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Toward a Definition of Open Source AI
David Wiley, improving learning, 2024/05/17


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Just a quick update from David Wiley on the Open Source Initiative (OSI) attempt to own, er, I mean, steward, the definition of 'open source AI'. Wiley notes "The definition is currently in its eighth draft, with the goal of finalizing the definition by October, 2024." Why am I so sceptical of the OSI initiative? Well, the first sentence contains the phrase "massive benefits accrue" and everything else is based on this, as though there would be no point to open AI if it didn't make money. Yet (ironically) there's no requirement in the four freedoms (use, study, modify, share) that these benefits be distributed equitably, or that they not deprive one of any existing freedom, or cause no harm in their application. Moreover, 'open source AI' is "made available", and not (say) developed openly, or developed by a community; it's as though it's some sort of creation that comes down from on high. Defining 'open' economically, and then cleaving it from social justice and any sort of community-based process, is the sort of 'open' we might find in Silicon Valley, but not really one we want in our own communities.

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Evaluating Neural Representations
Mazviita Chirimuuta, The Brains Blog, 2024/05/17


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OK, I haven't read this, but here's the whole book (open access publication) and I'll be spending the next little while dipping in and out of it (any interest in forming a reading circle?). For now, let me focus on this one blog post that extracts one little bit of 'The Brain Abstracted: Simplification in the History and Philosophy of Neuroscience'. Mazviita Chirimuuta writes, "the positing of neural representations abstracts away from the causal chain mediating the distal object and the firing it elicits, hence it is a simplifying strategy." Quite so. But - importantly - it follows that neural representations themselves have no causal power. You can't say 'his belief that P' caused 'his conclusion that Q' or 'his behaviour of R' (the map isn't the territory; Canada isn't bigger than the U.S. just because it's bigger on the map). Anyhow - I'm excited to see this book, and even more so that it is open access. It's like I can do philosophy again!

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Blog + Newsletter
Doc Searls, Doc Searls Weblog, 2024/05/17


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You'd think, with newsletters being "all the rage now", that I'd be seeing an increase in subscriptions. Why, early adopters "blogged here two years ago about the idea of writing a solo newsletter." But it's not so simple. What's actually happening is that a few platforms (most notably Substack) with some good marketing popularized the idea of bloggers and columnist using a 'newsletter platform' to write. There would be monetization, of course. You could also use WordPress (use the Noptin plugin) or Ghost but you'll have to set up or find a mail transport service (I use MailGun; I wrote my own client for it, but the WordPress plugin will do this for you). But hey - if you do think email newsletters are all the rage, you can still subscribe to OLDaily some 23 years after the first email left the server. Just saying.

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View of Alone in the Academic Ultraperiphery: Online Doctoral Candidates’ Quest to Belong, Thrive, and Succeed
Efrem Melián, Julio Meneses, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 2024/05/17


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"Online doctoral candidates constitute an ultraperipheral population in the academic landscape," argue the authors. "Online delivery was viewed as both a blessing for the accessibility it enabled and a curse due to pervasive feelings of isolation and virtually non-existent peer networks." I would suggest that these peer networks exist - just look at GO-GN - but the students' "strong drive for participation, sometimes matched by the supervisor but rarely supported by the institution" renders them invisible. In any case, it would take a study of more than 24 part-time online students to reveal anything in the way of trends (you can't say, as these authors do, that "they often feel invisible and neglected by the institution" - you don't know that and you haven't shown that). But to the extent that graduate students are sometimes not able to find online support networks, that is indeed something that should be addressed.

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Brain-computer interface experiments first to decode words 'spoken' entirely in the brain in real time
Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress, 2024/05/17


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The actual news here (because we've covered similar work in the past) is that the researchers probed "the supramarginal gyrus, a region of the brain never before tested with brain–computer interface (BCI) technology." The accuracy of the six-word test wasn't great - in one patient, barely above what would be accomplished by chance (23%, as compared to the one-in-six (15.5%) a 50-50 coin flip would produce). This part of the brain, also known as Brodmann area 40, and (per Wikipedia) "interprets tactile sensory data." Here's the full study by Sarah K. Wandelt and colleagues. Implications: first, that computers could (potentially) read thoughts; and second, what they 'read' is the words as they are 'spoken' in one's inner voice (which, I would suspect, more or less clearly articulated in different people).

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Archie, the Internet’s first search engine, is rescued and running
Kevin Purdy, Ars Technica, 2024/05/17


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"It's amazing," writes Kevin Purdy, "and a little sad, to think that something created in 1989 that changed how people used and viewed the then-nascent Internet had nearly vanished by 2024." The think in question was a search engine that allowed users to find documents made available through anonymous FTP services. But it has been rescued. "Not only did The Serial Port rescue the last working version of Archie (seemingly a 3.5 beta), but they posted its docs and now run an actual Archie server on an emulated Sun SPARCstation 5." Takes me back.

