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Presentation
Vision 2030: Redesigning Education for the Future
Stephen Downes, Nov 06, 2018, Asbar World Forum 2018, Riyadh, Saudia Arabia


In this presentation I outline three ways education needs to adapt to the future, by becoming more relevant, engaging and personal, and then describe the technologies and approaches we will need to develop and use in order to support this. (Note that long portions of the video are blocked by a camera operator sitting down in front of my camera and doing nothing in particular).

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The future of work won't be about college degrees, it will be about job skills
Stephane Kasriel, CNBC, 2018/11/12


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This feels like a paid placement on CNBC from a job skills company (but it's real news, so they wouldn't deceive is in this way, right?). It's based on a (sponsored) survey Freelancing in America 2018, released Wednesday, that says "freelancers put more value on skills training." I think it's true that the jobs of the future don't exist today, but the same could be said for any number of skills! Like, say, newsreader! The shift from degrees to competencies doesn't protect us from the future, and it's misleading to suggest that it does. The future of work won't be about degrees, sure, but it won't be about skills either. It will be about track record - what we have done, and (by inference from that) what we can do in the future.

Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]


Believing without evidence is always morally wrong
Francisco Mejia Uribe, Aeon, 2018/11/12


In ‘The Ethics of Belief’ (1877)  William Kingdon Clifford gives three reasons for believeing that belief without evidence is morally wrong (quoted from the article):

I am always wary of arguments that conclude that we have a 'duty' or 'responsibility' because these are easily abused by others and almost always require that we act against our own self-interest, sometimes in devastating ways. But each of these can be seen in a way that aligns the collective interest with perosnal interest, and that's what gives them force.

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Why Mastodon is defying the “critical mass”
Peter O'Shaughnessy, Medium, 2018/11/12


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Why has Mastodon survived despite the scepticism of early critics? This article makes a good case as to why those sceptics were wrong. Essentially, survival for Mastodon - an a distributed open source federated network supported by users - is very different from survival for a typical start-up, which has to grow fast and raise funding or die. It's also about quality of experience, not quantity of users, writes Peter O'Shaughnessy. "For people only worried about their “reach” then yes, Mastodon won’t be as valuable. But most Mastodon users won’t miss those kind of people from Twitter very much!"

Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]


Educational Technology & Education Conferences #40 December 2018 to June 2019
Clayton R. Wright, 2018/11/12


Clayton R. Wright's excellent list is now available. He writes, "The 40th version of the Educational Technology and Education Conference list comprises 1,719 confirmed events. The listings for November and December, 2018 have been updated since distribution of the previous list.

"Though some might question the costs and need of academic conferences now that digital communications is widely available (Colleen Flaherty, 2017), others note the cost of not travelling to conferences - the cost of academic isolation (Matt Reed, 2017). There are merits to both sides of the argument. One could attend a virtual conference one year and an in-person conference the next. Each type of event will offer different experiences. When it is feasible, most of us humans seem to prefer to interact in person. Also, a "serendipity effect" often occurs during in-person conferences - by wondering around and meeting different people, one discovers, by chance, the unexpected. I also hope that the serendipity effect applies to this list - as you review it, you may discover events that are not only new to you but perk your interest."

Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]


China's Xinhua agency unveils AI news presenter
Chris Baraniuk, BBC News, 2018/11/09


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This item is for those people who think that the teacher can never be replaced. Watching the AI announcer, I like many others felt the delivery was a bit flat. But we see that from a lot of human anchors. And it was funny to read the criticism: "The presenter struggled to appear completely natural, said Michael Wooldridge at the University of Oxford." Of course, only a human would "struggle". And even a human couldn't fix the overly-long sentences the poor AI has been tasked with reading.

