by Stephen Downes
Jan 05, 2015
A Year in Photos
Half an Hour,
This is my retrospective on the year 2014, structured around the photos I took and the places I visited, telling the story of what I did, what I experienced and what I thought over the course of the year. If you follow my work at all, then you probably don't want to skip this item, because I put so much together in one place.
Challenge Propagation: Towards a theory of distributed intelligence and the global brain
This is a really good paper that outlines many of the major elements underlying connectivism. It begins by recognizing that "Contemporary science sees societies, organisms and brains as complex adaptive systems. This means that they consist of a vast number of relatively autonomous agents (such as cells, neurons or individuals) that interact locally via a variety of channels." These systems (or as I prefer, networks) are self-organizing and exhibit distributed intelligence. The author moves through various approaches to intelligence (p.6) en route to the distributed "information processing" model, which is explicitly network-based. "The distributed character of neural networks means that its information and “knowledge” are not localized in a single component: they are spread out across all the nodes and links, which together contribute to the final solution." Such a system, he argues, is not focused merely on problems - rather, much of the intelligence-generating activity is productive. There's a lot more here; it's definitely worth the read. Via Jon Dron.
The Quotable Justin Reich: MOOC research needs to reboot
Questions are surfacing as to whether the big-data analytics in MOOC platforms like EdX are offering any useful research results at all. In a short article in Science Magazine (.docx version here) Justin Reich argues "big datasets do not, by virtue of their size, inherently possess answers to interesting questions." In particular, "we have terabytes of data about what students clicked and very little understanding of what changed in their heads" and "it does not require trillions of event logs to demonstrate that effort is correlated with achievement." Phil Hill quotes substantial sections of the article in this post.
Musings on the Ed Tech Frontier,
In a longish post Paul Stacey examines the implications behind shifting his focus from making things 'open' to building a 'commons'. He looks at the structure and positional rules defining a structure, examines different types of commons, and finally, outlines a set of recommendations for developing the commons. In particular, he writes: "Winning means a change of state from accumulation of personal wealth, personal property, independence and autonomy to shared wealth, shared property, and creative collaboration with others.... Winning means distributed, networked collaborative production builds out common wealth and at the same time reduces the reliance on personal ownership." One might think of it as building social good not through redistribution, but through the creation of prosperity. I like that approach (but caution that we still can't trust bankers).
Koller, Thicke, and Noble: The “Blurred Lines” Between Traditional Online Courses and MOOCs
iterating toward openness,
David Wiley takes a look at MOOCs (well, xMOOCs) and concludes that the are really no different from traditional online courses, except for the branding. And the significant change, he argues, is that the platform not takes top billing while the institutions are second fiddle. "When institutional brands like Stanford, MIT, and Harvard are willing to be subordinated to platform brands like Coursera and EdX, at least in course marketing, what does it portend?" And, channeling David Noble's digital scepticism, suggests that it means "a future of a quality-eroding, profit-grabbing commercialization of higher education masquerading under the banner of 'widening access and improving quality.'" This is a bad outcome, no doubt. But the existing situation is no better. MIT and Harvard are every bit as involved in 'quality-eroding, profit-grabbing commercialization' as the rest of them.
Six Transformational Ideas for the New Year
Inside Higher Ed,
Steven Mintz comes up with six trends from last year, oh wait, I mean, for next year, or for 2004 or something. Anyhow, here they are:
- teach at scale
- adaptive course design
- flexible arrangements (such as) asynchronous online courses
- courseware (yes, seriously, he listed courseware)
- curricular alignment
Normally this wouldn't be worth the time of day, but the author is the Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning. Where it is, I guess, still 1994.
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