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I was at the football game last night, and as usual, there was the tribute to the troops. We should reconsider who we set up role models in society. If the only people we honour for service to the public are those who go to war, there will be a ceaseless demand for more war. I can think of many more who make sacrifices for the pubic good: doctors, postal workers, embassy officials, environmental activists, child welfare advocates, and many many more. Children learn by adopting role models, and we want to make sure they have as many anti-war advocates to choose from as they do warriors.[Link] [Comment]
Readers of my social network accounts will know that I have shuttered my Facebook accounts and ceased using that service. The reason is that Facebook disabled the ad blocker I use in Firefox in order to force advertisements into the news stream. I have also made sure to uninstall WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook) from my phone. You should too. It's not just that WhatsApp will start sending you advertisements (and remember, you are paying for the data transfer WhatsApp uses). WhatsApp is also going to share your phone number with Facebook, according to newly updated terms of service. Facebook asserts, "Nothing you share on WhatsApp, including your messages, photos, and account information, will be shared onto Facebook or any of the Facebook family of apps for others to see." But it should be noted that, according to the BBC report, "Facebook will still receive data in some situations." So there's that.[Link] [Comment]
Adobe has launched a new e-learning community which they say is "a place where you can connect with peers, engage with a universe of experts, and pick top Adobe brains on just about anything. From blogs, tutorials, and product conversations, to event notifications, news and updates and much more." It seems mostly focused on Captivate, which is not surprising given their push to market their Captivate LMS, which was announced last year. Here's a review from last December. The site encourages you to "play all kinds of content seamlessly with our Fluidic Player that also allows note-taking to facilitate revision. Foster a learning culture using gamification and mobile learning." Here's a marketing piece from Adobe on the LMS.[Link] [Comment]
Given a substantive revision this past week, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on folk psychology is well worth reading. The idea behind folk psychology is that we can explain the behavior of humans in terms of their possessing mental states. For example, we say that a person 'knows' what the capital of Paris is, that he 'believes' Paris is in Europe, or that she 'wants' to go there. These mental states are representational states and can be thought of as holding 'mental content'. Most everyone believes some version of this theory (hence it's title as a 'folk' theory) and it permeates educational theory. That's why it's important to study this article. And it should also be noted here that my own 'belief' is that the theory is wrong, that there are no representations, mental contents, etc., and that cognitive processes are not linguistic, logical or computational processes. See eliminative materialism.[Link] [Comment]
This is a topic that could occupy the rest of your day if you let it. Don't.
Here is the argument: "SAMR is not a model of learning.... SAMR does not relate to skills; it does nothing to develop the higher order skills of Bloom’ s revised taxonomy: creativity, evaluation, analysis – the areas that we clearly need to focus on and develop with our young people." SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) may indeed may be derived from RAT (Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation). But the criticism is that SAMR lacks "a body of appropriate, peer-reviewed academic research, demonstrating the benefit of the SAMR model in improving outcomes for learners." Contrary to what the critics say, references to SAMR are to be found in peer reviewed literature - here, for example, or here, here, here, and on for several pages in Google Scholar (hard to find because 'Samr' is also a popular first name).
