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General capabilities: A perspective from cognitive science
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, NSW Department of Education, 2019/07/15


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This article (10 page PDF) represents a bit of a retreat from the traditional position that "capabilities cannot be considered general or transferable across knowledge domains" and addresses the need to teach some 'capabilities' (though, of course, always within the context of some domain of 'content knowledge'). But citing Barry McGraw, the authors observe "capabilities such as the capacity to work with others, and meta skills such as metacognition, or learning how to learn, may be thought of as domain-independent competencies that can be developed in any learning area of the curriculum and applied to any other learning area." Even given this limited retreat, I still think the core argument from cognitive science is fundamentally mistaken, and that statements like "the only difference between the expert players and the novice players was their knowledge of chess" are fundamentally wrong. Via Steve Zanon.

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Learning Technology Evolves: Integrated Platforms Are Arriving
Josh Bersin, 2019/07/15


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Josh Bersin discusses the evolution of the Learning Experience Platform (LXP) out of the LMS and the increasing range and complexity of learning support tools these platforms need to integrate in today's environment. "Tools for VR, embedded micro-learning, intelligent search, mobile content development, and many forms of assessment and video authoring are everywhere. In fact, we are in one of the most exciting cycles of innovation on all levels of the 'learning stack,'" he writes."Most customers tell me they’ve spent a lot of money on their LMS and they’re trying to buy easier to use tools around it, so this is likely to be where the market will go.

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Four Recommendations To Support Evidence-Informed L&D
Jos Arets, eLearning Industry, 2019/07/15


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This article lurks in that dark corner where education and pedagogy mix with politics and policy. It starts with the obvious presumption that decisions in education ought to be made according to the evidence, but elides the questions of which evidence? and whose evidence? and what counts as evidence? The resulting treatment is not very sound. For example, in the first paragraph it tells us that "for physicians, evidence-based medicine is the norm," but just a few sentences later it asserts, "around half of current diagnosis and treatment is not (yet) evidence-based." In fact, as the footnotes note, "the debate about evidence medicine is lively." Hardly the norm. The real message of this post seems to be the use of 'evidence' to support rationing. "Evidence-based research is also used by doctors to develop a better do-not-do list," writes the author, noting that "university medical centers in the Netherlands are working together to build this list of 1,300 pointless medical procedures for the time being."

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How the biggest decentralized social network is dealing with its Nazi problem
Adi Robertson, The Verge, 2019/07/15


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If a Nazi wants to use my software - or to use HTML, or to use RSS, or to use ActivityPub, or to use English - there's no real way to stop them. That's the core of the dilemma faced by the developers of Mastodon, the open source social networking application. But what they can do - and what they have done - is to block Nazis using the application from communicating with their own instances, including Mastodon.social, which is the instance I use. Beyond that, it's up to internet service providers, who allow Nazis to use their servers, or better yet, it's up to government, to finally criminalize Nazi hate - or to at least treat it as seriously as it treats copyright violations.

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No Need to Ask: Creating Permissionless Blockchains of Metadata Records
Dejah Rubel, Information Technology and Libraries, 2019/07/12


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This article (17 page PDF) works really well on several levels. First, it will reward a careful reading with a really good overview of blockchain technology, one that is technologically detailed, but reasonably accessible. Second, it identifies some of the issues around an educationally-relevant application area, the creation and maintenance of bibliographic records. And third, it presents a solution to some longstanding issues in digital metadata: centralization and a lack of traceability.

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What are the drivers and innovations shaping tomorrow’s higher education landscape?
Maria Spies, FutureLearn, 2019/07/12


The four over-riding trends, as identiifed by Holon's Maria Spies:

Now while I think that these four storylines capture the bulk of what we're reading in the education business press, I don't think that any of them is particularly relevant as a predictor, and the latter three might actually be active forms of misdirection.

 

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Amazon Alexa will now give medical advice from the NHS
Michael Grothaus, Fast Company, 2019/07/12


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There's a ton of coverage of this story, and deservedly so. And I think it's not a big leap from offering health advice to offering learning support generally. Following the official announcement, the usual angles are covered in the stories - the risk to user data, the argument that you can't automate everything and you'll never replace doctors, the risk to our 'mental instincts', the "it's sinister" argument.

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We’re told that too much screen time hurts our kids. Where’s the evidence?
Andrew Przybylski, Amy Orben, The Guardian, 2019/07/12


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This is a good question: "in a world witnessing ecological destruction, political polarisation and growing social divides, should fears about technology really occupy the limited space in the forefront of our minds?" Even more, where is the evidence that screen time (a euphimism that conflates television with internet use) is actually harmful? "It’s probably best to retire the idea that the amount of time teens spend on social media is a meaningful metric influencing their wellbeing." Agreed.

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Watch Moodle Grow and Blossom
Moodle, 2019/07/12


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Just what the title promises. This is "a very visual representation of the growth of Moodle over the past 17 years. Gource is a program which displays software projects as an animated tree with the root directory at the very centre, while directories appear as branches with files as leaves. Look at our ‘Moodle tree’ and literally watch the developers’ work over the years!"

