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by Stephen Downes
Jul 18, 2014

Presentation
Beyond Assessment - Recognizing Achievement in a Networked World
Stephen Downes, Jul 11, 2014, 12th ePortfolio, Open Badges and Identity Conference , University of Greenwich, Greenwich, UK


ePortfolios and Open Badges are only the first wave in what will emerge as a wider network-based form of assessment that makes tests and reviews unnecessary. In this talk I discuss work being done in network-based automated competency development and recognition, the challenges it presents to traditional institutions, and the opportunities created for genuinely autonomous open learning.

[Link] [Slides] [Audio]

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Open and online but not a MOOC, GCU Games On – an alternative model for online engagement?
Sheila McNeil, ALT Online Newsletter, Jul 17, 2014


As Sheila McNeil reports, "Glasgow Caledonian University have taken their first steps into the world of open online education this week with the launch of GCU Games On - a three-week, open online event." What's interesting about this item is that the open event was not created using the usual MOOC technology. She writes, "A key factor that enabled us to develop the event so quickly and easily including badges was our VLE BlackBoard which has just launched their new MOOC platform Open Education." Here's the associated press release from Blackboard. Like the platforms offered by MOOC providers, the new Blackboard platform "that allows teachers and faculty to run public online courses and/or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), is currently being piloted via the public cloud." Here's the link to the site. Looks nice.

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Who am I? and if so, how many? – book overview
Selena, learning elearning, Jul 17, 2014


As I was flying back from Britain on Monday I recall thinking that every time I travel, I return home a different person. By this what I mean of course is that my attitudes, values and outlook have changed slightly, reflections of the new experiences I've had, often in difficult or memorable circumstances. This is also true of my day-to-day life, though the increments of change are much smaller. I do feel the thread or identity over time, but as more time in my life goes by, this thread becomes more tenuous, and to me my self of, say, thirty years ago is a very different person. This post from Selena is a review of Who am I? and if so, how many? by R.D. Precht originally written in German and translated by Shelley Frisch. I've read many of the " dry and difficult to access ‘text books’ on philosophy" mentioned by the author, and am sympathetic to the need to discuss the issues around identity in an informative and engaging way, without at the same time descending into populist nonsense.

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Using an Android Tablet with Active Stylus To Create Screencasts Easily and Inexpensively
Henry Greenside, Duke Center for Instructional Technology, Jul 17, 2014


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I've long wondered how those screencasts with he handwritten text are made (and have wondered ever since seeing Dave Cormier's MOOC videos or the wonderful How to Be Alone Poem. This isn't the whole story (I still don't know how the text plays over video) but it's a big part of it, I think.

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Brightspace – The Next Era of Innovation for D2L
John Baker, Desire2Learn, Jul 17, 2014


I'll just cigte this IHE post in full: "Desire2Learn's learning management system now has a name: Brightspace. The company had previously referred to the system as its 'integrated learning platform.' The name change, along with partnerships with IBM, Microsoft and five major publishers, were announced during Desire2Learn's user conference in Nashville this week." Baker writes, " we are introducing a new brand to represent the evolution to our integrated learning platform. What we are calling Brightspace." So there you go. I can't say I like the name.

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) Market to Grow at a 56.61% CAGR
Press Release, Sandler Research, Jul 17, 2014


I both agree and disagree with the prediction made in this report. I agree in the sense that the market for open online learning will continue to grow at a substantial speed. But I don't agree in the sense that the MOOC itself will most likely evolve, will most likely be branded as something other than a MOOC, and will most likely be seen as competition to traditional MOOCs and eating in to their growth. (p.s. just read the summary; the report itself is ridiculously expensive; you get better value for money sticking with OLDaily).

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Will SOOCs eat MOOCs for breakfast?
Unattributed, Pearson, Jul 16, 2014


You can almost hear the disbelief in Audrey Watters's voice as she says "wow" on reading this article from Pearson advocating a form of online learning that removes "unwanted diversity" from open online courses. Yes, you read that correctly, and it's not out of context. "This 'unwanted diversity' and one-size-fits-all approach makes peer-to-peer collaboration largely ineffective, leading to poor outcomes, and high dropouts." The replacement "selectively open online course" (or SOOC) is suggested - though I would replace the term with "Closed Online Course," which is what it is. This perspective is related to this article in the journal Higher Learning Research Communications in which Watson Scott Swail suggests "we might need to decide, on a policy basis, who we want to go to college, who we want to succeed, and who will pay for it." The list in the article PDF makes it clear who Swail thinks create the need for closed online courses: part time, low GPA, older, non-white (except for Asian), first generation, low income, etc. Those are the people that real university students pay huge tuitions to make sure their alma maters exclude. And this whole open online course thing is messing it up. No wonder there's such opposition.

