by Stephen Downes
Nov 19, 2014
Pattern recognition: neither deduction nor induction
I've spoken many times about the idea that to know is to recognize and yet I've rarely (if ever) followed it up with a reference. Part of the reason is that I'm lazy, and part of the reason is that I've slowly developed this idea over time. Still. It's not like I'm alone here. So we have this article by John Wilkins making the distinction between pattern recognition and traditional epistemology (which views knowledge as a type of deductive or inductive inference). I don't see pattern recognition as a means of classification so much; rather, I see recognition as a process that stimulates memories directly, without the need for the mechanism (and language) of classification. A lot has been written on pattern recognition and I think we should take it seriously as a way of representing knowledge tasks as types of direct perception rather than as inferential or encoding processes.
Why podcasts are suddenly “back”
Today's big story is the podcast renaissance (making me feel like a genius for devoting a recent keynote to Ed Radio (though I'd feel like more of a genius if it was working properly, and not cutting off audio files before they've finished playing)). But of course, it's not really a renaissance; podcasting has been growing steadily over the years. Indeed, as I've tried to explain to people, this is a golden age of audio. I've never seen so many or such diverse new musical acts. As Tom Hjelm from New York Public Radio exoplains, “Our backbones, our radio stations, are still going strong, but we’re seeing this tremendous growth in the on-demand part of the business.” Me, I'm a habitual listener of Old Time Radio. But modern radio drama has made a comeback with something like five million people downloading Serial. Links via the American Press Institute.
Digital Learning Research Network (dLRN)
George Siemens writes about receiving Gates Foundation funding for the Digital Learning Research Network at the University of Texas in Arlington. The Gates Foundation is a bit like the Pulitizer Prize - the recipients claim world status, but only entries from the United States are eligible for awards. You have to think trhis will skew the results of any research. That's why Siemens wants to "internationalize the research network to include global partners to advance exploration of research topics and pursue research funding internationally" and writes that "an important aspect of this is involving international universities" but cautions "we don’t have funds to support these systems." Or more topical interest is his shift of interest toward what he calls "personal knowledge graphs (PKG) and profiles." He writes, "I’ve been whining about this for a while." Meanwhile, we in Canada have been developing this for a while, even without Gates money.
L&D's Role in the VUCA World: Part 1
ID, Other Reflections,
VUCA stands for 'volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity'. It describes the world we face: "The external conditions and environment are not going to stabilize enough for us to take a step back and come up with a solid plan and blue print of organizational learning. We'll have to become deft at designing as we go while keeping an eye on the big picture." So how do learning and design cope? "Focus on re-generating skills like learning agility, resilience, and creativity."
The Long Life of a Data Trail
This article outlines five ways data is collected and used by schools (and their providers). Why does this matter? The New York Times makes it clear: "They have created lists of victims of sexual assault, and lists of people with sexually transmitted diseases. Lists of people who have Alzheimer’s, dementia and AIDS. Lists of the impotent and the depressed. There are lists of “impulse buyers.” Lists of suckers: gullible consumers who have shown that they are susceptible to “vulnerability-based marketing.” And lists of those deemed commercially undesirable because they live in or near trailer parks or nursing homes. Not to mention lists of people who have been accused of wrongdoing, even if they were not charged or convicted." See also What Kids are Reading from Learnanalytics and Carnegie Mellon's list of apps graded for privacy.
OERRH OER Evidence Report 2013-2014
de los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Perryman, L.-A., Pitt, R. & Weller, M.,
OER Research Hub,
The OER Research Hub has published what it calls the 'OER Evidence Repoirt' for 2013-14 (36 page PDF). The report summarizes targeted research "combining surveys, interviews, focus groups and data analytics." While we see some expected results, like discussions on the use of open educational resources (OERs) ("OER repositories remain relatively unused and unknown compared with the main three educational resource sites of YouTube, Khan Academy and TED") other hypotheses tested seem like a bit of a stretch ("The two main hypotheses under investigation were (A) that OER improves student performance; and (B) that openly licenced material is used differently to other online material"). The best evidence is saved for last: "There is strong evidence for savings with Open Textbooks that are used to replace compulsory set texts."
For a more narrowly focused report on OERs viewed specifically from a U.S. context, see the Babson Report. (52 page PDF) See Michael Feldstein on this item: "the best way to view this report is not to look for earth-shaking findings or to be disappointed if there are no surprises, but rather to see data-backed answers on the teaching resource adoption process." That said, I still think the most significant decisions about adoption and use of OERs are not made by faculty, but by students. Of course you'll never discover this when you survey faculty only, as this report does.
The Future of AI: a Ubiquitous, Invisible, Smart Utility
I've talked about learning this way. But there's no reason why it can't apply to artificial intelligence (AI) as well: "The AI he (Kevin Kelly) foresees is more like a kind of cheap, reliable, industrial-grade digital smartness running behind everything, and almost invisible except when it blinks off. This common utility will serve you as much IQ as you want but no more than you need. Like all utilities, AI will be supremely boring, even as it transforms the Internet, the global economy, and civilization.'"
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