Miscellaneous

Survey of the Shared Design Elements & Emerging Practices of Competency-Based Education Programs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 16:00


Public Agenda, Jan 17, 2016

This report (36 page PDF) gathers baseline data on competency-based education (CBE) initiatives and looks at the adoption and evaluation of various CBE practices. Competencies and assessments, not surprisingly, take the top spot. But 95 percent of respondents also felt CBE should be learner centred. Engaged faculty and external partners, as well as embedded processes for continuous improvement, also ranked high. The bulk of the institutions surveyed were still mostly in the planning phase, though private and for-profit institutions were further along. Accreditation was also mostly in the planning phase, with the notable exception of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which was into scale-up mode. One of the major challenges is posed by the need for data systems that "are automated and compatible with one another, eliminating unnecessary frustrations for faculty, staff, and learners." Pricing models and cost structures were also issues.

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2015 Open and Online Education Trend Report

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 16:00


Marjon Baas, Janina van Hees, Ria Jacobi, Martijn Ouwehand, Robert Schuwer, Fred de Vries, Nicolai van der Woert, SURFNet, Jan 17, 2016

How is open education impacting on-campus education? Are new target groups being attracted to open and online educations? These are the sorts of questions addressed by this report. It's composed of nine separate reports along with a series of 'intermezzos'. Each of these reports examines an aspect of these two questions (they're all in one big  78 page PDF so I can't link to them separately). Open education, we read, has progressed "beyond the pioneering phase" and into adoption, motivated today mostly by economic and delivery concerns, as opposed to the ideological concerns prevalent in the movement's early days. Yet there are still issues around business models, licensing, and quality. So we see, for example in one contribution from Robert Schuwer and Ulrike Wild, a proposal for an "action plan for the promotion of open education adoption." Such a plan might include an incentive scheme, as proposed by Janina van Hees. There's a lot more here in what is really a very comprehensive document, well recommended.

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Technology and the Imminent Disruption of Higher Education: Is Fear the Path to the Dark Side?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 16:00


David Wheeler, Academica Forum, Jan 17, 2016

Good article from Cape Breton University president David Wheeler examining some of the major trends in university education today. Here's a quick summary (quoted from the article):

  • Gamification - enhancing emotional engagement with learning
  • Rewards - from points and badges to certificates and degrees
  • Adaptive learning - from artificial intelligence to tutoring
  • Simulations - from apprenticeships to virtual reality
  • Social learning - reproducing the classroom and peer support online

One of the strengths of Wheeler's article is that he clearly identifies the impact of the trend on learning and provides examples of companies or applications that are innovating in this space. He also links back to a  Guardian article from a couple weeks ago citing studies which show clearly the idea that knowledge is a web of associations, and not like disk storage or memory tape. And his message has a hard edge: "If an institution cannot support flexible, high quality, and competitively-priced learning journeys for students of all ages and backgrounds, then another institution will, and it may be based anywhere from Arizona to New Zealand."

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Microsoft Neural Net Shows Deep Learning Can Get Way Deeper

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 13:00


Cade Metz, Wired, Jan 17, 2016

"neural nets use hardware and software to approximate the web of neurons in the human brain. This idea dates to the 1980s, but in 2012, Krizhevsky and Hinton advanced the technology... Deep neural networks are arranged in layers. Each layer is a different set of mathematical operations— aka  algorithms. The output of one layer becomes the input of the next."

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The Banality Of Death

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 04:00

No matter how pointless or meaningful we are told that it is, each death is to someone the ultimate tragedy. All deaths are the same. Once we come to realize this, together, we can begin thinking about how we can live together, work together, and begin to cherish this most beautiful thing in the world: life.

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Making Networked Sharing Socially Beneficial, Not Just Predatory and Profitable

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 13:00


David Bollier, News and perspectives on the commons, Jan 16, 2016

The so-called 'sharing economy' will almost certainly impact education, but what form will it take? Now is the time to be thinking about it. The economy actually breaks down into four types of practice, according to this article (quoted):

  • the “ access economy” that is renting things rather than selling them permanently;
  • the “ gig economy” that hosts contingent work in digital marketplaces;
  • the “ collaborative economy” that fosters peer-to-peer governance and production processes; and
  • and the “ pooling economy” that enables collective ownership and management.

