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The principles of learning to design learning environments
OECD, 2017/07/21


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This is a chapter from the recently released OECD Handbook for Innovative Learning Environments, the entirely of which appears to be accessible for reading online (knowing OECD, this may be an accident, so download it quickly). The principles in and of themselves are interesting. There's seven in all, and each is a conjunction of sevaral points, so if we teased them out there might be a dozen or two. These pronciples, which are learning-centered, are then applied to teaching and to learning environments. As Grainne Conole says, "One to explore in more depth…"

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DIY VR Viewer
Richard Byrne, Free  Technology for Teachers, 2017/07/21


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How much was oculus Rift again? OK, you're probably not getting the same quality of virtual reality, but you can't beat the price. "YouTube "celebrity" Roman UrsuHack offers the following video that provides an overview of making your own VR viewer."

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WeChat’s director of user growth talks up new features for overseas clients
Clayton Jacobs, ReadWrite, 2017/07/21


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Worth keeping an eye on, because we'll see this capability migrate to our part of the world eventually: "WeChat began as a messaging app back in 2010 created by China’s Tencent, but over the years, it has quickly become a tool of everyday life in mainland China. WeChat has 889 million monthly active users; 83 percent of people surveyed use WeChat for work, and 93 percent of respondents from Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities use WeChat’s internal payment system for offline purchases."

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Students are Better Off without a Laptop in the Classroom
Cindi May, Scientific American, 2017/07/21


So this is another one of those research surveys of "students who were enrolled in an introductory psychology course" which tell us utterly nothing but make it into the news anyway. In this case, the 'news' in question is Scientific American, which should be ashamed of itself. The study measured computer use in class and found "students are spending up to one-third of valuable (and costly) class time zoned out, and the longer they are online the more their grades tend to suffer." There's no reason to believe this is true generally, especially for courses that are not data-dumps like Psych 101. Via Joanne Jacobs.

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Beginning the  Conversation…A Made-in-Canada Approach  to Digital Government
Government of Canada, 2017/07/20


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Some of the key conversations taking place in our field are echoed in this report on digital government in Canada. Most of the interestinbg stuff is near the end of the document: connecting with external tralent ("mechanisms like Interchange and newer flexible staffing regimes make it relatively easy and fast for hiring managers to bring outside professionals into government for short-term assignments"), user-centric design skills (" a skills gap that needs to be addressed in the public sector at the intersection of user-centric design and agile prototyping and development"), cloud and open source technologies ("open source platforms have become an increasingly important foundational element for digital transformation in public sector organizations across the world"), digital identity ("many participants expressed a desire for the federal government to play a stronger leadership role, and to pilot digital identity solutions"), and digital literacy ("digital literacy was identified as being needed across government, at all levels and functions, to support smart decision-making"). The resulting website - Digital Canada - keeps people up to date on the program (and incidentally leaves the antiquated 'Common Look and Feel (CLF)' standards in the dust behind it as through they weren't even there) and their Twitter feed.

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Evaluating personalization
Philip Kerr, Adaptive Learning in ELT, 2017/07/20


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This post looks at "the constellation of meanings that are associated with the term ('personalization'), suggest a way of evaluating just how ‘personalized’ an instructional method might be, and look at recent research into ‘personalized learning’." It follows a previous post illustrating how the term has been rendered meaningless by marketers. Unfortunately, writes the author, "but perhaps not surprisingly, none of the elements that we associate with ‘personalization’ will lead to clear, demonstrable learning gains." But what counts as a gain? This is what is missing in the research. "The Gates Foundation were probably asking the wrong question. The conceptual elasticity of the term ‘personalization’ makes its operationalization in any empirical study highly problematic."

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Information Underload
Mike Caulfield, Hapgood, 2017/07/20


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Mike Caulfiend comes out with a gem of a post questioning the concept of 'information overload'. The problem isn't too much information, he writes. The "big problem is not that it’s a firehose, but that it’s a firehose of sewage. It’s all haystack and no needle." He has numerous examples: numerous cancer studies, no cancer cure. Numerous research studies, no repoducability. Big data in education, but no idea where this data should lead us. An "algorithm could only match you with the equivalent of the films in the Walmart bargain bin, because Netflix had a matching algorithm but nothing worth watching." I keep telling people, 'education isn't a search problem'. Maybe I should be saying 'education isn't an algorithm problem'.

