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My Viva

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 Patrick Dunleavy offers this list of ten typical questions that might be asked on your PhD oral exam. I always felt I would have aced my oral exam, but I never got to take it because my examiners did not want me to work on network theory.
So how would I have answered these questions? Dunleavy's post begs a response... 1. What are the most original (or value-added) parts of your thesis? The semantics of distributed cognition. In distributed cognition, there is no single location in memory where we might find an idea or concept. Rather, it is distributed across a set of connections between entities (a graph theorist might say it is constituted of a set of edges between nodes). Like this: We can say a few things about these distributed representations that are significant: They are not representations at all - that is, they do not 'stand for' things or 'signify' things. This set of connections, for example, does not stand for the concept 'couch' nor the word 'couch'. They are not propositional - that is, they are not encoded in the form of a sentence, and we do not 'think' in words and sentences (there is therefore no 'encoding' that takes place when we communicate or perceive the world around us).They are different for each person. No two activation networks are alike. Indeed, they are even different in the same person over time. There is no static constant that instantiates the concept 'couch' at all. The best way to think of the web of connections is to think of it as being like the ripples that spread out when you throw a stone into a pond. The initial stimulus causes a cascade of interactions and water molecules bump against each other, a spreading wave of activation that follows the path of least resistance. The waves do not 'represent' anything, they are not 'about' the stone, and indeed, you cannot infer to the existence of the stone merely from the presence of the waves (although Kantian metaphysics is based on exactly that sort of inference). To make life more complex, we only have one set of interconnected entities and connections between them, and exactly the same set of connections contains multiple concepts or ideas. So in addition to our thought of a couch (symbolized in red) we might have a thought of a dog (symbolized in green). Like this: Again, these activations do not stand for anything; they are simply characteristic patterns of spreading activation that occur in the presence of a stimulus. It is typical for the green activations to overlap the red activations. This means that, in certain circumstances, the activation of 'dog' might, by association, cause the activation of 'couch', depending on the overlap of these and other associated concepts. This is the basis for inferences. As Hume would say, "the far greatest part of our reasonings with all our actions and passions, can be derived from nothing but custom and habit." Our inferences from one thing to another, from cause to effect, from premise to conclusion, are based in repeated iterations of an associative logic, which is based on the mechanics of spreading activation. There are different ways to talk about this. One way is to describe it mathematically, through the principles of network interactions and learning theories. Each individual entity has its own activation function, which determines how likely it is to be activated by incoming stimuli; each connection has its own weight, which determines how much signal it carries forward, and the creation and destruction of connections in a network, its plasticity, is determined by the learning theory, which derives these new connections from weights and activation functions. Another way to talk about it (and the way I talk about it in my dissertation proposal) is to talk about it conceptually, by describing the relevant similarity between one concept and another. We might think of this as the degree of overlap between one concept and the next - a very loose statement of the idea would say that 'dog' and 'couch' have a similarity ranking of '3', based on the overlap depicted in the diagram. It is this network semantics based on similarity that is probably my most significant contribution to the field. It follows the work of people like Amos Tversky in presenting a feature-based account of similarity, but analyzes this in terms of spreading activation in neural networks. 2. Which propositions or findings would you say are distinctively your own? None. If you take the theory I've just outlined above seriously, you see that it would be inconsistent for me to say that everything is connected, and then for me to say that some proposition or finding is distinctively my own. Indeed, I struggle with the idea that my thesis is based in propositions at all. This supposes an idea of a theory or model that is composed of a set of related propositions which are either all consistently and coherently maintained by some logical framework or all derived from a set of observations or measurements on the bases of some sort of inference calculus. And I doubt that either is the case. At best what I offer is a perspective, a point of view, a set of outcomes as presented from the perspective of this entity given the experiences and observations obtained over a lifetime. But these are all influenced to a significant degree by interactions and communications with others. My understanding of the word 'Paris', for example, carries with it the influence of every other occurrence of the word 'Paris' I have experienced in my lifetime. It can 'mean' nothing else. Indeed, if I were to say that the meaning of the word 'Paris' were uniquely my own, there would be significant cause for concern, for either I would be asserting some sort of supernatural connection to Truth and Objects, or I would be asserting some sort of egotitocal priority of my own perspective above that of all others, There is this totally false depiction of the PhD thesis, which is this: which supposes that the individual researcher forges beyond the rest of knowledge on his or her own. But that's not how it works. We do all of our work entirely within the range of what might be called 'existing knowledge'. And when existing knowledge grows or changes, it does so on its own and not by virtue of one unique entity. 3. How do you think your work takes forward or develops the literature in this field? Honestly, this question is just the same as the previous question, except that it refers to the localization of those propositions or findings. The presumption in the question is that my new research builds on or extends previous research. It is a perspective or point of view that depicts knowledge as a mountain of propositions or facts, and it suggests that our PhD work is intended to extent that mountain (in an appropriately inferential of evidence-based way). In my own case, if I had to characterize my contribution, it would be like this: same mountain, different view. As I said in my answer to the previous question, there is nothing uniquely my own that has been added to human knowledge; I am working withing the same world, the same linguistic framework, the same logic and mathematics, the same sets of properties and qualities, as everyone else. My contribution, if we must identify one, is that I see it differently from everyone else (of course, everyone sees it differently from everyone else). One thing that I think is important is that I think that social knowledge and human knowledge are relevantly similar. Specifically, they share the same structure and the same logic. In both humans and societies, the structure of a concept or idea is the same: it is the set of connections between entities. This general structure - what I called 'Learning Networks' and George Siemens called (more successfully) connectivism - calls into question even the concept of 'literature in the field', because knowledge is not divided between some privileged set of writings, 'literature', and everything else. At best, the 'literature' might be thought of as some stigmergic activity enabling each of us to contribute our own perspectives to a common object - a human intellectual anthill, of you will. But this thing that we build is distinct from the knowledge we have as a society, and does not hold any epistemic priority over other such network-based objects of knowledge, such as the 747 aircraft or World War II. It's a thing upon which each of us can reflect and obtain our own unique perspective take on collective knowledge. So I am frankly not interested in developing 'the literature', except to offer the occasional contribution as a social gift, much the way I might contribute to Wikipedia or add to a cowpath in the grass by walking upon it. I don't think the objective of research or scientific enquiry is to develop the literature, or at least, not only to develop the literature. It is to engage, to contribute a life to society. If I were forced to discuss there I think this is the greatest advance, I would probably say that it is the application of this thinking to education and pedagogy (keeping in mind that if it weren't me, it would surely have been someone). Educational theory before connectivism is based almost completely on the idea that learning involves the recall of a set of propositions or facts, and is cumulative (much like knowledge in the literature) and stigmergic (analogous to a co-creation of knowledge). Dissuading ourselves of these propositions, and understanding that learning is network based, founded in the development of custom and habit, is the core of my work over the last ten years. 4. What are the ‘bottom line’ conclusions of your research? How innovative or valuable are they? What does your work tell us that we did not know before? This is the same question again, but with a slightly different presupposition about the nature of enquiry. The presupposition actually takes two forms: first, as the 'bottom line' as a chain of inference or the conclusion of a logical argument; and second, as the 'bottom line' or net value (to society? to Bill Gates?) of the research. Both presuppose a directionality to research. Both suppose that research works toward an outcome. And both, in their own way, focus on the utility or value of the research. As we can no doubt infer what what I have discussed above, directionality is very much a matter of perspective. Sure, it is always possible to depict a progression or flow from one entity to the next to the next in a network. It is always possible to describe a series of activations, one after another, over a slice of time. But the idea that these lead anywhere is surely a matter of opinion. So at best what this question is asking me to do is to imagine the perspective of some putative observer and to ask what my work looks like from their perspective (this is in fact the actual process I undertake when describing our research program in my current office). For example, we could ask, "what is the value of knowing that learning is associative rather than propositional?" We can take the perspective of four distinct entities to draw out the implications: - from the perspective of the individual student, it results in understanding that learning anything is based in a certain set of skills (which I call the 'critical literacies') formed around the idea that knowledge is not cumulative and constructed, but rather based in practice and reflection resulting in habitual recognition of relevant phenomena. In other words, it makes them better learners. - from the perspective of the teacher, it results in the understanding that teaching does not consist in explaining or describing, because these depend on an already strongly developed association between the words and the concepts, but rather, that we c an at best show (ie., model and demonstrate) actual practice, and have them obtain direct experience and practice. - from the perspective of the education technology provider, it results in the understanding that networking and interaction are essential components of learning, that new experiences must be based on past experience, which entails the development of personal and experiential learning environments. - from the perspective of the employer seeking to address skills shortages it results in the shift from a formal class-based outcomes-based learning paradigm to an ongoing informal learning network, hands on support systems, and personal learning program. These four might seem as large leaps from the answers given to the first and second questions, but they are not in fact so large - of course, depending on your starting point you might have to shift your thinking 180 degrees to get to this perspective, or it might click into place as immediately intuitive or rational. 5. Can you explain how you came to choose this topic for your doctorate What was it that first interested you about it? How did the research focus change over time? Mostly by accident, by opting for what I thought was obvious, and by seeing opportunity. The accidents are the vagaries of experience. Early exposure to science fiction in the local library stirred my imagination and led me to want to be a scientist; poverty led me (on the advice of my father) to investigate computers and technology; being overlooked for promotion led me to enrol in university to become a scientist; a full English section in my physics program led me to enrol in philosophy; my first course in philosophy exposed me to David Hume. Why is this important? Because of my background in computers, I knew that logic is arbitrary, so I was sympathetic with Hume's scepticism. This led me over time to a district of cognitivist methods over time, and hence a Bachelor's thesis defending Hume's associationism and a Master's thesis questioning model-based semantics as arbitrary and unsound. In my PhD years I worked on the idea of knowledge as based on relevant similarity, developing a logic of association, while at the same time creating huge conceptual maps of ideas, disciplines and a wall-sized history of philosophy. So I was ready with Francisco Varela discussed the essentials of network theory in a lecture at the University of Alberta, and between reading Rumelhart and McClelland and attending the Connectivism conference in Vancouver, had come to see that connectionism and associationism amount to essentially the same theory. I came into the field of learning technology via distance education at Athabasca University. Given my background, it should be no surprise that I tried several things, including the creation of a Bulletin Board Service (BBS) and co-authoring of an academic MUD. At Assiniboine I created a website and online courses and eventually a learning management system. As I gained experience I found that network principles could be applied to learning technology. I explored the use of content syndication, developed the idea of learning networks, and with George Siemens created the first MOOC. These were all instances of connectionism applied to pedagogy. My core academic interest lies in understanding knowledge and cognition -- the processes of learning, inference and discovery. Time and experience have refined my early thoughts on the matter, but I have always approached the subject from an empirical and scientific perspective. There are no magic symbol systems, there is no privileged access to nature. There's only experience and a very human - indeed, a very animal - way to comprehend it. 6. Why have you defined the final topic in the way you did? What were some of the difficulties you encountered and how did they influence how the topic was framed? What main problems or issues did you have in deciding what was in-scope and out-of-scope? If I had to state in a sentence how I define my topic, it is in the previous paragraph: understanding knowledge and cognition through understanding the processes of learning, inference and discovery. In other words, I am focused first on how we learn rather than what we learn. This is an epistemic choice; a cognitivist or rationalist approach will first describe what we know - "we know language, we know mathematics, we know who we are," etc. My view is that many of these knowledge claims are incorrect. We do not know universal truths, we do not have knowledge of ideal abstracts. We don't, I argue, because we can't. As a consequence, through most of my career I have found myself in conflict with those who have very specific theories about what we know, and (therefore) how we know it. They depict these knowledge claims as givens and construct and derive theories of learning and pedagogy based on this. For example, a common line of argument runs as follows: we understand scientific principles, therefore we have knowledge of abstract universals, therefore these must be codified in a physical symbol system, so learning is a process of acquiring and codifying these statements. This creates a view of knowledge and learning that is content-based and focused on the assimilation of a set of these statements by the most efficient means possible. This is the dominant view, and the position I advocate meets opposition at each stage of the inference. It results in the need to reframe knowledge and learning from the ground up. It becomes very difficult to decide that something is "out of scope" because each statement of an educational theory varies in importance and meaning depending on which of these perspectives you take. Even the idea of what constitutes a theory - and whether connectivism is one - depends on your perspective. Throughout the last fifteen years or so I have assembled thousands of small items, hundreds of blog posts, and various talks and longer works. These do not lead from a basis of evidence to a single conclusion. Rather they are point by point observations on a welter of interconnected points, none of which is pure data, none of which is pure theory, all of which constitute an interconnected perspective on knowledge and learning that undermines, and advances an alternative to, the cognitivist view. 7. What are the core methods used in this thesis? Why did you choose this approach? In an ideal world, are there different techniques or other forms of data and evidence that you’d have liked to use? As someone who wrote a presentation entitled Against Digital Research Methodologies I have to say I didn't use any core methods per se.It's not that I think that science is random. It's rather that, in the words of Paul Feyerabend, scientific method is whatever works. I've given the talk several times and have tried to express this in different ways. I've talked about my work as being a process of discovery, in which I try things, explore things, and look for patterns that stand out, unexpected significance or meaning, patterns of change, and even observations and inferences. In other cases I've talked about conduct by research and design (not, by this I do not mean "design-based research", properly so called). Maybe the best way to approach this question is to take on the question of data and evidence head on. Because the presupposition in a question like this is that the research methodology will either be inductive - that is, inference to a general principle or method based on evidence - or abductive - that is, inference to the best explanation of a body of data or evidence. In my talks I argue that this depicts research as following a classical theory of science, one in which we express data as a set of "observation sentences" and derive from that a set of theoretical statements, which collectively form a model or representation of reality. Most people understand that in the end we cannot distinguish between observation statements and theoretical statements - this is why 'truth' is often defined as 'truth within a theory T'. But they are less likely to agree with (or even understand) Quine's second proposition, that reductionismis a dogma. We don't in any way infer from evidence and data to generalization or method. Rather, the data show us only one of two things, either: that something exists, orthat something is possibleIndeed, the bulk of my work takes the form: it can be done, because I've done it. My work, in other words, takes the form of modelling and demonstrating, of giving an example (nothing more) that others can use in their own thinking and their own reasoning. It is often asked of me: if there are no universal principles or generalizations, then what are those statements that look like universal principles or generalizations? In response, I say that they are abstractions. But then, continue my questioners, aren't abstractions themselves idealizations based on evidence? And my response is, no, abstractions (and therefore universals and generalizations) are not created by inference from a set of empirical data. They are created from subtractions from empirical data (sometimes even one piece of data). There are many ways to create abstractions, but I'll illustrate just one: the elimination of extraneous data from two overlapping concepts. Consider the concepts of 'dog' and 'couch'., which I described above. If we keep the connections between those entities where the concepts overlap, and discard the rest, we have a new abstraction, which is whatever it is that dogs and couches have in common. Like this: How should we characterize this abstraction? This is where the characterization gets difficult. It might be the idea that dogs like to sleep on couches. It might the that both dogs and couches are things. What it means depends on everything else around it. The more we subtract, the less the overlap, the greater the range of possible things it could be. 8. What are the main sources or kinds of evidence? Are they strong enough in terms of their quantity and quality to sustain the conclusions that you draw? Do the data or information you consider appropriately measure or relate to the theoretical concepts, or underlying social or physical phenomena, that you are interested in? This question doubles down on the idea that a thesis is created by assembling a body of data or evidence that supports a conclusion. Hence the thesis is evaluated by two criteria: the quality of the evidence (which speaks to the soundness of the thesis)the inference from evidence to conclusion (which speaks to the validity of the thesis)I've dealt with inference above. But what are the criteria for good evidence? Virtually all research that still uses this model will be based on some sort of statistical generalization; the days when we could reason inductively from evidence to conclusion are long since past, a relic of the world when Newton's theories held sway. Perhaps it is true, as Einstein said, that God does not play dice with the universe - but if so, then he is a mean poker player. Evidence is based on two criteria: quantity and type. By quantity we are asking whether we have enough evidence to draw a statistical inference. There are some fairly well-established principles of probability that are at least as reliable as any other form of inference that will tell us that, for example, we cannot infer from 20 specific instances to a population of 7 billion instances. But more significant is the question regarding the type of evidence, which is specifically focused around the question of whether the evidence is representative of the population as a whole. That's why you don't just ask your friends how they'll vote when you're predicting an election; chances are, your friends will vote like you do. It should also be why a class of 50 midwestern undergraduate psychology students should not be used as the basis for drawing conclusions about anything, but journals keep publishing the studies. In my case, none of these matter, because I'm not generalizing (or, at least, I'm trying very very hard not to generalize). In my case, the question is always: is this example an instance of the thing I'm talking about? If it is, we can say that it exists, and move on, trying to find associated phenomena. If it is not, then what was it that misled me about it? Either way, I learn. In a world without universal (or even predefined, or even commonly understood) categories, answering questions like this is not a trivial matter. In some cases, it is sufficient to obtain agreement among a group of people that "this x is a y". In other cases, we have to take our time, be pedantic, and show that "this x is precisely a y". Most of the work involved unravelling confused, imprecise or inconsistent categorization. People assume that because we use the same words we mean the same things, while experience suggests that this is often not the case. In my case, we consider the set of posts, papers and talks, etc., to be both the evidence and the conclusion (this is an instance of what I mean when I talk of 'direct perception'). There is no sense to dividing one set of my posts as the evidence and another as the conclusion. The same happens in the mind: the set of neural activations is at once the evidence and the conclusion. There is no thing over and above the set of neural activations that constitutes the 'thesis' being discovered or proven (or, to be more accurate, if there is, it exists only as an emergent phenomenon, and can only be recognized externally by a third party or observer). So when we ask what the sources of the evidence are, and whether they sustain the conclusion, we are asking what is, in my mind, an incomprehensible question, or more accurately, one that embodies incorrect presuppositions about the nature of knowledge. Similarly, if one asks about the correctness of the evidence and the conclusion, we reach the same conclusion, that the question presupposes an incorrect epistemology. I have developed and often talked about my response to this, which is what I call 'the semantic principle', and what is at best a set of methodological presuppositions based on some opinions about the most effective function of a network. So I ask whether in the entities and connections in my thesis are diverse, autonomous, open and interactive. There's a longer discussion to be had here (what does it mean to say a concept is autonomous, for example? what does it mean to say that the parts of a thesis are diverse?) But it gets, I think, to a deeper understanding of epistemic adequacy that a query about the soundness and validity of an argument. 9. How do your findings fit with or contradict the rest of the literature in this field? How do you explain the differences of findings, or estimation, or interpretation between your work and that of other authors? I've discussed a lot of this in my discussion above. But I have as yet remained silent on the difference between my own approach and the major approach in learning theory, or perhaps I should say 'set' of approaches, under the heading of 'constructivism'. If I had to put the matter in a phrase, I'd say that constructivism is cognitivist and connectivism is non-cognitivist. Of course some people will immediately respond that there are some varieties of constructivism that are non-cognitivist. I typically respond, only half in jest, that for any criticism of constructivism C, there is a version of constructivism not-C, for an indefinitely large set of criticisms {C1...Cn}. In fact, though, theory-building, model-building and representation all had their foundation in philosophy and the sciences well before their appearance in education, and the emergence of constructivism in education is a not-surprising response to (for example) behaviourism and instructivism, just as they were responses to logical positivism in the sciences. Bas van Frassen, for example, offers a prototypical account of 'constructive empiricism' in the sciences. Other flavours of constructivism are found in things like Larry Laudan's 'Progress and its Problems'. Or Daniel Dennett's 'The Intentional Stance'. They are at once responses to scientific realism, grounding science in logical and social structures (there's a strong strain of this as well in Kuhn), and at the same time are responses to the discredited idea of 'the observation statement', which was science's only response to the idealist and the rationalist. Scientific constructivism was a way to preserve rationality in science, without surrendering its basis in empirical grounds. Only these grounds would be served by proxy, through an actuive engagement with experience, a process of construction, the formulation of what Quine called 'analytic hypotheses', the presentation of tentative conclusions, models and representations which would be evaluated as a whole against experience, against reality. It's a brilliant response, and I have no real quarrel with the overall approach. My major criticism is that while they jettisoned the 'positivism' of logical positivism, they kept the 'logical' part, and it was in the logical part that logical positivism actually foundered. Indeed, Quine should have called his paper Two Dogmas of Logicism, for that's what they were. Specifically: The analytic-synthetic distinction fails not because there are no observations, but because there are no observation statementsThe principle of reduction fails not because there's no empirical basis in fact, but because there are no logical principles of reductionAnd this is where I find my difference with the constructivists. In (almost) all cases, they depict the creation of knowledge as one of construction, where we (intentionally) create models or representations, grounding them in a model or environment (literally: "making meaning"). Often this is depicted as a social activity (sometimes, it is depicted as only a social activity). As a stigmergic activity, as I discussed above, I can comprehend it. But not as a theory of learning. And the reason it is not a theory of learning is simply this: in a person (in a network, etc) there is no third party to do the constructing. The creation of a model or representation (or network or theory or whatever) that will be tested against experience (or reality, or a run computer simulations, or whatever) is a representationalist theory which assumes a distinction between the model and whatever would act as evidence for that model (and, often, a set of methodologies and principles, such as 'logic' and 'language', for constructing that model). But the network theory I've described, if taken seriously, entails the following: the network is self-organizing; we do not 'create' sets of connections, these result naturally from input and from the characteristics of the entities and connectionsthe network does not 'represent' some external reality; 'evidence' and 'conclusion' are one and the same; the network itself is both the perceptual device and the inferring devicelearning isn't about creating, it's about becomingSomeone recently said to me, "well that makes you a radical constructivist". Perhaps. But now the meaning of 'constructivist' has ceased to be anything that would be recognized by most constructivists. This is an outcome that could be predicted by my own theory, but not by most others. 10. What are the main implications or lessons of your research for the future development of work in this specific sub-field? Are there any wider implications for other parts of the discipline? Do you have ‘next step’ or follow-on research projects in mind? I have several things in mind, though life may be too short for all of them: I want to continue to develop in technology an instantiation of the concepts I describe in theory (understanding that there's no theory, etc., etc.). This is the basis for my work in MOOCs and my current work in personal learning environments, as instantiated in the LPSS Program. I want to see the various ways in which a learning network can grow and develop and help real people address real needs and make their lives better.I want to draw together the various threads I've described in this post and offer a single coherent statement of connectivism as I see it. Related to this, but probably a separate work, I want to draw out and make clear the elements of 'critical literacy', which I believe constitute the foundations (if you will) of a new post-cognitivist theory of knowledge (the program above has funding but I have no funding for this work, so as a message to society at large, if you ever want to see this, consider some means of funding it).I would like to see the principles of self-organizing knowledge applied to wider domains and to society at large, as (shall we say) a new understanding of democracy, one based not on power and control and collaboration and conformity, but one based on autonomy and diversity and cooperation and emergence. Society itself will have to do this; I can but point the way.That's pretty much it, from an academic and professional perspective. But I also understand that the work is not possible in the confines of my own office working with texts and software. None of what I do today, nor indeed, have ever done, has been separate from the rest of my life and living. Each experience that I have, each society that I see, each new city and each new bike ride adds a nuance and a subtlety to my understanding of the world. It is a beautiful life and my greatest contribution to the future would be, I think, to continue living it. That's my PhD oral exam. I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition. [Link] [Comment]

Non-Research Citations in the Siemens Research Study

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015
Defending himself against my criticism of his recently released research study on distance and online learning, George Siemens tweets: Au contraire mon fr&#232re. There are many non-research articles cites, with a particular preference toward foundations, consultants, a few blogs and news and magazine articles. The non-research citations are as selective and ill-informed as the formal citations. Personally, I have no objection to citing from supposedly non-research sites; I do it all the time.But I don't do it while claiming to not be doing it. Here they are, collected from the references at the end of the various articles: Allen, C. (2004). Life with alacrity: Tracing the evolution of social software. Retrieved from Allen, I. E., & amp; Seaman, J. (2011). Going the distance: Online education in the United States, 2011 (Survey Report). Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved from Allen, I. E., & amp; Seaman, J. (2013). Changing course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States. Sloan Consortium. PO Box 1238, Newburyport, MA 09150. Allen, I. E., Seaman, J., & amp; Garrett, R. (2007). Blending in: The extent and promise of blended education in the United States. Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from Azevedo, R. (1993). A meta-analysis on the effects of computer-presented feedback on learning from computer-based instruction. The Department of Education, Concordia University Beinkowski, M., Feng, M., & amp; Means, B. (2012). Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics: An Issue Brief (No. ED-04-CO-0040) (pp. 1–57). US Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. Retrieved from pdf Belanger, Y., & amp; Thornton, J. (2013). Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach. Duke University. Retrieved from handle/10161/6216 Bord&#243n, P., & amp; Braga, B. (2013). Employer Learning, Statistical Discrimination and University Prestige. Retrieved from Bordon_Braga_August2013.pdf Clardy, A. (2009). Distant, On-line Education: Effects, Principles and Practices. Online Submission, Retreived from ERIC Database. Retrieved from http://files.eric. Coughlan, S. (2014, April 8). The irresistible urge for students to talk. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from Dua, A. (2013). Voice of the Graduate. McKinsey & amp; Company. Retrieved from http:// Eaton, J. S. (2001). Distance learning: Academic and political challenges for higher education accreditation. Council for Higher Education Accreditation Washington, DC. Friedman, T. L. (2012, May 15). Come the revolution. The New York Times. Retrieved from html GSV Advisors. (2012). Fall of the wall: Capital flows to education innovation. Chicago, IL: Global Silicon Valley (GSV) Advisors. Retrieved from Jaggars, S., & amp; Bailey, T. R. (2010). Effectiveness of fully online courses for college students: Response to a Department of Education meta-analysis. Retrieved from http:// Jordan, K. (2013). MOOC Completion Rates: The Data. Retrieved from http://www. Laitinen, A. (2012). Cracking the Credit Hour. New America Foundation. Retrieved from Learned, W. S., & amp; Wood, B. D. (1938). The student and his knowledge: A report to the Carnegie Foundation on the results of the high school and college examinations of 1928, 1930, and 1932. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G., & amp; Cormier, D. (2010). The MOOC model for digital practice. Retrieved from Articles/MOOC_Final.pdf McGuire, R. (2014). Hacking the hacker school: How the bootcamp is being taken to scale outside the coding world. Retrieved December 20, 2014, from http:// taken-to-scale-outside-the-coding-world/ Naughton, J. (2012, December 29). LinkedIn endorsements turn you into the product. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from technology/2012/dec/30/linkedin-endorsements-turn-you-into-the-product OECD Publishing. (2013). Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators. Retrieved from Pappano, L. (2012, November 2). The Year of the MOOC. The New York Times. Retrieved from Paul, D. S. (2001). A meta-analytic review of factors that influence the effectiveness of Web-based training within the context of distance learning. Texas A& amp;M University. Rainie, L. (2010). Internet, broadband, and cell phone statistics. Pew Internet & amp; American Life Project, 5. Retrieved from Internet%20broadband%20and%20cell%20phone%20statistics%20-%20Pew%20 Internet%20Report%20Jan%202010.pdf Selwyn, N., & amp; Bulfin, S. (2014). The discursive construction of MOOCs as educational opportunity and educational threat. MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) - Final Report. Retrieved from Shapiro, J. (2014, February 17). Competency-based degrees: Coming soon to a campus near you. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle. com/article/Competency-Based-Degrees-/144769/ Shedd, J. M. (2003). The History of the Student Credit Hour. New Directions for Higher Education, 2003(122), 5–12. doi:10.1002/he.106 Siemens, G. (2012). MOOCs are really a platform. ELearnSpace Blog. Retrieved from Siemens, G. (2014a, July 5). elearnspace › Activating Latent Knowledge Capacity. Retrieved from capacity/ Siemens, G. (2014b, November 18). elearnspace › Digital Learning Research Network (dLRN ). Retrieved from research-network-dlrn/ Thomson, P., Saunders, J., & amp; Foyster, J. (2001). Improving the validity of competencybased assessment. National Centre for Vocational Education Research. Retrieved from Tucker, B. (2012). The Flipped Classroom. Education Next, 12(1), 82–83. Retrieved from Wasserman, T. (2013, January 3). LinkedIn’s Endorsements Have Become Meaningless. Retrieved December 20, 2014, from meaningless/ Young, J. R. (2012, January 8). “Badges” earned online pose challenge to traditional college diplomas. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https:// Zhao, Y., & amp; Breslow, L. (2013). Literature review on hybrid/blended learning. Retrieved from (Not inmcluding half a dozen Proquest results, no journal cited, can't access database) (Also not including a large number of references from medical journals which had no apparent educational-based oversight) [Link] [Comment]

