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After 30% uplift in subscriptions, publishers roll out ‘Subscribe with Google’
Monojoy Bhattacharjee, What's New in Publishing, 2019/08/23
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This is similar to the 'book flights with Google' service I referenced yesterday. According to this report, "Earlier this year, Google announced it is testing Subscribe with Google with The Guardian, which has managed to turn memberships into a bigger source of revenue than advertising." It's having an impact. "To date, almost 50 publishers from all across the world have begun integrating the product into their operations." How long before MOOC companies, newsletters, and sites like mine all have their own 'subscribe with Google' buttons?

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Statistical foundations of virtual democracy
Adrian Colyer, The Morning Paper, 2019/08/23
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Nobody can vote on everything. We simply don't have the time or inclination. But what if an AI could analyze us and predict how we would vote on an issue, and then cast the vote for us? That's the premise of the article Statiscal foundations of virtual democracy by Kahng et al. and summarized here by Adrian Colyer. The paper looks at some different prediction algorithms an settles on something called the Borda count as the best approximation of voter intentions.

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New Research Alliance Cements Split on AI Ethics
David Matthews, Inside Higher Ed, 2019/08/23
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I reiterate a point I've made in the past, specifically, that a lot of literature on ethics in AI (and in our field generally) presumes that we have some agreement on what is ethical. But we don't. This article makes that clear. "Germany, France and Japan have joined forces to fund research into 'human-centered' artificial intelligence that aims to respect privacy and transparency, in the latest sign of a global split with the U.S. and China over the ethics of AI."

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In Open Access’s Long Shadow – A view from the Humanities
Enrico Natale, Journal for Library Culture, 2019/08/22
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This is an intelligent and very well informed discussion of the history of open access (dating to the 1800s, when 'open acess' referred to the freedom to browse the stacks in a library) and some of the points of discussion pro and con, especially from the perspective of the humanities. Though the author doesn't take a point of view, this article offers probably the best argument against open access I've seen: "the reason why open access is being pushed forward is primarily to serve the interests of the economy, and not for the benefit of the public good... this is problematic because this process takes place in a context of commercial enclosure. Scientific literature and data ought to be given out for free, while knowledge produced under patents, or subject to commercial exploitation, is exempt from the requirements of open science... that open access is undermining the value of intellectual labour and dispossessing academics of their work."

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GitHub Adds LMS Integration for More Efficient Workflows
Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, 2019/08/22
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Keeping in mind that GitHub is now owned by Microsoft... "GitHub Education helps students, teachers, and schools access the tools and events they need to shape the next generation of software development." To that end, as this story reports, "GitHub announced integrations between GitHub Classroom and popular learning management systems Google Classroom, Instructure Canvas, D2L Brightspace and Moodle, enabling the automatic syncing of students from the LMS platform to GitHub Classroom." There's more in this GitHub blog post from last week.

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A critique of pure learning and what artificial neural networks can learn from animal brains
Anthony M. Zador, Nature, 2019/08/22
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There's a lot to like in this article. It looks at animal learning (including human learning from the perspective of a computer scientist, and then tries to apply the lessons learned back to artificial neural network (ANN) theory. Where the article gets interesting is where it looks deeply at just what constitutes learning, the role of experience in learning, and how (interestingly) experience shapes even innate knowledge through the long-term learning mechanism of evolution and natural selection. What are the lessons to be drawn? Pay more attention to network architecture, and look for underlying processes or skills that can be applied in multiple cognitive domains.

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Over 50% of Google searches result in no clicks, data shows
Mix, The Next Web, 2019/08/22
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I passed on this article at first, but then this week I was searching for flights and found Google providing its own travel agent service allowing you to book flights with Google ("Google will securely pass your traveller and payment details to the airline"). It was nice - Google had all my information and had pre-filled all the forms except my destination and flight selection. But should Google be able to insert its services between yourself and your search target? What would we say if, say, 'Google University' offered to book courses with selected partners to people searching 'learn philosophy'? What about job search firms? See also ZDNet, Digital Information World, Search Engine Land, SparkToro.

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Handshake for All
Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed, 2019/08/21
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So how's this for a way to introduce a company in an article: "Despite revelations that fraudsters have been able to create faux internships on Handshake, and students raising privacy concerns, the online service has spread to more than 800 institutions, where college career centers mainly use it to connect students to potential employers " The main point of the story is that Handshake is now available for all, but that seems to be overshadowed by the sentence discrediting the company in the first paragraph.

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You Won't See Quantum Internet Coming
Ryan F. Mandelbaum, Gizmodo, 2019/08/21
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It might be more approrpriate to call it the quantum-proof internet, because the idea here isn't something like a quantum-computer-powered internet, but rather, an internet that uses security protocols that are resistant to quantum computers, if and when they arrive. "Today’s encryption schemes would not be secure to quantum attacks, thanks to a quantum algorithm called Shor’s algorithm... the fact that it could exist, in theory, means that it’s time for cryptographers to devise a new way to encrypt data so that we’re prepared."

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It’s a Long Game After All
David Wiley, iterating toward openness, 2019/08/21
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Reading this post feels a bit like reading one side of a conversation. David Wiley writes of responses to his recent post about the role of practice in learning, but with only four comments, and no links to other responses, we are left guessing a bit, especially about the responses that "called the discussion of practice unimaginative and accused me of underestimating the pedagogical change that OER is capable of catalyzing." Wiley's response to this criticism is to point out that "faculty can’t re-imagine their pedagogy in the context of the affordances of OER if they’re not using OER." I don't think that's strictly true; people can imagine the effects of things they're not currently doing. Indeed, they're not likely to start using OER unless they can predict at least some of the outcomes in advance.

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Digital Video Advertising Glossary
active Advertising Bureau, 2019/08/21
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Many of these terms apply to online learning (and especially the use of video in online learning) as well. There are several dozen terms clearly defined, divided into general video terms, ad and creative type terms, metrics, technology terms, and data. You can download a printable version (11 page PDF) with nicer formatting and some images.

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A Moral Duty to Share Data? AI and the Data Free Rider Problem
John Danaher, Philosophical Disquisitions, 2019/08/20
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This might seem like a counter-intuitive position at first, but it bears deeper thought. The idea is that, since we all benefit from the fruits of artificial intelligence (AI), we all have an obligation to contribute to it, and what AI needs is our data. It might me that we didn't ask for this benefit, but there are analogies in other benefits we didn't ask for. Herd immunity, for example: this is the idea that if enough people are vaccinated, everybody is protected from the disease, even those who cannot be vaccinated. So there is a moral obligation (it is argued) to get vaccinated. I think this paper could have spent more time considering the objections, but it's a well-crafted argument and gives pause for thought.

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Leading US bosses drop shareholder-first principle
Simon Goodley, Rupert Neate, The Guardian, 2019/08/20

The five new principles at a glance:

  • Delivering value to our customers
  • Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect
  • Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers
  • Protecting the environment by embracing sustainable practices
  • Generating long-term value for shareholders

More from NY Times, HBR, WSJ, Bloomberg, Quartz, Axios. As one commenter said, " Paying some taxes would be nice."  Via Metafilter.