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Personalized Learning: Budget cuts spur new teaching model
Sarah Julian, NonDoc, 2017/07/20


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This is a post touting Momentum Schools, Oklahoma's version of personal learning. "Momentum gives students the choice of how, when and where they attend school [and]  instead of traditional group class time, students schedule meetings with individual teachers to assess schoolwork. Students work at their own pace to ensure they master the content." Doing what? I wonder. The story doesn't tell us. Digging into the Momentum site reveals it's competency-based learning. We see pictures of students at computers, so I can guess. And the reason this model was adopted was to save money, so they're cutting teacher interacton. And I don't see any real freedom in this model: students are bound to the content, bound to the machine.

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Here (with 2 Years of Exhausting Photographic Detail) Is How To Write A Book
Ryan Holiday, The Mission, Medium, 2017/07/20


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This is a terrific post delivering exactly what the title promises, running from ideation, proposal, research, writing and editing, and even cover design and legal review. The value of the post isn't in giving aspiring writers a recipe they should follow - indeed, the method is completely paper-based and therefore more cumbersome than necessary. But it offers valuable suggestions about process, for example, the notecard system, which is very similar to what I do here with OLDaily (each one of these posts is like a separate notecard). It's something to show students to have them think about the process of knowing, the process of learning, the process of creating.

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America’s hidden philosophy
John McCumber, Aeon, 2017/07/19


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This article offers what could be an interesting explanation for the state of educational policy and while I can't say I necessarily agree with it I can't entirely dismiss it either. It tells the story of UCLA chancellor Raymond B Allen, who needed a reason to fire some Marxist professors during the McCarthy years. The argument he developed was that "members of the Communist Party have abandoned reason, the impartial search for truth." But what would 'reason' look like in this (capitalist) context? "Rational choice theory... was a plausible candidate. It holds that people make (or should make) choices rationally by ranking the alternatives presented to them."

The article doesn't extend the explanation to education policy, but I feel free to. It offers an explanation of the focus on STEM, as opposed to the non-rational theory-based disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. It explains the phenomenon of 'school choice' as an argument for privatizing schools. It explains the popularity of 'evidence-based' practice measuring concrete outcomes such as test scores. And it explains the rejection of 'social good' as an outcome in education. But as the article says, " there is much more to a good society than the affordance of maximum choice to its citizens." And indeed, offering choice (as compared to allowing people to create) is itself a mechanism of control.

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Stunning market data predicts the future of online learning
Meris Stansbury, eCampus News, 2017/07/19


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I'm not sure how "stunning" the data are, nor do I think the prediction is particularly specific. Still. The trend is worth observing - "a year-to-year online enrollment increase of 226,375 distance education students–a 3.9 percent increase, up over rates recorded the previous two years" and "more than one in four students (29.7 percent) now take at least one distance education course (a total of 6,022,105 students)." So, yeah. Online learning has arrived. P.S. don't bother with the infographic, which is just an advertisement for a cloud e-learning company.

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'Personalized Learning' and the Power of the Gates Foundation to Shape Education Policy
Audrey  Wayters, Hack Education, 2017/07/19


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What struck me in this post was this: "The amount of money that the Gates Foundation has awarded in education grants is simply staggering: some $15 billion across some 3000+ grants since the organization was founded in 1998." And so Audrey Watters comments, "the Gates Foundation remains one of the most influential (and anti-democratic) forces in education. As such, it gets to define what 'personalized learning' is – what it looks like." Maybe. Or maybe not. Some of us not funded by Gates still have a horse in this race. 

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Armenian Higher Education in the European Higher Education Area
Tatevik Gharibyan, Inside Higher  Ed, 2017/07/19


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This is an update of Armenia's education strategy in the years after it joined "the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the Bologna Process by signing the Bergen Communiqué in 2005." Armenia - which I visited in 2014 - is a small country with few natural resources (though you can get pomogranates everywhere) and thus depends on developing its 3 million people and attracting students (and ideas) from neighbouring countries. 

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A new chapter for Glass
Jay Kothari, X Company Blog, 2017/07/19


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They're back! Google has relaunched Google Glass with Glass Enterprise Edition. As a fashion statement Glass was a failure, but the technology proved useful in the workplace. "Workers in many fields, like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy." This is a use case that really makes sense, and would make even more sense with voice commands (there's no mention of this in the article). It's also a natural for on-demand context-specific e-learning. (As an aside, I find it interesting that the team at X.Company, which is a branch of Google/Alphabet, is using Medium as a blogging engine instead of Google-owned Blogger.)

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Amazon Inspire
Amazon, 2017/07/19


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As the EdSurge article says, "After more than a year of invitation-only private beta, Amazon just opened its free library of open-education resources, called Amazon Inspire." You can't post your own resources on the site yet - but a statement from Amazon says this feature is coming soon. While site calls these open education resources, they are locked behind a subscription wall - they may be free, but you have to login to Amazon in order to view them, providing your name and email, zip code, the name of your school and the grades you teach, thus giving them your browsing and download information. This will be especially useful to Amazon when they include the non-free for-pay resources to the site. The site currently includes public domain and Creative Commons resources, including Non-commercial licensed resources, like this one.

