by Stephen Downes
Oct 24, 2014
Poverty Is Strongest Factor in Whether High School Graduates Enroll in College
Higher Education Today,
Despite all the emphasis on how important teaching and testing are for improving educational outcomes, the fact remains that the worst results from higher-income schools are still better than the best results from low-income schools. This is why education alone is not sufficient to provide opportunities to youth. Governments also have to be focused on measures that address equity, in order to lower the pervasive impact of poverty on outcomes. Measures that do not address this cause are not (despite the rhetoric) addressing outcomes; they are addressing some other objective, an objective the proponents do not want to talk about.
Solidarity in the Ivory Tower
Herbert Pimlott writes, "The growing number of precarious academic workers teaching an ever-larger number of undergraduate students is a threat. It is a threat to our profession, with serious implications for our working conditions, our compensation, and the future of collegial governance. It is also a threat to the existence of higher education and the public university as we know it. Indeed, it is also part of the tale of Canada’s shrinking middle class."
LISTedTECH: New wiki site and great visualizations
Phil Hill onmtroduces us to this interesting site that assembles statistics on technology usage in education, creating useful visualizations in the process. LISTedTECH wiki used to run on Drupal, but has since converted to a MediaWiki. This makes it a lot easier for people to add content (though sadly the RSS feeds are not useful). " LISTedTECH was created by Justin Menard, who is Business Intelligence Senior Analyst at University of Ottawa," writes Hill. "The site is broader in scope than just the LMS – there is a rich source of data & visualizations on MOOCs, university rankings, and IPEDS data. Most of the visualizations are presented by Tableau and therefore interactive in nature, allowing the user to filter data, zoom in on geographic data, etc."
Isaac Asimov Asks, “How Do People Get New Ideas?”
MIT Technology review,
Isaac Asimov was very influential on me ion my youth, and I read many of the dozens and dozens of books he authored. This essay is a previously unpublished article he wrote on creativity, and it is not surprising to see the affinity between my own thought and what he wrote. "What is needed," he writes, "is not only people with a good background in a particular field, but also people capable of making a connection between item 1 and item 2 which might not ordinarily seem connected." And, "Making the cross-connection requires a certain daring. It must, for any cross-connection that does not require daring is performed at once by many and develops not as a 'new idea,' but as a mere 'corollary of an old idea.'"
Five Reasons #Gamergate Connects to Educational Technology
We teach people this stuff. We who create technology and media, who shape thought and opinion, who set examples and and work in public - we are the ones who make it OK to shame and harass and threaten and all the rest.
Today I read that Felicia Day, creator of the (great!) online show about gaming, The Guild, has been doxxed for writing a post on #gamergate (to 'doxx' someone is to expose their personal information, such as their home address, online, thus opening them up to harassment and stalking). She had been mostly silent, she says, because "I have been terrified of inviting a deluge of abusive and condescending tweets into my timeline." It turns out her fears were justified. In this post, John Spencer directly draws the link between #gamergate and education. "People are way too quick to minimize the misogyny that exists online," he writes. "I wrote a post about not shaming girls who break dress code and faced a barrage of trolling." He adds, "the misogyny and sexism is rampant at tech conferences. Go visit the vendor hall and see the number of companies that hire women based upon their looks to be the 'booth girls.' You don't have to look hard to find the objectification."
Rights, restrictions and photos of Cats
This is one of the pieces that operates behind the scenes and is necessary for smooth automation of e-learning systems. "IPTC's RightsML, based on W3C CG's ODRL is the standard for expressing permissions and restrictions for digital content for the news industry. The latest report on progress in implementing RightsML, including a new Python library for creating rights expressions in XML and JSON." Good shoer presentation with a bunch of workflow flow charts describing how rights are managed. The author, Stuart Myles, is Director of Information Management at Associated Press.
AU profs argue for a new online learning model in Teaching Crowds book
Terry Anderson, Jon Dron,
This nice thing about this book is that you can download it for free. OK, that isn't the only nice thing. The goal, as outlined by Terry Anderson and Jon Dron, is to “provide methods of learning that are fitted to the subject and people learning them, not the needs and capabilities of institutions teaching them. This is what (networked learning) allows.” As readers here will note, this has been the subject of our work at NRC for some time, dating from the early days of the PLE to the present LPSS program. Their book looks at Athabasca Landing, which is an implementation of the Elgg platform developed by Dave Tosh and Ben Werdmuller.
Ministries of ICT, Education, & UNESCO join to formally launch School of Open Africa
Like the headline says: "“This event will help establish a conversation platform for policymakers around School of Open Africa, connecting and synchronising education and ICT policies with the innovative open education programs being led by Creative Commons volunteers in Africa. It will also connect current School of Open programs in primary and high school education to academia and NRENs1 — towards the realisation of the international aspiration for universal access to education."
There's a storm once again over misogyny in the gaming development community. It's called #gamergate and I confess I am not close enough to it to know who is on which side (I've been reading articles like this and I still do not know who the players are). I think everybody knows I have no tolerance for abuse and threats against women. I agree with Audrey Watters that it's an ed tech issue. But I echo Alan Levine: "The outfall of this is beyond ugly, and when things go from rudeness to physical threats and abuse, things have crossed a line into evil territory. Trying to get to an understanding is hard, I gave Deadspin’s comprehensive The Future Of The Culture Wars Is Here, And It’s Gamergate one read, and that leaves me still wondering if I 'get it'." I get that I can't simply admonish people to "play nice". But what motivates people to act so badly?