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Open educational resources, student efficacy, and user perceptions: a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018
John Hilton III, Educational Technology Research and Development, 2019/08/20
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This article is a follow-up to a 2016 study by the same author and updates the work with the last three years of research into the efficacy of and perceptions about open educational resources (OER). The article considers whether and how often the studies controlled for student and teacher variables, as well as the strength of the research methodology in general. I would think these types of studies would be more appropriate to open pedagogy rather than OER. And as always I'm not really comfortable with studies depicting OER (or education in general) as some sort of 'treatment', as though it were analogous to medicine. Maybe - maybe - you could do this study for a specific resource, but it's absurd to think you're getting useful data by studying 'efficacy' or 'perceptions' of OER in general.

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Let's Play: No Man's Sky VR
Ben Plays VR, YouTube, 2019/08/20
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As readers know, I've been playing No Man's Sky for several years now. I have hundreds of hours of playtime. :) Anyhow, this week was a banner week because of the new release, called 'Beyond', which included a large number of new game features and - best of all - a VR mode. Now I don't have the VR helmet (alas) but it still plays on my screen, so I'm OK. This video, though, introduces the VR mode from the perspective of someone new to the game. Now this game is deep, there's a lot to learn and remember, and it will take a long time to master. So the gameplay and instructions are crucial. It has taken a while for the producers to get to this point, but you'll see from this video a lot of innovation and nuance. Maybe one day I'll do an analysis of No Man's Sky from a learning perspective, but for now, it's going to be my favourite for a long time (and I can't wait to get a VR helmet).

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Slack as a Digital Campus
Arizona State University, 2019/08/20
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According to this website, "ASU is using the Slack Enterprise Grid as the communication hub for students, faculty and the staff. Via app integration (Zoom, Google Drive, Dropbox, Polls, etc.), Slack provides direct access to resources for student success." There are several pages here with background resources, slides and video describing the migration to Slack as a digital campus. Slack is "a collaboration hub that enables real-time communications and connections in a searchable platform."

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‘Lead’ vs. ‘lede’: Roy Peter Clark has the definitive answer, at last
Roy Peter Clark, Poynter, 2019/08/19
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Despite the cute title (the answer is 'lead', and that's how I learned it, but I use 'lede' in today's world of search engines) this article about the first paragraph of a new story is useful and insightful. My own understanding of a lede is that it is short - 23 words or so - and contains the entire story in one or two sentences. It's a key part of the 'inverted pyramid' style of writing, where the most important bit is stated up front, and then the article moves into deeper and deeper detail. The idea was that if you ran out of room you could remove the lowerst paragraph(s) and still have a complete (but less detailed) story. That's how I prefer to write, when possible.

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Frank Ramsey
Fraser MacBride, et.al., Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2019/08/20
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I'm a bit surprised to find that it took this long for an article about Frank Ramsey to appear in the SEP. Then again, Ramsey is an inherently difficult philosopher. But let me offer a very light (and incomplete, and in many ways wrong) version of Ramsey to give you an idea of his thinking. Suppose (Ramsey might say) a statement about probability isn't a statement about the world, but rather, a statement about you. So, for example, saying there's a 60% chance of something means that you would bet 60 to win 40. Does it add anything to say "and oh yeah, there's a thing, 'probability', actually in the world?" Well, no. So what does that tell us about mathematical facts and the nature of 'truth' in general? We call this the "subjectivist interpretation", and it's an important insight into the nature of mathematics and language.

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Connectionism
Cameron Buckner, James Garson, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2019/08/19
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This is a much-needed revision to the SEP's entry on connectionism, the science of neural networks for artificial intelligence, including especially a look at the newest wave of connectionist theory called 'deep learning'. Connectionism was of course directly responsible for a lot of my own work and the basic ideas of subsymbolic representation and distributed processing were key to my own thinking. You'll find a lot of contemporary debate in education contained in the section on 'the shape of the controversy between connectionists and classicists'. Anyhow, this is a straightforward presentation of an important topic.

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Let’s sprint again :)
Matthias Andrasch, OER World Map Blog, 2019/08/19
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The OER mapping project is running through another round of improvements. What caught my eye was this: " This week we address the issue that our login interface is not very accessible, so we would like to integrate keycloak (Open Source Identity and Access Management) into the OER World Map." Though it has been around since 2014, this is the first I've heard of keycloak. You can read more about it here. It can authenticate users to various services on a web server and it enables users to use social network accounts to login. It looks like a pretty heavy install (Java scares me) but it also seems to be pretty popular. If you're going a large centralized site this might be a solution for you.

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Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies in Schools
Erica Southgate, Karen Blackmore, Stephanie Pieschl, Susan Grimes, Jessey McGuire, Kate Smithers, University of Newcastle, 2019/08/19
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This is a new report (155 page PDF) on AI in education commisioned by the Australian Government Department of Education. The first half (about 40 pages) focuses on AI while the latter half (another 40 pages) focuses on virtual and augmented reality (the rest consists of Appendices). You can read a summary here. The authors define AI and provide an overview of its applications in schools. Summaries of the major ethical issues follow, and then an application of the "five pillars" of ethics in AI: awareness, explainability, fairness, transparency, and accountability.

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Open Database of Educational Facilities
2019/08/19
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From Statistics Canada: "first version of the Open Database of Educational Facilities (ODEF), which contains approximately 20,000 records spanning all of Canada. The purpose of this initiative is to contribute to the creation of a detailed, comprehensive and open database of educational facilities in Canada." It lists everything from elementary schools to universities. There are some flaws; it's all in lower case, and the 'institution type' field has big gaps. Still, this is pretty cool.

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Linking Liability
Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Ed, 2019/08/16
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The original (and much better) title of this piece was "Legal questions raised over links to Sci-Hub". The article is about the story of Citationsy, covered here two weeks ago. The emphasis is on the legal threats being made by publishers over the service's linking to Sci-Hub. "Whether linking to materials that violate copyright law 'is or is not a copyright violation' doesn't have a straightforward answer," says an expert, and it's precisely that ambiguity that will allow publishers to limit speech in this way. The Sci-Hub website moves around a lot but you can always find it here.

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How to Extract Audio from a Video
Richard Byrne, Free Technology for Teachers, 2019/08/16
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This video from Richard Byrne explains how to extract the audio from a video. This way you could add it to a podcast. He uses an Apple computer and GarageBand. I have neither. So I created a video explaining how to convert an MP4 video to an MP3 audio using Windows 10 and ffmpeg. The text in this video is a lot clearer than my last one, and it's only 10 minutes long.

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Data: Past, Present, and Future
Matthew L. Jones, Chris Wiggins, GitHub, 2019/08/15
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I like both the content of this course and also the fact that it has been posted to GitHub, where it may be copied and modified by any other person wishing to use the same content. "Data and data-empowered algorithms now shape our professional, personal, and political realities. This course introduces students both to critical thinking and practice in understanding how we got here, and the future we now are building together as scholars, scientists, and citizens." There's also a slide presentation for this course from last year.

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That Native App Is Probably Just an Old Web Browser
Chris Hoffman, How-To Geek, 2019/08/15
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As this article says, "Many of the applications you run on Windows, Mac, and even Linux consist of outdated pieces of Chromium, the engine that forms the basis for Google Chrome." I cvovered this in a presentation a few months ago called Electron Express. This article suggests that these browser instances are out of date, but this is true of any application. More of an issue is the size and speed of Electron-based applications, but the ones I use (such as, say, Visual Studio Code) run just fine. To me, the larger issue is how to merge desktop and mobile applications, and how to synchronize data across applications.