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Plan S for open access is far too risky, say researchers
Brendan O'Malley, University World News, 2018/11/09


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Journal publishers have struck back against Plan S, the requirement that researchers publish findings of publicly funded research in open access journals. According to this article, "700 researchers from across Europe and beyond have signed an open letter criticising Plan S." It's currently 870 researchers, mostly from Europe, and overwhelmingly from chemistry departments (which seems off to me). There's considerable hyperbole, for example, the claim that "we won’t even be able to legally read the most important [society] journals of, for example, the American Chemical Society." This comes after reports that "the London-based Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, announced they were both endorsing ‘Plan S’."

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What Learning Technologists said the key challenges would be for 2019: ALTC Word Cloud
Ben Waugh, ALTC Blog, 2018/11/09


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The top issue in this list was staff - "Staff will always be essential for facilitating learning, making decisions and being key stakeholders in any digital learning process," writes Ben Waugh. Next is 'learning' ("Everything revolves around this for HE institutions.") and next is 'New', whatever that means. Students only made number 5 in the word list.

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here, and it is changing everything
Colleges and Institutes Canada, Desire2Learn, 2018/11/09


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Desire2Learn has updated and published a Canadian edition of its report on the future of learning (28 page PDF) (and you don't even have to give them information to read it; well done D2L). The premise is that the nature of work is changing and that therefore "societies must embrace new or hybrid learning models to allow individuals and economies to thrive going forward." A challenge is coming from automation and AI, "putting cognitive jobs at risk." There's also the rise of "the gig economy". So "neither employers nor employees can expect skills to stay relevant throughout careers."

So what needs to change? "Higher education must redefine its value proposition for students and employers." Just getting a credential is not enough any more. Institutions need to embrace "delivery models that are learner-centric, flexible, responsive, and adaptive," for example, "a system of stackable credentials (that) can be leveraged to provide ongoing education and skill development for employees." D2L recommends aligning programs and credentials to labour market needs (which I think is a dubious proposition), expanding work-integrated learning (which I support), and ensuring the system is affordable (which i very much support).

Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]


Product management learning list - for government, open to all
Canadian Digital Services, 2018/11/09


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This is a low-tech way to distribute what is essentially a self-paced course on product management. It came to me via the Canadian Digital Services newsletter, part of an ongoing program to modernize digital services in the Government of Canada. It's a Google Sheets spreadsheet with resources collected from around the web, a short commentary, and information about the focus and type. Everything is freely accessible - click and read. That's the way to do it.

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Lumen Seeks Continuous Improvement of OER in Two-Prong Approach
Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, 2018/11/08


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According to this article, Lumen Learning "has launched the 'Learning Challenges Leaderboards' ... as well as RISE and Shine, a community effort to improve the OER." The leaderboards "provide a fine-grained view into the specific skill-level outcomes students struggle with the most." RISE and Sine is "a community-based continuous improvement process." What I find interesting is the vague phrasing of the learning objectives on the leaderboard, using verbs like "explain" and "describe" and "determine" (which at best require a rote response) rather than performance-based objectives, such as "calculate" or "measure" or "model". Maybe what RISE is measuring is bad learning objectives, not bad learning resources.

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Take Charge of Your Online Reputation
Cathy Bates, EDUCAUSE Review, 2018/11/08


This article "is a primer about online reputation management, which can be shared with students entering the job market." Like so many articles of this genre it focuses primarily on the negative, cautioning students to "partition and clean up your act." The idea is to avoid being sorted into left or middle "piles of applicants" and then to stand out in the "right hand pile of applicants" by highlighting their personal portfolio and "showcasing examples of positive traits that would prove your ability to contribute to a team effort." The idea of sorting applicants into "piles" shows why we need AI-based approaches to candidate selection based on non-arbitrary sorting criteria.

