by Stephen Downes
Jun 24, 2016
Stephen Downes, Jun 24, 2016.
I understand the feelings of the people who voted in favour of the Brexit. They are Europe's Americans. The situation of the UK and Europe is in many ways the inverse of Canada and the U.S. And I would not vote 'yes' to a union of Canada and the U.S.
This is one of the better lines I've read today (applies equally to the internet and to Brexit): "What those of us unversed in Marxist theory at the time didn’t realize was if you get rid of government you create a very fertile soil for the unbridled growth of corporations." Rushkoff, of course, is talking about what happened to the world of the internet he talked about in Cyberia. "Cyberia lay the philosophical foundation for the internet as an opportunity for a new kind of liberation. Rushkoff argued that the web could generate a new renaissance by birthing a technological civilization grounded in ancient spiritual truths. But a different story emerged."
This post defines 'remix culture' and what it means to education. It is a follow-up to an earlier piece on digital literacies in remix culture. "Remixing is the act of taking previously created works or artefacts and adapting them in some way," writes Steve Wheeler. I woukld have used the word 'other' rather than 'previously created' because items found in nature can also be part of a remix. And as Wheeler says, even though some schools may see it as undesirable, "Remixing is a creative process. It takes imagination to adapt an existing piece of art or music into something new or apply it in a completely different context."
I think you can view this article on LinkedIn without signing into LinkedIn - if not, please let me know. Kathryn Chang Barker writes, "LinkedIn can and should be in every secondary and university classroom in the world, but it needs to add one more tool – an ePortfolio." I have no doubts about the benefit of an ePortfolio - or, morewidely construed, a Personal Learning Record - but does it have to be on LinkedIn? That said, the appeal for Microsoft has to be undeniable. "Already Sony is working on an education and testing platform powered by blockchain. Already Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg have produced personalized learning systems with algorithms. Already machine learning is managing our curriculum and careers. This is a chance for LinkedIn and Microsoft to create an innovative space in the middle of these innovations."
One of the criticisms of traditional testing and credentials is that they represent only a narrow part of a person's learning. This post summarizes a discussion by Ryan Craig, managing partner of University Ventures, who made the following points (quoted):
The result is an emerging picture of credentials that are at one more all-encompassing and more up-to-date. "It will take radical shifts in all of our systems – the alphabet soup of linked (or sometimes not) software that we use to track students fiscally, academically, and out into their time as alumni.È
From the intro: "The Guide is designed to raise general awareness amongst policy makers in developing countries as to how Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) might address their concerns and priorities, particularly in terms of access to affordable quality higher education and preparation of secondary school leavers for academic as well as vocational education and training. With very few exceptions, many of the reports on MOOCs already published do not refer to the interest and experience of developing countries, although we are witnessing important initiatives in more and more countries around the world." Here's the direct link (102 page PDF).
Coursera is launching a new format today. You will recognize it as "what we had before MOOCs". Here it is: "we will begin piloting a few courses in which all content is available only to learners who have purchased the course, either directly or by applying for and receiving financial aid." It may be time to rededicate myself toward creating a genuinely open-only course framework, based to a large degree on the work I did with gRSShopper. Of course, that will require funding....
Tony Bates reviews Drachsler, H. et al. (2016) Is Privacy a Show-stopper for Learning Analytics? A Review of Current Issues and Their Solutions Learning Analytics Review. The problem stems when individuals who provide data "are unable to specify who has access to the data, and for what purpose, and may not be confident that the changes to the education system which result from learning analytics will be desirable." My own response has been to focus on personal analytics, but this has been a hard sell. As Bates notes, a European Commission project called LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange). has proposed an eight-point framework (really badly) named DELICATE - it's described in Drachsler, H. and Greller, W. (2016) Privacy and Learning Analytics – its a DELICATE issue. From my perspective, it seems to me that a complex framework like DELICATE is full of loopholes, and therefore, no real protection for individuals.