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How is Digitalisation Affecting the Flexibility and Openness of Higher Education Provision? Results of a Global Survey Using a New Conceptual Model
Dominic Orr, Martin Weller, Rob Farrow, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2019/08/15
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The purpose of this exercise was to find out "how to represent the implementation of digital technology in such a way that it captures the wide range of practice globally." This article, a summary of a larger report (65 page PDF), has two major parts. The first is the development of the open, online, flexible and technology-enhanced (OOFAT) modes of learning model, which is used to structure the survey. The second is the application of the model to a survey of more than 69 responses from higher education providers. According to the authors, "The ‘disruption’ model of technological change in education, which promotes one universal revolution in application does not seem to be borne out, but rather a mixed economy with diverse approaches to OOFAT is observed." But given the study's purpose and design, it's hard to see how any other result could have been obtained.

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Everything Old is New Again: Textbooks, The Printing Press, The Internet, and OER
David Wiley, iterating toward openness, 2019/08/15
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David Wiley writes, "The failure of the internet to broadly transform teaching has led me to wonder – what was the impact of the prior transformative communications technology – the printing press – on teaching?" It's a good question. The answer, unsurpriusingly, is 'textbooks', and Wiley notes that "the key components of the modern textbook story have been in place for literally hundreds of years." Before textbooks, there was dictation, where a faculty member would read the textbook aloud while students copied it. How different is this from WordPress plugins for online book publishing and online annotation? What could we be doing instead? Wiley suggests (and I wholeheartedly agree) is practice. Practice with feedback, with reflection. "Providing students with lots of online interactive practice is absolutely one of the ways we should be leveraging the affordances of the internet in support of student learning. But – particularly when it comes to OER – we aren’t.

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How far will digital video go?
Bryan Alexander, 2019/08/15
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"It seems at this point that we’re wading into a rising wave of total video," writes Bryan Alexander. "How far do you think the screens and cameras will rise?" He considers a scenario he calls 'total video'. In this, "let’s envision video as our default setting in life.  In this future we prefer to communicate through video, as opposed to all other mechanisms." In a certain sense, in my view, we can define the upper reach of video as 1:1 - each hour of video watched by one person for one hour. Otherwise, either we get unwatched video (more video produced than we can consume), or we get more than one person watching a video (less video produced than we can consume). But we can increase this maximum artificially - by video compression, for example, or by including artificial intelligences as legitimate viewers of video (in which case, there is no upper limit to the production of video).

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A new way to help students turn in their best work
Brian Hendricks, Keyword, Google, 2019/08/14
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No doubt there is nervousness today at companies like TurnItIn as Google announces a new originality reports service as part of its Classroom and Assignments products. "We create originality reports by scanning student work for matched phrases across hundreds of billions of web pages and tens of millions of books... After submission, a fresh originality report will automatically be available to instructors when grading the assignment. These reports will flag text that has missed citations and has high similarity with text on the web or in books."

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Human vs Artificial Intelligence: Who Wins at Sales?
Nick Jiang, ReadWrite, 2019/08/14
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Leaving aside the main question, there's an illustrative lesson in this article. One place the author says humans have the edge over machines is in 'empathy', which he defines as the “ability to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.” This a metaphor, not a definition, and it's terribly misleading. A better definition of 'empathy' might be "to be able to read the other person's values and feelings and reflect them back to the person." It certainly fits the story better. But if this is the definition, then machines win hands down, as we've already seen through the use of analytics-based advertising. The lesson here is that we will be forced to define what it is to be human much more precisely if we are to know how humans and machines will interact. Definitions of 'human' based on metaphor, story and folk psychology will not be sufficient.

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What’s Next in Learning? Four Future Trends
Tom Vander Ark, Forbes, 2019/08/14
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What I like about this article is that it brings together different types of trends - mega trends, emerging trends and adjacent trends - in order to derive what the author describes as the four emerging trends. But while I like the method, I'm less about the outcome. The four trends are: responsive education, lean development, social (gig) economy, and growth communities. There's a grain of truth in each of these, but it feels like he started with these outcomes, and derived the trends that are supposed to lead tothem. For example,  the idea of "educational opportunities grounded in the mastery of academic fundamentals," comes from a report, not this analysis. The idea where schools " sell off their facilities to a group like WeWork" is a lifelong dream of the Forbes set. The same with things like Seth Godin’s altMBA.

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The OECD Learning Compass 2030
OECD, 2019/08/14
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According to OECD, "The Learning Compass 2030 defines the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that learners need to fulfill their potential and contribute to the well-being of their communities and the planet." Mostly this appears to be set up as a way of standardizing discussion about learning, ethics and development. But I also find it prescriptive, where OECD is looking to define what skills, attitudes and values people need. Specifically, "a common thread emerges on the importance given to certain values, such as human dignity, respect, equality,  justice, responsibility, global-mindedness, cultural  diversity,  freedom, tolerance and democracy." The Learning Compass is part of an overall Learning 2030 project, and the documentation here is well worth investigating.

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Learning Arch Design
Simon Kavanagh, Kaos Pilot Learning Design Agency, 2019/08/14
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When we last looked at Kaos Pilot , founded in 1991 by Uffe Elbæk, it was in the context of student choice and authentic learning. None of that has changed, however, today we see the release of the 'learning arches design' (36 page PDF), which describes the theory and application of the Kaos Pilot methodology, according to Simon Kavanagh, director of the Kaos Pilot Learning Design Agency (KPLDA). There's a lot to like in this work, and a lot that will confound. I found myself wondering why the same diagram is repeated over and over. And the arches design didn't really feel different from a hierarchal organization of learning content. At the same time, I appreciated the focus on practice and real-world application.

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A Simple Chat App With React, Node and WebSocket
Dan Kaufhold, BitLab, Medium, 2019/08/15
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Just for fun, I recorded a video of myself working through this article and trying to recreate the chat app it describes how to build. Did it work? If you watch the hour-long video you can find out! You can view the video here. Is this useful? If it is, let me know, and I'll do some more videos like it. Update: I didn't record the video at a high enough resolution to make the text readable. So - imagine you are watching this, and let me know whether you would find it useful.

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Why word of mouth on school innovation is holding us back
Chelsea Waite, Christensen Institute, 2019/08/13

When we were reseraching how town managers learn new things, we discovered that they most often pick up the phone and ask someone. This method - word of mouth - continues to be one of the most common methods of diffusing information today. This article offers arguments why it should be replaced: first, "It’s challenging to get beyond the 'usual suspects.'", second, "Mental models about innovation can get stuck," and third, "trusted recommendations are reliable…unless they’re not." The story pitches a yet-to-be described replacement for word of mouth, "an alternate discovery strategy." But here's the thing: word of mouth isn't just a discovery strategy. Each person in a word-of-mouth chain is also an assessor, testing and validating advice before passing it along. You can't short-circuit it with central information management.

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Historical SIS Market for HigherEd Institutions
Justin Menard, ListEdTech, 2019/08/13
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This the first version of a historical Student Information Systems (SIS) graph. An SIS tracks student records in a higher education institution. My first exposure to them was in the 1990s at Assiniboine, when we had to choose between Colleague and Banner, and then went through an excruciating implementation process. Anyhow, the market today is much larger and more varied. The one thing I would want to change with this graph is to indicate how popular each system was, with varying widths for each bar (much the way Feldstein does with his LMS graphs).

