by Stephen Downes
Jan 02, 2015
An educational Fitbit?
Blue Skunk Blog,
Doug Johnson illustrates both the promise and the peril of measurement in education. Drawing on the popularity of health and fitness devices such as FitBit, he speculates as to where an educational analogue could be developed. But look at the sort of things it might measure:
- Pages read
- Math problems solved
- Words written
Is this what we mean by educational health and fitness? These measures are (at best) inputs to the educational process, related to the practice, but not the purpose. An educational FitBit would need to drill a bit deeper - after all, even the real FitBit measures things like heartbeat and weight, things we can't change directly, but are reflective of the outcomes of fitness activities.
Translating and implementing the Khan Academy in Brazil
Fascinating look at a project to implement the Khan Academy in Brazil. The usual problems surface (19 computers for a school of 650 students, etc) but reading between the main points we also see a transformative impact. For example, "Based on what is being observed in Brazil as part of the Khan Academy implementation, Mizne noted that, in practice, calling teachers for help is a last resort for many students, for a variety of reasons," including the ability to move at one's own pace, to review material, and to be sure they understand one thing before moving to the next.
When it comes to Education and Technology, “Efficiency” is not the point
From The Hechinger Report, which Steve Krause states"'is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based at Teachers College, Columbia University' that apparently generates a lot of articles about education that get poured right into a lot of mainstream publications," we read that "the assumed purpose of technology (e.g., computer stuff, basically) in this article is efficiency, and some version of that word/theme appears at least a dozen times in this 1,000 or word so piece." This, he writes, misrepresents the purpose of technology in education. "Modern computer technologies allow teachers and students to do things differently now than they did." The course was inefficient, and so is the online course, but what tech allows us to do is to get away from the course entirely.
Harmonizing Learning and Education
Definitely read this long post from Michael Feldstein in response to Dave Cormier's recent set of articles about engagement (I find it fascinating that the truly heady thinking takes place in blog posts, not Twitter, and not academic journals). Here is the nub: "If you want high-performing workers, you need engaged workers. And you can’t force people to engage." Cormier's main point was that the primary purpose of education was to address the problem of engagement first, rather than learning this or that topic, arguing that people who are engaged in learning will be better and more productive employees in the future. Feldstein supports that intuition with some studies from Gallup. "It really comes down to feeling connected to your school work and your teachers, which does not correlate well with the various traditional criteria people use for evaluating the quality of an educational institution." Image: Marketing Land.
Are rich media better than single media in online learning?
online learning and distance education resources,
Tony Bates suggests, "In general, it is usually a useful guideline always to look for the simplest medium first then only opt for a more complex or richer medium if the simple medium can’t deliver the learning goals as adequately." One reason for this is "there may be too many distractions in a rich medium for students to grasp the essential point of the teaching." But if what Daniel Lemire says below is true, then this is false. And it's false, I think, because the application of 'cognitive load theory' to learning is mistaken. And it is mistaken because it takes an atomistic view of learning, rather than an interconnected or network view of learning.
How to learn efficiently
What's interesting about this post is the suggestion that efficient learning is the opposite of what we might think it is. Lemire first outlines three reasonable principles (quoted):
- Seek the most difficult problems
- Reflect on what you have supposedly learned
- Avoid learning from a single source
This is in fact exactly what I have done most of my life (even in public school, where I frequently went well beyond the curriculum to create 'projects' devoted to any of a variety of topics). Then Lemire observes, "When studying, many people do not want to mix topics 'so as not to get confused'. ... What researchers have found is that interleaved practice is far superior. In interleaved practice, you intentionally mix up topics. ... Interleaved practice is exactly what a real project forces you to do."
This argument from "Google's philosopher" (actually Oxford ethics professor Luciano Floridi) has been flagged as "novel", but they're actually in line with a lot of contemporary thinking. According to Floridi, 'you are your information, which comprises everything from data about the relations between particles in your body, to your life story, to your memories, beliefs, and genetic code." This reminds me immediately of McLuhan's argument that our tools and devices are extensions of ourselves, and George Siemens's suggestion that our thoughts and ideas are contained in the network beyond our physical brain. The idea of an identity that is not simply the body has a long history, and in today's networked and digital age, it makes more than merely spiritual sense.
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