news (external)

Internet Trends 2018

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Thu, 2018-05-31 22:38

Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins Partners, May 31, 2018

Mary Meeker's annual oracular tome has come out and this year it's a heavy 294 page PDF. What I'm seeing here is a mixed bag - some areas of growth are slowing and even stopping as the market approaches essential saturation. The number of internet users and mobile phones couldn't continue to increase indefinitely. On the other hand, certain technologies - especially commercial and data-driven technologies - are rapidly becoming mainstream. But the 'AWS Data Flywheel' (slide 197) is driving growth among the top companies, and nowhere is this more clear than in China (slides 217-218). The growth of lifelong learning is also significant (slides 232ff). More from Donald Clark. View my previous Mary Meeker coverage.

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Will Blockchains Revolutionize Education?

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Thu, 2018-05-31 02:10

by David McArthur, EDUCAUSE Review

Researchers, educators, and developers have envisioned various roles for blockchains in education and training, including their use for storing standards and issuing credentials. Several possibilities arise based on ideas from blockchains that provide trustworthy intellectual property records. For example, an educational standards committee might upload formal statements of their official competency hierarchies to a blockchain. Further, smart contracts managed in blockchain systems such as Ethereum could establish conditions under which a student would receive a certificate from a provider, and a series of those contracts could define a full degree program.

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Declining Majority of Online Adults Say the Internet Has Been Good for Society

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Thu, 2018-05-31 02:05

At the same time, the contours of connectivity are shifting: One-in-five Americans are now ‘smartphone only’ internet users at home.  Americans tend to view the impact of the internet and other digital technologies on their own lives in largely positive ways, Pew Research Center surveys have shown over the years. A survey of U.S. adults conducted in January 2018 finds continuing evidence of this trend, with the vast majority of internet users (88%) saying the internet has, on balance, been a mostly good thing for them personally. But even as they view the internet’s personal impact in a positive light, Americans have grown somewhat more ambivalent about the impact of digital connectivity on society as a whole.

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Show What You Know: The Shift To Competency

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Thu, 2018-05-31 02:02

by Tom Vander Ark, Forbes

“GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless,” said Laszlo Bock, former head of HR at Google. “Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and GPAs and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything,” added Bock. In the now famous 2013 interview with the New York Times, Bock signaled the beginning of the end of courses and credits as the primary measure of learning and the beginning of the show what you know era. Professions (including law, real estate, and accounting) have long relied on test-based measured of readiness. Some professions have gone a step beyond to require demonstrated competence (e.g., doctors and pilots are required to pass tests, endure simulations, and perform in a variety of live settings).

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Separating Fact From Fiction: The Reality of Canadian Copyright, Fair Dealing, and Education

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2018-05-30 18:44

Michael Geist, May 31, 2018

Some useful data on the relation between the Canadian higher education sector and licensed publications. As the title suggests, the facts are different from the marketing we read from the lobbyists (quoted):


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Watch the Rise and Fall of the British Empire in an Animated Time-Lapse Map

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2018-05-30 18:04

Josh Jones, Open Culture, May 30, 2018

These time-lapse maps are actually a sub-genre of YouTube history videos and I've been watching a lot of them recently. They cover everything from the fall of Bronze Age civilizations in the 1100s BCE to the Syrian War. As the article notes, " As the bombastic music that sometimes accompanies these videos suggests, one primary effect is the production of maximally sweeping historical drama through mapping, which captures the imagination in ways dry prosaic descriptions often can't." Ah, but who doesn't love bombastic music? The one referenced here in Open Culture maps the rise and fall of the British Empire from 519 to the present day. Search for channels like Ollie Bye, Emperor Tigerstar, Kings and Generals, Khey Pard and Cottereau and you'll find hundreds of them (like I said, I've been watching a lot of them recently).

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Towards a design philosophy for interoperable blockchain systems

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2018-05-30 17:55

Adrian Colyer, The Morning Paper, May 30, 2018

It's hard to dispute this proposition: "We believe the issue of survivability to be as important as that of privacy and security. As such, we believe that interoperability across blockchain systems will be a core requirement." There are numerous reasons why dependence on one single blockchain system might be a bad idea. But if there are multiple blockchains, they need to be able to interoperate. There's a parallel to be drawn here between the creation of a computer network, which connects all computers, and an inter-network, which connects networks of computers. The article concludes with five ‘desirable features’ of interoperable blockchains: independently verification, binding signatures for gateways, multiple reliable ‘paths’ between blockchains, a global resolution mechanism for identifiers, and identifiable gateways.