Nothing is more true than this. "Work changes culture, not words.... Creating new value requires people to do more than communicate. They must work in new ways." Simon Terry is talking about the future of work, but I'm thinking of work more generically, in the sense of taking action rather than merely thinking about it or talking about it. How many times have I met people who want to lead change without actually creating anything, who want to tell people how to do things without actually doing things themselves?
David Annand writes, "Incentives need to discourage ‘free-riders’. Otherwise, a valid competitive strategy for institutions... would be to wait and merely use without cost the OER resources produced by others." Heather Ross asks, "Is the idea of 'free-riders' really a concern in OER?" David Wiley replies with an emphatic "no" and then, more usefully, takes Annand to task for his presumed model of OER production. "If our only model for creating the OER necessary to replace traditional textbooks is to spend $250k of government or philanthropic funding for each and every course offered at each and every university, there is literally no path from here to there. We need to enable and facilitate alternative development models if our vision of universal OER adoption is to become a reality. (It’s no secret that I believe that these future models must be significantly more distributed and stigmergic than current models.)" Quite so.
Continuing from Part One, covered here earlier this week, Larry Cuban continues his exploration of “personalized learning spectrum,” as anchored in the tangled history of school reform (he says) and now subject to more recent developments. In a nutshell, "those efficiency-minded school reformers, filled with optimism about the power of new technologies to 'transform' teaching and learning, have appropriated the language of 'whole child' Progressives."
These are all ways blockchain could be used in education (though a lot of detail would have to be added) but I'm not sure I agree with the context. Introducing the piece Donald Clark says he created a Napster like system for learning resources in 2001 but "the public sector organisations just didn’t like innovation and stuck to their institutional silos." He predicts a similar reaction to blockchain. "The biggest obstacle to its use is cultural. Education is a slow learner and very slow adopter. Despite the obvious advantages, it will be slow to adapt this technology." Why would he expect these new systems to work within traditional institutions? I did the same sort of thing in 2001, but by not waiting for institutional approval helped create the first MOOC. It is only after an idea is demonstrated that it will change culture and be adopted by institutions. The same is true for business and enterprise software. It has nothing to do with education or the public sector, and everything to do with large organizations and culture in general. Image: Cable Green.
Interesting article. You can probably skim the first five paragraphs, but slow down when you get to this: "Today, a broader conceptual framework for open innovation is embedded in an integrated approach to openness. It is a vital element of the open movement and should not be taken out of this context. Open innovation is transcending the boundaries of traditional knowledge production and fosters cross-fertilization of knowledge. It can serve both as a trigger for change towards openness and a cross-connector of multiple segments of the open movement."
Here are the recommendations (all quoted):
Sounds like a plan. Something everybody could use to more or less a degree.
Long post that introduces machine learning for designers. It requires a (free) O'Reilly login (sorry). People already expert in machine learning won't find anything new but I think it's worth the effort if you don't have background in the field.
"Conventional programming languages can be thought of as systems that are always correct about mundane things like concrete mathematical operations. Machine learning algorithms, on the other hand, can be thought of as systems that are often correct about more complicated things like identifying human faces in an image." There's a good set of recognition examples that illustrate this. It looks at biological models and deep learning, then discusses processing different types of inputs. Some of the tasks described include creating dialogue, feature discovery, designing, feedback loops, and more. It also looks at open source machine learning toolkits (TensorFlow, Torch, Caffe, cuDNN, Theano, Scikit-learn, Shogun, Spark MLlib, and Deeplearning4j) and machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) platforms such as IBM Watson, Amazon Machine Learning, Google Prediction API, Microsoft Azure, BigML, and ClarifAI.
Course announcement from a relatively new provider for 'applications' to "an open access course to support the development of scalable digital learning." The course is free but certification costs extra. I read this as an an announcement for Scholar, a "digital learning environment that models effective learning and knowledge development in complex settings." According to their materials, "in Scholar people focus on co-constructing knowledge (by solving problems, building a case study, developing an implementation plan) that is relevant and applicable to their work." Probably the diagram makes it most clear. What do you think, should I take the course?
