Miscellaneous

Real talk

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago
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Vyvyan Evans, Aeon, Dec 21, 2014

"For decades," begins this article, "the idea of a language instinct has dominated linguistics. It is simple, powerful and completely wrong." There is no language instinct - yes, we have the capacity to learn a language, but what`s key here is that language is something that is learned, and not the basis for learning. And the arguments against Chomsky`s theory of a universal grammar`should also cause you to doubt theories of learning based on similar ideas (especially, for example, Piaget or Pinker). We learn language the way we learn everything else: by observing examples of language being used, by imitation and practice, and finally, by reflection. And the ability to use language is a type of recognition, no different from recognizing Aunt Lucy, and not some artful manipulation of codes and rules. If this long article doesn't convince you to abandon the innateness-of-language theory, then I don't know what will.

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The End of Sitting

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago
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Ronald Rietveld, Erik Rietveld, Arna Mackic, RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances], Dec 21, 2014

As we get away from classrooms we begin to look at new ways of creating environments for working together. The modern design - offices with desks, tables and chairs - is no real improvement on the classroom. This research project looks at alternatives, designing various shapes based on the different ways we can lean or stand when working with each other. I'm not sure I like it - it probably has the acoustical problems inherent in open-concept workspaces, and there's no place to put down my coffee or to grow a plant. But I like the thinking behind it. More from Wired, Science Alert, Fast Company, etc.

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How to Write a Resume That Stands Out

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago


Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review, Dec 21, 2014

Yes I know, there's a million of these articles out there already. But this is short, clear, and really good. It made me rethink how I wrote my own c.v. (you get to call a resumé a c.v. is you're looking for an academic position). Not that I'm looking for a job (I have really enjoyed the last year at NRC as a program leader) but it makes me rethink how I would organize my accomplishments and those of the people who work with me. As the article says, "'I managed a team of 10' doesn’ t say much. You need to dig a level deeper. Did everyone on your team earn promotions? Did they exceed their targets?"

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The moos you can moo

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago
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Mark Liberman, Language Log, Dec 21, 2014

This article looks at news reports that anthropomorphize elements of scientific reports and, as a consequence, misrepresent their conclusions. In this case, scientists examine how cows use distinctive calls to communicate with offspring. The news media adds a human element to this behaviour by saying these are "names" for the calves. What's happening is that the news media, by describing cows as though they were human, are essentially making stuff up. Geoff Pullman writes, "They actually print what are obviously lies, even when the text of the same article makes it clear that they are lying."

I think the same thing happens in educational writing. If this article, for example, we are told about "the brain’ s danger detector, the amygdala, being down-regulated, trading energy normally spent on vigilance for heightened focus and enhanced recall." But the brain is doing no such thing; that is an interpretation of a set of neural phenomena. Or this: "the human brain locks down episodic memories in the hippocampus." Or this, "the eyes and hands of children save memories for them." Assigning cognitive functions to things that do not have cognitive capacities is pernicious anthropomorphism, and it imposes a theory of self on the evidence that has no basis in reality.

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Article at the Open Badges in Education workshop

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago


Hans Põldoja, hanspoldoja.net, Dec 21, 2014

Post linking to an article on the use of open badges in education. Covers badges briefly and most notably, identifies the following use patterns (quoted from the post):

  • composite badges can be achieved by completing multiple assignments;
  • activity-based badges can be awarded automatically based on measurable learning activities;
  • grade-based badges are based on the grades that the learners have received;
  • hierarchical badges are divided to several levels, some of which may be composite badges based on lower level badges.

Interestingly, as the author notes, none of these are based on learning outcomes, showing that there is still a gap between the implementation of badges and the ideal envisioned.

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Developing Personal Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago
[Slides][Audio]

In this online presentation I discuss the evolution of personal learning technology and then itemize in more detail the elements of the NRC Learning and Performance Support Systems program, including the personal learning record, personal cloud, resource repository network, competency detection and recognition, and personal learning assistant.

6th IEEE International Conference on Technology for Education, Amrita University, Kerala, India, online via A-View (Keynote) Dec 20, 2014 [Comment]
Categories: Miscellaneous

The conundrum of creating an open course in a closed site – Storyboard OOC update

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago
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Gabi Witthaus, Art of e-learning, Dec 21, 2014

So this, I think, is the opposite of a MOOC: "We chose to use a platform that requires people to have accounts and sign in, in order to be able to set up and manage the groups effectively." Ironically the letter they choose to drop MOOC is not 'O' for 'Open' but 'M' for 'Massive'. It's true that if the course is not open, it won't be massive, but the really important bit is whether or not it's open. Additionally, setting up a course in such a way as to require management of groups is also contrary to the intent of MOOCs. So why not just call it an 'OC' (Online Course)?  Well, it wouldn't be very interesting if it were just one of those, would it? And that's why we're getting so much false-MOOC pollution.

