by Stephen Downes
Nov 20, 2015
Programme Systèmes d’aide à l’apprentissage et au rendement (SAAR)
Stephen Downes, Nov 20, 2015,
Organisation internationale de la francophonie, Carthage, Tunisia
Slides in English, audio en français. This is a brief presentation of the Learning and Performance Support program, especially with respect to MOOCs and OERs, underway at the National Research Council. I outline the concept from the perspective of the personal learning record, showing how the personal graph is created by aggregating resources and activities, and the set of tools associated with the personal graph is used to access learning opportunities such as MOOCs and open educational resources.
Imagining Canada's Future
Stephen Downes, Nov 17, 2015,
SSHRC Fall Conference: Imagining Canada's Future, Ottawa, Ontario
Talk I gave at SSHRC's Fall Forum called Imaging Canada's Future. No slides for this one; I worked off a set of notes. I introduced some overall thoughts about talking about the future, described some of the 'same old ways' we think about the future and meeting future needs, and then suggests that what we should really be learning from the 21st century is that knowledge is complex, fluid, changing, and not usefully described in terms of rules, facts, principles, and outcomes. To support this I quoted from a number of the presentations attendees had just seen, including one showing that we learn language by 'learning the rhythm', and another showing that spatial skills are the best predictor of mathematical ability.
Personal Learning in Virtual Environments
Stephen Downes, Nov 13, 2015,
VI Jornadas pedagógicas en tecnología e innovación educativa, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Presentation in English, with translation in Spanish. In this presentation I discuss the foundation of MOOCs in an approach based in experiential learning, as opposed to more traditional content-based learning. I outline the development of the technology to support the MOOC and from this describe the architecture of the Learning and Performance Support system, along with simulations and immersive technology being developed at the National Research Council.
Is it Time for Canada to Implement A Unified Open Strategy for Higher Education?
Typically my answer to this question is "no." But let's hear the case. "It gets all the various strands of open – open access, open education, open source software, open pedagogy, open data – in the same room." Well, true. But that's not always a good thing (it's a lot like getting all the provinces in the same room - yes, we want to do it from time to time, but we still send them back home to govern themselves individually). And as Clint Lalonde says, "We also cannot assume that there is a common understanding of what open means in education… as MOOC’s have shown us." (Indeed, even after all these years, we can't stop people from using the erroneous 'Massively' instead of 'Massive'). "Despite opening my talk with some cautious concerns about developing a pan-Canadian unified open strategy, I ultimately agree that the time had come." I would support this under one condition: that I design the strategy. Otherwise, we're probably better off letting different sectors explore different paths.
Knowledge Transfer: You Can't Learn Surgery By Watching
Working Knowledge | Harvard Business School,
It's like the Harvard Business School has discovered constructivism (for better or worse). "The major shift theoretically is moving from a language of transfer, of taking fully formed knowledge and passing it from one person’s head to another, and instead talking about co-creation and building it together." All very good, but if you're co-creating, you're still doing knowledge transfer. Learning is ultimately personal; each individual, through participation, grows (not 'builds') their own understanding. And from my perspective, this concept of 'vicarious learning' is simply a way to wrap traditional knowledge transfer in the language of constructivism, to little useful effect.
Responsive Web Design in Higher Ed
Karen A. Wetzel,
Those of you who have recently visited my web site will have noticed, in addition to the replacement of an osprey with a sparrow, that the site now looks good on any sized device. No more tiny text on downes.ca! This is an example of 'responsive web design', and is a use of libraries like JQuery in addition to some design scripts. It makes it so people can read an article equally well on a phone and on a computer. Note that I do this instead of creating an app (because an app eats battery life, is platform specific, and becomes one of a gazillion apps that nobody can fine in the app store). This EDUCAUSE article addresses the subject of responsive design in educational technology. "More and more, responsive web design is becoming a critical pillar of an institution's overall mobile strategy.... it is critical to ensure that the data and content that power our websites and applications can be consumed in many different ways."