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The Problem with "Learning Styles"

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2018-05-30 17:43

Cindi May, Scientific American, May 30, 2018

The difference between the study reported here and other studies on learning styles is that this one focuses on learning outside the classroom - in other words, self study. The result reported is that most students don't use the learning style they report preferring, and of those that do, there is no apparent benefit. Of course, it could just be that students aren't very good at reporting their own learning style. Or it might be that the students are just unskilled at learning generally; "many students are adopting strategies that simply do not support comprehension and retention of information." And, of course, depicting 'learning' simply as "knowledge acquisition" is itself a very narrow perspective.

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The American Dream is Dead

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2018-05-30 15:24

Georges Abi-Heila, The Startup, May 30, 2018

Students have been encouraged to invest in education on the ground that it promises, ultimately, a better life. There is a basis in reality for this belief, but it's limited. "No matter what your educational background is, where you start has become increasingly important for where you end." The point of this article is to remind people (especially the rich) of the role good fortune played in their success, and to encourage them not to think that they are especially gifted or important, and to be less selfish and sanctimonious. It's good advice, but unfortunately, the wealthy do not read the writings of the proles. Meanwhile, we as educators must consider the role we play in perpetuating this state of affairs.

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Can the universities of today lead learning for tomorrow?

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2018-05-30 14:55

Catherine Friday, Lucille Halloran, Ernst & Young Australia, May 30, 2018

The authors offer (36 page PDF) four scenarios for the university of the future: the champion university; the commercial university; the disruptor university; and the virtual university. The context is Australian but the trends are global. "Demand for learning is shifting to a fundamentally new paradigm," write the authors. "Once the first new entrant cracks the market, we believe a deluge could follow." The potential for disruption is mapped to a useful grid showing how universities create, deliver and capture value. The trend toward change is depicted in terms of drivers (the usual suspects) and perceptions. The four scenarios are derived by means of government role (hands on vs hands off) and learner preferences (bundled degrees vs unbundled courses). Via Contact North.

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The Theranos Story and Education Technology

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2018-05-30 14:40

John Warner, Inside Higher Ed, May 30, 2018

John Warner compares the promises made by AI and personalized learning vendors with tne owner of the blood testing 'vaporware' product Theranos. "Through a combination of secrecy, lies, flattery, and intimidation, she maintained a fiction about having developed a truly revolutionary piece of technology." There was no requirement that the product actually work; her customers were venture capitalists, who only need to be sold on the idea. Theranos was revealed only after the Hippocratic Oath forced insiders to come clean. "I’m thinking we should have a similar "first do no harm" threshold for introducing technology into the classroom," writes Warner. This is an idea that has been around for a while, and I think it's a good one.

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Should large companies co-provide university courses?

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Wed, 2018-05-30 02:10

By Tony Featherstone, Sydney Morning Herald

Picture this: a top law firm and a university law school form a commercial joint venture to provide undergraduate and postgraduate law degrees. Each has equity in the new company. A mix of university lecturers and law firm staff teach the course, providing theory and practice. The course has a higher component of online learning compared to traditional degrees. There is more industry-based learning as students spend time at the law firm.

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Enrollment Declines Steepest in Midwest and Northeast

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Wed, 2018-05-30 02:06

By Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed
Overall college enrollments continue to slide, according to the latest data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, a nonprofit that tracks 97 percent of students who attend degree-granting institutions that are eligible to receive federal financial aid. This spring the center found a decline of more than 275,000 students, or 1.8 percent, compared to the previous spring. The decrease follows six straight years where fewer students attended college in the U.S. Enrollments went down in 34 states this spring, the center said. Six of the 10 states with the largest declines are in the Midwest or Northeast (see below).

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Going beyond the hype: How AI can be used to make a difference

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Wed, 2018-05-30 02:02

BY ELENA COX, eCampus News
Artificial intelligence’s potential to reduce human error and to scale human expertise is worth understanding.  We can also measure inspired ideas and expertise by administration, faculty, advisors, coaches, and others for correlation to individual success and evidence of performance at scale. We have found variables in the output that are low- to no-cost to test in control trials and then at scale. This combination of actionable data, extracted with precision, and affordable practices that work at scale is the powerful promise of AI to education. Realizing this promise depends on human intelligence and discipline around data practices. With dialogue about AI and ML becoming pervasive, and often surrounded by excitement, it is important that everyone in this sector gain a basic understanding and language on this subject. Otherwise, this dialogue can become another hyperbole.

