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Innovating Pedagogy Report 2019
Grainne Conole, e4innovation, 2019/01/11


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The introduction to this guide (45 page PDF) predisposes me to like it, though as I went through the ten pedagogical models presented (ranging from 'playful learning' to 'learning with robots' to 'making thinking visible') I found myself imagining about how these would be introduced and presented and instantiated (and a whole MOOC curriculum opened up in my mind, yet another project I'd love to undertake but just can't). ' Place-based learning', for example, speaks to me: I can easily imagine taking some students into a place, whatever it is, and asking them what they can infer from their surroundings. It's just these sorts of activities that create the perspective and breadth of vision needed to do things like develop the sort of ethical sense I allude to in the next post. Good guide, with useful resources listed at the end of each section.

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How to Bring Back Moral Education
Chester E. Finn, EducationNext, 2019/01/11


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The differences between my own views on education and society and those of Chester E. Finn are profound, but we find ourselves in agreement about the moral failures of our leadership in society and the need for education to mitigate the crisis. But I cannot think of a person's moral character as being in need of 'forming' or 'shaping'. Rather, I see morality as a type of perception that can be developed through experience and practice. This results in a concept of morality not based on a set of principles or rules., such that we eventually develop what David Hume would call a moral sense, or what I would call a 'recognition' of right and wrong.

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Higher Education and Identity Issues in Tara Westover’s 'Educated'
Eboo Patel, Inside Higher Ed, 2019/01/11


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This is a fundamental misunderstanding of diversity: "in an era of higher ed where identity is king... a white middle class Evangelical man ought to be unmoored from his identity, a working class black Muslim female ought to be more deeply anchored in hers."  No. Diversity means that we see people as more than just race, class and religion. For any person, these may be important parts of their identity. But if we define people by these three things, and stereotype according to them, no matter who they are, then we are depriving them of the rest of their identity, and indeed, of authentic personhood.

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A neural network can learn to organize the world it sees into concepts—just like we do
Karen Hao, MIT Technology Review, 2019/01/11


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I would use the word 'reflect' rather than 'represent' throughout, but this article nonetheless paints a fascinating picture of how a neural network organizes itself into concepts. "Asking the GAN to paint what it thought, the researchers found distinct neuron clusters that had learned to (paint) a tree, for example... In other words, it had managed to group tree pixels with tree pixels and door pixels with door pixels regardless of how these objects changed color from photo to photo in the training set." This is important because conceptualization is the basis for abstraction, which is the doorway to higher-level cognitive capacity.

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“I’m not a person that reads”: Identity Work, Adult Learners, and Educational (Dis)engagement
Scott McLean, Jaya Dixit, Canadian Journal of Education, 2019/01/10


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This paper (27 page PDF) uses the frame of 'identity work' described by Snow and Anderson to interpret identity statements made by interviewees describing their experience with self-help books. Snow and Anderson identified four activities common to the practice of identity work including "verbal construction and assertion of personal identities." This activity has two modes, 'distancing' and 'embracement', and many of the responses to the survey were found to fit neatly into one of the other of these modes. The authors write that these results should suggest to us that "learning is more than the straightforward reception of content; the reception of content is influenced by one’s positioning of oneself as a subject vis-à-vis the content, the person or people communicating that content, the media through which that content is being communicated, and other recipients of that content."  Image: SWSCmedia.

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Community of Inquiry on Facebook in a Formal Learning Setting in Higher Education
Masood Nazir, Natasa Brouwer, Education Sciences, 2019/01/10


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This article (23 page PDF) studies "an application of Facebook for higher education in science (STEM)," performing a content analysis on Facebook pots, and argues that the "results show that an integral Community of Inquiry (CoI) was formed on Facebook within the regular online course, encompassing all relevant CoI interactions leading to a powerful educational experience." That said, the results of the study show minimal social presence, with a preponderance of cognitive and (especially) teaching presence.

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Open Science in Canada's 2018-2020 Open Government Plan
Richard Ackerman, Science Library Pad, 2019/01/10


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As you know, I've been a long-standing proponent of open science within our government agencies. I'm also on a committee working toward open science (though I haven't really done much with it yet). So I celebrate the recent announcement, covered by Richard Ackerman today, of Canada's newest commitment to open science, part of the newest release of the National Action Plan on Open Government. The plan includes pledges to "develop a Canada Open Science Roadmap to provide a plan for greater openness in federal science and research activities" and "provide a platform for Canadians to find and access open access publications from federal scientists."