But all the above is pure straw man argument. Here's the real argument, as offered by Charlie Love: "the SAMR model degrades/demeans meaningful technology based learning activities and directs teachers to think of their use of technology as insufficient if it is not 'transformative'." And this version I've seen a lot. I've even used it. For example: "it is a waste of time and technology to simply use Second Life to recreate the classroom experience." Or "digital technology could be used much better than simply recreating flashcards for memorization." Against that Love argues, "the whole reason to bother with substitution/augmentation tasks is to gain the efficiencies of time, reduce the level of administration and reduce opportunities for learners to go down the wrong path." That's fine - but there is a ton of literature showing you can and should use technology to go beyond your original teaching task.[Link] [Comment]
There's a lot in this report (97 page PDF) and it should be read in full. The experience of private institutions varies a lot from country to country - they may increase access in a country like Brazil while doing nothing to increase in a country like Australia. And there's this, which stood out to me: "There is very limited evidence to suggest that the presence of the private sector, in the countries studied, has improved the quality of provision or driven down prices in either the public or private sectors. Indeed, relative to the public sector, the quality of provision in the private sector is often found wanting, while tuition fees usually are higher." As University World News reports, the system requires "better regulation to reduce the 'often considerable' risk to students, according to a six-country study."[Link] [Comment]
This is a surprisingly insightful article on the dynamics of Twitter abuse (surprising because the title and lede are so very very bad). "The 'everyone sees everything' worldview of web comments was first transcended by Twitter, driving its initial vibrant culture and rapid growth. But then the explicitly engagement-amplifying changes brought in many of these old assumptions implicitly, bringing back those problems." The problem is with the "everyone sees" part of the equation; massification creates marketing, which creates abuse. "What if, under a popular tweet, instead of seeing all the replies by default, we saw only those from people both ourselves and the post author followed?" What is we could dial it out or back, by degrees of separation? The only way to stop abuse is to prevent them from getting into our inbox in the first place. Unfortunately for Twitter, that is also the cure for marketing.[Link] [Comment]
My father was what they call a telephone pioneer and I guess I'm an internet pioneer. I wrote my first computer program in 1979 and was working for Texas Instruments by 1980. By 1991 I was studying for a PhD I would never get, playing in an internet multi-user dungeon (MUD), teaching critical thinking by telephone for Athabasca University, and playing with a thing called the Maximus BBS. At first I didn't like the web (the URLs were too long to type and it was too much like a dead-silent library). But the world of personal web sites and discussion boards opened up the world to me, and I never left. I never thought any of it would turn into a career, but within four years I had my own website and a new job in distance education and new media design. Twenty-five years. Half my life, almost. What a ride.[Link] [Comment]
This article describes what is in retrospect a remarkable turn of events: in the digital world, private enterprise has realized the Marxist ideal, the elimination of private property. "You do not own your Amazon Kindle books... You do not own the music you stream... You don’ t own the movies you watch... You (likely) do not own the software you use (unless it’ s open source);... you (likely) do not own the operating system that powers your computer; you’ ve paid for a license there as well. And increasingly, there are restrictions with what you can do with the computer hardware as well as the software that you might think is yours because it is in your possession." This is something, writes Audrey Watters, that we must fight against. "To own is to possess. To own is to have authority and control. To own is to acknowledge. It implies a responsibility."[Link] [Comment]
While a graduate student association president I spent two years working to unionize graduate teaching assistants. The effort was ultimately unsuccessful. Not because of law - unionization is much easier in Canada and contributes greatly to our more equitable society. No, even with the sanction of law and support of a national labour union, the difference in power between professor and graduate student was too great. It's hard to go on strike against the person who is grading your thesis. Still, I wish graduate students in the U.S. well. Theirs is a long row to hoe, and it will take superhuman effort in a labour-unfriendly environment to achieve something like a living wage. This new ruling, at least, makes it possible. Though, of course, the rich will resist it nonetheless.[Link] [Comment]
As a former board member for two universities (University of Alberta, and Athabasca University) I can attest to the prevalence of the board philosophy, specifically, "Support all actions taken by the Board of Governors even when in a minority position on such actions. Respect the principle of Board collegiality, meaning an issue may be debated vigorously, but once a decision is made it is the decision of the entire Board, and is to be supported." Like Alex Usher I always disagreed with that position. But I think it's a philosophy that permeates management generally. The first requirement for any manager, I've observed, is a willingness to do what they're told, to show a primary loyalty to the management team. We need to rethink this generally, and not just for university boards.[Link] [Comment]
