by Stephen Downes
Oct 21, 2016
Stephen Downes, Oct 21, 2016.
This post is a response to a request for my thoughts on the value of open practices and methodologies for putting them into practice.
From the World Wide Web Consortium, something interesting: "The Social Web Working Group has published a Working Draft of PubSub. This specification describes an open, simple, web-scale and decentralized Publish-Subscribe protocol; and HTTP-based profile which requirements for high-volume publishers and subscribers are optional." According to the protocol page, "As opposed to more developed (and more complex) pubsub specs like Jabber Publish-Subscribe [XEP-0060] this spec's base profile (the barrier-to-entry to speak it) is dead simple."
I'm not really a fan of the game-fiction-as-learning format, but I agree that it's a useful effort to provide information to children about online security and personal privacy (11 page PDF). But if you have to use superheroes couldn't their powers be something other than 'mystical powers'? (That's what bothers me about Netflix programming - every time I see something remotely interesting, it turns out that the character has some sort of mystical power; it gets boring). Also, I found it odd that the otherwise very useful list of privacy and security tools and plugins on the last page didn't include any ad blockers. That would be the first tool I'd recommend.
Some not-so-surprising aspects to this story: first, people want to see resources from other sites right on the page they're looking at (within reason; there's nothing worse than a page full of embedded YouTube videos), and second, Twitter and YouTube lead the way while Facebook is a distant last. If you want to embed this post anywhere just use the following (the https is necessary in many environments to support security standards):
Michael Feldstein recommends this webinar (66 minute YouTube Video) on xAPI and Caliper. Good discussion, though I wish Silver's audio quality were better. We mentioned earlier this month that discussions are being held between proponents of the two specifications on interoperability. "I suspect that more than the usual care is being taken to make the conversation officially unofficial," said Feldstein. No doubt; there's a lot of overlap. The value propositions look very similar, but there's a "design philosophy difference" (according to Silver) between the two. The second slide looks a lot like the old personal learning environment diagrams. There's a reference to the use of Apereo's open source LRS technology to support the JISC Learning Analytics infrastructure. Caliper, meanwhile, is "rewriting our spec from top to bottom".
This appears to be one of the new Recommended Reading (or in this case, Viewing) series announced today from the e-Literate blog. It's always nice to see a new source of good reading material in our field and let me be the first to welcome O’Neal Spicer to the edublogosphere (yeah, it's still a thing).
ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) is a system that "provides a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher... in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission." This article looks at a study of how widely ORCID identifiers are used through a survey of listings in CORE, an open access research paper aggregation service. In a nutshell: 16 percent of the 5.5 million records listed in CORE use at least one ORCID. Not bad, not great. You can study the CORE database yourself by obtaining the most recent dataset download. If you're wondering: yes, I have an ORCID number (it's 0000-0001-6797-9012), but not all my papers list my ORCID.
I revisited this article recently while looking up some references. Manuel Castells has a history of activism infused with a deep knowledge of networks and communications. Here he defines network power and counterpower - "Counterpower is exercised in the network society by fighting to change the programs of specific networks and by the effort to disrupt the switches that reflect dominant interests and replace them with alternative switches between networks." Reading it brings to mind my own work in Hacking Memes. Here is a video of him explaining his thoughts (I especially appreciate his opening remarks on the role and utility of theory).
This large (22,000 participants) report (35 page PDF) makes the impact of textbook costs clear: "The findings suggest that the cost of textbooks is negatively impacting student access to required materials (66.6% did not purchase the required textbook) and learning (37.6% earn a poor grade; 19.8% fail a course)." There's no end to the efforts to improve course quality in order to improve outcomes, yet so little effort to address really obvious problems like this.
Audrey Watters on Peter Thiel: "At the core of the companies that Thiel has founded and funded is surveillance. Palantir. Facebook. AltSchool. The regime of data collection and analysis is framed as 'personalization.' But that’s a cover for compliance and control."
If you haven't been watching it must seem like the entire world has changed. Here's the list of technologies used as described by Brian Kelly: Slack, Lanyard, Whova. The last is completely new to me. Whova (which sponsored the event) "allows your event to go mobile, and supercharges your attendee engagement and networking experience." It provides things like agendas, check-in, maps and links.
I was watching a item on the news this morning tracking Twitter reaction to some televised events and I thought to myself, "why track this if all the traffic is bots?" And that's part of the answer to the question in the title of this article. And as Jane Hart writes, "over the years the dark side of Twitter has emerged – in the form of the trolls – and this is something that has put off new users signing up to Twitter. In fact, now that Twitter is up for sale, we can see that this is one of the things that is deterring potential buyers."
Rangatiratanga is a Maori concept for taking personal and collective control over your own future. It formed the basis for the treaty creating New Zealand's unique society. According to this article, it's also the basis for a school district renewal project restoring Maori education. I wish the article had focused more on how Rangatiratanga was practiced by the district, but the author talks mostly about paying for their educational costs and passing tests.
