by Stephen Downes
Aug 18, 2014
The Future of College?
I studied the work of Stephen M Kosslyn back when I was in graduate school. At the time, he was defending a sophisticated 'picture theory' model of mind against cognitivists such as Jerry Fodor and Xenon Pylyshyn (who argue it's all rules, representations and sentences). I had a lot more sympathy with Kosslyn (though I've since before more of an advocate of J.J. Gibson). Anyhow, this article profiles Minerva - "what sets it apart most jarringly from traditional universities, is a proprietary online platform developed to apply pedagogical practices that have been studied and vetted by ... Stephen M. Kosslyn, who joined Minerva in 2012." I haven't been following Kosslyn recently, but maybe I should have been. Though - frankly - I don't think the Minerva approach described in this article is not one I would support - small and expensive doesn't really do it for me.
One chart that debunks the biggest myth about student loans
OK, first of all, people don't actually believe that the average student loan debt is more than $50K, so the supposed 'myth' being busted here is a straw man. Second, by focusing on the average balance the article focuses only on the amount still owing, not the amount that has already been paid back. Finally, it includes both large and small loans in the same calculation, thus lumping together people who need a lot of support and people who don't - it's like taking rich people and poor people and averaging their incomes together, and then using the result to say poor people are not really poor. It's a terrible biased presentation created by a conservative lobby group to understate the need for public education support and people in educational technology (you know who you are) should not be sharing this piece of tripe. Not, at least, without disclaimers.
Web Trolls Winning as Incivility Increases
New York Times,
I don't think there's a "war" on trolls, exactly (the last thing the world needs is another war) but it seems clear that the web is becoming increasingly uncivil. But rather than simply blaming the usual culprits - users and trolls - I invite readers to consider some related items to question whether it's a structural defect:
- Reddit launches 'pressiquette' guidelines for journalists - "Reddit, the social news site, is encouraging journalists who use it to follow new guidelines on ethical sourcing... Gawker reported that more than 4,000 BuzzFeed posts have been removed from the site."
- What happens to #Ferguson affects Ferguson - leave aside the presumption that #Ferguson should be international news (it shouldn't). This is nonetheless an important discussion of the idea of algorithms deciding what is important.
- Twitter vows to 'improve our policies'... - "Internet trolls bullied Robin Williams' daughter off of Twitter and Instagram just days after her father's death."
- I liked everything on Facebook for two days... - "After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages... My feed become a cavalcade of brands and politics and as I interacted with them, Facebook dutifully reported this to all my friends and followers."
- The Internet's Original Sin - "Cegłowski explains, 'We’re addicted to ‘big data’ not because it’s effective now, but because we need it to tell better stories.' So we build businesses that promise investors that advertising will be more invasive, ubiquitous, and targeted and that we will collect more data about our users and their behavior."
It's not simply that there are trolls and it's not simply that our privacy is now for sale, but rather, it's that the fruits of this surveillance are being put to purposes that are mean, nasty and corrosive. The primary use of data analytics has been misuse. We need to build better before we lose the web entirely.
Highest Security for your Files in the Cloud
So I've been thinking more about data security lately. Not data security in the sense of preventing the NSA or Chinese hackers from getting at my files if they really want to - that's probably not possible. But security in the sense of preventing average criminals and companies like Google from trolling my data and using it for commercial purposes. To make this more difficult, I depend on the cloud. I can't use my employer's security or cloud, because these are now completely quarantined. So I think I need two things. First, something that encrypts text files. I've settled on NotepadCrypt, which uses standard encryption and pass phrases. Then, I upload this data to BoxCryptor, which encrypts everything I store on my various cloud services. Finally, I use proXPN to secure my communications between my computer and the remote site. Perfect? No. Way better than average? Yeah. Eventually all of this will be built in to any application you use.
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