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Towards Responsible Development of Generative AI for Education: An Evaluation-Driven Approach
Irina Jurenka, et al., 2024/05/16


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Donald Clark has already gotten a couple posts out of Google's EdAI announcements. This paper (86 page PDF) presents Google's efforts to "translate high level principles from learning science into a pragmatic set of seven diverse educational benchmarks" and to "develop a new set of fine-tuning datasets to improve the pedagogical capabilities of Gemini." To develop, in other words, a generative AI tutor. It deserves a careful reading, and your impressions of the 35 page main text and 50 pages of supplementary material may vary from mine. While the paper is very up-to-date with respect to AI, it reveals (to me) a dated and psychology-heavy understanding of 'learning science' that seems limited to work on intelligent tutoring systems - but you can view their 'Pedagogy rubrics' in section 4.3.1. Saying, "the gen AI models that power most of the latest EdTech systems are not explicitly optimised for pedagogy" the authors state that they "focus on conversational tutoring because we believe that it is one of the most impactful and general use cases." This forms the basis for their LearnLM-Tutor, introduced in this paper. There's a ton of information in this paper, but a lot that is not said - the model was "trained on an offline dataset," whatever that means (they say they tried several), and no stats are reported.

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Human Curiosity in the Age of AI
Anne-Laure Le Cunff, Ness Labs, 2024/05/16


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This is another effort to find some human skill or capacity that is at least different, if not better, than AI. "There are compelling reasons why human curiosity is needed more than ever in the age of AI," writes Anne-Laure Le Cunff, "and they stem from the fundamental differences between human and AI curiosity." The post offers a framework that identifies three key aspects of curiosity - processing, perspective, purpose - and tries to show how different they are for humans as compared to AI (not that people would really think of AI as 'curious' in the first place). I don't think it works because the descriptions are too surface-level. How do we know 'hunches and instincts to produce serendipitous discoveries' are actually different from 'processes vast amounts of data to uncover patterns'? The same mechanism could produce both results.

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MMuFIN: A Framework for Automating Multimodal Feedback Generation using Generative Artificial Intelligence
Jionghao Lin, Eason Chen, Ashish Gurung, Kenneth R. Koedinger, EdArXiv, 2024/05/16


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This preprint is tantalizing but far too short for what the title promises. Basically, the idea is to use generative AI to automate the process of giving multi-modal feedback on assignments. The instructor works with the AI, which may offer correction (for example, recommending the instructor focus on effort rather than outcome). And what's key is the idea of offering feedback in multiple modes, such as 'talking heads', rather than just text. I can't comment on the implementation because we don't really get anything in the way of details (this paper is a classic example of why we shouldn't simply count publications, because things like this can be pumped out in a day; we should actually consider what the publications contribute to the literature).

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Skills Transcripts at Scale: Why The ETS & MTC Partnership is a Big Deal
Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart, 2024/05/15


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Just a note on what the reform crowd is up to. The Mastery Transcript Consortium "provides a mastery transcript that replaces traditional high school transcripts. Instead of a list of courses and grades, learners share competencies with colleges and employers." ETS (formerly Educational Testing Service) companies "deliver learning and assessment solutions around the world." The real big deal in this space will be when AI performs skills and competencies assessments based on real-world data and nobody is needed in the middle to own the process.

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Generative AI is Doomed
Eric Goldman, SSRN, 2024/05/15


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"We're experiencing an epochal shift in technology, on the order of magnitude of the Internet's commercialization," writes Eric Goldman (19 page PDF), "but this time, the regulators are intervening early, in a massive and unrelenting way." Hence the prediction in the title. Regulators will misunderstand the technology while seeing to control and censor the outputs. It doesn't help that incumbent technology companies are seeking to preserve their advantage. "Misdirected or malicious Generative AI regulations jeopardize all kinds of algorithmic activities, from personalized content to algorithmically sorted search results - things that we rely upon many times a day." Related: audio interview with Goldman about the talk.

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Google is redesigning its search engine — and it’s AI all the way down
David Pierce, The Verge, 2024/05/15


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During the playoffs I like to keep track of the scores, so I do a search. P{roblem is, there are four games, but Google only displays three results. It's so frustrating. I have to scroll way down to get a link to the actual website that displays all the scores. If Google has its way, I might never get to that website at all. As Kottke summarizes, "it's better/cheaper to provide potentially wrong answers to keep you clicking within Google than it is to send you away for the right answers." And an answer doesn't have to be incorrect to be wrong. It just has to be something I don't want. Like incomplete scores. Or summaries instead of sources.

