by Stephen Downes
Nov 14, 2016
IFTTT - which stands for "If This Then That" - has long enabled people to partner their services with each other. For example, when I post a new photo on Flickr, I use it to repost it to my art blog and send a notification to Twitter. I also use it to create some RSS feeds out of social media to make keeping track of the industry that much easier. A similar (but expensive) service is Zapier. Anyhow, IFTTT has overhauled its technology, switching from 'recipes' to 'applets'. Applets can do much more than exchange content, for example, this: "Center the map on your home. When you arrive, your Android device will be unmuted, automatically and the volume will be set to 80%."
The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) is an "independent think tank" that offers business-friendly advice to governments and lobbyists. Normally they steer away from education, but occasionally offer an item like this recommending that we adopt a pro-testing standards-based system that is definitely not constructivist or 21st-century learning. Finn Poschmann cites "evidence" (from another 'independent think tank', the C.D. Howe Institute; actually a link error but probably this) to argue "too much emphasis on using differently coloured blocks to represent 100s, 10s, and 1s, and not so much on “what is 7 times 12?” seems to cause problems for kids in later years." The evidence seems to say the opposite; the highest-achieving students are in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, and these are also the most progressive schools in the country. It's where progressive education is steadfastly resisted - as in Canada's Atlantic provinces - where we see poor test scores dragging the nation down. See also: high poverty school succeeds by focusing on adventure, the arts, project based learning.
Linked Research "is set out to socially and technically enable researchers to take full control, ownership, and responsibility of their knowledge, and have their contributions accessible to society at maximum capacity." The idea is to have open calls for publication and open reviews. The site is brand new; the most useful bit so far is the resource page. Maybe it will go nowhere, but maybe it will become part of the Solid (decentralised personal data storage) and Linked Data Platform: (W3C standard for RESTful read-write Linked Data resources) ecosystem. See this paper from the same group from 2015.
Good article discussing the emerging distributed framework (a la resource profiles, now known as trusted data ecosystems) for digital identity. Two specific technologies are discussed: a blockchain enabled system called Enigma, and a lighter weight framework called OPAL. "Enigma, is a decentralized computation platform enabling different parties to jointly store and run computations on data while keeping the data completely private... a much simpler and easy-to-deploy version called OPAL (OPen ALgorithms) will soon be ready for pilot testing in a few European countries.
I think it's far too soon to say the use of technology in learning has "failed". But sceptics will enjoy this thorough denouement of educational technology. But a strand of thought half way through caught my eye. It was this: the fear that computer screens will "will replace more valuable, sensory activities, such as putting their hands through a box of sand, or eating a tub of Play-Doh." And I wondered: what is the impact of sand on test scores? How about clay and paint? I don't think we'll find a significant difference, but the argument against technology is based on exactly that sort of data.
There has been considerable argumentation in recent years to the effect that learning styles do not exist. Such argumentation, though, is firmly rooted in western culture. What of the learning styles of different cultures? This paper examines attitudes toward learning in Cantonese and non-Cantonese students studying in Hong Kong, and 'local' Hong Kong students. It concludes that there are significant differences, and suggests these are based in Hong Kong students' greater facility in English, which leads them toward a more visual orientation. Similar results have been found in previous work. The paper (36 page PDF) is the subject of an open peer review process, and you can read earlier versions as well as reviewer comments. Image: South China Morning Post.
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