Mark Surman on Open Eduction and the Open Internet

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015
Article and photo by Stephen Downes This is a summary of Mozilla CEO Mark Surman's talk at Open Education Global in Banff April 24 (today). It is a paraphrase with lots of direct quotation, but shouldn't be taken as word-for word literal. All errors are my own. We need to help 5 billion people over the next 5-10 years become web literate. Three quotes from great Canadian thinkers: "We are trying to do today's job with yesterday's tools and yesterday's concepts." "We drive into the future looking only into our rearview mirror." - classrooms are organized around how monks talked. The experience of living in a small town as the only punk rock kid shaped me. And we lived in the media culture hegemony, and also we lived in a time of very conservative politics with a daily fear of nuclear war. What punk rock showed me was that we could play a role in shaping the world we want. And I was a photocopier kid - a big part of punk culture was cutting things up and remixing them. Records, guitars, and a scene: this idea of our media, our ability to produce it, and a community. It's an ethos very different from the television world we grew up in. The last 40 years has been technology that lets us reshape our world. When I got a tape recorder that I could record on, that was radical. These technologies and freedom inspire me. And I couldn't but help myself when the modem came along. And when Mosaic came out in 1994, I said that's what I want to work on. Second Canadian: Harold Innis. "The Roman Empire and the city states were essentially products of writing." They could issue edicts and laws. How do we build the world we're trying to build? There's a connection between power and words, power and communication, and what we're trying to do is shift that, and make communication more open. Mozilla: it says in our incorporation documents: "we exist to guard the open nature of the internet." Best job I ever had. That's what drove m to work on the Cape Town declaration. We said it can't just be OERs, it can't just be open content, it has to be learning, it has to be participation. So I would argue that we have a common ethos around that idea. And I see Mozilla as being the David that can take on the Goliath with those ideas. And so we have won a number of battles, we have a lot to celebrate. Firefox itself is a big victory - we went from 98% Internet Explorer domination, and Microsoft was determining where the internet was heading. Firefox was a huge victory in shifting that. That was 10 years ago, we haven't won much lately. Reference to Sunday New York Times advertisement for Firefox 1.0 (I contributed to that: SD) There is a shift, even in mainstream, toward seeing publishers as expensive and in the way. By contrast we have organizations like Lumen, David Wiley's company, getting traction and VC money. Similarly you've heard lots over the last few days, more and more public money has gone into ensuring that learning resources are open. For example, $2 billion for OERs in colleges. Those victories don't just limit themselves to this room. We have those dollars to people who aren't having this conference explicitly. Eg. local tax grant in Missoula. We have people around the world coming to OERs and open learning, and doing real stuff. We see a bias toward action. Lots of victories, lots to be proud of. We have won many battles... but we are losing the war. We are losing the battle for openness, the open web, and in transforming education. These - Pearson - are the kind of people are going to win. They may shift from selling textbooks to capturing analytics and selling data, but they're still winning. Mozilla isn't anti-business but we're against oligopolies. I'm more afraid that this is going to be Pearson - 'Classroom'. As much as I use Google every day, it's increasingly a company that controls vast parts of the internet. India - Google is effectively a monopoly with Android in smart phones. But unlike Windows and IE, they control the OS, they control the money, they're taking over the carrier layer - this is a monopolist with an intent to take complete vertical control over our internet lives. That is losing the war. How many think Uber is the good guy? We don't think of them as relevant, but it is likely the next big monopolists. Their goal and intent is to become the monopolist in the area of physical motion - to know everything about us, everything about the movers. That is then cloaked ina positive aspect of creating a new type of work. "Millions of Facebook users don't even know they're using the internet." People don't even know what they're using. They don't really know what the affordances are in any of the most basic ways the way we know. There's a massive gap between the general purpose computers we have in our pockets and what people think they have. We're seeing the growth of the empires that will shape humanity with a new set of values for probably the next few hundred years. The centre of that empire is pretty limited - it comes from Palo Alto, it comes from Silicon Valley. It's not that diverse a place. Its not the kind of empire I want to see. I don't want to see empire. Fork in the road. Do we want 'the next Steve Jobs' or do we want Edward Snowden. Do we want creativity and freedom, or control and a lack of agency. Are we going to choose openness, or are we going to choose the Matrix. William Gibson, third (sort of) Canadian: "The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed." The future I have committed to is a future where everyone has the know-how to be internet citizens in full. That's where we want to go - how do we win the war? Most of the people in the room used Mosaic, most were online before 2000 - the internet soon will be 5 billion people - that's where the battle for open will play out). Three things we are doing: First, web literacy. The challenge we have is to help 5 billion know how to wield that general purpose in computer in their pocket. We try to put it into Firefox, we try to put it into everything we ddo (cf Doug Belshaw's competency map). Participation, using the open web, is a bit part of this. Second, we need to commit to learning and not just to open educational resources. That's what I took from my early work in Shuttleworth to what I'm doing now. The language we use to talk about our approach to pedagogy is: learn by making, make stuff that matters (that's a key idea OER brings to the table, we can work on real material that is stuff we need), do it together (social for us has to be a part of a radical open pedagogy). Third, think of ourselves as bigger than just those of us around a single table, bigger than just this room - think of ourselves as people who want to take this open road (you are invited to Mozfest in November). A movement, a different approach to learning (web literacy), can help us go down the open road if we do it ambitiously enough. We've been doing this at Mozilla. Eg., the Maker Parties. We've had teach-ins,. to have people teach digital literacy to those around them. And this year we want to rally people to move litreracy on a massive scale - we don't know how to do that. Mozilla Academy? We will put whatever resources to bear on this, and help people do this. There are 300 organizations that make the Maker Parties happen - we want to do this together, get on the ball, and move it a lot faster. This is important. We are at a Gutenberg moment. We are at an early phase in internet technology. What gets written today will determine the future. Q. I'm struck by the fact that there are many Davids. How do you unite the Davids. A. You have common cause though you have many approaches. 'Open' has been the rallying cry. But in that rallying we have become inward focused. The concept of 'open' isn't something that will get into the water necessarily. The key is to think practically, do things that will help people, rather than be evangelical. That may be a rallying point, but still around our ideas. Q. Net neutrality - where the telcos are trying to determine what speed you will have and more. Steve Jobs was a master at creating beautiful golden cages. You cannot have OER and openness within a closed hardware environment. A. Another hour-long talk. In general, in building this movement for openness, Mozilla very public takes a much more pragmatic approach on whether everything has to be free. Of course we all know all of the pieces we wish were there, they're not even not there is an way even open-advocates can live in an all-open world. Eg. should we be implementing the DRM standard in HTML 5. Of course we're against that. But if we don't implement it and the other three browsers do, then millions of our users won't be able to watch videos. Which road do we choose, in order to remain relevant, and still keep a principled stance? Hardware and net neutrality are very important in that. Hardware is the biggest vector for network surveillance (I should have added Sczchen to the core of the new empire, on the hardware level). And it's a big question about how companies like Facebook play into net neutrality - Facebook is marketing itself in India as the free internet, don't bother with the rest of it. Q. I can't help but think about Aaron Schwarz. Will civil disobedience become an appropriate response? A. It already is. We don't hope what happened to Aaron will happen to others. But people like Anonymous - it's a tricky think to know what appropriate civil disobedience is. There may be reaal criminals in there. We don't all have the same agenda. Tricky questions. Q. Would the internet be different if we had women making it? A. Yes. And we need more of that. Mitchell Baker is a champion for women in technology and as leaders. But we're still very male-biased. We do need to have gender as an issue as we build, we're not as aggressive as we want to be yet, but it has to be a part of what we think. Q. The web literacy is the closest thing to what I mentioned yesterday as digital citizenship. Who are the right people to engage on this? A. We are thee stakeholders to first engage. Many great conversations here, eg., talking with Cable (Green) about getting a course on web literacy. And Cathy saying one way to do it is immersion. This is a good group of people to try to get some of those approaches into the mainstream. There's a lit of other stakeholders we think about. The right part of business, for example, even some of the goliaths - eg., the phone companies, who have a set of interests counter to the core Silicon Valley values. Eg. they want people to make and consume local content. Q. It's very common for us to conflate the web with the internet. To what degree is Mozilla interested in non-web parts of the internet. A. As an activist, conflating the web with the internet is now a problem in my view. We think of the web as the human interaction layer, at least for now. The rest of the web isn't really usable by people. But increasingly not. We contrast the web with what's happening on the smart phone right now - the web is open, iOS and Android are much more bundled and controlled. But we have to pick our battled. Q. Read-write-communicate has me thinking about openness - are you making the same pitch to other segments of the internet? Is it the same pitch? A. he answer is, I'm about to. I'm trying to figure out a crisper pitch. This is spring training. I'm taking this to Quartz, and giving them the same pitch. The same in OE Africa in may. To see who we can bring along with us. Q. I don't like your metaphor with the word 'battle' and the word 'war'. Cf. Hal Plotkin. He was entertaining us and also warning us with an example from the U.S. establishing a so-called 'free university' which failed because people became too militant. A. Many people don't like those metaphors. I think we're too passive. Let's see if we can find a middle. Q. Facebook is bringing free 'mobile internet' to people which is Facebook(+Google+Wikipedia)-only - A. They're kind of BS. But they will be influential BS. Even at the board level, we talk about, do we play with or not? I've been into these sorts of discussions for years - the old Internet Advisory Council in Canada. It's companies saying "we will solve the problem of access." It's an exceptionally simplistic view. People will get access. The market will take care of access anyway. They want to be seen as on the forefront of solving that problem, and to capture customers while they're at it, with monopolistic strategies. But if we help where half the peopel only have Facebook, that's a bad outcome. [Link] [Comment]

What I've Learned From Philosophy

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 I posted an item in OLDaily today from Forbes touting the benefits of formerly 'useless' liberal arts degrees. In this item Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield is quoted:
“Studying philosophy taught me two things,” says Butterfield, sitting in his office in San Francisco’s South of Market district, a neighborhood almost entirely dedicated to the cult of coding. “I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true–like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces–until they realized that it wasn’t true.”It's worth mentioning because the Department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary has a notice posted on the wall to the effect that a philosophy degree was no guarantee of a job and that graduates should not study expecting employment in the field. This wasn't parody or in any way humorous - it was an official memo from the chair and posted in all seriousness. I can still see it in my mind, not a big poster but an 8.5 x 11 memo with typed text. I have often commented that my work in philosophy left we particularly well-suited to employment in the new economy. It's not merely that sorting out corporate information might be simple after spending years teasing out the nuances in Wittgenstein, as the article suggests, though it's partially that. It's about what it is to know and to learn at a deeper level, which can then be applied to new disciplines whatever they may be. But what, precisely, did I learn from those years of study? That's a hard question to answer. But it's worth a bit of a sketch here. Precision Butterfield said he learned to write clearly. But what does that mean? Fun with Dick and Jane is written clearly but we want to express thoughts more complex than "see Spot run." Writing clearly means writing with precision, and precision is what philosophy teaches. For example, it is commonly said that a sentence has a subject and a verb. This proves to be important in clear writing. In clear writing the subject of the sentence is unambiguous. The reader knows exactly what you are talking about. Through the rest of my days I have always been attentive to the identification of the subject. You would be surprised how many people are not. There are specific ways of naming the subject. One way is to point, in words (that is, to name your subject ostensively). "This is a sentence. That was an argument worth hearing." Wittgenstein did that a lot. Another is to use a definite description. "The present King of France," for example, was the subject of much discussion between Russell and Strawson. Another way is to use names, which may in turn be subject to definitions, for example, "dogs", "millennials" or "Barack Obama". How many ways are there to be imprecise about the subject? There is always our favourite case, the amphiboly: "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know." Another is to refer to something without a definite or indefinite article, for example, saying "Matter of importance is clarity," instead of "A matter of importance..." or "The matter of importance." Or there is the use of vague terms: "freedom is what defines our approach to software." And on and on the list goes. Precision is what lies at the root of grammar. In my opinion, the rules of grammar (for the most part) exist in order to ensure precision. A lot of times it is the little things that cause confusion. A single comma can change the entire meaning of a sentence. As when Johnny said, "It's supper time. We're ready to eat, Uncle Charlie." Structure What you learn in philosophy is that sentences - and thoughts generally - are not unstructured streams of consciousness. This is especially clear in languages like French, where you have to plan your sentences ahead of time, in order to ensure the gender of your words are in accord. In all languages, structure indicates not only the subject and verb, as mentioned above, but also logical form leading to such things as inference and explanation. Why does this matter? Well, as I've written elsewhere, understanding this structure is key to writing useful and meaningful essays. It is also key to being able to analyze and understand what other people have written. When you read an editorial containing a whole list of sentences, how to do determine what opinion they are trying to express? It is the structure of the article that tells you this. Structure is logic, and logic is structure. You can see this by looking at the different kinds of logic; they reveal to you the different kinds of structures you can employ in your reasoning: propositional - connecting and relating the truth of basic sentences using 'and', 'or', 'if-then' and 'not'.quantificational - specifying how many of something we're talking about, and inferring about properties of groups of thingscausal - understanding the conditions under which one thing is said to cause anothermodal - talking about whether things are 'necessary' or merely 'possible'statistical - understanding probability, that is, how likely something is to happen, or to be truedeontic - thinking about the nature of obligation and permissiondoxastic - the logic of beliefsmathematical - axioms, calculus and set theory computational - Turing machines and computational processesNot only did I learn that all these forms of logic exist (who knew?) I also actually learned them, which means I can make really complex inferences, but more importantly, know some pretty basic things. For example, if 'P' is necessarily true, is 'P' true? (Yes) Or for example, if 'P is always Q' is true, does it follow that 'P' is true, or that 'P' exists? (No). Syntax and Semantics Syntax is the structure of something - its logic - while semantics refers to its meaning, truth or value. Syntax is the fact that ten dimes make up a dollar; semantics is the fact that it takes ten dollars to attend a movie. The very fact that syntax and semantics are distinct is important in itself, for several reasons. The first is that syntax is arbitrary. We can make up any sort of syntax we want. This is not so easy to see in everyday arithmetic and propositional calculus, where the rules are deeply entrenched. But in modal logic, however, we have various 'systems' such as T, K, S4 and S5. Which one of these is 'true'? Well, they all are. Or none of them is. Or, it doesn't even make sense to ask the question.In mathematics, similarly, there are different axiom systems. Which is 'true', Peano arithmetic? Mill's Axioms? Or does it even matter? In fact, a syntax, thought in and of itself, can be whatever we want it to be. Usually we set out some basic requirements - the system should not allow contradictions, for example. But there's no requirement that we do this, and if we develop a system that does not have truth as its basis (language, say) then the principle of non-contradiction doesn't even make sense! Take a look at my categorical converter - do the lines have to be drawn that way? Well, no. Or imagine a logic that is falsity-preserving, rather than truth preserving: they look like mirror images, but in falsity-preserving logic, nothing follows from a contradiction, and everything follows from a tautology. If pressed, we would say that we need to choose one system of logic over another because one of them works in the real world, but the other doesn't. But the relation between logic and the world is far from clear. We 'prove' a system of logic with a semantical argument, but the relation between a semantics and a logic is itself the subject of discussion; these different relations are called 'interpretations'. What does it mean, for example, to say that "the probability of 'P' is n"? There are three major types of interpretations of this statement: the logical interpretation, from Rudolf Carnap - for every possible state of affairs in which P could be true or false, in n of them, P is true.the frequency interpretation, from Hans Reichenbach - in all cases in the past where P could be true or false, in n of them, P is truethe subjectivist interpretation, from Frank Ramsay - of you were to make a bet on the likelihood that P is true, you would require odds of nSo if we are to validate the laws of probability - Bayes Theorem, for example - against an empirical model, which of these is the correct model to choose? For that matter, what makes a statement P 'true' at all? Alfred Tarski said "the sentence 'snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white." Well, that sounds good. But the sentence "brakeless trains are dangerous" can be true even of there are no brakeless trains. So it seems there are two basic principles of truth - a correspondence principle, which requires reference to a physical world of some sort, or a coherence theory, which requires consistence with a model. This is how murky these questions can get when we're talking about something as basic as truth. In the 20th century, however, philosophers focused on other aspects of semantics, such as meaning and value. Here, the discussion became even more murky. When someone comes to me and says that some thing or another is 'true', you can see I have a lot to think about regarding what this assertion could possibly mean. When somebody says to me that "We can all agree that such and such," I begin to distrust this person, first because the statement is probably false, and second because it's not at all clear to me that 'agreement' is even relevant to the sort of truth, value or meaning that we are discussing. These are really important lessons, and they apply everywhere. What are 'Things'? Philosophy taught me that anything can be a 'thing' - it just depends on how you look at it. And that there are different types of things, and different types of types of things. Our teachers in school spent a lot of time telling us about the basic types of things - animals, minerals and vegetables - and the different types of each thing that fall neatly into categories beneath them as kingdoms, phyla, species and genera. In university I learned that the way we define a thing in this system is to identify the category a thing belongs in, and what distinguishes it from other members of that category. "A cat is a mammal that purrs." "A hammer is a tool used to drive nails." That sort of thing. "An x is such that all x are y and only x are z." Necessary and sufficient conditions. Essences. Then in philosophy I learned that all of this is arbitrary. The beautiful system was upended, most notably, by Wittgenstein. "What is a game?" he asked. Is there any statement that is true about all games? No. Is there any statement that is true about only games? No. The idea of a 'game' os that it is a bunch of things that are kind of the same, like family resemblances, so you can see that they are sort of alike, but there is nothing unique that defines them. Language itself is like this. We don't have 'rules' properly so-called, we have "language games". What does a word mean? Well, it depends on how we use it. The meanings of words, the rules of language, the nature of what is true and what isn't - these all shift over time, like the bed of a river. Even more importantly., what a thing is depends not on the thing itself, but on how it is observed. Because whether one thing 'resembles' something else really depends on your point of view. We can in one sense say that checkers resembles chess, while in another sense say that checkers resembles mathematics. There are many ways to define things: we can point to them, we can say what they contain, we can say what properties they have, we can talk about what they do, what they were designed to do, what they actually do, what they might do, we can say what they're for, we can talk about where they're from or who (or what) created them, and on and on. Viewed this way, anything can be a 'thing', and any group of things can be a thing. George Lakoff talks about the culture that divides the world into two types of things: one class consisting of "women, fire and dangerous things," and another class consisting of everything else. So much of what we do today involves either working with certain types of things, or understanding that we are defining new types of things. What are 'students'? What is a 'learning object'? How do we define an 'ontology'? Philosophy taught me about the limitations of relational databases long before there were relational databases. Theories and Models Quine's Two Dogmas of Empiricism taught me (and everyone else) two important things: There's no such thing as the analytic-synthetic distinctionReductionism is falseAbove I discussed the distinction between syntax and semantics. The collapse of the analytic-synthetic distinction means that no statement is wither purely syntactical or purely semantical. What does this mean? An analytic statement is supposed to be true simply by virtue of the meanings of its terms. We say "1 + 1 = 2" is true, not because of some fact about the world, but because of the meaning of the terms '1' and '2' and '+' and '='. But if we put it this way, no statement is purely analytic. "It is obvious that truth in general depends on both language and extra-linguistic fact." This leads us to the second dogma: reductionism. This is the idea that all true statements can be reduced to 'observation language' or some other basis in pure facts (this could be any set of facts: facts about the world, facts about pure thought, facts about the Bible). But in fact, there is no set of 'observation statements'. Every 'fact' carries with it some element of the theory it is purporting to prove. For, without the theory, there is no way to say whether even a simple sentence like "the sky is blue" is true or false. This taught me, critically, that what a person sees depends on what that person believes. It means we have to rethink how we approach research and discovery, but also that we have to rethink how we communicate with people, how we appeal to reason and evidence, and even how we regard the world and our place in it ourselves. And it's why education - and how we think of education - is so important. For example, I say "to teach is to model and demonstrate". These are not idly chosen concepts. What we model impacts how they see the world. Consider four world views (all of which correspond loosely with different generations in and around my lifetime): We're at war. Our heroes are war heroes. When we work, we're at the front line. The challenges we face are battles. The determination of a Churchill or a Patton inspire us.We are explorers. We use science and technology to discover new things. When we work, we are solving problems. The challenges we face are mysteries, the unknown. The courage of John Glenn and James T. Kirk inspire us.We are players. Our heroes are athletes who bring out the best in themselves. We leave it on the playing field, but experience camaraderie outside the arena. The strength of Gordie Howe or Hank Aaron inspire us.We are entrepreneurs. We take ideas and make change in the world, bending vast empires of money and people to our will. We are driven by results, and expect a return on our investment. Our heroes are people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. And there are many more, in different generations of different societies around the world. Each of these does not represent just a different world view or a different paradigm. It represents a different way of life. Without philosophy, it's impossible even to understand that there are other ways of life, much less to understand what they could be like. What are 'evidence' and 'proof' to people in each of these different worlds. I inhabit a workspace where the only measure of whether something has value is whether someone will pay for it - part of that entrepreneurial mindset. I don't agree with that mindset, but I'm also aware that my own mindset, the explorer mindset, isn't inherently superior. People are always saying to me that "this counts as a theory, but that doesn't," or that "this counts as research, but that doesn't." I recognize such statements as arbitrary, and representing a set ofd parameters that the speaker has employed to define what will count as 'normal' (or 'standard', or 'appropriate') in their lives and work. I know I won't change their minds on this, probably, because no evidence exists that does not reinforce their world view. That's the nature of world views. Thought is Associative Not everybody who studies philosophy will learn this (see the preceding paragraph) but I did, and it was of fundamental importance to me. There are different ways to make the same point. Other people, for example, will say that they learned that not everyone is rational, or that people don't make rational decisions. Others will say that people think in music and pictures and whatever. These are both true. But for me, it comes down to the idea that thought is associative. But what does it mean? It's hard to explain in words, but by way of a metaphor, I would say that the principles of knowledge, memory and understanding are basically the same as the principles that apply when you throw a rock into a pond. There is the impact, there is the cascade as waves rush out from the rock, there is the pushback as waves bounce off each other and off the shore, and there is the settling as the pond returns to its level. Now the human brain is much more complex than a pond, but in both cases, the impact of something new affects the entire system, even though the cause touches only one small part of it. The rock touches some water, which pushes against other water, which pushes against a shoreline, and so on. The water organizes itself through a whole series of molecule-to-molecule interactions. There's no head molecule. There is no 'purpose' or 'order' defining what the waves must be - if tyhe stone had been bigger, the water colder, the shoreline shaped differently, it would have worked out in a completely different way. We are on the verge of understanding how that process actually works in brains (we understand pretty well already how it works in ponds, to the point that we have an entire discipline built around fluid dynamics). What we don't have yet is a way of understanding the world consistent with this understanding of how thought works. For example, I have said frequently, knowledge is recognition. Water doesn't really retain the impact of rocks, which is why ponds aren't intelligent. But other more complex and more stable entities will retain traces of the impact. One thing influences the next, and each thing preserves a trace of that influence, such that after a while characteristic patterns of input produce characteristic responses. This is recognition. And it is, to my mind, the basis for all human intelligence. This way of thinking is in an important sense post-semantic. I don't see one thing as a 'sign' for another. I don't see mental models as 'representations' of some external reality. I see knowledge, cognition and communications as complex interplays of signalling and interaction, each with no inherent meaning, but any of which may be subsequently recognized by one or another entity. Remember how Marx said "everything is political"? Well, I think that "everything is a language" (or, alternatively, there's nothing special about language over and above other forms of communication). So when I create a 'scientific theory', which is my job, I create something that consists of language, code, actions, photographs, and a host of other artifacts, all of which are reflections of my interactions with the world, not intended to 'represent' some deeper truth or underlying reality, but rather, intended to offer a set of phenomena that may be usefully employed by others (depending on what they recognize it as being useful for). Born Free In any number of recent movies - the Hunger Games, for example, or Divergent - the plot revolves around the idea that society is structured in such a way that we all have our assigned places where we work and live. Sometimes, as in Harry Potter, this is depicted as a good thing. But more often the established order is the subject of resistance. The concept originates in Plato, who in the Republic argued that society should be run by philosophers, and that the position of each person would be determined by their inner nature. "One man will acquire a thing easily, another with difficulty; a little learning will lead the one to discover a great deal; whereas the other, after much study and application, no sooner learns than he forgets; or again, did you mean, that the one has a body which is a good servant to his mind, while the body of the other is a hindrance to him." It is true that there are innate variations among humans. But the far greater differences between people are the result of their upbringing, culture and education. In philosophy I encountered the idea that there is an inborn 'human nature' on a regular basis, from the above-mentioned assertions from Plato to Descartes's ideas about the stamp of God implanted in the human brain to Chomsky's postulation of an innate deep grammar. People argue that there are common things (love of justice, fear of death) that unite us all, and essential properties (mental capacity, physical strength, mathematical abilities) that divide us. But none of this is true. What we have in common operates at a far lower level than people suppose. It operates at a genetic level, a cellular level, which defines only the most basic principles of human composition. Our heritage determines that we will have leg muscles, but not how string those muscles will be. It determines that we have interlinked neural cells, but not how they will be wired together. It determines that we will have a voice, but not what we will say. Time and time again I have encountered evidence of this. When we look at physical properties, for example, and even the oft-touted difference between men and women, we see how large a role nutrition plays (women are tall and strong in nations where they are well-fed and nourished - think about that). The physical differences between individual members of any race, class or gender you can to name are far greater than any between the races, classes or any other identifiable group. The same is true of mental properties. Time and time again, the most reliable predictor of educational outcome is socio-economic status. This is not because (as some suggest) the best and brightest become rich (surely we have countervailing evidence of that) but because of the advantages they receive in early life, everything from a rich intellectual environment, proper nutrition and stimulation, and social expectations supporting learning and achievement. How much of philosophy is devoted to determining whether there are natural - or essential - properties of things, and most especially humans? Arguably, most of it. The argument that something 'must be X' on the basis that 'X has property or capacity Y' runs through the entire history of philosophy, from Thales to Aquinas to Kant to Fodor. And none of these speculations has ever stood the test of time.There are no innate properties of significance. We are born free. Value The word 'value' is a bit loaded as in our entrepreneurial age it has become virtually synonymous with some means of quantification in terms of worth, utility or commodity. There are older senses in which the term 'value' meant something like those properties synonymous with virtue, but those senses of the word are almost inaccessible to us now; we would have had to have been born in a different time and a different place to understand it. I think philosophy has taught me to think of value a bit more deeply than that, and to at least be able to articulate alternatives that can count as 'value'. These alternatives form the basis of the various systems of morality and justice that have prevailed over the years. I once wrote to the Globe and Mail in a no-doubt long-lost online forum that the underlying value that defines Canada is this: in diversity, harmony. You need both parts. Harmony is the underlying value (the earth, as the Taoists might say), the receiver of all things, the pond after it has become stable, the mind after it has become calm, uncertainty and turmoil resolved. But rocks and sand crabs and fungus also exhibit large degrees of harmony; we want something more. This is provided by diversity, the possibilities of experience, the creation of the need to adapt, to understand, to grow and to learn. But hey - it's just a value system. It's not like others haven't tried before me. And this knowledge keeps me humble. One type of value system revolves around survival. It's an animal value system, an artifact of our lizard-brain, perhaps, brought through centuries of socialization to mean also the survival of the offspring, survival of the tribe, or survival of the species. We see it reflected to day in such philosophies as social Darwinism, survivalism, and various types of rule-based tribalism. Another type of value system revolves around ideals. We have the Platonic forms, the perfect Christ, Man and Superman- the idea is that the closer we can come to perfection, the greater the value we have realized. Another type of value system is based on duty and obligation. Perhaps best represented by Kant, it is informed by the idea that each person is an "end in themselves", not a means to an end (today we would say "each person is inherently valuable") and that we ought to act in the manner such that every person could also consistently act in the same manner. Your mother invokes Kant's categorical imperative when she says, "What is everyone else did that?" Still another is based around the idea of happiness, and of freedom in a manner that enables a person to maximize their own happiness. People like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are most closely associated with this philosophy, and Mill famously proposes that the goal of society ought to be to allow each person to pursue their own good in their own way. I have a lot of sympathy with that ideal. Maybe they all amount to the same thing. There's no shortage of ecumenical authors who like to suggests that, at heart, we all have the same system of values. But if this were true then we would have no satisfactory explanation for a Jeffrey Dahmer or a Clifford Olsen. So even while it feels to me that hose perfect moments of harmony are a combination of happiness, obligation and ideals, I think that other people see these values very differently. This is important to understand. People like to say things like "the truth lies somewhere in the middle" or "the good is what we can all agree on". But there really is no such thing (or if there is, we have utterly no means of finding it just yet). Justice I was never really a fan of moral philosophy, because of the force of the observations just presented, and even less of political philosophy, which to my way of thinking was offered for the most part by the powerful to rationalize their exercise of power. Of course, I have probably been jaded by the fact of being born and raised in an environment where the peak of political philosophy varied between people justifying why we would have enough military might to destroy the entire planet and people giving reason why we should or should not use it. Political philosophy in my age is and continues to be about the deployment of political power. Probably the predominate idea in political philosophy is some sort of version of social contract theory. This is the idea (and we see it reflected in school charters and corporate vision statements) that we are united as a society under a set of principles that we have agreed to in order to live together, prosper together or learn together. The motivation for such a social contract is generally that the alternative is unbearable. Without, for example, the benign power of an absolute sovereign, wrote Thomas Hobbes, our loves would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" (or course, given some of the sovereigns he was defending that might be preferable). The idea that we have actually signed such a contract is, of course, absurd. So the nature and standards of conduct in the contract are often implied - Rousseau, for example, appeals to the state of nature in which the noble savage found himself, as compared to contemporary society - "man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains." John Locke, envisioning an endless commons, imagines that the rights of property are established when someone "affixes his labour" to that which may be found in nature (an argument that justified the conquest of North and South America). John Rawls imagines that we could imagine what we would negotiate with each other under a "veil of ignorance" in which no one knew whether they would be a pauper or a king; this would result in a system of "justice as fairness". And of course there are communitarian theories of political philosophy based around the common ownership of "the means of production" which would ensure that everyone gets "to each, according to his needs, from each according to his means." Other communitarian theories of justice assert the collective rights of women, minorities, language groups, religions, and others. Interestingly, I don't think that anyone who is actually in politics subscribes to any of these philosophies per se. Actual observation (if there is such a thing) suggests that most of our social and economic leaders are engaged in one or another version of Machiavellian political theory, loosely stated as "might is right". For my own part, I don't know whether "man is born free," but I do observe that "everywhere he is in chains," and just as I feel the limitations of my own self-actualization I feel that the other people of the world who have even less advantage than I do must feel more or less the same thing, perhaps more deeply. I do not see us as merely "workers" or even as members of this or that community; from Kant I draw the idea that each person is equally important and equally special, and that our society and our individual lives are most enhanced by realizing that. But I have no illusions, I don't believe in utopia, and I don't believe we can engineer (as so many political philosophies suggest) a better society, a better company or a better school. In the end, the political philosophy we employ - the nature of our culture, our social believes, our nation - is the result of a billion individual, decisions made every day, and each of these decisions is based on the many factors I've outlined above. Good government, in other words, depends as much on things like precision of language, structure of reasoning, appropriate semantics, and all the rest, and even then, there's no guarantee that the government we get will be in any meaningful sense good - the best we can hope for, maybe, is government that is just, and leave the rest to the people. In Sum In sum, philosophy has taught me the basics of what I need to conduct myself in virtually any enterprise or occupation (save perhaps things like Major League Baseball). I've learned through philosophy that nobody is special, and everyone is special. That nothing is real, and everything is real. That there infinite ways we can describe and divide up the entities in the world, that in practice we fall into habits of seeing and reasoning about the world based on our experiences and the influence of those around us (and today, that influence includes language and media). I think that the reason we are alive is because it's possible, and the reason we die is to continue to allow it to be possible, by allowing our form of existence to grow and develop and adapt and flourish. I'm still trying to embrace diversity, and I'm still seeking harmony. [Link] [Comment]