The Simple Genius of the Blackboard
I'm not sure quite what to make of this, but... "The blackboard-centered classroom offers more than pedagogical efficiency; it also offers an effective set of teaching possibilities. In such a classroom students are focused on the teacher (on a good day), but most importantly, they are focused. The teacher is not the focus of the class but rather a lens through which the lesson is created and clarified."
Why Big Data Won't Cure Us
One of the flaws of contemporary economics is that it postulates the economically rational consumer who will always choose in his or her best interest. We know, however, that this is rarely the case, and that the economy is beset by forces that are essentially irrational. The same problem applies to big data. As Gina Neff writes, "At last year's Stanford Medicine X Conference, a speaker confidently gave a simple, linear equation: 'Data leads to knowledge which leads to change.' This seemed sensible enough to most in the room because it reflects the values of quantified self and data-driven health innovation. An audience member, however, changed the tone of the discussion by responding, 'If knowledge translated into behavior we wouldn't need psychologists.' At the heart of many current attempts at data-driven health is a powerfully seductive but inherently flawed model of the relationship of data to knowledge, interpretation, and action."
Harnessing informal and social learning
Interesting presentation (especially the screen shots in the latter half) on personal and informal learning. "Key learning points: Early adoption examples of dynamic social learning in real-world scenarios; How to use social media to create personalised learning experiences; The role of digital learning in large scale transformation; How Tin Can API [aka Experience API] changes the landscape of e-learning." See more from Brightwave here.
Chartbeat tries to fight the smoke and mirrors in web measurement by going public with its metrics
We need to "stop thinking about pageviews or other traffic-focused metrics, and start thinking about measuring actual attention or engagement," says Chartbeat founder and CEO Tony Haile as his company is set to open access to the company's metrics and procedures. Although these metrics are intended for the web content industry, it's hard not to think that they will be relevant to e-learning as well. They are, after all, a prima facie indicator of engagement, which is a primary indicator for learning. It would also be interesting to see cross-industry analysis - one wonders how a MOOC really does compare to a newspaper website, YouTibe channel, or advertising campaign.
Canadian colleges’ successes with disadvantaged learners Highlighted at UNESCO-UNEVOC Skills Summit
Colleges, Institutes Canada,
According to this post, Colleges and Institutes Canada has released a report describing "the programs, support services and innovations that Canadian colleges are using to increase access to post-secondary education for vulnerable groups." The report (60 page PDF) is organized as a series of 55 or so one-page articles, each describing a case where someone uses one of the services (it would make a great series of blog posts). Topics include Indigenous learners, language support for new arrivals, learning disabilities, the transition to college, mental illness and crime. "Reducing the barriers that prevent young people from entering and completing post-secondary education is key to improved self-confidence, employment success and economic prosperity."
Learners don’t know what’s best for them
Computing Education Blog,
Can autodidacticism be taught? That is, can you learn how to learn for yourself? It would seem obvious that you can - for example, you can be taught to read, which is a major component of learning for yourself, you can be taught experimentation through examples such as Mythbusters, and you can be taught learning strategies, logic and inference. Most of us could be taught these at a fairly young age. I was, through a standard public school education supplemented with a voracious reading of classic literature. But, I guess, most people aren't.
Why does this matter? It matters because I have encountered yet another blog post (citing people like Paul A. Kirschner yet again) making the claim that "learners don’t know what’s best for them." The argument boils down to two major premises: that students can't (or won't) make good choices, and they can't (or won't) tackle difficult tasks. The slightest observation of people out there on their own actually learning (everything from digital photography to road cycling to bird-watching to home repair) refutes both points. But evidence isn't sufficient for people like the aforementioned Kirschner, who prefers to use cherrypicked facts and carefully designed studies. But this should give people pause: what is the evidence that people cannot learn how to learn for themselves? I contend that it does not exist, and that merely citing studies of people (like hairdressing students) who have not yet learned proves nothing.
The strengths and weaknesses of MOOCs: Part I
online learning and distance eductaion resources,
Tony Bates surveys some advantages and disadvantages of MOOCs. One item he focuses on is the demographics of MOOC users. "most MOOC participants are already well-educated and employed. The work by Kop and Fournier (collected here (I don’t know why everyone cites the 2014 EdX research but ignores this earlier research)) on the population served by MOOCs also found that it was an older and well-credentialed demographic. But I wonder how relevant this is. The 1994 surveys of internet users show that the average user was North American, educated and professional. They were also overwhelmingly male. But it would have been incorrect to conclude from this data that the internet would not have a broad society-wide utility or appeal. It shows, simply, that there is a characteristic demographic that benefits from innovation earlier than everyone else.
On the Question of Validity in Learning Analytics
So your learning analytics have produced a result. How do you know you should rely on it? As Adam Cooper writes in this post, there are two dimensions of assessment of analytics results: reliability (or, how closely focused the results are on a single value), and validity (or, how closely the results are to the correct result). Note, he writes, that mere predictive accuracy is not enough to establish validity. How does the prediction compare to a random result? How many false positives and false negatives were there? The prediction could be accurate, in other words, but lucky. But more, we need to ask whether the tool could ever be used in practise and whether the results generalize or are reproducible.
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