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The problem isn’t AI, it's the zero-sum future we're being sold
David White, 2024/05/15


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I agree with this part of the post: "There is a tendency here to imply a zero-sum principle to humanness: the more the tech can do the less it means to be human. This feels wrong to me and isn't helpful in an educational context." But I don't agree with what I think is the main point, which is to focus on human creativity as the differentiator. We'll find, I think, that we can't think of human activity in the age in a nice neat Bloom's taxonomy package. We'll be looking at completely new human activities outside the domain of the taxonomy - valuate, maybe. Or obviate. Whatever. When it's not zero sum, it means we're adding something that wasn't there before. And that's what I expect.

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Student and Faculty Perceptions of Ineffective Teaching Behaviours
Lynne N. Kennette, Morgan Chapman, 2024/05/14


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So of course we want to know what the list is, but by the time we get to it on page 7 we find the list is actually derived from another paper (Liu et al., 2020, which compares them between Chinese and U.S. based instructors) and this paper measures Canadian faculty and student rankings of them (there's also an appendix with each practice described in more detail). At the top of the list is "students' and faculty's shared contempt for disrespect", otherwise, I feel (based on my reading of the two lists) faculty emphasizes unprepared teaching while students stress ineffective teaching. 18 page PDF.

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Can citations fight misinformation on YouTube?
Stefan Milne-U. Washington, Futurity, 2024/05/14


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I think this is a useful exercise that should be watched by educators. "We wanted to come up with a method to encourage people watching videos to do what's called 'lateral reading,' which is that you go look at other places on the web to establish whether something is credible or true, as opposed to diving deep into the thing itself," says Amy X. Zhang, one of the authors of a paper (20 page PDF) describing the project. Creating the mechanism is only the first step, though, as the authors need to consider things like bad actors and circular citation networks.

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When will the first college or university charge six figures per year? A 2024 update
Bryan Alexander, 2024/05/14


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"When will the first American college or university charge $100,000 or more to attend?" asks Bryan Alexander. "What might that mean for higher education?" There's a number of them in the $US 90K range already, so it's probably not long now. The survey paints a picture of an education system that has gone very wrong, and is designed to preserve privilege rather than advance the interests of society.

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Broadcasters still don’t understand the threat from YouTube
Colin Dixon, nScreenMedia, 2024/05/14


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The gist of the story is this: "Broadcasters have been focused on fitting the streaming TV business into the traditional TV mold. Meanwhile, YouTube has shattered the mold with its democratic approach to TV and is eating the broadcaster's lunch!" Almost all the video I watch online (and I watch a lot) does not fit into the traditional TV mode. "YouTube has figured out how to harness the creativity of anyone with talent and get them onto the TV screens of just about everyone... Disney spends $30 billion a year on content destined for television. YouTube doesn't pay anything for its content. Instead, it relies on many creators to keep viewers coming back." At some point, we'll see educational media follow the same path (things like TeachersPayTeachers were trailblazing in this way).

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What OpenAI did
Ethan Mollick, One Useful Thing, 2024/05/14


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This post offers an overview of GPT-4o, the new model released by chatGPT. "GPT-4o appears to be a step up over GPT-4 and is the smartest model I have used. However, it does not represent a major leap over the previous version of GPT-4, the way that GPT-4 was a 10x improvement over the free GPT-3.5." That accords with my own experience. Also, "soon everyone, whether they are paying or not, will get access to GPT-4o." I've been paying for GPT-4, and will probably keep paying, but as Ethan Mollick says, "that $20 a month barrier kept many people from understanding how impressive AI can be, and for gaining any benefit from AI. That is no longer true."

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Tight 20
Andrew Jacobs, Lost and Desperate, 2024/05/14


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"I was at an event recently and a speaker was late so was asked to do a 20 minute slot, unscripted, no props/slides etc.," writes Andrew Jacobs. "If it happened to you, what could you do a tight 20 on?" My answer - and it should be your answer too - would be "anything". That's the different between knowledge as 'remembering' and knowledge as 'learning'. Anything I've ever heard about, I could talk about for twenty minutes simply by organizing and presenting my thoughts on the topic. Do a 'quick three' - past, present or future; my view, your view, synthesis; etc. For each six minute segment, build the case - something concrete, something general, a conclusion to be drawn (or: an odd phenomenon, a general principle, an explanation to be given). Each of these is only two minutes, and you'll be pressed for time to make the point, but try: a couple points of reference or evidence, and the point is made. Anyone can do this about anything - if they've learned how. And if they've learned how, they know how to learn about any new subject they encounter.