Johns Hopkins Academic Freedom Statement - An Analytical Representation

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 Drafted in January and just released, the Johns Hopkins statement on academic freedom will no doubt be widely cited.I cite the full text below.
This post is a version of the document designed to draw out and represent exactly what it says, and to examine the assumptions underlying the document. Note: on detailed analysis, the document reads as though it were actually two separate documents forxced into a not-always-happy merger. My analysis treats the document as a whole, but maintains reference to the two parts as follows: (*) Means the point was made separately in paragraph 5 (**) Means the point was made separately in paragraph paragraph 8 Academic Freedom - Analysis and Discussion Definition: the liberty to speak and learn and invite others to do the same,to create and pursue research, and to participate, on and off campus, in public debatethey should be free to rebut or even condemn ... speech (*)Questions: this definition is strictly limited to expression and research. Should matters of opinion and faith be included as part of academic freedom (the document references 'freedom of thought' but is vague on whether it should be explicitly protected)? What about assembly into classes, clubs, associations, and the like? What about publication and distribution of research results? It is arguable that this is far too narrow an account of the freedoms protected in academic freedom. Force: not to obstruct, prevent, or punish (speech)(and research?)Example: speech on academic, political, or cultural matters, even when deemed offensive to some, is not alone grounds for sanctions against any member of the university communityQuestions: who does this force apply to? It is not clearly defined in the document. For example, does it apply only to the management and administration of an institution? Or to all members of the institution? If so, then what is its force with respect to a person not employed at the institution (eg., students, visitors)? Is it also intended to have impact on, and be respected by the wider community? Can a government, for example, be accused of violating academic freedom? A lot of thought has gone into the nature of the governance, but not nearly enough on who, and how, it governs. Impact: promotes a diversity of views and perspectives, and necessarily tolerates the expression of views on a broad range of academic and political subjects that are thought by some to be wrong, distasteful, offensive or even hateful. Questions. There are numerous references to the protection of opinions that are thought to be offensive or hateful. But a far wider range of expressions could be said to be impacted by this policy. For example, does it apply equally to statements that are unpatriotic? Does it apply to expressions of political opinion, support for political parties? Would it protect an avowed belief in astrology and witchcraft? Does it protect climate change denialism, creationism, and other unscientific theses? Does it apply to calls for war or defenses of torture? There seems to be an over-emphasis on protecting hate speech, without an emphasis on protecting political, cultural and scientific speech. Application: to all faculty, students, and staff alike Questions: the only statement of application is to faculty, staff and students alike. Yet several statements in the document refer only to faculty and professors, thus creating the appearance, if not the reality, of a two-tier system. Additionally, it does not explicitly apply to other entities associated with the university, such as governing councils or boards, advisory committees, not does it apply to offices (such as the Registrar), societies and institutes within the institution. The document does not adequately reflect its applicability to the full membership of a university community. Justification: Academic Freedom is the wellspring of a free and open universitythe freedom of thought it protects is at the core of the search for truth, and its free expression lies at the very heart of our university mission,a university must have breathing space for free and creative exploration and experimentation, and for the sifting and winnowing of the ideas that define its very purposeA professional and respectful exchange of ideas is integral to creating a positive and professional environment for learning, teaching, and research (*) On occasion, university officials, faculty, or students, may disagree with, and even be offended by, a statement or other expressive activity (*)intellectual freedom and open inquiry is an important part of its history, and its legacy (**) Questions: the statements made here go far beyond the statement and account of academic freedom. And yet they reflect a remarkably limited perspective. It is interesting that 'learning' does not appear until the fifth paragraph, and only as an aside, when presenting a justification of academic freedom. While there is perhaps no real reason to disagree with the (desired) attributes of a university that necessitate academic freedom, it may be relevant to list them here: free and openfreedom of thought search for truthcreative exploration and experimentationsifting and winnowing of ideasexchange of ideasenvironment for learning, teaching and reserachhistory and legacyAre these all and only the properties of a university relevant to the establishment and maintenance of academic freedom? Is it permissible as part of academic freedom to oppose the proposerties of a university enunciated as part of the justification of academic freedom? Basis: the First Amendment to the U.S. ConstitutionQuestion: is the basis for academic freedom really the U.S. constitution? Could there exist academic freedom in nations not governed by the U.S. constitution? The basis for academic freedom is not rooted in exceptional circumstances particular to the United States. Limitations: no right to defame or threatenno right to deface or harassno right to infringe on the privacy of othersno right to otherwise violate the lawreasonable (and) viewpoint neutral, restrictions on the time, place, and manner of expression (in order to) ensure the orderly functions of the universityno right to plagiarize or otherwise engage in academic or scientific dishonesty Questions: it appears as though this list of limitations is on the one hand too broad, and on the other hand too narrow. It is too broad in the sense that 'orderly functions of the university' may be very broadly, and disproportionately, defined. The definition of academic freedom should not be limited by 'reasonable' measures, only by extraordinary measures in extreme circumstances. Otherwise many manifestations of belief, such as political demonstrations, are exempt from academic freedom. It is too narrow in that it makes no mention of research and other ethics and standards. If academic freedom protects the freedom to research, it must define research ethics. Additionally, when the law requires or allows harassment, or the infringement of privacy, which prevails? Additionally, and I understand that there is a cultural difference here, it would seem to me that academic freedom is no defense against racism, sexism, homophobia, and attacks of a strictly personal nature. These are forms of expression harmful to society as a whole, and a university cannot defend in its community the right to harm society. Many would also argue that the requirement of "a professional and respectful exchange of ideas" (see above) also prohibits the disparagement of culture, religion, background, appearance and language. You cannot on the one hand be "respectful" and on the other hand feel no restraint when being offensive to others. Academic freedom must not embrace a very narrow and (frankly) extremist view of 'freedom of expression' without regard to respect for others and impact on the wider community. Responsibilities: exercise of judgment on the basis of professional criteria and the highest intellectual standards:in matters such as academic quality, and faculty and student performance evaluationsfaculty / professors who express their personal views on controversial subjects in the classroom must make it clear that students may disagree with those views without penaltywhen one is speaking on matters of public interest, it should be made clear that personal views do not represent those of the institution the ... appropriate response to ... statements in an academic setting is objection, persuasion, and debatenurturing that flame (of intellectual freedom and open inquiry) and passing it on (**)Questions: these responsibilities (as suggested above) apply disproportionately to faculty and professors, and can be construed to give faculty and professors extraordinary rights over and above the academic freedom of staff and students. Perhaps this was intended. Nonetheless, 'professional criteria' and 'highest intellectual standards' are vague and could admit of wide interpretation, at the discretion of faculty and professors. The responsibility here should refer to some known, non-arbitrary, and neutral set of external standards not subject to malicious interpretation. Additionally, it should be clear that the responsibilities listed here as being incumbent on faculty ought also apply to students; they should be enjoined not to sanction or punish each other as the result of the expression of opinion (this is an essential criterion for a free student press). Additionally, there are many methods of persuasion that are presumably not sanctioned by academics, but which could be seen as allowed by this definition, for example, emotional or social pressure, boycotts and restraints of trade, physical force, ostracism and exclusion, and more. Presumably it is not the intent to explicitly allow these (or all of these) but the distinction is not properly drawn. What sort of non-rational forms of persuasion (strikes? boycotts?) are allowed, and which (torture?) are not? And on what basis? This document is unclear. The preference for rational forms of objection is clear, but the delinieation of permissible non-rational forms of objection is entirely absent. Additionally, as noted above, there is no stated responsibility to adhere to any ethical or moral standard at all, including research ethics. Academic freedom must be exercised in an ethical manner. Jurisdiction: (not limited by) contact with countries and cultures. and other institutions that do not share the same understanding of free speech and academic freedom principles. (not limited by) research, funding and other partnerships with external public and private entities(not limited by) new roles and relationships with other organizations, many of which involve funding for university research and academic programs Questions: this is probably the most important of the additions to traditional accounts of academic in recent years. I have employed the phrase 'not limited by' to stand for what was actually some very half-hearted language in the original document ("special care" is used twice, without any account of what "special care" entails). If academic freedom is a core value of the institution, it should not be allowed to be limited by engagement with other cultures, partners or funding agencies. This is especially the case regarding engagement with corporations and entities that profit by association with the institution. I, personally, would go back to the drawing board, take a more ordered approach to the document, and try again. Finally, and for the record, nobody simply grants you freedoms, academic or otherwise. Though not a contract, a freedom is a form of interaction between two parties, whether teacher and student, employer and employee, government and citizen. Each of these parties - and especially the weaker - must assert this freedom in order for it to exist. There are no natural freedoms, there are no contractual freedoms, there are only freedoms which live and breathe through everyday exercise to their full extent. Johns Hopkins Academic Freedom Statement Note: as the original document was released as an image file (!?) I took the liberty of subjecting it to OCR for presentation here; this may have resulted in some minor errors. Academic Freedom is the wellspring of a free and open university. The freedom of thought it protects is at the core of the search for truth, and its free expression lies at the very heart of our university mission, Academic Freedom is the liberty to speak and learn and invite others to do the same, to create and pursue research; and to participate, on and off campus, in public debate, It promotes a diversity of views and perspectives, and necessarily tolerates the expression of views on a broad range of academic and political subjects that are thought by some to be wrong, distasteful, offensive or even hateful. Although tenure may form its backbone, Academic Freedom extends to all faculty, students, and staff alike. A university must have breathing space for free and creative exploration and experimentation, and for the sifting and winnowing of the ideas that define its very purpose. Like the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, on whose precepts academic freedom is based, however, Academic Freedom is not absolute. One does not have the right to defame or threaten, deface or harass, infringe on the privacy of others, or otherwise violate the law. Reasonable, viewpoint neutral, restrictions on the time, place, and manner of expression are legitimate ways to set the boundaries and ensure the orderly functions of the university. Academic Freedom also entails academic responsibility. There is no protected right to plagiarize or otherwise engage in academic or scientific dishonesty. The exercise of judgment on the basis of professional criteria and the highest intellectual standards, in matters such as academic quality, and faculty and student performance evaluations, is both permissible and necessary. Faculty who express their personal views on controversial subjects in the classroom must make it clear that students may disagree with those views. When one is speaking on matters of public interest, it should be made clear that personal views do not represent those of the institution. Professors who express their personal views on a contested issue must make it clear that students may disagree with those views without penalty. A professional and respectful exchange of ideas is integral to creating a positive and professional environment for learning, teaching, and research. On occasion, university officials, faculty, or students, may disagree with, and even be offended by, a statement or other expressive activity. They should be free to rebut or even condemn such speech, but not to obstruct, prevent, or punish it. Speech on academic, political, or cultural matters, for example, even when deemed offensive to some, is not alone grounds for sanctions against any member of the university community. The more appropriate response to such statements in an academic setting is objection, persuasion, and debate. Johns Hopkins University is not a narrow enclave. Its mission, its influence, and its presence reach far beyond the traditional campus. This necessarily brings it into contact with countries and cultures. and other institutions that do not share the same understanding of free speech and academic freedom principles. In these situations, special care is required to maintain our standards. Johns Hopkins continues to expand its connections to a range of research, funding and other partnerships with external public and private entities. It continues to develop new roles and relationships with other organizations, many of which involve funding for university research and academic programs. Some funding sources may seek to control data and research findings, or limit their dissemination. In response to such requests, special care must be taken to maintain the university's core principles of free and independent inquiry. Johns Hopkins University was home to the very early development of the concept of Academic Freedom in the modern research university. The torch of intellectual freedom and open inquiry is an important part of its history, and its legacy. Each of us, in our time, as members of this community of scholars, bears a responsibility for nurturing that flame and passing it on. It is our heritage! [Link] [Comment]

I Am Not That Guy

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 I've covered work by Audrey Watters a dozen times or more now and she's never had a problem with it - at least, none that ever made it into a column about my coverage.
This week, though, I said there was "a certain cynicism" in a recent list of articles by her and suddenly became one of those people. She writes: I’m always fascinated to see how my work in ed-tech is deemed “emotional” or dismissed as merely “cultural analysis” – gendered descriptions of what I do (subtly, overtly) perhaps. I don’t know if cynicism counts as “emotional,” but I'm sure I'll hear explanations of why or why not. Men will explain cyncisim to me.I think that in the course of my coverage I typically dismissed her work as in one way or another 'emotional' then the criticism might be well founded. But given that I do not, I would say that rather than being influenced by gender, as she suggests, my choice of words was based on the fact that the list of articles actually expressed a certain cynicism. She doesn't like my other word choices either: More interestingly in Downes' summary of my ed-tech trends series (which I have to interject here involves a lot of hard work; it's not a "list". So how fair was my choice of the word 'list'? We could look at the way I presented the links in my post here, or on her post here. Either way, my choice of words stands: it's a list. I don't doubt that it took a lot of hard work. But that doesn't make it something other than a list, especially when it is presented, well, as a list. She continues, in the same paragraph: Am I defensive? Emotional? How conventient...): the implication that I only “cover the field,” and I don’t “build."Again, I refer to my previous coverage of her work to suggest that my response would not be that the is "defensive" or "emotional". I am not that guy, whomever it is she is responding to here. But yes, I would say that my observation is that what she does is to, as she says, "cover the field." That's why I wrote in my original post as follows: “There’s a certain cynicism informing this list, which I think is unavoidable if you stay in the business of covering the field long enough. This, I think, is where my role is different: I not only cover the field, but I’m deeply engaged in building as wellI believe there is a difference between what I does and what she does, and I believe that "I’m deeply engaged in building as well" is a good way of expressing it. She doesn't. OK. Here's her argument: At first, I admit, I wanted to respond to Downes that I do build things. I’d point to my writing, websites, my GitHub repos, my open source code and content. I’m building analysis. I’m building criticism. I’m building a history of what’s lost and forgotten about education technology. I’m building repositories of data about ed-tech funding. I talk to educators, via social media, every day about all of this.Let's allow that to be writing about something is to be engaged in building. It nonetheless does not follow that writing about something is the same thing as doing that thing. What she is providing is content, news, analysis, repositiories, etc., about the field. It's not the same as building something in the field. She is free to disagree with me, of course. She wouldn't be anywhere near the first to disagree with me on something like this. But I think it's unfair to disagree with me on the basis that I've given "gendered descriptions of what I do" or am "mansplaining" or that "Men build, we're reminded. Women chatter." Once again, I am not that guy. Perhaps this is addressed to someone else. Perhaps I'm being captured in a stereotype. I don't care. I mean none of those things when I write, not even unconsciously, because I pay attention to these things when I write. She continues: perhaps he’s right: I’m not a builder. But it’s not because I’m a destroyer. (The opposite of “constructive criticism” is always this unspoken “destructive criticism,” isn’t it.) It’s because I’m doing something else entirely, unrecognizable I guess in a certain paradigm about "what counts" as professional work online, what counts as "building." I would say that this work is very recognizable, it is what I would characterize as "journalism" (perhaps also: commentary, critique, punditry, and a range of related concepts, but I think of it foremost as journalism). I don't see this as any type of diminutive (I've spent a lot of my own life in the same endeavour). In any given day I read the work of a dozen journalists. They each have their strengths and their foci - but one thing that separates them all from me, men or women: they don't do what I do. That's not a criticism of them, that's a fact. Over the years I've built dozens of online courses, a learning management system, a learning and resources community, a college website, an online virtual environment, a podcasting system, a resource aggregator, a collaborative content development workflow system, another learning management system, and more. And I continue to be engaged in this work, in addition to whatever punditry I pursue, to this day. Audrey Watters doesn't. This is no slight on her, no reflection of her gender good or bad, it is no reflection on the value of her work, no reflection on her professionalism, and no other manner of deep evil she may imagine lurks within my mind. It's simply a statement that I do something that she doesn't, and this gives me a different perspective on the subject. She writes, Is one of my sites viewed as more gendered because it has a woman’s name attached to the URL? Or are all my sites marked as such, by virtue of my authorship? What does this “markedness” mean for how my work is interpreted? What does it mean, more broadly (and I think this gets to the core of some of the issues Frances raises) for how we view “work” in ed-tech, in academia?Well... I can't speak for what others think. I am not them. My own words speak for what I think. If I think someone's work, or someone's identity, is somehow "marked" or "gendered" or whatever, I'll tell them. But fore now, I think I'm just being lumped in with a bunch of other people I don't even know. I'm not sure what good is served by this, and think, probably, none is. [Link] [Comment]

Why I'm Voting NDP

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 I am voting for the NDP in the upcoming federal election and I think you should too. In this post I'd like to offer some reasons why.
Why I support the NDP? Because the NDP stands for something, and it mostly stands for the things I stand for. The NDP, when it's at its best, offers a blend of support for personal freedom and empowerment alongside social support and public infrastructure. The niqab issue is a case in point. The NDP stands for the right of women to choose to wear the niqab if they wish when swearing their Canadian citizenship oath. The Conservatives have declared their opposition, and are in court arguing women must be forced to bare their faces when swearing the oath. The issue is apparently costing the NDP support in Quebec. NDP leader Tom Mulcair knew the position was unpopular and took it anyways. Quebeckers should take note of his willingness to take a principled stance in order to support the rights and personal freedoms of a minority. Mulcair has already taken stances in support of Quebec that were unpopular in the rest of Canada. He won't sell out a minority just to pander to a population's baser instincts, not even yours. The NDP is supports personal freedom in other areas. Again taking a stand that was unpopular at the time, Tom Mulcair opposed the Conservatives' Bill C-51, which greatly extended the powers of surveillance and enforcement of Canada secret services. The NDP voted against the bill, while the Liberals and Conservatives voted in favour. It is important to understand the sweeping nature of Bill C-51. It allows the government to monitor all aspects of a person's life and share this information with a wide range of security agencies, including those in the United States, revealing personal income tax details, credit histories, travel and vacation plans, and more. The government can monitor and act against 'terrorist propaganda', which is anything that disrupts the normal functioning of the state - effectively lumping in environmental activists and labour unions with al Qaeda and ISIL. The bill removes most requirements for CSIS to obtain warrants and grants it "'disruptive' powers, meaning it would allow the spy agency to do things above and beyond mere observation." Of the three major parties, only the NDP was willing to stand up and oppose this legislation when it was politically unpopular to do so. The NDP is well-known for its stance on personal empowerment. Again, this isn't always popular; as my own brother pointed out, the NDP's support for students caters to a demographic that doesn't really vote. Maybe not. But when Rachel Notley took over in Alberta, students and universities there noted her immediate action to reverse cuts to the education system and to freeze tuition fees. This is because education is important to society as a whole, even if students don't vote. Personal empowerment also means a living wage. True, people living on the minimum wage are also not very likely to vote (or they may be blocked from voting by one of the new voter registration laws) but the NDP has nonetheless advocated a federal minimum wage increase to $15/hour. This directly affects a hundred thousand people, and puts pressure on the provincial governments to increase their own minimum wage. The Liberals have criticized the minimum wage promise, arguing that it only supports 135,000 people. This is true. That's all the NDP can change directly; provincial governments must do the rest. But 135,000 people is still a lot of people, and it's way better than zero, which is how many people the Liberals would help. And personal empowerment extends to basic respect for people. The NDP will protect pensions and roll back the retirement age to its original setting (it was extended from 65 to 67 under the Conservatives). It will restore benefits to veterans. It will restore the money looted from Employment Insurance, and pass on the benefits of the EI surplus back to the people who paid into it, freezing EI rates and restoring eligibility for EI benefits to people cut under the Harper government. The NDP is also noted for its support for social programs. Though there are many, there are three that I would highlight: first, its longstanding support for public health care, with support for a national pharmacare plan. Second, it will restore funding to the CBC, which has been starved for decades. And third, it will restore funding to the network of environmental and scientific organizations that have been denuded by the Tories. The NDP position on the environment is of significant importance. Canada's environmental agencies were slashed to the bone by the Harper government, and independent agencies called "terrorists" and subject to harassment. This will change under an NDP government, with a return to stringent emission standards and support for renewable energy. This matters to me. And I see the impact of an NDP government every time I drive to Sackville. On the Nova Scotia side or the border, under an NDP government, dozens of windmills have taken root. On the New Brunswick side, in the same windy area, neither the Conservative nor Liberal governments have built even one windmill. It's one thing to express support for alternative energy. It's quite another to actually do something about it. I could actually go on for some while describing the positive measures the NDP will undertake, but you get the idea. Why I Do Not Support the Liberals In a word, I don't trust them. The Liberals have a long history of adopting politically expedient positions during an election campaign, and then reneging on their promises once elected For example, just days after being elected in New Brunswick, the Liberal Party reneged on two key planks in its election platform, including daycare subsidies and child care tax credits. It also announced plans to tax seniors' assets despite a campaign pledge not to tax seniors assets (it has since rescinded the tax). This is the norm for the Liberal Party. It's an approach that dates back as far back as Pierre Trudeau's stance against wage and price controls in the 1970s. "Zap, you're frozen," said Trudeau, mockingly. Once in power, however, he very quickly instituted wage and price controls. More recently, after Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney introduced the hated Goods and Services Tax (GST), Liberal Jean Chretien campaigned saying he would eliminate the tax if elected. Of course, he did no such thing, and we have the tax to this day. This time around, we have Justin Trudeau suggesting the party will introduce a national child care program. They attack the NDP plan. We know that if it's at all possible, he NDP will do it. The Liberals? Well, they've made this promise before, and never followed through. Why should we think this time is any different? It's the same story for pharmacare. Canadians have heard this promise many times before, especially from Liberals, in successive campaigns dating back to the 1990s. And although Liberals have been in power for most of that time, they've never implemented such a plan. Historically, the Liberals talk a good game on pharmacare, but when push comes to shove, they side with the pharmaceutical companies. That's why the extended patent [protections granted to the companies by the Mulroney conservatives were never rescinded by the Liberals, despite their vocal criticism of them while they were in opposition. Why should we trust Justin Trudeau? For example, he says he would legalize marijuana. Fine - I support that. But I don't trust the person who voted to impose mandatory sentences for marijuana possession to actually legalize it. And Trudeau is announcing that he will fundd his spending promises with a series of deficits. I can understand this, and I imagine most people would respect his honesty. But back in July, when the word 'deficit' was risky politically, Trudueau was announcing that he supported a balanced budget. So after the October election, which version of Trudeau would we see making budget decisions? If history is any indication, the Liberals will promise to support education, health care, the CBC, and all the rest of it, and dramatically decrease funding to all of these programs. We see this provincially. We see it federally. Why should we believe him when he says he will "amend" Bill C-51? The Liberals sound like change, and oh! I would be so happy to see it. But the Liberal record is very clear on this point. No change. More of the same. And all the regressive measures implemented by the Conservatives over the last eight years left in place. You can see this in action if you look in the right places. For example, in The Norther Miner, we see the Liberals attacking "the New Democratic Party’s job-killing corporate tax hike" and saying "A Liberal government will maintain the current corporate tax rates." But the Liberals know full well that there is no evidence whatsoever that lower corporate tax rates result in more jobs. The Liberals are counting on disaffected Conservatives to remember this, and to keep the status quo by voting Liberal in this election. People seeking change should take note that they are in alliance with Conservatives opposing change should they vote Liberal. Why I Do Not Support the Conservatives It turns out that when the Conservatives said they did not have a "hidden agenda" for Canada, they in fact had a hidden agenda for Canada. And over the last eight years they've destroyed much of what Canada stands for and much of what made it such a great place to live and call home. There are so many reasons to oppose Harper it's hard to know where to start. He's not a particularly good financial manager, having run a series of deficits during his tenure, despite not spending money on various programs that he had promised to spend (indeed, he has made the fake spending announcement a new art). And he is an incompetent manager. This becomes especially clear in the botched military procurements, from the multi-billion dollar F-35 account, which is essentially a series of lies from beginning to end, to the botched replacement of Canada's naval forces. He shows contempt for Parliament, for elections, for the courts, and for the people of Canada in general. His new 'fair elections act' seeks to disenfranchise voters, while his operatives have actually been found guilty of election fraud in previous elections. His current candidates won't respond to media enquiries or appear in candidates' forums. Harper himself refused to debate the other leaders in a national forum. He is anti-data. As the Post notes, he "defunded medical and scientific research; the muzzling of government scientists; a bizarre, almost universally decried debasement of Canada’s census." He ran on a campaign to reform the Senate and eliminate corruption, but his slew of Senate appointments have set a new standard for political corruption in Canada. And he continues to defend a position of innocence in the whole matter that defies belief and insults Canadians. He continues to run a war in Syria that makes no sense whatsoever, believing somehow that Canada's bombing raids will somehow stop ISIL and bring peace to the Middle East. His response to the refugee crisis is not the traditionally Canadian open arms - indeed, he has basically blocked any Syrians from entering Canada at all - and instead has called on more war to solve what he says are the 'root causes'. But this anti-refugee stance reflects a deep dislike and distrust of people who are not (as he says) "old stock" Canadians. We know what he means. It's the same distrust of brown people that causes him to impose visa requirements on people traveling to Canada from places like Brazil and Mexico. It's what led him to destroy CIDA and turn it into a branch of Business Development. Harper's government is essentially designed to transfer wealth into multi-national corporations and to stay in power through the politics of race and division, and where necessary, media and voter manipulation. It is a sad state of affairs that we have such a government in this country, and I sincerely hope the Liberals and NDP can agree on a system of proportional representation so that it never happens again (I'm sure the NDP will do this, but as for the Liberals, well, see above). Why I Will Not Support the Greens I love the Greens, I really do. But they're too small and too easily co-opted. I don't mind small. I've participated in small campaigns in the past. But the co-option is serious and never too far from the surface. It was most apparent with Elizabeth May was making deals with Liberal Stephane Dion. I don't think the party is large enough and has a wide enough base of support to ensure that its candidates are not really operatives from another party seeking to undermine the progressive vote. Proportional representation will help address this, as it will ensure that the Greens obtain a fair representation in Parliament and a proper degree of funding support. Until then, I think people who are voting Green are often actually hurting their own cause. A Note on the Balanced Budget Frankly, I don't care whether the budget is $10 billion over or under. It's a rounding error on a spreadsheet that totals almost $300 billion. So a lot of the discussion about Trudeau's deficit or Mulcair's balanced budget is political posturing. But I will say this: When Harper said he balanced the budget, he lied. We're of course used to this from the Conservatives. And it is sad that he had to raid the premiums paid by Canadian workers into EI to sustain this lie. More to the point, the record on fiscal responsibility in Canada is clear. The New Democratic Party is far more likely to be fiscally responsible, based on the evidence of federal and provincial governments over the years. The Liberals are better than the Conservatives (which isn't hard, frankly) but not as good as the NDP. I think it is unfortunate that Mulcair has to say he will balance the budget in order to counter a deluge of misleading and downright false reporting about the so-called "tax and spend" NDP. In the end, if you are looking for the government that will produce the best fiscal results - if the economy is your thing, if profits are what get you going, if take-home pay matters to you - then the NDP is head and shoulders your party of choice. Right now, after decades of Liberal and Conservative governments, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This doesn't change no matter which of them is in power. The only time this ever changes is when the NDP are able to exert their influence. These days Mulcair is attacking the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. It's not nearly as headline-grabbing as Trudeau's attacks on Harper. But it matters a lot more to your wallet. The deal is being kept secret, and for very good reason: "'[C]ompanies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings -- federal, state or local -- before tribunals....' And they can collect not just for lost property or seized assets; they can collect if laws or regulations interfere with these giant companies' ability to collect what they claim are 'expected future profits.'" Think about that for a second. What's the Liberal position on the deal? As usual we don't know - but as this article notes, it's the sort of deal they'd support. It's the sort of deal they've supported in the past. Think about whether you want corporations to control regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings in Canada. Think hard. And that - all in all - is why I'm voting NDP. [Link] [Comment]

