by Stephen Downes
Oct 17, 2014
Our Digital Futuire: A Crowdsourced Agenda for Free Expression
"At its best," reads the executive summary of this report, "the Internet encourages us to share, use our creativity, and express ourselves freely. It fosters the same key experiences that help us preserve our imaginations and our capacity to learn as we grow from children into adults." Drawing from contributions from the community, the report makes three main recommendations:
- Respect creators
- Priorize free expression
- Embrace democratic processes
"Citizens, particularly young people, are increasingly questioning the legitimacy and effectiveness of traditional models of governance and hierarchical processes of decision-making; a new method befitting the era of participation is sorely needed."
It's not exactly what I had in mind when I talked about alternative assessment mechanisms recently, but you can see how this website, which rates students based on groupwork, easily fits the category. "A York University MBA grad has launched a website where college and university students can rate their classmates — up to five stars, with room for comments — on how they perform on the pillars of group work: teamwork, competence, dependability, work ethic and communication skills."
MOOCs: A Review of the State-of-the-Art
Ahmed Mohamed Fahmy Yousef, Mohamed Amine Chatti, Ulrik Schroeder, Marold Wosnitza, Harald Jakobs,
CSEDU 2014 - 6th International Conference on Computer Supported Education,
This is quite a good overview of the current state of MOOCs with a number of good images, statistics and definitions, making it a great reference paper for future discussions. "84 peer reviewed papers were selected in this study. A template analysis was applied to analyze and categorize the MOOCs literature into 7 dimensions, namely concept, design, learning theories, case studies, business models, target groups, and assessment."
Launching the new Open Access Button. Push Button. Get Research. Make Progress.
Open Access Button Blog,
I'm sure every research has had the same experience: we do a search on Google or follow up a promising reference form some other paper, access the link, and are faced with nothing but a subscription wall. It's a daily occurrence for me, and to my min, these search results are nothing but spam. The Open Access Button is intended as a remedy. "We have gone from an idea to a really useful, workable bookmarklet which has helped track thousands of people running into paywalls. Our bookmarklet was great, we love it but we want to grow and make the Open Access Button better, we’re launching the new Open Access Button on Tuesday October 21st." See also: "Researchers want to be read, acknowledged and quoted."
New LMS Market Data: Edutechnica provides one-year update
Phil Hill gives us a look at a rich source of information about the LMS market, Edutechnica'a one-year update. Although the study is US-focused, it does also have data for the "anglosphere" (Canada, the US, the UK and Australia) (do read the Edutechnica post for an update on the nature of institutions studied). The major news is: Blackboard still leads, Canvas has overtaken D2L, and Moodle has a significant and still growing market share.
Where Has All the Learning Gone?
The Learning Lot,
It has been a couple weeks since the EDUCAUSE conference, but this retrospective is worth reading (and I was in Brazil so I can be forgiven for being a bit slow with this item). Rob Reynolds observes, "At EDUCAUSE, it seemed evident that the problem we are trying to solve is that of making our businesses -- our institutions, companies, products -- more successful." From where I sit, I think that this is probably the result of the withdrawal of public money from education - educators and technology companies look to where the money is, and increasingly, it's not students, it's business and industry.
Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers
It is tempting to want to simply import Germany's successful apprenticeship training model to the United States, says Tamar Jacoby, but such an idea should be approached with caution. For one thing, the system is expensive - from $25K -to $80K per apprentice. It also depends on significant government involvement in industry in order to create and maintain cross-industry standards. And it is focused on blue-collar training, which is seen as second-rate on this side of the ocean. But, on the other hand, the system is flexible and effective, it is popular, and it trains highly skilled workers who produce world-class machinery. But note the attitude: “German companies want to train,” one trade association executive told us, “because they know the schools can’t do it. Especially in today’s tech economy, vocational schools alone can’t prepare the workers we need.”
#1amconf, Altmetrics and Raising the Visibility of One’s Research
UK Web Focus,
Brian Kelly looks at the range and effectiveness of systems that provide metrics for the impact of one's research, this in the context of summarizing "the first dedicated altmetrics conference" that took place in London recently. It's not a universally popular concept. This paper, for example, focuses on the promotion of papers by Twitter posts that misinterpret what the papers are saying. So the paper has impact, but not for anything it actually says. On the other hand, altmetrics are a large step forward from the unreasonable idea that impact ought be measured only by citations in academic papers. Kelly looks at a number of altmetrics systems that have developed recently, including especially Kudos,
An Exemplar Use of Lanyrd (and a Proposal for Creating Lanyrd Entries)
UK Web Focus,
Lanyrd is software specifically designed to help conference attendees get the most out of a conference. It does things like host event schedules and publish archives of presentations. It wasn't welcomed enthusiastically out of the gate - many conference organizers preferred to exert tighter control over conference materials - but it has slowly been gaining ground over the last four years or so and last year was acquired by Eventbrite. This article from Brian Kelly looks at Lanyrd anew, offering an exemplar use and best practices.
