I lead the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics. I am one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course, write about online and networked learning, have authored learning management and content syndication software, and am the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily.


  • Association of Medical Educators of Europe (AMEE) E-Learning Symposium, Glasgow, Scotland, September 6, 2015.

  • Ghent, Belgium, March 30, 2015.

  • Chang School Talks 2015, Ryerson University, February 23, 2015.

  • Hackademia, Online, to Brazil, March 16, 2015.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4

Is Big Data Taking Us Closer to the Deeper Questions in Artificial Intelligence?


It's easy to get excited about thee potential for big data and deep learning in artificial intelligence, but as Gary Marcus argues in this item, we are still a long way from the goal. Even a one-year old child is further ahead than a robot with it comes to doing things like climbing couches. Machine reading and comprehension is a long way from what humans can do. Siri is not really much of an advance over ELIZA. We should look again at psychology, argues Marcus. "I felt like the field had lost its way," he says. "The field started with these questions. Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Allen Newell, Herb Simon, those guys were interested in psychology. The work that's being done now doesn't connect with psychology that much." True, but we have to be careful to assess what it is we think psychology tells us. Do we really recognize a cat by the way it walks? Are we really able to create an infinite number of sentences? Do we mean the same thing when we use words? Do we really have beliefs? 

Today: 201 Total: 201 Gary Marcus, Edge, 2016/05/05 [Direct Link]

“Never get sucked into the ‘company knows best’ approach to your career”


I think this should be sort of obvious (and I've mentioned it in this newsletter in the (distant) past) but it always bears repeating that your employer is not looking out for your best interests when it makes decisions. Nor should it. "For this reason, every one of us must have a career strategy, and that strategy should be guided by your industry’s trajectory. You should be fine-tuned to the intricacies of your profession. You have no choice. You have to self-develop to stay relevant." That's why I'm still learning even as we speak and why you should be too. 

Today: 102 Total: 754 Jane Hart, Learning in the Modern Social Workplace, 2016/05/04 [Direct Link]

Why it’s so hard to succeed in Silicon Valley when you grew up poor


This takes me back to many of the points I addressed in Arlington when I talked about the real advantage elite universities offer their students. "Tangible inequalities  —  that which can be seen and measured, like money or access  —  get the majority of the attention, and deservedly so. But inequalities that live in your mind can keep the deck stacked against you long after you've made it out of the one-room apartment you shared with your dad." It doesn't apply to everyone, and it doesn't apply evenly, but it applies. What's important to understand it that it is addressing this - and not access to learning content - that will enable equity.

Today: 90 Total: 804 Ricky Yean, Vox, 2016/05/03 [Direct Link]

Learners Voice


This is a pretty good statement of the issues surrounding learner voice in the development of their own education programs, though I think it ends with a bit of a thud. Before you get to that disappointing finish, though, there are some good points. For example: "no one considers anything a person who thinks in a way that favours both imagination and practicality says because they are not following what society wants them to follow." P.S. it was Francis Bacon who said "knowledge is power", in 1597.

Today: 92 Total: 506 Graham Brown-Martin, Medium, 2016/05/03 [Direct Link]

Brain Warps the Faces We See to Fit Stereotypes


I have said in the past that we see what we are looking for. This is confirmation of that. "Our findings provide evidence that the stereotypes we hold can systematically alter the brain’s visual representation of a face, distorting what we see to be more in line with our biased expectations." Our expectations play a critical role in perception. That's why there is no such thing as 'theory-neutral data'. We need to be aware of the way our subjective perceptions in turn shape our expectations. "Men, and particularly black men, were initially perceived 'angry,' even when their faces were not objectively angry; and women were initially perceived 'happy,' even when their faces were not objectively happy."

Today: 66 Total: 740 James Devitt, Futurity, 2016/05/06 [Direct Link]

The Weak Predictive Power of Test Scores


The key question is "Are math and reading test results strong enough indicators of school quality that regulators can rely on them?" The evidence on this isn't clear. "There is surprisingly little rigorous research linking them to the long-term outcomes we actually care about." There is some evidence, such as this, but frankly it reads like pseudoscience. Why? "Achievement tests are only designed to capture a portion of what our education system hopes to accomplish," for example (says the author) character or life skills. And other skills (such as art or music) may be necessary for students' later-life success. "We should be considerably more humble about claiming to know which teachers, schools, and programs are good or bad based on an examination of their test scores." Agreed.

Today: 55 Total: 831 Jay P. Greene, Education Next, 2016/05/05 [Direct Link]

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
Sponsored this month by: Rory McGreal