by Stephen Downes
Jan 23, 2015
Using Gamification to create a Blogging Culture
The Learning Generalist,
I like the way this experiment begins: "How about we used the same money that we’d use to hire a journalist, to instead engage ThoughtWorkers in writing about their work lives? Not only would the communication be far more authentic, we also stood a good chance of shaping a culture where people could write freely without the fear of being judged or considering their experiences to be 'not much to write home about'."
Teaching and learning through dialogue
Learning With Es,
I think that dialogue is really important in learning, but then, I construe 'dialogue' much more broadly than most - I think of a walk through the woods as a dialogue with the park, or a walk through a city as a dialogue with its inhabitants. I consider scientific experimentation as dialogue, archaeological digs as dialogue, and space exploration as dialogue. I wish teachers would do all of those things more, and bring their students with them. Steve Wheeler is far more interested in the traditional role of dialogre in teaching - "The teachers who have inspired me most are those who have been accessible rather than remote, personable instead of stand-offish" - and while I agree with this, I think it's only a small part, and if you don't understand why it's important, as we see with the larger examples, it's easy to dismiss as irrelevant. P.S. I love the diagram in this post, but I think the 'Knowledge', 'Experience' and 'Creativity' lables are just wrong.
Why Finland is finished as role model in education
Donald Clark Plan B,
This is generally a good article but it has the old saw about how mono-cultural mono-lingual countries are the ones who do really well on the PISA tests. One commentator noted that Finland education supports several languages, and of course Finns typically speak English as well as their native language. And Canada, which also sits near the top of these rankings, is almost as multi-cultural as it gets, and supports numerous languages in addition to its two official languages. But more importantly, I think, the article makes the case that the Finns never really believed in the rankings in the first place. The article also shows Finland "near the bottom of the league table when they measured how happy students were at school" (of course, school is less of a privilege of the elite in Finland than it is in these other countries), comments on Finland's weak economy, and asks why it scores poorly in TIMMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) (which I don't think it does, really). I think the article makes some good points, but I think it also has an agenda that is not supported by those points.
A Photo A Day Keeps the Dullness Away
One comment I saw several times in my recent survey was that people missed seeing my photos in OLDaily. I do enjoy sharing my photos, and I'll look to finding a good way to reincorporate them. But in the meantime, just like Alan Levine here, I've been participating in a photo-a-day project off and on for years. These days it's mostly on - I have the complete set from 2014 and have been at it regularly in 2015. Now I don't know whether I'll follow the guidelines in Levine's You Show’s The Daily – a site that will generate a small creative challenge every day at 8:00am PT - but it's a good source of ideas and I'll watch it for inspiration. Meanwhile, you can follow my photos ever day on my art blog. Note that I don't embed tweets the way he does because I want longer captions on my photos, so I can tell a little story each day too. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about these stories, and creating them is a source of enjoyment for me.
Making Sense of Words That Don't
This is an article that combines two separate concepts, does so in a confusing way, and will confuse rather than enlighten if used to teach language. The concepts are, on the one hand, prefixes and suffixes, and on the other hand, word roots and etymology (or what might be thought of as families of words). The former are pretty familiar, including the use of suffixes like '-ion' to create nouns and '-ly' to create adverbs, or '-es' to indicate person and tense in verbs. The latter is not activated through the use of suffixes, but rather the migration of a word through history, though the use of prefixes and suffixes is sometimes used here as well. Combining the two - especially with grammatically inaccurate matrices, simply confuses the two distinct concepts.
A Hippocratic Oath for Ed-Tech
I think this is a good idea. That's why I proposed it in 2008 and revisited it in 2010. "Drawing from the Hippocratic Oath, perhaps it would insist that students be recognized as humans, not as data points. It would demand a respect for student privacy. It would recognize that “the tools” are less important than compassion. It would privilege humility over techno-solutionism. It could call for more professional transparency perhaps – open doors in classrooms, open collaboration with peers, and open disclosure about relationships with industry." I don't know whether it would demand those these, particularly. But what it should demand is that rules and principles designed to apply generally should be examined in individual cases so they do not cause harm personally. As any good doctor would do.
