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Criticism of a recent report from the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies (AIMS) on online learning in eastern Canada. I covered the report reasonably favourably. But the Nova Scotia Teacher's Union (NSTU) was not happy and neither was Grant Frost, both of which call the report's author to task for understating the scale of online learning innovation in the province. "Close to 30,000 of our approximately 119,000 public school students are engaged, at some level at least, in online learning," writes Frost. Well, he has a point - the AIMS study uses misleading and sloppy statistics to argue that only 2.2 percetn of students are enrolled in online learning. And there's the ubiquitous pro-privatization argument that mars anything AIMS does.
But from the other side of the ledger, I would argue that 25% - the number Frost gives is - is low. In 2016, in an advanced information age economy, the number should be close to 100%. Can you imagine that 75% of students aren't doing any online learning? I have no doubt about the teachers' commitment. But provincially (across Atlantic Canada) there is a failure to invest. And a failure to invest is exactly what creates openings for things like this AIMS article. It wobbles the mind.[Link] [Comment]
Best analogy for 'grit' thus far: "when faced with a decreasing demand for a product in one market segment, the internationally massive and multi-billion dollar testing industry would look to create a new product that meets the increasing demands of another," writes Grant Frost. "I believe that, in testing for grit, we may have encountered the educational world’ s latest version of a bottle of air." Good post authored by someone I should have found long before now. Image: CNN.[Link] [Comment]
I confess, I read this item because I wondered what the author considered "the biggest problem in education." Here's what it is: "of the hordes of students that sign up for massive open online classes (MOOCs), an average of less than 7% finish." Well, education has its problems, but I think this is far from the biggest of them. It's like saying that the biggest problem in music is that people just listen to one song instead of a whole album. Maybe the biggest problem in education is something else - something like, say, engineers and developers designing teaching systems based on their shallow and folk-psychological knowledge of learning and education. P.S. I can't even begin to list all the things that are wrong with the image accompanying this article.[Link] [Comment]
I've read a dozen or so press releases and articles about the recently concluded eLearning Africa conference in Cairo and this one seems to summarize best the general tenor of the discussion. "There is growing frustration at the time it is taking for e-learning to truly become a reality in Africa, with attendees at this year’ s eLearning Africa conference in Cairo, including ministers, businessmen and education experts, expressing impatience." (Note to self: add 'have dinner by the pyramids' to the list of things to do.) See also this reflection from Donald Clark, who was there.[Link] [Comment]
There's open source and then there's open source. One type of open source is more properly called 'community source', and that's what Sakai is. It was a large and complex LMS, designed by and for major institutions, with no real expectation of a community outside that exclusive group. Michael Feldstein describes the concept - and its failings - in his post from two years ago, Community Source is Dead. "Community Source borrows the innovation of the open source license while maintaining traditional consortial governance and enterprise software management techniques." Given this analysis, this week's collapse of the Sakai installation at UC Davis should not come as a surprise.[Link] [Comment]
In this, "the final weekly newsletter from Iain Martin, Editor of CapX," the blame for the fall of media is laid squarely at the feet of social media, criticizing "those ostensibly up-market titles that opted for a friendly approach, cosying up to Facebook, pumping out more and more free rubbish," and of course, lamenting that "the tech giants blend inherent anti-conservatism, liberal elitism and hatred of regulation."
My first visit to the UK was in 1976, long before the web and social media. I asked for a newspaper at my hotel room door. "Which newspaper?" I was asked. Well I would like world news, I replied. "How about News of the World?" Perfect! I said. Imagine my surprise to see a scandal rag complete with pinup girls the next morning. Yes, the press may have outed the occasional politician, as Martin notes, but it has been an abject failure otherwise, completely ineffective in response to real world problems: environment, the concentration of wealth, militarization and corporate corruption.
