Miscellaneous

What do online college students want and like?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 11:54

Tony Bates, Online learning and distance education resources, Jul 17, 2018

This is a summary of a report by Andrew J. Magda and Carol B. Aslanian (there's a spamwall, but this direct download link might work - 62 page PDF) "on the survey of 1,500 past, present, and prospective fully online college students in the USA." The main message is that online degrees are worth the time and resources expended. Bates comments, "As online students move from being a small minority to a substantial proportion of post-secondary enrolments (at least one third of students in the USA take at least one online course and in Canada around 15% of all course enrolments are now online) institutions will need to pay more attention to the specific needs of students who study primarily off-campus."

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What An Expensive SF Restaurant That Can't Afford Waiters Tells Us About the Future of Higher Ed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 11:31

Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed, Jul 17, 2018

This is a case of a writer wanting to have it both ways. On the one hand, "Jobs that were once done by 2 people are now done by 1." On the other hand, "Almost everything that happens at a university that is of any value is done by a person." I think that what we'll find is that as automation takes over the quality of a university education doesn't decline as much as you think it would. Sure, automation is not as good as it could be. But like self-driving cars, we might find that the robots do a lot of cognitive tasks better than the humans. Photo: New York Times in a story about the restaurant.

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Still a mystery: How does the brain make the mind?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 18:35

Andrea Estrada, Futurity, Jul 17, 2018

I don't actually think it's a mystery any more but I recognize that not everybody will agree with me on this. In this article we read a review of Michael Gazzaniga's book The Consciousness Instinct: Unraveling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind. According to the book, "Specialized capacities come up one at a time, he explains, and through time they are stitched together to give the illusion of a unified consciousness." That's fair enough, so far as it goes - but whether we think of this as separate and specialized or whole and organic is strictly a matter of perspective - from where I sit, consciousness is experience, and the best explanation for that experience is found in the description of the human brain.

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A Gullible Population Is a National Security Issue

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 17:26

Vicki Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Jul 17, 2018

Vicki Davis makes the point stated in the title in a forceful way using examples of Russian-produced social media advertisements aimed at an American audience. If I had to change anything, I would change the word "national" to "global", because it doesn't matter where the advertisements come from, nor where they're directed, they still have the intent (and effect) of making the world burn. As Vicki Davis says here, " Information literacy is no longer just a nice-to-have literacy. It’s required for stability and civil discourse within any modern country. We don’t have to agree about everything with our fellow citizens, but we should learn how to disagree, and we should realize that our common enemy can easily make us enemies of one another and let us do their dirty work."

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JavaScript API for Face Recognition in the Browser

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 12:07

Vincent Mühler, ITNext, Medium, Jul 16, 2018

This is documentation of a script you can use on your website to classify and recognize faces. Though it's based on recognition of faces on photos, the obvious application of this is to use it as a way to identify who is looking at your website. Of course, you would have to turn on the reader's camera (sometimes without telling them). But what could go wrong? More generally (and usefully) it's a way to use AI-supported interactivity in your website, doing much more interesting things like face recognition.

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Orchestration Graphs: Modeling Scalable Education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 11:53

Pierre Dillenbourg, Amazon, Jul 16, 2018

Enough of this book is visible online to be tantalizing (not that I can buy it, though; I have nothing like the budget it would take to actually buy books). The premise is as follows: "a sequence of learning activities can be modeled as a graph with specific properties." What follows appears to be a good application of graph theory to learning processes, up to and including the stochastic properties of graphs - that is, the idea that we can view a student's path through the graph as a set of probabilities. Readers should also note the concurrence between this idea and that of the directional acyclic graph (DAG) mentioned here a few days ago - I'm not sure whether it ever appears in the book, but it's a natural tie-in. And of course all of this describes (in my view) the graph-based underlying model of the original MOOCs (long forgotten in the rush to convert MOOCs from free to commercial). Via Gerald Ardito.

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Improving Teaching Effectiveness: Final Report

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 11:38

Brian M. Stecher, RAND, Jul 16, 2018

This is an evaluation of a $775m Gates Foundation project to improve teacher performance. The key finding is that the program did not work. "Sites implemented new measures of teaching effectiveness and modified personnel policies accordingly but did not achieve their goals for students." But I like how Boing Boing responded to the report: "Kudos to the Gates Foundation, seriously... they hired outside auditors to evaluate the program's effectiveness, and published that report, even though it shows that the approach did no good on balance and arguably caused real harms to teachers and students." 587 page PDF.