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Blockchain’s Occam problem
Matt Higginson, Marie-Claude Nadeau, Kausik Rajgopal, McKinsey, 2019/01/10


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The Occam problem is this: unless and until blockchain becomes the simplest and most effective technology to do a job (any job) it will not be widely adopted. Yet despite huge investments, blockchain has yet to meet this challenge. We shouldn't be surprised. "It is an infant technology that is relatively unstable, expensive, and complex. It is also unregulated and selectively distrusted." As I commented to a colleague today, the applications of blockchain will not be the obvious ones (like, for example, registering credentials) but rather the rhizomatic ones (where, for example, some underlying technology (like, say, merkle trees) spreads from industry to industry in a generally underground manner.

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The State of Critical Thinking
Reboot, 2019/01/11


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This is a fairly detailed report (20 page PDF) based on a survey conducted using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. The study notes that while "strong  reasoning  skills  have become  increasingly  key  to  navigating  everyday  life," it remains true that "in too many schools, critical thinking is not taught to young people" and "at workplaces, employers don’t do enough to prioritize richer forms of reasoning." In particular, the report says the teaching of critical thinking should not be left to parents because they don't have the skills and they don't teach them to their children. That, I would say, is the legacy of the television generation.

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‘Neuromyth’ or Helpful Model?
Greg Toppo, Inside Higher Ed, 2019/01/10


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The original (and more accurate) title of this article was "In learning styles debate, it's instructors vs. psychologists." The focus is on science writer Ulrich Boser. He looked at the subject recently and found the debate alive and well. Where the two sides begin to converge, according to the article, is in the concern that "catering to learning styles in the classroom can actually foster a fixed mind-set, not a growth mind-set." As an overview this is a pretty good article - with its original title. Boser, meanwhile, has coincidentally just started a consultancy called 'The Learning Agency'.

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Professors Worry About the Cost of Textbooks, but Free Alternatives Pose Their Own Problems
Beth McMurtrie, 2019/01/09


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The results of this Babson Research Group survey Freeing the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2018 (48 page PDF) are not entirely consistent (professors claim to be deeply concerned about the price of textbooks, but most of them use commercial textbooks, with 98 percent of the texts used 'copyrighted' (ie., all rights reserved). But the suggestion that the survey finds 'problems' and 'issues with quality' in OER is a misrepresentation of what the study actually says; neither of these show up in the results at all (with the exception of one short comment on page 31).

The more serious result of this survey that should have been reported are these (quoted):

I think these results underline a view I have expressed in the past: faculty don't care about open educational resources, and even if they say they have concerns about textbook prices, they don't care enough to do anything about them.

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The Social Epistemology of Consensus and Dissent
Boaz Miller, Zefat Academic College, 2019/01/09


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This is a good paper that feels like it ends halfway through its topic. In the E-Learning 3.0 course (I'll have more on that Friday) we discussed the ideas that community is consensus - not the results of consensus, necessarily, but a shared process of consensus. This article looks at the relation between epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge) and consensus, looking at different models of consensus-formation, and then (briefly) the role of dissent, and (even more briefly) consensus-building algorithms. Worth noting: while on the one hand "dissent is not a temporary glitch to be overcome, and consensus is not the end of inquiry" it remains true that "dissent may be epistemically detrimental, especially dissent stemming from manufactured uncertainty or doubt mongering." Image: IPWatch.
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The 5 Technologies that will Change Networking in 2019
Anand Oswal, Cisco Blogs, 2019/01/09


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The five innovations are: WiFi 6, 5G, digitized spaces, SD-WAN, and machine learening. The fourth is of most ibnterest to me at the moment. "Traditionally, corporate networks have been based around centralized control, routing, and security... That model still exists but it is breaking down. Designing networks primarily around branch-to-data-center connections doesn’t make sense when so many business applications are now run out of the cloud, and so many end users rely on the open Internet for connection when they’re not in a company office." Amen.

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Jisc presents to MPs on education’s role in Industry 4.0
Rosie Niven, JISC, 2019/01/09


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This article covers the first half of this two hour panel session with participants giving responses to questions posed by the British Parliament's Education Committee. The full session is interesting viewing. The panel was sometimes more about industry's role in education than the converse. It also looked at the role of AI in learning technology. And there was a good discussion of the role of technology in supporting students with disadvantages. The most interesting point came from Priya Lakhani as she described the disconnect between the speed of agile technology development and the lag created by randomized control testing.

