Miscellaneous

Some readings on networked learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 11:00


David T. Jones, The Weblog of (a) David Jones, Aug 04, 2014

A couple interesting items (and one dud) on networked learning are highlighted in this post:

  • the first focuses on new media literacy for faculty and described it as a "threshold concept", which means, essentially, take it slowly and be sympathetic to their plight. Jones suggests that the  networked and global leaning course might also be viewed that way. I liked the five aspects of threshold concepts, as they reminded me of the idea of incommensurability in Kuhn's paradigm shifts.
  • the second looked at cases "where values of social media conflicted with those of higher ed (especially QA)." I like this (absolutely accurate) bit: "Participative processes can be experienced as tyrannical when participation is demanded by course designs, tutors and ultimately by participants in an unreflective and normative way."
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Learning technology through generations – Paper Summary

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 11:00


Anne Strethewey, Even Elmo's Got a Mobile, Aug 04, 2014

Overview of the development of e-learning through three 'generations' summarizing Terry Anderson and Jon Dron’ s  2012 EURODL article, ‘ Learning technology through three generations of technology enhanced distance education pedagogy. My own take on the same idea is in my  e-Learning Generations article, presented  originally in Clare, New Brunswick. The two approaches are very different, though: they focus on the classical pedagogical models (behaviourists, constructivist, connectovist) while I map th chaneg in emphasis revealed through technology: the first three generations of e-learning (and the web generally) represent a focus on documents, while the second three represent a focus on data. Via David T. Jones.

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Reclaim & Rethink

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 23:00


Tim Klapdor, Tim Klapdor, Aug 03, 2014

Tim Klapdor explores the concept of self, paticu;arly with respect to identity and learning. It's a complex issue. At first blush we think we have one self, but then everyone can think of an instance when we were (if you will) "not ourselves". Klapdor explores "Jung... the anima/animus (male/female). This underlying unconscious mind helped balance and maintain the persona..." Except that's too simple as well. There's the mental self, the bodily self, the public self, the historical self - I could go on; the list is almost endless. Philosophy is full of thought experiments designed to test the concept (if I take my brain and put it in your body, is the resulting person me or you?).

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Wrong Answer: In an era of high-stakes testing, a struggling school made a shocking choice

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 12:00


Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, Aug 03, 2014

It makes me wonder how many of the 'success stories' in the literatire are based on cheating, just as this one from a school in Atlanta did, complete with published papers and a 'Dispelling the Myth' award. "There have been accounts of widespread cheating in dozens of cities, including Philadelphia, Toledo, El Paso, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, and St. Louis."

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Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00
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Andy Greenberg, Wired, Aug 03, 2014

I'm not saying this has anything to do with certain recent cases of hacking, but the flaw seems serious and pervasive. "Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan to present next week, demonstrating a collection of proof-of-concept malicious software that highlights how the security of USB devices has long been fundamentally broken." The malware is embedded not in the data stored on the USB, but in the firmware itself, making it invisible to screening software. And no, it's not just the bad guys who could use this. "The USB attack may in fact already be common practice for the NSA (in) a spying device known as Cottonmouth, revealed earlier this year in the leaks of Edward Snowden."

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Canadian University Social Software Guidelines and Academic Freedom: An Alarming Labour Trend

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Taryn Lough;Toni Samek, International Review of Information Ethics, Aug 03, 2014

Most universities have adopted guidelines for the use of social media, but their reach and impact has not been benign, according to the authors. "The guidelines attempt to blur what is appropriate in what space, revealing a repressive impulse on the part of university administrations. These guidelines are read as obvious attempts to control rather than merely guide, and speak to the nature of institutional over-reach."

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Student Privacy: Harm and Context

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Mark MacCarthy, International Review of Information Ethics, Aug 03, 2014

As the author notes, "Education is on the verge of dramatic changes in the collection, flow and use of student information." One approach, the "harm approach," seeks to advocate the use of these technologies that cause the least harm to students. By contrast, writes Mark MacCarthy, "the theory of contextual integrity counsels caution about transgressive changes that violate intuitive context-relative norms governing information flows." What that means is that the violation of ethics occurs not when harm is done, but when the extraction of information violates what people would expect of normal information flows. Thus, for example, information about personal physical properties, or the sharing of information to unrelated third parties, violate ethics because they go beyond the bound of normal information flow, even if no actual harm is caused.