Mitch Daniels says "that outside of the extremes it’s the luck you make not the luck of the world that determines your fate." So summarized Andrew Rotham. Or as Joanne Jacobs says, "except for 'tragically bad luck,' it rarely 'decides a life’s outcome.'" I think that on that basis we would have to define "tragically bad luck" as "not being born rich." Jacobs also quotes Barack Obama, speaking at Harvard: "Yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky. That’s a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky." I think Obama's take is more correct. As Rotham says, “Daniels’ argument confuses what’s possible with what’s probable." Jacobs concludes, "for many born in poverty, economic mobility is a longshot." I have no illusion that education by itself will change this. For those not born rich, education is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for prosperity.
Long, detailed and damning investigation of Bridge International Academies (BIA) on the African continent. Graham Brown-Martin details the corporate and philanthropic connections underpinning the organization. BIA is essentially a commercial enterprise based on providing education to African children (planned to expand to 10 million children within 10 years). This article challenges the claim that BIA offers value for the service it provides, and notes "the United Nations who, in an unprecedented statement made public on 9 June 2016, expressed concerns about the UK 'funding of low-fee, private and informal schools run by for-profit business enterprises'." According to the article, buildings are substandard, teachers are underqualified and underpaid, and academic gains are not proven. At a certain point, people give up on a system that takes wealth out of an economy but puts nothing back in.
Good argument against the idea of the 'meritocracy'. As argued, "We must stop glorifying intelligence and treating our society as a playground for the smart minority. We should instead begin shaping our economy, our schools, even our culture with an eye to the abilities and needs of the majority, and to the full range of human capacity." I'm not sure a thing such as intelligence exists per se. Insofar as it does exist I don't regard it as some sort of inherent property but rather far more influenced by the circumstances of one's life and upbringing; and even if it were inherent, I see it as no more grounds for elitism than any other accidental quality of birth.
When you say "one in a billion chance" what do you mean? If you're Rudolf Carnap, you mean that there are one billion logical possibilities, and this is one of them. But then any state of affairs is one in a billion, and you've said nothing. If you're Hans Reichenbach, you mean that of the last billion occurrences, this has happened only once. But we've only had one occurrence, so again this is meaningless. Or if you're Frank Ramsey, it means you would bet one billion dollars to get one billion and one dollars back if you're right (and lose it all if you're wrong). But there's nobody to take this bet, so again the statement is meaningless. You can't talk meaningfully about the probability of reality. And that (not this refutation) is why Elon Musk is wrong.
David Eaves posts an interesting and fairly detailed analysis and review of Canada's open data plan. I'm in accord with most of it but there are some things that stand out to me:
- Eaves opposes a "national network" of open data users because "There is nothing that will hold these people together. People don’t come together to create open data standards, they come together to solve a problem." If we focus only on solving problems, then we favour incumbents, at the expense of new uses which could be enabled by creating affordances.
- On a "songle search window" Eaves argues "The point to this work is the assumption that the main problem to access is that things can’t be found. So far, however, I’d say that’s an assumption..." Yes, fair enough. But that's not an argument against it, it's an argument against it being the sole strategy.
- Finally, Eaves says, "Please don’t call it “open” science. Science, by definition, is open. If others can’t see the results or have enough information to replicate the experiment, then it isn’t science." I'd love to believe that, but it's not true. A lot of science, including federal government science, is done for internal and commercial clients behind closed door. I'd love to see this be more open, but defining it as "non-science" accomplishes nothing.
