by Stephen Downes
[Sept] 03, 2014
Why Psychologists’ Food Fight Matters
Michelle N. Meyer, Christopher Chabris,
"Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions." Oh Noes! But it says so in a study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. Should we even take note of this? Probably not. I'm sympathetic with John Ioannidis, who argued "Most research findings are false for most research designs and for most fields." Moreover, there is a significant bias in favour of positive findings, which influences not only what gets reported, but what gets studied in the first place. And when I read that "At least 10 of the 27 'important findings' in social psychology were not replicated at all," even if I'm no big fan of the fiction that is replication, I am additionally sceptical about the claims made about such studies. I don't think there are principles to be discovered on this way; at best, if we create large enough studies (which almost never happens) we can get a smapshot - grist for the intuitive recognizer of patterns of perception, but hardly the framework for a natural science of emotions.
Learning Analytics and Ethics: A Framework beyond Utilitarianism
James E. Willis, III,
This is an unfortunately superficial treatment of ethics as it relates to big data analysis. The title itself ("Beyond utilitarianism...") treats an entire family of theories as though they were one - but there is a world of difference between (say) act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism (it's like the author never read Mill on the subject). Moreover, the breakdown of approaches to ethics into utopian, ambiguous and nihilist departs from standard classifications of ethical approaches (and tends in all instances to focus on ethics as an axiomatic or systematic enterprise, which is only one aspect of ethics). Finally, even the presentation of positions ("so-called big data") seems to have its own agenda. Even the image - the scales of justice - is wrong for a treatment of ethics. I recommend people attempting to treat ethical questions in this field get a good grounding in introductory ethics - I personally would recommend Feldman, or maybe this online source - and then try again. Related: AAUP Statement of Professional Ethics.
Top independent school puts lessons free on iTunes
Something like a MOOC has reached the grade school level in Britain. The Stephen Perse Foundation school in Cambridge, an 'independent' (ie., private) school is placing its course materials on iTunes. "The school has been building digital support materials for each subject, including video, audio, written materials and links to online resources.... From the new school year, these materials developed for this fee-paying school are being made available free online for students in the UK or anywhere else in the world." Though as observers such as Martin Owen point out, these sorts of initiatives have been around for a long time - for example here. More here.
School Should Be More Like Camp
User Generated Education,
This seems so intuitive, and my own experiences at camp were deeply influential on me. So I want to be more like Jackie Gerstein and say "promote the idea that school should be more like camp." And there's so much about camp I love. But.... but.... at camp, relationships are primary (says the chart) but at the camps I went to, relationships were sometimes abusive and occasionally violent. "Multigenerational learning and teaching", for me, sometimes means object lessons in the politics of power. I loved the outdoors, I loved nature - and yet I spent so much of my time in it alone and afraid, hurt, crying and an outcast. Camps are not the happy-go-lucky places described here; they can sometimes be more like Lord of the Flies (so, for that matter, can school). It's easy - far to easy - to idealize things. We should focus on the experiences we want to promote, and not misleading metaphors.
Literacies for the digital age: Financial literacy
Discovery Education: Kathy's Klatch,
OK, what is a literacy, exactly? I ask because Kathy Schrock offers a whole list of literacies, ranging from financial literacy to digital literacy to civic literacy - and then proceeds to outline some. And that's where I begin to get uncomfortable, as it seems 'literacy' on this model is really just a collection of life lessons. The 'financial literacy' section, for example, is accompanied by a graphic depicting "needs vs wants" and includes things like "saving for a goal" and "what do banks do?" (I assume 'steal your money' is not the accepted answer here). But literacy is not a set of facts, nor even a set of skills, related to a domain or discipline. Put loosely, literacy is the ability to recognize, work with and create methods and processes of the domain. Yes, you need to understand (some of) the content, but it's far more important to be able to interrogate, manipulate and manage the elements of the domain, which includes far more than just content. A definition of literacy defined in terms of content alone may as well be interchanged with propaganda, for that's all it is. Literacy goes far beyond that. See also: Media Literacy, Out of Bounds.
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