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An Open Invitation
Michael Patrick Rutter, Inside Higher Ed, 2019/07/11


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So... OK then. "What exactly is open learning in 2019? I was drawn to this question by the following statement:  'When it comes to the availability of open course content, we may be retreating from where we were even a few years ago… which seems really surprising.'” I'm not really surprised. But let's continue. "My co-blogger Steve Mintz suggests what might amount to a do-over for the MOOC movement: What if a group of leading institutions created a higher ed compact (i.e., not a consortium)? That compact would be based upon three ideas: make campus developed tools openly available to non-profits; disaggregate some instructional content; and work with Mellon, Howard Hughes, etc. to create a new JSTOR or ARTSTOR for pedagogy. He dubs it: One for all. All for one." All fine - except that the foundations will demand 'sustainability', the institutions will expect some sort of direct return, and ultimately, the commercialization cycle will start again.

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Ontario Schools Tally OER Savings with New Tool
Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, 2019/07/11


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According to this report, "A new tool from the eCampusOntario Open Library measures student savings from open educational resources (OER) usage. Impact, as it's called, recently calculated that students have saved some $4.5 million (Canadian) in 'mandatory textbook fees'." Similar calculations have supported OER projects elsewhere, and they help bolster the case for open educational resources and the organizations that create them. The real value, though, is the data fed into the calculator, not the calculator itself.

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Exploitative higher education internationalisation is dead
Fay Patel, University World News, 2019/07/11


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About fifteen years ago Australian education took a turn toward commercialization and internationalization. At the time, with initiatives like Flexible Learning Leaders, it had a world-leading presence, but with commercialization things went behind closed doors. Now, according to this article, which draws on a series of ABC reports, this trend may be coing to an end. "Recently, the Australian media has reported on unethical approaches to internationalisation of higher education... the very high level of tuition fees.., concerns that universities may be lowering English language proficiency levels... (and) the fact that there are few job opportunities available for international students." According to Fay Patel, "It is time to make ‘the call’ and pronounce that this kind of exploitative internationalisation is dead and has served its purpose."

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The Annual G20 Scorecard – Research Performance 2019
Jonathan Adams, Gordon Rogers, Martin Szomszor, The Web of Science Group, 2019/07/11


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The main this the authors of this report (27 page PDF) want you to know is that "It is not a ranking." Instead, "the study looks at the research workforce and research collaboration, output, quality and competitiveness to produce profiles for G20 countries (not including Europe)". It's interesting, but I think it takes a very narrow view of research performance (patents, citations, productivity). Via University World News, which simply quotes from the report.

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The Great Wave: what Hokusai’s masterpiece tells us about museums, copyright and online collections today
Douglas McCarthy, Medium, Open GLAM, 2019/07/11


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This article describes the relative ease or difficulty of access to a digital image of Katsushika Hokusai's block print commonly known as The Great Wave. On some museum websites, you just click on the image and get a high-quality image you can download. At others, it is a lot harder - the British Museum, for example, requires that you fill out a detailed form with a lot of personal information, and then makes you wait for a day or two before you receive your image. Go figure.

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Run your own social
Darius Kazemi, 2019/07/10


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This article shows you "how to run a small social network site for your friends." It's practical advice. "This document exists to lay out some general principles of running a small social network site that have worked for me. These principles are related to community building more than they are related to specific technologies. This is because the big problems with social network sites are not technical: the problems are social problems related to things like policy, values, and power." Good stuff.

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The push for “free” universal education in Africa often falls short—here’s a better way
Efosa Ojomo, Christensen Institute, 2019/07/10


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The argument is that "many of these school systems are failing, from insufficient infrastructure to a significant disconnect between schools and the local economy." The proposed solution is to charge money for school, and redirect government resources to subsidize this education for the relatively well-off. User fees, in other words. The way this works is by magic: "These schools compete for hard earned dollars from parents and are therefore highly incentivized to create education solutions that meet parents expectations." So I guess 'innovation' in this case means 'serve the rich, ignore the poor'. As it so often does.

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Law Reviews, Citation Counts and Twitter (Oh My): Behind the Curtains of the Law Professor’s Search for Meaning
Lawprofblawg, Darren Bush, SSRN, 2019/07/10


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Despite what the abstract says, be sure to download this article and read it cover-to-cover, including (especially!) the footnotes. Here's the gist: "We argue that this game is rigged, inherently biased against authors from lower ranked schools, women, minorities, and faculty who teach legal writing, clinical, and library courses. As such, playing “the game” in a Sisyphean effort to achieve external validation is a losing one for all but a few." I would argue this applies to scholarship generally, not just law. Case in point: my citations as viewed by Google Scholar, versus my citations as viewed by Scopus. Which one is the real measure of my work?

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You Can Now Get Your Whole Genome Sequenced for Less Than an iPhone
Emily Mullin, Medium, OneZero, 2019/07/09


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Because there was never a scam in education technology that was left untried, let me predict here that sometime over the next decade or so a startup will proclaim that it can use full genome scans to assist, support, or otherwise supplement education programmes. Meanwhile, ever-quick to jump on a straw man, the learning styles sceptics will be the first to proclaim that there is no link between a student's genome and direct instruction methods. You heard it here first.

