by Stephen Downes
Jan 03, 2017
Yes, it has only been a year, and I'm asking again. I have maintained OLDaily and the rest of this website at my own expense since 2001. It is not subsidized by my employer or anyone else. I've always been happy to do it, but now I need your help. Click here to Donate.
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My answer to this is: almost never. But let's hear the other side. "Digital media changes the way students think. One study says that reading on digital platforms makes youngsters more focused on 'concrete details rather than the big picture.' ... it would seem better to use non-digital platforms for teaching subjects where abstract thinking is crucial." And "the price we pay for being constantly inundated with information is a loss of our ability to be contemplative and to engage in the kind of deep thinking that requires you to concentrate on one thing." There is also the concern about "screen addiction". I don't take any of these arguments to be conclusive; digitally literate students may think differently, but it does not follow that they are faring more poorly.
Gardner Campbell starts off the new year with a terrific post asking the question: "what are the elementary particles and fundamental constituents of learning?" It's not that there's a right answer, but rather, that it sets us in motion asking the deep questions about our discipline. And whatever I may have thought about the question, I don't think I would have come close to Gardo's answer: love and insight. I don't see these as even close to elementary, but rather complex and complicated phenomena that require textbooks (or steamy summer movies) to explain. But if you're a teacher, and you're looking for feedback, it's the 'aha' of insight that is your primitive data (and Vicki Davis has a nice post on love of teaching today too).
One of the criticisms of neural networks (and of associative inference generally) is that it cannot generalize. See, for example, Fodor and Pylyshyn 1988. Of course in the 25 years since the criticism was leveled they have faced the sternest of all critics: empirical evidence to the contrary. This paper describes a neural net that can learn Newtonian physics. "Our results provide surprisingly strong evidence of IN’s ability to learn accurate physical simulations and generalize their training to novel systems with different numbers and configurations of objects and relations."
I'm not so much a person-to-person person. I prefer mass media and talking to large groups. But that's my shortcoming, the habits of a person raised in the era of best-selling books, newspapers and television. And as comfortable as I am with the format, I can see it's weaknesses very clearly - as Alan Levine points out, there's no person at the other end of the line. And it's only when there's a person there that any of this makes any sense (maybe that's why YouTube comments are so horrible - we know nobody at YouTube will ever read them). Photo: Timur Saglambilek.
Heather Morrison writes, "Arguably the best indicator of the global collaborative growth of open access, whether through archives or publications, is the ongoing impressive growth of what we can access through the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine, which surpassed two major milestones in 2016: over 100 million documents (about 60% open access) and 5,000 content providers." Too true.
I mentioned Facebook's Instant Articles yesterday and the trap they pose to publishers. According to this article, publishers are also experiencing issues with Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). "Google, to speed up AMP, stores copies of publisher’s pages and serves them from its own internet network. So when a reader clicks an AMP link, the address bar at the top of the page displays google.com instead of the actual web address from the publisher. 'It looks like a Google story,' said Danny Sullivan."
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