by Stephen Downes
[Sept] 23, 2015
Peeple app lets you rate human beings like restaurants
The headline says it all. I give the headline writer a ranking of '5'. I give the creator of the app a '2' (because people have been rating each other on dating sites and on things like 'hotornot' for decades, and sites like eBay and Uber have been rating clients and vendors almost as long). But you know, as this sort of thing spreads (and becomes more intelligent, not simply clumsy scoring of one person by another) it may replace grades and evaluations. Correction: it will replace grades and evaluations. Because, when you have an entire network evaluating people, why on earth would you fall back on something as imprecise as a test? (p.s. smart network-based evaluations are what finally break up 'old boy networks' that mutually support each other with positive recommendations).
Musicians hear songs when they read music, non-musicians seek visual patterns
You learn to perceive. Or, to put it another way, to learn is to learn how to perceive. There's no better illustration of this than the example cited in this article. "Musicians use a part of the brain that is skilled at noticing deviations from an auditory pattern, while non-musicians rely on visual clues. In other words, non-musicians rely on visual processing, while musicians rely on the corresponding auditory information portrayed by the notes on the page." They actually 'hear' what they're looking at (similarly, when I read, I 'hear' the words as well; I don't decode them, I just listen. I imagine skilled mathematicians have similar mathematical perceptions, as compared to people who simply memorize formulae).
The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead
New York Times,
According to the article, "E-books’ declining popularity may signal that publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, will weather the tidal wave of digital technology better than other forms of media." I disagree. If e-book sales are sluggish, it's not because of the virtue of the paper product, but because of the incompetence of e-book vendors. Case in pouint: I am still the frustrated owner of Ex Oriente Lex, a no-doubt fascinating account of theology, but not the book I ordered (although, as though to rub it in, Kobo displays the correct cover on the book). I have tried email, comment forms, surveys, Tweeting and yelling in frustration, but nothing has created even the slightest stir from Kobo. This reminds me of the early days of (trying to) play DVDs on my computer (and, indeed, or current problems I'm having with Microsoft (or xBox - it's never sure what it wants to be) video. Technology that doesn't work will never be popular. Never.
Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment
E L U S A,
Regular readers know that I don't follow people on Twitter - I can't follow everybody (it would be just noise) and I don't want to create a special subset of privileged connections (well, I do, but I don't want to advertise to the world who's on it and who's not). So I follow topics and hashtags on Twitter, which I can do privately. Luis Suarez has recently undertaken an 'unfollow' experiment of his own and this is his report. He writes: "Imagine if Twitter decided get rid of that vanity metric, so that we would focus more on the conversations themselves, i.e. on topics, hashtags, events, etc., etc., do you think you would still be making use of Twitter and enjoy the overall experience as much as you are doing nowadays? Or maybe not much really. That’s exactly what I wanted to try out."
The result? It was emotional for a while, then back to normal. And, he writes, "it’s transformed entirely the way not only I see Twitter as my own personal learning network, but also how I use it on a regular basis and, although I can’t tell for others, it’s helped me find a new way of making it more personal, more conversational, more topic driven (while still keeping in touch with people), in short, overall more engaging and much less stressful altogether." This has been my experience too. I don't stress at all about Twitter followers. Finally, "Interestingly enough, plenty of people view Following as a personal touch, as a ‘connection’, even if they have never exchanged a single tweet with you! How weird is that? Seriously. When did it happen we all became just numbers in a counter?!?! Really sorry, but that’s not what, to me, makes up for a ‘connection’, if we have never exchanged a single tweet! Conversations are the new connections, I am afraid."
How adtech, not ad blocking, breaks the social contract
The Applesphere has been roiling over the ad-blocking controversy(*) recently (the Firfoxsphere has been happily blocking ads for years). The argument is that people blocking ads are somehow taking advantage of publishers, since they rely on advertisements. Hokum, I say. The initernet is filled with non-ad supported content. And I think Doc Searls gets it right: the advertisers are the ones breaking the social contract. "When I go to blogname.example.com, I expect the browser to display that page and its links, and nothing more." Educators should take heed. Students have a similar sort of expectation - when they take a course, they don't expect to be added to some company;s client list.
(*) (p.s. I don't believe Marco Arment pulled the 'Peace' ad blocking service simply because "it just didn't feel good" - read the text and we see he says "Ghostery and I have both decided that it doesn’t serve our goals or beliefs well enough" which to me suggests a third party intervention).
The Open Access Interviews: F1000 Founder Vitek Tracz
Fifteen years ago Vitek Tracz launched Biomed Central and in so doing gave open access the boost it needed into the mainstream. But he sold it to Springer in 2008 and the model which seemed to hold such promise to reduce costs actually became a mechanism for publishers to increase profits from institutions and funders through steadily increasing author fees. This model - known as "gold open access" has been favoured by publishers and politicians, for obvious reasons. But in addition to predatory pricing practices, iot is a magnet for "the so-called reproducibility problem, the growth of scientific misconduct including data fabrication, photo manipulation and the peddling of fake peer reviews, along with growing concern about publication bias." For these reasons the open access movement today advocates for "green open access" in which authors or institutions host the published papers themselves, hence avoiding author fees. What does Tracz think of this? He stays out of the politics, but has created the "Faculty of 1000" services in which "leading researchers and clinicians share their expert opinions by highlighting and evaluating the most important articles in biology and medicine." It's a kind of post-publication review (but obviously with a built-in conservative bias).
ECTEL2015 Mon a.m. (1): Lisa Marie Blaschke Keynote
New Technolopgy in Higher Education,
I talk a lot about personal learning (and have for a very long time). But I have to be clear that there is also a tradition in self-determined learning, under the name of heutagogy, which has been around since the early 2000s. Here's Lisa Marie Blaschke: "The heutagogical approach can be viewed as a progression from pedagogy to andragogy to heutagogy, with learners likewise progressing in maturity and autonomy. More mature learners require less instructor control and course structure and can be more self-directed in their learning." Doug Clow summarizes Blaschke's keynote at ECTEL 2015. "More institutions are moving towards learning-centred learning and competency-based education. It’s a powerful combination with Web 2.0 Affordances." Here's a really good bibliography of heutagogy.
Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice
National Education Policy Center,
Larry Cuban offers four points based on his work with schools:
- No single way of teaching works best with all students.
- Small and slow changes in classroom practice occur often. Fundamental and rapid changes in practice seldom happen.
- School structures influence instruction.
- No instructional reform imposed upon teachers has been adopted by most teachers and used in lessons as intended.
These are probably all true - they certainly seem true to me, and nothing I've seen really counters any of them. But this is the reason why I think that educational reform, however it's defined, will take place outside schools. For some, this means charter schools (not a measure I support). For others (such as myself) this means the provisioning of informal learning opportunities.
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