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Researchers at Udacity develop AI that can generate lecture videos from audio narration
Kyle Wiggers, Venture Beat, 2019/07/09


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In a world where deepfakes videos are a real thing, it's not surprising to read that researchers have developed software that can create a video lecture from an audio narration (though one wonders: why?). In an arXiv preprint (9 page PDF) researchers Byung-Hak Kim and Varun Ganapathi "present LumièreNet, a simple, modular, and completely deep-learning based architecture that synthesizes high quality, full-pose headshot lecture videos from instructor’s new audio narration of any length." This article summarizes the paper. 

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New push to spread e-learning to remote Arab villages
Gulf News, 2019/07/09


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According to this article, "Through offline solutions, the (Madrasa) platform provides 5,000 free Arabised videos in general science, math, biology, chemistry and physics to students from kindergarten to grade 12 without internet access." The plan is to "distribute the offline solutions, ranging from Madrasa tablet, WiFi hotspot device, Madrasa flash memory (USB) and Madrasa Smart Bag, as part of its programmes and projects in areas it oversees and covers." You can also view the learning materials on Madrasa's online platform (the videos themselves are on YouTube).

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Future Skills Centre looks at scaling up best practices for Canada’s workforce
Anqi Shen, University Affairs, 2019/07/09


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This is an update on the progress of Canada's Future Skills Centre, awarded last February to Ryerson University in partnership with Blueprint and the Conference Board of Canada. One initiative already underway is the Future Skills Innovation Network (FUSION) of six Canadian universities (Carleton, Simon Fraser, Calgary, Saskatchewan, Concordia and Memorial). A full list of projects is available here. Finally, Pedro Barata (pictured), previously an SVP with Toronto's United Way, was named executive director last Wednesday. 

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Boosting Degree Completion With Blockchain
Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Ed, 2019/07/09


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The easiest and most obvious use case for blockchain in education is blockchain-based credentials. This article discuses one such project being undertaken by Arisonza State University. "Arizona State has completed the “first big chunk of work” -- providing the tool to view student data such as transfer date, grades, projected graduation, etc." The danger, though, is that each university system will develop its own credentials blockchain and that we'll have dozens of different ways of doing it. "Creating a universal system for reverse transfer, and more broadly student data, would be monumental, said Moreau. But it would mean that colleges would have to give up some autonomy on how they collect and share data."

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Five steps to stamp out gender inequality in education
World Education Blog, 2019/07/08


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This article summarizes a recent UNESCO report  (69 page PDF) on eliminating gender inequality in schools. It says some things that are hard to say in an international context. For example, "we will not achieve gender equality in education unless we challenge harmful social norms about women’s role in society." And "countries must make sure they are building education systems with gender equality in mind. This includes addressing school-related gender-based violence in schools, providing comprehensive sexuality education."

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Facebook may be 'pivoting' to something worse
Dave Lee, BBC News, 2019/07/08


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Facebook's original business plan was based on creating public spaces for individuals to connect. This worked out poorly, because it facilitated things like online harassment, the creation of hate groups and fake news. Now it is pivoting in such a way as to move toward a more private social network, "one which focuses on closed spaces, like groups or messaging, rather than the public News Feed." This, argues the author, would be worse. But I don't know. What's the alternative - make social networks impossible altogether?

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What does success look like? card-playing edition
Dave Cormier, Dave’s Educational Blog, 2019/07/08


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I am constantly grappling with the question of what success looks like, so this discussion of defining success in card games makes a lot of sense to me. Is success at cards defined by winning? Or is it defined by spending quality time with they people you're playing with? In other avenues of life the question is a lot more subtle. It's easy to say "success is being with family" or some such thing, but if you're Ludwig Wittgenstein - say - then defining success isn't quite so easy. In education the system defines success for us in terms of grades and rankings, but being successful this way doesn't feel very successful.

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Spotify is a Prison for Podcasts
Peter Rukavina, Ruk, 2019/07/08


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This article is relevant because Spotify has acquired some podcast companies recently - Parcast, Gimlet and Anchor. So there is a lot of concern that it will attempt to lock down podcasting and convert it to a proprietary content network. Could it work? Sure it could. Here's why it would be bad. "Let this be a warning to you: if you use Spotify as your podcast app, you are a prisoner to Spotify, and if you decide to switch to another podcast app there isn’t any way to get your data out of Spotify."

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Do not impose one's own standard on the work of others
Doug Belshaw, Thought Shrapnel, 2019/07/08


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Good post outlining approaches to cooperative decision-making. I really like the overview of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)'s approach, as enshrined in a document from 2014. Says Doug Belshaw, "What the IETF calls 'rough consensus' I think I'd probably call 'alignment'. You don't all have to agree that a proposal is without problems, but those problems should be surmountable." Similarly his discussion of sociocracy and left-libertarianism. I wouldn't give myself any of those labels, but I would start from here as well: "you can start from a basis of personal autonomy, but end with an egalitarian approach to the world where resources (especially natural resources) are collectively owned."
 

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Copyright 2019 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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