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Will traditional classroom become obsolete when schools ushering in 3.0 era?
GETChina Insights, Medium, 2019/08/13
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Summary of a keynote by   Mr. Zhang Zhi, director of Shanghai Educational Technology Center. "While ushering in 3.0 era (in China), schools will be marked by individuation and innovation, embracing massive amounts of information. Campus boundaries are becoming more and more blurred, so is the role of teachers. Schools are no longer the necessities for students’ life, and traditional classroom is being disrupted by AI and other cross-border players." Students will still go to school, though.  “Attending school is for communication, and exchanging ideas is for verification which can help us know ourselves. People cannot be taught but need to be guided to find the true self.”

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How Four Technologies Created The 'Perfect Storm' For Online Learning
Anant Agarwal, Forbes, 2019/08/13
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edX CEO Anant Agarwal writes a listicle for Forbes.The 'four technologies' are: cloud computing, video distribution at scale, gamification, and social networking. He tries to say each is a part of edX, but it's a stretch. For 'social networking', for example, he references "a discussion board that was an integral part of the platform and learning experience," which predated edX by some 15 years. For gamification he cites "simulation-based games, virtual labs, and other interactive assignments," none of which was integral to edX. The next four high-impact technologies will be "AI, big data analytics, AR/VR and robotics," he says. This is a really lightweight article. It would be charitable to Agarwal to say it was ghostwritten.

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In conversation with Ed Schein
Egon Zehnder, 2019/08/12
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"To describe the process of getting from that role-based transaction to this more personal relationship we're coining the word personize—not personalize, but personize. Get to know each other in the work context." So says Ed Schein in an effort to redefine leadership. It's not 'personal learning', but it does capture the nature of the problem - role-based transactions are impersonal and alienating. Schein says "Leadership is a group sport, not an individual heroic activity." I think it's more than that - leadership is about more than creating an insiders' club. Or, at least, it should be.

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LTI Insights
IMS Global, 2019/08/12
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With Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) a remote application is launched from your Learning Management System (LMS). Schools can get information about activity from the LTI tool provider, but as this site notes, "there are significant differences in the type and volume of data made available, the format in which the data is presented, the way certain data is defined, and the costs involved in obtaining the data." The idea of LTI Insights is to provide "a common approach for retrieving data from each learning product." The pilot starts in January.

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Tech brands might have to kill public education to save it
Charles Sosnik, Grit Daily, 2019/08/12
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This is the sort of headline that makes people tear their hair. First of all, there's no evidence that tech brands have any interest in saving public education. Most of what I see from that sector involves attempts to privatize it. Second, there's no evidence that tech brands have any particular knowledge that would give them a special insight into how to rebuild public education. Case in point: the main spokesperson cited is from a company called Learning Counsel. The fund "KnowStory, a new social media concept now in beta version offered in a freemium model to the education world. As a social media site with discussion forums about 'all the digital learning things." Just what education needs: freemium social media.

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EXP on Malaria Pilot Application
Yishay Mor, 2019/08/12
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This is something interesting from Yishay Mor: "An EXP is a journey, a digital book, a community, and much more." You might be able to see this intro video on LinkedIn. They're accepting applications for a closed pilot; I might join and write about it.

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PodPass: Proposal for an Open Protocol to Enable Direct Listener Relationships
Jake Shapiro, RadioPublic, Medium, 2019/08/12
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One of the great things about podcasting is that you don't need any special logins or credentials. The podcaster simply publishes an RSS feed with a link to an MP3, and the listener simply finds the location of the MP3 and opens it. But there's nothing great that commercial media won't destroy, and so we have this proposal to replace podcasting with PodPass, a mechanism that requires that listeners authenticate before listening. "Identity-based access is increasingly required," writes Jake Shapiro. But by whom? No listener is out there saying "please block my access to a podcast with asubscription form."

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Making micro-credentials workfor learners, employers and providers
Beverley Oliver, Deakin University, 2019/08/12
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"Micro-credentials alone will not meet any nation’s future educational needs," writes Beverley Oliver in this report (56 page PDF). "The key opportunity is to enable formal qualification systems to evolve to include short form credentials, some of which might be credit-bearing." What she calls for is essentially a system of stackable credentials. But more, she argues that there needs to be common credential standards (see p.15 for examples), and a mechanism for lifelong credentialing (see p.33 for a list of national initiatives already underway).

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The Global Evidence Against Free College
Greta Anderson, Inside Higher Ed, 2019/08/09
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According to Inside Higher Ed, this report (19 page PDF) from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) says, "when developed nations dedicate more public resources to postsecondary education, they tend to produce fewer graduates." In fact it says nothing of the sort, and even says "the analysis in this report cannot establish a causal relationship between these different qualities of higher education systems." The AEI report itself contains numerous flaws, not the least of which is the authors' creative interpretation of OECD data, for example, defining 'quality' (aka 'resources') as "each country’s total expenditure on higher education, divided by the number of full-time equivalent students, measured as a share of the country’s GDP per capita," which makes Slovakia the provider of the second-highest quality system in the OECD. I have nothing against Slovakia, but, really? What the AEI is doing is depicting education spending as a zero-sum game in which there are always trade-offs between access and quality. It's not, of course. The U.S. slathers rich kids with swimming pools and movie stars. But that doesn't make it better.

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Yet another brutal week for American journalism
Jon Allsop, Columbia Journalism Review, 2019/08/09
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As I commented during a podcast interview today, what happens in media happens in education a decade or so later. And what's been happening in media over the last decade has been, as this article says, brutal. Magazines, both online and off, are folding. Newspaper chains are merging (but with no real hope of saving the store). In newspapers, they call the final edition a -30- edition. In the case of universities it's called a teach out. Get used to that phrase. We'll be seeing it a lot more.

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The most popular social media networks each year, gloriously animated
Callum Booth, TheNextWeb, 2019/08/09
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This 80 second video has been making the rounds. It presents the user numbers for popular social networking sites as a moving bar chart that changes through the years. Best viewed without sound. It also ends abruptly (causing you to view it again, probably).

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7 Things You Should Know About Digital Badges
Sherri Braxton, et.al., EDUCAUSE, 2019/08/09
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Catching up a bit from July reading. This is a quick overview of a familiar topic: digital badges. "Further development in this area will hinge on two factors: the ability of institutions to align educational programming with business needs, and further development of standards for the use of badges... . Work continues on an interoperable standards-based ecosystem of learner-centered digital credentials that includes badges and comprehensive learner records."

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GSN: The Ultimate Ethereum Onboarding Solution
Ramon Recuero, Medium, 2019/08/09
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There's quite a lot of technical talk about why users find it difficult to use decentralized applications, but that's the point. The Gas Station Network (GSN) is intended to address this complexity. It shields users from the requirement to create and pay for digital wallets. The application pays the cost of the transaction, and (if the owners desires) can charge users subscriptions through more common means, such as credit card payments. It's a pretty good idea and points, I think, to the longer-term role of blockchain, as a service layer hidden (mostly) from user interactions. It's created by the MetaCartel. Here's a sample distributed app (dapp).

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ZeroNet
2019/08/09
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ZeroNet bills itself as offering "open, free and uncensorable websites, using Bitcoin cryptography and BitTorrent network." There are no central servers; rather, users of the network host parts of the network themselves That sounds great, but the darker side of this model is emerging as 8chan, "a website filled with the worst garbage one can find on the internet," is using ZeroNet to host its site, according to this Engadget report. The problem for users is, if they access 8chan over ZeroNet, they may find themselves hosting child pornography or worse on their own computers. Users can avoid the risk if they don't view offensive material in the first place. But that's not how 8chan users roll.

