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Evaluation of Edtech: What Technology Means to Educators Across America
Walker Sands Communications, 2017/08/18


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This report (21 page PDF) is based on interviews with "500 U.S. education professionals". What do teachers want? Presentation tools, textbooks an d classroom technologies. What don't they want? Social learning, gamification, and maker tech. Barriers to tech include the concern that it is a distraction to learning and costs too much. These tie into the decision-making process, where ease of use, cost and compatibility are the major factors. They are guided in their decisions by word of mouth, online reserach, and conferences. I'm not sure how much I trust this report (there is almost no information on methodology). Note that if you go to the website you have to register with them, but the direct link to the PDF works (for now) without registration.

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Asleep at the Switch: Schoolhouse Commercialism, Student Privacy, and the Failure of Policymaking
Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, Kevin Murray, National Education Policy Center, 2017/08/18


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A new report from the National Education Policy Center (55 page PDF) argues that schools should be prohibited from collecting student data unless rigorous safeguards are put into place, that algorithms used in personalized learning should be openly available for examination, and that the use of such technology shoulds require thirs-party assessments for validity and utility, including examinations of the technology (including, presumably, data sets) for bias and error. It's hard to disagree with such requirements (and I don't), but there are some open questions: who does the assessing? And how do we prevent the cost of such assessments from effectively elimining free and open source technology from the options available to schools?

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Louis Rossetto
Om Malik, Pico, 2017/08/18


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Om Malik emerges from a year-long hiatus with an interview with Wired co-founder Louis Rossetto. It's an interesting look at the state of media and technology then (in the 1990s) and now. Where are we going? Malik opines, "The next achievements of the world are based on environments. I think most of the verbiage as we know it, which is text and some photographs, goes away and becomes much more visual. It becomes more interactive on a visual plane." Rossetto replies, "The idea that linear thought stems from books stems from the Gutenberg era. Logic and rationality are an important method of storytelling and conveying ideas, we’re going to need those kind of forms in the future." This makes me wonder what non-linear logic and ratuionality are like? The concepts of parallel processing and distributed representation give us an idea. Recognition is a type of non-linear rationality. Something to think about.

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How to become a Bayesian in eight easy steps: An annotated reading list
Alexander Etz, Quentin Gronau, Fabian Dablander, Peter Edelsbrunner, Beth Baribault, arXiv, 2017/08/18


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I learned about Bayes Theorem while studying probability in the 1980s, but I never imagined it would have the influence it has today. It's a mechanism for calculating the probability of X given Y. For example (as Sherlock Holmes would say), if you've ruled out all the other possibilities, the probability of the one that remains, no matter how unlikely it seems, equals 1. Anyhow, I found this paper an interesting, if dense, read. Instructional designers will find the diagram of the path through 40 major papers (end of the article) interesting. It starts out with 'easy and theoretical', but at paper 4, jumps into 'really difficult and theoretical'. Is that the best path through the material?

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Digital Learning Research Network
National Institute for Digital Learning, 2017/08/17


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Helge Scherlund links today to the Digital Learning Research Network, part of Ireland's National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL). The Network "fosters a network of leaders and strong communities of practice at the forefront of research on new models of teaching and learning." Projects include Mahara analytics, MOOCs in open education, Lego innovation, and more. Keep up to date by following the NIDL blog (the most recent post is from two days ago, an encouraging sign of life).

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Repositories of Open Educational Resources: An Assessment of Reuse and Educational Aspects
Gema Santos-Hermosa, Núria Ferran-Ferrer, Ernest Abadal, International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 2017/08/16


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This study examines resources from 110 repositories. It should be clear that this post doesn't measure actual reuse, it measures only how suitable the resources are for reuse. Having said that, there are some issues with how the observations are presented (for example, licensing is divided between CC-by-NC-SA (42.4%) and "Any of the 6 CC licenses (27.1%)", which is an impossibility). But there are some interesting things. For one, there is a preponderance of NC licenses (contrary to some OER advocates' claims to the contrary). The private sector is almost completely absent from OER production. Most repositories use Dublic Core metadata, and not (say) Learning Object metadata (LOM). Educational metadata was almost never used. Resources were rarely updated. There were few external quality assessments. The authors conclude, interestingly, "current ROERs include more drivers that promote the reuse of OERs, mainly through open licenses and social networks, than features facilitating the retrieval and use of OERs according to educational needs, such as learning goals."

