by Stephen Downes
Jan 30, 2017
A recent Statistics Canada report makes for fascinating reading, though I caution that it's based largely on perceptions, which as we know can be misleading. Alex Usher does a decent job summarizing it. Basically, they examine job descriptions to see what skills are required, examine university graduates to see what jobs they get, and through that determine what skills characterize what university programs. It's interesting because 'humanities' sits at the bottom of the scale on just about everything, as does education (which does marginally well in social skills). Scientific, technical and professional programs rank the highest, even for skills normally associated with the humanities, such as reading comprehension and critical thinking. So what accounts for this? Well, like I say, perception. If we look at the most common jobs table, we find a disproportionate number of humanities majors in sales and retail, the rest in education. These are either not perceived as higher-skilled occupations, not described as precisely as scientific, technical and professional occupations, or really are lower-skilled. Take your pick.
If you've been doing any work in data analysis you might have run across references to the Jupyter Notebook. Essentially this is an application that allows you to embed running bits of code into a text document. So you have text, then a code sample, and then (voila!) the graph that the sample produces. What's nice is that you can mess around with the code and see the results immediately - this is known as "interactive computing" and has been a mainstay of the reserach community for some time now (and you can also see web-based examples in code pens). See also this item from Tony Hirst.
Not all personalized learning the same. That's the main message in this article. The authors write, "The current use of the term 'personalized learning' varies from:
True enough, and I've read accounts of all three. But these days people almost universally mean the third. Almost universally. The first two versions are essentially terms applied to in-person learning applied without the use of technology.
Sometimes people call what I do here 'curation', but I really dislike that word, because it's not what I do. Maxim Jean-Louis came up with a better word recently: scholarship. I think sometimes people have forgotten what that means, and have substituted soulless academic make-work in its place. Anyhow this article makes the case for learning professionals to engage in scholarship (the real thing): "You’re not just aggregating content from multiple sources. That’s what machines do. You’re acting as an intelligent human filter, drawing attention to what really matters – because you understand your audience, their needs and their context. It’s a very personalised service – and it scales really well if you use the right tools. As Beth Kanter put it, you’re spotting the awesome." Yeah.
Good question. The author offers responses in terms of convenience, consumerization, connectedness, and compliance, but none of these responses seems to satisfy. And so we should prepare for an inflection point. "The technology has reached a stable, dominant design. Typically when this happens in a product category, a new wave of innovation characterized by different ways to address the same need." It hasn't happened yet to the LMS, says the author, largely because of the way they're procured - selection committees in large institutions. He says the tipping point "will be driven by courageous choices made by individual institutions," but more likely, to my mind, it will be driven by forces outside the institution. Image: edutechnica
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