by Stephen Downes
Mar 07, 2017
This is a very comprehensive look at open education in Sweden, beginning with the country's open access policies in general and proceeding through a detailed list of specific open education and OER initiatives in the country. "Because of its emphasis on independent studies, Sweden is ranked among the world leaders in higher education. The teaching model applied at Swedish universities and university colleges is expressed in the motto 'freedom with responsibility.' Students have somewhat less teacher-led time than in other systems of higher education, mainly pursuing their studies on their own or in groups. Sweden also aims to have one of the most research-intensive university systems in the world. The uptake in higher education among Swedes has risen sharply over the last few years. In the autumn term of 2012, there was a record 126,000 first-time applicants to higher education in Sweden."
In the spirit of Who Moved My Cheese, Tim Kastelle makes the case that innovation should not be measured in terms of new discoveries, patents and publications, and instead focuses on "something that solves actual problems for real people." This, he argues, is a circular process. "We talk to people a bit to understand what problems they’re struggling with, then build something that might help with that to see if it works. And we do this repeatedly." Fair enough, but my experience is that when you ask people what they want, they ask for a better mousetrap, and they won't buy it from you until you have patents and publications to prove it works. Real innovation goes beyond what people say they want, and addresses challenges they never imagined could be solved.
This is a list of finalists from "the first Google.org Impact Challenge in Canada - a nationwide competition to find and fund the most innovative nonprofits that are using technology to tackle tough social problems." There are two education-related finalists: The LearnCloud Portal, an offline, tablet-based curriculum to help indigenous high school students, and Services Advisor "an application aimed at welcoming new Canadians to our shores, making it easier for newcomers to access immigrant services like mentorship and employment skills."
I like predictions that go against the grain, especially when I am fundamentally in agreement with them. Here are the predictions:
One explanatin summarizes a lot of this: "The bottom line on why it doesn’t work: the people that know what they’re doing just use open source, and the people that don’t will not get anything to work, ever, even with APIs." Heh. Read the rest for some better insights than the vendor-based predictions will offer.
Between 2009 and 2015 Moldova significantly increased its PISA scores. This article looks for possible explanations and finds three: schools adopted a reporting process, per-capita financing was introduced, and baccalaureate exam security was enhanced. These explanations are unsatisfying, and there isn't any actual evidence that they were the cause of attainment increases in that time. Alternatives, such as greater mobility, enhanced internet access, and increased cooperation with European nations, also suggest themselves.
Michael Caulfield astutely diagnoses what is wrong with a lot of the 'new literacy' guidelines for evaluating news reports on the web. These guidelines spend a lot of time urging students to assess the trustworthiness of the website, instead of getting to the source of the report being passed along. It's as though these guideline authors are still rooted in the world of newspapers where you have no way to check additional references or original sources, both of which are often available on the web. Who cares whether you read something on Kos or Facebook? What matters is where the story came from originally, and the web provides abundant resources to help you find that. And - notably - exactly the same is true for online research generally. We trace the work back to the original publication, then we assess the method.
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