I work in 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.


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Internet of Broken Things


As is always the case, technology as planned works very differently from technology when mixed with humans. Witness the Internet of Things (IoT), the nascent linking of phones, printers, cameras, and a host of other dumb smart devices. They have now become the prime vector internet attacks. As Michael Caulfield says, " I worry that it’s not just an internet of things, but a proprietary mess of interdependent services built on the shifting sands of unstable business models. Unless we develop standards and protocols that reduce that proprietary interdependency we’re eventually going to have a lot bigger problem on our hands than Twitter outages." True. But what are the odds that the corporate community will get this right?

Today: 252 Total: 252 Michael Caulfield, Hapgood, 2016/10/24 [Direct Link]

Geishas, headdresses out as Canadian universities stave off offensive Halloween costumes


In Canada we have a tradition of dressing in costume on or around Halloween (October 31). Traditionally these costumes were of scary things (such as skeletons, ghosts or monsters) but it has since branched out to include most anything (I once went out as the Empire State Building). We are now beginning to see the limits of 'most anything', and in one noted case, Brock University's student union has prohibited "any form of headdress, costumes that mock suicide or rape, those depicting transgender activist Caitlyn Jenner, or outfits featuring a culture’s traditional attire" at its pubs and events." So of course some people are crying "censorship", as though mocking someone's culture or personal life is somehow a form of free speech. I think the student union's message is clear and reasonable: if you're going to be racist or offensive, don't do it here.


Today: 218 Total: 218 Michelle McQuigge, Toronto Star, 2016/10/24 [Direct Link]

Has AI (Finally) Reached a Tipping Point?

Irving Wladawsky-Berger offers a useful overview of contemporary artificial intelligence (AI) from a non-technical perspective referencing Stanford University's One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence  (AI100, 52 page PDF) including the list of 'hot' areas of current study (quoted, p.9):

  • Large-scale machine learning - algorithms to work with extremely large data sets.
  • Deep learning - has facilitated object recognition in images, video labeling, and activity recognition
  • Reinforcement learning -  experience-driven sequential decision-making
  • Robotics - train a robot to interact with the world around it
  • Computer vision - form of machine perception; automatic image and video captioning.
  • Natural Language Processing - systems that are able to interact with people through dialog; machine translation
  • Collaborative systems - autonomous systems that can work collaboratively with other systems and with humans
  • Crowdsourcing and human computation - make automated calls to human expertise
  • Algorithmic game theory and computational social choice draw - handle potentially misaligned incentives
  • Internet of Things (IoT) -  devices interconnected to collect and share their abundant sensory information
  • Neuromorphic - mimic biological neural networks

The report notes, "Contrary to the more fantastic predictions for AI in the popular press, the Study Panel found no cause for concern that AI is an imminent threat to humankind.  No machines with self-sustaining long-term goals and intent have been developed, nor are they likely to be developed in the near future."

Today: 309 Total: 309 Irving Wladawsky-Berger, 2016/10/24 [Direct Link]

Quality Standards for Competency-Based Educational Programs


You have until December 1 to provide comments to the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) on this draft set of guidelines for quality in competency-based education. The ideas is that "Competency-based education uses an intentional and transparent approach to curricular design that provides a learner with a clear pathway to completion based on an academic model that builds a unified body of knowledge leveraging frameworks, disciplines, standards, workforce needs, and national norms... Each competency is explicitly stated and unambiguously provides descriptions of what a learner must master before program completion... The assessment strategy provides multiple modalities of assessment intentionally aligned to learning outcomes and uses a range of assessment types to measure learning and the transfer of learning into novel contexts."

The eight elements, with expanded principles and related standards, include (quoted from the press release):

  • Coherent, competency-driven program and curriculum design
  • Clear, measurable, meaningful and complete competencies
  • Credential-level assessment strategy with robust implementation
  • Intentionally designed and engaged student experience
  • Collaborative engagement with external partners
  • Transparency of student learning
  • Evidence-driven continuous improvement processes
  • Demonstrated institutional commitment to capacity for CBE innovation

I couldn't find the actual quality standards anywhere on the C-BEN website (you have to sign up for the survey to view them), but can access this copy (11 page PDF) at Inside Higher Ed.

Today: 270 Total: 270 Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN), 2016/10/24 [Direct Link]

H5P Examples and Downloads


This site came up in one of the online discussions I follow. From the website: "H5P makes it easy to create interactive content by providing a range of content types for various needs. Preview and explore these content types below. You can create interactive content by adding the H5P plugin to your WordPress, Moodle or Drupal site, or you can create content directly on H5P.org and embed it on your website."

Today: 265 Total: 265 H5P, 2016/10/24 [Direct Link]

Attending to the Digital


Interesting article from Audrey Watters, as is so often the case, and I like the focus on the origins of the meaning of the word 'attention' and the oft-cited concern that the digital is creating an attention deficit. "You can see that the noun is accompanied by all sorts of verbs. We pay attention. We give attention. Attract attention. Draw attention. Call attention. Fix attention. At which noun-verb combination are we failing?" Fair enough. And the idea of the 'attention economy', with its values firmly planted in the capitalist ethos, is surely typical of western culture. But I was surprised to see her overlook the sense of 'attend' meaning 'to wait'. That's what the french verb attendre actually means. To wait, and to wait on, to attend. This sense changes the meaning of such phrases as "the tongues of dying men enforce attention like deep harmony." In the words of Arcade Fire: We used to wait. Not any more.

Today: 104 Total: 1214 Audrey Watters, Hack Education, 2016/10/24 [Direct Link]

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.