by Stephen Downes
Jun 20, 2016
We may finally have reached the tipping point with respect to open access educational content (it's not the sort of thing I can put on my resumé but I derive tremendous satisfaction from this). "A few years ago, Emond Publishing sold more than $1 million worth of books to high schools annually. Now, said president Paul Emond, it's dropped to about $100,000. 'That's what falling off a cliff in the publishing business looks like,' he said." The publishers claim that schools are just copying copies of the books. But what's really happening is that they are using open access materials and depending on 'fair dealing' for the rest. The writers, meanwhile, are concerned about the lack of access to Canadian materials. "Their institutions are insisting that they use only free material, and a lot of free material is coming from outside of Canada." Quite so. And I've always said that an open access approach to learning content should be supported by direct public contracts to authors to support Canadian content and other social objectives.
Not long ago I linked to and described the DAO, a bockchain-based corporation employing a system called Ethereum to create 'smart contracts' to crowd-source startup funding. This week the system was hacked barely weeks after being launched, with millions of 'ethers' worth $US 50 million drained from its accounts. Today a second attack drained even more money. More. Now, maybe - maybe - the transactions can be rolled back. "A 'soft fork' in the code that would essentially blacklist the address with the 3.6m ether in question; a 'hard fork' that would actually return the funds to their state prior to the attack; or do nothing and let the system sort itself out." If this works, the overall result could actually be good for Ethereum - you can't profit from hacking if it can simply be rolled back? In the short term, though, the value of Ethereum currency is collapsing. Related: transcript of an interview with the alleged attacker.
You should not of course accept what you see in a TED talk uncritically as fact, because TED is after all selling a mythology along with its often interesting talks. having said that, it's still worth taking an afternoon and catching up with this playlist of six talks all focused on the way the brain creates knowledge. Donald Hoffman, for example, "is trying to answer a big question: Do we experience the world as it really is ... or as we need it to be?" Keith Barry, as well, "shows us how our brains can fool our bodies — in a trick that works via podcast too." There's more.
The area of most interest to me is in regard to open access of scientific data and publications. This is addressed in Commitment 14, and recommends that we:
I don't actually see a specific recommendation that publications by government scientists be open access. But maybe that will evolve. Via Richard Ackerman, who has more background.
Note: "The Government of Canada wants to hear from you on the direction we’re proposing in this draft of the new plan on Open Government, which has been developed based on your input during the idea-generating phase of the consultation. Please comment on this page or email firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback and suggestions from to ."
Presentation by Jim Groom and Maha Bali; this link is to the supporting blog post. They depart from the premise that “it’s not about the technology,” or “it’s not about the tool!” As they write, "While it sounds good as a slogan, it is actually a pretty ridiculous statement in this day and age. In fact, it is almost dangerous because it suggests that we can somehow separate the way we teach and learn from the technological systems in which we work." Consider, for example, what your use of an LMS says about your approach to teaching and learning. "The LMS delivers on its name: It is a closed, copyright haven that makes giving quizzes and grading easier. How does that measure up in terms of ethos?"
If you don't write software this will be almost completely useless to you, but you might want to browse anyways just to see the impressive list of languages and services supported by Amazon Web Services (AWS) software development kits (SDKs). In particular scroll down and check the section called 'Open Source Repos' and look at things like Machine Learning, Mobile Analytics, and more. The lesson here is that behind the scenes there is a tremendous amount of activity directed toward creating what might be called a global operating system (GOS) or maybe a cloud operating system (COS) of connected engines, services and data repositories. Via O'Reilly. Image: Amazon, posted on Ramana Lokanathan, setting up an Amazeon EC2 instance for application development.
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