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Openness and Praxis: Exploring the Use of Open Educational Practices in Higher Education
Catherine Cronin, International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 2017/08/16


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This article describes (accurately) the domain of open educational practices (OEP) as a kind of academic land-grab. In a couple of paragraphs consisting mostly of references we read of the current work on the subject. But as the results of the survey suggest, "Participants described a wide range of digital and pedagogical practices and values.... It is impossible to draw a clear boundary between educators who do and do not use OEP." So why is this? It doesn't help that there are three competing definitions of 'open'. It doesn't help that the term 'practices' conflates concepts as diverse as 'networking', 'teaching' and 'values'. The author describes four 'dimensions shared by open educators': balancing privacy and openness; developing digital literacies; valuing social learning; and challenging traditional teaching roles. To my mind it goes to show that the concept of open practice, by itself, is too impoverished to describe what open e ducators should practice. That's why I add autonomy, diversity and interactivity. And we have to remember: openness is a means, not an end in itself.

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Real talk: bullies, trolls and the troll tax
Michaela Smiley (Thayer) , Mozilla, Internet Citizen, 2017/08/16


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The comparison of trolls with bullies is apt. "Imagine a walk home from school filled with fear. Imagine you feel the fear because of a bully. Now imagine your bully is online — and this bully, a troll, can get to you any time of day." I grew up with that experience and I learned that the only way to stop a bully is to fight back. But what if they enjoy fighting? Once you start fighting there's no way to stop. Trolls, like bullies, can't be ignored. They will poison the environment, the way they've poisoned social media today. The only way to stop them is to deny them a platform; the only way to stop bullies is to deny them access to the neighbourhood. That's why we put criminals in jail. And that's why we deny trolls a platform. Swift and automatic deletion of hate from social media platforms is the only way to keep social media platforms free of hate. Doing anything else is just a tacit admission that we're fine with it and can live with the consequences. 

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How SB Nation Profits Off An Army Of Exploited Workers
Laura Wagner, Deadspin, 2017/08/16


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Full disclosure: I read one of the SB Nation blogs (Bluebird Banter) almost every day. I like it because it's a fan site; it's independent from the team in a way traditional news coverage isn't. So I'm reading coverage, not advertising and promotion. The existence of this model should be no surprise; it's almost exactly what was described by Hegel and Armstrong in Net.Gain almost 20 years ago. Yes, I think the wages paid to editors should be higher, but I also think we should pay janitors and restaurant workers a living wage as well. Is this the future for educational writing? Well, some. It's harder for education because readers progress through a discipline; they don't stay loyal to one body of content the way a sports audience would. But the model is otherwise very similar (which is why Vox has grown well beyond its roots in SB Nation).

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Open Invitation to contribute toward the Ljubljana OER Action Plan
UNESCO, 2017/08/15


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Cable Green writes by email "UNESCO has released a draft "OER Action Plan" and has asked for our comments and feedback. The draft OER Action Plan is available in English and French."  The recommendations are pbroken down into five major categories: capacity-building and usage; language and cultural issues; access; changing business models; and policy. The report also "points to the urgency for new approaches, recalling that on current trends only 70% of children in low income countries will complete primary school by 2030; a goal that should have been achieved in 2015." There's a form for input but it comes with the warning that "while all individual inputs are most welcome, we encourage inputs that are submitted collectively and/or endorsed by institutions." Also, input "may be positively evaluated based on such factors as the number of like-minded comments received, the source of contribution including governmental, IGOs, NGOs as well as institutions of teaching and learning, and a balance of geographical representation." That doesn't sound very open and inviting. 

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BbWorld Report: Blackboard May Be Turning Around
Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, 2017/08/15


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This long post makes the case that Blackboard may be turning around but the more interesting reading is the analysis of the market that sees virtually all new implementations in the Canada-USA higher education space being either Instructure's Canvas or Desire2Learn's Brightspace. Blackboard has bottomed out (and according to the authors the turnaround won't start for at least 12 months) and, interestingly, so has Moodle. A big part of this, I think, is that the market is saturated, which means that you can't really depend on this data to make predictions. Blackboard and Moodle still have huge user bases. I'm reading in this article two major things supporting the case for Blackboard: a renewed interest in product development, and an increasing emphasis on openness and honesty. 

