by Stephen Downes
Apr 08, 2015
Sir Ken Robinson: ‘Creative’ with the truth?
Donald Clark Plan B,
Ken Robinson's video on creativity is cited over and over again and was long overdue for this takedown by Donald Clark. It's the classic response: Robinson's observations and anecdotes are (a) not new, (b) not backed by data, (c) except data he has made up, and (d) are false. The pièce de résistance is the wholly arbitrary map of ritalin prescriptions in the RSA video (and equally misleading graph in his own). I'm left pondering a world where Oregon and Washington are a single state, there's an Oklanebraska, east and west Dakota, and a giant interior midwestern state we'll just call Missinois. Some data.
Task Force on Academic Freedom
Ronald J. Daniels, Robert C. Lieberman,
Johns Hopkins University,
Johns Hopkins University last year convened a task force on academic freedom. As reported by Inside Higher Ed, "the administration is seeking feedback on the task force’s final product." It's a short document, for some reason released only as a PDF image (to prevent it from being edited? Puh-leeese). The article cites a couple of disputes causing a reflection on the principle - "in 2013, when a dean asked a faculty member to remove a blog post," for example, or "tensions between student groups in favor of and opposed to legal abortion in recent years." I took some time this afternoon to analyze the document, present it in the analytical framework, and then pose some pointed questions, which you can read here. My take is that their policy still needs significant revision and rethinking, and that the authors have not thought through many of the more difficult issues around academic freedom. Image: Selangor Times.
Teaching in a Digital Age
I've cited chapters from Tony Bates's ongoing online book Teaching in a Digital Age on numerous occasions over the last few months, so I won't rehash all that here. Suffice it to say that the full text is now available as a free download on the BC Open Text website. Not that the full PDF is 502 pages! This is a monumental accomplishment and I have no doubt that Bates will receive wide praise for his efforts over the last year.
Competency-Based Education: A Framework for Measuring Quality Courses
Jackie Krause, Laura Portolese Dias, Chris Schedler,
Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration,
"There are no defined standards that directly address quality of competency-based courses," write the authors. "This problem is exacerbated because competency-based programs are often self-paced, requiring students to be more self-sufficient and self-directed than in instructor-led courses." They survey several other quality rubrics and observe that these typically include an evaluation of the interactivity supported by the course. "This measurement is not relevant in self-paced competency-based courses, as students do not engage in interactions with other students as a means of obtaining learning or transferring knowledge," they write. Additionally, a new rubric should focus on "the need for clear instructions for student success." I think the resulting rubric focuses on a very narrow type of course, and I'm not confident of its wider applicability. Via Tanya Joosten.
Contributions and Connections
Inside Higher Ed,
I mostly agree with Bonnie Stewart's comments in Inside Higher Ed (and note in passing that Inside Higher Ed has recently opened up its circle of authors beyond the fairly narrow political spectrum that characterized its contributions until now). Stewart reports on "an in-depth, participatory, ethnographic study of scholars who actively use Twitter in addition to their institutional scholarly endeavours" and identifies "how influence and credibility circulate in academic Twitter." The conversation is what counts, she says, and assessments are based on individual contributions rather than metrics or institutional background. Automated tweets are frowned upon as authenticity is valued, and commonality - "contribution is created and amplified by common interests, disciplines, and share(d) ties and peers" - is key. This latter is either an odd use of "commonality" or just wrong. Also, the caveats against generalization which can be found in the paper (as well as the fact that the study interviewed only 13 people) are not found in the IHE article, which is disappointing.
The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much
New York Times,
I saw this post the other day and was suspicious when I read the phrase "legislative appropriations to higher education" being compared to U.S. military spending. This could mean anything! The point the author is trying to make is that government investments have not declined, while costs meanwhile have soared due primarily to higher spending on administration. Fredrik deBoer does a proper refutation of the article. "He cites essentially none of his data," argues deBoer, and "he constantly mixes federal and state spending." Worse, "Campos is contradicted by other data that actually spells out a methodology and where the numbers came from." Campos focuses on the larger overall cost of the system, but as deBoer, far more students are enrolled today, and the government investment per capita has dropped. To me, the core question is, why would the NY Times publish such sloppy argumentation in the first place? There was once a time when the newspaper had standards. Those times are long gone. Via Bryan Alexander.
Inside America's Subscription-Box Obsession
One of the great things about the internet is that it's possible to find entire communities devoted to things you've never heard of. This article describes the phenomenon of subscription boxes: the idea is that for a set fee you receive a box every month or so with a selection of items around a theme. My Subscription Addiction lists hundreds, maybe thousands, of these, with reviews. For example, there's Prospurly is a brand new subscription box that focuses on natural and artisan products (review), Tippy Taste, a monthly jewelry box (review), or the My Geeky Goodies box (review). The idea is not only that you get these boxes in the mail, but you can also join the online community that forms around the boxes, contributing videos of the opening and discussing the items. Birchbox, which started the trend, for example has dedicated YouTube and Instagram channels.
Gathering requirements for a student app for learning analytics
"What data and analytics should be presented directly to students?" This is the question posed by Niall Sclater in his review of a JISC workshop in London a month ago. The group was prompted with suggestions related to information provision (progress, engagement, exam times) and prompts for action (reminders, prompts, uploads). The result is a long list of possible types of analytic information to be presented to students (not sorted by preference or anything, and you'd need a different group to do that). So is it anything a reasonably informed person could have come up with on their own? Well, no. Is it important to go through the process? Yes. From the same author: a taxonomy of ethical, legal and logistical issues of learning analytics
I answer this in the affirmative: "Would the cause of open be better served if we go further in this direction, and stop talking about 'open' as a goal and instead focus on using it as a tactic to support allies who care about authentic, engaged, accessible, sustainable, and relevant public education?" In Sausalito last week one person said that people were convinced to adopt OERs only when pointed out that they help the students learn. And I kept talking about the reason why we support open education and open educational resources. I think that this may create some divisions in the movement, as talking about objectives will cleave the publishers and the educators. But I think that's a good thing.
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