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The Asilomar Convention for Learning Research in Higher Education
Mitchell L. Stevens, Susan S. Silbey, Asilomar 2014, Jul 16, 2014


Worth noting: "On 1-4 June, 2014, a group of educators, scientists, and legal/ethical scholars assembled at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. Their task was to develop a framework to inform decisions about appropriate use of data and technology in learning research for higher education. A modified Chatham House Rule guided their deliberations, which produced the convention presented here." Via Inside Higher Ed. Note that the attendees are almost all exclusively from the US university system, and that therefore no attempt at diversity of representation or perspective was attempted here.

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How E-Reading Threatens Learning in the Humanities
Naomi S. Baron, The Chronicle: Commentary, Jul 16, 2014


Having made my living somehow as a student of the humanities, and having read extensively both in the paper-based and digital forms of long and short text, I think I'm in a good position to discuss this commentary in the Chronicle (where else?) from Naomi S. Baron explaining why digital reading is so impoverished. In a nutshell: it isn't. The article looks at reading strictly from the perspective of a paper-based reader, and the surveys (unreferenced and unlinked) seem to be of people from that perspective as well. The core of the criticism is essentially that people can't read deeply online.

"Are students even reading Milton or Thucydides or Wittgenstein these days," she asks. The invocation of Wittgenstein creates an odd example, making me wonder whether she has read Wittgenstein. Reading Wittgenstein is like reading OLDaily (not an accident). Wittgenstein's work was created on small sheets of paper or index cards, which had no fixed order (his books, other than the Tractatus, were actually assembled by his students, who relied on their own notes from lectures as well as Wittgenstein's actual writing). You would never simply 'read' Wittgenstein. And that's the problem with Baron's argument: a failure to understand that there are multiple ways to approach text.

And this makes me think of the obvious counterexample to her argument: software programming. Virtually all of it is done on a computer screen. It is deep, exacting work, involving a precise grammatically perfect body of text running many times longer than War and Peace. It can be read beginning to end, but is better read with intent (to identify a variable, to debug a function, to optimize a sort or search). It proves that people have the focus to create and master deep and complex works digitally. And, I contend, they can do this with Wittgenstein, with Milton or (if they must) Thucydides (far better to read Herodotus or Hume). Indeed, one of the reasons people read shorter items online is that, in many ways, they read much more deeply, extracting and even debating picayune details in book-length discussion threads.

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Bringing It to the Masses
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Jul 16, 2014


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I like this more than I should, probably. But it's a great initiative and does for the sciences what I would like to do for education technology research, if only I had the time: to cut through the jargon and state what it is the research actually shows. "Publiscize has an intuitive interface that allows users to create accounts either as scientists, organizations, or “enthusiasts” with access to daily email alerts about new content." It's also, to me, what the news should be more like. Our news spends a lot of time on violence and conflict (and the rest of the time following celebrities). I think the news would be a lot more interesting if if focused more on discoveries and innovation.

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The History of "Personalization" and Teaching Machines
Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jul 15, 2014


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I'm going through my aggregator to find items I missed while writing and delivering three presentations in four days, and this one from Audrey Watters resonates. We need to be careful. As I pointed out in my own talk, there is a big difference between 'personal' (as in 'personal learning environments') and 'personalized' (as in 'personalized learning'). The latter is where you take something off the shelf, customize it, and deliver it. It's a bit like a modern equivalent of learning styles (which is why some people are calling on Willingham to contribute). The former is when people create and manage learning for themselves. Tim Klapdor has a nice take on it. "How about we think about learners as people – intelligent people – rather than data points?"

Speaking of data points, Audrey Watters's list of a "flurry of blog posts debating 'personalized learning'" all written by men is a bit of an unfair sample. Here's Krissy Venosdale, Joanne Jacobs, Ariana Witt, Linda Pruett, Rebecca W Ralstrad, Billie Ann Blalock - all women, all writing on personalized learning in the last week. It's important to cast a wide net when talking about educational technology - it's too easy to hear nothing but the same old crowd of consultants and pundits, especially if your focus is on social media. And it's too easy to fall back on some familiar stereotypes while explaining why they're wrong. It's a beautiful rich expressive world out there, but you have to close Twitter and go read new stuff by new people.

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‘Making’ Does Not Equal ‘Constructionism’
Peter Skillen, The Construction Zone, Jul 15, 2014


Good post with some thoughts worth remembering. In particular, constructionism occurs "when people are actively creating artifacts in the real world," like making. But more, "is the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it’s a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe." In 'making', you are in active control of the design process. In constructionism, you are openly reflective about that design process.

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Congrats to Paul-Olivier Dehaye: MassiveTeaching
George Siemens, elearnspace, Jul 15, 2014


I just want to weigh in with a thought on the course created and then deleted mid-session by a professor on Coursera. I'll say it in a way George Siemens doesn't: what a jerk.

Siemens applauds the move. "Coursera has been revealed as a house of cards in terms of governance and procedures for dealing with unusual situations." Well maybe. But that's hardly unique to Coursera. And I frankly don't believe the explanation, "I want to show how [C]oursera tracks you." So how does this show it? It doesn't. The most charitable explanation I can find is that the professor had a dispute with Coursera, which he resolved by killing the course.

