Miscellaneous

Improving Copyright’s Public Image

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 10:00
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Bill Rosenblatt, Copyright, Technology, [Sept] 07, 2014

This post summarizes a talk from Peter Menell addressing copyright's image problem head on."‘ My Generation’ did not see copyright as an oppressive regime.  We thrived in ignorant bliss well below copyright’ s enforcement radar and were inspired by content industry products.   The situation could not be more different for adolescents, teenagers,  college students, and netizens today." Quite right. Among the suggestions to fix this: a database of rights-holder information, different tiers of liability for individuals and corporations, clarification of fair use, and a compulsory licence and royalty payment. These are good proposals, but the opposition would come not so much from the public, but rather from copyright owners and publishers. Which is why copyright has an image problem.

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The First Successful Demonstration Of Brain-To-Brain Communication In Humans

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 09/07/2014 - 01:00
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George Dvorsky, io9, [Sept] 06, 2014

Awesome (and a little bit scary): "For the first time ever, neuroscientists have demonstrated the viability of direct — and completely non-invasive — brain-to-brain communication in humans. Remarkably, the experiment allowed subjects to exchange mentally-conjured words despite being 5,000 miles apart. It's the neuroscientific equivalent of instant messaging." Meanwhile, DARPA's tiny implants will hook directly into your nervous system. And reserachers are studying the use of  brain signals to operate drones. Via Metafilter.

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The End Of Neighborhood Schools

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 22:00
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Anya Kamenetz, NPR, [Sept] 06, 2014

So I found this interesting, especially the way the discussion looked at two major aspects of the New Orleans school reform: first, the conversion of the system to public to private charter schools (and consequent firing and de-unionization of the school system), and second, the conversion from neighborhood schools to a city-wide system that offers choice. Well - sort of choice, since admission is by lottery and funding is such that there are really only a few good schools everyone is trying to get into. But it reminded me of the school system in Edmonton, where they managed to achieve the same degree of choice, without firing all the teachers and privatizing the system - and where they are producing some of the best graduates in the world (as measured eg. by PISA) and not a C-grade average. Creating choice and diversity, I think, helps - but if you destroy the system of public education, you undermine any benefit you may have attained. Meanwhile, the flood of charitable money that propped up the privatized system in the early years, the test score improvements are looking a little hollow, and the sheen is coming off the NOLA rose.

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Adding Some TEC-VARIETY

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 10:00


Curtis J. Bonk, Elaine Khoo, [Sept] 06, 2014

Curt Bonk is offering his latest book for free as an eBook - you can download the whole thing or individual chapters. He writes, "We propose the TEC-VARIETY framework as a solution to the lack of meaningful engagement. It can shift learners from nearly comatose states to actively engaged ones. Adding Some TEC-VARIETY helps instructors focus on how to motivate online learners and increase learner retention. It also is a comprehensive, one-stop toolkit for online instructors to inspire learners and renew their own passion for teaching. "

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Standard Options Apply

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 10:00
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Aaron Silvers, MakingBetter, [Sept] 06, 2014

As the development of the xAPI (Experience APO) continues, questions of development and implementation are beginning to arise. As Aaron Silvers says, the upcoming formalization by IEEE will break existing implementations. He suggests adopting a modular approach to xAPI, breaking it into different functions, modelled (for example) along the lines of WiFi, as a family of standards. "A modular approach is certainly atomic; it helps to ensure there’ s consistency going forward for each component; it isolates the potential impact of changing any one component without needing to change the other components," he writes. (This also reminds me that I am, or was, a member of IEEE-LTSC, but maybe my membership has lapsed.) Related: Tin Badges.

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Why Psychologists’ Food Fight Matters

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 01:00
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Michelle N. Meyer, Christopher Chabris, Slate, [Sept] 05, 2014

"Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be  inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions." Oh Noes! But it says so in  a study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. Should we even take note of this? Probably not. I'm sympathetic with John Ioannidis, who argued "Most research findings are false for most research designs and for most fields." Moreover, there is a significant bias in favour of positive findings, which influences not only what gets reported, but what gets studied in the first place. And when I read that "At least 10 of the 27 'important findings' in social psychology were not replicated at all," even if I'm no big fan of the fiction that is replication, I am additionally sceptical about the claims made about such studies. I don't think there are principles to be discovered on this way; at best, if we create large enough studies (which almost never happens) we can get a smapshot - grist for the intuitive recognizer of patterns of perception, but hardly the framework for a natural science of emotions.