Clint Lalonde highlights a talk by Robin DeRosa on the relation between open education and public education. "In 5 short minutes she connects the various strands of open education (open access, open educational resources, and open pedagogy) to the broader societal mandate of our public institutions, which is to serve the public good." Short (as promised) video arguing we should make a case for public education using the case for open education.
A document called the K–12 Computer Science Framework (307 page PDF) led by the Association for Computing Machinery, Code.org, Computer Science Teachers Association, and the Cyber Innovation Center. The frameworek "promotes a vision in which all students critically engage in computer science issues; approach problems in innovative ways; and create computational artifacts with a practical, personal, or societal intent." It organizes the discipline into a set of 'core concepts' and 'core practices' (pictured). Interestingly the framework also weaves four major themes through the concepts:
I think it would be productive to compare this framework with the various accounts of 'digital literacy' that circulate through the educational community. Via and with commentary from Mark Guzdial and Alfred Thompson.
This is one of those surveys (47 page PDF but you might have to sign up for spam) that I think puts words in people's mouths. According to the report, 89 percent of respondents say "digital learning tech should respond and adapt to my unique way of learning." What students says "my unique way of learning?" And actually, personalization isn't the big draw. 89% agree or strongly agree that "Digital learning technology should respond and adapt to my unique way of learning." (p. 29) But 65% of them say "I like being able to study anytime, anywhere" while only 21% say "I like technology that responds and adapts to my unique learning style." (p. 27) The survey plays fast and loose with the words and concepts here, conflating between "learning style", "adaptive learning" and "my unique way of learning". Campus Technology reports what the report says, but should take a more critical stance in its journalism.
It's easy to forget that Oculus Rift and Facebook are the same company. We shouldn't. "According to RoadtoVR, Facebook’s Social VR platform for Oculus Rift is coming sooner than you think... maybe not this year, but 2017 sounds like a real possibility." Basically the technology combines VR scenes and individual avatars. The article notes "Quartz has a comparison of the avatars from F8 in April 2016 and OC3 in October."
Short summary of the University of Pennsylvania’s Business Education Online Learning Summit on September 19-20. "The key takeaway," writes Anne Trumbore, "is that future of post-graduate business education is global, micro-credentialed, accessible, individualized, and empowering. And the learner is going end up the winner." MOOCs get a lot of criticism - but they did open up a new world of open online learning for students.
A fairly light read with a decent number of links, this short article touts the potential of virtual reality (VR) to reshape education. Of course, if past experience is any guide, instead of creating simulations of ERs and submarines, educators will use VR to simulate the typical college lecture theatre. Anyhow, some references to projects here include: Project Sansar, a VR creation platform; High Fidelity open-source VR platform; Facebook’s social VR, and much more. See also CBC, In VR and AR, Computers Adapt to Humans.
In this episode, Dr. Katie Linder answers a listener question about grant writing and shares resources for getting started with finding and applying for research funding.
Back in May I gave a presentation on 'extending Moodle' and used an entity relationship (ER) diagram of the software. Marcus Green, who created the diagram, wrote to say that "I am continuing to update diagram with each new version of Moodle and I am currently working on the one for Moodle 3.1 with various improvements in detail and content. The most complete recent version can always be found here." So, here it is, with thanks from the community to Marcus. More links: How the diagram was created, Diagram FAQ. See here for an archive of old versions.
Many of the leaders in recent PISA and other academic tests have been from east Asian countries. Why? This month's special issue of Frontiers of Education in China explores the quantitative results with a set of (mostly) qualitative studies. They are all well-written and accessible. The editorial summarizes them nicely, and the first paragraph especially should be required reading (a task I've made easier for you by extracting and reformatting that paragraph). But do read the articles themselves; they address issues such as equity in Japan (made possible in part by rotating teachers from school to school each year), civics education in Hong Kong (where teachers are expected to model citizenship), changing administrative structures in Shanghai (and the challenges to equity created by marketplace approaches), hidden racism in Korea, and much more. Image: Peking University.
I haven't been able to see this actually working yet, but the promise of a 'fact check' option in Google News is intriguing. For now, the actual fact checking will depend on people, and it looks like fact-checking metadata (called Claim Review) will have to be present in the news story. "Publishers who create fact-checks and would like to see it appear with the “Fact check” tag should use that markup in fact-check articles." The Guardian reports, "In Google News, fact check labels are visible in the expanded story box on the Google News site, on both the iOS and Android apps, and roll out for users in the US and UK first." Presumably those are the places that need fact checking the most. The Guardian also takes a swipe at Facebook: "After sacking their trending topics news team, the social media site was at the center of a storm when its algorithm started promoting fake news." More on fact-checking in Google's help.
