I lead the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics. I am one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course, write about online and networked learning, have authored learning management and content syndication software, and am the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily.


  • Association of Medical Educators of Europe (AMEE) E-Learning Symposium, Glasgow, Scotland, September 6, 2015.

  • Ghent, Belgium, March 30, 2015.

  • Chang School Talks 2015, Ryerson University, February 23, 2015.

  • Hackademia, Online, to Brazil, March 16, 2015.

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How to use metaphors to generate badge-based pathways


The Periscope video may have expired before you see this (why wouldn't people use Hangounts, which don't expire?) but the overall concept is worth a look. Doug Belshaw describes a workshop that leads people through the use of badhes in the creation of learning paths. "Participants will be expected to come up with as many metaphors as they can which could be used to demonstrate progression," for example, the subway stop metaphor. The metaphors are examined, classified, and (if you're lucky) insights are generated. The point is to reinforce the idea that learning is non-linear, and that there are many (if you will) routes to your destination.

Today: 266 Total: 266 Doug Belshaw, Open Educational Thinkering, 2016/06/30 [Direct Link]

Looking back to move forward: A process for whole-school transformation


This post from Microsoft highlights "a series of whitepapers which show examples of successful transformation and how technology can enable progress under two broad areas: Leadership and policy and 21st century pedagogy." There's a sweeping agenda behind these documents. The policy agenda proposes "a public-private education partnership (that) has the potential to be a significant catalyst for systemic change" along with the associated technology investment. The pedagogy agenda pushes schools towards "cloud solutions that manage infrastructure with services and learning allows schools to operate more effectively." All of this is cast under the heading of personalized learning, capacity building and "responsive and creative use of technology." There are white papers and more for each of the ten sections. I can see how the presentation would engage school leaders looking for a way to address current trends in learning, but they need to look beyond the single-vendor approach proposed here, and they should be clear that technology companies are service providers who are held accountable for delivery, not partners taking a hand in pedagogical and educational decisions.

Today: 273 Total: 273 Andrew Robertson, Microsoft in Education blog, 2016/06/29 [Direct Link]

A neural conversation model


One of the key questions in learning and technology, from my perspective, is whether a neural network needs domain knowledge in order to function effectively. This article summarizes a paper describing an effort to create an effective conversational tool that operates without domain knowledge, "a bot that is trained on conversational data, and only conversational data: no programmed understanding of the domain at all, just lots and lots of sample conversations." As we see from the examples, "The surprising thing is just how well it works." It's far enough from reliable, though, that the author concludes "any real service is going to need to some more complex logic wrapped around it."

You might be asking, why is this question so important? The answer is complex, but in a nutshell, if we require domain knowledge in order to learn, then we require memorization; by contrast, if learning can be accomplished without domain knowledge, then it can be accomplished by practice alone, without memorization. You might say "so who cares? Just memorize some stuff." You could do this, but this makes it a lot harder for the learner to correct memorized stuff that is wrong, and makes them less able to learn on their own or think critically. The learner's knowledge becomes based more on their pre-constructed model or representation of the world, not experience or evidence. So if you can get to the same place without rote memorization, that would be preferable.

Today: 252 Total: 252 Adrian Colyer, The Morning Paper, 2016/06/30 [Direct Link]

Evernote clampdown causes anger


"An Evernote free basic account is now basically useless," wrote Gizmodo's Gerald Lynch. You'd think there would be no need to recite this lesson again, but here it is. "Evernote has restricted the use of the free version of its note-taking app and raised prices for the paid-for ones. But it faces a backlash from users unhappy at being limited to synching notes across two devices - rather than an unlimited number - unless they pay." More. What people really need is their own stand-alone application to manage and sync resources, so this problem doesn't happen to them again and again. I had hoped this would be part of LPSS, but well, you know...

Today: 326 Total: 326 BBC News, 2016/06/29 [Direct Link]

Here’s how to shape the future of higher education in India

Based on his experien ce teaching a MOOC this business writer identifies "five trends that stand out to possibly exert a genuinely transformative impact on higher education in the times to come" (quoted):

  • online learning platforms will democratise higher education;
  • benchmarks for classroom teaching are becoming higher because of this democratisation of higher education;
  • industry and academia could come closer with industry folks getting to learn as and when they choose to, on topics relevant for their workplace;
  • platforms like Coursera can disaggregate course content and make teaching assets available to any faculty to use; and
  • enhance our understanding of student motivation, instructional design and the personalisation of learning pathways.

It is, frankly, a narrow vision, and one not always supported by the evidence. The "democratisation" of education cited several times runs counter to learning as a form of workplace training. And Coursera is making it harder, not easier, to make assets available for any teacher to use. Online learning isn't just about making stuff available for teachers to use in classrooms. Funny how it's so hard to convince anyone otherwise, though.

Today: 377 Total: 377 K Vaidya Nathan, The Financial Express, 2016/06/29 [Direct Link]

Amazon Launches 'Inspire,' a Free Education Resource Search Platform for Educators


Amazon's e-learning plans - described earlier this year - are coming to fruition. It's learning  - Amazon Inspire - has officially launched. "A free, mostly-OER platform (see below for why it’s “mostly OER”), Amazon Inspire works like a search engine for educational videos, lesson plans and games. Users can search by criteria like topics (say, 'fractions' or 'the Constitution'), standards, grade level, and time to complete, as shown below; additionally, they can rate materials with 1 to 5 stars." There was quite a bit of discussion when it was first announced in February. Something like this is what I had hoped we could have developed with the LPSS program at NRC. More.

Judy O'Connell comments, "By introducing its new education site, Amazon joins other tech industry giants in an enormous push to expand the use of technology in public schools. It’s all about the market territory really, under the guise of support." Inside Higher Ed's Joshua Kim writes, "the last thing higher ed needs is another digital learning object repository. We are so over digital learning objects."

Today: 275 Total: 275 Mary Jo Madda, EdSurge, 2016/06/29 [Direct Link]

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