The Future of the University: Speculative Design for Innovation in Higher Education
David J. Staley,
I guess from a certain perspective these five scenarios could be perceived as innovative. There is, for example, the 'polymath university', where nobody is allowed to specialize in a single program, but rather, all must specialize in a mixture of distinct programs (like this for example). Or there is the 'nomad university', where participants gather at different locations from time to time, and classes are problem-based. Or the 'ludic university', which is based on the idea of 'the university of play' (and an unfortunately shallow sensitivity toward the origins of the ludis). But throughout all of these ideas, the fundamental model of the university remains unchanged. There are still students. There are still classes. And there are still professors who run the show.
The Conversation: Why 1904 Testing Methods Should Not Be Used for Today’s Students
National Education Policy Centre,
This article is interesting in its own right, but I found it interesing to reflect on my own attitudes toward the piece after reading that the author had scored a low IQ. And it underlines the main point, that "Testing is compromising the future of many of our able students. Today’s testing comes at the expense of validity (strong prediction of future success), equity (ensuring that members of various groups have an equal shot), and common sense in identifying those students who think deeply and reflectively rather than those who are good at answering shallow multiple-choice questions."
Expert-Level Certification Program Evolution
This is a brief update from Cisco describing the latest evolution of its 'evoloving technologies' domain, outlining subject areas for expertise in the area. It's an interesting glimpse into what they think is important. "For today, the 'Evolving Technologies' section will focus on the three subdomains of cloud, IoT, and network programmability."
The app that lets you create Khan Academy-style videos in 60 seconds
Today's little bit of coolness (I can't wait to try it): "Anyone can now create learning resources for students in little more time that is required for a normal explanation of a topic... almost anything that I would normally write on paper to explain to a student I now do on my computer (a pen-based Windows tablet — in my case a Surface Pro 3). The time overhead is minimal, and students can replay the explanation whenever and wherever is needed, as many times as is needed."
Thisis very similar to what we are building in LPSS (it's also quite different in many ways - we're not building out own type of money, for example). Either way, this future - the distributed, personal, secure web - is the future of the web. Mark this.
The Badge and the Blockchain
Another illustration from Bryan Mathers, authored a number of weeks ago. The subject of badges came up yet again (this time at OIF meetings in Tunisia) and I thought back to Doug Belshaw's proposal to use the blockchain to validate badges. But the blockchain - used to create digital currencies - is an obscure concept. This illustration helps a lot.
Reconciling two worlds
As you may recall, Jane Hart posted an article positing a growing divide in the world of training and development. Since then, Will Thalheimer posted a blistering response, and Clark Quinn tried to find a middle ground. Thalheimer challenges 'Modern Workplace Learning': " Haven't you heard more than one or two horror stories -- or failed efforts? Wiki's that weren't populated. Blogs that fizzled. SharePoint sites that were isolated from users who could use the information. Forums where less than 1% of folks are involved." Quinn offers, " I think Jane was trying to point in new directions, and I think the evidence is clear that L&D needs to change. I think healthy debate helps, we need to have opinions, even strong ones, hopefully without rancor or aspersions." Maybe. But in point of fact, Hart was right, and we see the backlash because a lot of consultants and policy people have made their name formalizing learning, and what she said strikes at the heart of that.
What Happens If Hyperlinks Get Copyright Protection In Europe?
I would like to think that the European Commission wouldn't be so short-sighted as to attempt to impose copyright restrictions on linking, but there have been precedents under the heading of 'ancillary copyright' and restrictions imposed on Google News based on this very principle. "Ancillary copyright includes the right of copyright owners to charge a fee for hyperlinking to and excerpting from their works. From a practical standpoint, this law would affect any news aggregator linking to and excerpting works from European content sources, not just EU based aggregators." See also this petition site, as well as a proposal for a new link tax. On the other hand, see this article asserting that the EU is not considering link blocking, along with more background.
Educational Technology and Education Conferences for January to June 2016, Edition #34
Clayton R. Wright,
The latest edition of Clayton R. Wright's excellent conference listing is now available. He writes, "The 34th edition of the conference list covers selected events that primarily focus on the use of technology in educational settings and on teaching, learning, and educational administration. Only listings until June 2016 are complete as dates, locations, or Internet addresses (URLs) were not available for a number of events held from July 2016 onward. In order to protect the privacy of individuals, only URLs are used in the listing as this enables readers of the list to obtain event information without submitting their e-mail addresses to anyone. A significant challenge during the assembly of this list is incomplete or conflicting information on websites and the lack of a link between conference websites from one year to the next."