Education Technology Strategies - Day Two

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 Educational Technology Strategies Conference - Toronto
Simon Pugh-Jones Teacher Writhlington School, (UK) David Crellin Creative Director for the Mendip Studio School Writhlington School, UK David Participate - was a 3 million pound, 3 year project - 2005 - looked at creating sensing systems that would measure air quality in Bath, UK - integrated with Google maps - developed kit - 'logger' with integrated GPS Health Environment Action Network - 40 cities around US being monitored - again presents information with Google Maps AZ Teaching Trust - Sept 2008 for a year - 10 primary schools investigate their environment in Bath, UK WiFi Arduino IOT Devices - wifi datalogging, to make technology platform independent - no installation, saves a lot of time fussing with the equipment - always-on data collection; web interface to data Distance - Bid with Intel to Technology Strategyu Board - IoT demonstrator - school as platform, community data, shared experiences - $800K - worked with 8 schools across the country; participatory design activities - platform: Xively - control opf greenhouses using data from Africa and Asia Peterborough - Smart City - want to measure the weather across the city - started with weather stations in schools - also added high quality rain gauges cooperating with Envrionmental Department (city saved money) - - eg. showing C)2 levels in a classroom in the UK (finding 4K ppm - concentration is impacted!) Robo Tug - working with Intel to generate some IoT kits for schools - robots having remote tugs of war Simon The students get it much more than I do - the challenge is to let go and let the students be the experts The Writhlington School Orchid project - "slow is good, good is fast" - been going since 1991 - started as students growing orchids, largest 'orchid from see' project in the UK - requires "high knowledge, high skill" - growing from seed requires special procedures (scientists) - Aaron is told "you are in charge of catius" - he doesn't know about it first, he is just told, and learns - the teams that work on this become scientists, they become botanists - students: provide real solutions for real projects - also requires cash - so we go around the country selling orchids students have raised) We have done school expeditions to 17 tropical places ('expeditions') - costs about 20K pounds, about what we raise in a year - students also raised some of the their own money - another project with Muttart conservatory in Edmonton - expeditions are in the early phase, we're still learning things - since 2004 the expeditions more about my students running workshops with students in local environments - the work they do is forest identification of species (photos from Rwanda) The technology (we never went out to say 'we want to do things with technology' - instead it solves problems) - eg. datalogging for the 'hovering properties of hummingbirds' project; - also, datalogging for investigation of microhabitats - we put in dataloggin into the curriculum wherever we can - building two megalabs at the school; one a genetics lab, another a microporpagation lab - IoT and real data on a website is so much better than going to a greenhouse for a week - biobox - replicating real-time rain forest in a box - the great thing about real technology projects is that there are so many hassles and problems along the way - and there are many roles - web designer, business, engineering School projects from the audience: - in-school Dragon's Den - higher-needs school, started a coat swap, which is now city-wide (coats everywhere for three days) - schoolyard project - greenhouse project to prove they can build a greenhouse in northern Canada and eat healthy all year long (you don't need to think of the solutions and how to do it, because the kids do that) - future idea: in-tree sensors next to orchids that can be followed on the internet - another future idea: connecting the kids in Rwanda to their own forest with electronics, etc David - where next for the IOST - different kids adopt different roles - not all kids like orchids, but may be really interested in electronics - smart schools - inspirational teaching has to be at the core of all this - "students of today are the innovators of tomorrow" (Simon: "... innovators of today") Q: are we looking at ways to ... my grade 12 students last year built five apps .... could be marketable today - if we have students are experts and knowledgeable - are we looking at a way to make the transition in our schools? - right now, if students sold the app the school would say they own the money - could we pay students to incent the students A: it's all done in the team - the money raised by the team is used by the team for things like trips - another group wrote a book, which sold well, that project looked at royalties - in general it's now accepted in the UK that when people generate ideas they get to keep ownership of them - but you have to have a very clear plan particularly of how you deal with great success Honourable Liz Sandals Minister of Education Ontario Ministry of Education This is a paraphrase summary, not direct quotes (though often words are used) (Ministry of Ontario vision video) What we all have in common is that we're committed to the well-being of our students About a year ago our government began renewing the vision of education in Ontario schools. We had a range of stakeholders outside the system, a lot of students involved, but there was a high degree of consensus. So the Achieving Excellents has four major objectives: - achieving excellence - ensuring equity - promoting well-being - competence We've also been partnering with the Council of Directors of Educations (CODE - 'superintendants') - this boosts what we know about technology and enabling innovations. The challenge now is how do we take those innovations and find those things that are working best and spread them not just to lead schools, but all across the system and in every school and in every board - the challenge is to get the great innovations more generally in use. Need a sustainable transformation that's relevant and meets local needs. We certainly know that we need to learn from our stakeholders. We also know that we need to work more closely with businesses, with research institutions, agencies - there are many relationships out there, often local relationships, we need to draw from to enhance what we're doing with technology. When we were talking to students, we heard the students really want to participate in experiential learning. They want to feel connected to the real world. How do we build on this? So, there's going to be lots of exploration. Some things will be directive - we continue to work on math, for example. We've appointed four advisors who will be helping to guide us. They will review emerging trends and research. They will work on incorporating research into making our vision a reality. When we look at education, it isn't really just about education. We're also looking at the future of the economy. They will be key to our future prosperity. We are competing with the rest of the world based on the skills and the knowledge of our workers. So, one thing we've been able to do over the last 4 years is to increase our high school graduation rate - it's up to 83% since 2013 (but I want to say a few things about how we calculate that - we assigned an Ontario education number to every student in schools, and it follows them through the system - we are literatlly looking at who comes into the door and where they are 5 years later - if they move to Alberta they are shown as not having graduated, if they enter a high needs program, they are shown as not having graduated.) From 68%. We created the child care modernization act - they have to give the students a number when they enter child care. That means we can track kids from the time they nter a licensed care system all the way therough to university in Ontario.So we can find how their PSE experiences relate to their elementary and secondary experiences. One reason we were able to raise the HS grad rate is that we introduced more ways students could access experiential learning. If they have co-op experience, they get a red seal on their diploma if they graduate from specialist high schools labour - includes mining, ICT, manufacturing, etc. These programs are very community-oriented. This is a great example of experiential learning. Not everyone can participate in this. So another way of doing this is to bring tech into the classroom, so they can get real-world experience in the classroom. We haven't thought though this as carefully as we have the outward-bound experiences. In this case, we're often supporting students who are otherwise struggling. One of the things we've done recently is to create a $150M tech fund over 3 years, to invest in tablets, software, cameras, etc., and also training, so we don't just acquire hardware and apps. But we know that these new techs are engaging students in new ways, particularly when we partner with the right learning task. We also find these technologies are giving students with special needs a new voice, and to connect with their teachers and classmates. So, we see this huge growth in technology. I was at the College of Business and Economic in Guelph, talking about entrepreneurship. One cluster of students were trying to start a business, a board that you can play around with to help you create new technology to support science learning in a variety of different applications. I said, it's great you have these ideas, connect it to the curriculum and you can sell it to teachers and librarians. We've also got partnerships with TVO and KFO and their website, which has programming that follows the curriculum. Have a look at what they are creating. It's always connected to curriculum so you don't have to worry about whether it's appropriate. Eg. homework help line. When we talk to parents and students, they want 21st century learning - critical skills, collaboration skills, communication skills. When we look at their future, we know they won't geet a job with the plant that sets them for life - we know many of them will have to start their own businesses. We depend on technology to expand students' view of the world and an independent critical thinking mindset. Another of our goals is well-being. As we get involved in technology we want to ensure our studetns are ethical and socially-responsible citizens. We have to talk about safe and ethical internet use. A couple of things going on in boards around the province: - a board in Keewatin using Skype to communicate with students in remote communities in other parts of the world. - in Belleville - Saganaska demonstration school - use sims to solve problems and learn scientific skills, like heat transfer Q: UK - coding in curriculum; hour of code in US - is Ontario looking at coding? A: my background is math and computer science, so this is a hot button with me. Mostly when we talk about tech we talk about how to use tech that someone else created. We don't talk about coding in the first place. A problem is we don't have enough teachers qualified to teach computer science, especially in small high schools. When we look at students who go into STEM, there's a drop off. I'm not sure the solution is to do an hour of code. But we need to pay attention to STEM students. Especially women. Q: Ontario student ID - anything at the federal level that would integrate information exchange between the provinces? At the Canadian level? A: Education in Canada is a provincial responsibilities. So we have CMEC - Council of Ministers of Education in Canada. I'm not aware of any such discussion around tracking. The discussion is more around common curriculum initiatives. Talked about aboriginal education, international students - nothing on the bookkeeping techie sort of thing. Q: 21st century skills - when might the ministry provision boards of education with new measures so we can assess students on these? A: there's an active discussion going on right now about that - how do we measure communication, collaboration, critical thinking? Teachers often comment, but it's usually a personal opinion thing. I don't know when we'll have an answer. Q: ed tech startup entrepreneurship in education. Do you see innovation hubs emerging in K12 - are you looking to encourage this? A: I mentioned high skills majors, one is focused on this. It's not as widely offered as the others. I think it will evolve and I think it will grow. I was at Guelph - youth job strategy, a lot went to match students with first job, but there was some money set aside for innovation. In Guelph I was announcing a grant to the business school doing this. Jim Bennett Manager Information Technology Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Board Office, (SK) Implement a Cross-functional Department using Agile Methodology and Scrum to Improve Efficiencies From the IT perspective, the landscape looks more like looming crisis than idyllic beach - but by implementing agile processes we can address this 'Scrum' is one of several agile frameworks - they are ways of organizing yourself, ways of managing the workload, and ways of adapting to changes. Ways of being less formal in our approach, shift directions, and be more flexible. It came out of Japan, a wholistic approach to manufacturing. 6 core tenets. The term 'scrum' coined in early 90s - Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland. You get a "group of guys that really know what they're doing", they pick their own tasks. Here's the top-level view: - the organization sets the priorities - teams self-organize to determine the best way to deliver - work is organized into 2 to 4 week cycles, called sprints - after each sprint anyone can see real working solutions - it's a highly transparent process so there are no surprises Applicable to school division - not just software development teamss Three major pillars: roles, ceremonies, artifacts Roles: - product owner - who takes deliverables, sets orders of priorities - scrum master - like a project leader - team members Ceremonies - very important, every one of these - sprint planning session - when the product owner comes forward and says I have all this work, teams selects 2-week bit from the pile - when they look at these stories, they estimate how big a job they think it is - they talk back and forth and talk out all the little bits that make up a story - 15-minutes - 12 hours granularity - sprint review - everybody can see what was done - no powerpoints, though you can show what was created on a screen - people who did the work explain a bit - sprint retrospective - a team-focused activity, based on continuous improvement model - teams sits without outside influence and taalks about it - daily scrum meeting - 15 minute stand-up meeting Artifacts - product backlog (project backlog) - all the stuff you have to do - sprint backlog - the stuff that needs to be done - burn-down chart - graph showing how much work is remaining in that sprint Agility: - having the characteristics of speed and coordination - the ability to react quickly and appropriately to change Agile & amp; Lean - in Saskatchewan, a strong push for all departments to adopt 'lean' - 'Lean' is focused on eliminating waste - wasted steps, wasted materials - agile and lean are totally linked Benefits of Agile: - clairity, focus, aligns work to organization goals, productivity, communications, no surprises (Example of F-35 as being built by scrum - not the best example!) Scrum in Educational IT - EduScrum - how can a manufacturing process work in our IT department? - think of it just as a process, a framework - build your teams - scrum at the GSCS - started by the book - Agile Software Development with Scrum - but it's like a recipe, you can make changes as you need to (we started adjusting after 5 sprints or so) In Scrum.... - the first thing you want to do is build a team: - by discipline - eg., programmers - or cross-functional teams - teams often give themselves names - then the working agreement - how will they meet, how will they communicate - eg. "during the meeting lids are closed", "we'll always be on time" (team decides penalties) - create a definition of 'done' - sw team can have very granular detail about what counts as 'done', - eg. 'passed all the tests', docs complete, end user has accepted Take all of the work that you need to and build it into stories - "user stories" - as an end user, I want something so I can accomplish some kind of goal - "As a student I want to see my grades online so I can see how I'm doing wihtout waiting" - enables acceptance criteria - you don't have to be technical, it's up to the team to figure out the tech - Epics - contain many stories Managing Backlog - used to use sticky notes on whiteboard - move them around, reprioritize - now nice tools to do this Sprint planning: - not traditional program manager at the front assigning tasks - team-centric, stories are brought in and discussed - 'planning poker' - "is it bigger than a breadbox" - tough to estimate time it takes ahead of time - compare with previous estimates - start with '8' - next project, is it bigger than the '8' etc - after a few times, this becomes a really accurate estimate and you learn how many story points you can pack into a sprint - our team finds it can do maybe 110 story points in a sprint - the work begins... - storyboard - on the left, story cards, on the right to-do cards, work in progress, and done - once the notes have moved across the board then the story is done VersionOne - the online software we use (so we no linger have the backlog board) (bit of a software demo going over the tasks) Sprint standup meeting - no detailed discussion at all - it's only for 'what I did yesterday', 'what I'm doing today', 'what is standing in my way' - these meetings are open to the world, but only scrum members can talk Retrospective - what will we stop doing? - what will we continue doing? - what will we start doing? Scrum at the GSCS - disruptive, but working - initial backlog was 10 years, now down to 2 years - note: people can't just come and say "drop what you're doing I need this now" -Team Structure - started with one team, the programmers - then we created a team for the system administrators - third team for the network administrators - after about a year, the three teams merged into one - Work process - started with 4-week sprint, went down to 2 - Challenges - getting users used to the idea of user stories, getting user engagement - defelcting outside influences - balance 'break-fix' tickets, vs time to apply to stories - changing admin mindset, so now it's more driven from the bottom up - getting team members used to the idea of saying "no" Steve Denning Forbes article Jon Butcher Administrative Coordinator & amp; Physics Teacher St. Andrews College Building on Existing Platforms School went full laptop in 2002, pen-enabled tablet in 2008 (St. Andrews College - university prep school) - 2nd screen BYOD - rolled out dual projectprs in most of our classrooms recently MS OneNote - our 'killer app' - teachers have built their textbooks in OneNote - pen-friendly - which is huge - network sync, off-network use - paperless: marking, etc - integrates with TurnItIn - we weren't using it - we discovered a hard drive with every single assignemnt ever distributed by a teacher - FirstClass - - Edsby - built by people who built FirstClass - it's definitely the application of choice right now - eg. student page - I can see all his activities - attendance, assignments, project reports, etc - at the end of every day, teachers enter what they did in class, what the homework was - really important because we're a big sports school Exploring - pioneering - connectivity - Diigo, PLNs, (Edsby, twitter, etc) - collaborative spaces - where they can meet with shared screen etc Meeting Policy Objectives - all academic leadership positions held by actual teachers - policy is team and committee based - ITI committee - Tech related policies: - daybooks, online marks, etc - pioneer model - explorers, pioneers, settlers, urbanites - we all had elements of each of those things Measuring return on investment - really hard to nail down, education is so wholistic - instructional strategies are enhanced by technologies Developing Cost-Effective Solutions - fail often fail cheaply Core beliefs - where tech is the best way to teach, we should do that, if not, we shouldn't - the teacher is the best person to judge - support model - teachers have 3 minutes worth of tolerance - if if doesn't work in 3 minutes, it's garbage - usability ranks higher than security! - teachers cannot be expected to troubleshoot - plan for the worst case scenario Conclusions - single device is better than BYOD alone - higher cost but significantly higher gain Shawn Lehman Supervising Principal of Pathways for Student Success Limestone District School Board - 61 schools, mostly small schools, 20K students - moving away from a break and fix model - support for learning around technology investment - role of the educator and education has changed dramatically - how has tech changed this? we're not always able to say exactly how - learning stance: needs to be open - student voice: is expected and accepted within our context - good pedagogy: including connected learning and connected learners - George Couros - learning can take place anywhere - creating a culture of yes - fixed mindset vs growth mindset - soa - service-level agreement - urgent - fixed in 3 days; others - fixed within a week - airwatch & amp; a whiteboard Joel Handler Director of Technology Hillsborough Board of Education, New Jersey How to Implement the Best Device to Achieve Learning Goals Looking at 1:1 technology - looked at 4-year time frame, looking for results, adjust on the fly 2011-2014 from small pilot to full 1:1 with Nexus 7 tablets (Chromebooks) grades 1-4 You all have devices - you're checking email, working - that's just the norm The educator used to be the 'sage on the stage' - but today students have access to all the knowledge in the world Tech - we wanted a culture where tech was just the norm, not to get excited about.... Some of our rooms, you walk in, you think it's startup culture - organized chaos District technology goals: - asynchronous learning (so you don't have to learn algebra at 7:30 in the morning, even if that's when it's scheduled) - globalizing the curriculum (these four walls no longer really confine us any more) - creation, collaboration, and publication of digital content - summary of how it was built up over four years - ubiquitous wireless - projectors / sound field systems in every class (we used to only put it in if teachers really wanted it) - explore 1:1 technologies Lessons Learned - the training and support capacity is needed - what you put in will break, and if support isn't there teachers will leave it - need tech integration specialists, tech coaches (teachers with a 1 yr assignment) - turnkey training system - training last day before summer? no - InService? No, they are being inundated - it's not what they need today Assessments and analysis 4636 students assessed - nothing earth-shattering - no major increases or decreases in assessments... but - these assessments aren't about our new way of learning, they focus on old regurgitation - also research says it takes several years for 1:1 to show academic changes - but we have seen academic improvement in our lowest skills students - staff survey - benefits to students: - students present ideas more effectively - it's easier to demonstrate learning - they integrate from multiple sources better - student survey from pilot study - 70% believe they learn faster - 60-75% think they learn it well enough to teach others - excitement levels increased, increased organizational skills - we implement only with Google login (so it's the same user name and password) Stephen Baker B.Sc.,B.Ed., OCT, Principal, Founder and CEO Virtual High School, Bayfield (Ontario) Began in 1995 - in 2000 broke with the school board But without the school board in 2002, could not grant credit - only had 34 students 2003 - became an accredited private school (they wanted a fire report - I got the KW fire department to come and inspect my computer) 2006 - 419 students 2010 - moveed from the house basement - to another house basement - Paul W. Bennett - "Virtual High School survived despite all odds" 2014 - 6400 students - they have to pay, we're for-profit online - what do we do? - we look after their individual needs - adults - appreciate asynchronous learning - 18 months to complete a course - time zones - 17 percent outside Ontario, 7 outside Canada - we're always open - courses - we very closely adhere to the ministry curriculum guidelines - backwards design - no textbooks - all content online - reference: Ministry document 'Growing Success', 2010 - 'triangulation' ('as', 'for', 'of') -- we redesigned all our courses - where are your OSR's (Ontario Student Record) - they told us what we had to do to maintain them - improve transparency - reliance on rubrics - we *begin* from the rubrics when we design our course - major issue: plagiarism - we have to convince people students can't cheat - academic integrity is a big part of my day - we look at a series of red flags - we're really a broker - all we do is connect students and teachers, and provide the curriculum that brings the two together - 124 teachers around Ontario, and as long as they respond to students in time, etc., and as long as parents are happy, I'm happy - we do a lot of coaching of our teachers - most students come to fill one or two courses - alleviates fear - the online interactions are largely anonymous - it's very unbiased - there's no competition for the teacher's attention - Looking at the future - - American system - adaptive - looking at D2L LEAP - responding to how the student performs - table of paths through course with D2L system - gathering 'keys' - we had to get around their previous and next buttons (we used an iFrame) Q: you have to create OSRs - you ahve to keep them A: we have banks of filing cabinets :) In many cases they come to us with an OSR Jan Courtin Superintendent of Education Peel District School Board Hazel Mason Superintendent of Education Peel District School Board 21st Century Teaching and Learning Hazel We're past talking about technology, and are asking what different it makes in the classroom for teaching and for kids. If all it's doing is making our students more engaged, it's too expensive. We're looking at traditional learning - "we're looking to blow it up." When you start to look at what some of the things people are talking about, none of it has anything to do with Lord of the Flies or Hamlet and whether he was pathetic and whether he was tragic. Moral imperative: why is this important? Why do we see it as a moral imperative? We have to do our very best for students every day. That means preparing them for the world they're going to inherit (not just preparing them for the next grade). There are many things for them to tackle and solve. Also, what technology has blown up the idea of information for us. Knowledge is like buying a car - drive it off the lot and it's out of date. We are no longer in a place where we want to work as solo individuals. We need lots of cooks coming together. Video: Apple - iPad in Business - Profiles - PepsiCo The Golden Circle - from the inside out... Change: from why to how to what Teachers are very risk-inherent (they don't have big investment portfolios because it's not safe) 21st century pedagogy means getting rid of the classroom hierarchy - it means the teachers have to take a back seat - still a role in safeguarding quality - we move away from the single story of an event, and give students the opportunity to hear from multiple voices math math math math - is kicking the butt of Ontario pedagogy Some plans to date to support our numeracy focus - SAMR pilot project - how do we move tech from substitutional to redefinition (transformational)? - how do we move teachers through that? - if we are going to be collaborative we have to share the work - 21st century steering committee - keeps growing - holding our very first Google camp on ....(something) - done every summer - last year on gamification Jan 2012 - Will Richardson - we were just hanging our heads, he was so fired up - we sent principles to west Van to see what they were doing - we went to Troy Michigan to see the 'flipped school' - it was $5M in debt, huge suspension rate, etc. - after flip - attendance strong, whole culture started to shift - Pilot projects to train teachers in flipping - in April we ran 'speed dating' PD with these new experts - when we went totally BYOD we no longer had to apologize for using Apple products - we did this - and noticed it was flooded with elementary teachers - where were secondary folks - got a list of names of people to talk about what we should be doing - first half was a bitch session - it was a bit ugly - then we got constructuve - that day was so good we gave them another day - they now form the core of the 21st century steering committee We work with Apple - they're open to innovation Kyle Pearce - Apple Distinguished Educator - works with Windsor school board - used iPads to teach class - 87% of math students reach level 3/4 in math - did PD days with Kyle on Saturdays - and gave an iPad to participating tecahers (never do one-off PD - it never works) iTunesU - started from a red flag - applied math - grade 9 especially - 35% of students at level 1 or 2 grade 6 EQAO scores - iTunes for math - get away from the text book - when they know work will go live, it is very motivating for teachers - Audrey Burnss - head of iBooks Canada - asked if we'd go to secondary Theory of Action Science Inquiry - support teachers with iPads, engage teachers as scientists - Apple Distinguished Educator - teacher rounds, group debrief - science coordinator, instructional coaches, Apple reps We want more people in Peel to become Apple Distinguished Educators - we have 50 people show up to heard about it - it's a rigorous program - we also have a large number becoming Google certified, a large number becoming Microsoft certified - it makes a difference to teachers when they get professional development from a teacher - we want people in Peel so we have a built-in resource Leaders vs Those Who Lead - you have to have a strong belief or a fire in your belly - we follow those who lead not for them but for ourselves - MLK - I have a dream.... not I have a plan - we don't believe in 1:1 necessarily, because we believe collaboration is huge - we want teachers to be part of the creation, not just going from page 1-35 [Link] [Comment]

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015
Honourable Liz Sandals Minister of Education Ontario Ministry of Education This is a paraphrase summary, not direct quotes (though often quoted words are used). Sorry about spelling mistakes. Not an official transcript, but just me typing as she spoke. All errors are mine (especially spelling errors). (Ministry of Ontario vision video) What we all have in common is that we're committed to the well-being of our students About a year ago our government began renewing the vision of education in Ontario schools. We had a range of stakeholders outside the system, a lot of students involved, but there was a high degree of consensus. So the Achieving Excellence has four major objectives: - achieving excellence - ensuring equity - promoting well-being - competence We've also been partnering with the Council of Directors of Educations (CODE - 'superintendants') - this boosts what we know about technology and enabling innovations. The challenge now is how do we take those innovations and fiund those things that are working best and spread them not just to lead schools, but all across the system and in every school and in every board - the challenge is to get the great innovations more generally in use. Need a sustainable transformation that's relevant and meets local needs. We certainly know that we need to learn from our stakeholders. We also know that we need to work more closely with businesses, with rsearch institutions, agencies - there are many relationships out there, often local relationships, we need to draw from to enhance what we're doing with technology. When we were talking to students, we heard the students really want to participate in experiential learning. They want to feel connected to the real world. How do we build on this? So, there's going to be lots of exploration. Some things will be directive - we continue to work on math, for example. We've appointed four advisors who will be helping to guide us. They will review emerging trends and research. They will work on incorporating research into making our vision a reality. When we look at education, it isn't really just about education. We're also looking at the future of the economy. They will be key to our future prosperity. We are competing with the rest of the world based on the skills and the knowledge of our workers. So, one thing we've been able to do over the last 4 years is to increase our high school graduation rate - it's up to 83% since 2013 (but I want to say a few things about how we calculate that - we assigned an Ontario education number to every student in schools, and it follows them through the system - we are literatlly looking at who comes into the door and where they are 5 years later - if they move to Alberta they are shown as not having graduated, if they enter a high needs program, they are shown as not having graduated.) From 68%. We created the child care modernization act - they have to give the students a number when they enter child care. That means we can track kids from the time they nter a licensed care system all the way through to university in Ontario.So we can find how their PSE experiences relate to their elementary and secondary experiences. One reason we were able to raise the HS grad rate is that we introduced more ways students could access experiential learning. If they have co-op experience, they get a red seal on their diploma if they graduate from specialist high schools labour - includes mining, ICT, manufacturing, etc. These programs are very community-oriented. This is a great example of experiential learning. Not everyone can participate in this. So another way of doing this is to bring tech into the classroom, so they can get real-world experience in the classroom. We haven't thought though this as carefully as we have the outward-bound experiences. In this case, we're often supporting students who are otherwise struggling. One of the things we've done recently is to create a $150M tech fund over 3 years, to invest in tablets, software, cameras, etc., and also training, so we don't just acquire hardware and apps. But we know that these new techs are engaging studemnts in new ways, partocularly when we partner with the right learning task. We also find these technologies are giving students with special needs a new voice, and to connect with their teachers and classmates. So, we see this huge growth in technology. I was at the College of Business and Economic in Guelph, talking about entrepreneurship. One cluster of students were trying to start a business, a board that you can play around with to help you create new technology to support science learning in a variety of different applications. I said, it's great you have these ideas, connect it to the curriculum and you can sell it to teachers and librarians. We've also got partnerships with TVO and KFO and their website, which has programming that follows the curriculum. Have a look at what they are creating. It's always connected to curriculum so you don't have to worry about whether it's appropriate. Eg. homework help line. When we talk to parents and students, they want 21st century learning - critical skills, collaboration skills, communication skills. When we look at their future, we know they won't geet a job with the plant that sets them for life - we know many of them will have to start their own businesses. We depend on technology to expand students' view of the worlld and an independent critical thinking mindset. Another of our goals is well-being. As we get involbved in technology we want to ensure our students are ethical and socially-responsible citizens. We have to talk about safe and ethical internet use. A couple of things going on in boards around the province: - a board in Keewatin using Skype to communicate with students in remote communities in other parts of the world. - in Belleville - Saganaska demonstration school - use sims to solve problems and learn scientific skills, like heat transfer Q: UK - coding in curriculum; hour of code in US - is Ontario looking at coding? A: my background is math and computer science, so this is a hot button with me. Mostly when we talk about tech we talk about how to use tech that someone else created. We don't talk about coding in the first place. A problem is we don't have enough teachers qualified to teach computer science, especially in small high schools. When we look at students who go into STEM, there's a drop off. I'm not sure the solution is to do an hour of code. But we need to pay attention to STEM students. Especially women. Q: Ontario student ID - anything at the federal level that would integrate information exchange between the provinces? At the Canadian level? A: Education in Canada is a provincial responsibilities. So we have CMEC - Council of Ministers of Education in Canada. I'm not aware of any such discussion around tracking. The discussion is more around common curriculum initiatives. Talked about aboriginal education, international students - nothing on the bookkeeping techie sort of thing. Q: 21st century skills - when might the ministry provision boards of education with new measures so we can assess students on these? A: there's an active discussion going on right now about that - how do we measure communication, collaboration, critical thinking? Teachers often comment, but it's usually a personal opinion thing. I don't know when we'll have an answer. Q: ed tech startup entrepreneurship in education. Do you see innovation hubs emerging in K12 - are you looking to encourage this? A: I mentikned high skills majors, one is focused on this. It's not as widely offered as the others. I think it will evolve and I think it will grow. I was at Guelph - youth job strategy, a lot went to match students with first job, but there was some money set aside for innovation. In Guelph I was announcing a grant to the business school doing this. [Link] [Comment]

