Miscellaneous

Philae comet could be home to alien life, say scientists

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/09/2015 - 19:00
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Rebecca Ratcliffe, The Guardian, Jul 09, 2015

I couldn't let the potential discovery of alien life go uncommented in this newsletter. "One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the microbes will soon be here. And I for one welcome our new miccrobial overlords. I’ d like to remind them that as a trusted internet personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground hydrocarbon caves." Know your meme. :)

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I'm Sorry, But Agile Won't Fix Your Products

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/09/2015 - 16:00
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Adam Pisoni, The Review, Jul 09, 2015

The point here isn't that Agile is the wrong direction to take, but rather, that it doesn't go far enough toward ensuring that projects are responsive and adaptive. "While Agile did educate a generation of software developers on the importance of experimentation and customer feedback, it failed to change the old, centralized, command-and-control system of management which remains a large part of the problem. Even with Agile, disempowered engineers working with too little context still ended up taking too long to create products customers don’ t even want." the challenge thus becomes one of managing projects in an agile manner, which sounds great until attempted against a funder's requirement for specific deliverables and milestones (which is my life these days).

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U.S. Digital Services Playbook

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/09/2015 - 16:00


U.S. Digital Services, Jul 09, 2015

Interesting and useful resource. "Today, too many of our digital services projects do not work well, are delivered late, or are over budget. To increase the success rate of these projects, the U.S. Government needs a new approach. We created a playbook of 13 key 'plays' drawn from successful practices from the private sector and government that, if followed together, will help government build effective digital services."

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Writing an online, open textbook: is it worth it?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 22:00
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Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Jul 08, 2015

The answer, unsurprisingly, was "yes" (though you have to read a fair way into the article to see this). The interesting bits, though, concern the function of PressBooks as a way to write an open textbook (the good: it was relatively easy to use; the bad: persistent hacking attacks, and exporting images into the various formats. Also, despite Tony Bates's credentials, professors still didn't want their students citing it because it wasn't peer reviewed (I have this issue as well, made all the more difficult because I don't write typical journal articles that peer reviewers like). But still, as Bates writes, "I was able to go from initial idea to final publication of the book in 15 months. I have had a publisher take that long from handover of the final draft to publishing. For a book of this kind, quick publishing is important otherwise it starts to look  out of date, even if the main foundations do not change." Also worth noting:  the cost of producing the book was $80 - $130K.

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Working in Blackboard

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 19:00
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Jenny Mackness, Jul 08, 2015

Once many years ago I authored a course on introductory ethics in Blackboard. It was a good course; sadly I've lost all the content. Anyhow, what I remember was that I had to insert my own links from page to page, writing the code myself, to give students an intuitive flow from one page to the next in the environment. It is this sort of attitude I think that characterizes Jenny Mackness's post on working in Blackboard today. Sure, she writes, there are a lot of restrictions. But what do you tell people who have to work in the system? "We have to recognise what the positives of working within an LMS might be," she argues, "acknowledge the constraints, keep an open mind, be willing to experiment (and fail sometimes) and look for ways to overcome the constraints."

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Why character development in education might not be such a good idea

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 19:00
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Nick Hassey, Think Tank Review, Jul 08, 2015

"This is something I often ponder," writes Doug Belshaw in his newsletter. "I've been discussing it recently with friends and family recently, too. 'Character education' or 'grit', however, is a very right-wing concept taken down pretty well in this response to a recent Demos report." The report essentially asserts that there is no scientific basis for promoting character or 'grit' - either is is an inherent personal trait resistant to enhancement by education, or it is irrelevant in educational outcomes. We don't know. But more, to my mind, appeals to 'grit' are code for saying someone's culture (or race, or religion) makes them constitutionally resistant to education, which is a pernicious position at best (and flat out false at worst).

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Prior Learning Assessments Done Right

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 19:00
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Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, Jul 08, 2015

Longish article about prior learning assessment (PLA) at Empire State College, "everything to do with the kind of humane and truly personal education that we should be talking about when we throw around phrases like 'personalized education.'" The focus is on PLA for women of colour; according to Feldstein "PLA (is) more impactful than average for women and people of color... By recognizing that they have, in fact, already acquired college-level skills and knowledge, PLA helps them get past the insults to their self-image and dignity and helps them to envision themselves as successful college graduates."

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The Social-Network Illusion That Tricks Your Mind

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 13:00
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MIT Technology review, Jul 08, 2015

The subhead is this: "Network scientists have discovered how social networks can create the illusion that something is common when it is actually rare." It depends on the number of connections. Three people might own motorcycles, but if they're loners, it might seem like nobody owns motorcycles. But if they're really well connected, it might seem like everybody owns motorcycles. It's called "the majority illusion", and as the authors say, "the majority illusion can be used to trick the population into believing something that is not true." Here's the full paper.

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HOTS for Bloom’s, part 1

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/08/2015 - 13:00
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Kathy Schrock, Discovery Education Network, Jul 08, 2015

When you use an acronym in your title you have some obligation to define it in the article, but that doesn't happen here, so I did some  searching to determine that 'HOTS' means 'Higher Order Thinking Skills' (presumably 'LOTS' means 'lower order thinking skills). This article relating HOTS to  Bloom's Taxonomy (and Bloom's revised) gives some pause for thought, which is useful. But the meaning of 'higher order' bothers me. Verbs related to 'creating' are counted as HOTS. But ants create. Beavers create. Birds create. Are they capable of higher order thinking? We can find similar examples of lower-order thinkers such as cats and raccoons 'analyzing' and 'evaluating'.  Are these even 'skills'? My first thought on reading the acronym was that they were 'strategies'. So while this characterization seems natural at first blush, something else is going on.

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New ADL #mLearning Design Reference model: adjust to your needs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 14:00
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Inge de Waard, Ignatia Webs, Jul 06, 2015

Inge de Waard reports that Peter Berking, lead of the MoTIF project, has released the newly adapted mLearning Design Reference model, and is now inviting us all to have a look at the reference model, and adapt it to our own needs." The  MoTIF project (Mobile Training Implementation Framework) is an  ADL initiative currently focused on a model that "embodies and integrates mobile learning constraints and best practices at the fundamental level of the design process itself,  leading the ISD to consider using alternative learning approaches, unique mobile device capabilities, and leveraging context and usage patterns of users in ways that desktop  DL and classroom learning do not usually address."

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Universities push for higher fees

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 14:00
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Sean Coughlan, BBC News, Jul 06, 2015

British universities are learning very well what North American universities have known for some time, that it is easier to convince governments to increase fees paid by students than it is to increase direct government expenditures. Any old excuse will do. 'These changes should be made now to ensure universities can continue to provide high quality education that meets the needs of students,' she (Janet Beer, vice-president of Universities UK) said." Yeah. 'Quality'.

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