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Upskilling and reskilling for talent transformation in the era of AI
Keith O'Brien, IBM Blog, 2024/05/13


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According to this article, " A 2024 Gallup poll found that nearly 25% of workers worry that their jobs can become obsolete because of AI, up from 15% in 2021." This would not be an issue except for the fact that we currently structure society such that, if you do not have a job, you are relegated to a life of pain and poverty. We should rethink this. Certainly, as the IBM blog suggests, lets think about reskilling. But articles like this that focus only on reskilling serve as a distraction from the larger issues. But let's also reimagine the social and corporate compact to ensure everybody earns a share of the increased productivity AI will generate. Because the changing workplace isn't the employee's problem. It's everybody's problem.

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Movement Charter/Content/One-page draft
Wikimedia, 2024/05/13


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I find it interesting to juxtapose two documents, a statement from the Stanford Social Innovation Review on what it means to govern for all, and this document from the Wikimedia Movement declaring "the values, rights, relationships, and mutual responsibilities of all participants in the shared mission of this movement." There are numerous points of contrast, starting from Wikimedia's embracing of "a factual, verifiable, open, and inclusive approach to knowledge," and SSIR's failure to address the topic at all. There's the difference between 'inclusion' (in Wikimedia) and 'equity' (in SSIR). At the same time, Wikimedia embraces a 'shared vision', while SSIR limits this to fairness and consistency under the law. And, taking a few steps back, the SSIR document seems to be about the relation between us (the governors) and them (the people) while Wikimedia "entrusts decisions to the most immediate or the lowest possible level of participation". I don't think you get democracy without education, or education without democracy, but what either of those two things amount to is still very much open to debate.

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What are educational podcasts?
Dom Conroy, Jo Fletcher-Saxon, BERA Blog, 2024/05/13


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This is a headline I would have considered current in around 2003 or so, but hey, educational podcasts were a good idea then and they're a good idea now. As true today as it was twenty years ago, "educational podcasts come in diverse forms, including podcasts produced by teaching practitioners for learners, by learners for teachers (for instance as summative assessment) by students for each other (for instance as peer-supportive resources) and by teachers for other teachers." What the article does point to is a resurgence of interest in podcasts (not coincidentally, I think, with the collapse of cable media, the fragmentation of streaming video services, and the toxification of social media). What it doesn't talk about is the use of an open access format (RSS) to distribute and collect free media. Image: EduTech Wiki.

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Say hello to PEE - your Personal Engagement Environment
Martin Weller, The Ed Techie, 2024/05/13


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Martin Weller reflects on "a way to think about post-Twitter life," bringing us the personal engagement environment, a nod back to the personal learning environment (PLE), where "you may have a main platform (eg blog), a work focused one eg LinkedIn, a personal one eg Instagram, a general one eg Threads, a course focused one eg podcasts, etc. For any one engagement activity you may post to all, one or some of these." Not quite though - a PLE was one place we could use to reach out to these other services, not merely a collection of platforms (the collection of platforms was the 'personal learning network', which is what people used in lieu of an actual functioning PLE (which never materialized).

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Bloomberg Media launches education platform with Emeritus
Sara Fischer, Axios, 2024/05/13


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The main takeaway from this oddly-written story is that "More media and tech companies are launching educational courses as they venture deeper into video." AI-written? You can read more about the specific Bloomberg-Emeritus project in the press release. Of course, online courses are more than just nice video presentations; you need to do something to justify the $2500 price tag. So they'll get a Bloomberg subscription too.

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‘Sharing’, Selfhood, and Community in an Age of Academic Twitter
Áine Mahon, Shane Bergin, JIME, 2024/05/13


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This article "follows Gert Biesta's recent call to query the 'common sense' understanding of educational research" as it relates to social media, reflecting on the "subtle demand that the contemporary academic present to the world as a coherent, consistent, and orderly self." Twitter, we are told, "discourages a fluid and complex self. It prioritizes stability over self-creation." But as Richard Rorty would say, we need people to see us as complex and sometimes changing individuals. From here the article diverges a bit, on the one hand considering the new toxic Twitter (you can leave only iof you have a well-established identity) and on the other considering what's lost by staying on Twitter (intimacy, vulnerability and acknowledgement). Either way, networking on social media involves presenting oneself as an abstraction lacking the nuance found in a physical space "which draws people together, which fosters dwelling, and which invites care and connectedness." Image: LSE Blog, Time to Rethink Academic Twitter.

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Decker
Internet Janitor, 2024/05/13


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If you're curious to know what the hypercard experience was like for Mac users back in the day, you might want to try Decker, "a multimedia platform for creating and sharing interactive documents, with sound, images, hypertext, and scripted behavior." I'm not a fan of the small sized and black-and-white aesthetic, but that's purely a matter of taste. Via Alan Levine. More fun tools from Internet Janitor.

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