by Stephen Downes
Mar 15, 2017
I first noticed this in the 1980s when I discovered that groceries in the suburbs were way better than the ones in the inner city where I lived. And now it's an internet is a problem I'm living with right now. I live in Casselman, a small town in rural Ontario, and even though fibre-optic internet cable passes right through town we cannot obtain high-speed internet. The phenomenon is known as 'redlining'. According to Wikipedia it's "the practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices, to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas." Wikipedia's definition is too narrow, of course. "The data... show a clear and troubling pattern: A pattern of long-term, systematic failure to invest in the infrastructure required to provide equitable, mainstream Internet access to residents of the central city (compared to the suburbs) and to lower-income city neighborhoods." This article notes "AT&T dismissed the idea that providers would redline or cherrypick communities, and legislators apparently believed them." Of course, that's exactly what happens - in the U.S., in Canada, and around the world.
I found this to be an interesting result. After cheating in Romanian exams was curtailed, "the pass rates of poorer students - those in receipt of financial assistance payments - fell by 14.3%, compared to 8.1% for better-off students." Now it might be tempting to say that the anti-cheating policy was anti-poor. But that would be simply to blame the messenger. "When corruption was widespread, we couldn't know the true scale of inequality… Our findings have revealed just how much greater the equality gap is. Once we know the true gap in attainment, the government can tackle the source of the inequality."
'Microlearning' is one of those terms that is becoming increasingly vague with use and popularity. According to this article, "the term 'microlearning' was coined by the Research Studios Austria as "learning in small steps," and it has been heavily popularized due to most of its interventions being Web 2.0 friendly." It is not itself a theory but can be associated with cognitive load theory (CLT). According to t he article, "CLT was first described by John Sweller, and it proposes that 'learning occurs in two mechanisms: 1) schema acquisition, or forming a mental map, and 2) transfer of knowledge into working memory.'” The idea is derived from George A. Miller's work in the 1950s (setting our cognitive capacity at 7 items, plus or minus 2). Microlearning, says the article, "is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a good companion for formal instruction. Microlearning may not be an optimal solution for complex tasks in workplace learning."
Every day I'm online, it seems, there's a whole new technology to learn. Yesterday I was messing around with Bower, which has been around a while but which I hadn't time to learn previously. Today it's on to WebVR. This article looks at Mozilla's A-Frame, a web framework for building virtual reality experiences. A-Frame is based on HTML and the Entity-Component pattern." There's a demo based on "a basic VR voxel builder." Think Minecraft. "The voxel builder will be primarily for room scale VR with positional tracking and tracked controllers (e.g., HTC Vive, Oculus Rift + Touch)." It also works on desktop and mobile - see the demonstration here, and play with it yourself by downloading code from GitHub.
"If we want truly open education," writes Graham Attwell, "then we need to open up opportunities for creating and facilitating learning as well as participating in a programme." I agree. He also adds "Brian Mulligan responded... with a link to the Moocs4All web site. the web site includes this promo video for a free course held last year on ‘Making MOOCs on a budget.'" But as he notes, "it is possible to hack a MOOC platform together with WordPress or to install Open edX. But it isn’t simple." All true.
But. As readers know, my gRSShopper software has always been open source. This is what was used to launch the first MOOCs and what I still use to manage my newsletter. Like the other hacks, however, it is difficult to install. But this will soon change. I am almost completed work on gRSShopper in a box. This will be a fully contained gRSShopper server you can easily run anywhere. You will be able to use it as either a MOOC or as a PLE (and of course you can use your PLE to take MOOCs). It's not an official project so it has been slow going, but it won't be long now. Stay tuned.
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