Interview Stephen Downes by Ren&#233e Filius

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 Ren&#233e Filius: [Introduction] So what I see at course evaluations is that teachers say: 'Well, when I teach online I tend to ask brief questions. Or students just give brief answers and leave again. There is not a lot of interaction going on and learning tends to stay at a surface level.' Do you recognize this problem?
Stephen Downes: Well, I don't really give brief answers. I mean, I think I recognize the phenomenon that may cause the problem. It's really hard to get the minute by minute feedback that you get in a personal environment when you're responding to a question. So, whereas if you're talking to a person you can judge by their facial reactions and that, whether you can just continue talking, but when you're online, you don't have those cues and at a certain point you lose track of that nonverbal communication you're having with the other person. So you stop talking sooner in order to get feedback. That's what I think. What I observe is the lack of the personal cues, you know, except in a video environment like this, where I can actually see you nodding, for example, and things like that. But in typical online communications, even synchronous communications, are usually audio only at best. You know, in environments like Illuminate or some of the others, unless you're doing person-to-person videoconferencing, which is difficult and rare in a classroom environment. So, yeah, but as you can tell, I don't stop myself, so I think the phenomenon may be as much a propriety of the person as it is a propriety of the environment. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes. So, you just mentioned, when we talk about the difference between online learning and offline learning in a classroom, you mentioned the difference because of the lack of facial expressions or body language. What other differences do you see between online teaching and face-to-face teaching and how they can affect the learning results, the learning outcomes? Stephen Downes: One of the really big things that I see, is the lack of a shared object. For example, when I'm working with somebody, I very often haul out this sheet of paper and start drawing. Because that's the way I think and that's the way I communicate. And when I'm online with someone I can't just haul out a sheet of paper and start drawing. Or, you know, even now, what you've just missed is, I made a hand gesture, like pulling up the sheet of paper and drawing, right, which you didn't see. Online there are shared whiteboards, but it's a different kind of experience using a shared whiteboard, than using a whiteboard in a room, for example. The whiteboard in the room, it's much larger in size, even a piece of paper is larger in size than what you have to use online. The implements are much easier to use, you can just draw. So , the scale of the visual display really limits the kind of interaction in sharing objects that you can have. That's the big thing I find. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes, I understand. So that is a major drawback of online learning, you could say. Could you also see, like, an advantage of online learning, if you would compare it with offline learning? Stephen Downes: Oh yeah, there's huge- Some of the advantages, bridging distance is one. We couldn't do this session without online learning, it's just not possible. Even with the time issues and that, still, it just simply would not be possible. So that's a huge, huge advantage. I'm doing this in my living room, I didn't have to leave the house. For a day like today, when we have three feet of snow on the ground, that's a huge advantage as well. So it's location independent. Also, there's more modalities. I mentioned paper, whiteboards and of course speaking and gesturing, but that's the limit to the modalities, well there's a few more, but that's pretty much the limit to the modalities face-to-face. Online I can share my desktop, I can open up an application, I can use screen sharing, you know, there are systems that allow me to take control of your computer and do things for you. I won't do that, because I'd need your permission, but do you know what I mean? There's a whole range of things, you know, we can simulate environments online, forming digital environments, generally that would be very dangerous offline, such as an airplane or a nuclear reactor or brain surgery. You know, we don't want people practicing on real airplanes, or brains, or things like that, or especially nuclear reactors. So, I think those are some of the affordances. Also, I think communication is different online from the very early days. People talk to the- How they communicate differently in an online environment than an offline environment. Face -to-face is really intimidating, especially for someone like me, oddly enough, and many other people as well. It's easier to try new thing, to say new things, to put on different identities, to be more expressive, in the online environment. Of course that leads to a weakness in the online environment: people don't feel so inhibited as they would face-to-face, and they start doing things like flaming and stalking and trash talking, and all this bad stuff that happens online too. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes, so there's two sides of the coin. Stephen Downes: Yes, two: advantage, disadvantage. But I've seen, you know, very open, very personal communications happen online that often wouldn't be possible offline, just because of cultural differences, location differences, personal differences, whatever. So it's a different kind of communication that becomes possible. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes, I see. And when it comes to the use of feedback? When I see feedback, I mean, the feedback used by the teacher or the lecturer, but also peer feedback or canned feedback. How would you say- What would you say about the differences between feedback when it comes to online learning, how could we use feedback to promote deep learning? Stephen Downes: One of the tendencies in the online environment is to make do with very quick and easy to do feedback, because it's possible. In face-to-face, or even a classroom environment, there are no such things as a like, or a checkmark or a thumbs-up. And things like counting the number of followers is absurd in a person-to-person environment. No, we use that in an online environment, a lot of the time that substitutes for more traditional forms of feedback. Now, that's not a propriety of the technology per se, it's just the way we use technology. I think that the same kind of feedback that's possible mostly in a person-to-person environment is possible online, so whatever the professor does, for example, to stimulate deep learning offline, the professor can do in an online environment. The reason why I say that is, the bulk of that feedback consists of dialogue and conversation, like we're doing now, and as this conversation gives us dramatic evidence for it, we can do that in an online environment. So, if you were to offer a hypothesis or a methodology or something like that, the two of us could work through it, pull load, underline principles, expose assumptions and all of that, right in exactly the same way we did it offline, except my camera is such that you can't see my hand gestures, still. The main significant difference is in physical activities and skills, you know, things like neural surgery, where the feedback doesn't necessarily get transmitted through a computer screen. I've played around with vital feedback simulators so that the design of the equipment that you're on simulates the physical feedback you get, doing neural surgery. But something like that is expensive and it's also very domain specific, but you know, a lot of simulators are made for medical training and things like that. Flight simulation as well, they try to emulate the actual cockpit environment, even to the point of shaking the plane. But again, that's very expensive to do. But still, it's cheaper than a real airplane, quite a bit cheaper than a real airplane, because you don't require fuel. So there is that. So what the point here is, the physical feedback gets harder and harder and is less and less natural to create, than the audio conversation type feedback. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes. Let's go back to the course evaluations. I noticed that a lot of the feedback that instructors give to their students is written feedback, it's not audio, it's not visual. Stephen Downes: Yeah, and that's why brief hits hard for people to write. It takes time to write, you know I write 250 words in 15 minutes, is that right, that's about right, I don't know. But I can say 250 words in 3 minutes. So the actual time to compose and come up with feedback in an audio environment, audio-visual environment, is a lot faster. It's slower for you, interesting, because you could probably read faster than I can speak. I can read about 600 words a minute, so I'm writing at 250, I don't know how fast I'm speaking, but it's faster, but I'm still able to read a lot faster than I can listen to someone speak. Of course I can do other things while they're speaking, like check my email, watch Netflix. But that's probably why, if it's typed, it's probably going to be short. You know, I get requests to review things all the time and if I want to do anything like a decent review, it's gonna start consuming hours of my time and I don't have hours of time. A professor and a class, you think about it: 250 words an hour, so that's probably- did I say an hour? 250 words in 15 minutes, a 1000 words an hour. A 1000 words is something like two pages of text. If you expect two pages of feedback, which isn't a lot, on an essay, then if you have a 100 people, that's a 100 hours of work. And that's why you get one line. If you look at offline, if you look at the written feedback on an essay, say, it's the same. It's like little remarks here and there, they're not writing a page of text about the essay that was handed in. Although, they will be happy to have you come into their office and they'll speak about it for a bit, as it's easier. And I also know that most people won't do that. If they had to actually give verbal feedback to everyone in the class, they probably have a different view of how great it is. That's my feeling anyways. When I taught, I only ever spoke to a minority of the people in the class, not because I didn't want to, but I can't chase them down and only a minority came to see me. Ren&#233e Filius: And there's another possible cause. I noticed that online teaching, like in the traditional classroom an instructor knows that he has to give a lecture between 13.00 and 15.00, so that's the time that he blocks in his agenda. But online it's different and after ten minutes he thinks: 'Well I have to finish this quickly, because I have to do so much other work and then I will go.' Is that something that you would recognize? Stephen Downes: Yeah, of course I do everything that way. But no, there is a point to it, because I do my most focused thinking about a topic when I have to be there and presenting, especially in person, in a certain place and time. I actually prepare for that and the stuff I do just online, I prepare for a lot less. I just find I do it that way, even if I have a scheduled online time I prepare for it less. I think there is more pressure to doing it in person. If you're unprepared, you have to stand there and look them in the eyes and be unprepared. Nobody likes that feeling. We do it once or twice and you're over it, you don't do it again, you just make sure you're prepared. Ren&#233e Filius: No. And would there be any way of making this better for the instructors in order for them to give better feedback or to provide the students with better feedback on any way? Stephen Downes: Well, raise the stakes? I don't know, I have to think about that. Because what we're talking about here, is the professor's own disinclination to be prepared and to provide the feedback, as opposed to anything structural. They could do the work, they could block the time, they could be prepared, they could be as on top of it as they are in person. But because they're not so much at personal risk, real or perceived, they have a tendency not to be. And the answer might be, even something simply physical, like bigger screens. If you're looking at a real sized version of the person, you might be more likely to think of them as a person, rather than as a computer artefact. You know, that's a speculation, but it's a possibility. We have a Cisco telepresence system in the office and basically it's a life-size high quality video representation of the person and they just sit across the table from you. And you know, you're pretty out of the wall, you know you're not gonna get away with checking your email while you're on that. By contrast, I could be checking my email with you right now, you'd have no idea. In fact, why don't I do that, you'll see how it looks. Here I am, I'm opening my email and I'm seeing something about a movie. You couldn't tell by looking at me, right, that I'm reading my email. I'm an expert at that. Ren&#233e Filius: I can see the change in your glasses. Stephen Downes: Yes, exactly. So, but in a virtual environment, I can get away with that. When we're talking like this, if I haven't prepared - and I've done this before, right - I have you on one side and I have my notes and stuff on the other side and I look stuff up as we're talking. Now that's both an advantage and a distraction. It's a distraction in the sense that it allows me to be less prepared, it allows me to be less focused. On the other hand, I have access to stuff I wouldn't if was standing in front of the classroom. In front of the classroom in the sense that you have no props, depending on the style of the person, but here in the computer world I can take much more like a disc jockey kind of approach to it. Haul by resources as I need them. And I do do that sometimes. Sometimes I do that even during presentations just for fun, but doing that live is riskier, it feels totally different. Ren&#233e Filius: Would you expect any types of futures technologies or inventions that would help us in the future? Stephen Downes: Well, first I need to be convinced that it's a problem. Is the online experience so bad when compared to the in-person experience, that we need to make this extra effort to make the online experience better? That is to say: more like the personal experience. You know, we could, for example, build a room, just a little square room where a whole side of the room is a computer screen, but you don't have a mouse or a keyboard, or anything else in the room, just that screen. And you go into that room and the other person sees you, all of you, and you see the other person, all of the other person, and they're in their own room, and you have a really focused interaction, because there is nothing else to do. That would address the problem, that would fix it. Guaranteed. The question is: Is the problem so great that this is worth doing? Now that's a different issue. It might be, you know, it might be. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes, but you could think of just small adjustments to the feedback process that enables the teacher to give feedback easier or that provides students an easy way to ask for feedback. Stephen Downes: Well, I'm not sure it's a question that it being too hard to do though. I think it's a question of people not being inclined to do it. Do you see the difference? Ren&#233e Filius: What exactly do you mean? Stephen Downes: Well, the ease or difficulty of doing something is only one explanation of why something is done or not done. 'Why didn't I give Fred feedback? It was too hard. I don't like Fred. I didn't feel like it. I wasn't sure what to say. I didn't have time. I was washing my hair.' You see what I mean? There's a whole range of possible explanations and the difficulty of doing it is just one of those. Making it easier to do makes the feedback more likely and better, only if the difficulty was the cause of the problem in the first place. But how hard is it to give feedback online? Well, there's the typing thing, I get that, but you can also have a video conference like this, and those are very easy to do. Even easier than the one we have, because, you know, both people will show up on time. Ren&#233e Filius: Those people don't get lost in a snowstorm. Stephen Downes: Yeah. But you know, it's funny, one thing I have observed, and this is a good example of the counter example I'm giving, in the online environment, it has been observed that professors get many more requests for feedback and students show higher expectations of feedback and more immediate feedback. So a professor that in a class would speak to maybe ten people in a week, will get twenty emails in a week, or more, they get many more emails, cause emails are easier than going down to the professor's office. Well, maybe that's not the cause, but you know what I mean, right? So, because it's easier to give feedback in an online environment there's more expectation of it and in the end, it becomes harder. So, the way to make giving feedback easier might actually be to make it harder for them to do. Then they'd have fewer requests for it, then they'd be more inclined to treat those requests with more seriousness and give it more weight. So, now of course, that's the opposite of the effect that you want, although it's not the opposite of the effect that you want. It's a horribly confused situation now. What you're doing is, you're giving better feedback, but to fewer people, and that takes you right back to real world environment, where professors give better feedback, but to fewer people. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes. If I may summarize you, you say when it comes down to writing feedback, it is more time-consuming for lecturers to write feedback, but it takes less time to read the feedback. And when it comes to giving feedback in general in online education, it is easier for students to ask for feedback, but it is more difficult for lecturers to provide feedback. Stephen Downes: Exactly. Now what you could do, and I think some people play with this, is, you get the email in and you just say something back and send the recording back. That's easier than typing and you can be faster. But now you're still looking at a situation where professors are spending all of their time reading emails and answering them, or receiving inquiries and responding to them. I really think the volume of the requests is one of the key parameters here. Ren&#233e Filius: But perhaps we could change that by making a better design of the course, of the education? Stephen Downes: Well, this is part of the thinking of MOOCs. And here's what the thinking was: existing learning is very labour intensive for the professors. It's very labour intensive in the class, and as a result in a person-to-person class you can only have a certain number of people. You know, I've taught in some very large classes, but I know that I'm still only actually interacting with twenty or thirty of them. Even in the 150 student class, I'm still only actually interacting with twenty of thirty and the rest are what we would call online lurkers, which is okay. But the more learning becomes about the interaction, as it does in higher grade levels , the smaller the classes must become, by necessity. Because you can't get a graduate level education, say, simply by lurking. It doesn't work that way. You have to be completely engaged in the process, that's why it's so hard. It's not hard because the material is hard, it's hard because you have to dedicate yourself to it. But online, these constraints appear to disappear. Everyone thinks they have a personal relationship with the professor, no matter how big the course is. This is a problem. It's been problem because online courses very often have many students. It's just like offline, but you get desires who say: 'It takes no more effort to offer a course to eighty people than to twenty. So let's offer this online course to eighty people.' And the poor professor is drowned in email and the discussion posts. When we opened our course, so now we have an open online course. We're not dealing with eighty, we're dealing with two thousand people. In that case, I'm still only talking to twenty or thirty people personally, so the only way, absolutely the only way in such an environment, is to remove the requirement that everybody talks to the professor in order to get this interaction and feedback. And so, to create what we would call a network based course, where the interaction of students among each other is an important and vital part of the learning experience. So, they get the feedback, not from the professor, but from other students. In an ideal world, and this actually happened, they get feedback from more experienced students. This is what happened the second time we ran the same course. The second time we ran the same course, many of the people who took it the first time, came back for the second time and they picked up and led a lot of the interaction. They almost led the course. So, one of the things that we have tried to do when designing these MOOCs is to design it in such a way that it accommodates people at different levels in their professional development. So you can go into the course if you're new to the field and you'll get the basics and the few people who are slightly more knowledgeable will interact with you. Those slightly more knowledgeable people are interacting both with new people and with more experienced people, and they're learning more in depth, and so on. You know, it's kind of like the one-room classroom of old, right? Where part of the responsibility of being in grade five was teaching the grade two students. It's interesting, John Stuart Mill comments on that as all the biographies say. It's a great way to learn, teaching is a great way to learn. It's not necessarily, being taught is not necessarily itself a great way to learn. So the real learning happens in the teaching, which happens later on, which is probably why these people came back to the class. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes, that was what I wanted to ask: Why would those people come back, the more experienced students? Is that because they know that by teaching, it's a great way to learn? Stephen Downes: I don't know if they came back intending to teach. I think they came back because they were inherently interested in the subject and thought that they would get a deeper learning experience the second time through. Which they did, but one of the ways they did this was by talking about all of these concepts with the new people who started the second year. Ren&#233e Filius: But wouldn't it make more sense if they would go to a new and different course on a more advanced level? Stephen Downes: Well, I wouldn't think so, honestly, because a new course- It depends on how you view the subject. If you view the subject as linear, first you do A, then B, then C, and then you go up to P, and that's the end of the first course. And then the next course starts Q, R, S, T, U, so then, yeah, it makes more sense to just continue. But if the course is A, B, C, D, F the first year and then A, B, C, D, F, but in more detail the second year, then there's- You could just go back to the original class. And I think it's more like the second type, than the first. I think it's more a holistic, you get deeper and deeper, rather than you're doing more things and going further down the linear- following your story as it were. Mathematics works that way, it's presented as: 'First you do this, then you do this, then you do this.' But, mathematics, it's all the same thing always. You're doing the same thing when you do simple addition as when you do set theory, it's the same thing. It's just set theory is addition, but understood at a much deeper level. So I think that- And then it's the simple thing: you learn better when you teach. So get you get this deeper set theoretical understanding, if you will, when you're trying to teach kids how to add, because you know, they make mistakes you've never dreamed of. That's what I discovered when I taught. My students made mistakes: 'How could you- What were you thinking?' You know, that sort of thing. But the thing is they were looking at this very simple subject from this very weird perspective and to deeply understand the subject, you need to understand how you can see it from that perspective and what's wrong with that. So this is how you go from simple math, which you memorized, to set theory where you understand. Ren&#233e Filius: But then, do I conclude correctly that it's that much as getting or receiving peer feedback that leads to deep learning, it's providing peer feedback that leads to deep learning? Stephen Downes: Yes, that's a really good way of putting it. And I think that's true. Providing is much better than getting. Ren&#233e Filius: That's very interesting. If I may ask- Can you think of other examples of feedback interventions that may lead to deeper learning that we haven't mentioned yet? Stephen Downes: Other examples of feedback interventions. Well, there's music critics. No, I'm just kidding. Yeah, but that leads me to- Synchronous coproduction, no, I just made up that term, of the top of my head. But the example that I'm thinking of, as an instantiation of that, is a jazz band. And of course jazz band came from music critic, that's how my brain works, it goes from subject to subject and you don't know where it's gonna land. Think about how it works in a jazz band. You got, say, four or five players, each with a different instrument. What they're trying to do is put on a show for a crowd, and get paid at the end of the night, cause they're jazz players and they're poor. So they start playing, but they're not playing to a predefined tune, that's the old learning object hardly matters sort of way. They're improvising, but in a jazz band, you don't just go do your own thing, because the sound would be terrible and everybody would hate it. So in a jazz band, you work some common themes, you know, a common beat and a common key, etcetera. I don't know a lot about music, so I'm not sure exactly what they do. But then they begin to play off each other. So, one person, they're doing a certain melody and they'll vary the melody. And then the other person sees the variation in the melody and harmonizes with it. See what I mean? Ren&#233e Filius: Yes. Stephen Downes: Synchronous coproduction. Another example is an article co-written in Google Docs. So if you're all working on the very same article and you're each writing bits, in Google Docs you can actually see the other person's cursor and the words pop up as they type. So again, you have a case of synchronous coproduction. So, one person writes something, the other person sees that and changes another paragraph or whatever. So you're not actually correcting or giving feedback directly to a person's work, but rather you're watching, responding to what other people do as you work together, engaged in a single project. That is a whole neat concept there. It's probably been written about, and I'm sure - we haven't invented it - but I'm sure it's a good way of doing feedback. I know it's a good way of doing feedback. It just shows up over and over again. You know, in a football team as the play develops, and all the players are interacting with each other and with the opposition and they're attempting to coproduce a goal. Literally in this case. You know, there's an example. Improvising comedy is very popular here in Canada and that's the same sort of thing as well, where they coproduce something funny. Well, something that's intended to be funny, it isn't always funny, cause it can't be easy sometimes, getting this from your improv. [later added via Twitter: co-creation is a means of mediating between different visions, each adding and learning, the final form emerging, not pre-designed] Ren&#233e Filius: But the thing is, you work on it together and you look at each other and you improvise and you watch each other and by doing so you choose your next steps. Stephen Downes: Yes, exactly. So the DS106 course which is a MOOC run by Jim Groom, they don't coproduce so much, but they do have a lot of fun creating things and then looking at what each other has created. They don't go back and change their own creations as a result of this, but what you see somebody else do, influences what your gonna do next. So, you see somebody do a film noir photo and then when you do your video you think: 'Yeah, film noir, that'd be cool.' It's a little less overt than that, but you do see that interaction back and forth. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes. And then I have another question. If I may ask, if I would ask you to formulate three statements or golden rules for providing feedback focused on deep learning, what would you say? Stephen Downes: There are no rules. There are no rules. There are no rules. I don't do rules. Ren&#233e Filius: And what about statements? Stephen Downes: Similarly. By statement you mean axiom or principle, as opposed to: 'This text is black. Link text is often blue.' That's probably not what you mean. So you're looking for a generalisation of some type and I have a lot of difficulty with rules, principles, generalisations, because I think they're abstractions. I think that they can be useful in certain contexts. They're certainly useful for observing and reflecting on what you've done. You can identify a pattern in your own behaviour, but as prescriptions they're notoriously unreliable. All kinds of sadness and misery has been caused by somebody who is just following the rules, or just doing what you're supposed to do. Ren&#233e Filius: I can see your point. Well, the reason that I ask you was just by trying to formulate a summary of what we just said. And one of those rules would be: Peer feedback is very valuable when it comes to deep learning. Stephen Downes: Yeah, but, no, that's the other side of abstractions. They can be so abstract that they're not useful. Some feedback is better than none. Oh yeah, true, but not helpful. I'll give you my methodological principles. They're not really principles, don't treat them as such. They're not generalisations or categorizations either. Together I call them the semantic condition. You may have seen that in some of the stuff that I've written. There's four words: autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity. And autonomy is the idea that it's better when entities - individuals or people or whatever - make their own decisions about their own objectives or goals, than having them determined for them. Diversity is, it's better to have many different things, than many of the same thing. Openness is, as the word suggests, it's better to be open to experiences, better to be open to sharing. The hard one is interactivity, because interactivity is the idea that knowledge is created by the interaction we have with each other, as opposed to something that is created and then transferred one person to the other. Knowledge, in other words, is an emerging phenomenon and not an inherent phenomenon. So, I decided to call those the semantic principle and they're methodological principles that enable a network type of structure to be dynamic, that is to adapt and change and therefor learn. So, the more you embrace principles like that, in a network or in a system, the more that network or system is able to learn. Conversely, if you impose uniformity, if you impose obedience, etcetera, if you follow principles, the system's unable to learn, it's unable to adapt, it's unable to accept new input to change itself, to change its objectives, its goals, etcetera. Does that make sense? Ren&#233e Filius: Yes, I see your point, yes. Stephen Downes: That's the best I can do to answer that question. Ren&#233e Filius: Yes, well, thank you. Okay, I have one last question and that is: Are there any other questions that you expected me to ask you and that I didn't ask? Stephen Downes: Let's see, you covered the weather, so that was important. We haven't talked about the time difference. Sorry, I'm just kidding. I don't think so. You didn't ask me for a definition of deep learning and you didn't define it, that's interesting. Ren&#233e Filius: Well, I did send you a definition of both by email before this conversation. Stephen Downes: Oh, okay. There's the question that you didn't ask: 'Did you read the email?' Ren&#233e Filius: That's a good one. Stephen Downes: Because I almost never read the preparatory material for an interview. It's partly laziness and partly, well mostly, because I like to be surprised. That's what makes interviews fun. I don't expect the question and then on the spot I need to think of an answer, that's how we came up with, what was that? Synchronous- Ren&#233e Filius: Synchronous coproduction? Co-creation? Stephen Downes: Synchronous co-creation is it exactly. Never would have come up with that had I looked at the materials ahead of time and taking notes or whatever. Never would have come up with that. Ren&#233e Filius: No, no, that's great. Well, thank you very much. [Link] [Comment]

Becoming MOOC

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 There are two types of MOOCs. On the one hand, there is the xMOOC - this is a formal course created in a site like Coursera or EdX. An xMOOC will have regular lessons, videos and assignments, be led by an elite university professor, and attract a large online audience. These are the MOOCs that have received most of the attention in recent years and have generally shaped people's impressions. But there's another type of MOOC, called the cMOOC, which is based on connection rather than content, which looks more like an online community than a course, and doesn't have a defined curriculum or formal assignments. These were the original MOOCs, and they posed a much greater challenge to both the educational institutions that offered them and the participants who studied in them.
One major criticism of the cMOOC is based on the free-form nature of the course. Students have to manage their own time, find their own resources, and structure their own learning. For this reason, it is argued, students must already have a high degree of skill and internet savvy in order to be successful. A student who cannot navigate complex websites, search for and assess resources, or make new friends through a social network may have difficulty navigating through a cMOOC. As Keith Brennan writes, "Not everyone knows how to be a node. Not everyone is comfortable with the type of chaos Connectivism asserts. Not everyone is a part of the network. Not everyone is a self-directed learner with advanced metacognition. Not everyone is already sufficiently an expert to thrive in a free-form environment. Not everyone thinks well enough of their ability to thrive in an environment where you need to think well of your ability to thrive." (Brennan, 2013) But what makes a person able to function from the first day in such an environment? What constitutes the literacy that is missing in such a case? There's no clear answer, but proposals abound. Brennan himself suggests that proficiency is based in learner efficacy. "Self-efficacy is our belief that a task is achievable by us, and that the environment in which we are working will allow us to achieve that task. It's that ticking heart that measures out the motivation in us," he writes. And in order to preserve and promote self-efficacy, design is important. Tasks must be challenging, in order to be satisfying, but not so frustrating as to create confusion. Whether a particular task satisfies these criteria, he writes, depends on cognitive load and prior knowledge. That's why "why we tend to teach absolute novices using techniques and contexts that are different to the ones we deploy for absolute experts, and why we avoid exposing novices to too much chaos." Other writers refer to these criteria under the heading of flow, and trace its origin to game design. (Baron, 2012) But cognitive load theory assumes that there is some specific outcome to learning such that supporting experiences can be divided into those supporting the learning outcome (aka 'signal') and those that constitute part of the background (aka 'noise'). This is especially the case if the purpose of the learning experience is to remember some specific body of content, or to accomplish some particular task. However, in a cMOOC, neither is the case. Indeed, navigating the chaos and making learning decisions is the lesson in a cMOOC. The cMOOC is in this way similar to constructivism. As George Siemens writes, "Learners often select and pursue their own learning. Constructivist principles acknowledge that real-life learning is messy and complex. Classrooms which emulate the 'fuzziness' of this learning will be more effective in preparing learners for life-long learning." (Siemens, 2004) What, then, would promote learner efficacy even in chaotic or noisy environments? A second, more robust, proposal takes the idea of literacy literally. A language might appear chaotic at first. Even if someone has learned how to spell the words, and even if they know what they mean, the nuances of using them in a sentence are many, and a language supports an infinite number of new sentence combinations. Each new experience with a language will be different, there are tens of thousands of words to choose from when forming a sentence, and only the barest of grammatical rules to aid construction. Imagine the language learner given a new text to read and criticize, picture them in front of a blank page they have to fill with words, and you have created an experience very similar to participating in a cMOOC. What sort of literacy would be appropriate in a cMOOC? Two major types of literacies suggest themselves: 21st century literacies, and digital literacies. 21st century literacies are those literacies appropriate for living and working in the 21st century. This is an environment which changes at a much greater pace than in previous years, where there is a constant flow of information, where connectivity with people worldwide is part of our everyday reality, and where jobs that existed ten years ago have disappeared, and new ones have taken their place. A good example of this is the Framework for 21st Century Learning, which addresses several dimensions of this new type of learning, including core skills of collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking, and supporting skills such as workplace skills, information media skills, and the traditional core types of literacy and numeracy. (The Partnership for 21st Century Skills , 2011) Alternatively, we can focus on literacies specific to the digital medium itself. For example, the Mozilla Foundation has developed and promoted a Web Literacy Map which describes in greater detail how to engage with digital media (as opposed to merely consuming it). (Belshaw, 2015) Three major types of skills are identified: exploring, building and connecting. The first describes how to find your way about the chaotic environment and even to make sense of it for yourself. The second examines traditional and new forms of content creation, including authoring and art, in a digital media environment. And the third addresses the previously under-represented function of sociality and connection. Taken together, these three literacies can be seen as a way for individuals to manage cognitive load for themselves, to adapt the task of making sense of the web to their own skill level, and therefore to manage even in an environment that is not well designed. Belshaw writes, "In its current form, the Web Literacy Map comprises a collection of competencies and skills that Mozilla and our community of stakeholders believe are important to pay attention to when getting better at reading, writing and participating on the web. Web literacy is about more than just coding. The web literacy standard covers every part of web literacy-from learning basic coding skills to taking action around privacy and security." In this sense, the modern understanding is about more than communication and meaning in a language or symbol system. It is about operating and interacting in a complex and multi-dimensional environment. This makes it particularly relevant to an understanding of the difference between literacies required in traditional courses and the contemporary literacies required in a much less structure learning environment such as a MOOC. These types of literacies can be combined into an overarching set of literacies that may be described under the heading of 'critical literacies'. These literacies encompass not only the skills related to comprehension and sense-making, but also the creative abilities that support criticism, construction and communication. And they go beyond this in addressing the dynamics of today's world. They include, at a minimum, the following: the ability to detect and define syntax, structure, patterns and similarities; the ability to identify and generate meaning, purpose and goal; the ability to sense and create context or environment; the ability to apply or use language, literacy and communication to accomplish tasks; the ability to support a conclusion, criticize an argument, offer an explanation or define a term; and an understanding of how to recognize, manage and create change. Or, in brief: syntax, semantics, context, use, cognition and change. (Downes, 2009) These literacies may be necessary for success in a MOOC, but they are more widely applicable as well. The theory of knowledge underlying the creation of the cMOOC suggests that learning is not based on the idea of remembering content, nor even the acquisition of specific skills or dispositions, but rather, in engaging in experiences that support and aid in recognition of phenomena and possibilities in the world. When we reason using our brains, we are reasoning using complex neural nets that shape and reshape themselves the more we are exposed to different phenomena. Choice, chance, diversity and interactivity are what support learning in neural nets, not simple and static content. Cognitive dissonance is what creates learning experiences. To learn is to be able to learn for oneself, not to learn what one is told; it is to be able to work despite cognitive overload, not to remain vulnerable to it. So the cMOOC is harder, requiring a greater degree of literacy, but in developing these literacies, promotes a deeper learning experience. Finally, an understanding of the literacies required also helps us understand the difference between traditional courses, including the xMOOC, and the less structured cMOOC. It also offers ground for criticism of the former. Traditional literacies are rooted in our comprehension of, and ability to work within, abstract symbol systems (and in particular, language and mathematics). It is no coincidence that PISA, for example, measures student performance in language, science and mathematics. These are be languages of learning, as well as the content of learning. But from the perspective of the cMOOC, these traditional literacies are inadequate. They form only a part of the learning environment, and not even the most interesting part, as we engage in environments that cannot be described through timeless abstractions or static facts and figures. But this is exactly what we face when we attempt to extend our learning from the eternal present and into the vanishing past or future. We need to learn to engage with, interact with, and recognize form and change in the environment for ourselves, rather than attempt a static and distanced description. Learning in a MOOC and literacy in a MOOC become synonymous. We are not acquiring content or using language and literacy, we are becoming literate, becoming MOOC. Each bit of experience, each frustrated facing of a new chaos, changes you, shapes you. Participating in a MOOC is like walking through a forest, trying to see where animals have walked in the past, trying to determine whether that flash of orange is a tiger. There are no easy successes, and often no sense of flow. But you feel the flush of success every time you recognize a form you defined, achieve a skill you needed, and gradually gradually you become a skilled inhabitant of the forest, or of 21st century human society. Baron, S. (2012, March 22). Cognitive Flow: The Psychology of Great Game Design. Retrieved from Gamasutra: Belshaw, D. (2015, January 13). Web Literacy Map. Retrieved from Mozilla: Brennan, K. (2013, July 24). In Connectivism, No One Can Hear You Scream: a Guide to Understanding the MOOC Novice. Retrieved from Hybrid Pedagogy: Downes, S. (2009, November 12). Speaking in LOLCats: what literacy means in teh digital era. Retrieved from Stephen's Web: Siemens, G. (2004, December 12). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from elearnspace: The Partnership for 21st Century Skills . (2011, March). 21st Century Student Outcomes and Support Systems. Retrieved from Note: this article originated as a submission requested by a magizine, but when I learned that they wanted an article that was 2,000 characters long, not 2,000 words, this article became available as a blog post. [Link] [Comment]