The Spatial Reasoning Study Group
I've talked a lot about different kinds of communication fuit into the base 'critical literacies'. I think this work on spatial reasoning would fall right into that category. This was presented in the SSHRC conference yesterday. "Over the past several years, 'spatial reasoning' has gained renewed prominence among mathematics educators, as spatial skills are proving to be not just essential to mathematical understanding but also strong predictors of future success beyond the classroom in fields such as science, technology, and engineering."
About this project
This was presented at the SSHRC conference. From the website: "This Knowledge Synthesis project seeks to examine existing formal and informal literature around best practices for teaching data literacy at the post-secondary level: what data skills are required to be data literate? How are these skills best taught across programs? What are the best practices that we’ve established after decades (and centuries) of teaching students to work with data in various forms." My question is: do you 'teach data literacy' by teaching some body of content? How old fashioned is that?
The L&D world is splitting in two
Learning in the Modern Workplace,
Jane Hart and I are on the same wavelength. I said very much the same thing when I gave my talk in Ottawa yesterday (there's no way she could have heard my talk, and no way I could have seen her article until after, so it's a genuine case of synchronicity). On the one hand, there are the policy people - the OECD types and the management types - who depict education as something to be managed, outcomes driven, and standardized. On the other hand, there are the people who actually do research who understand that education (and most everything else) is complex, depends on random interactions in interactive systems, can't be 'programmed', but is something people do for themsalves in (hopefully) supportive environments. "The second group of L&D professionals," says Jane Hart, "that I refer to as Modern Workplace Learning (MWL) practitioners – understand the realities of the new world of work, and that their own activities need to change to reflect this."
Mao's MOOC Rehabilitation
Inside Higher Ed,
I mentioned being interviewed for this item a while back; it has not appeared. I gave several examples of how U.S. courses might equally be 'propaganda' but IHE didn't use them for some reason. One example I found particularly relevant was the economics student revolt last year where they demanded that economics professors embrace and teach more than standard laissez-faire free market economic theory. Even more to the point, there should be no need to recite 'the subject according to Rupert Murdoch' anytime you discuss something. Education isn't a liturgy. Diverse perspectives should be expected.
Exploring Alternatives to the Traditional Conference Format
Ben Sweeting, Michael Hohl,
The journal Constructivist Foundations has devoted a special issue to alternative conference formats. As authors Sweeting and Hohl explain in the introduction, "The passivity and predominantly one-way structure of the typical paper presentation format of academic conferences has a number of serious limitations from a constructivist perspective." I've explored the subject in the past, and as a frequent attendee of conferences the subject continues to interest me. Being constructivists, most of the authors focused on dialogue. Design-based activities were also popular. Note that although Constructivist Foundations is free, the publication requires that you create an ID and login to view the contents. I'm not sure why, but I'm suspicious of their motives.
The Future Belongs to the Curious: How Are We Bringing Curiosity Into School?
User Generated Education,
This is a loosely structured post with numerous quotes from thinkers about the nature and value of curiosity, including this one from Paulo Friere, "I believe in the pedagogy of curiosity. That’s why I defend the pedagogy of the question and not of the answer. The pedagogy of the question is the one that is based on curiosity. Without that pedagogy there would not be a pedagogy that augments that curiosity." I definitely believe in the value of curiosity; I am forever peeking around corners, lifting objects, inquiring about capacities and mechanisms, and above all, asking "why?" Oh, and "why not?"
A network of artificial neurons learns to use human language
One of the truisms always repeated by cognitivists and proponents of the physical symbol system hypothesis is that a natural system, like a neural network, cannot learn a language without prior encoding. This why people like Chomsky and Foder assert that we have innate linguistic structures encoded at birth, and that (therefore) learning is a matter of rule formation and the construction of models and representations. I have never believed this. Gradually, slowly, over time, the evidence has been piling up in the opposite direction. Specifically, we are learning that very simple neural networks can do very complex things, like learn languages. This journal article is a case in point. The research describes a system "made up of two million interconnected artificial neurons, able to learn to communicate using human language starting from a state of 'tabula rasa', only through communication with a human interlocutor."
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