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Ecosystem Businesses Are Changing the Rules of Strategy
Julian Birkinshaw, Business Review, 2019/08/08
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In a sense this is old news, because as the author observes, industry networks have been around for some 20 years. By the same token, the article still signals a change in what might be thought of as business strategy, from 'moats' to 'turnstiles'. "This shift from moats to turnstiles can be hard to grasp. For most business strategists, it is second nature to protect your existing assets and to keep competition at bay. But a pure-play orchestrator is happy to open up to competition and to share its intellectual property, as long as that keeps the ecosystem growing. Its aim is to maximize the number of people coming through the turnstile, rather than to increase the height of the fence or the width of the moat." Imagine marketing an online course this way...

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Universities Use YouTube for Recruitment
Justin Ferriman, LearnDash, 2019/08/08
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The question to ponder here after reading this article is whether higher education is just another channel (albeit a really expensive one) in the information landscape. Now you might think - pah! Universities do a lot more to engage people than simply stream video. Well, yeah. But the information landscape is changing a lot. Video (like the advertisement video mentioned below) is just one part of a wider engagement strategy. Information is becoming a full-body experience - think, for example, how the Marvel universe blends everything from movies to toys to fully immersive cosplay experiences to conventions and games. You may think of the video advertisement as just an advertisement. Not anymore.

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Memory editing from science fiction to clinical practice
Elizabeth A. Phelps, Stefan G. Hofmann, Nature, 2019/08/08
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This article stimulates the imagination - we can erase memories! It raises various potential applications, for example, additiction therapy or resolution of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Or it might just be a way to blog out the worst night of your life. Of course, we should consider how it could be misapplied as well. Behind these obvious questions are questions about that the article reveals about the nature of memories and remembering. There are ways to reinforce memories as well, but they have nothing to do with cognitive load. Something to think about.

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Pull requests and the templated self
Ben Werdmuller, 2019/08/08
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A few days ago Ben Werdmuller asked what the biggest problem to be solved in software is. I suggested 'documentation' (and I stand by that). But this is a good one too. He writes about the 'pull request', which is a standard part of software development. Essentially, the idea is that new code can be reviewed before it is added to a project. But maybe - suggests Werdmuller - there needs to be wider oversight. "Pull requests, in their current form, encourage teams to take a code-first approach without considering the human impact or social context of their work," he writes.

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Great Marketing Video for a Service Called ‘Chatbooks’
Steve Borsch, Connecting the Dots, 2019/08/08
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I'm not sure I've ever deliberately linked to an ad, but I echo Steve Borsch's opinion that this one is especially well designed. "It is an amusing and well-produced video pitching their service called Chatbooks and I smiled just about the entire time the video ran." You will too.

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When #edutwitter celebrities say stupid things
Bill Fitzgerald, Twitter, 2019/08/07
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"If you choose to respond, screenshot the tweet, and respond to your screenshot." So says Bill Fitzgerald in this Twitter thread. And it raises obvious questions. Like: there are #edutwitter celebrities? What do they look like? The very next Twitter thread gives us an answer, with some observations by Audrey Watters and Akil Bello introducing us to the phrase “toxic positivity”. Fitzgerald also points us to this thread from Jennifer Binis, who asks "about who gets elevated to the status of EduCelebrity." Image: me taking Fitzgerald's advice. More: @EduCelebrity Twitter profile.

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Results of OA article data collection from OASPA members
Heather Morrison, Global Open Access List (GOAL), 2019/08/07
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This is discussion of data obtained for this study, which was reported in early July. Commenting on the results, Heather Morrison writes, "I recommend against the use of licenses allowing blanket commercial re-use to authors, journals, OA advocates and policy-makers." Why? Because the commercial indexing services index both open and closed-access publications, while non-commercial services are frozen out from commercial sources of data. This, she writes, results in an "increase in monopoly power for Elsevier: anyone can use the CC licensed material to create a competitor to Scopus, however only Elsevier can use their copyrighted work. CC-BY reduces the likelihood of successful competition." We've seen this same problem in open source software as well. There's no reciprocity; commercial enterprises take from the open, but never contribute back, and eventually undermine the open entirely.

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Neural Networks: Feedforward and Backpropagation Explained & Optimization
Casper Bøgeskov Hansen, Machine Learning From Scratch, 2019/08/07
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I really appreciate the effort in this post, though the lack of facility with the language makes it impossible to understand in places. Skip the overview. Start reading at the section titled "What is a neural network?" It might still leave you confused, but I find that the effort the author takes to make things clear outweighs the difficulty his use of language might otherwise cause. Even more to the point, this is a really good example of someone learning by sharing what he has learned by writing it out as clearly as possibe. It's a practice to be emulated!

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Global labor flow network reveals the hierarchical organization and dynamics of geo-industrial clusters
Jaehyuk Park, et.al., Nature Communications, 2019/08/07
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This is some interesting work that has been summarized in a number of places (Science Daily, Phys.org, Reddit (auto-summarized), Science World Report). In essence, the authors "construct a labor flow network of over 4 million firms across the world' using employment data from LinkedIn. This is used to draw conclusions about the nature of industrial clusters and of economic development. Successful geo-clusters "exhibit a stronger association between the influx of educated workers and financial performance.... Workers tend to change their jobs between geographically close firms with similar skill requirements. This tendency leads to knowledge spillover and innovation, serving as a prominent feedback mechanism in the formation of geo-industrial clusters."

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Jacques Derrida
Leonard Lawlor, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2019/08/07
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This is an extensively revised article on one of the more interesting (and difficult) philosophers of the 20th century, Jacques Derrida. I won't pretend to be able to speak with any authority on his work. But here's the ten-cent perspective of at least some of it: there are no simple irreducible concepts. Every concept (every work, every perception) contains both itself and the negation of itself inherently in its presentation. For example, "what is happening right now is also not different from every other now I have ever experienced. At the same time, the present experience is an event and it is not an event because it is repeatable." Or for example, "for a decision to be just, not only must a judge follow a rule but also he or she must 're-institute' it, in a new judgment. Thus a decision aiming at justice (a free decision) is both regulated and unregulated." What's important here (to me) is that you can't separate these different aspects of the concept; they are one and the same thing.

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Articles Summaries that “Spoil” the Paper to Save Reader Time
Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, The Scholarly Kitchen, 2019/08/07
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Making an article summarizer has been a long-standing ambition of technologists. I remember when I first started at NRC in 2001 being told about Copernic, our summarizer work-in-progress. It worked pretty well and all it lacked as an API to integrate it into other software. Well, it was the early 2000s. Today for some reason now we read about Paper Digest, an application that does essentially the same thing. You can try it out at their web interface. Here's a sample of a paper that has been summarized. It depends a lot on section headers and seems to extract what it feels are relevant sentences. There are many more summarizers out there on the internet; here are some: Free Summarizer, Resoomer, Smmry, Summarizing, Text Summarizer, Autosummarizer, Tools4noobs (which includes a WordPress widget), appZaza, SummarizeThis, and more. Not that I'm worried about any of these taking my job. They don't do the background research, and they don't have the attitude.

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The student loan crisis won’t disappear unless we tackle the root cause
Alana Dunagan, Christensen Institute, 2019/08/07
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Somewhere along the line the Christensen Institute turned from advancing a realitively reasonable set of propositions about innovation to some sort of ideologically-based commentary on education and other industries. Here's the latest: "there’s one solution that not only offers potential students a measure of security against taking on loans they can’t pay off, but also protects against spending time on an education that doesn’t align with workforce needs: outcomes-based funding." Seriously? Has outcomes-based pricing made lawyers and law any cheaper? Has it pushed down the price of professional sports? Is there no way outcomes-based pricing can be manipulated to keep people paying high prices?