The Power of Reuse: Wikipedia in Action

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 Summary of a panel at the Hewlette Grantees' Conference. Errors are again my own.
Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies (See also his blog post with resources for this panel at ) In the past we've been saying that it's important to the field of OER to improve content. But really, it's about teaching and learning. So what is it about Wikipedia that is an opportunity for learning? Jeanette Lee, the Cambridge School of Weston We are integrating technology in the classroom, and students are always asking whether they can use Wikipedia. We have a handout we created on how to use Wikipedia. One of the students wanted to use the message box from an article, and we had a conversation about how to use it. So, students are using Wikipedia and the question is how to integrate it. Amin Azzam, UCSF The peer review process has sort of a stranglehold on academic advancement, but they were interested in partnering with Wikipedia such that if an author updated an article it might be counted as a publication. The meeting on this was just yesterday. The medical students all go to Wikipedia first when they go o look something up, because it's written in a way they can understand, and then they go to a more reliable source. So then someone suggested that students could contribute to Wikipedia. Dan Cook, Wiki Strategies I'm a voracious consumer of Wikipedia. My work is both as a journalist and as a consultant. This week for example there was the experience of going from an article being marked for deletion to the potential removal of the banner altogether. I have these experiences pretty much on a daily basis. I was part of the 'new journalism' when it was coined in the 80s. Secret sources and fights with the editors and all that. But now Wikipedia is the new journalism of today; leave your ego at the door, don;t use any modifiers, we don't want any spin. But it's a hard place for traditional journalists to work; we have to unlearn everything we learned about journalism. Jeanette I compare Wikipedia articles to an expository essay, which students have to learn. So getting them to understand that Wikipedia articles have structure, they have references, etc. So the idea is making the use of Wikipedia in academia transparent. People are using it, they're just using it quietly. It was about how to get a language to move between Wikipedia articles and the more traditional essay. A funny statistic from Pew, from February: 90 percent of AP and National Writing teachers find information online for their classes; 90 percent use Google, 87% use Wikipedia, but they discourage their students from using it. So there is this contradiction. So we need to get out in front and deal with this contradiction. We need a PR campaign or something, so people know it is legitimate to use in their classrooms. Amin: Yes, 87-93% of medical students admits to using it. Dan: If you could just get them to take the next step and look at their sources! Jeanette: yes, that's what we want them to do, it's a great skill to develop. Amin: there's roughly 26K articles in the medical field, but a lot of them have room for improvement. One thing wwith my students is they're in the final year of med school, so they can contribute, but they haven't lost the ability to speak English yet. Pete: the articles I contributed to most were on topics I was learning about. Also, Amin mentioned 'English Wikipedia'. This points to a way where Wikipedia and OER have a lost of aspirations in common. (Reads from letter mourning the death of Babu Gi, from Kerala, and commemorating his contributions). Amin: discusses the translation of medical articles into other languages. Wikipedia has an initiative called 'Data Zero' to give access to Wikipedia content for free. To me this is a no-brainer. (See ) Jeanette: opportunities for OER to learn from Wikipedia - I don't have students contribute to Wikipedia, but I do have students use materials from Wikipedia and OER Commons - I do hand over a lot of content to students, and then they create the content that everyone uses. I give them the option: either I lecture, or you do this project. Usually they choose the project. And they know that everybody will be using the material for understanding the text. I view Wikipedia as part of the OER community, and it's a way for them to use Wikipedia even if they can't contribute (they're just high school students, I would have too many permissions I have to fill out). Amin: there's a source of med information by students for students called 'Up To Date', it's called 'crack for medical students', but it's subscription, and they don't realize how much the school has to pay. Pete: where do students become ready to contribute to Wikipedia? Jeanette: I think definitely there are high school students ready for that. Amin: it's a question of what fraction of school work is contributing. For example in my class they have peer review. They need this support. Jeanette: some projects are individual and some are group. Anything that's a presentation for the class, they grade it, I don't grade it. Pete: I see this as a new journalism and I would like to see training begin in the classroom, so they don't get the bad habits I got. When will students work on Wikipedia? Jeanette: there are concerns about privacy, that's the barrier. I do think it would be a hard sell for some districts. Showing districts how they can use Wikipedia would be much easier. Amin: my students had to create user names, so we could track their contribution. They began with non-descriptive user names, but eventually made it clear they were future doctors. Pete: there is this culture of anonymity in Wikipedia. It's a major part of the ethos. But then there's the potential for conflict of interest; we don't want the chief of Enron writing the article. Dan: why did reporters have bylines? So they could be held accountable. Journalists especially need to have user names that are transparent and they should describe themselves in a transparent way. There needs to be a high level there. When I search to see if an article is credible, I don't like seeing that the author is anonymous. Wikipedians will have to grapple with this. Amin: the concept of anonymity almost doesn't exist any more. They have their Facebook pages, they scrub them clean before going into med school. Dan: I think it's people in my generation, they don't want to give up their social security numbers, etc. Jeanette: developing people who are comfortable as Wikipedia users, as they go into college, they're used to working in that kind of environment. Amin: my future students will be already equipped knowing how to be contributors. Q: there are now things where you can remix in the OER space; but in schools there is this top-down ethic about who is eligible to do that (it has to be curriculum specialists, etc). Amin: I consider the medical librarian an equal partner in the course, and the Wikipedia contributors to be equal partners. There's no way for any of us top be experts in everything. It takes a village. Pete: Wikipedia and OER are characterozed by people coming together in ways that were never anticipated, and saying to previous generations, we're not waiting around for you any more. We want to address content gaps. Etc. The sort of thing that doesn't work well in that crowd-sourced way. Eg. the small number of contributions by women. Q. Pete said to me, the first thing they do after you tell them about OER, they go to Google and search for it, and find the article on Wikipedia. Do you care about what they're reading? Do you feel this is your responsibility? What ought we be doing in this community? Pete: it's not an easy process, it doesn't have easy boundaries, you have to decide what's important for yourself, and you have to think about how much you can get in, how to work with other people. Amin: Wikipedia is not a democracy, it's a do-ocracy. Q: it seems to be impermanent, in the beginning, anything we thought was of value was not surviving. But the value is where you should be participating. It does compel participation. We made a lot of mistakes, but most of our articles are surviving now; it's about participating in the community. Our students talk about 'surviving the Wikipedia process'. But that's the strength of Wikipedia. Pete: we see this dynamic a lot. People contribute an article and it's highly imperfect, just what was in the newspaper. And then a few years later an expert comes along, and says there's all these errors. And I say to them, "when were you going to do this?" When would you write the article, without having seen all the errors. Dan: I tell people, "go to the talk pages". That's where you can see the process at work. Q: does it make sense to have a Wikimedian-in-residence in OER? Amin: Brillian idea. Jeanette: I totally agree with that. And Wikipedia has done a good job partnering with universities. Such a person could encourage partnering with districts. Q: question was more whether it would conflict with the Wiki education foundation? Pete: no it would not at all. I know most of those people, I think there would be delight. [Link] [Comment]

Ten Key Takeaways from Tony Bates

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 Like pretty much everyone else in the field I've been immensely enjoying Tony Bates's work-in-progress, an online open textbook called Teaching in a Digital Age.
Having said that, I think my perspective is very different from his, and this summary post offers me an opportunity to highlight some of those differences. So in what follows, the key points (in italics) are his, while the text that follows is my discussion. Note that this discussion is focused specifically on the "differences between classroom, blended, online and open learning." We have points of disagreement in other areas too :) but this post offers a way to focus on some aspects of that. Note as well that I'm not offering 'gotchas' here; Bates has discussed many of these points elsewhere and my objective is not to refute him based on this quick summary, only to identify the differences in perspective. 1. There is a continuum of technology-based learning, from ‘pure’ face-to-face teaching to fully online programs. Every teacher or instructor needs to decide where on the continuum a particular course or program should be. The continuum here is presented in one dimension, the most obvious dimension, with teachers and instructors making the decision as to where some particular course or program ought to lie. I think all elements of this statement are problematic. First, because online learning provides affordances not available in the classroom, there are multiple dimensions of comparison. For example, we could draw a line from one-to-one teacher on student instruction, to small classrooms, to larger lecture or presentation format courses, to delivery to thousands or even millions of people. Second, one of those dimensions concerns whether the online offering should be a course at all. Online learning allows for informal conversation, videos, simulations, interactive learning, games, and a host of other models that can be attempted imperfectly at best in a traditional classroom. Understanding, for example, the role informal learning can play is key to understanding the distinction between in-class and online learning. Third, in online learning the locus of decision-making need no longer rest with the instructor. Unlike a traditional environment, where a student's choices are to "stay" and "leave", an online student can select from many different options - including ion-class, if they're lucky enough to be able to find one that is local and offered at a time they can attend, at a rate they can afford. 2. We do not have good research evidence or theories to make this decision, although we do have growing experience of the strengths and limitations of online learning. What is particularly missing is an evidence-based analysis of the strengths and limitations of face-to-face teaching when online learning is also available. Here I am first inclined to point to differing beliefs regarding the nature and role of research and theories. I consider what I do to be research, for example, and I do not consider surveys of a dozen graduate students to be research. And I am sceptical of the value of theories based on models employing (what have been termed) folk-psychological concepts and naive understandings of human cognition. Any theory of the form "x causes y" in this field should be considered suspect. So it follows that to me "an evidence-based analysis of the strengths and limitations of face-to-face teaching when online learning is also available" is an oxymoron. Far too much in such an account is left unstated and merely assumed, with variables to be filled in by the reader's own prejudices. What constitutes a 'strength'? From my perspective, each person learning seeks different outcomes, so a 'strength' for one is a problem for another. But most of all here is the presumption that we can determine a priori the desirable properties of online or traditional learning. In this regard, I side with John Stuart Mill, and aver that "the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that people do actually desire it." Without an a priori definition of 'effective' most so-called evidence-based decision-making falls flat, and of course, what we do know though observation is that people desire many different things. 3. In the absence of good theory, I have suggested four factors to consider when deciding on mode of delivery, and in particular the different uses of face-to-face and online learning in blended courses: - your preferred teaching strategy, in terms of methods and learning outcomes - student characteristics and needs - the pedagogical and presentational requirements of the subject matter, in terms of (a) content and (b) skills - the resources available to an instructor (including the instructor’s time). I find it fascinating that three of the four factors are based on the instructor, with only the very generic "student characteristics and needs" constituting the fourth. I can understand that, from the perspective of the instructor, the instructor's "preferred teaching strategy" matters a great deal. But from the perspective of the student, the response is, "who cares?" Elsewhere, the many weaknesses of the lecture format, for example, have been documented, as also most instructors' preference for the lecture. This has produced yet another generation of students asleep in their classroom (especially those where electronic devices are 'not allowed'). The characterization even of "student characteristics and needs" is suspect. The phrasing suggests two aspects of concern: first, that we are considering these in the aggregate, as a generalization across an entire class (or generation?) of students, and not individuals; and second, these are factors out of the students' control entirely, as we consider (predefined? instructor-defined?) "needs"instead of wants, and "characteristics" instead of preferences. Part of this is the unrelenting instructional stance Bates takes throughout his work. It results in an assessment of factors impacting instructional decisions, even in areas where it's not clear the decisions are open for instructors to make. The key difference between in-class and online learning is the shift in the locus of control. I would also add (cynically) that today the resources available to the instructor are increasingly based on the students' willingness and ability to pay, as our governments gradually remove all levels of support for public higher education. 4. The move to blended or hybrid learning in particular means rethinking the use of the campus and the facilities needed fully to support learning in a hybrid mode. No disputing this one. As the trend toward online learning continues, the traditional school or university increasingly will become a place where local residents access lab and conferencing facilities, no matter where they are enrolled.Meanwhile, classes offered in situ at these campuses will increasingly need recording and conferencing facilities to support their worldwide audience. 5. Open educational resources offer many benefits but they need to be well designed and embedded within a rich learning environment to be effective. I mentioned above the need for an a priori presumptions regarding the desirable properties of online or traditional learning. It comes into play here. For one would ask, what is the basis for the belief that OERs need to be well designed and embedded within a rich learning environment to be effective? The evidence seems to suggest otherwise. The Khan Academy, for example, made a virtue out of offering very low quality videos helping viewers understand math and physics concepts. People exchange and learn from ideas presented in discussion boards across the internet despite these boards having no pedagogical design at all. I think that only within a very narrow definition of "effective" can we demonstrate a "need to be well designed and embedded within a rich learning environment." Again, it comes back to what people want to do. Generally, the learning I need to do from the internet is immediate and simple. A (badly designed) Wikipedia page often does the job for me. Indeed, typically, something designed in a rich learning environment just takes too much time and effort to be useful. I don't need a battleship if I'm just trying to cross the river. 6. The increasing availability of OER, open textbooks, open research and open data means that in future, almost all academic content will be open and freely accessible over the Internet. Agreed. 7. As a result, students will increasingly look to institutions for learning support and help with the development of skills needed in a digital age rather than with the delivery of content. This will have major consequences for the role of teachers/instructors and the design of courses. I also agree with this. I've actually discussed it at length in The Role of the Educator.And my reflections here suggest a very different future than the one considered in this article. First of all, increasingly, educational institutions will not offer courses at all. Why would they? If you're looking for "learning support and help with the development of skills needed in a digital age" you are very rarely looking for a course. Typically, you're looking for help with a project, or maybe an offer of a project, in which you can apply and augment the skills you're attempting to develop. And different aspects of your support are offered by different people, at different institutions. Why would we suppose that the same agency offering learning is also the one assessing that learning? Insofar as 'design' (properly so-called) comes into play, it will be based as much on principles established outside education. Sure, there will be structured learning experiences (and we might even still call them 'courses'). But the idea of an instructor offering a course through a given institution will be the exception, a tiny minority of the cases, compared to the much larger learning and development environment generally. But of course Tony Bates knows this... 8. OER and other forms of open education will lead to increased modularization and disaggregation of learning services, which are needed to respond to the increasing diversity of learner needs in a digital age. Of this there can be no doubt. But let me add that the phrase"increased modularization and disaggregation of learning services" suggests the repackaging of products and services that already exist. But the defining characteristic of online learning is the wide range of new things you can do to support learning. This leans that there will be a proliferation of new learning services. And additionally, many old learning services will be discontinued. For example, when I was growing up, there was a thriving industry producing binders and lined paper. Moreover, the concept of blogging did not exist. Today we take electronic notes, blog them directly, and hire blog moderators to ensure children don't get themselves into trouble publishing online. Learning online isn't simply a shift in modality. It's different. The methods are different, the objectives are different, and the services are different. 9. MOOCs are essentially a dead end with regard to providing learners who do not have adequate access to education with high quality qualifications. The main value of MOOCs is in providing opportunities for non-formal education and supporting communities of practice. It is again interesting to see this one thing highlighted. It is interesting to me because this was never the intent of the MOOCs I produced, and with some few exceptions, is not the intent of MOOC producers today. But more interesting is the question of why MOOCs are a "dead end" in this regard. The suggestion here (and it's only implicit) is that MOOCs are incapable of providing the learning required to warrant the awarding of a credential. That's why Bates includes the phrase about students "who do not have adequate access to education."This suggests that access to traditional education is a necessary condition, that MOOCs could not provide an education by themselves. But why not? The role of answering this question is played by the phrase"high quality qualifications." Even if MOOCs could provide qualifications, they would not be"high quality". These, it appears to be suggested, may be offered only by (putatively) high quality formal education. But I submit that these are not empirical arguments. Indeed, I would go further and suggest that the only reason students cannot earn high quality credentials in MOOCs is that the institutions that offer such credentials won't grant them for MOOCs. And why would they? Their business model depends on requiring students undertake extensive and often extensive coursework before the credential can be issued. What makes the MOOC a "dead end", in other words, has nothing to do with the MOOC itself, but rather, has everything to do with the credentials. The more interesting question here is whether a person working from childhood could achieve the same degree of knowledge and (qualification for) credentials taking MOOCs exclusively. Can a non-literate and non-educated person become literate and educated through open online learning? Is there a fundamental property of closed formal learning that suggests that it is the only route to a credential? There are arguments to be made on both sides here. But I submit that the case is far from closed, and that this is not a takeaway. 10. OER, MOOCs, open textbooks and other digital forms of open-ness are important in helping to widen access to learning opportunities, but ultimately these are enhancements rather than a replacement for a well-funded public education system, which remains the core foundation for enabling equal access to educational opportunities. I think that Tony Bates and I both agree on the importance of an open and accessible public education system. Where we disagree is in the form that system should take. The existing public education system does a poor job of ensuring equal access to educational opportunities. Major barriers exist across the board, in factors as varied as child poverty and nutrition, access to school materials, fees and access to extracurricular activities, expectations and class backgrounds, travel and work opportunities, opportunity cost and risk, and much much more. Viewing online learning as nothing more than an enhancement of the traditional system is, to my mind, to preserve the inequalities inherent in the traditional system. It is to misunderstand the role played by the traditional system not only in the provision of an education but also in social netorking and the formation of social classes. The primary purpose, for example, of a school like Harvard or Yale is not to provide a superior education (their protestations to the contrary notwithstanding). It is to provide exclusive access to a network of potentially rich and powerful individuals who will shape and promote your career through future life. Simply building an enhancement on that system will not change the inequality it represents. For online learning to truly reach its potential it needs not only to break the educational monopoly of the rich and powerful, it needs to break the social monopoly of the rich and powerful, rending open their cliques, and laying bare the foundations of their influence. We too can form global networks of mutual self-support, but only if we break the existing structures designed to preserve status and privilege. And in the end, I think that this points to the deep difference between Tony Bates and myself. I think that we disagree ultimately about what constitutes an education. I think that he views it in terms of classes and content, of subjects and competencies and credentials, in terms of instruction and demonstration, pedagogy, skills and knowledge. This is a common and very traditional view of education, but one which I have increasingly come to question. In my view, education is more akin to shaping and growing oneself, of acclimatization to a community and to an environment. The learning of any subject is analogous to the formation of a literacy in that subject, based not only in speaking the right words, but also in seeing the world in a certain way, recognizing some things as important (and other things as not). Expectations are as important as knowledge in this view, the way we say something as important as what we say. This is what distinguishes between the education an elite receives, and an education that is reserved for the rest of us. While the mass of people get facts and skills and credentials, the elite are transformed into a natural ruling class. It's like the difference between someone who is taught the rules of the game, and someone who trains as an athlete. No amount of skills and drills can produce in a non-elite person the social and literary bearing of an elite person. My objective is to transform learning as a whole into something that produces at least this possibility for everyone. We should embrace this as a public policy objective. Because, with all the capacity, technology and wealth available to us in society as a whole, it's the least we can do. [Link] [Comment]

A Lexicon of Sustainability

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 This is a summary of a talk at the Hewlett Grantees' Meeting, San Francisco, March 25, 2015. Errors (and typos, etc) are my own.
Douglas Gayeton Lexicon of Sustainability Our food system is opaque. We asked people to develop a lexicon around food sources We started with the word 'sustainability'. That is one of the most opaque words. I asked a native hunter - he said he watches what the animals eat; they always leave something behind. I asked a farmer; she said it was about survival. I asked Miguel, who started growing organic food because it was too expensive. How to tell these stories? Photography is great, but it only captures one image at a time, one moment in time. I looked at a place where he grows fishg in boxes, the waste is used to grow tomatos, and he also grows worms. How do you tell that story in one photo? You can't - I made a compossite after taking thousands of photos. What if I had him tell me what the word 'vermiculture' means? You can combine the words with the picture and tell a good story. So we went around the United States and created a lexicon of sustainability. We created a book - the focus groups came back: "Nobody knows what 'lexicon' means." The power of graphical ideas: thought bombs.Photo composites with words all over them. By making things graphical and textual at the same time you engage people's left brain and right brain at the same time. You create a deconstrucive nattarative. Thing Sherlock Holmes: "all the answers were in this room. We just had to piece them together in the proper order." From a passive learning experience to an active learning experience. Knowing words - learning what they mean - can change the way entire industries work. A loaf of bread - a list of ingredients - most pof them did not exist 20 years ago. The Bible used to be written in Latin only - that is what an opaque religion looks like. But what if we published the book in the language that we speak? Eg. rBST is the name of a growth hormone fed to cows. A farmer sold milk without rBST - he was sued by Monsanto (they eventually lost). Or consider - what is the "cage free egg"? What does it mean? I asked the producer what it means. Pasture raised. But nobody knows what that means. What is the real cost of cheap food? People growing food according to values are competing against an industrial system that has externalized all its costs. The concept of 'true cost accounting' looks at hpw much something really costs. Consider a river - it provides free energy, and can be used to dispose of waste. We always pay when we get things cheap. The best example when we look at food is the 'cow to pickup truck indes' - the value of a grass-fed cow compared to a truck. How can these compete against an indistrial system? Convincing people of the value of voting with their dollars. There's this idea of organics and eating locally. There's a movement to have producers say whether food contains GMO organisms. It would force food producers to be transparent. It is opposed by Monsanto and others who benefit from an opaque system. GMOs aren't always bad - eg., a variant of papaya that was resistant to a disease, which was in danger of being wiped out in Hawaii. People talk about GMOs as privatizing seeds, etc - vbut that didn't happen here; he open-sourced the seeds. Or another term - 'antibiotic free' - 80% of the antibiotics are fed to livestock, and they're not even sick, because they gain weight quickly. So there's going to be a movement to lable antibiotics in meat. In fisheries, the term 'red snapper' doesn't mean you're getting red snapper. There's always the pressure to give you fish close enough to what you always get (so fish are predictable like tomatos). There's an initiative to tag a fish so you know where and how it was sourced. The concept of 'identity preserved' gives us a sense of where the food that is grown goes - for example, wheat grown in California that is shipped to Italy to become pasta. Before the second world war we spent 30 of our money on food. But after the war we applied economies of scale to everything. Everything was centralized. Everything was based simply on price. How do you reverse hat? It's a big challenge. There's a town called Greensboro that died. They went and asked an old man what ahppened, he didn't know, but he said they they used to be able to get a pie of pie in a pie shop. They re-opened the pie shop, and the town began to grow again. You can't have commerce without food. Peopl are beginning to apply the principle of 'terroir' - the idea that everything has a place - to the food industry (in the shellfish inustry it's 'aguoir'). 'Community Supported Agriculture' (CSA) - is where they get a box of food every week that is locally sourced. They are being more connected to their food, who grows it, where it's grown. Or a pie shop in San Francisco set up a CSAA for fish. This used to be commonplace. In Italy they knew to never buy fish on a Monday - wait until Tuesday when it's fresh. This is an example of people being connected to their food. A regional food hub - people are rebuilding what was dismantled when the industrial food system came in. People in the community selling for many producers. Producers pooling transportation costs cooperatively. There is the concept of a 'food desert' where there was no food in a 6-square mile range. I wenmt to a local supermarket - no food - just candy, chips, alcohol, etc. Consumers non't know they have other choices. There's a new 'corner store' movement - inserting places to buy local food in these corner stores. It's a system that is made by people. The average age of a farmer is 57. People are scrambling to educate young farmers. The concept is 'green collar' - they give people land and training, for a period of time (then you have to find your own land). It's a 'farm incubator'. And there's a 'kitchen incubator'. Setting up people with kitchens, business training, etc. - that's how you reinvent local food systems. Systems that are based on value. So - what's the verdict? I'm not pessimistic when I see seed swaps. Upswaping, to convert lamnd to farmland. We took this to Mexico - in Mexico 'organic' didn't mean aanything. Every Mexican, though, knows the meaning of GMOs - because corn in their national food. We learned, we need to speak to people in their own language. We do projects based on protability - PDFs you can distribute. We do puppet shows. We do food conferences. We help with street events. You can go to our website, you can download our resources. We have a website, launching next month, the 'lexicon of food'. All resources open sourced and free. Showing what people farms. Doing projects teaching people about aquaponics. We do 'market makeovers'. We have kids in Mexico making inages to explain their food system. It's very powerful because it's made by people. It's people-sourced. What will be your 'Road to Damascus' moment? Q: what about school lunches? A. people are confronting that problem. Politicians won't spend more money on school lunches until they see the value in it. Right now that's opaque. Q. I don't know a lot about food, but what I do know about is beer. What I've seen taking over Virginia is craft breweries, where people grow their own hps, etc. Peo[ple are willing to pay $9-$9 per glass. A. They say people always centralize industries but that's not true. Another example is the music industry. Q. Often discussion of open educaation is overely cerebral. But food today is your #1 cool thing. You can convince poeple with photos with food, but in education it's harder. A. Our projeect is not about food, it's about climate change. People don't identify with climate change. But you take all the ideas that contribute to climate change as clear as possible, so you can't mistake the message overall. The idea of the taxonomy is to pinpoint all the individual ideas of a thing and make them clear. Q. We are using terms in education that people believe they already know and we are using them in different ways. How did you grab people and help explain the complexities. A. First we make everything as conversational and without jargon as possible. And second, we say we are not out to make the definitivee lexicon of things. Wiords are shifting and changing. It's our biggest problem with Wikipedia - it doesn't have enough context to show all the contexts a term can be used in. Q. termss - like taxonomy - can acquire baggage over the years. Eg. GMOs - we read all our foods are genetically modified over time. You see that in education all the time - all the different terms for 21st century skills. A. We did a show; they kept asking for a list of all the images and we set them. It was only at the last minute we set up the GMO image of papayas. They said "what are you thinking?" There was a lot of opposition. All of these terms should elicit the fact that it's not a fixed idea, it's a dynamic idea. [Link] [Comment]

