…not something to make a habit of. OLDaily or Weekly is easy to subscribe to for yourself. This is a sample and an experiment
Nice news on the patent front. “Essentially, the Court ruled that adding “on a computer” to an abstract idea does not make it patentable. Many thousands of software patents—particularly the vague and overbroad patents so beloved by patent trolls—should be struck down under this standard.”
I want this: “The Washington Post, the New York Times and software developer Mozilla will team up to create digital tools that will make it easier for readers to post comments and photos on news sites and to interact with journalists and each other.” People complain about the gRSShopper comment system more than anything else, but I’ve resisted focusing my energies on developing a centralized system. But this (as compared to the extant Disqus system) might be the ticket.
More commentary: “The complicated thing about this is it’s going to be a lot of different pieces that need to be interoperable, and not just once, but across the web.” Mathew Ingram writes that it “sounds a little like an open-source version of Kinja.”More from Poynter, Dave Winer (who argues for a more distributed system), Denovati.
Canada’s new anti-spam legislation comes into effect July 1 and if you’re like me you’ve already been receiving messages from mailing list providers requesting that you provide “express written consent” to receive the email messages. You won’t be getting one from me for this newsletter for several reasons: first, the newsletter is non-commercial, send, you expressed consent when you subscribed (nobody has ever been ‘added’ to the OLDaily mailing list; if you don’t ask for it, you don’t get it), and third, there is a ridiculously easy one-click unsubscribe at the bottom of every newsletter. But if you are involved in sending commercial emails in Canada or to Canadians, you may want to consult the provisions of our new law.
Borrowing Against the Future: The Hidden Costs of Financing U.S. Higher Education
Charlie Eaton, Cyrus Dioun, Daniela García Santibáñez Godoy, Adam Goldstein, Jacob Habinek, Robert Osley-Thomas, The Center for Culture, Organizations, and Politic, , June 19, 2014
A large part of the imperative for a rethink of the university system is the impact of the costs of that system on society at large. On a personal level, this is represented by the student loan payments that dogged me well into my 40s. But the drain on society is even larger.
As George Siemens tweets, quoting from this report, “The largest 15 for-profits [universities] received between 66% and 94% of their revenue from the federal government.” Combine this with the fact that they preferentially serve the well-connected and well-to-do, and with the enormous cost of the system as a whole, and you have a mandate for change. That’s what this report is about.
According to the prefix, “This report sets forth a vision that stems from the premise that the learner needs to be at the center of novel approaches and innovative learning networks.” It identifies a pervasive probllem, the “silos” that make a learner-centered system difficult to implement. Here are their recommendations (abridged):
- Redesign learning environments to empower learners to learn any time, any place.
- Enhance the ability of educators to support and guide learners in a networked learning environment.
- Build an infrastructure that will connect all students in all of the places they learn.
- Support the maximum feasible degree of interoperability across learning networks.
- Adopt policies to incorporate digital, media and social-emotional literacies as basic skills for living and learning in the digital age.
- Create Trusted Environments for Learning.
Well here’s the good news. This is exactly what our Learning and Performance Support Systems (LPSS) program is doing here at the National Research Council. I talk more about it here. We are staffed, well into the development process, and identifying partners for projects and collaborative research.
I think that the teaching of critical research is important, though frankly I think it should be taught much earlier than this college-level class in which it is applied. In this paper, a project is described wherein dental hygiene students are put into groups, asked to select a scientific problem to solve, and given the task of researching then presenting the results. I do wonder what body of literature they employed; the paper refers to the ‘scientific literature’, but if they’re searching only journal articles they’re not being thorough. I would also want to read more on how they learned “the skills required to properly critique information in the scientific community.”
Learning Task Inventories (LTIs). Exploration of Optimal Conditions to Help Students Develop, Improve and Sustain Good Study and Learning Practices
Stephen MacNeil, Eileen Wood, Lucia Zivcakova, Robyn Glover, Patrick Smith, Collected Essays on Learning, Teaching, June 19, 2014
According to this paper, “LTIs are chapter-by-chapter lists of detailed learning tasks students are expected to master during the course.” The paper describes the employment and use of LTIs during an introductory Organic Chemistry I course at Wilfrid Laurier University and investigates “optimal conditions
for implementation of LTIs.” The largest impact seemed to be obtained when LTIs helped students determine what they did or did not know. LTIs are an internal Wilfrid Laurier tool, and I wish there was more information or reference to information describing the nature and structure of LTIs, and how they differ from learnring objects and/or competences.
From Udacity: “we introduce credentials built and recognized by industry with clear pathways to jobs. Together with AT&T and an initial funding from AT&T Aspire of more than $1.5 million, we are launching nanodegrees: compact, flexible, and job-focused credentials that are stackable throughout your career.”
OK, if this is to be the argument against MOOCs, then universities and their professors are in trouble. Here’s the argument: “I am sure, that Stanford itself won’t give the stuff they produce to it’s own students. No one calls this racism (or classism), but it is education for poor people, just as Wal-Mart is focused on poor people. Stanford students won’t eat what Stanford sells to others, but it is selling it like mad to those folks who will never see Palo Alto and will never access a real Stanford education.”