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The secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago
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Leo Mirani, Quartz, Dec 21, 2014

We need to be careful about which part of the new technology-enabled on-demand economy we are cheering for. Uber, for example, or AirBNB appear to be tech-enabled, but they're not, really. " In my hometown of Mumbai," writes  Leo Mirani, "we have had many of these conveniences for at least as long as we have had landlines -- and some even earlier than that. It did not take technology to spur the on-demand economy. It took masses of poor people." This isn't exactly what we're trying to achieve in education. Via Kottke.

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Strict Finitism and Transhumanism

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago
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Peter Rothman, Humanity+, Dec 21, 2014

I have a very unhappy  relationship with the concept of infinity. I maintain that I can't comprehend infinity, and infinity insists on inserting itself into my cognition. This impacts what I think about pretty much everything (including, even, what I mean when I say 'everything'). For me, the pragmatic question is that, if infinity is in any sense 'real', then it may be impossible to 'grow' or 'develop' cognitive processes that rely on it. This has a direct impact on what I can (or want to) say about learning and cognition - for example, a network process that does not have 'infinity' somehow built in will be incapable of performing 'real' mathematics or other cognitive functions. My own thought is that the concept of infinity is a convenient fiction - there are no 'real' infinities, and a system of reasoning (such as mathematics) that produces one is to that extent also a convenient fiction. To get a sense of the sort of debate I have in mind here, read this article.

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The Internet Is a Zoo: The Ideal Length of Everything Online

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago
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Mark Uzunian, SumAll, Dec 21, 2014

I don't link to infographics. That's one key message I want people to take from this post. So please don't send me infographics to link to. Having said that, this post is a link to an infographic, because this one actually occupied my attention for a couple of minutes, and presented some useful information that appears to be  data-backed (you'll have to scroll down past the advertorial content (which is why I don't link to infographics)). So what is it? Basically, it lists the 'ideal' length for everything from tweets to Facebook messages to blog posts. The numbers feel right to me (which is how I evaluate even the most carefully researched data). P.S. if you're going to do infographics, the least you could do is animate them, as Eleanor Lutz does with her beautiful images.

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A depiction of space-time-action analysis (STA) in six slides — plus an addendum of revelatory quotes

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 1 hour 42 min ago
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David Ronfeldt, Visions from Two Theories, Dec 21, 2014

in computer science we have 'frameworks', which are sets of applications and methods that allow us to do things. In theory, as well, we have frameworks, and these perform similar functions conceptually. I'm not a big fan of them in either realm, but I get their value. The current post discusses aspects of the Space-Time-Action framework. David Ronfeldt writes, "all three circles — space, time, and action — are treated as independent but interactive variables, roughly equal in size and location, with complex overlaps.... It makes 'thinking and doing' — not vague 'action' — the dependent variable. And as I’ ve argued in various writings, it’ s a more accurate way to depict and assess cognition."

Personally, I don't think we have a clear idea of what either space nor time are. The precision of the measurements and the abstraction of language lull us into thinking we comprehend them. But even the simplest of questions about them befuddle us. Questions like: do space and time end? Are they quantuum in nature? Do they change as our perception of them changes? For foundational principles of cognition, they really are quite fuzzy.

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Great Firewall of China

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 4 hours 42 min ago
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Terry Anderson, Virtual Canuck, Dec 21, 2014

Terry Anderson writes about some unexpected issues with IRRODL, the online journal he founded. While browsing in China he discovered that it did not run smoothly at all. "Google Translate (banned). Further investigation found that we used Google analytics, google API’ s that are built into the Open Journal System we use and one other Google service – on each page view!" The Chinese government is concerned about the expansion of American media, just as we are in Canada, writes Anderson. It would be better if they adopted more open practices to help their own scholars and researchers.

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Flickr removes CC-licensed photos from Wall Art program

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 4 hours 42 min ago
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Ryan Merkley, Creative Commons, Dec 21, 2014

I can't say that I'm surprised there was an outcry, and I hope people now understand what the CC-by license allows. The Creative Commons blog states, "Our vision is one where content of all kinds is freely available for use under simple terms, where the permissions are clear to everyone. If that doesn’ t happen, creators can feel misled or cheated, and users are left uncertain if they can use the commons as a source of raw material." I would content that this is exactly what happened, and that the promotion of the CC-b y license as somehow "more free" fostered exactly this sort of misunderstanding.

