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by Stephen Downes
Aug 11, 2014

Can You Really Teach a MOOC in a Refugee Camp?
Steve Kolowich, The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog, Aug 10, 2014


The answer - just barely - is "yes". It takes power, of course, and internet access. In this case, "Some refugees have day jobs in the U.N. compound, and Ms. Moser-Mercer arranged to have officials let two men watch videos and complete assignments when they were not working." But it seems to me that if power,  internet and access devices could be provided not just to UN offices but to the camp as a whole there could be a significant benefit produced. "My real conviction is you’ve got to start on the ground," Barbara Moser-Mercer, "You have to go from bottom up.” Yes, these do not trump the need for food, water and shelter. But they do remind refugees that life is not just about existence.

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Mobile Learning - No Pedagogy Required!
Brent Schlenker, Corporate eLearning Strategies and Development, Aug 10, 2014

There's a bit of a discussion following this short post, not surprisingly. The core of the argument is this: "Pedagogy is defined (according to a quick Googling) as a method or practice of teaching.  Mobile learning is not about teaching.  Mobile learning is about...well...learning. What's the word for 'a method or practice of learning'?" Learnagogy? Learnology? The idea is that mobile learning is not about teaching... well, ok, but then, what's this?

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BlendKit 2014: Choose Your Own Teaching and Learning Adventure
Melissa Loble, Canvas by Instructure, Aug 10, 2014

There was once this think called 'programmed learning' which was essentially designed as a series of branches and options (like a computer program). Originally pioneered by B.F. Skinner, it was all the rage for a while, but has virtually disappeared. Easly computer games followed the same design - I still remember seeing a 'laser disk' game that was again a set of options and branches. With both, participants quickly learned to game the system; you couldn't program enough options to make the game unpredictable. And so now we visit today's announcement from Canvas by Instructure, which is exactly the same thing, which is proving once again that it doesn't have any corporate knowledge of the history of the field, what approaches have been tried, and why they were abandoned.

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Personalization and the 2 Sigma Problem
Arthur VanderVeen, EdSurge, Aug 10, 2014

"Personalization." writes Arthur VanderVeen, "is defined as differentiating instruction and providing regular corrective feedback based on the needs of each student." But it's very expensive to do effectively for groups of students. According to Benjamin Bloom, the best response is mastery learning: identify and address gaps in prerequisite knowledge, increase participation and ownership, find something positive in students’ responses, check for understanding, and provide additional clarification as needed. Opposed to this, we have the argument from people like Benjamin Riley that "students don’t have the requisite knowledge schemas to effectively direct their own learning (path)" and that "students generally won’t push themselves to learn without external oversight." But VanderVeen responds, it's a cooperative enterprise.

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Punished for Its Mission?
Ry Rivard, Inside Higher Ed, Aug 09, 2014

There's more than a little hyperbole in this story, which describes a small liberal arts college that does not score well on metrics because it's designed to help people get jobs or university placements outside the state of Florida, where it's funded. The real lesson here is that metrics reflect the interests of those who set them, and as a consequence often predict what they attempt to measure, missing what may be relevant or valuable. As for the college itself, it's not clear to me that a small hands-on college designed to send students to Oxford is the best use of public funds in any case. But as one person says on the comments, if the president can make the case, the metrics will be changed.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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