by Stephen Downes
Dec 16, 2014
Skype Real-Time Language Translator Goes Live
It's probably really bad (though I can't wait to try it) and it's limited to English and Spanish for now, but this is the face of the future: real-time translations of online conversations. How awesome is that? "The Microsoft-owned chat service on Monday launched the first phase of its Skype Translator preview program first announced back in May. Jointly developed by Microsoft researchers and Skype engineers, the new feature uses real-time speech translation technologies to let you have a conversation with someone over the Internet who speaks a different language."
France plans elite top-10 mega-university
I'm not sure whether this counts as education technology (I guess it does, in a way) but France has announced plans to combine 19 separate institutions into one large super-university that will be large enough in scale and ambition to compete with places like Harvard and Oxford. It will be called Paris-Saclay, and according to this article, will have "a campus south of the French capital. The project has initial funding of 7.5bn euros (£5.9bn) for an endowment, buildings and transport links." I personally can think of better ways to spend $10 billion.
A business model view of changing times in higher education
Changing Higher Education,
I've been exposed to this way of thinking about education (and innovation generally) a lot over the last couple of years. Parts of it I resist, parts of it I embrace, and all of it I view with a certain scepticism. But it's important to understand that there are large masses of people (specifically, the business community) who view all systems this way, including the education system. The key elements to focus on are, in my view, the value proposition and the profit formula. The former talks about what effects you want to produce (I think the current article has far too limited a view of the value proposition, as does the business perspective generally) and the latter has to do with costs and efficiency - not only for institutions (again, a limitation of the business-centric view) but also for individuals engaged in the system.
Outlook on instruction: Class around the clock
It's only half way through December and already the predictions for next year are starting. This article features a headline that doesn't match the content, a poorly-conceived line graph that doesn't match the content, an even poorer comment (an engineer proposing multiplication chants? really?) and a few predictions. They are mostly based around the idea of personalization and self-management of learning. I expect this too. But watch for an even bigger pushback, from two directions - first, from the instructivists, who say everyone should learn common core content and eschew differentiated instruction, and from the paternalists, who insist students are incapable of managing their own learning. 2015, I expect, will be a year of retrenchment (aka the calm before the storm).
Tipping Points? Malcolm Gladwell Could Use a Few
Our Bad Media,
It does bother me a bit from time to time to see people like Malcolm Gladwell getting credit for ideas originally created by others. But I shrug, because that's the way the book-publishing racket works (I could name half a dozen pop technology writers who work, and get credit, the same way). Everyone knows someone else was the source, but easier to give Gladwell credit because everyone has heard of Gladwell. But this article takes the criticisms a step further and accuses Gladwell of plagiarism, providing a number of examples of unattributed quotes. As one commenter says, "This is a professional setting and these editors are giving the same lame excuses students give. How can we instill a sense of ethics and integrity of the pros are cool with thieving?" This is indeed a more general question. Looking at the ethics expressed by the 'pros' in all disciplines, and the rewards they receive for 'breaking the rules', how can we expect our young to behave any differently?
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