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On the trail of OE policy co-creation
Javiera Atenas, Leo Havemann, Open Education Working Group, Open Knowledge Foundation, 2019/08/06
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I will be the first to admit that I love those international get-togethers with people of similar interests and affiliations. Thus I have been able to talk about open learning and educational resources with people around the world. But when these turn from creating and sharing resources to developing governance and policy, I am less enthusiastic about gathering self-selected representatives from (shall we say) the 'community'. I wonder what the reaction would be if open education policy were being decided in Brazil with representatives mostly from South America, perhaps funnded by collectives and cooperatives rather than market-focused foundations. I don't doubt anyone's good intentions (least of all my own) and I know how easy it is to sit on the sidelines and say they should be more inclusive. Still. Not everyone can afford to fly to Ireland. If the foundations are going to support policy workshops, they should ensure appropriate representation from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

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Publishers to librarians: Drop dead
adrianhon, Metafilter, 2019/08/06
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Coverage and discussion on Metafilter of the publishers' push-back against libraries, especially with respect to eBooks. "When we tell them, 'Sorry, there is only one copy of that e-book, and a waitlist of over 200 people,' they ask the completely reasonable question, 'Why?' In Macmillan's ideal world, that library patron would get frustrated with the library and go purchase the e-book instead." But that logic never worked with physical books, and there's no real reason to expect it to work with eBooks (especially when the price savings are minimal).

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Here’s How Not to Suck at JavaScript
Ilya Suzdalnitski, Better Programming, Medium, 2019/08/06
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This is a lot of 'inside baseball' for the Javascript world, but if you're using Javascript, the article contains a lot of helpful advice. "Simple code consumes less mental resources, makes us more efficient, and results in more reliable software. This article along with some of the available JavaScript tooling will help you achieve that!"

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Massive List of MOOC Providers Around The World
Dhawal Shah, Laurie Pickard, Class Central, 2019/08/06
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This is one for the people who proclaimed that MOOCs are dead. "By the end of 2018, more than 100 million students had signed up for at least one MOOC. In addition to the larger global platforms (Coursera, edX, FutureLearn), many national governments around the world have launched their own country-specific MOOC platforms, including India, Mexico, Thailand, Italy, and Israel."

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Citationsy
Cenk Dominic Özbakır, 2019/08/05
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This is a lovely product, and with the Firefox extension works seamlessly in my workflow. The idea is, if you want to site something from the web, provide the URL (or click the extension button) and you get automatically-created properly formatted references. Like I said, lovely. Of course, the publishers will immediately try to ruin this for everyone.

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6 Learning Technology Trends That are Shaping the Future of Work
Bevan Rees, Headspring, 2019/08/05
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This article made me want to write an article along the lines of "6 tips for writing listicles" or "six dimensions of taxonomies for educators". Anyhow, here are the learning technology trends: humanisation, integration, personalisation, data capitalisation, decentralisation, and cultivation. So we can see that the idea here is to try to present technology in non-technological terms. Aren't these 'technology' trends? I mean, it's the same list we've seen dozens of times - UX, APIs, VR, analytics, blockchain, xAPI. But this time described with less reference to these technologies, and more with an eye to "why" these technologies are useful. Fair enough. But it's still a tech-led list, without (to my eye) a sense of why we need (say) data capitalisation.

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Maren Deepwell in conversation with… Sue Beckingham
Maren Deepwell, Alt-C, 2019/08/05
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Maren Deepwell has posted a number of these conversations recently. The questions are pretty light ("Current recommended reading?", "In work travel, you are never without..?") and though we don't get to see a lot of substance, we get... some. For example: "The SMASH (Social media for Academic Studies at Hallam) team formed in in 2016 will be looking to share an open web site of resources and activities they have co-created." And "a weekly conversation on all things learning and teaching... take a look at  https://lthechat.com."

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Earn & Learn Banking: Stackable Credential Career Pathway in Financial Services
Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart, 2019/08/05
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The focus of this article is on "stackable" credentials, and I was drawn to it because of the use of the word "banking" in the title, which suggested a commentary based on Friere's critique of the 'banking model' of pedagogy. Maybe the critique applies, maybe not. But I was then struck by this: " Keyona’s story of career advancement points to the importance of relationship—her family had a thick, multifaceted relationship with a trusted community partner." In this case, the 'trusted' partner was her bank. And then she ends up working in a bank. And it all seems too... cosy. It's an odd image of a future where we are educated by corporations that we then work for.

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ERNIE: Enhanced Representation through Knowledge Integration
Yu Sun, et.al., arXiv, 2019/08/05
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If somebody in tech talks to you about BERT and ERNIE, they're not talking about children's television, they're talking about AI frameworks for language understanding. BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) was introduced in a recent paper published by researchers at Google. And ERNIE (Enhanced Representation through kNowledge IntEgration) has just been released by Baidu. What makes them special is that they read languages bidirectionally, giving them greater context awareness.

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China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns.
Karen Hao, MIT Technology Review, 2019/08/02
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This is a chatty magazine-style article about Squirrel.AI, a Chinese learning technology initiatiave. "Squirrel focuses on helping students score better on annual standardized tests," writes the author. "It also designed its system to capture ever more data from the beginning, which has made possible all kinds of personalization and prediction experiments." The article doesn't really get into a lot of depth, being focused more on market positioning, comparisons with ALEKS (a similar US-based system we are supposed to believe inspired Squirrel), and how students feel when using it.

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Planning for the MoodleNet public beta
Doug Belshaw, MoodleNet, 2019/08/02
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In my most recent evaluation of the MoodleNet public beta I commented that the focus seemed to be on replicating social networks, rather than on a tool for creating and sharing resources. This newly released MoSCoW prioritisation grid allays that concern, but only a bit. It still looks a lot (as I said in my video) like a modern version of del.icio.us. Is that enough? Is that what is needed in a Moodle-based OER resource-based social network? Have a look at the grid in this post.

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Can a diversity statement increase diversity in MOOCs?
René F. Kizilcec, Andrew J. Saltarelli, ACM Learning@Scale 2019, 2019/08/02
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The answer to the question posed in the title is "yes, by three percent". The experiment was conducted with a general diversity statement on 14 MOOCs with 29,000 students. The authors suggest that more directed diversity statements might attract more under-represented people, but this is difficult to do with a single welcome page. Interestingly, "we implemented a diversity statement that both focused on equality and the value of diversity. This may have caused large and ultimately attenuating variation in the effects on women, older people, and people from less developed countries, while lower-SES learners interpreted the statement more as a cue about requisite prior knowledge."

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Some thoughts on the future of public higher education
Tony Bates, Online learning and distance education resources, 2019/08/01
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Tony Bates weighs in with a longish and well-thought-out post on the potential future of public education through the vehicle of a news report on education in the future province (?) of Cascadia: " Forget content delivery. Almost all the content we need to teach is already out there on the Internet, either as open educational resources or freely available through the Internet... we had to focus on the hard stuff, and that is high-level skills development that requires a skilled person – an instructor, although I prefer the term ‘counsellor’ – to help with the learning and training."