Experts and Authority

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015
In an article last year (and soon-to-be book) Tom Nichols complained about the new relativism brought about by Wikipedia and Google and bemoaning the declining authority of the expert. I encountered his article today via Facebook; I'm not sure whether the source of this information had any impact on its veracity. "Today," he writes, "any assertion of expertise produces an explosion of anger from certain quarters of the American public, who immediately complain that such claims are nothing more than fallacious 'appeals to authority,' sure signs of dreadful 'elitism,' and an obvious effort to use credentials to stifle the dialogue required by a 'real' democracy." To be sure, the three things he cites here are all things to be avoided: 'Appeal to Authority' is an actual fallacy; it occurs when an authority is cited in cases where (a) the authorities disagree among themselves, or (b) where the authority is speaking outside the area of his or her expertise.Elitism is a structural defect in society, representing a state of affairs where those who are in power and authority manipulate the rules in order to maintain their (or their children's) position in society.Stifling the dialogue, as we are seeing in Canadian society today, is a breakdown of communications that prevents society as a whole from learning about its mistakes, exposing sources of corruption, or uncovering injustice.How do I know all this? Well, I too am an expert - or, more accurately, I am called an expert by people who are in a position to know, or to recognize, that I am an expert. And the relation between democracy, expertise and authority is, I would say, much less straightforward than described in Nichols's column. Let's take democracy as an example. Here's what Nichols says about democracy: But democracy, as I wrote in an essay about C.S. Lewis and the Snowden affair, denotes a system of government, not an actual state of equality. It means that we enjoy equal rights versus the government, and in relation to each other. Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities, or equal knowledge. It is true that it does not follow that because we are governed by democracy that we attain an actual state of equality. But it does mean, as Nichols suggests, that we are all equal before the law. But what does that mean? A naive interpretation would suggest that the law treats each of us the same. But experts know (having read Rawls) that democracy means something like "justice as fairness". That is, even though we are not all equal, in a democracy, the law should tend toward helping us all become equal. It's a complex idea but simple enough in practice. It means that society should help improve the talents of the untalented, that it should seek to increase the skills of those with lesser abilities, and to expand the knowledge of those with less knowledge. Yes, there is the presumption that there should be equality before the law (this is the famous dictate of Solon) but what it means in practice is that people in positions of power and authority should not bend the law to their own advantage. There's nothing wrong with using the law to enhance the standing of the poor and disempowered. Or as Plutarch says: Thinking it his duty to make still further provision for the weakness of the multitude, he (Solon) gave every citizen the privilege of entering suit in behalf of one who had suffered wrong. If a man was assaulted, and suffered violence or injury, it was the privilege of any one who had the ability and the inclination, to indict the wrong-doer and prosecute him. (Life of Solon, 18.5)So when Nichols says this: It assuredly does not mean that “everyone’s opinion about anything is as good as anyone else’s.” And yet, this is now enshrined as the credo of a fair number of people despite being obvious nonsense...he is wrong. In a court of law everyone's opinions are as good as everyone else's. Indeed, we even make allowances to the favour of those who are not in a position of authority or high social standing. The facts and justice stand independently of anyone's opinions. That is what Solon enshrined, and that is the rule that forms the basis of democracy. And it is the foundational principle of reason, science and enquiry to this day. As have numerous pedants before him, Nichols appears to be far more concerned about the source of knowledge and information than about its veracity (that is, its truth or fair representation). "I fear we are witnessing the 'death of expertise': a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers," he writes. Google-fueled indeed; that's how I found the references to Rawls and Plutarch. Yes, experts make mistakes, he concedes. "But an expert is far more likely to be right than you are. On a question of factual interpretation or evaluation, it shouldn’t engender insecurity or anxiety to think that an expert’s view is likely to be better-informed than yours," he writes. This is true, just as it is true that a rich person has more money than you. But we shouldn't so lightly accept the moral authority of either. But let's acknowledge this, and agree that "experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice." Quite so. But notice that it is in a democractic society, where experts are far more likely to be challenged, that experts hold the most sway. Before the widespread rise of public information, people were much more likely to purchase snake oil. Old wives tales, in an enlightened society, are exactly that: tales. It is when experts are beyond challenged by both the informed and uninformed that the true value of expertise can take hold. Nichols ought to pause for a moment to consider why this is the case. He writes, "The death of expertise is a rejection not only of knowledge, but of the ways in which we gain knowledge and learn about things. Fundamentally, it’s a rejection of science and rationality, which are the foundations of Western civilization itself." This to me represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how science and rationality work. The world of the expert - of any expert - is obliged to be subjected to the widest possible criticism. This applies equally to practitioners of snake oil and anti-cancer vaccinations. That is how we are able to distinguish between the reasonable and the irrational. And it does not matter whether the criticism comes from within the domain of enquiry or from an authoritative source. Because rationality isn't about getting things right, it's about getting the right things right. Look at his examples: "'Western civilization': that paternalistic, racist, ethnocentric approach to knowledge that created the nuclear bomb, the Edsel, and New Coke, but which also keeps diabetics alive, lands mammoth airliners in the dark, and writes documents like the Charter of the United Nations." These make my case far better than they make his case. First of all, those experts who also happen to be paternalistic, racist, and ethnocentric can be questioned on that basis. We know that facts do not exist in isolation, but rather, they are a product of a perspective or a point of view (even an expert's, most especially is he or she is paternalistic, racist, or ethnocentric). We should question whether modern physics embodies a western perspective of time. We ought to ask whether a biological thesis is informed by racism. Shielding the authority from uninformed questioning is more likely to shield the authority from these questions, which come from outside the field. The Edsel is a really good example of getting the right things wrong. It featured many advances in automotive technology, including engine warning lights, seat belts, and child-proof rear door locks. But it failed on non-technical features such as aesthetics and price. It's the sort of failure experts could have avoided with non-expert opinion (and it's why companies use devices such as focus groups to ensure they don't make similar mistakes in the future). Not trusting the expert is dangerous, writes Nichols. "We live today in an advanced post-industrial country that is now fighting a resurgence of whooping cough — a scourge nearly eliminated a century ago — merely because otherwise intelligent people have been second-guessing their doctors and refusing to vaccinate their kids." Well yes. But the reason people like Jenny McCarthy jumped on the anti-vaxxer bandwagon was that an expert, British physician Andrew Wakefield, "published a paper in The Lancet that purported to identify a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the appearance of autism in children." And history is such that sometimes the lone expert is more trustworthy: witness the case of Frances Oldham Kelsey, who protected the United States from the horror of Thalidomide poisoning. Had Jenny McCarthy been right, she would today be hailed as 'an expert'. But she was wrong; Wakefield's paper was revealed as a hoax, and there is no link between vaccines and autism. But in the same breath, we would be dismissing Kelsey as a crank had Thalidomide turned out to be same. One of the features of expertise is that it is typically revealed only after the fact, when it is too late to be of any use. Before that time, we have to make use of argument, evidence and statistics, and not credentials. Nichols displays an increasing impatience with the rigour of disproving the Kelseys of the world. "You will get snippy and sophistic demands to show ever increasing amounts of 'proof' or 'evidence' for your case," he writes, "even though the ordinary interlocutor in such debates isn’t really equipped to decide what constitutes 'evidence' or to know it when it’s presented." But Nichols confuses between making the case generically, and making the case to the satisfaction of a particular individual. As an expert with a long history of engaging in arguments with people, I can say with assurance that it will not be possible to convince everybody of anything. People - experts and non-experts alike - have their own 'riverbed propositions' from which they will not budge no matter how reasonable the evidence. When an expert responds to an argument, it should be done publicly, as the intent is to demonstration to the public as a whole, not the individual in question. As a society, we decide. And we need to be clear about the nature of the two assertions Nichols is making. First, he is arguing that there are things that count as evidence and things that do not. And second, he is arguing that non-experts are incapable of drawing this distinction. I think that on both counts he is wrong. Sure, people may make unreasonable demands of science. For example, they may criticize evolution on the grounds that it is "only a theory", or demand "proof" of human-caused climate change. This does not mean these are not forms of evidence; it merely means they are unattainable (scientists would love to be able to refer to the law of evolution, or point to proof of global warming, but it's just not forthcoming). And things like Biblical references, the missing link, the little ice age, and other such non-evidence are not non-evidence: they are anomalies that the theory must explain. The coincident increase in diagnosis of autism with vaccination is a real thing, and it needs to be shown that this is the result of the better diagnosis of autism over time, not the needle. This is what Carnap calls the principle of total evidence, and recognizes that new evidence, even seemingly unrelated, might impact whether something being considered is true or not. And when Nichols argues that non-experts are incapable of making that distinction, he must explain the countervailing fact that society as a whole, which consists mostly of non-experts, has made that distinction, and that our medical system, our code of justice, and social infrastructure in general are built around the fact that vaccines are helpful and thalidomide is dangerous. And Nichols has to explain why societies where experts are more likely to be questioned and challenged are societies which are more likely to make this distinction. And he can't just argue that these counterexamples are coming from a non-expert, that the evidence here cited does not count as the right evidence, and that this is only a blog. Such responses would quite rightly be dismissed as fallacies by both experts and non-experts alike (and it is indeed the prevalence of fallacies in non-expert responses that is one of the major ways non-experts can spot frauds in the ranks of experts). And what of those people who are not even able to distinguish between a valid argument and a non-sequiter? Nichols has no time for them and finds them exhausting. I find them exhausting too, but I make my case for all to see, and have taken the time and effort to make the basis for argumentation and reason available to all. Because I value the contributions of non-experts, and would like to help them formulate their objections in the most effective manner possible. This is called the principle of charity, and is a fundamental rule in logic and reasoning. To get to the point of Nichols's argument, he wants a return of the gatekeepers: the journals and op-ed pages that were once strictly edited have been drowned under the weight of self-publishable blogs. There was once a time when participation in public debate, even in the pages of the local newspaper, required submission of a letter or an article, and that submission had to be written intelligently, pass editorial review, and stand with the author’s name attached. Even then, it was a big deal to get a letter in a major newspaper. Now, anyone can bum rush the comments section of any major publication. Sometimes, that results in a free-for-all that spurs better thinking. Most of the time, however, it means that anyone can post anything they want, under any anonymous cover, and never have to defend their views or get called out for being wrong.Yes. Anybody can publish whatever they want. This has resulted in a lot of clutter. But it has also resulted in Assange, Snowden and Manning, among many other notable examples. To understand why this is important, it is necessary to understand the role of gatekeepers. And - frankly - it was never the role of the gatekeepers to keep out the cranks. A brief look at the letters sections of most any newspaper before the days of the internet is evidence of that. It was to protect the newspaper from retribution from the rich and powerful should seriously damaging evidence or allegations be published. Let us be clear: the time before the internet was a time when the elite entrenched and protected each other. Even Nichols makes this point (though it is not clear he knows he is making it): There was once a time when presidents would win elections and then scour universities and think-tanks for a brain trust; that’s how Henry Kissinger, Samuel Huntington, Zbigniew Brzezinski and others ended up in government service while moving between places like Harvard and Columbia.Yes. There was pretty much a closed walkway between positions of power and authority and the elite institutions like Harvard and Columbia. And when Nichols writes that "I have a hard time, for example, imagining that I would be called to Washington today in the way I was back in 1990" he fails to understand that this is a good thing, and that calling people like George Siemens (an itinerant blogger born in Mexico, former restaurant owner, and self-made PhD in education) instead is far far better. And consider how Nichols regards those other gatekeepers, teachers and university professors: One of the greatest teachers I ever had, James Schall, once wrote many years ago that 'students have obligations to teachers,' including 'trust, docility, effort, and thinking,' an assertion that would produce howls of outrage from the entitled generations roaming campuses today.And despite the lupine ad hominem, students should indeed protest such instructions. Nobody has an obligation to produce trust and docility. Far better to be a nation of wolves than a nation of sheep! There are good reasons to eschew docility; women especially understand the need to challenge the orthodoxy of thinking emanating from the professorial pulpit. A requirement of trust and docility is in itself a betrayal of trust. But what Nichols is really worried about is that the experts might become servants of the people. This shows up in a number of ways near the end of his article. Consider this language: The idea of telling students that professors run the show and know better than they do strikes many students as something like uppity lip from the help Or this: many academic departments are boutiques, in which the professors are expected to be something like intellectual valets. But the argument is a bit more subtle than that. It's that we would be happy serving the people, but the people are not good enough to be masters. When citizens forgo their basic obligation to learn enough to actually govern themselves, and instead remain stubbornly imprisoned by their fragile egos and caged by their own sense of entitlement, experts will end up running things by default. And so this is a "terrible" thing, he will oh so reluctantly take his position as expert, and step into his natural place as the ruler of society. Or so he thinks. But he's wrong, and worse, he is dishonestly wrong. He is disappointed he is no longer getting calls from the White House, he yearns for the days when professors demanded docility and respect, and he would much rather return to the days when the only public discourse was that vetted by the editorial guardians of society. He does not actually want the non-expert to contribute to the governance of society, for if he did, this column would be a call or education and empowerment, and not a declaration to the effect that the masses are revolting. His kind just is the kind that brought us the excesses of the 20th century, and more recently the debacle in Iraq. He most properly should be ashamed of himself for setting himself above the likes of you and me. But as is so common among the realm of the self-declared expert, he feels no shame. [Link] [Comment]

The Exodus

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 We are now reading that the exodus of people from New Brunswick through the winter was the largest it has been since 1976. It's the 17th quarter in a row the province has lost people. And it shows no sign of slowing.
I live in Moncton, supposedly the most prosperous city in the province. I live in a small house in what was once called the 'golden triangle', an older well-treed area just north of downtown with close proximity to the hospitals and the university. But I discovered this week that the value of my home has dropped $40K in the last few years. I can't say I'm surprised. This part of the city has been hollowed out; it is in decline, just as Moncton is in decline, and the causes are symptomatic of the malaise that has struck the province, a disease born of ineffective and weak-willed civil and provincial politicians. Just a couple doors down, Castle Manor, a heritage building if there ever was one, sits rotting and boarded up, home to nobody but the vagrants. The city allowed the land and the building to be divided into two parcels, with separate owners, with neither having value to anybody. There was a pre-emptive attempt to turn the lawn into a parking lot, an effort stopped not by the city but by by local citizens once they began taking the chainsaw to the trees. Right next to it, the CBC building sits empty, four or five storeys of office building right next to the Dumont hospital which should be brimming with opportunity. But the CBC, downsized to almost non-existence, has moved to the shell of an old Zellers store next to the Atlantic Superstore down by where Hall's creek enters the river. So many stories there. The health care system is broken in New Brunswick. In so many ways. It is centrally run, it is the subject of political influence (often by politicians seeking to shut it down and privatize health care), and it is backward and inefficient. The system was again the centre of controversy this week. The Moncton Cancer Centre announced abruptly that it would shut down its genetic sequencing program. This happened after the provincial government reversed a decision to block the purchase of genetic sequencing equipment in Saint John. "I cannot accept to be a party to raping the taxpayers of New Brunswick," by duplicating services, ACRI president and scientific director Dr. Rodney Ouellette announced during an interview with CBC News. He seems to be about the only person in this province who can't. Certainly the people who operate NB Power have no objection. One of their plants, which burn Irving oil (naturally), produces gypsum as a byproduct. This would normally be waste but they have agreed to sell the gypsum back to Irving. Anywhere else this would make money for NB Power, but in New Brunswick the contract is worded in such a way as to see NB Power pay the Irvings. Meanwhile, next to the CBC Building and Castle Manor sits the Saint Patrick Centre. This building is still open and operated as a community fitness centre. It struggles on ancient equipment, chronic underfunding, and roof leaks that will eventually destroy the integrity of the facility. This is what happened to Moncton High School, once the only high school near the centre of the city. The roof was left unrepaired for decaded, the metal girders rusted out, and the old stone heritage building was deemed unfit. The new school has now been relocated ten kilometers to the north, at the edge of city limits, in what literally was wilderness. There's a lot of mystery surrounding the move, which was ordered by the provincial government, and greatly benefited the owners of local subdivisions. Across the road from the new school a new subdivision has suddenly emerged, called 'Baron Heights', named after the putative owner of the property, Baron von Munchausen (I kid you not). The agreement with a company to 'develop' the old school fell through and now it sits, an abandoned hulk, about five blocks from where I live. The only saving grace is that the strip clubn, which for decades operated across the street from the high school, was torn down. But not until after all the students had left. In a city struggling to achieve more population density, this newest development boasts large "country lots". Moncton High School is also the place where, in a controversy straight out of the 1950s, a girl was punished for wearing a dress that revealed her shoulders. A lot of Moncton has been torn down. The local mall, Highfield Square, was torn down to make way for the new events centre (should it ever be built). Somehow, the price to acquire it jumped from $6 million to $12 million at the last minute. Moncton can't manage large building projects. There's plenty of evidence for this, including the $3.8 million overrun on the stadium, due to "poor management". The feasibility study for the events centre ran well over budget. We recently hosted the World Cup there. Apparently the city was caught by surprise by the demand for bus transportation to the 13,000 seat stadium. They also designed the stadium with exactly three entrances, none of which face the road. Just down the road from the former Moncton High School the local museum was 'upgraded'. Andrea and I tried to oppose the project before it got started, because it wiped out the last of the green lawn in the area and presented a three-storey wall as a facade on Mountain Road. It seems to have been secretly approved long before the public was told. Not surprisingly, it also ran into overruns costing millions of dollars. Like I said, we live just a few blocks from the downtown core. Recently, the bar patrons there have taken to street-fighting; the videos have been splashed all over the world. So where are the police? They are armed like paramilitaries lined up en masse to stand down a handful of people opposed to shale gas fracking on Indian land just up the road in Rexton. Or they're being shot at by a local thug who received his political education from a survivalist outlet across the river in Riverview. It turns out that the police we have are outgunned but a lone individual purchasing his weapons across the counter. The RCMP actually faces labour code charges in relation to the shootings. But back to resources, one of the problems with resources in the province is that we can't exploit them without losing money. Take the forests, which should be a prime revenue driver. It actually costs the government money to have a forestry industry in the province. Finally, we have the media in this city, which is owned by the local Oil and forestry company, and therefore not a reliable source of news. More, two editors were fired for cavorting with provincial government officials on the taxpayer's dime at a resort used by politicians, media and business to trade old boy stories and make deals, Larry's Gulch. Yes, Larry's Gulch. There really is such a thing. The newspaper's contribution to the economy was to fire all its photographers. There's some vision for you. I could go on... and on, and on, and on. I haven't even mentioned offshore tax shelters, the impact of the federal government, the mysteries of fishing licenses, the problems with roads and bike lanes and the joke we call our 'active transportation' policy. The bus system designed by amateurs. The downtown that is now mostly parking lost. The mysterious payments made to attract concerts. The push to privatize our water supply. It never ends. I could spend a week tallying this up. I'm fed up. The visible signs of decay in my own neighbourhood are not the result of external factors. They are not the global winds of change blowing hard across New Brunswick. They are self-made, self-inflicted, brought to us by government officials and the civic and provincial level who have been incompetent and sometimes unethical. Too much money simply 'disappears'. Too often decisions are made to benefit shady associates and business connections. Too much of the government's money flows from the people and to the businesses and industries who should be financing it. And the saddest thing is that there's nobody willing to stand up for the alternative. Even the NDP leader gets drawn into the trivia and minutiae fostered by the local paper instead of standing up to its owners and demanding accountability. Our provincial Liberal and Conservative premiers are active participants in this mess. Once they're done, they leave the province and are rewarded with high-paying consulting jobs, or some such thing. My goodness, people. Have some damn courage. Stand up for something! It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of courage to pick up stakes and leave. I know; I've done it before. In 1980 I left an economically moribund city of Ottawa suffering similar malaise and headed for the green fields of Alberta. It cost me every cent I had and I arrived in the city without a job and without prospects. And yet I still thought it was a better deal than living in a city where only the rich got richer and where the poor were an underclass. It's not just 3416 people leaving the province. It's 3416 people making the hardest decision they've ever made, 3416 people giving up on the prospect of having a good, safe and secure life here in New Brunswick, 3416 people voting in the only way they can against a system that has become inept, incompetent and corrupt. [Link] [Comment]

Scaling the Heights of Language, its Learning, and its Teaching

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015
This is a summary of a talk by Diane Larsen-Freeman at TESL 2015. It was a treat to listen to. Errors and omissions are entirely my own. This is a beautiful location - and I hear that Canadians are fond of nature. And you'll hear a lot today about econogy and nature. Complex dynamic systems. The have captured my attention. I've been talking about it for 21 years. I will start there, but the central focus of my remarks will be about fractals. I'm going to try to make the case than language is a fractal - and if that is true, what does that tell us about language learning and teaching? Complexity theory - scientists seek patterns and relations within systems. Complex is not the same as complicated - an automobile is complicated, but not complex. In complex systems you have systems made up of components which interact, and give rise to patterns at other levels of complexity. The example of a murmuration is an example of complexity. I think of language that way. The interactions of people communicating creates patterns. The perturbation - addition of an element to a system around which organization occurs. Eg. puppies forming a pinwheel around a bowl of milk. 'Emergence' is the arising of these patterns our of a complex system. Mandelbrot described the inability of traditional geometry to describe natural phenomena - clouds, mountains, coastlines, bark, lightning. (Photos of fractals in nature). The term is from the Latin 'fractus'. Anuradha Matur and Dilip de Cunha were asked to devise a strategy to build resiliance in the face of rising sea levels in Norfolk, VA. They thought, think of the coastline not as a line but as discontinuous 'fingers of high ground'. They augmented the coast with similarly shaped engineered landforms. Controlling or imposing from the top down does not work with natural systems. Fractals are self-similar at every level of scale. If you look at the whole thing and see a certain design, as you look at each smaller piece you see the same (similar) pattern repeating. These patterns are generated as a result of iteration. Eg. the Koch snowflake. See also the animated fractal mountain. Also, I've been told that the paintings of Jackson Pollack are fractals. Also, rhythm in nature. Christopher Joyce, Feb 21, 2012. Fractals are modeled with differential equations - the output of one iteration becomes the input of the next. Eg. Mandelbrot set, sample zoom. Algar 2005 p. 20 - structure of patterns from the repeated applications of a single algorithm. Nature uses fractals - they are a very efficient means of squeezing a lot of material into a small amount of space. Eg. the lungs have an enormous surface area.Eg. the brain is a fractal. So... Language is n o different from other natural phenomena in that form follows functions. For example, Zipf's power law - the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. The most frequent word occurs twice as often as the second, which occurs twice as often as the next, and so on. Eg., in the Brown corpus, the words the, if, etc. The other half is composed of the hapax legomena - words that only occur once. Why is this? Zipf argues for the conservation of speaker effort, which would prefer that there only be one word, contrasted with conservation of listener effort, in which each word has a specific meaning. This is a trade-off. So here is where the fractal effect is clearest. Zipf's law accounts not only for a large corpus as well as for specific writers - the 10 highest-frequency words account for 24 percent of a text (Schroder, 1995). Zipf's law is not controversial. Fractals follow a power law as they reduce in size by a fixed ratio. See eg. the words of Tom Sawyer, Moby Dick. Fractals emerge from dynamic processes that are recurrent. In similar fashion, patterns in language emerge from meaningful recurrent interaction among language users. Language learning: Humans are senssitive to the frequency of linguistic features they are exposed to which is reflected in their language drvelopment. So structures latent in language usage make language usable. Eg. Goldberg (2004) L1 - mothers (% of tokens) proportional to children (% of tokens). Eg verb locative. ('go') Verb object locative ('put'). VOO ('give').(MacWhinney 1995). It's not behaviousism - it's not a 100% match - but clearly the mother's use is leading the child's use. Second language acquisition (or development). Language processing in all domains is sensitive to frequency of usage. But exposure is not enough. Learners need to experience language as a dynamic system, molding and using it to adapt to the current situation. But language emerges 'upwards' in the sense that innovative language-using patterns emerge from a person using the language interactively. It's a socio-cognitive process. Think of the phenomenon of 'emergence from exemplars' Eg. examples of fuzzy images of Tiananmen Square, Brandenburg Gate, Mt. Fuji, or the great Pagoda. Corinne Vionnet - compiles them from many different photos. The image, the view, etc., is 'socially negotiated' - we are around that spot, but no two people are in the same spot. We all have our own language resources, they're overlapping, but they're ann unique as well. Larsen-Freeman and Cameron (2008) - the cognitive process are inextricably interwoven with their experiences in the sopcial and physical world. The context of language is socially constructed and negotiated on a moment to moment basis. This counters the tendency to portray learner language as being an incomplete and deficient version of the native speaker language. But is is also important that this implicit process be accompanied by explicit guidance in noticing and practicing features of the target language, especially where L1 operates differently from L2. But how can we cooperate with the natural processes as defined by nature, just as we don't want to build a wall against the rising tides? If we think about fractal patterns, we're going to think about iterations. So how about designing activities where language-using patterns as defined by context of use, in keeping with learners' goals, are iteracted - not repeated, not the same thing, but similar. Eg. as a model - 36 views of Mt. Fuji - under the wave off Kanagawa. Sanjurokkei. Complex systems are built up through iterations. They encounter and use the patterns repeatedly. But not repetition. navigating the tension between convention and iteration. Eg. a text. read. Then do a cloze analysis. Remove a few words. And teach adaptation. What is learned in one context needs to be used in another. Take what they know and (not 'transfer') transform it. How can we teach adaptation? Take their present system and mold it to a new context. Maybe Earl Stevick's idea of technemes. Change the conditions slightly for completing a task - eg. change the time allowed, etc. Same task, use the 4-3-2 technique. (Tell a story in 4 minutes, in 3 minutes, in 2 minutes - forces them to be more fluent, they extend their usage of lexical items, etc). Also - bilinguals' languages are nit separate and complete, but create a repertoire emerging out of local practices. Use bilibgualism as a resource. We are, after all, teachers of learners, not only teachers of language. Eg: allow a student to read a text in their own language first, or provide many opportunities for low-stakes writing in any language they wish. Eg June 2015 - Juan Pelipe Herrera - mixture of english and spanish. Also, create multilingual spaces (Helot, 2014), where students are not silences because they cannot use their L1. And finally, assess earners' progress in a self-referential way, not against some idealized target, but looking at what the learner is doing over time. It's not about conformity to uniformity. Through iteration and adaptation learners find the balance, and heelp all of us along the way. [Link] [Comment]

