by Stephen Downes
Oct 04, 2016
Useful literature review that breezes through the subject with a light touch. At virtually any point it could dive more deeply, but the 35 pages read briskly and are a fairly comprehensive overview of the subject. I found the latter parts of the paper less useful - why do we need a 'theoretical framework' to talk about open educational practices? To my mind (and this is a general point) the material itself tells us how it should be discussed; bringing in a framework imposes an external frame of relevance that can be (and is probably) inappropriate for the current domain. Anyhow. I'll take off my "critic's" hat now. Heather Ross describes the context in this short blog post, which should be read prior to reading the review. Image: Wikipedia.
This is a long and detailed report that blows through tech journalism like a breath of fresh air. It had me thinking about what it is that i do with this newsletter - not journalism, not curation - is it tech criticism? Maybe. But: "criticism carries negative connotations—that of criticizing with unfavorable opinions rather than critiquing to offer context and interpretation." That's not me. And also: "There’s so much glittery, breathless writing about technology that fails to slow down and think about why we’re making these things, who we’re making them for, and who we’re leaving out when we make them." That's not me either. Anyhow. Beginning toward the end of the first third of the article there is a terrific set of "traps of styles and tactics" that ought to be required reading for anyone in the genre. There's some discussion about who is a critic and where they publish (sadly, mostly in mainstream pubs). Then (around the halfway mark) there's a set of "critical lenses" (I don't like the term 'lens' employed in this way - it implies there's something 'real' that's being interpreted).
Sadly, it really is like this. "Wait, I learned OOP in college, I thought that was good? -So was Java before being bought by Oracle. I mean, OOP was good back in the days, and it still has its uses today, but now everyone is realising modifying states is equivalent to kicking babies, so now everyone is moving to immutable objects and functional programming." Sigh. Read the whole thing. Every reference is real. I think.
xAPI and Caliper are systems for recording student activities, offered by ADL and IMS respectively. There are ongoing discussions between the two organizations regarding how the overlap and/or interoperate. They note "Caliper and xAPI have very different origins. The core xAPI is to enable any type of experience and evidence tracking, both electronic and physical performance and not limited to just web-based courses (as is the case for SCORM). Caliper is the manifestation of the IMS Learning Analytics Framework and the Sensor API and Metric Profile(s) are the first two components of that framework. xAPI and Caliper are NOT equivalent. Adoption should not be ‘one-or-the-other’, instead it is a ‘horses-for-courses’ decision." This document offers an excellent table-based comparison of the two specifications.
I have mentioned context a lot over the years and never taken the time to discuss it properly. This chapter (22 page PDF) is far from a complete discussion but offers a good first look, especially with respect to related concepts such as "tacit knowledge (Polanyi 1966), the frame problem in AI (McCarthy and Hayes 1969), framing in psychology (Goffman 1974), and the “situation” (Barwise and Perry 1983)." For me, context is essential for determining the salience of relevant factors; salience, in turn, defines what will count as 'similar' for the purpose of cognition. This paper looks in particular at the impact of context in social simulation; "very few social or cognitive simulations represent any of the processes for dealing with such context-dependency." Given that we are often not even consciously aware of contextual factors, how would we model contextual cognition? You can't just learn something (a model, say), you also have to learn where it works best.
Jim Shimabukuro disc usses a recent initiative by the Malaysian government to implement MOOCs in that country. "The Malaysian government is taking steps to “make 30 per cent of higher education courses available as massive open online courses (or MOOCs) by 2020” (Financial Review, 2 Oct. 2016)." His concern is that the initiatiuve is relying on a single MOOC platform - OpenLearn, based in Australia - to offer the materials. This is too narrow, he says. "The bottom line is that a MOOC, any MOOC, isn’t a place. Instead, it’s a manifestation of a pedagogy that’s continually reconstructed by the individual participants, teacher and students. It exists not in the world out there but within each participant’s mind. As such, its shape and form are limited only by the individual’s imagination. Thus, to artificially and arbitrarily confine its form is counterintuitive." That was how we developed MOOCs originally, and where they should return again in the long term.
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