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Learning Analytics and Ethics: A Framework beyond Utilitarianism

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 22:00
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James E. Willis, III, EDUCAUSE Review, [Sept] 05, 2014

This is an unfortunately superficial treatment of ethics as it relates to big data analysis. The title itself ("Beyond utilitarianism...") treats an entire family of theories as though they were one - but there is a world of difference between (say) act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism (it's like the author never read  Mill on the subject). Moreover, the breakdown of approaches to ethics into utopian, ambiguous and nihilist departs from standard classifications of ethical approaches (and tends in all instances to focus on ethics as an axiomatic or systematic enterprise, which is only one aspect of ethics). Finally, even the presentation of positions ("so-called big data") seems to have its own agenda. Even the image - the scales of justice - is wrong for a treatment of ethics. I recommend people attempting to treat ethical questions in this field get a good grounding in introductory ethics - I personally would recommend Feldman, or maybe  this online source - and then try again. Related: AAUP Statement of Professional Ethics.

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Clarifying Competency Based Education Terms

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 22:00


Deborah Everhart, Cathy Sandeen, Deborah Seymour, Karen Yoshino, Blackboard, [Sept] 05, 2014

Useful resource that attempts to bring some consistency to discussions of competency-based learning. It would take a close reading to effectively criticize, consisting as it does of close to a hundred words, ordered in categories and alphabetically, with definitions. It seems pretty good in general, but there's room for  persnickety. For example, of "A competency is a specific skill, knowledge, or ability that is both observable and measurable," I would say the term "measurable" is either redundant or overly prescriptive. And I would say that this is too narrow: "Profile refers to a person’ s documentation of their own skills, competencies, accomplishments, and talents." Via ACE. More.

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Connected Courses

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 10:00


Various authors, Connected Courses, [Sept] 05, 2014

This looks like an interesting MOOC: "Connected Courses is a collaborative network of faculty in higher education developing online, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web." I recognize more than a few of the people in the staff list. I like the way it is  connecting syndicated blogs, in true connectivist style. The course starts today! Here's the pre-course orientation.

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Top independent school puts lessons free on iTunes

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 10:00
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Sean Coughlan, BBC News, [Sept] 05, 2014

Something like a MOOC has reached the grade school level in Britain. The Stephen Perse Foundation school in Cambridge, an 'independent' (ie., private) school is placing its course materials on iTunes. "The school has been building digital support materials for each subject, including video, audio, written materials and links to online resources.... From the new school year, these materials developed for this fee-paying school are being made available free online for students in the UK or anywhere else in the world." Though as observers such as Martin Owen point out, these sorts of initiatives have been around for a long time - for example here. More here.

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You know what you need… you need a learning contract

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 10:00


Dave Cormier, Dave's Educational Blog, [Sept] 05, 2014

"The teacher," writes Dave Cormier, "in most traditions, is responsible for making those desires as explicit and as clear as possible. I teach. You learn. Learning is defined by what I wish to teach." The soltion to this, he suggests, is a contract. "Come to an agreement with people about what they want to work on, how much they want to work, who’ s responsible for what and what everyone expects." In philosophy there's a long literature of social contract theories (see, for example, Rawls) but they suffer from the presumption that these are actually negotiated, as opposed to simply imposed by the person in power. Cormier's contracts are the same sort of thing: the person in power sets the terms, and the person without power complies or fails.

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School Should Be More Like Camp

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 22:00
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Jackie Gerstein, User Generated Education, [Sept] 04, 2014

This seems so intuitive, and my own experiences at camp were deeply influential on me. So I want to be more like Jackie Gerstein and say "promote the idea that school should be more like camp." And there's so much about camp I love. But.... but.... at camp, relationships are primary (says the chart) but at the camps I went to, relationships were sometimes abusive and occasionally violent. "Multigenerational learning and teaching", for me, sometimes means object lessons in the politics of power. I loved the outdoors, I loved nature - and yet I spent so much of my time in it alone and afraid, hurt, crying and an outcast. Camps are not the happy-go-lucky places described here; they can sometimes be more like Lord of the Flies (so, for that matter, can school). It's easy - far to easy - to idealize things. We should focus on the experiences we want to promote, and not misleading metaphors.