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Facebook Says It Will Start Testing a Subscription-Based News Product in October
David Cohen, AdWeek, 2017/07/19


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I have to believe that Facebook will be a lot more diligent about policing 'pirated' news content in user posts and groups than it ever was abusive content and  fake news. Because combating unauthorized file sharing is the real crisis we all face today. What I have noticed in general is that newspapers and magazine websites have begun to clamp down again with subscription paywalls, anti-ad-block barriers, and more. If I encounter one of those I just close the tab. And I do my very best to keep such links from appearing in OLDaily.

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Interventions
Brian Lamb, Abject, 2017/07/18


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Jim Groom and Brian Lamb are working on a position paper challenging traditional models of higher education. This is Lamb's contribution, also in the context of the white paper on NGDLE. "Describing the emerging needs as “interoperability; personalization; analytics, advising, and learning assessment; collaboration; and accessibility and universal design”, the white paper promotes “a “Lego” approach to realizing the NGDLE, where NGDLE-conforming components are built that allow individuals and institutions the opportunity to construct learning environments tailored to their requirements and goals.” There's a lot of substance in the discussion that follows, but it could be summarized as: that's just learning objects (with all their attendant problems) all over again. "It’s hard not to feel we are at a very dangerous inflection point," he writes.

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The LMS is dead, not unlike God: thoughts on the NGDLE
Jim Groom, bavatuesdays, 2017/07/18


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Jim Groom and Brian Lamb are working on a position paper challenging traditional models of higher education. This is Groom's contribution, which he sets out in the context of the EDUCAUSE Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE), which he notes, was the subject of  an entire issue of EDUCAUSE Review. He says it "could be one way to imagine the power of what Kin Lane defines as the Personal API." Beyond the LMS (which we're all tired of bashing) he finds some promise in Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). Maybe there's a way  (and he cites numerous sources) for this to support personal data management, but more sceptically, "NGDLE offers a way for institutions to more easily extract and share their learning community’s personal data," which isn't really a desirable outcome.

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Managing the Complexity of Branching Scenarios
Christy Tucker, Experiencing E-Learning, 2017/07/18


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Although this post touts a solution to the complexity of branching scenarios (specifically: Twine) the post illustrates the core problem with them, and with rule-based systems in general. The problem is called the combinatorial explosion and is essentially the exponential multiplication of outcomes. Tucker gives an example: "If each choice has 3 options, you end up with 9 slides after just 2 choices, and 27 after 3 choices. This is 40 pages total with only 3 decisions per path." Twine (and similar systems) allow paths to merge, reducing the number of possibilities, but at the cost of making the scenario more like a narration and less like a game. 

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Behind the Velvet Ropes of Facebook’s Private Groups
Kevin Roose, New York Times, 2017/07/18


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Facebook's response to the eruption of trolls and worse in social media is to give them some privacy. "Facebook recently changed its mission to emphasize the role of private groups." Joining the group shifts the algorithm to favour posts from the group. Some, like beekeepers and self-help groups, are benign. Others are not. For example, "In a political group called Pinochet’s Anti-SJW Beach Resort (36,059 members), members cruelly evaluated the physical appearance of women and made racist and anti-Semitic jokes." Nice people.

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Ph.D.-Level Position, $28K Salary
Nick Roll, Inside Higher Ed, 2017/07/18


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At a entertain point, if current trends hold, salaries offered to temporary 'adjunct' or 'sessional' academic staff will fall below the willingness of PhD graduates to accept them. This may be such a case. At that point, the traditional university business model fails. Universities will no longer be able to afford to teach the thousands of students they attract every year. What then?

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Partnerships with non-state providers need to be approached with caution
Alina Lipcan, Ian MacAuslan, World Education Blog, 2017/07/18


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This post contains some good advice. While "policy makers in developing countries look for strategies to improve learning by engaging with private providers," the authors argue that education should continue to be publicly funded "and sensibly provided through a mix of providers, including local NGOs and “mom and pop” schools." There's no single model that works well everywhere. For example, while Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are widely touted, the evidence " does not allow us to draw strong and universal conclusions about the impact of PPPs on learning outcomes," according the Ark Report (135 page PDF). Partnerships can start out well but evolve in a negative direction over time, as for example in the case of Colegios en Concesión (CEC), a contracting out model in Colombia, where "there has been progressively more room for student selection in each tender for the selection of providers."

