January 6, 2014
I spent a little time over the holidays trying to set up a personal VPN on my website, but it wasn't as straightforward as it looked. But I have uses for such a service - not just accessing Pandora and Hulu and Spotify but also securing my email and other online transactions. I might find it worth my while to do what Alec Couros does, and to pay around $70 for a hosted VPN (I've been hesitant to do this because I'm hesitant to trust unknown online vendors with credit card payments). I can't imagine it will be legal for too long, because as personal VPNs become more popular the content industry will lobby to have them shut down. So maybe I should enjoy privacy and security while I can. Alec Couros adds a video showing how it's all set up. Worth learning, because your students are probably already be doing this.
One thing I strive for is clarity in my writing. It's because I'm lazy - I find it a lot easier to write something that is short and clear than to couch ideas in a cloak of academic jargon. But I still have to read it. And I agree, "A great deal of academic writing is incomprehensible even to others in the same area of scholarship." Now the situation isn't as bad as portrayed by McLeans, which focuses on a blog called LOL My Thesis, where students submit plain English versions of their thesis topics. But Alfie Kohn called it: "Because it sometimes seems that scholarship is valued by other academics in direct proportion to its inaccessibility, some individuals may have an instinctive aversion to writing in simple sentences even if they could remember how to do so." More: Digiday's buzzword replacement guide. And CSS-Tricks, words to avoid in educational writing.
Apropos of the post on research profiles (see below) this item on the use of Open Journal Systems to create a personal publications archive is intriguing. One of the advantages is a very standardized representation of personal publications, which can be shared. OJS also provides a lot of administration features, so you can store drafts, get people to review your work, and more. Be sure to see Fryer's "screencast giving some background about my decision process in selecting a platform for a personal publication archive and demonstrating the steps or 'workflow I followed to add my items to the site." He adds, "I recorded and edited this screencast using ScreenFlow software."
As a researcher I am asked to contribute to these researcher profile networks from time to time. My response has been, to be honest, lukewarm. What good, I wonder, is being served by a proliferation of ensiled researcher profile lists? Yes, it would be good to have a single list of my research outputs. But there are conflicts in formats and presentation. And it's hard to aggregate these from various sources: he writes, "I have appeared in print variously named as, ‘Davies D’, ‘Davies DA’, ‘Davies David’, ‘David Davies’, ‘D A Davies’, ‘D Davies’, and probably other combinations involving the different institutions I’ve worked at." Me too (except with my own name, of course). And of course in the services that harvest from publications, I am confused with various other people names Stephen Downes (and then they ask me to go to their service and deselect all the publications that aren't mine, vaguely suggesting I'm misrepresenting my credentials if I don't do this). I think that personal researcher profiles are the way to go, rather than joining research services that operate like LinkedIn or Facebook.
The world is embracing e-learning. This is from a single issue of my Google Alert on the topic:
India: Kerala's e-learning initiative should be taken across country, says PM, Firstpost. "Lauding Kerala's pioneering efforts in achieving total e-literacy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said reducing the digital divide was vital to improve the lives of common people across the country." See also: Higher Ed sector will get focus, Indian Express.
China: Yao Ming joins hands with VIPABC to push for tailored e-learning, Xinhua. "World-renowned basketball player Yao Ming has joined hands with e-education agency VIPABC to provide online learning in China's less developed west."
Tanzania: This Tanzanian E-Learning Enterprise Is Beating MOOCs by Going Local, Motherboard (blog). "By distributing content across TV, radio, mobile, and broadband networks, Ubongo hopes to both bust MOOCs and address local problems implicit in the Tanzanian education system."
Mexico: Gyrus Systems expands into Mexico market with LMS reseller PGOOVAS, PRLOG. "The agreement between PGIOVAS and Gyrus Systems will increase Gyrus’ global presence and extend their user base into organizations in Mexico."
Jamaica: Thwaites appeals for Internet access for rural students, Go Jamaica. "Thwaites made the comments at yesterday's official launch of the Caribbean Virtual Academy in Kingston. A virtual learning platform accessed through the website CaribbeanExams.com, is geared at providing online tutoring and exam preparation assistance to high school students." See also Virtual School of the Caribbean for a similar proposal (very detailed).
Europe: European Schoolnet Academy: "The Academy is a platform where you can learn about innovation in the school and classroom through online professional development courses for teachers in primary and secondary schools. The courses offered on this platform are completely free of charge." See also Open Education Europa.