The Mirage of Measurable Success
Interesting article that despite the title is more concerned with the evaluation of dalmooc, which I think was intended to be an instance of a dual-MOOC (ie., both cMOOC and xMOOC). The inevitable result was that some people thought it was more cMOOC than they expected, while others thought it was more xMOOC than they expected. But in assessing the MOOC, Matt Crosslin notes, "The most important questions that were asked had to deal with 'why even offer dalmooc if you don’t know what measurable success would look like?'" And he ponders that in this context and eventually says: "Most of what we call 'measurable success' in education is really just a mirage of numbers games... there is a problem with the system and the culture that drives that system that needs to be addressed before 'measurable success' becomes a trustworthy idea." Related: Terry Anderson on whether blogging is worth it for aspiring academics.
News Feed FYI: Showing Fewer Hoaxes
Erich Owens, Udi Weinsberg,,
I'm sure it's not in reaction to my recent complaints (heh) but Facebook is announcing changes that will slow the propagation of fake news. This is hard for Facebook because everything in the service is about generating feed-forwards, comments and reactions. Facebook has none of the inherent friction a proper network would have, because it's bad for advertising. And this new change is no exception - it's based on users giving Facebook more information. So the stories will still circulate - they'll just be 'flagged' as fake. Of course, if Facebook were really serious, it would clamp down on clickbait. But again, advertising. More: the Guardian.
I've been complaining recently about the social cesspool sites like Facebook and Twitter have become. This has led some people to suggest that I've recanted connectivism. But these social media sites are not 'connectivist' in any reasonable sense of the term. First, they are not actually networks - they are destination sites intended to lure people in and keep them there. Second, they are not about interactivity, they are about publishing - they are content distribution sites where the main means of propagation is the 'share' button. As a result, content is not requested or 'pulled' by users - it is pushed with increasing insistence into the user's space. The user has little control over this (try deleting 'Facebook friends'). Related: Spark, on how social media could be changing your child's sense of self.
An Open Letter Regarding the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education
Have we entered the age of the 'literacy wars' without even knowing it? It seems that the definition of literacy itself is up for grabs, and people and organizations are positioning themselves behind different schools (presumably for political advantage, though I will say some of the motivation escapes me). This post is a case in point, as a group of librarians argues against the idea of a literacy framework, seeking to tie it to the idea of literacy standards. " The task force has created a new document that establishes a theoretical basis for information literacy," they write. "This does not replace standards." The framework is fuzzy, "'Standards' is a powerful and clear word. It sets uniform goals and acceptable levels of achievement." And so on and on.
The Other 21st Century Skills: Educator Self-Assessment
User Generated Education,
I'm noticing a drift in recent years away from actual skills toward what might be called 'character' traits - things like resilience, grit, self-reliance, and hope. These are the dog whistles reflecting a particular view of learning and education, suggesting is based more around character than what you know or can do. It reflects a world view in which people advance because of character rather than abilities or skills - hence questions like "Do you encourage and reinforce learners' own innate resiliency?" It's an anti-intellectualist positioning, one that concerns me, and one that reflects an emphasis on background and privilege rather than skill and ability. Related: I've talked about 'grit' in particular - here and here. It's the myth used to explain why your child didn't make it into Harvard.
Seeking the unique pedagogical characteristics of social media
online learning and distance education resources,
Short brisk post about social media which touches on the pedagogical characteristics. Bates writes, "social media now enable teachers to set online group work, based on cases or projects, and students can collect data in the field, without any need for direct face-to-face contact with either the teacher or other students." We also hear the usual; bugbear: "Many students come to a learning task without the necessary skills or confidence to study independently from scratch. They need structured support, structured and selected content, and recognized accreditation." But this isn't unique to social media and I don;'t see why it's relevant at all - for any sort of learning students require literacy. Not just social media.
Gaming in Education: Gamification?
During my education my school went through several attempts to create a house system, first with six houses (named after Greek letters: I the Psi house leader), then with Canadian scientists (I was in Banting house, but the system was wrecked by the wags who named theirs the Best house). In Riverview this week the school has adopted the complete Harry Potter theme, again (of course) with houses (Riverview is across the bridge from us here in Moncton). If done well, gamification can add a lot to education, with or without technology. Elliott Bristow overviews the elements of gamification and talks about badges and levels or ranks. This which reminded me of the house system. It also makes me think about how much gamification in technology is dedicated toward individual accomplishment, rather than toward working for a house or a team. Maybe that's a mistake.
