by Stephen Downes
Feb 19, 2016
In Defense of Essays
Martha Schulman, Gwen Hyman,
Inside Higher Ed,
Most of the writing I read is poor. This is equally true of academic writing and business communication. Part of it is because students graduate without good writing skills, but I would agree with the authors that "'Bad' writers aren’t the problem; bad assignments and ill-trained and underpaid teachers are." Writing is not "one that some people are born to do and others are not." It requires skill and practice, and it requires most of all (to my mind) an understanding of how to think as well as to convey those thoughts. True, the five-paragraph essay form is a pedagogical disaster, but what replaces it? I argue for a version of the inverted-pyramid style supported with logical structure and reasoning, as I once explained here. Image: PIO Chronicles.
A hands-on approach on botnets for a learning purpose
João Pedro Dias,
A 'botnet' is a system where computer programs are surreptitiously placed onto computers connected to the internet which are later activated by a master computer program. They are used to send spam emails from a large number of unwitting hosts, thus increasing the number of messages sent and making them harder to identify and block for anti-spam software. This site (and associated GitHub library and Botnet Wiki) enables a person to learn about how botnets work. "The botnet built using this laboratory will match the general architecture for any botnet based on a Command-and-Control (C&C) architecture (which) connects to a IRC-Server where all the bots are connected." This is technical, difficult, and engaging stuff. It's worth noting that the author is a 22 year old student.
We have fetshised 'Leadership', we're all leaders now, rendering the word meaningless
Donald Clark Plan B,
A couple posts on leadership, just for fun. "We have fetishised the word 'Leader'," writes Donal Clark. "You're a leader, I'm a leader, we're all leaders now - rendering the very meaning of the word useless." Maybe. Certainly there's a lot of attention paid to "leadership development" - but I have always thought this is because there's a smaller number of them, and they have much bigger budgets to spend. "Leadership training," in other words, is a sort of educational cherry-picking. But Clark sees something deeper: "Using the word 'Leader' creates a sense of us and them. Leaders are now the aristocracy in an organisation, everyone else is a working serf or follower."
How Leaderless Groups End Up with Leaders
Harvard Business Review,
Is 'leadership' just a figment of our imagination? Maybe not. I'm not sure I believe the conclusions drawn from this study, but here we go: "A new finding in brain science reveals a curious dynamic — a neural synchronization — during communication between leaders and followers: the brain activity of leaders and followers is more highly synchronized than the brain activity between followers and followers." Hrm, may, maybe not. But these four implications seem relevant (quoted):
- It’s not how much you communicate. It’s how well you communicate
- It’s your verbal skills, not your nonverbal skills, that matter when making decisions.
- Finding common ground and a means for connection is important and can result in a higher level of coherence during communication between leaders and followers.
- Try to predict how others will respond to you by putting yourself in their shoes; this is especially important when managing another person’s emotions.
These are skills that can be developed,. according to the article. So maybe there is something to leadership development?
Composition over Inheritance
Mattias Petter Johansson,
This video is about software architecture, but there are some deep thoughts here - philosophical thoughts, even - about whether to structure your software functions based on inheritance or composition. Inheritance defines classes of objects, and objects inherit properties and functions based on what they are. Composition defines classes of actions, and objects inherit properties and functions based on what they do. In philosophy, this is the difference between essentialism and functionalism. In learning technology, we face this question square on when we ask what makes something a learning object: what it is or what it's used for? So do watch this video; there are some pretty important core concepts. Here's the video transcript.
This has some pretty immediate implications for developers. For example, how do you build a learning application? If you're using modern web design you're probably working with objects directly, and most likely, the document object model (DOM) of the page you're working on. That's what libraries like JQuery do. But along comes a library like React, which instead defines actions instead of properties. In other words, it is based on composition. At first, it's harder to set up. But if you want a fast-responding page like a Facebook page, you want to develop it this way. Because by developing actions you're manipulating a model of the page, rather than the page itself (and you can even work with this model on the server side, which is useful for mobile apps).
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