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Khan Academy founder has two big ideas for overhauling higher education in the sciences

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 7 hours 42 min ago
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Gregory Ferenstein, Venture Beat, Dec 21, 2014

So let's have fun talking about why these would never work: "Sal Khan has a few ideas for how to radically overhaul higher education. First, create a universal degree that’ s comparable to a Stanford degree, and second, transform the college transcript into a portfolio of things that students have actually created." OK, to be fair, I think that he does point to some things that are broken in today's system of education related to articulation and credentials. But I don't think anyone (except Khan) believes there should be a single standard degree, much less a Stanford degree. And a moment's reflection will reveal the search and intelligence problem that results when grades are replaced with portfolios; how will an employer find what was formerly a BA from a slew of portfolios? The discouraging thing is that the business press and VCs take this level of thinking seriously.

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Tech Industry Rallies Around Microsoft in Data Privacy Battle With US

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 7 hours 42 min ago
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Katherine Noyes, E-Commerce Times, Dec 21, 2014

It's not only the North Koreans who want to view your private data and email E-Commerce Times is reporting on a case pitting Microsoft against the U.S. government. A number of organizations have come to MS's aid after "a case challenging a U.S. government search warrant for Microsoft customer data stored on a server based in Ireland." This is by no means the first case where American judges have found that the jurisdiction of the American government extends into other countries. Microsoft's Brad Smith argues, "We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws." The U.S. government's "unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk." Just ask Sony, which is having similar problems with a foreign government.

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What the Sony hacks reveal about the news industry

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 7 hours 42 min ago
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David Uberti, Columbia Journalism Review, Dec 21, 2014

If traditional newspapers won't cover the Sony leaks, then Gawker and Buzzfeed will. And if Gawker and Buzzfeed won't, then someone else will step forward. This changes the role of journalists in a manner that might be instructive to educators: "The new role of journalists, for better or for worse, isn’ t as gatekeepers, but interpreters: If they don’ t parse it, others without the experience, credentials, or mindfulness toward protecting personal information certainly will." I would feel more sorry for Sony weren't for its decades-long history of user-hostile business practices, up to and including the famous  rootkit incident, in which Sony hacked their customers' computers. I do feel more sorry for Seth Rogan, though I don't like his movies a lot.

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The Case for Group Work

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 7 hours 42 min ago
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Matt Acevedo, Blackboard Blog, Dec 21, 2014

Count me as being among those with no fondness for group work. Matt Acevedo writes, "We all know the why: group members don’ t contribute equitably. There’ s invariably that one driven person who does most of the work, a few folks who contribute just enough to get by, and the one slacker who no one hears from until the day before the big project is due." So what is the case for group work? Acevedo argues, "It is crucial that we (educators) also design and facilitate experiences that mimic the real-world context in which our students will one day operate." Maybe so - but by experiences of groups in learning are very different from groups in the real world.  then groups should be designed very differently. People from different professions (or programs) should be brought together, for example. Group governance should also resemble real-world experiences. And they should, as Merrill argues, be "engaged in solving real-world problems."

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The Trouble with Tor

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 10 hours 42 min ago
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Paul Rubens, eSecurity Planet, Dec 21, 2014

Good article describing  Tor (The Onion Router), a system originally developed by the U.S. military in order to facilitate secure and anonymous communications. Tor works by sending messages over a series of routers - each router encrypts the message and sends it along to the next. Nobody but the receiver knows the final destination and the identify of the recipient. It has been used to hide the location of websites and online services, such as the Silk Road, a website used by drug dealers. Though Tor is secure, it can fail to protect its users; this article describes how. Agencies (mostly law enforcement) can infiltrate by setting up  fake routers and monitoring traffic, sending malware to host machines, or simply targeting people who use Tor for more conventional investigations.

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How The 70:20:10 Model Can Takeoff

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - 10 hours 42 min ago


Mark Rose, eLearning Industry, Dec 21, 2014

According to article, here's how he 70:20:10 model ratio breaks down:

  • 70% of learning from on-the-job experience
  • 20% of learning from people (i.e. role models, coaches, or managers)
  • 10% of learning from formal training (i.e. seminars, classes, or reading)

The typical interpretation of that will be that actual training, therefore, breaks down into two-thirds social, one-third formal (with the rest being on-the-job). I still think that's too much formal. But another (better) way of looking at it is to understand that 90 percent of learning comes from outside the classroom or LMS. This means understanding the need to provide learning support outside these locations. That, in my view, is what is needed to address the sceptics. (p.s. when used as a verb, "take off" is two words, not one word.) Se also: 70:20:10 Forum.

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Abstracts of Three Studies Related to Pedagogical Agents

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 12/20/2014 - 19:00
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Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Dec 20, 2014

Quoted from the article:

  • "Pedagogical agents produced a small but significant effect on learning."
  • "Gender bias affects learner’ s perception on virtual agent. Implications are discussed in terms of how stereotypes of expert-like and peer-like agent can be effectively utilized"
  • "Students who viewed a highly embodied agent also rated the social attributes of the agent more positively than did students who viewed a nongesturing agent."

So - students get more out of agents that act like people, but that isn't always a positive thing.

 

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