Responsive Open Learning Environments
Sylvana Kroop, Alexander Mikroyannidis, Martin Wolpers,
I think this is the same book that was released in 2013 - the title is the same and the three editors are the same - but this time it appears through Springer rather than as a proprietary Apply-format iBook (the old link is no longer functioning). Maybe it's an edited version? The copyright on the Springer book is 2015. In any case, the book offers a good overview of the Responsible Open Learning Environments (ROLE) project. In addition to the case studies, the most relevant sections are the Visions and Concepts chapter, which outlines the idea of a widget-based PLE, and the Lessons Learned chapter, which talks about the interoperability framework and inter-widget communication, contextualized attention metadata (which would today be superseded by xAPI), the ROLE SDK, the Moodle plugin, and the contribution of ROLE software to open source projects.
The Coming Sandstorm.io
This is a very interesting project. As Jim Groom describes it, "Sandstorm is an open source platform that enables you to host open source applications that aren’t predetermined by more mainstream, highly controlled hosting software like CPanel... So, with Sandstorm you can basically provide an indie web distribution hub, kinda like the Merge or Dischord Records model for distributing alternative music." Related: Docker. "Docker is an open platform for developers and sysadmins to build, ship, and run distributed applications." So why are these significant? Imagine all of these functions - blogging engine, RSS reader, etc., in the hands of each student instead of merely in the hands of a teacher or class.
Transferring Expertise: The Best Way to Move Tacit Knowledge
"Even given a long history failed attempts to "capture" expertise," writes Nancy Dioxon, "we just can’t seem to get past this idea that an expert’s mind is like a filing cabinet where we can just wisk out a file and hand it over to someone else." That's why the picture of education and learning as knowledge 'transfer' is wrong. Sadly, I don't think Dixon proposes a better theory over the old one. She has the right idea - "experts, as well as the rest of us, store what we learn, not as lessons or answers, but as fragments or bits and pieces located throughout our minds.`But she has the wrong model: "think of an expert’s mind as a box of Lego pieces." Why is this the wrong model? Because we're right back to the 'storage' model of knowledge, using a lego box instead of a filing cabinet. But having said that, I think the "see, do, teach" model she describes is a good one. By seeing and doing, we don't try to transfer knowledge, we instead attempt to grow knowledge. We create something new instead of merely replicating the old.
MMCP: The “Critical” in Critical Pedagogy
Sean Michael Morris,
I pretty much agree with this: "Critical pedagogy could be thought of as a philosophy of teaching that shows more than tells.... 'Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention,' Freire writes, 'through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” (53) To “tell” is to rob the learner of her capacity for inquiry.'" And yet, says the author, we tell, even if only to each other. This includes not only statement of fact, but criticism, fault-finding, and such. Isn't that what this post is?
Tweeps 2 OPML
This is a nice project. It looks at your list of friends (or, in an update, the people on a list), scans their Twitter account to find their URL, then scans their URL for the associated RSS or Atom feed (if any). On finding the RSS feed, it adds it to an OPML file that people can import into their RSS feed reader. Why is this good? Because when you share via RSS, you don't need the approval or support of a centralized service like Twitter. One day this will be important. Here's the code in Git for Tweeps2OPML, written in Go.
Women seen as lacking natural 'brilliance' may explain underrepresentation in academia
News at Princeton,
As a philosopher, I find it flattering that people think that my field of study demands innate brilliance. The problem is, I don't believe there is such a thing as innate brilliance. Anyone could be as brilliant as I am thought to be, though there are some preconditions: they have to have good pre- and post-natal nutrition, as I did, they have to receive early childhood education, as I did, they have to live in an environment where academic success is valued and expected, as I did, and they have to have the resources to promote self-study, as I did. These are usually (but not always) the consequences of privilege. The same people also tend to be taller and to live longer. That's why there is this perception that they are somehow superior. But this perception is false. Often, people with these advantages do not live up to their potential. And often, people without these advantages find other advantages. Via Academica. See also The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.
Are we getting closer to having a real universal translator?
Spark from CBC Radio,
Roland Kuhn is a constant source of delight in NRC staff meetings and you won't want to miss his interview with Spark, a radio show about science and technology. From the promo: "From Star Trek's universal translator to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's Babel Fish, sci-fi has long given us a glimpse into possible futures where everyone can understand each other with the help of technology. Now, both Skype and Google are each coming out with consumer products that promise simultaneous language translation. We ask Roland Kuhn, the Statistical Machine Translation lead at the National Research Council Canada, to weigh in on the future of machine translation and speech recognition."
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