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25 Tips to Turbo Charge Your Leadership with Evernote
Miguel Guhlin, Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org, Jul 15, 2014


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I don't use Evernote, but that's only because I have my own systems (especially gRSShopper) for doing a lot of what Evernote does. But I would be the first to recommend it as a productivity tool (not just for 'leaders' - that whole 'leadership' jargon thing is getting out of hand). Basically, Evernote is an internet-accessible database you can use to store notes, records, communications, clippings, and more. I like the way Miguel Guhlin presents here, first addressing the problem people face, and the solution using Evernote (and potentially some additional applications, like IFTTT).

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The Sum of Desire2Learn's Acquisitions: Brightspace
Tony Wan, EdSurge, Jul 15, 2014


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This is an awkwardly written article and it's a bit difficult to tease out exactly what the author is saying, but I think it's this: the company Desire2Learn has recently acquired four products to extend its learning support capability. These supports extend beyond the bounds of a traditional learning management system, so they're being branded under a separate name: Brightspace. The generic term for the combination of Brightspace and D2L's flagship platform is an 'integrated learning platform'.

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Decision-making ponderings
Col Beer, Col's Weblog, Jul 15, 2014


I want to flag this item because I want to identify it as being wrong. There are two ways this item is wrong, at least in my view:

  • "people base their decisions on their internal representations... richer, more stylized, incorporate multiple levels of abstraction, and take on a structure that enables rapid retrieval of relevant decision-making heuristics and procedures (recognition-primed decision-making (RPD))" - this involves the postulation of a rich representational structure that probably doesn't exist - I would base decisions on what might be called DRD - direct recognition decision-making process.
  • "Zachary et al. (2013) there are four context awareness levels: perception, comprehension, projection, sense-making." I think it's too easy to create cross-categorized taxonomies. This is an example. We could probably identify each of these elements in a 'perception', but there is no principled distinction to be drawn between them, and they actually overlap ('what it means' is another way of saying 'how does it make sense').

In general, through the history of cognition, people have devised elaborate structures to characterize comprehension and decision-making. These are generally fabrications: they are structures built on the presumption that the brain operates as some sort of rule-based information processing machine. It is not, and so these designs are meaningless.

I mention this especiaally for scholars and academics, because you can be dragged down a rabbit-hole trying to identify and discern fine differences between these models. It's important to recall that since none of them are correct, the distinctions between them don't matter (related: see Descates on Scholasticism).

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Feed WordPress 101: The Basics
Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Jul 15, 2014


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This is the first of a five part series providing an overview of content syndication as it relates to WordPress. This is an essential component of a cMOOC-type course using WordPress. This first section covers the basic concepts of syndication, and so is appropriate for a wider audience. Alan Levin writes, "it allows a distributed structure for your course. It is pretty much modeled on the way the internet itself works. Instead of students coming to an LMS to do all their work, they’re doing it in a site that they maintain and it becomes a thing that they manage."

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Social media in education: ethical concerns
Unattributed, ALT Online Newsletter, Jul 14, 2014


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This is a summary of a recent workshop on ethical concerns around the use of social media in education. Four major areas were highlighted: the need for a code of conduct or legislation, online harassment and bullying, intellectual property, and authenticity of voice. I don't consider these ethical issues as such, but rather, areas of concern where unethical or illegal behaviour might cause problems. The ethical we issues we face are things like the questions surrounding personal data collection, questions about whether what one reads on the internet is (or should be) true, what types of information fall beyond the bounds of legitimate posting (for example, whether we should block war photos, fail videos, and revealing photos, etc). It's an ethical issue, in other words, when we don't know the proper resolution of the question; simply saying something is bad and shouldn't be done is a management issue.

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Peer Assessment for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
Hoi K. Suen, International Review of Research in Open, Distance Learning (IRRODL), Jul 14, 2014


This article examines the application of peer assessment in massive open online courses (MOOCs). The authors note that "perhaps the most glaring problem with peer assessment is how trustworthy the results are. After all, within peer assessment, the performance of a novice is being judged by other novices." The best bit is at the end where different approaches are considered, including connectivist MOOCs, calibrated peer reviews, Bayesian post hoc stabilization, and a credibility index.

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Ministers and Key Partners Chart Path Forward for Education and Skills in Canada
Press Release, Council of Education Ministers, Canada (CMEC), Jul 14, 2014


The Council of Education Ministers, Canada (CMEC), met with "his week with more than 200 key business and labour leaders, academics, representatives of student organizations, and other stakeholders" l;ast weekend in Charlottetown, and recommended the following:

  • Education and training must empower Canadians to acquire the skills they need for success in the job market in a flexible and dynamic environment.
  • Partnerships and alignment with business, labour, education, and training providers are key to ensuring synergy between education and skills training systems and Canada's labour markets.
  • Access to accurate, relevant, and timely labour market and education data is essential to support Canadians to make smart career choices, as well as enable government and business to make evidence-based decisions in planning for the future.

This is the sort of conversation they were having just before they created the Canadian Council for Learning (CCL), a five-year $80 million program that released a number of reports and then disappeared.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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