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The Ethics of Big Data in Higher Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Jeffrey Alan Johnson, International Review of Information Ethics, Aug 03, 2014

Interesting look at the effect of data mining in education (8 page PDF). The author makes the point that research based in data mining works quite differently from traditional research. I quote:

  1. Data mining eschews the hypothetico-deductive process, relying instead on a strictly inductive process in which the model is developed a posteriori from the data itself.
  2. Data mining relies heavily on machine learning and artificial intelligence approaches, taking advantage of vastly increased computing power to use brute-force methods to evaluate possible solutions.
  3. Data mining characterizes specific cases, generating a predicted value or classification of each case without regard to the utility of the model for understanding the underlying structure of the data.
  4. Data mining aims strictly at identifying previously unseen data relationships rather than ascribing causality to variables in those relationships.

The author surveys the ethical implications of this. On the one hand, the good news is that model-based theories which treat all students as though they were the same are replaced with an approach recognizing the individuality of each student. But on the surface, the approach risks revealing information about students they don't want revealed, and risks fostering paternalism through the recommendation process, and at a deeper level, the risk of "scientism," or " he temptation to un-critically accept claims that purport to have scientific backing."

The  current issue of the International Review of Information Ethics is a special issue on the digital future of education (it's issue number 21).

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An Applied Learning Experience Field Research and Reporting at the 2012 National Party Conventions

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Carolyn S. Carlson;Joshua N. Azriel;Jeff DeWitt;Kerwin Swint, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching, Learning, Aug 03, 2014

One example of a developmental experience is to include students in conference proceedings, including (in this case) acting as researchers and reporters, as  covered here before. "Students engaged in such experiential learning projects develop a more substantive understanding of the subject matter under study, enhanced motivation for learning, and greater feelings of academic achievement and citizenship."

This and the next two items are from the  current issue of International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, just released.

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Disentangling The Effects Of Student Attitudes and Behaviors On Academic Performance

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Susan Janssen;Maureen O'Brien, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching, Learning, Aug 03, 2014

commented the other day that a study was misleading because it didn't take into account motivation. This paper documents that effect. "Separate analyses of ability and motivation groups are conducted," write the authors. "We find that motivation and ability explain variation in both homework and exam scores." The literature explains the link: "motivation influences performance through its effect on selfregulatory behaviors and study strategies... Self-regulated students engage in increased effort by completing supplemental problems, managing time effectively, and seeking help in solving problems." 31 page PDF.

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Creating a Transformational Learning Experience: Immersing Students in an Intensive Interdisciplinary Learning Environment

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 08/03/2014 - 09:00


Shelley K. White;Mindell Reiss Nitkin, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching, Learning, Aug 03, 2014

As the authors note, "The literatures on transformative, student centered, active, experiential, cooperative, and self-directed learning all focus on reframing the learning process." Consequently this paper looks at "the Simmons World Challenge (in which) the program immerses students in an intensive learning experience in which students take ownership of their learning and develop an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems... problems such as immigration, poverty, and hunger." The paper describes the program methodology in detail and documents the outcomes: "life-changing, educational, interdisciplinary, exciting, challenging, exhausting, illuminating and thrilling." 32 page PDF.

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Campus Tech 2014: Reinventing Higher Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 18:00
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Tara E. Buck, Ed Tech, Aug 02, 2014

I like data as much as the next person. Probably more. But I'm fussy. And while I'm impressed by 3 billion data points in EdX, I first of all know that this is a relatively small amount of data, only a fraction of the actual reading and learning that happens online, and that it is a terribly unrepresentative sample, coming from only one platform representing only one approach. But based on the Universal Theory of the Social Sciences ("every person is like the students taking my class") we obtain some generalizations. “ We know what parts of the learning experience contribute to successful outcomes, and whether that’ s tied to certain kinds of students. We are using this to learn how students learn," says edX CEO Anant Agarwal. “ Now we can show them the data and say, ‘ If you really want to improve the outcomes, keep the video short.’ ” Wait, did I just read an entire article to find out  that? And he adds, “ The last time we gave teachers a new tool was 1862: a piece of chalk and a chalkboard.” I guess he missed the 1970s entirely, when they rolled TVs into the classrooms, or the 1990s, with computer labs and Smartboards, and... oh, what's the use?