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Freedom to Learn
Jackie Gerstein, User Generated Education, 2017/08/15


Nice discussion of Rogers (1969) five defining elements of significant or experiential learning (quoted):

  1. It has a quality of personal involvement – Significant learning has a quality of personal involvement in which “the whole person in both his feeling and cognitive aspects [is] in the learning event” (p. 5).
  2. It is self-initiated – “Even when the impetus or stimulus comes from the outside, the sense of discovery, of reaching out, of grasping and comprehending, comes from within” (p. 5).
  3. It is pervasive – Significant learning “makes a difference in the behavior, the attitudes, perhaps even the personality of the learner” (p. 5).
  4. It is evaluated by the learner – The learner knows “whether it is meeting his need, whether it leads toward what he wants to know, whether it illuminates the dark area of ignorance he is experiencing” (p. 5).
  5. Its essence is meaning – “When such learning takes place, the element of meaning to the learner is built into the whole experience” (p. 5).

Jackie Gerstein comments, "So the push towards self-directed learning – helping learners develop skills for directing their own learning really isn’t new BUT the Internet, social media, and open-source content just make it easier for the educator actually implement these practices especially when working with groups of students."

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“We were all at fault, and we were all victims too.”
Metafilter, 2017/08/15


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Discussion of the game No Man's Sky, which just came out with a new edition called 'Atlas Rises'. I've been trying it out. The same lovely universe is still there for the exploring, but more features and more gameplay has been added, including game-defined quests you can pursue. There's also some very limited interpersonal interaction with other players. What I really like about the game is that while all of these can be scripted in a closed-environment game (just as they can be scripted in a closed-environment course) the designers are taking on the much more difficult task of working in a generated environment that is, for all practical pruposes, unlimited.

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eLabFTW
2017/08/15


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This is really interesting. "With eLabFTW you get a secure, modern and compliant system to track your experiments efficiently but also manage your lab with a powerful and flexible database. If you do experimental research, then eLabFTW is for you. Whatever your field is. It is also well suited for teachers, or biotech companies." While it supports the idea of working openly, the implementation is also of interest. "eLabFTW is powered by PHP/MySQL in Docker containers. It should be installed on a server. One install can be for a team, or the whole institution. You can also install it on your computer just for yourself." I will be exploring how this was set up.

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The Attack on Affirmative Action Is Simple and Powerful -- and Wrong
Julie A. Peterson, Lisa M. Rudgers, Inside Higher Ed, 2017/08/15


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Affirmative action swept through the Canadian university system 30 years ago without causing too much disruption. But it did impact me as when looking for my first academic job I was faced with the first wave of "we encourage women and minorities" notices on placement advertisements. I have always been in favour of affirmative action. I was then, and I am now. But it struck me that the target has always been misplaced. The incumbent white male professors who benefited from the old boys network were untouched. People entering the workforce carried the load. And that's still the danger of such programs today. Those in power, the old, the wealthy and the legacy, maintain their privilege. Affirmative action tends to touch only the young, the poor, and the disadvantaged. Social justice cannot focus only on one issue at a time; it requires a systemic approach. There is no justice unless there is justice for all.

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Learning through the Open Creation of Knowledge
Allison Littlejohn, Little by Littlejohn, 2017/08/14


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This is a quick read exploring the idea of students creating and organizing heir own learning. As Allison Littlejohn notes, "Some Massive Open Online Courses have been designed around every learner also acting as a teacher and bringing knowledge to the network." Students don't always follow present objectives. "Students who do not complete a MOOC or who drop out are often very satisfied with their learning." So, concludes Littlejohn, "we need new ways to support students in planning, achieving and reflecting on their (self-determined) measures of success." This is true, to a point. The bulk of the post creates a structure within which this support would take place. "The model focuses on how students plan, learn, study, create and reflect/ assess." And it suggests that there need to be models that go beyond learning behaviour, and include cognitive and affective aspects as well. My concern is that the more structure is put inbto place, the less autonomy they student has.

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Useful xAPI Queries eLearning Designers Should Know
Anthony Altieri, Learning Solutions, 2017/08/14


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Good article with real code examples showing both how xAPI data is stored in a Learning Record System (LRS) and how queries can be executed on this data. "Queries are where xAPI really shines," writes Anthony Altieri. "By understanding how queries work and what their limitations are, you can begin to build much better, and more meaningful, statements." You can find the full code used in the examples on GitHub.

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If I Ran a Newspaper….
Jeff Jarvis, Medium, 2017/08/14


Universities and news media face the same challenges from digital media, and if the news media house is on fire - to use the analogy Jeff Jarvis uses in this detailed post - then universities occupy the house next door, to which the flames have spread. I don't agree with everything in this post, but Jarvis nicely identifies three key strategies both need to undertake in order to survive (quoted):

I'm less sanguine about the commercial model Jarvis proposes, but this is key: "The success of commerce in media depends on trust and credibility with your users... the best way is by making an open transaction and compact with users, delivering obvious value in return for data."

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Copyright 2017 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.