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New and opinions from the world of instructional technology and new learning media

A feed by Stephen Downes


How Blockchain is Helping Dallas Students Tell Their Story

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-19 21:04

This is a puff piece promoting Greenlight Credentials but it does offer one of the more compelling use cases for blockchain in education: "The benefit of a distributed ledger technology like Blockchain is that it allows employers and colleges to have instant verification of a multiple-source transcript." The key here is multiple-source. "Student profiles can host a range of evidences of learning including badges and a portfolio of artifacts." Of course, when you have multiple credentials in a single space, no one credential is special any more. Cue the crisis in academia.


Alexa, Siri, and Google Don’t Understand a Word You Say

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-19 20:57

OK, the headline in this story is very obviously true, but stay with me for a moment. Part way through Josh Hendrickson asserts, "you get a failure message such as 'I’m sorry, but I don’t know that.' It’s little more than sleight of hand magic to trick you into thinking it understands." Yes, quite so. But how would you be fooled into thinking it understands? Well, you aren't fooled, really. But you go along with it because it feels right to do it. But now, how do you know you aren't doing that with people, too? What if people don't 'really' understand each other - what if what we call 'understanding' is really me projecting understanding on you, and you projecting understanding on me? This is what I think actually happens. Which means we need to reframe statements like "machines don't understand".


These Are the 24 Sounds Humans Use to Communicate Without Words

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-19 20:44

You will want first to visit the demonstration page and listen to a few dozen samples of sound combinations. There are more than 2000 so you probably won't hear them all. Then this Discover article offers a good summary of what you heard. The assertion here is that "there are at least 24 distinct ways that humans convey meaning without words." Here's the academic paper (server is currently overloaded). What I wonder is why there aren't words for these. I mean, instead of making a noise, why isn't there a word we utter that represents that emotion? The best we get are onomatopoeia like 'ugh' or 'aieeee'. But that doesn't really say it. Via Metafilter, via Open Culture.


"Virtual Learning Environment Faculty Continuing Professional Development - Networked Learning Communities" A Critical Literature Review

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-19 19:36

As the abstract says, "This paper presents the results of a small-scale research study examining the professional practice of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) teachers, who are encouraged to network and learn, establish on-going relationships with both their fellow teachers and those in other institutions, share knowledge, experience, resources and foster good practice for continuing professional development (CPD)." 20 page PDF.


The Quest to Topple Science-Stymying Academic Paywalls

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-19 18:57

The lede is well and truly buried in this article, but here it is: "We are developing a new open source and modern publishing platform called PubPub and a global, distributed method of understanding public knowledge called Underlay." The PubPub code is open source and available on GitHub and is basically a Node.js-based content management system that looks and feels a lot like WordPress or Medium. Underlay is more interesting - its website says it is "a global, distributed graph of public knowledge... This is an attempt to replicate the richness of private knowledge graphs in a public, decentralized manner... We will work with other protocol layers to define the initial federation model, and decentralize the underlay with IPFS." So anyhow, I used PubPub to create what is now an empty journal (I'll accept submissions, but my approval process is arbitrary and capricious) and sent an email to Underlay, and I'll keep you up to date on everything.


Canada OER Group – 2019 update

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-19 17:43

This is a quick set of short updates from the Canada OER Group, a collection of higher education institutions from across the country. It's nice to hear from Grande Prairie Regional College, where I used to teach: " Currently, 37 courses at Grande Prairie Regional College are taught using OERs, but Ed Tech is working toward growing that number. 'We’ve partnered with the Students’ Association to organize events and advertise our services and resources,' said Anna Gillis, GPRC Instructional Designer and an active proponent of OERs in the classroom."


Digital Media: What Went Wrong

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-19 14:51

The big news in digital media recently has been the waves of layoffs at such stalwarts as BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Vice. These were companies people thought had figured out the news business. It prompted MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes to ask “What if there is literally no profitable model for digital news?” We see the same story in education, but moving at a slower pace.  It's described as a "nightmarish vision" in today's Inside Higher Ed. In today's edition of the Chronicle's The Edge, Scott Carlson outlines the same case with respect to higher education. "We have legacy institutions (Harvard, The New York Times) and upstarts (Coursera, Vice Media). Smart, intractable, and often underpaid people — professors and reporters — form the foundation of our industries."


The Web Through a 30 Year Old Lens

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-19 12:42

As I write right now the service is overloaded and unresponsive, so you may have to wait a few days before enjoying it. But it's worth the wait, because it's worth keeping in mind that a scant 30 years ago (for me, half a lifetime ago) the web was very different - text-only, filled with hyperlinks to other sites, and completely free of social networks and advertising.


Keep Blog Syndication Simple[r]

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-18 21:54

I can see the value of syndication hub sites, since they lighten the load on individual websites. But I like the simple way I can publish an RSS feed and anyone can subscribe to it, no IDs or passwords required. And I think that's the sense of simplicity Alan Levine is after here. " For those that make the flailing claim that Twitter is their RSS Reader Replacement would you suggest your students do the same? Really? ... I will repeat until I get put away in the Old EdTech Folks Home, that this is  The Indispensable Digital Research Tool I can Say, Without Lying, Saves Time. You will never convince me otherwise."


Can You Really Escape?

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-18 21:37

There has been a flurry of discussion recently on how hard it is to escape the clutches of the internet's top five companies. But I find it pretty ridiculous. It's based on a series of articles by a Gizmodo writer who quit Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple and described how awful it was. I'm already off Facebook and Apple - I don't tuch them at all. I haven't bothered to quit Amazon because I barely do anything with them at all. Microsoft and Google I use quite a bit more - but that's because data and the internet are my job. If I l had a real job, like most of the people on earth, I wouldn't be dependent on Google or Microsoft. They fall into the 'nice-to-have' category. Go out (I say) into the world and look at how people lead their lives and earn a living. It doesn't depend on search. It doesn't depend on PowerPoint.


There's a Backlash Against Charter Schools. What's Happening and Why.

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-18 21:33

Support for charter schools in the United States is falling. These are publicly-funded but privately run schools. "This is happening amid growing awareness that charters in California and other states are draining vital resources from traditional publicly funded and operated school districts, which the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren attend." Additionally, "Charter critics also point to a drumbeat of financial and management scandals — which charter supporters don’t often talk about in public. Scandals are chronicled on a blog called #AnotherDayAnotherCharterScandal, which is the work of the public education advocacy group the Network for Public Education."


There’s Only One Person Whose Opinion About NC Really Matters

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-18 20:11

David Wiley opines on whether Creative Commons Non-Commercial materials may be used in university classes with what I believe are two non-sequitors. The first is that a 2009 survey of 'users and producers' suggesting they believe use by a tutition-based university would count as 'commercial use'. The second is the argument that "There’s only one person whose interpretation of NC matters, and it’s not yours. And it’s not mine. And it’s not Creative Commons. It’s the LICENSOR whose opinion counts." But of course nothing follows from what these survey-takers or content-producers believe. People can have incorrect beliefs about the licenses they use; that certainly has been the case with people using CC-by licenses.



Permalink - Posted on 2017-05-17 17:08

OLDaily, HTML edition