Going beyond the hype: How AI can be used to make a difference

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Switching from subjects to skills: Teaching students born in the age of technology

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Tue, 2018-05-29 22:18

Kurt Söser, Microsoft Education, May 29, 2018

Here's the argument: "We as educators have to shift from teaching students in subjects, to teaching students in skills." Why? "It is the human brain (and heart) that has to get behind the simple steps of a solution that lead into bigger things and the mathematical concepts behind them. And that’s where an educator steps in, to have a conversation about skills and concepts." Honestly, that's not a very good argument all. There are good reasons to focus on skills rather than subjects (skills are practical, subjects aren't, for example). This isn't one of them. Worse, it seems to me to be pandering to teachers (as in, 'sure we do technology but we still need you, we really do').

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You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Tue, 2018-05-29 22:01

Daniel DeNicola, Aeon, May 29, 2018

This is a challenging proposition. It is not the assertion that you can only believe things you know to be true - that's too strong. But it is the proposition that you ought not be able to believe things you know to be false (things like: the moon landing was fake, the world is flat, and other more venal beliefs I won't repeat here). Moreover, if the belief is morally wrong, "we condemn not only the potential acts that spring from such beliefs, but the content of the belief itself, the act of believing it, and thus the believer." This contradicts the long-touted idea that people should be able to believe whatever they want. But if belief causes action, and some actions are reprehensible, then so shouldn't be the beliefs? But if we can't believe whatever we want, well, who then decides?

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China’s schools are quietly using AI to mark students’ essays ... but do the robots make the grade?

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Tue, 2018-05-29 20:42

Stephen Chen, South China Morning Post, May 29, 2018

I'm not sure what 'quietly' means in this context, given that it's all over the media, but it's no surprise, given China's advanced artificial intelligence capability (as evidenced, for example, by its facial recognition systems). But according to the author, "parents were not informed, access to the system terminals was limited to authorised staff, test results were strictly classified, and in some classes even the pupils were unaware that their work had been read and scored by a machine."

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The Structural Consequences of Big Data-Driven Education

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Tue, 2018-05-29 20:12

Zeide Elana, Big Data, May 29, 2018

Though such stories are an Audrey Watters hate read, there's no question big data and predictive algorithms are breaking into schools. The question is, what are the long-term effects of this. That's what this paper addresses. "Each shift in pedagogical decision-making has the potential for unintended consequences because of inaccurate or unrepresentative data, algorithmic bias or disparate impact, scientism replacing more holistic and contextualized personal evaluation, and the exclusion of noncomputable variables and nonquantifiable learning outcomes." It should go without saying: let's be careful out there.

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OPINION: The serious consequences of DeVos’ about-face on for-profit colleges Will students of color suffer the most?

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Tue, 2018-05-29 02:10

by Hechinger Report

The Education Department, under Betsy DeVos, halted the gainful employment regulation and proposed a new rule in its stead that would eliminate any sanctions — that is, institutions would no longer lose access to federal aid if the employment rates and salaries of graduates fall below the federal threshold. The Department also suspended the borrower defense rule. And, according to The New York Times, the department has sharply cut back the staff and mission of the enforcement unit. It now consists of only three people and is focusing on student-loan forgiveness rather than investigating the practices of for-profit institutions.

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Georgia Tech Envisions ‘Deliberate Innovation, Lifetime Education’ in New Report

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Tue, 2018-05-29 02:06

by Susie Ivy, Georgia Tech

The Georgia Institute of Technology announces the official release of Deliberate Innovation, Lifetime Education, a report based on input and recommendations from the Commission on Creating the Next in Education, an Institute-wide commission of more than 50 faculty, staff, and students. Using the year 2040 as a long-term vantage point, the Commission was asked to explore and evaluate innovative approaches to higher education, and address issues facing current and future students. The group was also tasked with making recommendations on alternative educational models that reduce costs, improve the effectiveness of current methodologies, and increase opportunities and accessibility to serve the needs of the next generation and beyond.

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