by Stephen Downes
May 20, 2016
George Siemens wrote a nice tribute to Gardner Campbell that was interpreted as a critique of Jim Groom. "Gardner was an originator of what eventually became the DIY/edupunk movement," wrote Siemens. "Unfortunately, his influence is rarely acknowledged." That's not Groom's fault; I was the fourth person on the edupunk panel at SxSW along with Jim and Gardner and Barbara Ganley and at the time everybody was given credit. But you know how it is with media. And it's hard now because a lot of us (including Campbell) are losing the positions we had in both our own institution and in the open access movement generally. This is partially media, partially corporatization, and partially the unyielding force of history. But as Michael Caulfield says, we "You have to assume your allies have good intentions and are being thoughtful and reflective about their practice. You have to treat differences in approach as differences in personal theories of change, not as tests of moral fiber."
Of course it would be Jim Groom who channels E.F. Schumacher in the context of education technology, "of how small is beautiful in terms of IT, experimentation, community, open infrastructure, and individual empowerment. I ended on the note that rather than big companies and governments archiving the web, it’s often small, renegade outfits like Archive Team that have preserved 15 years of Geocities sites before they were deleted by Yahoo!" I suppose I would want to amend that original formulation to say that small and connected is beautiful. "The individual web archivist, the marginal group of distributed “hobbyists,” the small nodes of people that make the web great are the one’s that empower it’s possibilities and fuel the long revolution." Yeah.
This article looks at two approaches to AI in education. First, "in the Pearson view, a marketplace of AI applications will both be able to provide detailed real-time data analytics on education and learning, and also lead to far greater levels of achievement." They're working on this now. A lot of what I've talked about in the past - "real-time intelligent analytics conducted up-close within the pedagogic routines" - forms part of this vision.
Second, in the IBM view, educational technology is moving toward a 'cognitive vision' of software that is not preprogrammed with learning tools, but is like instead, for example, "a ‘classroom that will learn you‘ through constant and symbiotic interaction between cognizing human subjects and nonhuman cognitive systems designed according to a model of the human brain." This of course resembles the model of LPSS that i was trying to develop here at NRC. As IBM says, "It’s true that cognitive systems are machines that are inspired by the human brain. But it’s also true that these machines will inspire the human brain, increase our capacity for reason and rewire the ways in which we learn."
There's a third part to the article which looks at 'biosocial spaces': "The brainy space of the educational environment interacts with human actors, getting ‘under the skin’ by becoming encoded in the embodied human learning brain. Human brain functions are augmented, extended and optimized by machine intelligences." I think this is exactly right. This is next-generation educational technology, not previous-generation educational technology. This is overall quite a good article, with numerous links to original sources.
"If MOOCs want to build student engagement," writes Jason Schmitt, "they may want to take a lesson from Facebook." Maybe so. I can also think of numerous lessons they do not want to take from Facebook. But there's no doubt that the social networking site drives more engagement than the typical MOOC, even though the MOOC actually gives people somethingin common to talk about. The article is based on a study (10 page PDF) presented at a recent ACM conference. "Coursera, edX and all the platforms were basically designed for a very one dimensional learning experience," explains ASU's Lou Pugliese (former CEO for Blackboard). “The credit cohort gets extra services that cost money,” says edX CEO Anant Agarwal. Yeah, well, that's the thing about Facebook. It doesn't cost money.
This article could take you quite a while to finish but it's a terrific read on a subject you won't normally see in the media or on the web: standards of weights and measurements. The Treaty of the Metre was signed 241 years ago to this day (that's 51500 days) and in two years the most significant changes to le Système international d’unités (SI) system of measurement will be made since that day. Oh, but this article is so much more. Written in the voice of Jean-Charles de Borda, the article is a comprehensive history of the SI, mixing the personalities, the issues and controversies, and the stories. As an added bonus, the article is written in conjunction with Wolfram Alpha, giving the reader a new perspective on the use that engine can be put to in work such as this. There's a link at the end to a Computable Document Format (CDF) version of the article (New to CDF? Get your copy for free with this one-time download). All-around one of the best pieces I've read this year.
I've talked from time to time over the years about the skills shortage. It was one of the bases for the LPSS program. While on the one hand this is an educational challenge (and remains so) on the other hand, as suggested by the title of this post, it is also an economic challenge. The fact is, over the last four decades, compensation has not kept pace with productivity improvements by skilled workers (including me!) with the result that income inequity continues to rise. And so, according to this article, " Research that I and my colleagues have conducted suggests that the skills gap persists mainly because employers are unwilling or unable to pay market price for the skills they require." The research doesn't explain why compensation hasn't kept pace. But I'm sure we can come up with our own theories.
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