by Stephen Downes
Mar 20, 2015
New structures (MOOCs) demand new ethics?
Keith Hamon comments, ‘New structures demand new ethics’, and Jenny Mackness writes, "On reading this, I immediately wondered whether this is true." I personally don't think that new structures require new ethics per se but I could perhaps be persuaded that we need to frame them differently. I like this: "core values which have not altered in medicine are:
- doing no harm (non-maleficence);
- a wish to do good (beneficence);
- the desire to be fair (justice),
- and a respect for the individual (autonomy)."
In my mapping of MOOC 'values' I recommend 'autonomy, diversity, openness, and interactivity', basing them on the principles of successful networks (and hence, societies). This is a different set, and maybe I should be including some combination of non-maleficence, beneficence and justice into my values?
Pearson, PARCC, Privacy, Surveillance, & Trust
The Audrey Wattrers column on the Pearson spying case raises more questions than answers, but that's OK. And it still carries the inimitable Watters style: "So what is Pearson doing in this particular case? Pearson doesn’t care about individual students’ struggles with queer identity, homework, cyberbullying, college applications and college affordability, homework, after-school jobs, homecoming king drama, the basketball team’s season, band tryouts, drama tryouts, drama, a parent’s death, parents’ divorce, or standardized testing. Wait. No. Pearson 'cares' about that last one." Good comprehensive article raising some things (like the disappearing Tracx case study for Pearson) that I haven't seen elsewhere.
Coding is not the new literacy
"Being literate isn't simply a matter of being able to put words on the page," writes Chris Granger, "it's solidifying our thoughts such that they can be written. Interpreting and applying someone else's thoughts is the equivalent for reading. We call these composition and comprehension." Fair enough, and while this account could use more precision, it's enough to make what I think is the fairly obvious point that coding is not the new literacy (neither are many of the other 'new literacies'). So what is? Grager argues that it's model-building. "We build mental models of everything - from how to tie our shoes to the way macro-economic systems work. With these, we make decisions, predictions, and understand our experiences." I don't agree with this exactly, but the view is pretty mainstream, and there's enough solid thought to make it worth sharing.
And this, especially: "To put it simply, the next great advance in human ability comes from being able to externalize the mental models we spend our entire lives creating. That is the new literacy. And it's the revolution we've all been waiting for." Which is very interesting, because the previous approach to literacy has been about getting us to internalize the models (like language and objects and mathematics) that we have created externally. This is probably the true 'flipped learning'. Instead of memorizing, we are building. Instead of internalizing, we are externalizing. But now we need to attend to vocabulary: verbs like 'build' and 'make' and 'create' and 'construct' refer to things we do externally - but internally we function very differently and these verbs are no longer appropriate to describe what we do.
Believe it or not, "learning styles" don't exist
Big Think | Neurobonkers,
Sure, let's revisit this old debate and its one-note protagonist, Daniel Willingham. Here's my (definitive) response: The research doesn't tell us that learning styles don't exist, it tells us that differentiated instruction based on learning styles does not significantly improve educational outcomes. These are two completely different theses the conflation of which presumes a specific instructivist educational methodology based on content delivery rather than individual learning and learning experiences. That's why most people's intuitions conflict with this conclusion; most people learn by experience, not by being taught specific content in a classroom, and the nature of experience varies according to the individual.
How Millennials Get News: Inside the habits of America’s first digital generation
Media Insight Project,
American Press Institute,
Publications are adjusting to the changing interests of millennials. "Adults age 18-34 do not visit news sites, read print newspapers, watch television news, or seek out news in great numbers," reports Media Insight Project. We might conclude they are not interested in the news, but this is far from the case. "Millennials consume news and information in strikingly different ways than previous generations, and their paths to discovery are more nuanced and varied than some may have imagined." This is significant because online publications are adjusting to this by incorporating news content into their offerings. Refinery29, for example, a fashion site aimed at Millennial women, is hiring news reporters and expanding its offering into tech news. “When it comes to straight politics, the guiding principle for Refinery29 is: Our Party is Women," said Refinery29 editor in chief Christene Barberich. It is also expanding into breaking news, again reflecting the changing interests of young Americans. Journalism education will have to adapt, as will education generally.
Performance funding: The burden of proof
As someone who has been a supporter of online learning for something like the last 25 years I can certainly attest that the burden of proof has been on those proposing the change. So it's reasonable to impose the same burden of proof on those who propose new business and funding models for learning. So this burden should fall on those arguing that "the public funding received by universities should be determined by the ability of a given institution to meet certain performance targets." This is important because, according to this article, the research thus far shows that performance funding (as the practice is called) has not met this burden. The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) for example found "little evidence that these policies are associated with improved student outcomes." So why do people keep advocating them?
Vloggers increasingly target children with ‘covert advertising’
I think advertising messages are the most pernicious sort of content children can access, and in the long run far more harmful than content typically hidden behind 'restricted' ratings. So at a minimum I think advertisers should be regulated (I am also an advocate of good media literacy programs to give children some means of defending themselves). So I think that Vloggers engaged in a business transaction with corporate and other sponsors have an obligation to at the very least be open about that fact, and ideally to limiting the worst excesses of advertising. Because they know it's wrong: "Many firms respect the ASA rules in their television adverts but 'push the boundaries' on their own websites, Mr Bailey said."
Rutgers and ProctorTrack Fiasco: Impact of listening to regulations but not to students
We see more of the tip of what is looking like an ugly privacy iceberg, as Rutgers not only watches students through their video cameras, it charges students for the privlege. "This is a fiasco," writes Phil Hill. "Student privacy is a big issue, and students should have some input into the policies shaped by institutions. The February 12th student paper put it quite well in conclusion.... 'monitoring and recording our computer activity during online courses is not the solution, and failing to properly inform students of ProctorTrack’s payment fee is only a further blight on a rather terrible product. If Rutgers wants to transition to online courses, then the University needs to hold some inkling of respect for student privacy.'"
Friend or faculty: Social networking sites, dual relationships, and context collapse in higher education
Cassidy Sugimoto, Carolyn Hank, Timothy Bowman, Jeffrey Pomerantz,
I'm not really happy with this article because it expends a lot of words while not really saying anything, but on the other hand I don't want to pass it by because it draws attention to - and is reflective of - the confusion that surrounds staff-student relations in online social media. I recall that when I first started university it was accepted - and common - for faculty to exchange a pint and off-hours conversation with students, while by the time I was teaching the practice had become much less common and was even discouraged a bit. The same sort of flux exists online, the uncertainty compounded by the fact (as the authors observe) that not all faculty-student relations are the same. And then there aree issues like academic freedom. I think as well the changing style of learning online - where faculty are seen less as authority figures and sometimes even as co-learners - changes the nature of social interactions online. Authority and friending probably don't go well together, but maybe learning and friending still do. (Some good reads in the references, such as this item on friending in pharmacy class, this article on whether to friend, the right to be forgotten ruling in Europe, and this faculty ethics group on Facebook). (Image: The Student Years)
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