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December 20, 2012

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Bogota Botanica
Stephen Downes, Flickr, December 20, 2012.

My last day in Colombia I took advantage of a sunny afternoon to visit the Botanical Gardens and Parque Simon Bolivar in Bogota. This photo set is a record of that day. Slide show. I was actually feeling pretty melancholy when I took the set; I don't know if that's reflected in the images, but it's definitely why I didn't record flower names or anything like that.

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Klees, Steven J.; Joel Samoff; Nelly P. Stromquist (Eds.) (2012) The World Bank and Education: Critiques and Alternatives
Reviewed by Francine Menashy, Education Review, December 20, 2012.

Most people don't think of the World Bank when it comes to learning, but as Francine Menashy writes, "as the largest single source of aid to education globally, (the World Bank) wields a degree of power that has arguably enabled it to shape the educational agendas of nations throughout the Global South." So the book under review, The World Bank and Education: Critiques and Alternatives, is of particular interest to educators. Happily, "the book explicitly provides a 'broad critique of World Bank policies and, in particular, of its recently released World Bank Education Strategy 2020,'" and in particular, its "unwavering adherence to neoliberal ideology, where market-driven analyses and prescriptions pervade the strategy." The book additionally criticizes the World Bank's reliance on its own sources and self-referenceing in its documents and policies. "Evidence from outside the Bank’s circle is simply ignored, including much research which might offer alternative visions of standard Bank policy." Sadly, "those who ought to read this book are those who are least likely to: the staff and, in particular, high-level management at the World Bank." See also this review of the same book, in Spanish. 

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Developing a Roku channel is fun!
Liam Green-Hughes, Weblog, December 20, 2012.

Right now Roku is probably more of an effort than most people are willing to make (you'll be engaged with a developer site, programming language like BASAIC, and an IDE like Eclipse) but where it points for the future is very interesting: people can create their own television channels. Now of course this mostly involves aggregating and remixing - Liam Gree-Hughes created a channel that delivers podcasts from the CCMixter website to the Roku. But it is eventually about creating and producing your own multimedia content. Imagine if most of the TV you watched was created and/or produced by your friends, not some faceless multinational. That said, I think setting up a Roku channel would be a great and challenging project over the hoilidays for technically-minded students.

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Home About Computing Education Blog Definitions of “Code” and “Programmer”: Response to “Please Don’t Learn to Code”
Mark Guzdial, Computing Education Blog, December 20, 2012.

So should people learn to code? That is, should people learn how to create scripts and programs that eprform software tasks? Audrey Watters explores the question in her excellent 'Trends of 2012' series, looking at examples like Codecademy. Jeff Atwood responds negatively, exhorting students (and the general population at large) "please don't learn how to code" (don't miss the extensive discussion in the comments). He writes, "It assumes that more code in the world is an inherently desirable thing," which is is most definitely not. It "assumes that coding is the goal" and "puts the method before the problem." All very true. But, as explains in this post, learning to code isn't about creating solutions or becoming softwrae developers. People use code to visualize, to help themselves comprehend data, to try things out. Being able to code is being able to see the world in a certain way, and as such, has value beyond the specific applications developed.

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Idea #1: 'MOOC': Saviour of Higher Ed?
Justin Ritchie, The Tyee, December 20, 2012.

"MOOCs can't replace the deeply important social learning environment of the university," according to this article in the Tyee, "but (they) could lead to new teaching styles in traditional degree programs. Academic departments are in the first stages of allowing transfer credit for MOOCs in their programs, reducing the cost burden of the university system." One question I have is this: if the social aspects of universities are so all-fired important, what happens to the large majority of the world's population that never attends university? Do they just become socially stunted? Inept? Or is it possible that these social dimensions may be addressed in ways other than university pubs and social clubs?

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Open Learning Recognition: Taking Open Educational Resources a Step Further
Anthony F. Camilleri and Anne-Christin Tannhäuser, eds., The OERTest Consortium, December 20, 2012.

This is a significant publication taking an in-depth look at the question of individual assessment in OER-supported learning. It cites one of the barriers to the use of OER as "the absence - or comparatively slow emergence - of open educational practices," among these, assessment. Consequently, "the initiative developed a set of supporting tools and guidelines for assessment, recognition and portability of credit based on OER. In particular, our team of researchers developed a proposal for a ‘learning passport’." The passport is based in specific (indeed, 'SMART') learning objectives, and a process of documenting, verifying, testing and recognizing learning. While most of the book is addressed toward the passport proposal, the final chapter surveys educator opinions on institutional collaboration and MOOCs.

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Teorías y modelos sobre el aprendizaje en entornos conectados y ubicuos
Miguel Zapata-Ros, E-LIS, December 20, 2012.

Miguel Zapata-Ros writes that he disagrees with MOOCs for reasons outlined in this paper and in his blog (where he expresses concerns about the socialization of self-taught or home-schooled students). The text is in Spanish, so I worked through it with the aid of Google translate, reading a framework for theory-formation and acceptance that incorporate some of the broader aspects of learning, specifically, attributions of value and meaning to knowledge, personal involvement in learning, and theories specific to learning. He raises the question of whether connectivism is a theory, whether it embodies the objectives, values, application conditions, methods, elements that should comprise the theory, and moreover validation, open problems and future development lines. Finally, he argues that the theory based in the science of society, chaos theory, and of and complexity of networking do not address the learning processes of individuals and if what has to happen for this to occur. An English translation would have helped me a lot. But I see this mostly as a criticism of the Siemens version of the theory, and only periphrially my own.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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