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I Do Not Own Kin Lane
Kin Lane, 2019/08/01
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The concept of owenship entails the concept of exchange - I cannot be said to "own" something unless I can exchange it (say, for money). In this sense, we cannot be said to own ourselves, because we cannot sell ourselves (at best, we can sell our labour or our possessions). But where does this concept of "ourselves" begin and end. Take this assertion: " A photo taken by me or of me is not owned by me. It is me. There is no ownership of my physical or digital self." The question that arises in my mind is: is there a digital self? Can there be any sense of 'me' that is not my body? I could sell a photograph of myself, if anyone would but it, but I could not sell the property of 'looking like me'. So, maybe...

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Wild Creatures Emerge From Thrown Sand in Photographs by Claire Droppert
Andrew LaSane, Colossal, 2019/08/01
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I personally do not see "wild creatures" in these images of thrown sand, but that's the nature of emergence - for a property to be emergent, there must be a perceiver who sees the pattern as something, that is, the pattern must be recognized. Anyhow, this is a pretty good novel demonstration of emergence, and maybe you'll see the creatures I don't.

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The College Dropout Scandal
David Kirp, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2019/08/01
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The point of departure for this post is an article in the journal New Directions For Higher Education which stated, “A revolution appears to be sweeping the campuses of the nation’s colleges and universities, and it is based on a simple credo: The success of an institution and the success of its students are inseparable.” The author comments that it is "sad and telling" that " putting students first is a revolutionary idea." The context is the fact that (in the U.S.) "forty percent of students don’t graduate." This leaves them without the certificate they've paid thousands of dollars to obtain. Higher education blames the student. The suggestion here is that maybe it should blame itself. Radical! See also: Author discusses his book on the college dropout scandal.

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This is Learning Experience Design
YouTube, 2019/08/01
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"Learning Experience Design (LX design) is the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human centered and goal oriented way," according to Niels Floor. This is a short video introducing learning experience design (LxD). Sam Faissal introduces it as follows: "Experiential Learning is one of the fundamentals of Learning Experience Design. Watch this interesting video that introduces Learning Experience Design in simple words."

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A Reckoning for 2U, and OPMs?
Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Ed, 2019/08/01
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Normally I wouldn't cover stock market news, not even when a leading Online Program Management (OPM) company's stock drops 65% in one day. But this followed a frank assessment of the OPM market, and that is worth covering. " Online program management is a difficult business to be in. Online education is increasingly competitive, student acquisition and marketing costs are going up, and the regulatory landscape is becoming more complex... attracting large numbers of students to a particular online program is more challenging and more expensive than it was just a few years ago." Those who watch the technology space in general will recognize this as a familiar pattern - when you tie yourself to a platform, whether it's Facebook or the university system, your fortunes are tied to that platform, and that platform will eventually turn on you.

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Across the great divide: How today’s college students engage with news
Alison J. Head, Erica DeFrain, Barbara Fister, Margy MacMillan, First Monday, 2019/08/01
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Good article with a large sample size on how college student in the U.S. learn about the news (it would be nicer to see a global study, but one step at at time, I suppose). Significantly, "We found discussions about the news had an important sense-making function for students, guiding them on how to navigate the complex news landscape at a time of acute political polarization, a volatile media environment, and where poorer quality content and disinformation thrive." This is likely true for new information generally, which is why discussion has such an important role in learning.

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The rising tide: Open source’s steady transformation
Matt Germonprez, Jonathan Lipps, Sean Goggins, First Monday, 2019/08/01
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This article reports on an increasing tension in open source projects. As they become more successful, contributions from corporations increase, and this changes the dynamics of the community, resulting in an increased focus on the 'project', and resulting in the "concealment" of the processes and mechanisms that govern to the project. The result is a need to balance the need to produce a workable product with the conversation and interaction that is characterics of open source. "Splitting the community project from the usable product is an inflection point for this new form of open source project work, and emblematic of the intrusion of the 'device paradigm'." This often results in an enclosed commercial product becoming predominant, with a residual less-functional husk being left over for the original contributors and users. Image: Torch API / Concealment.

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5 Trust Indicators And How To Use Them To Grow Your Blog
Adam Connell, The Blog Herald, 2019/07/31
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Thew topic of alternative credentials has come up from time to time, and while the focus is often ob things like badges, in social media a set of what are called here 'trust indicators' offers insight into some other measures. This article describes five such indicators: trust logos (eg., of clients, partners, etc); industry accreditations; industry awards; testimonials; and impressive data (eg., subscriber numbers). These are all pretty superficial, but importantly, they are all accepted as signs of trustworthiness to more or less a degree. That said, they're often transactional - the people bestowing the trust indicator want to be known as someone who bestows trust; the expectation, for example, if you get an award is that you'll post the award (and link) on your home page. For this reason I don't trust any of these indicators.

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Craftivism: A Manifesto/Methodology
Tal Fitzpatrick, Academia.edu, 2019/07/31
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One of the reasons I really hate paywalls is that it allows academics to do things behind closed doors that they would be able to get away with out in the open. Here we have a case in point. Popping into my RSS feed today was a paper titled "The craftivists: Pushing for affective, materially informed pedagogy" - you can view the paywall here, but of course you can't read it. The authors write as though they were inventing the word and the discipline: "the idea of making as a form of activism or, as we refer to it in this paper, craftivism, underpins our ambition to transform pedagogical environments into spaces of possibility through sensory and affective making practices." But the pedagogy is well-understood by many people actually doing the work, and even the term 'craftivism' is in wide use online: there's a book by Sarah Corbett that you can find on the Craftivist Collective home page. Rob Hopkins in 2017 wrote a profile. Betsy Greer wrote about craftivism in 2014. Craftivism also has its critics - see this post from Julia Feliz. There's tons more. Now maybe the paywalled article credits all this prior work. But you don't get that impression from the abstract.

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Gricean (im)politeness
Mark Liberman, Language Log, 2019/07/31
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Paul Grice's major contribution to philosophy (in my view) is his exploration of conversational implicatures, that is, "things that a hearer can work out from the way something was said rather than what was said." There are many examples of unspoken rules of conversation based on this idea, for example, when someone asks "how are you?", they are not asking how you are, but merely expressing a greeting (I like to answer that question with "hi!", both acknowledging that it wasn't a question, but giving them a puzzle just in case it was). This post focuses on Grice's maxims for conversational politeness - quantity, quality, relevance, and manner. They're the sorts of things a robot would get wrong (purportedly) and that a human would intuitively understand.

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Degrees At Work: Examining the serendipitous outcomes of diverse degrees
Clare Coffey, Rob Sentz, Yustina Saleh, Emsi, 2019/07/31
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The gist of this report (60 page PDF) is that people's jobs are often far removed from the discipline they studied in university, and that there are some underlying skills - tactical communication, strategic communication, interpersonal oversight, and operational oversight - can be found across a wide range of disciplines. This explains why "only 27% of college graduates work in a field related to their major," according to a 2015 study (51 page PDF). The results are based on a study of first, second and third jobs held by graduates from different college majors as contained in "a database of over 100 million professional profiles." There are still ways this study could be flawed, of course, but this is a lot more convincing than a thought-experiment purporting to show that there are no underlying skills distinct from content knowledge in different disciplines.

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How Students with Depression Experience Online Learning: Tracy Orr’s Research Offers Pointers for Course Developers
Lisa Hammershaimb, AACE Review, 2019/07/31
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I think that these results would need to be validated empirically, but the results of this preliminary enquiry into how depression impacts the online learning experience are interesting. "The women in my study spoke about their appreciation for clear and simple design. Because of the cognitive impacts of depression and lack of energy, it is important that courses are designed with essential elements clearly identified with minimal redirection or navigation. Care should be taken to emphasize clarity and readability." So that seems right to me, and it would be interesting were it to be found that cognitive overload isn't the result of processing bottlenecks, as traditionally suggested, but the result of low energy and lack of focus.

