by Stephen Downes
Oct 31, 2014
What Happened To Women In Computer Science?
It's worth looking at this phenomenon. When I worked in computing in 1980 half the staff were women. "For decades, the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men. But in 1984, something changed. The percentage of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged." What happened? asks NPR. Well, many things. But mostly this: " The share of women in computer science started falling at roughly the same moment when personal computers started showing up in U.S. homes in significant numbers... marketed almost entirely to men and boys. This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative. It became the story we told ourselves about the computing revolution. It helped define who geeks were, and it created techie culture." Today, 20 years later, we reap the fruits of a dysfunctional misogynistic culture (p.s. don't bother with the comments unless you want to be depressed all over again).
The grassroots of learning
Good article looking at 'the earlier Cormier' and 'the later Cormier' on the subject of rhizomatic learning. Me, I'm not so sure that what Dave Cormier had in mind was the idea of following link to link to link - but he is in a better position to correct (or not) the author on this. At any rate, the post was engaging, which is good enough for me. P.S. don't miss the comments, beginning with Crispin Weston's criticism of the concept of content and of the dynamics behind group formation (good, informed comment, well worth the price of admission).
Competency-Based Education: No More Semesters?
OK, back in 1998 I said that time would no longer be used as a measure of learning, "that time in online learning ceases to be an objective standard." I said things like "learning will be measured by the amount of information accumulated, not the amount of time spent in a chair" (I was less precise back then). Though I supported such things as prior learning assessments I've never been keen on competencies. I learned working directly with teachers (eg. at the Brandon Adult Learning centre) that you can't just break down course content into a bunch of modules; more global variables come into play as well, and are captured by such artifacts as the term paper. Now where does that go on the test? Now in our current work we're deloping algorithms to detect competencies in expert performance. One perfectly acceptable result to me here is the null result, that is, a result showing that expert performance cannot be reduced to a set of necessary and sufficient competencies.
3rd Meeting of OERu partners
If I were one of those people who reads the tea leaves, I would say OERu and WikiEducator are heading for a split. Why? Here's the text of the email I received today from OERu: "The OERu is a flagship initiative of the OER Foundation and we are proud to host our planning and course development on WikiEducator as our preferred platform." Up to this point, in all previous correspondance, the two were basically synonymous. But now WikiEducator has been demoted to "preferred platform." Coincidence? Well, like I said, if I were to read tea leaves... but, ah, of course, I don't. So this is nothing more than a link to the event advertised in the email, the 3rd Meeting of OERu partners (register as a remote participant here).
Take away the descriptors
This is a fun project. "Nine notable offenders have agreed to have a go at stripping the jargon from the following educational terms... take a popular educational expression (captured in 2 words and a hyphen) and simplify it by writing 1000 words about it."
Problem: Teachers Better at Using Tech than Digital Native Students
One of the problems with a term like 'better than' is that it is context-free. Even when pinned down to some extent, as in the headline "Teachers Better at Using Tech than Digital Native Students", we still don't know what is meant by 'better', and the end result is nonsense. This is exaggerated when you select as your representative teachers "early adopters to integrate technology in labs and physical experiments, hands-on activities, field trips and data collection" and you judge them on "how to use these technologies to solve sophisticated thinking problems." To conclude from this that teachers are "better at using tech" is empty and fruitless. Teachers are more adept at some things - deep thinking, say. Students are better at other things - pattern recognition, perhaps, or twitch-games maybe. Any wider generalization (and, indeed, even the two or three I just posited) are either wrong or meaningless.
Training the Trainers for Linked Data
Seth van Hooland, Ruben Verborgh,
International Conference on Dublin Core, Metadata Applications DC-2014,
I'm very much a linked-data kind of person; it suits the way I think far more than documents or even things like index cards. That's probably no real surprise to people. This post takes that way of thinking and expands it into a tutorial for practitioners. It's a set of slides (117 page PDF) that defines linked data, explains the advantages, and provides practical guidance in its application through four major steps: clean your metadata, reconcile with authoritative sources, enrich your metadata, share on the (open) web. There's a wealth of resources in this for those who look, for example, references to a number of data-cleaning tools (slide 21) or named entity extraction (NEW) (slide 57). And there is a really good discussion of representational state transfer (REST) in the second half of the deck. See also The 1:1 Principle of Linked Data, by Richard J. Urban. See more from the same conference.
Stop Being So Positive
Harvard Business Review,
Although it addresses an important point, the title is very misleading. The study cited in the article (Future thought and behaviour change) is actually pretty interesting, but it divides future thoughts (ie., thoughts about the future) into 'fantasies' and 'beliefs'. The former are forms of wishful thinking, not based in rehearsal or past performance. The latter are based on experience and practice. And as the author says, "empirical research reliably finds that high expectations of success and and optimistic beliefs indeed foster motivation and successful performance." There are good grounds for expecting specific forms of 'positive thinking' to work. For example, "teaching mental contrasting of feasible desired future outcomes would result in better academic performance than teaching students to only think positively about the respective future."