It is inevitable, I think, that proponents of 'quality' in education will call for an end to the mandate to provide access to all, instead focusing on 'higher quality' for a few. So we have here the push to "move beyond the dominant influences of increased enrolment and growth to the achievement of other desired outcomes such as preparing students better for today’ s jobs, more sustainable institutions, higher quality education and research, etc." Leaving aside the mechanisms for pursuing these new objectives - funding based on learning outcomes, differentiation between institutions - the presumption that access is no longer a desirable objective is regressive and not worthy of a public education system. And has, I might add, nothing whatsoever to do with Keynes. Image: Evolllution.[Link] [Comment]
The point of this article isn't that there is no skills gap. There is. But as my one-time colleague Jim Stanford writes, according to the skills-shortage perspective, "the biggest challenge facing our labour market is adjusting the attitudes, capabilities and mobility of jobless workers… The problem is with the unemployed." Indeed, as Rozworski writes, "employers in Ontario spend dramatically less on employee training than they did just two decades ago." And "the obvious solutions to attracting more workers, raising wages, gets nary a mention." All true. But it's also true that people cannot just self-qualify for these high-skilled jobs. You can't just do nothing. But there shouldn't be any breaks for these companies that don't invest in training and development. Support should to students directly, and not for simply job training but for the means and opportunity to compete against the companies that wouldn't lift a finger to invest in them.[Link] [Comment]
Contemplating Daphne Koller's departure from Coursa: "It’ s not useful (or smart) for anyone to look at the 'end' of MOOCs and to happily pronounce “ well, I’ m glad that’ s over with and I’ ll never have to worry about that again," writes Steve Krause. "There are many players still involved in the MOOC biz, and the ones outside of the U.S. have different reasons and means of support than the ones inside the U.S." Krause mentions George Siemens, Dave Cormier and I. I'm pretty sure none of us have the "libertarian ideals and neoliberal governmental policies" critics of MOOCs have raised in the past. Now that the hype is over, maybe we can get on with the real agenda again, and leave the one percent to go find their next new passion.[Link] [Comment]
I know that this isn't exactly an education or learning technology story, but this account of a woman stopped at customs and turned away from the UK for accepting an honorarium should give a lot of academics pause. It's not simply that people should be really careful to research the rules before traveling abroad (though they should). It's that anyone who travels faces this sort of risk, whether or not they're infringing any rules, and that academics should be aware that they are increasingly under constraint and scrutiny worldwide. "There are themes here, on how we treat other human beings who don’ t look like 'us,' how we make laws to make ourselves feel safe that just make everyone less safe, on bureaucracy and systems that punish honesty."[Link] [Comment]
Read this one, I guess, before it disappears from the web. I think that web writers (like me) all know that they're one offended billionaire away from being deprived of their lot and livelihood. We're also aware how skewed the judgements are. "In one span of a little more than a year, not very long ago, the New York Times mistakenly accepted (and cheered for) a failed Venezuelan coup, printed falsehoods that helped carry the case for invading Iraq, and saw its top editors resign after a humiliating plagiarism scandal.... nothing in that time (at Gawker) was as shameful to me as a story the Times had put on its front page the month before, slanting the results of a study to argue that police weren’ t really disproportionately killing black people," writes Tom Scocca.[Link] [Comment]
"Humboldt," Chomsky says, "argued, I think, very plausibly, that the core principle and requirement of a fulfilled human being is the ability to inquire and create constructively, independently, without external controls." That sounds about right to me, and is certainly the sort of education I aspire to. Of course there's no shortage of people working to make sure that never happens for the population at large.[Link] [Comment]
I've commented on comments before, and in particular NPR's decision to shut down comments. This story looks at some alternatives, including Disqus (which we use here at OLDaily; I cleaned out some spam in Disqus this morning). The article also mentions the Coral project, covered here last year. This project, sponsored by Mozilla, continues to chug along; code is available in their repository. "Since The Coral Project was first announced two years ago, they have identified and are developing three highly customizable and open-source tools, as well as a guide to the tools and issues of audience engagement."[Link] [Comment]
The supposedly retired Tony Bates has authored another e-book, this one an introductoon to online learning for beginners. Here are the contents:
As usual the result is required reading.[Link] [Comment]
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