by Stephen Downes
Jun 15, 2015
Do you want to make a difference in L&D, or do you want to be liked?
Donald H Taylor,
So this is a classic case of the straw man fallacy: "they (learning styles) are accepted because as a profession we are too keen to be liked rather than to be critical. We almost never ask 'What’s your source? Where’s the research?' when someone wheels out another of these pseudoscientific canards." Actually, I see that question asked so often (especially about learning styles) that I wonder why some people are so concerned about this as opposed to any number of other questionable practices.
So let me try once again to capture the appeal of learning styles. I'll use an analogy: height. It is immediately and intuitively obvious that people are different heights. So when someone comes along and says "there's no such thing as heights" we know that this is ridiculous. What the person really means is "teaching people differently according to height produces no measurable difference in learning outcome." And we can understand how certain types of tests produced that result. But what if we're teaching people how to play basketball? Now height matters a lot. And that's the same thing with learning styles: they don't matter at all until they matter a lot.
Academic publishers reap huge profits as libraries go broke
So I wrote another of my periodic messages to our own library services today recommending dropping some particular subscriptions and recommending they reconsider whether we spend money on these subscriptions at all. Because, really, why should we? It's good money spent badly. And as we read in this CBC article discussing the report published last week (covered in OLDaily here), the publishers are making out like bandits while libraries struggle to provide even basic services. "The quality control is free, the raw material is free, and then you charge very, very high amounts – of course you come up with very high profit margins."
What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet
It's hard to imagine, but I can remember a day when we used paper for everything. Paper (light cardboard, actually) for library catalogues. Paper for books and news. Paper for all of my notes, my papers, bills and statements. Photos that were created by dipping paper into liquids! Typesetting machines. Paper clips. LP albums on vinyl. Sure, there were radio and television, but we never did anything with those, we just watched and listened (though I do remember the great CB craze of the 70s (you could predict a lot of the internet just by knowing about CB). ”If we’re the last people in history to know life before the internet, we are also the only ones who will ever speak, as it were, both languages. We are the only fluent translators of Before and After.” Quite so. And as one who stood tall in the Before, let me tell you, the after is better. So much better.
Why do students from privileged schools dominate the Year 12 art work exhibition?
Another example of a case where the definition of 'merit' is actually a selection mechanism for background and privilege. "What makes someone particularly good at ‘art’ is not what tends to be taught in schools, but rather the tastes and dispositions students already have due to their social class and how well they can display these tastes and dispositions in ways which surprise the judges. Access to the tastes and dispositions that ensure success is restricted to those with the right cultural, social and ultimately financial capital." Image: StArt Up.
Will Learning Analytics Transform Higher Education?
The answer to the question posed in the title is of course "yes". But beyond that, there are some good observations in this slide show about the relation between analytics and education. Paul Prinsloo comments in Facebook, though, "Very little indication of whether the transformation will be for the better or the worse - No interrogation of the deeper epistemological/ontological questions regarding the use of student data..." True enough. It's still worth a look, though. Image from Long and Siemens, 2011.
Tim Cook says lack of diversity in tech is 'our fault'
While on the one hand completely supporting this article, on the other hand I want to insist that the concept of diversity extends well beyond age, gender and colour. You can be diverse across all three and be staffed exclusively by Harvard grads. Diversity extends to background, culture, avocations, pets, and so much more. 'Learning style sceptics' notwithstanding, diversity means you need both introverts and extroverts, tactile people and thinking people, scientists and artists, creatives and conservatives. Mix it up. "And that future, according to Cook, should be diverse: 'I think the most diverse group will produce the best product, I firmly believe that,' he says. Even without taking its values into account, Apple is a 'better company' by being more diverse."
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