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Broad online learning EdTech and USA universities: symbiotic relationships in a post-MOOC world
Duncan A. Thomas, Maria Nedeva, Studies in Higher Education, 2018/11/08


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This study (21 page PDF) focuses on how universities are adapting in what might be called the post-MOOC period of online education. With enrollment in online education growing substantially, MOOCs could be seen as helping rather than hindering universities succeed in an era of declining on-campus student numbers. This study is based on interviews with some Coursera staff and six US-based universities using Coursera. It explores the idea of whether universities can be in a symbiotic, rather than parasitic, relationship with Coursera (it's left as an open question). It also studies attitudes toward marketized higher education. Well-written, worth a look, though the view it offers is pretty narrow.

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For the Web
Tim Berners-Lee, World Wide Web Foundation, 2018/11/06


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Tim Berners-Lee has launched a petition-pledge website calling on people to endorse a set of principles for the open web. I find that the principles he is asking people to sign fall far short of the web he is trying to support. The principles basically call for access, privacy and benefit to humanity. The main page calls for a web that's safe, diverse, open and accessible.

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Learning Together, Learning on Their Own
Allison Rodman, Educational Leadership, ASCD, 2018/11/06


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This article presents personal professional development for teachers from the stance of "what if?" and seems to suggest that it's a radical new idea. "Teachers, rightfully, have begun to speak out against this one-size-fits-all system and form their own professional learning networks (PLNs), using tools like Twitter and Voxer, edcamps, massive open online courses, and blogs." From where I sit, this mode of personal learning is well-entrenched. But I can see there being a perspective where all of this is new to teachers, and that it has been the change in their students' education that has led the way. See also: Escape from the zero-learning zone.

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One university to close, another lays off faculty, and two more will merge
Bryan Alexander, 2018/11/06


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For a long time newspapers claimed they were holding out against the digital wave. Then the crisis hit and newsrooms began to close and jobs began to disappear. Colleges and universities, to this point, have been claiming they will hold out as well. But with the echo boom fading, the realities of digital competition are sinking in. As Bryan Alexander reports, "the forces of changing enrollment and declining state support continue to wreck havoc.  The American higher ed crisis rolls on."

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Blockchain explained: What it is and isn’t, and why it matters
Brant Carson, Matt Higginson, Simon London, McKinsey, 2018/11/06


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This podcast transcript provides a level-headed overview of blockchain technologies focusing especially on the trade-offs the use of blockchain entails (for example: less efficient databases in exchange for immutability). There's also a nice table depicting the major use cases for blockchain. And there's a nice look at the different motivations for employing blockchain: "it’s about disintermediation, but at the same time, those who are investing in the space think of it as a defensive play to strengthen their position in the center of an ecosystem."

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How Spitball's Blockchain Student Economy Disrupts The Global E-Learning Market
John Welsh, Forbes, 2018/11/05


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I think this project mistakes the reason why people share resources. Here it is: "Spitball 2.0, a new version of the platform, allows students to earn a cryptocurrency by sharing content or answering questions to buy study resources and possessions, as well as place advertisements for tutoring and student accommodation." If you have to be paid to share, you aren't really sharing. (Note that to bypass Forbe's spamwall I use Ublock Origin on Firefox).

Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]


‘How Corporate Cash Bought American Higher Education’
Marjorie Valbrun, Inside Higher Ed, 2018/11/05


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Coverage of a book by Joshua Hunt arguing against corporate influence in education.  “They have kowtowed to this donor because he’s far and away the largest donor we have,” he (Nathan Tublitz) said. And as a result, “he has forced the university to accept the strings attached to those donations and he has had a significant effect on the direction and the integrity of the university.” There's nothing especially new here, though it is helpful to remember that when for-profit corporations donate money, it is with a for-profit objective.

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The automation imperative
Alexander Edlich, McKinsey, 2018/11/05


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I heard once again today at a conference how automation is going to impact education, and in particular, what we need to teach and how we need to teach it, But what of automation itself? This report from McKinsey has some interesting bits, including this: "The results favor decentralization... respondents at less successful organizations are more than twice as likely as those at successful ones to say a central team is solely responsible for automation delivery across the organization."

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Copyright 2018 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.