Each of these is structured differently, and each impacts on the traditional economy and wider society differently. To counter 'free riders' like Uber from exploiting existing infrastructure while providing no social return, policies need to be in place to address the following (again quoted from the article):

  • impacts, including tax avoidance, unfair competition and violations of local and regional regulation;
  • personal economic security and social welfare (such as pay, working standards, benefits);
  • open data sharing for public purposes, allowing newcomers into the market;
  • trust and reputation must be accurately and independently managed.

I think one of some of the major bodies in education (a foundation, UNESCO, CoL or OIF, etc) should tackle this conversation with respect to learning.

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Personalization, Not Isolation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 01/16/2016 - 13:00


Jennifer Carolan, Medium, Jan 16, 2016

Personalized learning, writes Jennifer Carolan, is on everyone's minds these days. But effective teachers know that personalization means much more than simply working on one's own. "More powerful learning comes from interaction and idea sharing that drives greater understanding and empathy." For example, an application called  Newslea outputs versions of news articles at different reading levels so people at all levels can contribute to a discussion about the item. "The most promising new school models," she writes, "go forward with the mindset that personalization will help achieve a constellation of goals —  both personal and community —  that are higher and broader, aimed at serving the larger, democratic society."

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Supporting Open Textbook Adoption in British Columbia

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


Mary Burgess, David Porter, BC Campus, Jan 15, 2016

Short article, supplemented with video clips from innovators such as Brian Lamb and Scott Leslie, on the progress and development of the Open Textbook project in British Columbia. "It hasn’ t been a straight-line development process over the past 13 years," say the authors, "nor has it been completely planned and there have been many of twists and turns, all the while building a community from the successes and the missteps along the way."

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Ed-Tech Patents: Prior Art and Learning Theories

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


Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jan 15, 2016

Good overview of some recent history regarding the (now-abandoned) Blackboard patent, as well as some more recent patents held by the Khan Academy. What's interesting is what is essentially a two-step method of shifting discourse in the field: first, the data-driven approaches described by companies like Khan are held to be "theory-free"; then, second, the method described in the patent embodies what we would previously have called the theory. For example: the method of "method for providing computer programming instructions," which bears a striking resemblance to "languages like Logo and Scratch as well as a plethora of online tutorials." Or for example: "a patent for using A/B testing to determine the “ effectiveness” of an educational video." Audrey Watters comments cynically, "One might say then that Khan Academy does have a theory of learning; but I’ d suggest that it’ s behaviorism." But "Regardless, all these practices – these 'systems and methods' – are now going to be patented if the pressures and culture of the tech sector hold sway."

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Stagnation or innovation in Technology Enhanced Learning?

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


Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, Jan 15, 2016

It's an interesting coincidence. I was asked yesterday why  our program exists, given that there's so much investment all around in learning technology. My response was that innovation in our field has stalled, and that it is not in the interests of incumbents to push it forward. Keeping education expensive works for everyone except for those who need the education - learners, and their employers. Today I read  this item from Graham Attwell, and in the follow-up he quotes Robert Misik, who writes that "despite superficial impressions, the past 15 years may have produced practically no more genuinely productive innovations.” And "that seems to sum up much of the developments in Technology Enhanced Learning," writes Attwell. And as Phil Hill says: “ Didn’ t we have bigger dreams for instructional technology?” Well, yes. We did. Some of us still do. Image: Braindancing Smorgasbord.

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A Minimum Viable Product is an Object for Learning

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


Tim Kastelle, The Discipline of Innovation, Jan 15, 2016

If you are involved in development and innovation, you've come across the idea of the minimal viable product (MVP). The idea of the MVP is to find the simplest possible end-to-end test of the concept you're trying to prove, and to roll that out as your first version. As this article notes, it doesn't need to be tech - the organizers in this story assembled a bunch of businesspeople in a room and tested whether among them they could find a use for each others' byproducts. This exchange mechanism became the basis for the application they were developing. But the MVP is also, says Tim Kastelle, a learning resource. "When you combine hypothesis testing with low-fidelity MVPs, you get into the Build-Measure-Learn loop very early in the process."

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The Blockchain and Open Innovation

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


Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Jan 15, 2016

As Wikipedia notes, "a permissionless distributed database based on the bitcoin protocol that maintains a continuously growing list of transactional data records hardened against tampering and revision, even by operators of the data store's nodes." It might in time prove to be a significant invention. People have suggested  the use of blockchains to recognize educational achievements. This article points to a couple of advances in the use of blockchains by financial institutions to maintain a common ledger system "to implement a fully decentralized payment system, in which copies of the ledger are shared between all participants, and a process is established by which users agree on changes to the ledger (that is, on which transactions are valid)."

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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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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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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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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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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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