Let’s ask, for a moment, what it would cost to provide a ‘Stanford’ education for everyone. It costs about $54.5K per year to attend Stanford as an undergraduate. The world population for ages 20-24 is 596.3M (it’s about the same for any 4-year span of people that age). That yields a total cost of $32.5 trillion dollars per year. That’s more than the combined GDPs of the G8 nations, plus China and India. There isn’t enough money in the world to give everyone a Stanford education. That is why we need cheaper alternatives. Stupid arguments like the one offered here by Roger Schank need not apply.
Optogenetics is a really cool way of studying neural networks. Inset a light-sensitive gene into selected neurons, then turn on a fibre-opting light, activating the neutron, and watch what happens. The current study is about aggression, but I like what the researcher says about diversity: ““There’s no such thing as a generic neuron,” says Anderson, who estimates that there may be up to 10,000 distinct classes of neurons in the brain. Even tiny regions of the brain contain a mixture, he says, and these neurons ‘often influence behavior in different, opposing directions.’”
Here’s the ‘speed read’ from the SciDev summary:
- Researchers surveyed 1,444 ICT experts across 55 African countries
- They found laptops, smartphones, tablets and mobile phones as key to e-learning
- Experts call for increased Internet connectivity in Africa to aid e-learning
These are findings from the e-Learning Africa report, recently released at a conference in Kenya (the link downloads a summary; under the terms of the CC license, I’ve uploaded a copy (136 page PDF) as an enclosure to this post – if you want to download from them you have to fill out a form giving them your personal information). The report includes:
- Binyavanga Wainaina’s 88 eLearning aphorisms
- An interview with ITU Development Director Brahima Sanou
- Paul Boateng on Nelson Mandela’s education legacy
- UNECA’s Aida Opoku-Mensah on the post-2015 development agenda
- A guide to key international sources of funding for education projects
- 55 individual country profiles
- The results of the comprehensive survey of eLearning professionals in Africa
I don’t think the authors at MacLeans really approve (they raise the criticism that some parents (and teachers) worry the practice of meditation is akin to bringing religion into schools) but they nonetheless carry this interesting story about the teaching of meditation (called ‘mindfulness’, and yoga (called ‘stretching’)) in schools. I see nothing wrong with it; I was taught several religions in school, including hockey, basketball and football. Ultimately, it has to be left to the students’ discretion as to whether to continue the practice, after an appropriate period of instruction. But I have no doubt this is the school’s policy.
Just announced. From the mailing list: “an experimental pure Python library which lets you create ODRL and RightsML documents. It supports XML and JSON encodings (it targets the “to be approved” XML encoding). Ontology support is planned.”
Productivity Implications of a Shift to Competency-Based Education: An environmental scan and review of the relevant literature
Brian Abner, Oksana Bartosh, Charles Ungerleider, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, June 18, 2014
I think this is true: “There is no systematic, comprehensive study indicating that the purported skills from a CBE program translate into performance, either in graduation results or in the labour market.” That does not mean that competency-based education is the wrong way to go, say the authors of a report (75 page PDF) from from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), but it does suggest that it should be embraced cautiously.
This is pragmatic advice, if only because of the cost of conversion to a competency-based system. And in any case, the value of a CDE-based approach isn’t on the embrace of competencies, it’s in what the approach enables: standardized resources, personalized education, multiple learning options. Some of these may improve outcomes, but yes, this needs to be shown.
I think we knew this, but the secrecy of subscription contracts prevented us from ‘knowing’ this (in any documented way). But now we have an analysis and “The analysis by a team of economists found that for leading universities, journals published by non-profit organisations were two to 10 times better value than those published by commercial companies, such as Elsevier, Springer, Sage, and Taylor & Francis.” I expect the very same is true of learning resources for students as well. Here is the study the Guardian article is based on (might be behind a paywall where you live, natch).
I think this is a good article and well worth a look because it encourages the revival of a disappearing activity online these days: reading and writing about other people. This of course is the central activity of OLDaily, so it’s close to home for me. But I reject the term ‘curation’ to describe what I do and what others should do. The term ‘curation’ reflects past practice, as though to legitimize thoroughly contemporary practices by association with the word.
Curation suggests that the primary task is selection and filtration, but to me, that’s only a small part of what I do; I’m describing my practice when I recount the works I’ve read. As well, the term ‘curation’ suggests passivity, observation, preservation, and even objectivity. My work is none of these things. I consider myself to be engaging with the authors and works I summarize. This is not the same as curation. It’s something new, something internet.
I am often present in meetings and sessions where the request is made that people close their laptops. I don’t do it. For me, the laptop is the machine I use to help me think; I engage with the ideas being presented in real-time, and create a record I can search and integrate into later work. So I wasn’t persuaded by the anti-laptop argument presented in the Atlantic last week.
