OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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July 17, 2013

Using gRSShopper feed filter rules
Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web ~ OLDaily, July 17, 2013

Each harvested resources is saved as a 'Link'. Rules are used to change Link values (such as the link 'title', the link 'category', etc) and use harvested Link data to create a new 'Post'.

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Discussing design models for hybrid/blended learning and the impact on the campus
Tony Bates, Quick Thoughts, July 17, 2013

Tony Bates writes, "Despite all the hype about MOOCs, hybrid learning is probably the most significant development in e-learning – or indeed in teaching generally – in post-secondary education, at least here in Canada." I think that if you look inside universities, this is true. But outside formal education institutions, the hybrid model is virtually nonexistent. Anyhow, Bates surveys the motivations and different forms of the hybrid model (such as flipped classrooms, intense rwsidency, and reduced class hours). He then complains "there's nothing on how to decide what should be done face-toi-face rather than online" - but I ssuspect he's maybe looking in the wrong places. At anyrate, the bulk of the latter haldf of this article is addressed to that question. Me, I focus on what can be done outside institutions, where we don't have the luxury or large air-conditioned campuses with beautiful lawns and ample parking.

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The Promise of Personalized Learning
Susan Headden, Education Next, July 17, 2013


This is a longish article aimed both at promoting the use of technology in the classroom while at the same time reassuring teachers that they are still needed; the mechanism is the 'hybrid model' and it essentially allows for larger class sizes. "Computers help students to achieve competency by letting them work at their own pace. And with the software taking up chores like grading math quizzes and flagging bad grammar, teachers are freed to do what they do best: guide, engage, and inspire." The real purpose is of course to save money, and what this model proposes is to do that incrementally. "The model appears on track for doing that, despite first-year shortfalls. The school estimates that it has saved $963 per student based on three fewer teachers per student and savings on the textbooks the school no longer needs." The article is like soft syrup, sweet and delicious, drizzled over everything to make the nasty medicine go down smoothly oh so smoothly.

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Report critical of Gates Foundation’s higher-ed impact
Katherine Long, The Seattle Times, July 17, 2013

In a response to the Chronicle that is almost breathtaking in its audacity, the Gates Foundation, defending its approach to education reform, writes, “The alternative — graduating fewer students at a higher cost over a longer period of time — is not serving the needs of most students.” Such an alternative, admittedly, would not be very effective. But I doubt it is the strategy Chronicle authors had in mind when they criticized the Foundation for "lobbying to reshape the foundation of the system (in favour of market-based and compentency-based self-study programs and their ilk)." See also Michael van Baker on the story.

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The 4 Jobs of a Referee in Peer Review
Ethan Siegal, ScienceBlogs, July 15, 2013


I reviewed another paper today, one of the better papers I've seen recently, and so naturally gave it the 'publish without changes' seal of approval. In my comments I was critical of the assumptions, thrust of the argument, and even the references used to support the work. Reading academic literature is like watching history being rewritten before my eyes. Anyhow, this paper usefully reconciles how I can be so frustrated with a paper and yet give it the thumbs up. The referee, argues the author, has four jobs:

  • To verify that the introductory section(s) adequately sets up, explains, and places their work into its appropriate historical and scientific context
  • To examine the methods used to obtain and analyze the data presented in this paper? Are they sound? Are there questions about their validity?
  • To determine whether results are clear, complete, and actually reflect what was in the data (if any)
  • To determine whether conclusions reached be justified based on both the combined, pre-existing breadth of knowledge of the field and the work done in this paper?

In other words, a reviewer doesn't get to 'go meta' on the paper. Sure, I think the cited literature is mostly second-rate derivative stuff, but like it or not, it is state of the art in the context of the journal, and probably the best we could hope for. Similarly, I may doubt the foundations of the empirical work or analysis, but the discipline as a whole does not share my scepticism. So it's in.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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