OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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by Stephen Downes
June 18, 2014

Announcing nanodegrees: a new type of credential for a modern workforce
Clarissa Shen, Udacity Blog, June 18, 2014

From Udacity: "we introduce credentials built and recognized by industry with clear pathways to jobs. Together with AT&T and an initial funding from AT&T Aspire of more than $1.5 million, we are launching nanodegrees: compact, flexible, and job-focused credentials that are stackable throughout your career."

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Stanford decides to be Wal-Mart; doesn't anyone care about quality education any more?
Roger Schank, Education Outrage, June 18, 2014

OK, if this is to be the argument against MOOCs, then universities and their professors are in trouble. Here's the argument: "I am sure, that Stanford itself won’t give the stuff they produce to it’s own students. No one calls this racism (or classism), but it is education for poor people, just as Wal-Mart is focused on poor people. Stanford students won’t eat what Stanford sells to others, but it is selling it like mad to those folks who will never see Palo Alto and will never access a real Stanford education."

Let's ask, for a moment, what it would cost to provide a 'Stanford' education for everyone. It costs about $54.5K per year to attend Stanford as an undergraduate. The world population for ages 20-24 is 596.3M (it's about the same for any 4-year span of people that age). That yields a total cost of $32.5 trillion dollars per year. That's more than the combined GDPs of the G8 nations, plus China and India. There isn't enough money in the world to give everyone a Stanford education. That is why we need cheaper alternatives. Stupid arguments like the one offered here by Roger Schank need not apply.

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Neuroscience’s New Toolbox
Stephen S. Hall, MIT Technology Review, June 18, 2014


Optogenetics is a really cool way of studying neural networks. Inset a light-sensitive gene into selected neurons, then turn on a fibre-opting light, activating the neutron, and watch what happens. The current study is about aggression, but I like what the researcher says about diversity: "“There’s no such thing as a generic neuron,” says Anderson, who estimates that there may be up to 10,000 distinct classes of neurons in the brain. Even tiny regions of the brain contain a mixture, he says, and these neurons 'often influence behavior in different, opposing directions.'"

[Link] [Comment]

The eLearning Africa Report 2014
Various authors, eLearning Africa, June 18, 2014

Here's the 'speed read' from the SciDev summary:

  • Researchers surveyed 1,444 ICT experts across 55 African countries
  • They found laptops, smartphones, tablets and mobile phones as key to e-learning
  • Experts call for increased Internet connectivity in Africa to aid e-learning

These are findings from the e-Learning Africa report, recently released at a conference in Kenya (the link downloads a summary; under the terms of the CC license, I've uploaded a copy (136 page PDF) as an enclosure to this post - if you want to download from them you have to fill out a form giving them your personal information). The report includes:

  • Binyavanga Wainaina's 88 eLearning aphorisms
  • An interview with ITU Development Director Brahima Sanou
  • Paul Boateng on Nelson Mandela's education legacy
  • UNECA's Aida Opoku-Mensah on the post-2015 development agenda
  • A guide to key international sources of funding for education projects
  • 55 individual country profiles
  • The results of the comprehensive survey of eLearning professionals in Africa

[Link] [Comment]

Bringing mindfulness to the school curriculum
Kate Lunau, MacLean's, June 18, 2014


I don't think the authors at MacLeans really approve (they raise the criticism that some parents (and teachers) worry the practice of meditation is akin to bringing religion into schools) but they nonetheless carry this interesting story about the teaching of meditation (called 'mindfulness', and yoga (called 'stretching')) in schools. I see nothing wrong with it; I was taught several religions in school, including hockey, basketball and football. Ultimately, it has to be left to the students' discretion as to whether to continue the practice, after an appropriate period of instruction. But I have no doubt this is the school's policy.

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Github: iptc/rightsml-dev
Stuart Myles, Github, June 18, 2014

Just announced. From the mailing list: "an experimental pure Python library which lets you create ODRL and RightsML documents. It supports XML and JSON encodings (it targets the “to be approved” XML encoding). Ontology support is planned."


[Link] [Comment]

Productivity Implications of a Shift to Competency-Based Education: An environmental scan and review of the relevant literature
Brian Abner, Oksana Bartosh, Charles Ungerleider, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, June 18, 2014


I think this is true: "There is no systematic, comprehensive study indicating that the purported skills from a CBE program translate into performance, either in graduation results or in the labour market." That does not mean that competency-based education is the wrong way to go, say the authors of a report (75 page PDF) from from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), but it does suggest that it should be embraced cautiously.  This is pragmatic advice, if only because of the cost of conversion to a competency-based system. And in any case, the value of a CDE-based approach isn't on the embrace of competencies, it's in what the approach enables: standardized resources, personalized education, multiple learning options. Some of these may improve outcomes, but yes, this needs to be shown.


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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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