That said, the response to the article doesn’t sway me either. I think that the study (comparing taking notes by typing and by hand) should be rejected as irrelevant. I think the characterization of a laptop as a work or a play tool is irrelevant (for me, my work is my play). And the laptop vs the lecture argument sets up a false dilemma.
Presentation slides and press release about a talk by Cape Breton University president David Wheeler. He argues that ” future universities will be rewarded by governments for their performance in economic development, employability of graduates, immigration and commercialisation of research in addition to more traditional metrics which may have less to do with scientific, social and cultural excellence or economic prosperity.” One slide points out that universities have survived since the 16th century “because societies need them.”
It is worth asking at this juncture exactly what it is that societies need. The citizens of Leiden famously opted for a university as a reward from William of Orange instead of the economic advantage of tax-free status. The citizens of Tubingen famously rejected industrial development in favour of remaining a university city. The need is to develop a university as a university, not an engine to support day-to-day economic development. If we want job creation or economic development we have the private sector to do that; if they won’t (and in Canada, increasingly, they won’t) we need other measures to address that; converting universities into something they’re not is not the answer.
So here basically is the basis for instructional design: “Start with what you want them to learn, design an experience that will cause them to learn it, build in some checks that this is happening along the way and has happened by the end.
This is one of the core lessons of teacher education, and something all effective teachers master, whilst they may decide to tweak it and experiment later.” In this post about change Oliver Quinlan looks how this core idea gets lost as, say, new technology takes centre stage. “I see tweets on a fairly regular basis from educators describing how their school has just bought a set of tablet computers, and only now they are looking for how they can be used for learning outcomes.”
He proposes a theory of change model to address this. Fair enough, but my experience is that change brings with it new problems, new things you want to learn, and new opportunities. You can’t just bring in new technology to solve old problems.
Although behaviourism has several flavours, it is in general the idea that you can (only) talk about mental phenomena, such as learning and cognition, in terms of behaviour. The mind in behaviourism is treated as a black box, to which we do not have evidentiary access. This for the most part remains the case today, which means that most all educational theory belongs either to the category of (a) continuing to use the black box, or (b) making stuff up that we think characterizes cognitive phenomena. That is why technologists continue to employ what we would still call behaviourist methodology. Technology cannot respond to made-up phenomena (like mental ‘constructions’ or ‘intentions’) that we can’t detect or measure. Nobody’s happy with the current situation, but until we get accurate neural mapping, that’s what we’re left with.
To see my point, take a look at this account of the ‘affective context model’, which according to Nick Shackleton-Jones, “explains how learning takes place”: “As we experience the world our brains need some way of deciding what to encode and how to encode it, so as to retrieve it in a way which is useful. Our minds solve this problem by encoding information along with its affective context – that is, our affective response to what we experience.” This explanation is filled with made-up entities – like the brain “needing” to decide, it “encoding” it, it “retrieving” it, even the idea of “information” in our brain, let alone the “affective context” itself – none of this can be measured or observed, and that’s why technologists measure responses rather than (say) ‘encodings’.
Examination of the employment of competency-based learning in New Hampshire and a discussion of the issues around competency-based learning in general. For my own part, I think something like competency-based learning is the way of the future, but not for the reasons suggested. Katrina Schwartz quotes Paul Leather, deputy commissioner of education: “You can’t truly do personalized learning and also continue to have common expectations without competencies,” Leather said. “They take state standards and put them in the hands of students, teachers and parents and make them real for them.” But why, I would wonder, would you have common standards. The beauty of competency-based personal learning is that everybody can become competent at some thing without the requirement that they become competent in the same thing.
Qualt advertises “Free mobile courses in internationally recognised professional qualifications. Anytime, anywhere.” The courses are available for mobile devices only. The first course, which started in May, is based on a professional accounting course. “Qualt are based on courses developed by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), Google, the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM) and other professional bodies.” To date the site has a dozen courses listed.
OK, I’ll confess, I watch ‘fail’ videos on YouTube. If you’re not familiar with the genre, it consists generally of people doing things which end badly. Sometimes you just know the person felt some pain at the end of it. In my case, at least, there is an empathetic response – I experience an involuntary shudder as though it were me about to experience that fall. It’s hard to self-monitor, but it seems like I’m reacting less over time to these fail videos.
Now, I’ve also played violent video games, but I’ve never felt that empathy. So – what all this leads me to think is that violent games have no impact on empathy because they never induce it in the first place, but that violent video, which does initially cause empathy, might reduce empathy as we gradually become inured to it.
My first reaction to this was to laugh. Yes, of course, she should not have misrepresented her credentials. But it turns out that she did not even have an undergraduate degree. What does it say about the need for a university when you can even be a successful as a dean at MIT without having earned a degree? “Ms. Jones had received the institute’s highest honor for administrators, the M.I.T. Excellence Award for Leading Change.” Sure, you can’t (legally) get the job without a degree. But it certainly appears that you can do the job without one.
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