. And as the selection process bcomes more rigorous it becomes more unequal as parents spend the time and money necessary to position their children for admission. "Elite colleges are not just powerless to reverse the movement toward a more unequal society; their policies actively promote it."

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Chapter 2. The nature of knowledge and the implications for teaching

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 13:00


Tony Bates, B.C. Open Textbooks, Jul 27, 2014

This is chapter two of an open textbook being developed by Tony Bates, but I confess that i would have approached the subject matter - the nature of knowledge - very differently. The debates over the yeaars concern less the classification of knowledge and are concerned more about the nature, creation and justification of knowledge. And I'm especially concerned about this conclusion: "What is changing then is not necessarily the nature of academic knowledge, but the nature of everyday knowledge, which is very much influenced by the explosion in communications and networking through the Internet." One of my criticisms of the academic world is that if the nature of academic knowledge is not changing, then it should be changing, and I feel, is changing. And it is changing, not as a direct result of technology, but because of what technology enables (just as astronomical knowledge changed not because we invesnted the telescope but because of what we could see through it).

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Submitting a doctoral thesis on online learning? Some things to keep in mind

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 07/27/2014 - 10:00


Tony Bates, online learning and distance edcuation resources, Jul 27, 2014

I can't imagine doing a project in the manner described by Tony Bates, and was well into full-blown scepticism after reading the section on sampling and statistics when I encountered this question: is the PhD process broken? Bates writes, "it is probably the most costly and inefficient academic process in the whole university, riddled with bureaucracy, lack of clarity for students, and certainly in the non-quantitative areas, open to all kinds of challenges regarding the process and standards." For my own part, I take the fact that I could not obtain a PhD at this point without a lengthy 4- or 5-year process to be prima facie evidence that the system is broken.

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By the numbers

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 22:00


Melonie Fullick, University Affairs, Jul 26, 2014

Melonie Fullick writes, "I’ m more interested in the answer to a second, unasked question that’ s implicit in “ does it count?” : count for what? In most cases, it’ s an academic job, one with some security and stability; so whether something counts towards tenure is the point, with all the implications this brings." I think this is a good point. While on the one hand we're facing this irresistable desire to reduce everything to economics (which is the essence of the meaning of 'count') on the other hand we're witnessing tensions in the area of goals and objectives.

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Bill Gates Talks Performance Funding and MOOCs in Conference Keynote

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 22:00


Don Troop, Chronicle of Higher Education, Jul 26, 2014

Bill Gates talks about education and everyone listens (one of these days I'd like to go to Redmond to talk to MS face-to-face about these topics). Still, some good bits: like this: "My key message today is that that model will be under challenge. And so, instead of tuning it to find 3 percent here or 4 percent there, which has been the story in the past, there will be dramatic changes." See also IHE coverage. : "He described as 'oversimplistic' the view that higher education is just about getting a job with a certain salary' - 'Citizenship, developing deeper understanding, other things, are all important,' he said."

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What’s the media got to do with education? The freedom to listen, speak and learn

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 18:00


Annika Burgess, eLearning Africa News Portal, Jul 25, 2014

The headline in the title of this post I think neatly ties together the link between media and education (and to a large degree why they are both interesting to me). "Dr Auma Obama, speaking on the following day about the work of the Sauti Kuu Foundation. Working in rural and slum areas in Kenya, the foundation teaches children about their 'light, voice and fire' or, in other words, their right to be seen, to speak, to participate and to challenge." These aren't luxuries; they're basic and core to both learning and society.

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The Bitcoins of Learning?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 18:00


Unknown, Wikispaces, Jul 25, 2014

There isn't time (nor bandwidth in what has become terrible airport lounge wifi over the years) but I think that the concept of a bitcoin for learning is a really bad idea. I get the concept - students are looking for more than just grades; they want a learning 'currency' they can take with them to the workplace. And "currency, ideally, must travel, quickly and simply, and as widely as possible. It's a reductionist, simplistic mode of social interaction." But a substantial proportion of the economic and social woes in today's society stem from the unfettered flow of currency - especially shady currency - into cash hordes in small island nations and banking havens. I am quick to criticize the aristocracies and monarchies currently governing degrees and credentials, but the replacement of monarchy is not libertarian anarchy - that way lies madness - but proper civil and social government. (I have no idea who wrote this; his/her name appears nowhere on it, but it appeared in my twitter stream).