Research information management systems - a new service category?
Lorcan Dempsey's Weblog,
The aim of research information management (RIM) is "is to synchronize data across parts of the university, reducing the burden to all involved of collecting and managing data about the research process. An outcome is to provide greater visibility onto institutional research activity." I'm not sure it's a new category per se but it's cl;early an important institutional function (and in a best-case scenario supports open access). Anyhow, the article has a lot of good links to resources, including RIM standards: "two are especially relevant here:CERIF (Common European Research Information Format) from EuroCRIS, which provides a format for exchange of data between RIM systems, and the Casrai dictionary. CASRAI is the Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information."
Teacher resistance against school reform: reflecting an inconvenient truth
School Leadership & Management,
This is a really interesting article. It considers at length the nature and causes of teacher hostility toward educational reform, especially that reform imposed from the outside. "Innovation and change impulses are at best used as long as they fit or can be adapted to the beliefs, attitudes and needs of teacher culture in general and the needs and problems of each single teacher in particular. This process of transforming or adapting change impulses from the outside sometimes even disfigures or distorts the impulse." This is why in my own practice I have attempted to describe and implement (what might be called) reform outside the traditional academic milieu, with the idea that it can and will be transferred by teachers and professors into their own practice once (and once once) it is seen to be useful.
Research about cMOOCs
Heli connecting ideas,
Heli Nurmi summarizes the article Participants’ Perceptions of Learning and Networking in Connectivist MOOCs, written by Mohsen Saadatmand and Kristiina Kumpulainen. "The results show that participation in MOOCs challenges learners to develop self-organization, self-motivation, and a reasonable amount of technological proficiency to manage the abundance of resources and the more open format. Participants in cMOOCs use an array of technologies and various networking skills. The nature of cMOOCs requires students to assume active roles, in a spirit of openness, to shape activities and collaborate in goal achievement." As she points out, though, the self-selecting nature of the survey would tend to favour such results.
New Evidence: Deeper Learning Improves Student Outcomes
It could be the new face of the 'core content' lobby group, or it could be a genuine move forward in education reform. Unfortunately, I'm not sure whether I can trust the source. The concept of 'deeper learning' is "to focus on the set of skills and knowledge that reinforce each other and together promote rigorous and deeper learning. These include:
- Mastery of core academic content
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Working collaboratively in groups
- Communicating clearly and effectively
- Learning how to learn."
According to this article, "a new study by the American Institutes for Research ... investigated whether schools in the Deeper Learning Network achieve better student outcomes than local comparison schools, and found that the answer is yes." I remain sceptical: not of the idea that critical thinking and learning how to learn improve learning outcomes, but whether they need to be conflated with the other three.
What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship
I would probably address the subject a bit differently (my take on citizenship is more about proactive engagement rather than the 9-Ps of protection) but this article is a good quick take on the idea, and certainly a good starting point to make you think about some issues. For example, what constitutes privacy in public places? Should you really blur license plates? What about using geolocation? Is online content really "a 'digital tattoo' that is almost impossible to erase?" See also the five minute film festival teaching digital citizenship, also from Edutopia.
The Story of Greatguy7
A Principal's Reflections,
So this school principle is looking for good examples of YouTube videos being used to teach things and is referred to an account by someone called Greatguy7, who turns out to be an eight year old boy. Among the videos is one on how to make YouTube tutorials, which he refers to a colleague. Great story, right? Here's the kicker: Greatguy 7 turns out to be his own son. Eric Sheninger writes, "not only did I have no idea about this, but I had never helped him get on YouTube or create videos for that matter... The end result, in his words, was that my son taught a veteran teacher with over 30 years of experience how to make and share videos."
This Has Potential
Doug - Off the Record,
Doug Peterson segues from a discussion of the teaching of mathematics in general (and how it is killed by memorization and out-of-context problem sets) to the introduction of the new equation-solving tool (photograph the equation and it presents the solution). "Essentially, the app lets the camera take a picture of a problem and it solves it for you, including “showing your work”. How many times have you heard that in your mathematics life?" This has value, he says, because it may move us from applying a solution by rote toward asking ourselves what the solution means.
Stand Up for Education
National Union of Teachers,
Britain's National Union of Teachers (NUT) has released a manifesto (16 page PDF) addressing changes to the direction of that nation's schools. While the document is focused on the British general election slated for 2015, the document has wider relevance. Among other things, it argues that:
- We need a wider vision of learning and achievement
- We need more time for teaching – not more tests
- All children deserve qualified teachers
- We need to end child poverty
- Education should not be run for profit
- We need teaching to be an attractive profession
I think these are reasonable statements. And I think that all parties will need to look at a retreat from the numbers-based corporate-focused education that has characterized reform in some places in recent years.
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