by Stephen Downes
Oct 28, 2015
What a Deep Neural Network thinks about your #selfie
Andrej Karpathy's Blog,
This article is a reaally good indication of thee sort of thing that can be done with a neural network (I hesitate to classify these as deep neural networks, because as the article makes clear, they depend on training sets). It shows how unpredictable the science remains. The type of network described in the story, Convolutional Neural Networks, were first developed back in the 1980s (this is also around the same time Rumelhart and McClelland's Parallel Distributed Processing came out). ConvNets, as they were known, remained a footnote until 2012, when computer power finally caught up to the process. Then they were everywhere, doing things like recognizing numbers and telling people their selfies are ugly. The article is worth a read because it gives you a good sense of how the algorithms are used on the particular problem of selfie classification, which should offer a sense of their wider application.
No More Pencils, No More Books
Good article with a lot of detail (and more than a little breathless enthusiasm) on adaptive learning software. "While the thinkers are arguing," writes Oremus, "textbook publishers are acting. With their traditional business models under pressure, they’ve begun to reinvent themselves as educational technology companies." Most of the article is focused on ALEKS, adaptive learning software developed in the 90s and acquired by McGraw-Hill. Knewton gets a mention as well. It also, to its credit, raises some of the data-protection issues involved. "That sort of data could be of great interest to admission committees and employers. It could also, in theory, erode the privacy that has traditionally surrounded young people’s schoolwork."
“Peak indifference”: Cory Doctorow on surveillance in education
Online Educa Berlin,
“In the educational domain," writes Cory Dopctorow, "we see a lot of normalisation of designing computers so that their users can’t override them. For example, school supplied laptops can be designed so that educators can monitor what their users are doing. If a school board loses control of their own security or they have bad employees, there’s nothing students can do. They are completely helpless because their machines are designed to prevent them from doing anything.” This article is a preview of his talk at Online Educa Berlin on the topic. I will also be at OEB, looking forwarrd to this talk, and also doing a pre-conference workshop on the design of personal learning environments.
School Change: Palliative Care For a Dying Institution?
Mike Crowley reviews Will Richardson's latest book, From Master Teacher to Master Learner. He suggests that schools "know how to change promiscuously and at the drop of a hat," but not how to "improve, to engage in sustained and continuous progress." He argues "teachers are not the problem in the scenario portrayed" and that schools are locked into a set of presumptions that are no longer true. Here they are (quoted):
- Knowledge is scarce, and we need to bring students to the knowledge.
- Teachers are scarce, and we need to bring the students to the teacher.
- An education needs to be standardized, and controlled by the institution.
- Schools are where the tools for learning are.
- Schools are for preparing students for college and careers.
We need to get past these presumptions. Richardson reminds us, says Crowley, that, “we not only have to do better, we have to do different”. Teachers should be given the room to innovate, because "It may take time for policy makers, governments, and school leaders to come around to this thinking, but teachers — just like students — now have the tools and means to hack their classrooms."
Who Owns Molecular Biology?
This is an excellent article that while not dealing with education technology directly deals with issues of patents and ownerships that will impact our field, and our society, for generations. At issue is ownership of the CRISPR-Cas system bacteria use to defend themselves against an attacking virus. The system is used to rewrite the virus's DNA, and hence, could be used to for the same purpose by medicine. A patent war is brewing over the technology between Berkeley and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which has been granted a patent. But here's the issue. CRISPR-Cas is something that exists in nature; it wasn't built. And publicly funded scientists from around the world contributed to its discovery. Moreover, the Broad Institute patent is "is sweepingly general, claiming ownership over the use of CRISPR-Cas for editing all eukaryotic DNA, which includes the DNA of all animals and plants." And it has started granting exclusive licenses for theraputic use of CRISPR-Cas.
So what gives it the right? Here's where it gets serious for educational technology. What happens when similar developments happen in our field? We've already been through things like the Blackboard patent lawsuit. Why should other countries respect an American claim to have 'invented' something that was developed worldwide? It's not simply the U.S. court decision - trade deals and patent legislation being implemented around the world are tilting the balance toward the claim-jumpers. And they are destroying the trust and cooperation required around the world to provide the real social good this research provides - potential cures for a host of diseases, in the case of CRISPR-Cas, and knowledge and learning for all in the case of our own discipline. At a certain point, we need to take the position that if something was developed with public money, for the public good, it can't be patented. But that would require defeating the countervailing interests of large corporations. Because, you know, they don't have enough money. Image: Wikipedia.
Macmillan to Merge Higher Education, New Ventures Units
Macmillan is consolidating its learning division with some of its publishing products to consolidate around education. The affected divisions are Higher Education and New Ventures. This positions them similarly to Pearson and McGraw-Hill, two other publishers investing in their learning content and technology portfolios. Macmillan New Ventures was founded in 2012 to acquire promising education technology startups. The two groups will operate as a new brand, Macmillan Learning. The article suggests additional acquisitions may be in the future.
This newsletter is sent only at the request of subscribers. If you would like to unsubscribe,
Know a friend who might enjoy this newsletter? Feel free to forward OLDaily to your colleagues. If you received this issue from a friend and would like a free subscription of your own,
you can join our mailing list. Click here to subscribe.