Advice for David Campbell, Chief Economist

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 The province has just announced that it is appointing David W. Campbell it's "chief economist". Campbell discusses the appointment here. Regular readers know I have responded to Campbell frequently in these pages. Just before his appointment (or maybe on knowing he will have it) Campbell posted an "economic development magnum opus", outlining the key planks of his development philosophy. I take this opportunity to reply to them
We must move from a financial program-centric to an opportunities approach to economic development Everyone is in favour of supporting opportunities as opposed to merely giving out money, but the devil is in the details. What does it mean to "support an opportunity" other than providing money? Yes, there are policy changes that can be made, but the bulk of support is still financial. Does it mean "picking winners"? I think that with solid value propositions there's no harm in that - but it's urgent that such a program doesn't devolve into cronyism, or into giving the same old enterprises more money. But I offer qualified support to this approach, provided the mechanisms are open and transparent. We need to implement an ROTI model (return on taxpayer investment) – all investments in economic development should be able to demonstrate a return on the taxpayers’ investment. I used to tell people around here that "we're all in the tourism business", because people don't just see the main attractions when they come here, they see (and touch, and talk to) everything. In the same way, we're "all" in the economic development business. Every investment the province makes - from schools built out in the countryside to a local arena to a resort lodge at Larry's Gulch - has an economic development impact. But not everything demonstrates ROI to the taxpayer, nor should it. Our schools, for example, are crucial to economic development - people will not move here if they cannot ensure a quality education for their children. But any attempt to represent their ROI is a bit facetious; we would build them no matter what. Conversely, things that seem to generate ROTI might in the larger picture be disastrous. Fracking and uranium mining might fit into that category. They might generate incolme, but they might make the province a place that nobody wants to live. The economy is a complex system. No individual element's ROI can be calculated. The contribution of one depends on the existence of, and the contributions of, the others. So we really have to be careful about using a one-off calculation like ROTI. We need to turbocharge the workforce – Less worry on short term interprovincial migration and more concern for long term impact on business investment decisions arising from a tight labour market. We have to stop the whole harangue about "bringing our children home". We're not some outport economy; we want to be part of a modern technological society, and that means migration. People want to move, they want to follow opportunities, they want to experience new lifestyles. We are lucky that our children can grow and develop in most any province or country in the world. Many societies cannot offer that opportunity. So, conversely, we need to become attractive to new migration, to people who have never lived in New Brunswick before (like me!) and people who have never lived in Canada before. We are so used to depicting the province as an economic basket case, but to many people around the world, this is a land of opportunity. And we need to start thinking innovatively when planning to attract these people. Consider settlers' grants: we will grant you title to land if you settle on it for ten years and develop it into viable enterprise. In the long run, that creates far more return than simply giving the forestry rights away for free to some large company that hides its profits in offshore accounts. We need to target high growth potential entrepreneurs (HGPEs) not just our current small business fetish – we need to create the environment for these HGPEs – not just small business owners/lifestyle businesses. I frankly have seen little evidence of a "small business fetish" in recent years. From my perspective the bulk of attention and investment has been to subsidize large local incumbents who don't need the money. Having said that, I don't disagree in principle with the strategy, though I believe it has to be based on creating a sustainable value proposition for these companies, and not merely in cobbling together a short term incentives package. We've seen enough cases where a company will locate in the province only for so long as the subsidies persist, only to pull up stakes when the government largess ends. We want to be an environment where it is easy for small businesses to enter and exit the business playing field – we want to encourage lots of local competition and dynamic local markets. This ties closely to an urbanization strategy. And frankly, even in tiny New Brunswick, it is expensive to start an enterprise. We need actual markets - places where new businesses and start, compete, and flourish or fail on a dime.But our craft markets have become a monopoly, our malls and main streets too expensive to operate in for long, our farmers' markets small, fragmented, and mostly closed. We have few innovation centres, few places where someone can make a go of it. The only real wayt to succeed in the province is to know someone who can get you a government grant that will sustain you long enough to get on your feet. That's not the way to do it. But our growth strategies need to be focused on those entrepreneurs that want to use NB as a base to build a global business. Then we need direct flights to Europe. Even if they show net losses over the years. We need cheaper energy. We need (and have just obtained) access to global-bandwidth internet. We need, in other words, to be connected to these markets. I used to tell people that, from a global perspective, New Brunswick is centrally located. We're the last mainland nexus on the western side linking North America and Europe. We should be taking advantage of that. We need to focus on attracting investment – particularly investment that fosters product or services export growth. Yes, but again we have to be careful. Investment expects a return. There's no problem with that, unless we are the source of that return. Investment based on extracting wealth from the local economy isn't helpful in the long run. We need investment that attracts income into the region. Investment based on global services, export income, or some such thing. That was the strength of McKenna's approach - people complained about the low wages, but mostly didn't notice the fact that the call centres were bringing money from outside the province into it. But I think you get this... We spend way too much of our effort trying to squeeze more investment out of the local business community. Between PNB, ACOA, CBDCs, local agencies, NRC, NBIF, etc. we have somewhere in the range of 300-350 people working in economic development in New Brunswick – not a single one located out in the actual world where the trade, investment and immigrant opportunities actually exist. Right. Our people need to be out there, bringing opportunity back home (where, hopefully, there is receptive capacity to build on it). You've just described my current job. We need to break New Brunswick’s culture of apathy... New Brunswickers need to believe their province can change, can address its big challenges and can become a younger, multicultural, growing and dynamic place that is developing growth industries Break the Irvings and you'll break the apathy. I know that this sounds extreme. But the reason there is apathy in this province is that the only people who ever seem to benefit from growth and development are the Irvings. Moreover, any enterprise that seeks to rise up in (or move into) the province must contend with Irving monopolies. It means that if they engage in any area of business that the Irvings consider their own - and there are many - they must face down the weight of Irving sanctions. It is a huge weight hung around our collective neck and it prevents any real efforts at diversification - or, for that matter, democracy. We need to fully engage local government and local community and business leaders in our economic development efforts. I agree with this. This entails a culture of openness and transparency, an end to croneyism and patronage, the development of policy and investments that make sense on the federal level and on the local level. It entails, in other words, a complete change from top to bottom in the way government does business in the province. I don't know whether we're up to it. But I do agree that it's make-or-break time. We need to be able to develop our natural resources in a sustainable and responsible fashion. I think we'll find that in the not-too-distant future a dependence on fossil fuels will be viewed as a liability, and not a strength. Even as we rush to enable exports to Europe in response to short-term geopolitical considerations, Europe is rushing to become independent of fossil fuels, hence becoming fully free of Russian and Middle-Eastern politics. They will no more welcome new sources from Canada than they do from Putin or from the Sheiks. And then there's global warming, and the damage our current government's indifference to it is doing to our global reputation. When I travel abroad, people ask me, "what has happened to Canada?" Short-term gain here means long term pain. New Brunswick does have natural resources, but they are not the sort of resources people think of when they think of energy and mining. The abundant rainfall and the temperate climate are assets not to be dismissed lightly. We need an urban growth agenda. If you go back to the 1950s until today, rural population growth in New Brunswick was fairly similar to the rest of the country (modest increase). It was urban growth where we lagged substantially. Here again I agree, but with an asterisk. And the asterisk is this: we have to stop developing suburbs, and start developing cities. And we have to do this in a way that makes these cities dynamic and interesting places to live. In the last decades we have gone backwards. Our cities are not livable - these days they're unbearable. Pedestrians have to walk along main roads; our sidewalks are choked in snow while some special suburbs (like Royal Oaks) get special treatment. The summer is little better; our sidewalks are tiny and broken, our transit systems ineffective, our parks being converted to big box malls. And there's no means to change this because there's little or no urban representation in government. Our city wards and provincial ridings are splinters, each with the small sharp end some part of the urban core, and the larger part a suburban and rural population. Without a voice, people who live in the cities cannot shape policy. We need to focus on innovation – across the spectrum. ... I want to bring back the “living lab” vision for New Brunswick. I'd love to see this. In my early days in the province I met with people from Service NB, NBSS, the schools and the universities. Not the spark has gone out of their eyes as inflexible and centrally controlled governance has gradually ground them down. The province would do well to set them free, to encourage diversity and innovation across the system, even if it steps on a few well-connected toes. When messaging we need to target our audiences. Almost all stories in the national media relating to New Brunswick are negative. Business leaders, immigrants and other key groups see these stories. We need to change the national narrative. Fine. But the only way to change the narrative is to change the facts. We are the Greece of Canada. A tiny number of people control the province, extracting wealth from it, and putting nothing back in to support growth and development. Our people are depicted as lazy, but in fact they cannot succeed without connections and cronyism. We have abundant resources, but they are sold for a fraction of their value. We grant large tax breaks to companies who don't need it, and who make promises that are soon broken. The problem with New Brunswick does not lie in the people of New Brunswick, nor in the stories that are being told about the province. It lies in the leadership, which has been an utter disaster for the last decade, a leadership that lies to the people to get elected and sells its soul to the highest bidder within a few months of the polls. These problems exist not only at the provincial level but at the local levels as well, where it is sometimes difficult to believe that key elements of city governance have not been bought and paid for by special interests to wrest personal profit from the public purse. We have a chance with a new government to change that. I can't say I feel confident that it will change, but the mandate is yet early and perhaps this government has more backbone that we've yet seen. It's easy for a government to stand up to the people and say it will cut services or raise taxes. It is much harder for a government to stand up to major corporations and interests and to say it will govern in the interests of the people and for the future prosperity of the province. [Link] [Comment]

Notes from ELI 2015 Riyadh - Day One

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 Rob Kadel
The Untapped Potential for eLearning Pearson Research & amp; Innovation Network / University of Colorado Denver - learning to think laterally, or to think divergently (think outside the box) - instead of thinking of one answer, thinking of many possible answers - example: alternative ways to commute to work - Research & amp; Innovation Network (Pearson) - Kimberly O'Malley, head - turning ideas into useful and usable innovation networks - various centres for different projects - accomoplishments: collaborative games, essay scoring algoritms, etc - Student success - what does it mean? - beyond school - Oxford Economics survey 2011 - skills most in demand: - interpersonal and communication skills - digital - agile thinking - global operating skills - CEOs valued these, but said most employees today do not have these skills - we can reach this, but have to look at the world students live in today - The current environment - tech in schools - two speeds: full steaam ahead, or, what do we do now? - we need to meet students in their own space, in the technology they already use - Personalized Learning - Howard Gardner: individuation, pluralization - individuation: each student taught in ways that are comfortable - pluralization: anytung being taught should be taught in several ways (to reach more students) - in a practical snese - not just 1:1 computing - students and teachers customize learning objectives and strategies for work - rigorous curriculum framework - relevant assessment, teachers as facilitators - SAMR model of technology integration - It takes a village: components of education transformation - leadership: establish vision, lead by example, - policy: align with outcoms - curriculum and assessment - in alignment with each other, must ensure students gain essential knowledge and 21st c skills - digital tech - tools and data to support personalization - sustinable resourcing - develop resources at scale - research and evaluation - Purposful planning - getting to goals - eg. 'all studnets must achieve success in mathematics before graduation' - need to clearly define what these thinsg are - Goals & gt; Objectives & gt; Activities & gt; Tasks (hierarchal structure) - if you can measure the tasks, you can measure all the way up - the task level is the easiest to measure - eg. Pearson's MathXL - importance of verbs (action words) - use Bloom's digital taxonomy (HOTS to LOTS) - the full-steam ahead approach is not purposeful - need to map out all learning tasks beforehand (example, school with Chromebooks couldn't read MS Word documents) - ensure that adequate staff are assigned to each task - ensure that budgets are accurate - that you can measure the success of your program - Learning outcomes and efficacy - it isn't enough to merely be good, you have to do good (ie., you have to show you are good) - Pearson - has taken a strong effort to measure our products and our services (video clip from Pearson CEO) (but no, this isn't an advertisement for Pearson, he assures us) - "return on investment in human capital" - measuring the tasks = measuring efficacy - Challenges in the Gulf region - infrastructure - are all schools and all users connected? - leadership - are leaders supporting and demonstrating effective technology use? - language - more than half of websites that exist are in English - how to maintain rich heritage of Arabic language - but how to teach them all English - digital literacy - students need basic understanding of how to use devices - not just mobile phones, can you work with computers, eg., save and send a file - professional development for teachers Q& amp;A - Q: will tech in the education field cut out labour, the way it has in other fields - A: I don't think it will replace teachers - there is the danger or potential that it will replace teachers, but that's not the way we want to go - want to keep teachers as facilitators - Q: you talk about an outcome-based theory, based on tasks, which is a classical theory around for years - but do you do tasks first, or goals first? - A: just a way of redefining the way we have thought of education in the past - it is very difficult to measure goals, but it is possible to measure the outcomes - Q: what about social media - A: replicate them in the 'walled garden' -- or experiment with tools (but they don't always work) - Q: knowledge is non-reductive? - A: it depemds on the language we use - 'what does it really mean'? Olaf Zawacki-RichterThe development of online distance education and media usage behavior in higher education - traditional students - 1950s - male, - C.A.Wedemeyer 1981 - increasing diversity in university, beginning of open university, open admissions - University of London 1826 "beginning" of open university, distance learning - 1889 - sample of advertisement describing correspondance study - so correspondance education is closely linked to the development of the postal system in Europe - South Arica - UNISA - The open learning movement - begins in the 1960s - list: OU (1969), Athabasca (1970), FernUniversitat (1974) - some very large ones - China, Turkey - new open universities - Nigeria, Malaysia - UMUC - development of online distance education - more open universities - Russia - traditional campuses - eg. Penn State - 'world campus' Institutional Structures - Oldenberg University, Germany - need organizational structure to "manage this process in a profeessional way" - Centre for Lifelong Learning (C3L) - Structure of the blended learning program: - independent study phase - 1st cintact session - online projevt work - 2nd contact session - project portfolios Instructional design model: ADDIE - emohasis on first phase, evry important - need to know prior knowledge, media preferences Media usage behavious in Education - does the net generation now arrive at the university? - very few empirical studies supporting the claims of Tapscott, Presnky, etc - so what are these studients doing? Research questions: wat do they use, what is their value, informal media, etc? - exploratory study - data in 2012 - big 276 question survey, 2,339 students fro German universities - 99% have access to broadband, 38% use internet 4-6 hours per day - media typology (Grosch and Gidion) - acceptance rates llfdifferent tools and rechnologies - second Life - dead last on the list - cluster analysis - 5 groups: - ubiquitous web services, email, LMS - provuided by uni - eg. online library - cooperation & amp; entertainment - comouter conference, social netwirks, iTines - external web 2.0 toos, blogs, skype - exotic applications - 2nd life, Twitter - not used much for learning - high acceptance by traditional studnets just a few, eg. email, non-traditional students use a wide range of tools - gap between demand and supply of e-learning, significantly higher demand for e-learning among non-trad - media usage typology - entertainment - 51% - periphrial - 20% - advanced - 20% - instrumental - 7% - Implications: - developed authoring tool for courses for tablets - iAcademy - C3LLO - mobile LMS - mostly for communications - no relationship between age and media usage - very high acceptance for LMS and print-based materials - the university should not imitate informal social networks Richard L. Edwards Executive Director, iLearn Research, Ball State UniversityIncreasing Student Success through Online Learning, Learning Analytics, and Learner-Centered Practices - student success - students maximizing their abilities - online education joins: online learning, learning analytcs, and learning processes - from minister of education: "less teaching, more learning" - more learning = more effective teachning Student Success - formal vs informal learning - learning anytime, anywhere - learning how to learn - lifelong learning Areas of broad agreement at #ELI_2015 - we have the technology to make online learning effective - the demand for online education is growing rapidly - 21st century learners were born into a digitally connected workd - there will continue to be waves of innivation in e-learning Claim: students are leading us into the "postmodality" er - online learning is no longer a novelty - meeting the needs of these students will require institutional ecosystems Thomas Cavanaugh, 2012, Educause Premise #1 - success in online learning requires an ecosystem - can't focus on student success in isolation from, eg: - faculty development, eLearning support, 3rd party support, IT support, admin & amp; services - "we have educated them in terms of their whole mind and body" - clubs, sports, etc - we have to replicate that in online learning - Ball State's iLearn Premise #2 - eLearning mindstes andd our cultures of learning affect how we develop our online programs - institutions that take risks succeed, institutions thta take a step back do not succeed - success is possible, but you first have to believe that onlin innovation is what you want to do - "You have to believe" - Drector of iLearn - chief moral officer: - foster continuous learning among faculty and staff - encourage critical and creative thinking, new solutions, etc - turn research into practice, support pilot projects, fail fast - build a culture of assessment to identify successes and failures "we no longer can talk about what constitutes great teaching without evidence" - disruptive innovative - elewarning has that potential, but it won't be destructive - educate more of your citizens at a lower cost - continbuous evolution - the more we talk about teaching and learning and the less about technology the more success you will have Premise #3 - anticipate great change - what is going to change the most? education, work, or society? - I would say all of them are going to change a lot - the drivers are deep changes in the nature of work - the jobs 20 years from now aren't the jobs of today Overview of iearn Research Projects - new forms of content delivery - open educational resources - learning analytics - gamification - flipped intsruction - enhancing student engagement Slide: Support :: learner Centred Practices Engagement :: Blended and Online Learning Feedback :: Learning Analytics (Research-based model :: Action Research Projects) Analytics - student in the centre - types of anaytics, stakeholders, data quality and transfers, potentiql bottlenecks, scale of analytics - speed of anaytics - small data: descriptive; big data: predictive 3 Takeaways - Adopt best practices for learners (7 principles of good practice - Chickering and Gamson 1987) - what are the practices great students do - eg. self-regulation - eg. Ball State MOOC to give students better skills - note-taking, study skills, historical thinking, writing skills - help students develop their metacogntive skills - learning how to learn - most of your existing tools can be reourposed to support this - eg our HITS project - eg. pretest for foundational skills, then fix deficiencies - eg. write metacognitive questions to be answered each week - identify misunderstandings and confusions - based on data from online course - students responses result in just-in-time changes - start small pilot projects, see how it works in your ecosystem, and evaluate outcomes - collqborate with faculty and staff - strategic coordination - teaching is teaching; learning is learning Q: should we be building one platform for the whole country, o multiple platforms? A: I tend to favour one platform, because of support costs, but prefer a flexible and customizable approach - one platform for all is just good business sense Q: suggestion to use MOOCs not to teach a course, but to teach the skills hey need - but how do we make sure students use them? A: we're going to require the prep-MOOC for every student that gets a deficiency grade at the mid-term [Link] [Comment]

OER Business Models - A Debate

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-11-02 05:09 (Stephen Downes), Half an Hour, Nov 01, 2015 This is a summary of a debate including four participants, listed below, at OER2014. Errors and omissions are still my own.
What is your mission in OER and what is your business model? David Harris - OpenStax It's really about access, providing access to the highest quality OERs possible. A whole suite of products beyond the textbook. We've created an ecosystem around learning materials. This ecosystem is the core of our business. Eg. we might partner with John Wiley & amp; sones. We works with multiple partners to provide more options and choice for our partners. Lisa Petrides - IKSME Our mission is about maximizing all of these open access tools that enable breakthroughs in teaching and learning. We build tools, develop capacity, support the OER Commons library, etc. There are two main components to the business model: first, the R& amp;D side, and second, the service department, that offers services around the capacity-building piece, showing people how to organize and use their content. The core is, how does it impact the learner? David Wiley - Lumen Two-fold mission: save students money and improve student success. We have a particular focus on at-risk students, so especially the community college. The business model is based on helping faculty make the transition from commercial to open textbooks. Any course that we provide support for we charge a per-enrollment fee. All the content is CC-licensed content, and the platform is open source as well. Gary Lopez - MITE / Ed-Ready Our mission is to improve access to everyone. The goal of the inrov project is to make sure online K-12 content is available to every person at no cost. The business model supports business and mission goals. In addition tot he content, there is a membership component, whgich supports both goals. Reactions: To Gary: if your're not a member of the community, what are your rights of access? Gary: if you're an individual you have full rights to use and re-use. We focus on institutions - if you're an institution, we ask that you join our membership. What does it mean to be sustainable? Lisa - ISKME is a non-profit. It's very much of a Linux model - the content itself should forever be free and open. Access is always available. It's different from what Gary talked about - it means that any wrap-around services are going to be another type of service, eg., we might to an LTI or API integration, or a workflow process - some such thing. The key to being sustainable is to always ask, how do we keep that part (the core part) free? Gary - there a fundamental difference between for-profits and non-profits in their goals. In for-profits the business goals are financials, and officers have a responsibility to achieving financial goals. Unless there's a special arrangements to make supporting OERs the goal, the financial responsibility always rises to the top. When a non-profit is set up, the mission is the goal. David - sustainability is critical to us, especially if you are on the producing side of OER, and especially if you think it has to be a market-based solution, which means it has to be of high quality. I think it is irresponsible of a non-profit to assume you will be given philanthropy. As you move toward sustainability you get greater independence and greater opportunity to pursue strategies that support the mission. As a non-profit we don't have the overhead that for-profits need to generate, so we can produce at a lower cost. David Wiley - what's my ongoing ability to continue to meet my goals? For Lumen it means being able to continute to partner with institutions and continue to drop the price to zero, and be able to look beyond the grant. Reactions: Lisa - the two people beside me came from the publishing side. What was that like? Gary: I dodn't copme from publishing; I was faculty. My company got purchased by Harcourt. You don't have a cost of money. You can go into markets more aggressively. Davis Harris: we started out pro-market, but then it became just about the shareholders, which I didn't like. To provide the greatest access, we have to think about marketplace solutions. Lisa: let's look at this. What's been working in open food has been from the bottom-up. But we are still working from a top-down perspective (eg., responding to concerns raised by publishers). David Wiley: we became for-profit to maximize our ability to succeed, eg., we can partner with institutions, and we can get more traditional investment as well, so we don't have to rely on grants. The quality issue Dave prings up is interesting; hostorically nobody talked about quality - it was always some proxy for quality. What's the only actual condition? Whether kids learn from it. So we don't get distracted by how glossy it is. David Harris: you are misinterpreting what really counts as quality. Eg. there are review boards, etc. Gary: we're gathering data, that data has to do with efficacy, whether people succeed. It was before that the issue of whether people were actually learning never came into the equation (with commercial publishers). Lisa: so 'sustainability' in OERs is about learning. Ho do you define OER, and why do yopur think your busineess is OER? Gary: we don't think about the definition of OER. We're focused on our mission to provide access to quality education for evertone. Whether or not something falls within the definition is secondary. David Harris: I don't think it matters what I think it is, that's defined by the license we use. We use the CC-by license, which is critically important, because it provides freedom to the end user. We use this to sell the concept to academics. They realize they can publish derivative versions, for example. David Wiley: I'm on the other end of the scale; I obsess about it. There's a two-part - there has to be free and unfettered access to the resource; and I have to have free and perpetual ability to engage in the 5R activities. As a matter of contract, any school we work with, the license says the work we produce has tp be OER. Lisa: how we define OER is that it isn't a thing, it is a practice; it includes content and curation and quality and rigor and standards and change in teaching practice. When we say we are in the business of OErs it is about free and open access to the world's knowledge. It's in the last few years we've really understood our role as a public library; we're not serving an institution. The other thing about OER Commons is we aggregate all of the licenses into four buckets. David Harris: we have to be careful as a community because over the next 12-18 months we will see more and more 'openwashing' by major publishers, because OER is establishing a brand identity. And questions about who should be producing it? Gary: anyone who want to. Who shouldn't? David Wiley: to Lisa, if the category becomes so broad, it's difficult to know what we're ftalking about. Eg. open pedagogy is different from OER. Lisa: our open speaker used the work 'ecosystem'. You cna't just have the seed: you need the market, and the water. It has to be inclusive of the whole piece. Otherwise you have ssomething disjointed and not sustainable. Eg. if you have contenbt and nobody uses it, how is it that we have OER? It can't just be about this thing. David Wiley: but each of the parts of the econsystem has a name, the ecosystem is 'open education'. Gary: but it does show that just creating them and putting them out there has no value. You have to maintain them, have version control, etc. That's hard. Q3. What does it mean to say we're giving the seeds away for free, but not the water, etc? Lisa: well that'\s why we say it's a whole ecosystem. As opposed to the strategy of building this part, then that part, etc. If you build the whole thing at once, that's sustainable. David Harris: yes, but we thionk we don't have to build the whole ecosystem ourselves. If you are going to build the whole system, you can't have everything free, all the time. You are going to need revenue. Gary: lets get back to access and equity. Free access doesn't mean anything if you don't get back to the mission, which is to help people succeed. So there need to be measures you can measure to show that you can attain that. We should all be thinking about the mission. We don't have to build it all ourselves. We're all working in different ways, but united in purpose. David Wiley: it's like the whole approach to OERs in the early days was like we set up a table with seeds, and said, here are free seeds, we've solved world hunger. Then we argued a lot about what the boxes look like, And we're learninging we have to add more support. David Harris: but we're also learned that equity doesn't mean it always has to be free. Gary: books are expensive because they're expensive to create. That's not free, and we have to find ways to pay for it, to bring the price down but not scrimp on the value we create. David Wiley: it would be interesting to see what are all the steps involved in producing high quality materials. It would be interesting what happens when we pull out some of the steps and see whether there is a difference in equity. David Harris: faculty would demand full evidence. That gets into scale. How many of those conversations could we have? Gary: I think we can always come back to an economic argument to suppoort it. Lisa: I think we should have an equivalent of true cost accounting for this. David Harris: I don't think it will be looking at the efficacy of learning systems. But learning systems are not inexpensive to develop. What is the impact of an open license on a sustainable business model? David Wiley: two different ways: open licenses completely enable everything we do, because the licenses create the infracture that supports everything we do. On the other hand, because we have this licensing requirement, then putting that license in a contract (and being willing to walk away when it's not there) helps us snowball the value we can provide every time we work with somebody. Gary: David is sport on. But th impact is, any license will limit therange of business models that are possible. So a business model limited by an open license means not restricting usage of the system to people with buying power. And if usage is not so limited, then it opens up other models - by selling services, by selling secondary materials such as advertising, etc. You need to build the business model first, then craft the license. Lisa: our business model depends on having etachers and institutions, etc., to actually work with on these projects. The license acts as a conduit to make this happen. Because without the license we wouldn't have the users. As nice as it is to have big government initiatives, the majority of people have actually created their own kind of license that meets their needs. That's why we've created this mapping into four buckets. One is a free-for-all, another is a remix-and-share, another is share, and another is read-the-fine-print. Davoid Harris: i agree, you need a common set of licenses sso you have a common language. Gary's system would create a proliferation of licenses, you meet business needs, but not learning needs. people were concered about CC-by licenses, because you lose control. But these concerns were misplaced. I have seen very little profiteering from it. And on the positive side we have 30 ecosystem partners. It may be called an open license, I call it an innovation license. Gary: yes, there would be a lot of versions. But the question is, how it impacts sustainability. If there are limited numbers of license, there are limited ways to create sustainability. That's what we're doing. A lot of what we have is CC-by, but other stuff has a different license. This was never going to be a debate. Business modles speak for themselves, they either work or they don't. David Wiley: on license proliferation, even within Creative Commons, we have some Legos, we have some Duplos, we have some knockoffs that don't fit either. At the end of the day we have some questions about whether the different licenses actually fit. There's a finite amount of time and effort we can undertake to make them fit together. David Harris: David is correct. If there were mnore standardization around a common license, there would be more activity, more remixing. Gary: Let's get back to mission. If our mission is to help people learn, we can get stuck in a rut on this. There are many ways to help people. How do you forsee your business models disrupting existing business models? David Harris: we've disrupted the higher ed publishing industry in the folloing ways: from day one, all students have access to the learning materials; second, we have lowered costs even when open licenses are not used, because there is a ripple effectof lower costs; and third we are leveling the plaaying field of non-standard producers. We are breaking barriers down. Forth, OER can be blended now, because of OpenStax materialss - people take small pieces and embed them in online learning envrionments. We are supporters of open data; publishers were previously very closed with their data. Lisa: aside from the cost, etc., the role of what you teach and how you teach is often determined in a top-down way, especially in K-12, but we are actually empowering teachers to take back control of the professionalism of their own practice; they leave and take the practices back to their classrooms and we get calls from boards saying "what's going on?" Also, in some ways as a field, we went to far too quickly gto try to define what sustainability was. David Wiley: i don't like to use the 'd' word. I don't think we're there yet. I think in some ways we're starting to be annoying to publishers. But I don't think we've broken open the market yet. Once we take a billion dollars oout of the market then we'll be there. Where there has been some stuff going on is this intuition that 'you get what you pay for' - this is opening up some efficacy reserach conversations. I would cite John Hilton's work is more exhaustive on OERs than all the peer-reviewed work on the efficacy of pearson's work. Gary: we actually may have crossed over this year, and disruption many have happened. Eg. math product - the system has been adopted by states like Montana, Utaha, Hawaii, nd more. And we've been adopted by hundreds of schools. So what does Ed-Ready disrupt? It eliminates texts, tuitions and time involved in math remediation. And the efficacy is bringing people from secondary to post-secondary at an unrepcedented rate. And those who are using Ed-Ready are remixing it. In Montana there are some 400 versions of it. And we are really upsetting Pearson. David Harris: it doesn't take 30-40% market share to impact publihers. 10% works. Gary: that depends on the market. It is true in the book market, but not the assessment market. David Wiley: one strategy we've had is not to go after individual courses, but to go aafter entire degree programs. When you can flip the entire degree program, now as a student I can actually budget for it. We've now pulled a third of the cost out of a degree program. Gary: what we're seeing is not opnly are we displaying high-stakes texts, we're creating pathways. We find ourselves being adopted by a college, and then being adpated by their feeder systems. The uptake by feeders systems has been breathtaking. Lisa: I love and applaude these efforts, eg., the high stakes test alteratives. But what does it mean to ahve the market. We're still doing ecucation pretty much the way we were. It still costs money. I'm still looking to see what's possible in this market. What does it look like to have the corner store? What does it look like to have the seed exchange? We need a way to see what it could look like the other way. Gary: we're beginning to see this. We're beginning to see what it looks like when people build things that meet their own needs. We're not just seeing people build more stuff. We're seeing people build stuff that works better. Eg. to supporrt personal learning. We're coming up against some of the real tenets of pub,lic education which is not working. Closing Statements Gary: I'm delighted we're analyzing and re-examining our mission. Also, though, we should be looking at how to rebuild the connectedness in the community. Perhaps that's because it seems like we're competing with each other. But we don't see that this is so; we're competing with pearson and the commercial publishers. So I hope this will be the start of a clear commitment to OER and to one another. Lisa: pne one hand we're not competing in a traditional way, but at the same time I think some of our ideas and how we're going about them might be in conflict with others, but that's still OK, but we suffer from the milquetoast that we're all one big happy family - let's have more disagreement. Some people day "don't put a crack in what we're doing" but i think we should be innovative, have arguments - competition does push us forward. David Harris. First, please recommend OpenStax to others. Now, there was a Gates report - there is great opportunity for OERs. But our market size is 3-4%. So we are an irritant. There is a debate of whether we focus on supply or demand. But of course we need to do both. Yes we need supply. But just building it is not enough. We need to build the tools. The goal is to get to 10% of the market - if we do, we can win the market. If we work together we can do it. DavidWiley. So, amen and hallaluja to everything else that has been said. Don't make seeds and put them on the table. Pick a problem and go try to solve that problem. Pick developmental math and go try to solve that problem. Pick something concrete and go fix it. If it's concrete enough you'll know that you've fixed it. Everyone on this panel - we've picked a problem. Who is feeling pain, how can we fix this pain, then we went and solved it. Closing points: - over the next year or so, there will be ways to continue this conversation - eg.Creative Commons business model project (Lumen learning - ) - we don't all have to agree on things, it's good to have polite disagreements (Oscar Wilde - "friends stab you in the front") - applause please [Link] [Comment]


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