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by Stephen Downes
Jul 16, 2014

The History of "Personalization" and Teaching Machines
Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jul 15, 2014


I'm going through my aggregator to find items I missed while writing and delivering three presentations in four days, and this one from Audrey Watters resonates. We need to be careful. As I pointed out in my own talk, there is a big difference between 'personal' (as in 'personal learning environments') and 'personalized' (as in 'personalized learning'). The latter is where you take something off the shelf, customize it, and deliver it. It's a bit like a modern equivalent of learning styles (which is why some people are calling on Willingham to contribute). The former is when people create and manage learning for themselves. Tim Klapdor has a nice take on it. "How about we think about learners as people – intelligent people – rather than data points?"

Speaking of data points, Audrey Watters's list of a "flurry of blog posts debating 'personalized learning'" all written by men is a bit of an unfair sample. Here's Krissy Venosdale, Joanne Jacobs, Ariana Witt, Linda Pruett, Rebecca W Ralstrad, Billie Ann Blalock - all women, all writing on personalized learning in the last week. It's important to cast a wide net when talking about educational technology - it's too easy to hear nothing but the same old crowd of consultants and pundits, especially if your focus is on social media. And it's too easy to fall back on some familiar stereotypes while explaining why they're wrong. It's a beautiful rich expressive world out there, but you have to close Twitter and go read new stuff by new people.

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‘Making’ Does Not Equal ‘Constructionism’
Peter Skillen, The Construction Zone, Jul 15, 2014

Good post with some thoughts worth remembering. In particular, constructionism occurs "when people are actively creating artifacts in the real world," like making. But more, "is the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it’s a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe." In 'making', you are in active control of the design process. In constructionism, you are openly reflective about that design process.

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Congrats to Paul-Olivier Dehaye: MassiveTeaching
George Siemens, elearnspace, Jul 15, 2014

I just want to weigh in with a thought on the course created and then deleted mid-session by a professor on Coursera. I'll say it in a way George Siemens doesn't: what a jerk.

Siemens applauds the move. "Coursera has been revealed as a house of cards in terms of governance and procedures for dealing with unusual situations." Well maybe. But that's hardly unique to Coursera. And I frankly don't believe the explanation, "I want to show how [C]oursera tracks you." So how does this show it? It doesn't. The most charitable explanation I can find is that the professor had a dispute with Coursera, which he resolved by killing the course.

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25 Tips to Turbo Charge Your Leadership with Evernote
Miguel Guhlin, Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org, Jul 15, 2014


I don't use Evernote, but that's only because I have my own systems (especially gRSShopper) for doing a lot of what Evernote does. But I would be the first to recommend it as a productivity tool (not just for 'leaders' - that whole 'leadership' jargon thing is getting out of hand). Basically, Evernote is an internet-accessible database you can use to store notes, records, communications, clippings, and more. I like the way Miguel Guhlin presents here, first addressing the problem people face, and the solution using Evernote (and potentially some additional applications, like IFTTT).

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The Sum of Desire2Learn's Acquisitions: Brightspace
Tony Wan, EdSurge, Jul 15, 2014


This is an awkwardly written article and it's a bit difficult to tease out exactly what the author is saying, but I think it's this: the company Desire2Learn has recently acquired four products to extend its learning support capability. These supports extend beyond the bounds of a traditional learning management system, so they're being branded under a separate name: Brightspace. The generic term for the combination of Brightspace and D2L's flagship platform is an 'integrated learning platform'.

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Decision-making ponderings
Col Beer, Col's Weblog, Jul 15, 2014

I want to flag this item because I want to identify it as being wrong. There are two ways this item is wrong, at least in my view:

  • "people base their decisions on their internal representations... richer, more stylized, incorporate multiple levels of abstraction, and take on a structure that enables rapid retrieval of relevant decision-making heuristics and procedures (recognition-primed decision-making (RPD))" - this involves the postulation of a rich representational structure that probably doesn't exist - I would base decisions on what might be called DRD - direct recognition decision-making process.
  • "Zachary et al. (2013) there are four context awareness levels: perception, comprehension, projection, sense-making." I think it's too easy to create cross-categorized taxonomies. This is an example. We could probably identify each of these elements in a 'perception', but there is no principled distinction to be drawn between them, and they actually overlap ('what it means' is another way of saying 'how does it make sense').

In general, through the history of cognition, people have devised elaborate structures to characterize comprehension and decision-making. These are generally fabrications: they are structures built on the presumption that the brain operates as some sort of rule-based information processing machine. It is not, and so these designs are meaningless.

I mention this especiaally for scholars and academics, because you can be dragged down a rabbit-hole trying to identify and discern fine differences between these models. It's important to recall that since none of them are correct, the distinctions between them don't matter (related: see Descates on Scholasticism).

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Feed WordPress 101: The Basics
Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Jul 15, 2014


This is the first of a five part series providing an overview of content syndication as it relates to WordPress. This is an essential component of a cMOOC-type course using WordPress. This first section covers the basic concepts of syndication, and so is appropriate for a wider audience. Alan Levin writes, "it allows a distributed structure for your course. It is pretty much modeled on the way the internet itself works. Instead of students coming to an LMS to do all their work, they’re doing it in a site that they maintain and it becomes a thing that they manage."

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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