XuetangX is one of the world's top MOOC platforms with more than 5 million registrations. The service is a modified ExX platform, so look-and-feel and navigation will be familiar, even if the overall appearance isn't. This article highlights some of the modifications XuetangX has made, most notable support for mobile learning. Consider, for example, the 'rain classroom': "my class instruction PowerPoint can be viewed on students’ phones in real time.... from a teacher’s viewpoint, if you can use PowerPoint and WeChat, you can play around with Rain Classroom." Plans for the future include a XuetangX cloud service for universities and a microdegrees program.
This is an outline of a physics curriculum from first year to graduate studies. It's useful in its own right, but it makes me wonder whether someone could use something like this to actually learn physics. Yes, they would have to be very motivated, persistent, and have a lot of time. But it would have been perfect for, say, someone like me when I was working as a security guard in my early 20s. Now the textbooks in this guide are Amazon.com and therefore expensive - you'd want to replace the material with open content. And there's no community, but maybe one could be made or found. Could it be done? Image: Khan, Physics, inverted.
This could be really handy for a lot of people. The idea is "to help postsecondary decision-makers make informed selections of digital courseware products, and support effective adoption and implementation of these solutions." The Courseware in Context (CWiC) Framework is not a framework in the traditional sense, but is composed of the following tools (quoted):
The resources are available as a PDF and Excel spreadsheet. There are no company or product listings (you have to do that yourself - the tools help you do this). An interactive-web-based version is planned but not yet available. You'll be required to provide name and email in order to access the materials.
The idea has been making the rounds recently. This article summarizes some comments in favour from Martin Weller, opposed from Audrey Watters, and breezes through some comments take take the discussion in all sorts of directions. "I’m left with the feeling that maybe a discipline isn’t what we need," says Tim Kapdor in this post, "but we do need something." Right now PopEdu gets all the attention - Sal Khan and the Gates megamoney. Against this, "Ed-tech and using digital technology for learning is something distinct and relatively new. It’s not computer, neuro or information science, or humanities or education – it sits outside the normal traditions. It needs staking out, research, evidence and practices in order to take a seat at the table." I get the point - there needs to be a way to weed out the fads and fashions, the quacks and the cretins. But pretending that we're physicists isn't the answer either. If there is to be a centre to this discipline, it needs to be an open centre. Because as Maha Bali says, "I don’t know how becoming a discipline won’t again exclude certain people from the table."
Education, says Hank Green, is impossible to optimize. Hank and his brother John are the creators of Crash Course, a YouTube educational channel, now being touted on Patreon. "We create free, high-quality educational videos used by teachers and learners of all kinds," says the Patreon description. "That's all we want to do. After 200,000,000 views, it turns out people like this." In this article Green writes about talking to rich people about the success of Crash Course. "They get really excited really fast," thinking they could scale it up and 'fix' education. But there's no one-size fits-all. "Different schools face different problems. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. You can’t innovate your way into the kind of traditional cost-savings the internet brings." So instead "we keep doing what we’re good at…making great content about difficult subjects that help students and teachers." And giving them away for free.
This is an interesting discussion but actually very light on the explanation it promises. A close reading reveals it to be this: first, VCs confuse size and scale, preferring to create large institutions in an industry that depends on local impact. Second, scope and scale do not always mix. They try to reform the entire education system rather than focusing on a specific activity or domain. Why do theey do this? Ego plays a role, but ultimately the cause is found in their desire to do good (which runs counter to the need to make money ("one cannot do good for very long if the business does not do well enough to survive")). The consistent failure of private institutions, argues the author, gives ammunition to those who oppose privatization, but "that sphere will always comprise public and private, nonprofit and for-profit institutions, and for-profit businesses play an essential role."
The assignment bank was one of those details that made DS106 so innovative. Basically the idea was that people submit suggestions for assignments, which other people then browse, select from, complete and contribute. Some of the earliest posts in my art blog (now used for my photos of the day, but always subject to change) are from the DS106 assignment bank. The title is also from the DS106 course. Anyhow, this post reconstructs the history of the assignment bank. It begins from a Michael Cauldfield post in which part of this history became the subject for discussions. Alan Levine drills deep into the historical archive and concludes "the Assignment bank is totally the idea and prowess of Martha Burtis." He also comments on the difficulties of doing digital history. I can relate; I've been updating my Presentations files recently. When people tell you "the internet is forever" don't believe them. So much has already been lost. Take some time now and repair your archives. The future will thank you. Image: one of my DS106 contributions, The Long Goodbye.
In keeping with the learning communities theme from last week have a look at these presentation resources shared by Lucy Gray on the Global Education Conference and the Highly Connected Global Educator. There's a fair bit of overlap between the two slide decks (the latter is the better deck) but you'll see listings of learning communities and networks, overviews of global education projects, and related resources. The focus of these projects, writes Gray, is not on the technology or the content but on the people.
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