Democracy was in peril long before the internet. We who turn to social media do so because there is no free press, and indeed, has never been in our lifetimes. It certainly did not exist in my childhood, and the press of the present day slavishly prints whatever its well-heeled employers demand.[Link] [Comment]
I'm writing this post on a three-year old laptop even though I could be using a tablet. Why? The screen is larger, so I don't need to squint to read. The keyboard is hefty and responsive. It's really light (the carbon fibre construction is actually lighter than my iPad). It has HDMI and USB and earbud ports. It's more powerful than a tablet, and runs productivity software as well development environments. but it cost less. It doesn't require special 'apps'. Donald Clark points to all this in his post. Of course, my laptop is an ideaPad, which means it can become a tablet if I want. It has six hours of battery life, which makes it OK for airplane use (my next laptop will have more). The touch-sensitive screen means I can draw on it (I need to learn how, though). So the point here isn't that tablets are bad - it's that the way they were designed and marketed was bad. Apple could have designed a teriffic tool, but it had other priorities.[Link] [Comment]
Algebra has once again come under challenge and in response there have been the usual defenses, such as this article on why we need algebra. To me (as I do things like measure the amount of paint required to cover a four bedroom house) the answer is pretty clear. But people like Andrew Hacker argue it should be dropped from the curriculum because it's a leading cause of dropouts. In my own education, the concept of abstraction confounded me; I didn't really get it until graduate school. That's because it was always based on memorization, which renders it pointless and abstruse. But it doesn't have to be this way. What if we taught it differently, experientially, by making people the variables. Imagine, for example, this wonderful technique employed by Alfred Thompson where students form the variables. He intends it for basic computing algorithms, but there's no reason students couldn't be challenged to create more and more involved and complex 'human machines'. The possibilities are endless. (p.s. have them communicate by email instead of by voice and you've also invented rudimentary people-based service-oriented architecture).[Link] [Comment]
Several studies have just come out describing the uneasy reality of gender non-parity in social networks:
This link points to a British initiative, Reclaim the Internet. "Here you'll find questions, discussion, personal testimony and ideas on how we can take a stand against online abuse." I'll make one comment: this is not unique to the internet. Visit any pub or locker room or barracks and you'll find the same. This sort of behaviour is currently socially acceptable; that's why we see it. It shouldn't be. Reports via MediaSmarts.[Link] [Comment]
Tallahassee Community College boosts affordability, access in math courses using open educational resources
In 2015 there were roughly 20 million students in the United States. Why is this significant? According to this release from Lumen Learning, which is similar to others I've seen, the use of open educational resources - specifically, open textbooks - saved 4,825 students some $535,000 in that same year. That's more than $1,000 per student, which means that this program alone, if applied nationally in the U.S. would save students $20 billion - with a B. Now this number is probably high - the average student spends only $900 on textbooks, and the entire market size is only $14 billion, so we're not going to hit $20 billion. But no matter what, the numbers are staggering. Which begs the question: why is this not happening?[Link] [Comment]
At a certain point of overuse a word loses its meaning. "Transform" is one such word, according to Larry Cuban. "When it comes to school reform, as the quotes above indicate, the word 'transform' hits the jackpot of overhyped words in reformers’ vocabulary.... Yes, I have gotten allergic to the word 'transform' when it is applied to schooling. That allergy has prompted me to ask any policymaker, researcher, practitioner, high-tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist, or parent using the word, certain questions about what he or she means." What follows is a lost of questions that should be asked of people promoting transformation. What does it mean? What problems are being solved? What exactly is transformed? What does it become? How fast? Why is it better? But, of course, these questions could be asked against any of our buzzwords today - analytics, reform, open, online, whatever. And they should be asked. Slogans aren't plans.[Link] [Comment]
MediaSmarts (which once upon a time had a much better name, the Media Awareness Network) has released the final installment of Use, Understand & Create: A Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools. The framework "includes over 50 lessons and interactive games, organized by grade level from kindergarten to grade 12, that are aligned with seven aspects of digital literacy: finding and verifying; ethics and empathy; privacy and security; digital health; consumer awareness; community engagement; and making and remixing." View the framework here. For the theoretical background, see this "mapping of the features and focal points of digital literacy and digital citizenship from across the country": 75 page PDF.[Link] [Comment]
