by Stephen Downes
May 09, 2016
This is a long article but an important read. It embodies a lot of the philosophy behind my own work in this newsletter, as well as highlighting the danger that misinformation presents to society as a whole. This danger is as pervasive in education technology as anywhere else. And it won't improve until we accept the responsibility to inform seriously. This is a task not only for journalists - it is also an imperative faced by educators. Especially educators.
The problem is this: "The political organizations, associations and committees are lying sleazeballs with a staggering score of -40%, and 'other', being the media personalities, are -20%... The 'experts' used by the media are less truthful than the politicians. And you are giving them a voice? No wonder people don't trust the news anymore... You can't just report the news and think that people will trust you. If the people you cover aren't trustworthy, you have to step up and do more. You have to show people what's true and false. You are being dragged down exactly because you don't question the news before reporting it... We don't need journalists who are just reporting what someone else said. That's the old world. Today, we need someone who can analyse, explain and put it into perspective... using unbiased analysis."
Don Tapscott was given the liberty to edit an issue of the Toronto Star as his response was to put a picture of himself on the front page. He has also jumped on to the blockchain bandwagon. I think it's interesting technology, but I thing there are more interesting forces at work under the surface. Consider, for example, Fermat. "60+ full time contributors now collaborating to develop global open source platform that will launch the 'Internet of People.'" This is something that very much bears further investigation. "The great thing about this Internet of People, in contrast with the current web, is the option of freedom from third parties. This brings several advantages in terms of privacy, cost reductions and removal of arbitrary rules." This is very much the goal I had for LPSS (though taking a very different approach). Now in my world, this goal has been explicitly rejected. But focusing on the superficial doesn't change the undercurrents of long-term technology development. The personal will prevail. It is in the process of prevailing.
"Unbundling," says this article, "is the process of breaking apart rigid, man made structures (i.e. bundles) into individual, atomic parts." This article is a superficial look at the process, as suggested by the definition (taking a house apart qould qualify as 'breaking apart rigid, man made structures' but is certainly not 'unbundling'). It is nonetheless useful to have a look at the different enterprises impacted by the phenomenon - everything from news media to work, war and government. And while, yes, there is "an increased flexibility for empowered individuals to have more choices and more personalized experiences," the effect is not nearly as pervasive as the author, a manager from Uber, suggests.
I have always considered Moore's transactional theory of distance learning to be based on information and communications theory. This post looks at some of the foundational literature of that field, though obliquely through a reference to a racehorse named after Harry Nyquist. As Mark Lieberman points out, the theory has numerous authors, and perhaps most notably Claude E. Shannon (here) where we get the concepts of 'signal' and 'noise'. Nyquist's contribution (found here) is written from an engineering perspective and contains enough math to get you kicked off an American Airlines flight. Here's a detailed history. These works describe the basis of sampling theory in digital signal processing (DSP) defining the means of extracting information from analog signals (where 'information' is basically the identification of a given state from a set of possible states). Moore's theory, which looks at the roles of dialogue, structure and autonomy in distance learning, defines a "psychological and communications space to be crossed, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of the instructor and those of the learner." The analogy with "noisy office speaker phones" is clear.
On average, "Sixth graders in the richest school districts are four grade levels ahead of children in the poorest districts." As usual with American sources, the data is also distributed by race. But race doesn't define the trend; socio-economic status does. "A higher proportion of black and Hispanic children come from poor families. A new analysis of reading and math test score data from across the country confirms just how much socioeconomic conditions matter." Of course, knowing about the impact of inequality and doing something about it are two very different things. Here's the data, based on 200 million test scores. P.S. maybe this explains results showing lower scores for online schools.
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