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AI & Global Governance: Human Rights and AI Ethics – Why Ethics Cannot be Replaced by the UDHR
Cansu Canca, AI & Global Governance Articles & Insights, United Nations University, 2019/07/30
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According to this post, "In the increasingly popular quest of trying to make the tech world ethical, a new idea has emerged: just replace 'ethics' with 'human rights'." As an example, the author cites a "blog post and the report that it is based on from Harvard Law School: Artificial Intelligence & Human Rights: Opportunities & Risks wherein it is argued "human rights is the light that we need to follow to get out on the 'right' side." So why isn't this enough? "This argument is based on an overestimation of what the UDHR is capable of, and an underestimation of what ethics is and does." An action isn't wrong only if it violates human rights. It can be wrong for other reasons too. For example, we don't have a right to be told the truth - but it is still ethically wrong to lie to people. Moreover, "when there is conflict between different human rights, we would have to turn to principles of moral and political philosophy to reason further."

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Operating a Large, Distributed System in a Reliable Way: Practices I Learned
Gergely Orosz, The Pragmatic Engineer, 2019/07/30
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This is a long and detailed look at the challenges of running a distributed system told from the perspective of an insider at Uber. As the author notes, "the practices might be an overkill for smaller or less mission-critical systems." But there's no harm in knowing about them, especially given the outside chance that what you're building might suddenly become the next Uber. And there are some pretty good practices here - failover drills, blameless post-mortems, black-box testing systems.

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LiveCode
2019/07/30
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I'm not sure whether the world needs more apps, but if this product works as advertised it will certainly get them. "LiveCode is where you can create native applications for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, Server & now The Web all from the same code... LiveCode is packed full of ready made widgets and libraries to make light work of common tasks and if you can't find what you are looking for, check out our extensions store or you can even write your own. New in LiveCode 9 you can now access the native feature set on all supported platforms." There are demo apps, including ScreenSteps, a learning app. LiveCode has been around since 2017; here is the most recent weekly update. And yes, it's open source.

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Research: For Crowdsourcing to Work, Everyone Needs an Equal Voice
Edward “Ned” Smith, Joshua Becker, Harvard Business Review, 2019/07/30
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Crowdsourcing doesn't work if one voice drowns out all the rest. Then it just becomes a form of transmission, rather than interactivity. "The wisdom of crowds is extremely fragile, especially in two specific circumstances: when people are influenced by the opinions of others (because they lose their independence) and when opinions are distorted by cognitive biases (for example, strong political views held by a group)." Simply being a crowd doesn't create knowledge. Being a crowd properly organized creates knowledge.

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Drink your own champagne?
Clark Quinn, Learnlets, 2019/07/30
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The phrase used to be "eat your own dog food," and it refers to the idea that people should actually use the products they create. I definitely agree with that one. Quinn here is changing the expression to "drink your own champagne," presumably because eating dog food is objectionable. But to many people, so is drinking champagne. Maybe the expression should be changed to "use your own product" in celebration of internationalism and direct language.

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Formal and Informal Learning: What’s the Difference?
Emma O'Neill, LearnUpon, 2019/07/30
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This article misses the point in a way that's illustrative. It defines formal learning as "planned and guided by an instructor" and informal learning as "unstructured, often unintended, and it occurs outside of a conventional learning setting." But Emma O'Neill adds, it "has no real objectives, rather it just happens naturally." Not exactly. If you just think of learning as the acquisition of content, then sure, informal learning has "no real objectives". But informal learning isn't just 'reading for fun' or some such thing. It's learning that occurs while you are in the process of trying to get something done, and what defines its success is whether you are able to do what you wanted to do. It's not a learning objective, it's a doing objective, that defines informal learning.

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A few words on Cognitive Load Theory
nick shackleton-jones, aconventional, 2019/07/29
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This is a really good overview of cognitive load theory and an especially cogent criticism of its application in learning. Not to be missed. "The major objection to Cognitive Load Theory is not, therefore, that it is wrong – but that is it a distraction from more important aspects of the learning process... Cognitive load will make some difference to problem solving but what really matters is whether or not someone cares about solving the problem." Quite so. There's more; read the whole article.

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Shifting priorities in the new university
Thomas Klassen, Academic Matters, 2019/07/29
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This article describes how universities are currently organized, with full professors conducting research and teaching higher-level students, and undergraduates being taught by sessional (aka adjunct) instructors and teaching assistants. The presumption seems always to be that it is wrong to have so many sessionals and assistants. Maybe, but maybe the problem is simply that their working conditions are so poor. The author blames unions for the unfair wage distribution, and argues "there is little opportunity for a tenured professor to sit with a group of undergraduate students." This to me is a pretty clear argument for unionization for lower level university employees (I actually tried to organize this when I was a graduate student president in the early 90s). Instead of trying to find lower-cost labour, universities should be trying to serve more students and a broader range of students.

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Hypothetical risks
Wendy Grossman, net.wars, 2019/07/29
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I agree with this statement: "The problem isn't privacy," the cryptography pioneer Whitfield Diffie said recently. "It's corporate malfeasance." Wendy Grossman continues, " Viewed that way, when data profiteers claim that "privacy is no longer a social norm", as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did in 2010, the correct response is not to argue about privacy settings or plead with users to think again, but to find out if they've broken the law." Via Ton Zijlstra.

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I’m Quincy Larson, the teacher who founded freeCodeCamp.org. Ask Me Anything
Quincy Larson, HackerNoon, 2019/07/29
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Quincy Larson is one of those people who makes a difference. And he's doing ti without advertising, venture capitalists, or charging subscription fees. "We experimented with a lot of models. We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to support ourselves off of donations alone. But thankfully, there are a lot of really kind people out there. And today, we have around 5,000 monthly supporters donating around $5 each. This isn’t a lot of money - our nonprofit’s entire budget is less than what a lot of silicon valley developers make - but we’re making it work."

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The future of immersive education will be live, social, and personalized
Amir Bozorgzadeh, VentureBeat, 2019/07/29
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As its point of departure this article looks at VirtualSpeech, "a hybrid model that pairs VR with traditional course programs like e-learning and in-person training, affording users a chance to practice what they have learnt in realistic environments." The author's predictions are based on 5G mobility that "will allow high-fidelity VR and AR to be streamed to the masses in the frictionless manner in which the tech has always been ultimately intended." Usable 5G is still at least a decade away, however.

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Disadvantages of a Lingua Franca in Philosophy
Eric Schwitzgebel, The Splintered Mind, 2019/07/26
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The use of English as the common language (lingua franca) for any discipline, not just philosophy, has its risks (and this would be true for any language, not just English). The author identifies three concerns (quoted):

  • The current situation puts disproportionate burdens on non-native speakers.
  • The nuances of ordinary language matter.
  • Robust, partially separate traditions can nurture diversity of thought.

All quite true. Thinking and learning in different languages forces you to see the world differently and talk about it differently.

Case in point: in English, you can start a sentence without knowing where it's going to end. That's because things like tense and gender are relatively fluid. But in French (so I learned) what you really need to do is to frame the entire sentence first, before uttering the first word. What is the tense? What is the subject? Only then can you know the correct words to use. This is a different way of thinking, and causes you to think of sentences themselves differently.

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Stephen Downes
Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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