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Take our playbook: NPR’s guide to building immersive storytelling projects

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 19:37

Wesley Lindamood, NPR, Jul 16, 2018

This is an outline of NPR's "editorial development process called Hypothesis-Driven Design." It's an approach to design that goes beyond layout and presentation to include aspects of experimentation, but which also "provides teams with a structure for developing an informed and shared opinion to test and learn from in quick and lightweight ways." From where I sit the model would offer students a useful model to follow in their own development projects, one that combines both creativity with evidence-based practices.

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Declaration of Rights and Principles to Transform Scholarly Communication

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 18:04

Richard A. Schneider, University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication, University of California, Jul 16, 2018

This is dates from April, 2018, and was recently (?) released (via Digital Koans). It is an all-encompassing statement of author and institutional rights that draws a clear line between current predatory practices and what ought to be the academic publishing regime in the future. I strongly support this declaration. It opposes copyright transfers, opposes waivers on open access clauses, and states (among many other things) that "licenses shall not restrict, and should instead expressly protect, the rights of authors, institutions, and the public to reuse excerpts of published work consistent with legal exceptions and limitations on copyright such as fair use." Yeah! No double payments. No hidden profits. And no NDA clauses - " shall be transparent and shall not contain terms that prevent the sharing of their contents."

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5 Critical Gaps in STEM Skills

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 17:47

Dian Schaffhauser, Jul 16, 2018

This is a different way of looking at the gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. Sure, there's the knowledge component - or, at least, "basic mathematics, critical thinking, complex and creative problem-solving and the ability to adapt." But the gap manifests in some unexpected ways as well. Consider, for example, the "belief gap", that is, "the impression students have about which industries offer STEM jobs and whether or not they believe they belong in STEM." Or the "geography gap," "exposing the connections between 'poverty and place' and the 'lack of opportunity in certain neighborhoods and communities.'" This account is based on the State of STEM report (warning: they will require the information they need to spam you before they send you a copy, but this direct link to the 44 page PDF might work).

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The Coherence Theory of Truth

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 17:32

James O. Young, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Jul 16, 2018

A naive theory of truth would be one where a sentence is true if and only if whatever it describes is actually true in the real world. This is the correspondence theory of truth. But what if you can never satisfy this? What if you can't know enough about the real world to establish correspondance? Is there no truth, then? Not necessarily - this is where the coherence theory of truth comes in. If we can have a set of consistent sentences describing the world as we know it, then that consistence itself might be enough to justify our claim that the sentences are true. The most important advocate for a coherence theory of truth today is probably Donald Davidson, and I think this newly revised article in the Stanford Encyclopedia doesn't do him justice. But it's a good brief description of a concept everybody interested in knowledge should know.

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Lessons Learned From a Consortium That Fizzled

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 14:01

Mark Lieberman, Inside Higher Ed, Jul 16, 2018

This article describes what happened when four liberal arts colleges decided to form a consortium to offer EdX MOOCs together. Don't worry, it's nothing bad. But it's interesting to see how each institution found its own path forward. Davidson focused on "free, short courses driven by timely topics in the news, such as voter fraud and "engaging in a time of polarization." Colgate developed two MOOCs and "now sees them as one element in the institution's landscape of course modes." Wellesley secured Mellon Foundation grant for blended learning and developed an on-campus initiative. And Hamilton developed four MOOCs "but eventually opted not to pursue the medium further."

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What skills improve pattern recognition?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 20:10

Steven Forth, TeamFit, Jun 29, 2018

Knowledge is recognition, but what leads to greater skill in recognition. This post considers that question. " Pattern recognition depends on the ability to see what is the same and the ability to see what is different. Further, it depends on being able to make connections between different types of information and on being able to apply transformations to different types of data... Pattern recognition skills can be built up by actively working with patterns of different types. There are several approaches to this. The six modular operators help one work with many basic organizational patterns (split, substitute, exclude, augment, invert, port)." Interesting. Worth noting.

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Designing Learning Experiences in an Evidence-Informed Way

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 19:15

Mirjam Neelen, Paul A. Kirschner, 3-Star Learning Experiences, Jun 29, 2018

Paul A. Kirschner and Mirjam Neelen aren't too shy to accuse people of being eduquacks, and they base this assessment on their own fidelity to what they call "evidence-informed learning design". They're not wrong, but they're not exactly right either. To a degree they recognize the difficulty in our field: it "doesn’t usually deliver the quality of evidence that clinical practice does. This is simply because we’re dealing with so many variables that are extremely hard to (all) control. Literally, what worked with a class today at 9 AM won’t necessarily have the same effects on a different class at 3 PM." True. But even worse, while there are generally accepted accounts of what might be called 'healthy', our views on what constitutes 'educated' are very different. And because of this, it becomes very difficult to compare evidence from one theory against another; they are, literally, incommensurate.