She also hits the mark (at 10:48) when she lists the things students need that we don't test for: "The education system today is just not fit for purpose... we're forcing our amazing talented teachers to actually teach children into specific mold for tests. If we're going to test, that's all right, but we don't test for adaptability, we don't test for creativity, we don't test for learning agility, we don't test for empathy. With all the issues we know that social media is creating and all the well-being issues that our children are going to face, we don't actually test for any of that... There's so much pressure on teachers to deliver something that no employer is going to sit there and say 'thank you very much, you've memorized all of that, that's what we're employing for today'." Here presentation as a whole is a tour de force and worth taking seriously.

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Short Sims the Cover Story on the Industry's Flagship Publication
Clark Aldrich, 2019/01/08


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Clark Aldrich sent me an email with this link and an outline of his new article on TD Magazine. It's a good article, and the page he provided also links to the examples in the article. I do confess though that I thought it a bit ironic to introduce an article on "short sims" with a quote from the developer of one of the longest and most complex of all the video games, Sid Meier. The quote is to the effect that "a game is a series of interesting choices." Which raises that question for me about agency: does it mean 'freedom to choose' or 'freedom to create'. In No Man's Sky, which I'm playing now, I make choices, yes, but mostly my days are spent building things, shaping my environment while I explore it.

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The Five Tool Scholar (Reprised)
Frederick Hess, Education Next, 2019/01/08


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The five tools, according to Frederick Hess, are "disciplinary scholarship, policy analysis and popular writing, convening and shepherding collaborations, providing incisive commentary, and speaking in the public square." They compare to baseball's five tools: "a player who can run, field, throw, hit, and hit with power." But the only important things in baseball are (a) winning ball games, and (b) putting fans in the seats. The rest is for the baseball nerds (like me). I think Hess's list is similarly weak. In scholarship, what matters is (a) advancing knowledge, and (b) making people's lives better. The rest is for pundits and fans of inside baseball. (Note: this is a recycling of a similarly titled article from 2017)

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Advice requested on ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’
Tony Bates, Online learning and distance education resources, 2019/01/08


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One of the big differences between Tony Bates's career and mine is that he publishes books and I don't. I don't have nearly enough patience to work with a book publisher (as various journal editors can attest). Too many people want me to say something different from what I intend. I just want to write down what I know and put it out there. Sometimes it's read and sometimes it's not. Either way is fine with me. Even with I make it open to the world for editing (as I did for the full E-Learning 3.0 set of papers) people mostly leave it alone.

Bates wrote 'Teaching in a Digital Age' a few years ago to wrap up what would have been an eminently successful career. Four years later Bates is still active, but the book is not a bit out of date (heck, I look at stuff I wrote last year and laugh at it). So what should he do? He considers a number of options, but would like readers to weigh in. Because he mentions me near the end of the post, I feel I should comment. But what could I add? I don't really revise previous work - I rethink each new iteration anew (this is also why I can't edit my stuff - it's like asking me to write the same paper over again, from scratch, as though it would somehow be better the second time).

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Moving Towards Sustainable Policy and Practice – A Five Level Framework for Online Learning Sustainability
Diogo Casanova, Linda Price, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 2019/01/08


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I'm never sure when I read an article of this sort whether the main purpose is the categorization into five components, or the arrangement of them into a hierarchy. If the former, then this paper (20 page PDF) is an innocuous survey of factors influencing the sustainability of online learning. But if the latter, then we get the message that financial and institutional needs are far more important than the engagement an motivation of the person actually creating the resource.

 

 

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The “Grievance Studies” Hoax and the IRB Process
Steven D. Krause, 2019/01/08


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I admit, I don't have a lot of patience with the Research Ethics Board (REB) (our version of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) discussed in the article). It's slow and it often feels like it's reviewing the research, not the ethics of what we're doing. But it is impossible not to be sympathetic with the purpose of the Board, which is to ensure that scientific research doesn't create harm. And that's what's wrong with the reserach conducted by James A. Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose and what hasn't really been made clear until now. It wasn't simply that they didn't consult their ethics board. It's that, under the guise of 'research', the study appears to have been designed to embarrass or humiliate its subjects. In so doing it discredits all research. And a review board would not have approved it. Image: Resnik, NIH. More: Inside Higher Ed, Daily Nous.

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The Media’s Post-Advertising Future Is Also Its Past
Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, 2019/01/07


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This article should serve as a waring for education companies building technology that depends on surveillance to produce revenue from advertisers. Advertising-based media is in general under attack as sales decline and people rebel against social media marketing. This article looks at the impact on the news industry and makes the point that as funding models change, so will news coverage. "News media of the future could be as messy, diverse, and riotously disputatious as their audiences, because directly monetizing them is the new central challenge of the news business." That's also what's happening in education.

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Copyright 2019 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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