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Connecting with faculty

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 18:00


Clint Lalonde, ClintLalonde.net, Aug 02, 2014

What I really like about this post is the discovery of entire networks of educators in places unexpected. "I had no idea," writes Clint Lalonde, "no idea that there would be such a strong education track at a general conference." And so we are introduced to the the  Chemwiki project, the IONiC (Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists) and VIPEr (Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource) (more). Though I'm not familiar with these groups, I'm not surprised, because everywhere I go, I find another cluster, another community, another little network of reserachers and educators.

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SIMULACRE: A proposal for practical training in e learning environments

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 18:00


Alba Colombo, Muriel Gómez Pradas, RUSC Universities, Knowledge Society Journal, Aug 02, 2014

This article "a new proposal for practical training called SIMULACRE, which is based on a model that combines the theory of simulation games, problem-solving and cooperative learning." As the description suggests, students work cooperatively in a virtual environment to solve problems. "The students compare and contrast various views and then opt for a single proposed solution after taking into account the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats." (This sounds more like collaboration than cooperation) The paper describes an application of the model and evaluations after the learning process (n=80, so don't interpret the data quantitatively, as the sample is too small). See more articles from RUSC Universities and Knowledge Society Journal, including Theresa Koroivulaono, Open Educational Resources: a regional university’ s journey.

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Melbourne University pulls Teach for Australia "criticism"

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 12:00


Jewel Topsfield, The Age, Aug 02, 2014

Here's the  original criticism of Teach for Australia, which is similar to the U.S.-based Teach for America program: "“ Programs like Teach for Australia - while five times more expensive than traditional programs - are increasing despite an absence of a reasonable evaluative basis to continue this support." Needless to say, the decision to remove the criticism from the final submission has resulted in much more publicity for the criticism, not to mention undermining the Melbourne University's academic integrity.

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Learning theories and online learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 09:00
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Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Aug 02, 2014

If you need a short chapter-length overview of (educational) learning theories, this is the place to look. Tony Bates reviews the major contenders from Behaviourism on down. He takes the perspective that a lot is known about the field: quoting Knapper, "there is an impressive body of evidence on how teaching methods and curriculum design affect deep, autonomous, and reflective learning. Yet most faculty are largely ignorant of this scholarship..." Maybe so, but the underlying question has to be answered: how much of this evidence is actually accurate and useful? My own take is: almost none of it. As time goes by, we get more theories of education, not fewer. That's not how it should work. (One more quibble: Bates says, "Connectivists such as Siemens and Downes tend to be somewhat vague about the role of teachers or instructors." I can't speak for George, but I think my  papers and  presentations on the topic are pretty precise.)

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Open Access and the Public Purse

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 09:00


Julia M. Wright, Academic Matters, Aug 02, 2014

The argument about whether open access (OA) mandates should express support for article processing fees (APC) has hit Canada, which a  policy paper leaning in that direction. Julia Wright responds to the proposal: "if the goal is 'Opening Canadian Research to the World,' are per-article requirements the best route? What if that $4.1-13.9 million were kept in Canada to help our journals convert to or maintain OA with minimal or no APCs? Canadian journals as a group could be truly OA, affordable and high-quality— a haven for researchers dealing with per-article OA requirements on their grants." Agreed. More from Michael Geist. Via Academica.

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Chinese cyberattack hits Canada's National Research Council

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 08/02/2014 - 09:00


Rosemary Barton, CBC News, Aug 02, 2014

So this was the big news in the office yesterday. I have nothing to add to the media coverage of the story, except to confirm that we are being told internally basically the same story (less, actually) as is being reported externally: "A 'highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor' recently managed to hack into the computer systems at Canada's National Research Council, according to Canada's chief information officer, Corinne Charette." Note that all my websites (OLDaily, mooc.ca, Half an Hour) are on completely separate systems from the NRC and are not impacted by the current incident. More: Toronto Star, BBC, GovInfoSec, CTV. Related: watch the cyberwars in real time. Warning: addictive.

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