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To Learn, Stop Believing Everything You Think

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 18:55

Tim Rahschulte, Chief Learning Officer, Jun 29, 2018

This is a really good piece of advice that, so far as I know, doesn't show up in a traditional educational curriculum anywhere. The advice is simple: don't believe everything you think. That voice inside your head sometimes lies, sometimes fools itself, and is sometimes simply wrong. This article talks about overconfidence bias but the lesson applies to underconfidence as well - that voice may be saying you can't do it, but that voice could be wrong. That voice could be saying other people are so much better than you, but that voice doesn't know any more than you do. When you think something - think again. Subject your own thoughts to a sober second opinion. Trust yourself - but verify.

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It’s Not Just Code, It’s a Network

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 18:24

Anil Dash, Glitch, Medium, Jun 29, 2018

Why would Microsoft buy GitHub? Anil Dash looks at "the cost of acquiring developers for a platform" as one explanation and suggests that "the far greater value comes from radically increasing the number of people who can create software, while improving the quality of software." Both are good reasons but my explanation is a bit different. It's this: Microsoft has finally acquired its social network technology, so it can challenge Facebook and Twitter, but crucially, it's also a distributed consensus mechanism for creating works collaboratively. Git is a directed acyclic graph (DAG) that has been used and tested over time. It creates an ordering of contents, and also creates a way for contents to converge with each other. This is really important, and in my view if properly applied gives Microsoft the core technology it needs to compete in social networks - and more.

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ISTE Wants to Be More Than Just a Conference. Learn How They Are Expanding.

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 18:00

Jenny Abamu, EdSurge, Jun 29, 2018

ISTE - the International Society for Technology in Education - is the largest ed tech conference in the United States, and this week it has announced its intention to become something more. There are two major announcements: first, a set of "new standards for education leaders, which focus on equity, digital citizenship, team and systems building, continuous improvement and professional growth, the organization announced," and second, a partnership with D2L to create something called ISTE-U, which will be a professional learning hub for ISTE members. A number of courses are listed, many being developed in partnership with organizations like Google. The courses themselves cost money and "are eligible for graduate-level credit at an additional fee ... at Dominican University of California."

 

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OpenAI built gaming bots that can work as a team with inhuman precision

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 11:45

Dave Gershgorn, Quartz, Jun 29, 2018

The set of five AIs had a lot of time to practice, and this made all the difference. " By using a huge stack of 256 graphics processing units (GPUs) with 128,000 processing cores, the researchers were able to speed up the AI’s gameplay so that they learned from the equivalent of 180 years of gameplay for every day it trained. One version of the bots were trained for four weeks, meaning they played more than 5,000 years of the game." That kind of practice will give you some skills, even if you aren't working with the biggest brain.

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Being rational all the time isn’t going to do you any favors

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 11:33

Zat Rana, Quartz, Jun 29, 2018

This is a quick summary of some recent research from Lisa Feldman Barrett on emotions. According to Barrett, there aren't distinct emotions (like anger, sadness or happiness). Rather, what we have is "a survival system that evaluates our surroundings to create a unique emotional landscape." According to the article, "The thing you call anger isn’t a distinctly programmed thing, but it’s a concise information point, and it gets updated by each new experience." It's a primitive prediction system. "The seeming irrationality of a well-tuned emotional system, within the right context, can fill in gaps that reason misses."

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Dispelling the misconceptions of online education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 19:04

Jeff Vaklance, Barbara Wilson-Keates, University Affairs, Jun 28, 2018

This is a back-and-forth between Athabasca University and University Affairs magazine. In the original “Online learning isn’t as inclusive as you may think,” University Affairs authors Erin Clow and Klodiana Kolomitro argue that in online learning things like netiquette are set by the instructor, while "community guidelines in a 'traditional' in-person classroom are often set through a collaborative process where both students and faculty are actively engaged." I have never actually seen that in an in-person classroom, but that's what they say. Anyhow, the Athabasca University authors reply that "Virtual learning environments have continued to grow over the last decade and what may have been considered difficult before has now changed."

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