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Blackboard’s Big News that Nobody Noticed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 10:00


Michael Feldstein, e-Loterate, Jul 25, 2014

Reporting from the Blackboard conference, Michael Feldstein writes, "the big corporate keynote had to be one of the strangest I’ ve ever seen." High praise! After a long intro, it became (says Feldstein) "a carpet bombing run of announcements— a series of explosions that were over by the time you realized that they had started, leaving you to wonder what the heck had just happened." (What would education be in the United States without endless military analogies?) So what are the changes? A major user interface revision, a cloud version of the platform, bundles products, and other stuff. These actually make a lot of sense, and respond to (in order) longstanding criticisms, the challenge from MOOC platforms, and D2L's positioning. But you can't say any of that if you're Blackboard, so you mumble generalities and then make the announcements, kiss me quick, it's my birthday.

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Desire2Wha?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 10:00


Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, Jul 25, 2014

This will be (I hope) the last of the posts on D2L's name change. This post from Michael Feldstein essentially expresses incredulity at the verbiage and scepticism about the business plan (to the point of questioning one of D2L's recent acquisitions). It also includes two substantial references: to THE Journal for summarizing the announcements and D’ Arcy Norman’ s post "for an on-the-ground account of the conference and broader observations about shifts in the company’ s culture."

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Rethinking the nature of inequality and labor: An essay review of Affective Equality

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 10:00


Eleni Schirmer, Michael W. Apple, education review, Jul 25, 2014

Good review of the book Affective Equality posing the central question, "Have the implemented educational reform policies mis-appraised the requirements of equality itself?" There are multiple "social systems that structure both equality and inequality: economic, political, cultural, and, affective." And example of this (not mentioned in the review) are parental expectations of their children. But this can't be addressed simply by hiring more staff; "it is a dangerous category error to try to squeeze all such labor into the domain of the economic market." You can't simply compensate 'care work' more generously; at the same time, for example, by offloading hands-on care-type work such as tutoring to low-paid instructors, academia overly rewards higher-paid non-care work such as administration and research. Care, according to the authors, must be recognized as a public good.

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Kindle Unlimited

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 10:00
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Maria Bustillos, The Awl, Jul 25, 2014

Normally I use the article title for my own titles, but in this case I've edited it due to the language. So consider this a language warning. That said, I agree with the tome of the article, which asserts in summary that Kindle will now be charging $10 per month for access to six hundred thousand books in its library. As the author responds as a counterpoint, "it is possible to read six million e-texts at the Open Library, right now." And "But it shouldn't cost a thing to borrow a book, Amazon, you foul, horrible, profiteering enemies of civilization." That is, after all, the basis on which the public library was founded (as in, say, New Brunswick). But the publishers and vendors are pushing back against ruling like the recent HathiTrust case, which reasserted the rights of libraries to digitize and lend books from their collections.

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Unbundling Versus Designing Faculty Roles

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 10:00


Adrianna Kezar, Sean Gehrke, Daniel Maxey, American Council on Education, Jul 25, 2014

Those who follow OLDaily will recall that I've written before on what may be called the 'unbundling' of faculty roles (article, presentation). In my presentations I offer some 27 roles that could be mixed and matched in different configurations. This paper focuses mostly on the distinction between the roles of tutor, presenter and mentor. It's one of those papers that appears to be discussing change, but which I think is fundamentally conservative in its outlook. This becomes most apparent near the end as the author executes a"a pivot in terminology" and begins talking about 'redesigning', rather than unbundling, faculty roles. Via Inside Higher Ed, which points to a related paper on  reimagining business models in higher education.

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