4C Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of curation,
In my email this morning: "The EC funded Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation (4C) project is led by Jisc and includes the Digital Curation Centre and Digital Preservation Coalition among its 13 partners. Recently have been working with project partners to develop a draft Roadmap titled 'Investing in curation: a shared path to sustainability'." The glitzy 24 page PDF, which contains many pictures of money, is focused on six question documenting the efficiency process and "considers the actions necessary to achieve a change in the way that all organisations think about and sustainably manage their digital assets."
The Cargo Cult of Game Mechanics
Hackery, Math & Design,
Really interesting article and really interesting presentation. The thesis is essentially this: game design today has devolved into moneymaking systems that depend on "whales", that is, a small number of compulsive users who will pay to keep playing the game. This is "gaming as serious media." "It generally involves taking away choice, using scripts instead of simulations, with mini-games and quick-time events thrown in to amuse your hindbrain. It's tacitly saying that real storytelling, real human comedy or tragedy, can't happen while a player is in control. It's non-sense of course, plenty of games have done so before." The analogy with serious games in learning is clear, and I think the case is well made. See also this deconstruction of Chrono Trigger.
Could a Newly Launched Metaphorical Search Engine Really Work?
I spent a little time playing around with Yossarian Lives, a search engine that produces metaphorical results for search queries. The idea is, you pit in a search term, it responds with a set of images, and you can select an image, give it a title, and add an explanation. You can then save your idea to a list, and view other people's ideas. I had mixed results, but some of the ones others have produced were quite good. Sadly, the service is really only useful as a toy, as the image sources are commercial libraries and any actual use could get expensive quickly.
The 10K Hour Rule: Deliberate Practice leads to Expertise, and Teaching can trump Genetics
Computing Education Blog,
This is a pretty good article, not only because it invokes the classic 'make a PBJ' example, and not only because it cites the proper source for the 10,000 hours of practice rule (hint: not Gladwell), but also because it provides an intelligent discussion of how the rule applies, offers a telling argument against the counterproposal (that skills are innate and not learned), and teaches us the value of focus and reflection in learning. But there's a not-so-subtle shift from "people can learn" to "people can be taught" and an invocation of the mysterious "power of a great teacher to go beyond simple rote practice to create deliberate opportunities to learn," as though no other means were possible to accomplish the same thing by oneself, or with the aid of friends, projects, life experience or software. See also: Practice Does Not Make Perfect.
Facebook’s Identity Authentication Is Broken
Centralized systems eventually break down. In the current case, it's Facebook's identity service. As Alec Couross has described in the past (here’s the original post which outlines the problem and here is the followup) he has been beset with an endless series of people faking his account. "These profiles have shown up on sites such as Twitter, VK.com, Match.com, Christian Mingle, and most prominently, Facebook." And now, to add insult to injury, he writes, "while I have successfully had Facebook take down hundreds of profiles, apparently they no longer believe that I am Alec Couros."
Is It Ever Okay to Make Teachers Read Scripted Lessons?
Terrance F. Ross,
I guess that if the teachers were completely unqualified, and the students unable to read, then there might be a benefit to reading scripted lessons. But I think the benefits would be pretty minimal, and as critic Kate Redman says, “Such an education is unlikely to spur the imaginations of the students or encourage critical thinking or social mobility. It is more likely to lead to rote-learning, and would likely leave little flexibility. There is no evidence it can serve as a permanent approach.” Nonetheless, such an approach has been taken by Bridge International Academies, a for-profit company that has has more than 350 locations and 100,000 students in Kenya. And if it's true that "at the only schools available to these families there was very little education being delivered," then this is better than nothing. But I still think (from a very distant first-world perspective) that they money they take from the system could be better spent. Via Doug Belshaw / Audrey Watters.
The Battle for Beauty
I don't agree with all of this, but I do agree with the core sentiment, especially as it regards my work and my reserach. "It was about architecture that had been taken over by businessmen, and artists not being allowed to carry out their rich hunger for beauty. A bit like Evgeny Morosov’s fight against “solutionism”, where the world is taken over by VCs and commerce in stead of asking the real big questions related to ethos and quality of life." Sadly, however, beauty has already been acquired by businesses and VCs. Books like Lovemarks make it clear how they draw on human emotion to connect people to brands. So to me this article has the flaavour of wanting from humans what VCs and commerce already (promise to) deliver. There is a space, though, beyond even this, perhaps captured most evocatively by the phrase in Moulin rouge and reflected in my Moulin Ching.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaks out on data ownership
According to this article, "The inventor of the web says data must be owned by its subject, rather than corporations, advertisers, and analysts." I agree with him, but I think the approach here will have to be technological, rather than legal, if only because I have no faith that corporations, advertisers and analysts will obey the law. After all, look at their track record.
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