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Why I’m Optimistic About the Next Wave of Education Technology
Jason Palmer, EdSurge, 2017/07/18


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It's interesting to see the writers at edSurge motivated to respond to the criticisms leveled by Audrey Watters. In this case we have Jason Palmer responding to "worries that “education technology [merely] serves as a ’Trojan Horse’ of sorts, carrying... the ideology of Silicon Valley [into public schools].” This he translates into a question something like "is education technology healthy in the United States," and not surprisingly, the answer is yes, especially given recent pubic policy decisions that have allowed private ventures to earn significant revenue from government sources. Eventually the U.S. government will turn off the subsidy taps, though, and we'll see how robust the market is. It's pretty easy to "spot which education technologies have the wind of government policy or philanthropic support at their back," especially when you have your own people at the table where the decisions are made, but it's a lot harder to get education right. 

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Toward Personal Learning: Reclaiming a role for humanity in a world of commercialism and automation
Stephen Downes, 2017/07/17


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This is my ninth eBook and the first in five years. The result is another 750 page book, for which I deeply apologize. But don’t worry, it goes so fast it only feels like 550. As before, it’s a collection of blog posts, published articles, transcripts from talks, some interviews (I’m saving most of those for a separate volume, one day), diagrams and images, and photos. Why personal learning? Each age sets its own priorities, and personal learning I think captures what is important today. The first is the idea of autonomy in a connected world. We are reaching the end-game in the century-long struggle between individualism and collectivism. I reject both, and essentially for the same reason: they reject the humanity of individuals. A second is the idea that we need to reorganize knowledge in such a way as to better prepare people for a complex and changing world. And the third is the tension between commercial good and social good, especially with respect to open learning and open content, but also with respect to society and values generally.

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Will Virtual Reality Drive Deeper Learning?
Holly Korbey, Edutopia, 2017/07/17


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The answer is, it might. But it depends on how it is used, and we need to understand that it won't do all things. It won't if it's just a passive experience. This article cites Audrey Watters: “My question is always: How is virtual reality different from educational film?” And it won't if the VR experience is just a virtual classroom or (as pictured) campus. Virtual reality will need to be social and interactive, helping people create as much as concume, for example where "students can uncover the aerodynamics of a windmill through a VR headset, for example, and then apply their newfound understanding to build a windmill of their own." And it will help if it's not expensive, as is currently the case (and a problem) for virtual reality.

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Back to the RSS(R)
Doug Belshaw, Discours.es, 2017/07/17


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I've been a Feedly Pro user (and payer) for the last four years (yes, I sometimes pay for software!). And RSS is one of the most important tools I use to compile these newsletters. Algorithms can be useful, but the algorithm doesn't exist yet that caters to personal informational needs. Twitter also, as Bryan Alexander observes, is a flawed filter. He relies on the Digg Reader, which will also share the most-shared stories from your twitter friends, and help you share 'diggs' on the social media site. Either way, we need to ask,  "are we carelessly consuming whatever junk information is served up to us, or are we carefully ensuring we get a balanced information diet, including your five-a-day?"

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Adult MOOC Learners as Self-Directed: Perceptions of Motivation, Success, and Completion
Jamie Loizzo, Peggy A. Ertmer, William R. Watson, Sunnie Lee Watson, Online Learning , 2017/07/17


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While it's true that you can't learn everything you need to learn from surveys of large numbers of people, if you are doing in-depth studies with a small number of people (12, in this case) then you have to resist the temptation to generalize. The only conclusions you can draw are existence claims and some modal claims (ie., 'x exists', 'some p are q', 'not all q are p', 'x is possible', 'x is not necessary'. These are perfectly legitimate conclusions and in many ways more valuable than generalizations. But the limitations of the method are not respected in the 'Discussion and Implications' section of this paper as it goes far beyond its data to make generalizations about adult learners and to inappropriately derive a conceptual framework. But with these caveats in mind, readers will find this an interesting and engaging paper that performs that most rare of academic feats: giving students a voice. 

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Apple’s Next Move? It’s Obvious. But We’re Missing It.
Seyi Fabode, HackerNoon, 2017/07/17


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The title is unfortunate clickbait, but ignore that, as the content is worth the read. The main point is that the next big thing will be electricity management (and that Apple will be the ones to own the market). There's a case to be made for this - anything that runs on electricity can be run remotely through home (or office) wifi. More significantly, I think we're close to a revolution in battery power as we convert from lithium ion to graphene energy storage . This we read "Apple’s next move will be to design a home battery as part of a home energy management system controlled through the hub that is the Homepod or the iPhone." That's what the Apple patent for solid state power management relates to. But Apple won't own this market.

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Copyright 2017 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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