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Feature Article
The Real Goal of Open Educational Resources
Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, 2017/11/15


I continue to debate David Wiley in this post (skip if you're not interested). I believe the goal of OER is access for all. This is my goal, though I don't think it's just my goal. But it's not David Wiley's goal, and it bothers me when he says we should reframe our advocacy of OER to de-emphasize cost and access.

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Cengage OpenNow: Big news on the OER front hiding in plain sight
Phil Hill, e-Literate, 2017/11/17


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Phil Hill offers "ome historical context showing the interplay of the OER movement and changing strategies from the big textbook publishers." basically the article argues that the need for, and movement toward, OER by the big publishers has been apparent for a number of years. People in the LMS space will equally recall having been urged over the last few years to embrace OERs. So I think that, yes, open education resources (OER) are becoming mainstream. Now we need to ensure that they remain that way, as it's very tempting for publishers to wrap them with commercial applications and hide them from wider access again.

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Hack Education Weekly News
Audrey Watters, Hack Education, 2017/11/17


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Watch something long enough and you see the patterns. Just so with Audrey Watters and tech headlines. From her newsletter today: "There’s often a pattern to the education news – or at least, to the stories that get shouted the loudest and spread the widest in any given week. Via The 74: 'Report: 30 Million Well-Paying Jobs, Mostly in the West and South, Exist for Workers Without Bachelor’s Degrees.' 'You Can Get a Good Job Without a Bachelor’s Degree,' Bloomberg insists. You just need the right training apparently. Via Education Week: 'Betsy DeVos: Stop ‘Forcing’ Four-Year Degrees as Only Pathway to Success.' '“Trade school, not 4-year college, is a better bet to solve the US income gap, researchers say.'" Yep. That's our media at work.

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3 Myths About “Empowering” Students in Schools Today
George Couros, 2017/11/17


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I've used the terms 'personal and 'personalized' learning to stand for what Yong Zhao is credited with calling 'personalized' and 'individualized' learning. No matter the terminology, the concept is key. What you want is "having students go through their own paths to whatever endpoint they desire.  How you take the path and where you end up is totally dependent upon the strengths and interests of the learner." I find a lot of educators say "I agree with this, but..." and then insert some condition where they assert control. Even George Couros inserts "creating a difference for myself and/or others" into his definition of "empowered" in this post. No. Being empowered means being able to work on something even if you don't think it creates no difference at all (I have a ton of projects like that!). If you want people to define their own future, then it's not "empowered (with conditions)". It's simply "empowered".

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Managers Can Support—Not Create—Social Learning Communities
Pamela Hogle, Learning Solutions, 2017/11/17


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I am asked fairly frequently how we can create learning communities and this response is the one I invariably give: you have to work with the communities that are already there and support them, rather than think you can create something from scratch. Communities are voluntary; you can't foce people to become a part of one. As Pamela Hogle writes, "Social learning on its own does not create community, but it is one of the elements that can contribute to communities forming. However, it cannot be forced; the social learning can, should, and generally does develop organically."

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W3C Strategic Highlights
World Wide Web Consortium, 2017/11/17


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I don't think there's anything particularly surprising in this strategy document released by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) but it's good to see the highlights assembled in one place. Some key initiatives include the "Web Platform Testing effort to create a comprehensive cross-browser test suite for the majority of the Web platform" as well as social network specifications; "ActivityPub and WebSub are near completion and will enable greater decentralization of social-networking applications."

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The “Third World” Is Not Your Classroom
Courtney Martin, Bright, Medium, 2017/11/17


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This is an interesting and well-written article discussing the interactuon between young American university students and the developing world (though of course the observations apply more broadly). The thesis is that when these students come to 'help', they bring with them their own expectations, culture and epistemology, and are often, first, shock, and second, less than helpful. What is required, writes the author, is a clear setting of expectations by the organizers, and greater humility on the part of the students. It's an old message, but it's a good reminder for everyone (including me). Be sure to read the comments; there's a lot more good stuff in there and a minimum of trolling.

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How to Automatically Generate Textual Descriptions for Photographs with Deep Learning
Jason Brownlee, Machine Learning Mastery, 2017/11/16


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OK, you're not actually going to learn how to do this simply by reading the article, but you will learn how it's done, and more importantly, that it can be done. The task breaks down into three parts: classifying images (do you see a cat, a rabbit?), describing images (providing a natural language summary of the content), and annotating images (generating text descriptions for specific parts of the image). So basically we're associating object recognition with language strings (in English, in French, whatever). Going further, the neural networks can act as feature extractors, which map images to "an internal representation of the image, not something directly intelligible." Language generation algorithms, coder-decoder algorithms, and an attention mechanism mechanism round out the picture. It's pretty interesting.