There is a spectrum of approaches to 'personalized learning', writes Larry Cuban. "At one end of the continuum are teacher-centered lessons and programs within the traditional age-graded school using behavioral approaches... At the other end of the continuum are student-centered lessons and programs that seek student agency." These might be terms the behaviourist and ccognitivist approaches respectively, or the traditional and progressive approaches. But within the progressive camp there is yet another division, he writes. "One wing of these early progressives were pedagogical pioneers advocating project-based learning, student-centered activities, and connections to the world outside of the classroom, (while) another wing of the same movement were efficiency-minded, 'administrative progressives'" who "counted and measured everything in schools and classrooms (and) reduced complex skills and knowledge to small chunks that students could learn and practice." In other words, "Thorndike trumped Dewey," says Cuban, and we're looking at the same divisions today. Image: Edward Thorndike, Wikipedia.
I'm getting tired of reading that we're living in a changing world (or as O'Reilly has it, "volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous"). I think we all know that things are changing. It's nothing Toffler didn't see 40 years ago. I'm far more interested in promoting the changes we want and reshaping the changes we don't. For example, do we really want a caste system, as suggested by Google's Schmidt and Cohen? No? Then what are we going to do about it? I admit that I'm an utter failure as a manifesto writer, but at least I try (a Cyberspace Charter of Rights, The People's Manifesto). I don't expect we'll all come together on a vision for the future. But I think we can commit to working against a dystopia, can't we? Rather than simply embracing it as do the technocrats?
Bryan Alexander offers a lukewarm review for this forward-looking book by Google's Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt, The New Digital Age. In a way, he says, the book is more about politics than technology. "Put Google and the Department of State together and you have a glimpse of emerging and aspirational American hyperpower: confident, thoroughly global, combining virtual technology with soft and very hard power," he writes. "Or that’s the vision offered by these two authors." Alexander also cites Julian Assange, who writes that the book is "is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism." He continues, "This book is a balefully seminal work in which neither author has the language to see, much less to express, the titanic centralizing evil they are constructing."
I'm linking to this mostly so I have a reference to the image, which is the latest landscape for big data. If you're working in data and analytics you're working in a very crowded field. Specialized Big Data applications have been popping up in pretty much any vertical, from healthcare (notably in genomics and drug research) to finance to fashion to law enforcement (watch Scott Crouch, CEO of Mark43 here).
We may finally have reached the tipping point with respect to open access educational content (it's not the sort of thing I can put on my resumé but I derive tremendous satisfaction from this). "A few years ago, Emond Publishing sold more than $1 million worth of books to high schools annually. Now, said president Paul Emond, it's dropped to about $100,000. 'That's what falling off a cliff in the publishing business looks like,' he said." The publishers claim that schools are just copying copies of the books. But what's really happening is that they are using open access materials and depending on 'fair dealing' for the rest. The writers, meanwhile, are concerned about the lack of access to Canadian materials. "Their institutions are insisting that they use only free material, and a lot of free material is coming from outside of Canada." Quite so. And I've always said that an open access approach to learning content should be supported by direct public contracts to authors to support Canadian content and other social objectives.
Not long ago I linked to and described the DAO, a bockchain-based corporation employing a system called Ethereum to create 'smart contracts' to crowd-source startup funding. This week the system was hacked barely weeks after being launched, with millions of 'ethers' worth $US 50 million drained from its accounts. Today a second attack drained even more money. More. Now, maybe - maybe - the transactions can be rolled back. "A 'soft fork' in the code that would essentially blacklist the address with the 3.6m ether in question; a 'hard fork' that would actually return the funds to their state prior to the attack; or do nothing and let the system sort itself out." If this works, the overall result could actually be good for Ethereum - you can't profit from hacking if it can simply be rolled back? In the short term, though, the value of Ethereum currency is collapsing. Related: transcript of an interview with the alleged attacker.
You should not of course accept what you see in a TED talk uncritically as fact, because TED is after all selling a mythology along with its often interesting talks. having said that, it's still worth taking an afternoon and catching up with this playlist of six talks all focused on the way the brain creates knowledge. Donald Hoffman, for example, "is trying to answer a big question: Do we experience the world as it really is ... or as we need it to be?" Keith Barry, as well, "shows us how our brains can fool our bodies — in a trick that works via podcast too." There's more.
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