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Literacies for the digital age: Financial literacy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 22:00
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Kathy Schrock, Discovery Education: Kathy's Klatch, [Sept] 04, 2014

OK, what is a literacy, exactly? I ask because offers a whole list of literacies, ranging from financial literacy to digital literacy to civic literacy - and then proceeds to outline some. And that's where I begin to get uncomfortable, as it seems 'literacy' on this model is really just a collection of life lessons. The 'financial literacy' section, for example, is accompanied by a graphic depicting "needs vs wants" and includes things like "saving for a goal" and "what do banks do?" (I assume 'steal your money' is not the accepted answer here). But literacy is not a set of facts, nor even a set of skills, related to a domain or discipline. Put loosely, literacy is the ability to recognize, work with and create methods and processes of the domain. Yes, you need to understand (some of) the content, but it's far more important to be able to interrogate, manipulate and manage the elements of the domain, which includes far more than just content. A definition of literacy defined in terms of content alone may as well be interchanged with propaganda, for that's all it is. Literacy goes far beyond that. See also: Media Literacy, Out of Bounds.

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The challenges of open data: emerging technology to support learner journeys

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 22:00
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Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu.org, [Sept] 04, 2014

One of the consequences of an outcomes-driven competency-based education system is that it creates the risk of running through the gamut of issues surrounding metadata that characterized the development of online learning resources. This appears to be the basis for the development of LMI in Britain - labour market information. Graham Attwell describes and links to the "LMI for all" API in this presentation. This is a better approach than simply defining XML schemas, as it creates access to data that can actually be used for applications. Maybe second time around we'll get more of this right "with the intention of optimising access to, and use of, core national data sources that can be used to support individuals make better decisions about learning and work." I'd love to see something like this for Canada.

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Reflecting on reflection

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 22:00


Harold Jarche, [Sept] 04, 2014

I have often described the 'Downes Theory of Education' (which is not original to me, and which is too simple to be called a theory) as follows: "To teach is to model and demonstrate; to learn is to practice and reflect." So much writing focuses on the first pair of activities; the bulk of educational literature is focused on how to teach. My focus has generally been about how to learn, but even here I have tended to focus more on practice and less on reflection. But reflection should not be overlooked; 10,000 hours of practice may produce expertise, but 10,000 hours of unreflective practice produces nothing but sore shoulders. Harold Jarche begins this important conversation. I think it's necessary to expand on the idea. A lot.

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Community Source Is Dead

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 22:00
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Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, [Sept] 04, 2014

I've never been a proponent of what is sometimes called 'community source' (but which is really a closed federation posturing as though it were some sort of open source). The way it  worked was, "several institutions contract together to build software for a common need, with the intent of releasing that software as open source." Fair enough. And it did address the problem of bringing together the resources needed to create such software. But there's a second problem, says Michael Feldstein: "What is the best way to plan and execute software development projects in light of the high degree of uncertainty inherent in developing any software?" Community source is difficult to manage, and nowhere nearly sufficiently agile to respond to changing needs. See eg. the interesting comment from Josh Baron: " I certainly understand the desire on the part of institutional leaders to have control over key decisions and reduce the messiness, this was my first reaction when entering the Sakai community as well, but as soon as these leaders begin to take control they can end up ruining the 'secret sauce'." See also: Kuali for-profit.

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Educator’s Guide to LiveBinders

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 16:00
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Justin Stallings, The Edublogger, [Sept] 04, 2014

Overview of what looks like a really interesting tool, Livebinders. "To accommodate this ever evolving world of information, teachers and students both need an online tool where they can collect, share, reflect, and grow from their learning. This is where a tool like LiveBinders comes in.   LiveBinder  is your digital binder for all of your online content and learning." The article is probably an advertorial and all that (otherwise, why flood it with links to the LiveBinders site), and the product is essentially a hosed commercial service, but the concept is still attractive.

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What Digital Accelerates

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 16:00


George Couros, Connected Principals, [Sept] 04, 2014

Good article on the benefits that can be realized by digital technologies in schools. I especially like the discussion under the heading 'empowering voice'. George Couros writes, "there is still the mindset in many organizations that administrators need to “ control” the story that is sent out about their schools.   The feeling is that with every blog post, tweet, website, etc., approval must be obtained before it is shared.   This is not leadership.   Our job is to not control talent, but to unleash it."

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