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The field of AI research is about to get way bigger than code
Dave Gershgorn, 2017/11/16


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Lots of movement on the algorithmic accountability front (this is the idea that companies need to be able to explain, and be accountable for, conclusions their software draws about people). According to this article, Kate Crawford, principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and Meredith Whittaker, founder of Open Research at Google, "announced today the AI Now Institute, a research organization to explore how AI is affecting society at large. AI Now will be cross-disciplinary, bridging the gap between data scientists, lawyers, sociologists, and economists studying the implementation of artificial intelligence.” We've been hearing this idea, in this article and elsewhere, for example from Cathy O’Neil in the New York Times, that there's no academic reserach being done in this area. But as pointed out in this Chronicle article, "the piece ignored academics and organizations that study the issues.” Said Siva Vaidhyanathan, on Twitter, “There are CS departments and engineering schools that take this very seriously. MIT, Harvard, UVA, CMU, Princeton, GaTech, VaTech, Cornell Tech, UC-Irvine, and others all have faculty and programs devoted to critical and ethical examination of data and algorithms.” 

 

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The Dangers of Tweeting at Conferences
Noah Berlatsky, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2017/11/16


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At my conference presentations I have the option of using my own backchannel system to allow attendees to use my interface, or a Twitter interface, to post comments in real time. Here's an example of it at work. There are two key differences between my system and the system described in this article, where conference organizers show a Twitter stream behind the speaker. First, I can see the comments in real time, and respond to them directly. Second, I am in control; I can turn off Twitter, and I can turn off the system entirely. This is not to excuse the harassment of women speakers in conferences where Twitter is used. There's no excuse for it, and the attackers should be ashamed of themselves. Putting the speaker in charge of the response, though, goes at least some way toward redressing the power imbalance.

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Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web: 'The system is failing'
Olivia Solon, The Guardian, 2017/11/16


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It's way too late for those who argued against the commercialization of the internet to say "I told you so." Though they could. We now need to ask the same questions about the education system. By way of context, here is Ttim Berners-Lee on the current state of the web: "“The system is failing. The way ad revenue works with clickbait is not fulfilling the goal of helping humanity promote truth and democracy... We have these dark ads that target and manipulate me and then vanish because I can’t bookmark them. This is not democracy – this is putting who gets selected into the hands of the most manipulative companies out there.”

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Brainwave Headsets Are Making Their Way Into Classrooms—For Meditation and Discipline
Sydney Johnson, EdSurge, 2017/11/16


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This is an interesting article suggestive of future research (and future debates) but to date it is based on the flimsiest of foundations. The hook is a a Kansas State University study claiming that using a brainwave headset, Muse, reduces student office referrals by some 70 percent. But the best I can find is a small group session on the subject; neither the EdSurge article nor the university press release refer to a published study, nor is the study listed on the Muse site, nor could I find it in a search. Still. Muse won't release its algorithm, which rases questions about the method it uses to collect its data. And a related company, BrainCo, "has plans to use student EEG information to create 'the world’s biggest brainwave database.'" So who takes responsibility over how this data is used, or misused?

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Actualizing the Online Community College
Kelvin Bentley, EDUCAUSE Review, 2017/11/16


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This is a bit of an odd article, but I'm including it here to keep at the top of mind an important initiative where "California Governor Jerry Brown asked the head of the state's community college system to develop a proposal for a fully online community college by November 2017." Why do I say it's odd? Well, for example, were he begins by saying "community colleges are open-access institutions" as a lead-in to accessibility issues. Yes, accessibility is important, and we should design for accessibility first, but it's not what people usually mean when people say something is an open access institution. Another is the suggestion that the college "using a model course approach". Does he mean a pilot course? A course template? Course design standards? The article also conflates flexible start-times with competency-based learning, the need for "online and face-to-face " faculty meetings. None of this is wrong per se but feels odd. Could be me.

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Does Avoiding Social Media Limit An Alt-Ac Career?
Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed, 2017/11/15


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The short answer to this is "no". I work in a building full of academics who are not university professors and who are almost invisible on social media in any professional sense. I know hundreds of others in other government, corporate and private research facilities. Their careers are doing just fine. Joshua Kim argues that social media is pretty essential, though. "Alternative academics, lacking many of the traditional disciplinary-based assets that bind traditional academics (journals, conferences, professional organizations etc.), have seemingly adopted social media our medium of communication, collaboration, and exchange." The key word here is seemingly. You can't judge the world by what you see on Twitter. You just can't. Image: University Affairs.

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Virtual Reality as Possibility Space
monika bielskyte, Medium, 2017/11/15


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Here are some resources from a sidebar discussion on virtual reality in learning. The first, Virtual Reality as Possibility Space, suggests that "The advent of digital realities is an opportunity for us to rethink the way we could be experiencing information. We are leaving the glowing rectangular screens behind to step into computational space where the world is our desktop." But what there is isn't necessarily what we see. We need to ensure that our new VR worlds are humane, shared, collaboprative, and human. We project our ideas into the world (as in this world of dogs). And VR can project other people's images of reality back to us, creating and shaping those objects in our mind. As this third item notes, "Reality’s portrayal and depiction varies depending upon how it is being represented, and by who is doing or producing the representation of reality. It affects our ethical judgments about how to act and treat other people in the real world."