This is an interesting and useful post. Bodong Chen first distinguishes between learning analytics and academic analytics (the former being directly concerned with teaching and learning) and educational data mining (the latter being more focused on the exploration of data from academic settings). He then outlines some areas of interest: first, the emphasis on big data in learning analytics, and second the need for it to consider the more nuanced aspects of learning itself. This leads to a discssion of the 'tensions': first, divisions based on different accounts of learning; second, the tension between learning and algorithms; third, agency and control; and fourth, the ethics of learning analytics. It's also worth viewing his Learning Analytics course.[Link] [Comment]
Best takedown of the day: "The state of knowledge among people who have actually run large online communities is so far advanced beyond the research community that most research in this area is more amusing than helpful." The line comes from Michael Caulfield and he cites Clay Shirky on a pre-2011 truism about online community: "You have to find some way to protect your own users from scale... you can’ t try to make the system large by taking individual conversations and blowing them up like a balloon." This of course is what we were also trying to do when we shifted our MOOC users away from the centralized Moodle platform and into their own blogs and communities. And as Caulfield says, "This is discovered repeatedly throughout history, and you could write a taxonomy of different techniques we use to protect users from scale." Image: Waltman and van Eck, community detection (worth a read in its own right).[Link] [Comment]
I have a story I often tell. Suppose, I say, two people want to travel from Edmonton to Calgary. What's the best way to do this? Should they each get a separate car and race? Should they bid against each other for the one remaining car, with only the winner traveling? No, competition won't get these drivers to Calgary faster nor more efficiently. The rational thing to do is to share a ride. John Warner writes, "Competition works really well when the goal is to determine who is a winner and who is a loser and the winners benefit, receiving their tributes and rewards. When the rewards are outsized, or the punishment severe, truly terrible behaviors can result." He's right.
This is a good but not especially imaginative article on what to expect from mobile learning in education. For example, what factors will impact the use of mobile technologies? Bandwidth, instructor use and proficiency, and student proficiency, we are told. Well - yeah. Anything else? Or, for example, what can we expect in the future? We are told: location-based learning, augmented reality, wearable learning, internet of things, and 'apps' for learning. The same stuff, in other words, that we've been reading about for a decade. And yes, we are told to ramp up instructor training, secure leadership buy-in, and measure project results. Yawn.[Link] [Comment]
Using a Moodle plugin, "instructors can turn their courses into a personalized game, where students complete course activities in the school's Moodle learning management system to gain skill points and advance their avatar through a series of objectives." Students take a pretest, receive an avatar, and then run through some 75 activities, working to earn 'skill points' which count toward getting their 'job' of choice.[Link] [Comment]
Should games be hard-coded to run on specific hardware? Oculus is in a war against so-called hackers who are adapting their games to run on rival systems such as HTV Vive and Valve. Is this (as they claim) 'piracy'? Technically, yes, since the DRM must be broken. But using a legally purchased game on an alternative platform doesn't seem to be inheerently wrong. And even Oculus said it would be OK: "Last year, company founder Palmer Luckey posted on Reddit that he would not resist users' attempts to try out Oculus games on rival headsets." What does this whole episode tell us how Facebook - which owns Oculus - will operate in the future should it ever be able to lock users into its platform?[Link] [Comment]
Unlike Don Tapscott, I'm not going to transform myself into a blockchain expert. But some people will, and if you are one of those, here is a list of blogs that might get you started.[Link] [Comment]
One of the major complaints about the current system of academic publishing, writes Kent Anderson, is that authors are not paid. So, he asks, what if they were paid? It's obviously a straw man question, and not surprisingly, Anderson treats it that way. But the consequences would be predictable: it would cost the system roughly an extra billion dollars or so, increasing costs between 9-15%. There would also be more overhead and numerous opportunities (and temptations) to game the system. Fair enough. But isn't all this the current result of paying publishers? Sure, the system could go wrong if we start paying people. Bloated subscription fees, pseudo-journals, bundling - that's what happened when we started paying publishers.
Anderson also writes that the current incentives "allow authors to shift risk to publishers for publishing their papers, and allow editors and researchers to focus on core scientific and intellectual issues." But authors already assume a great deal of risk, arguably much more than publishers, as each paper represents an investment of time and resources to produce. It means authors have to find funding elsewhere - from an institution, a foundation, a corporate sponsor. There is virtually no such thing as an independent researcher because there is no direct reward for publication. (I'm not arguing here that authors should be paid, but rather than Anderson's argument against paying them falls far short of being conclusive).[Link] [Comment]
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