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Introducing Spirited Media 2.0
Chris Krewson, Medium, 2017/11/15


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If you're not charging for content, and you're not running advertisements, then how are you going to make money with educational content (or any other content) in the future? Spirited Media answers this question with a three-part business model: it will sell memberships, it will have sponsored events, and it will offer consulting. All of these preserve the accessibility (and mobility) of content, and yet allow the company to trade on its reputation for knwoledge and insight in a way that offers specific services for compensation. If I were still in the local news game, that's what I'd be doing. And as a content provider in the future, something like this is probably my future business model. 

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The Neuroscience of Consciousness – with Anil Seth
Anil Seth, YouTube, 2017/11/15


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This is a nice talk recommended as part of a collection of resources from Theodore Hoppe in a comment on my consciousness post and it prompted me to add a couple of paragraphs to the work. One is the idea that there are degrees of consciousness, and that the degree is proportional to the complexity of neural interactions taking place. There's a discussion of how the brain fills in perceptions with its own expectations - don't miss the video of the doggy university courtyard. Another is the idea that the human brain, as a neural network, is not a knowing system, but rather, a predictive system. I mentioned this back in September. I don't agree with the idea that prediction "is the brain trying to understand what causes our perceptions" - we don't need to involve causation to make predictions, but this isn't a comment about the content, just the way it's expressed.  It's a great talk, well worth the how to view it. You can also download this talk as audio and watch the Q&A. If you don't have an hour there's a short and poppy TED version.

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Revisiting 70:20:10
Clark Quinn, Learnlets, 2017/11/14


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I think that Twitter is a terrible place to hold a conversation, but if you can get past how annoying these tweets would be to a non-participant you get what is actually a pretty good stream of comments in Will Thalheimer's debunk session. What are my takeways from it? Well, first of all, the numbers don't matter - what the phrase expressdes is the idea that there is a split between formal, social and espetiental forms of learning (except the numbers do matter; if it's 90% formal we're not having this debate). Also, that the numbers report activities as reported by learners, as opposed to impact on outcomes. And what would a measurement of outcomes even look like - Thalheimer seems at one point to suggest that since there's no way to evaluate the outcomes of informal learning, it doesn't exist. Finally, we find near the end of the chat a pretty good diagram using much better termionology, using education-exposure-experience instead of formal-social-informal.

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Why philosophy is so important in science education
Subrena E Smith, Aeon, 2017/11/14


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"Why," asks Subrena Smith, "do college students so often treat philosophy as wholly distinct from and subordinate to science?" She suggests four reasons: a lack of historical awareness, the desire for concrete results, the idea that science is purely objective, and the philosophers' violation of the preceeding three expectations. "Why do they think this way?" she asks. "It’s  not because this is the way that science is practised but rather, because this is how science is normally taught." So she argues that they could be - and should be - taught differently. "Our scientist colleagues should continue to teach the fundamentals of science, but they can help by making clear to their students that science brims with important conceptual, interpretative, methodological and ethical issues."

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Working memory
Matthias Melcher, x28s new Blog, 2017/11/14


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I while back I addressed the topic of working memory in a post pushing back against the idea that it is simply a buffer for storage in long-term memory. Matthias Melcher finds some antecedents to the idea in "Baddeley’s model (which) contains, among others, the 'phonological loop' (audio over time) and the 'visuo-spatial sketchpad'." Now there's a lot to the model I don't subscribe to, especially the idea (shared by many others) of an 'executive function'. It (and Baddeley's model as a whole) resembles a web platform more than it resembles a mind. But the idea that short-term memory plays "a great role in processing both temporal and spatial perceptions" makes sense to me.

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What’s New in Firefox Quantum, the Firefox You’ve Been Waiting For
Chris Hoffman, How-To Geek, 2017/11/14


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I had switched over from Firefox to Chrome not becuase I wanted to browse the Google way but because Firefox the browser was having bad (and worsening) performance problems (the worst was that the entire browser would freeze while downloading something). With its new version, released today, Firefox turns over a new leaf. It's a brand-new multi-threaded browser that significantly improves performance. I'll be trying it today but I might not switch over fully until the extensions (which have all been disabled by the switch) catch up. Especially ad-blocker. I don't want to browse without ad-blocker. Here's an account of why it's faster - coded in Rust, smarter CSS, optimized for multi-core processors... Update I've installed and run it. It's fast. I need to fix my forms so they're work properly. But I like what I see.

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‘Why does Canada have so much online learning?’
Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, 2017/11/13


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Interesting post from Tony bates answering the question in the title. Well, first he responds along the lines of "aw, shucks, it isn't that much really." But when he gets to it he makes some obvious points (history and geography, government policy) and one really interesting one: "where there has been a large and important open university, this has resulted in slower growth in online learning." Why? For one thing, "a heavy, front-ended print development model requiring a very large investment." And second, "where a fully distance institution or open university operated, this seems to have inhibited or slowed down the adoption of distance and hence online courses in the campus-based institutions." 

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Educational Technology and Education Conferences for January to June 2018, Edition #38
Clayton R. Wright, 2017/11/14


The 38th edition of the conference list covers 1,529 confirmed professional development opportunities that primarily focus on the use of technology in educational settings and on teaching, learning, and educational administration. When the 39th version of the list is distributed in May 2018, additional events will be added to June 2018. MS Word Document.

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Copyright 2017 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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