I enjoyed reading (July)

Artificial Intelligence Is Now Telling Doctors How to Treat You (Daniela Hernandez)

Artificial intelligence is still in the very early stages of development–in so many ways, it can’t match our own intelligence–and computers certainly can’t replace doctors at the bedside. But today’s machines are capable of crunching vast amounts of data and identifying patterns that humans can’t. Artificial intelligence–essentially the complex algorithms that analyze this data–can be a tool to take full advantage of electronic medical records, transforming them from mere e-filing cabinets into full-fledged doctors’ aides that can deliver clinically relevant, high-quality data in real time.

Carl Sagan on Science and Spirituality (Maria Popova)

Plainly there is no way back. Like it or not, we are stuck with science. We had better make the best of it. When we finally come to terms with it and fully recognize its beauty and its power, we will find, in spiritual as well as in practical matters, that we have made a bargain strongly in our favor.

But superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way, distracting us, providing easy answers, dodging skeptical scrutiny, casually pressing our awe buttons and cheapening the experience, making us routine and comfortable practitioners as well as victims of credulity.

Is it OK to be a luddite?

Perhaps, there is some middle-ground, not skepticism or luddism, but what Sean calls digital agnosticism. So often in our discussions of online education and teaching with technology, we jump to a discussion of how or when to use technology without pausing to think about whether or why. While we wouldn’t advocate for a new era of luddism in higher education, we do think it’s important for us to at least ask ourselves these questions.

We use technology. It seduces us and students with its graphic interfaces, haptic touch-screens, and attention-diverting multimodality. But what are the drawbacks and political ramifications of educational technologies? Are there situations where tech shouldn’t be used or where its use should be made as invisible as possible?

Reclaiming the Web for the Next Generation (Doug Belshaw):

Those of us who have grown up with the web sort-of, kind-of know the mechanics behind it (although we could use a refresher). For the next generation, will they know the difference between the Internet and Google or Facebook? Will they, to put it bluntly, know the difference between a public good and a private company?

7 things good communicators must not do (Garr Reynolds): Reynolds creates a short list of items taken from this TED Talk by Julian Treasure. If you can’t watch the video, here are the things to avoid:

1. Gossip
2. Judgement
3. Negativity
4. Complaining
5. Excuses
6. Exaggeration (lying)
7. Dogmatism
Reynolds added another item to the list; 8. Self-absorption

Personal Learning Networks, CoPs Connectivism: Creatively Explained (Jackie Gerstein): Really interesting post demonstrating student examples of non-linguistical knowledge representation.

The intent of this module is to assist you in developing a personalized and deep understanding of the concepts of this unit – the concepts that are core to using social networking as a learning venue. Communities of Practice, Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks, create one or a combination of the following to demonstrate your understanding of these concepts: a slide show or Glog of images, an audio cast of sounds, a video of sights, a series of hand drawn and scanned pictures, a mindmap of images, a mathematical formula, a periodic chart of concepts, or another form of nonlinguistic symbols. Your product should contain the major elements discussed in this module: CoPs, Connectivism, and Personal Learning Networks. These are connected yet different concepts. As such they should be portrayed as separate, yet connected elements.

The open education infrastructure, and why we must build it (Davis Wiley)

Open Credentials
Open Assessments
Open Educational Resources
Open Competencies

This interconnected set of components provides a foundation which will greatly decrease the time, cost, and complexity of the search for innovative and effective new models of education.

I enjoyed reading (December)

reading outsideI’m going to try something new on this blog. At the end of every month I’ll write a short post highlighting the things I particularly enjoyed reading. I found that simply pushing them into a Twitter or Google+ feed would tend to obfuscate them among all of the other things that I wanted to point out to people. I guess this post is a way to say, “Of all the things I read this month, these are the ones I enjoyed the most”. I’m not trying to summarise everything I read, just present a small sampling. I’ll try it out for a few months and see if I like the process.

 

The web we lost (Anil Dash). A look back over the past 5-10 years of social media and how things have changed, usually not for the better. In many instances, we’re actually worse off now than we were before the rise of the new social platforms. He talks about how we’re progressively losing control of our online identities, of the content we create and share (and which makes those platforms as powerful as they are), and lost sight of the values that actually led to the development of the web in the first place. Here’s a quote from the end of the article:

I know that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. They’re amazing achievements, from a pure software perspective. But they’re based on a few assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.

The first step to disabusing them of this notion is for the people creating the next generation of social applications to learn a little bit of history, to know your shit, whether that’s about Twitter’s business model or Google’s social features or anything else. We have to know what’s been tried and failed, what good ideas were simply ahead of their time, and what opportunities have been lost in the current generation of dominant social networks.

Update: Here’s a follow up post from Anil on Rebuilding the web we lost.

 

Mobile Learning, Non-Linearity, Meaning-Making (Michael Sean Gallagher). What I liked most about this post is the suggestion, presented below, that the true power of “mobile” is that it transforms every space into a potential learning space.

They refer to the ‘habi­tus’, the sit­u­at­ed locale of the indi­vid­ual. Yet the locale doesn’t define the learn­ing per se as the process of mobile learn­ing trans­forms the habi­tus into a learn­ing space. Tools, con­tent, and com­mu­ni­ty are recon­struct­ed to allow for meaning-making. Turn­ing the envi­ron­ment in which we hap­pen to find our­selves into an envi­ron­ment for learn­ing. Mobile tech­nol­o­gy assists in bring­ing these ele­ments into con­junc­tion, an orga­niz­ing agent in this process. But it is real­ly about the trans­for­ma­tion. From space to learn­ing space. From noise to mean­ing.

 

Arm Teachers? (Tom Whitby). When I first read about the suggestions to arm teachers, in the wake of the Newtown shooting, I dismissed it as ridiculous without even considering it. What I liked about this post from Tom is that instead of just dismissing the suggestion out of hand, he follows it through to some logical conclusions. I realised that his approach does far more to systematically dismantle the argument than simply rejecting it.

 

The demon-haunted world: Science as a candle in the dark (Carl Sagan). Carl Sagan is one of my heroes. Few people have done as much as he did to bring a sense of wonder about the world, to the public. This book is an exploration of scientific thinking over the past few centuries, highlighting the many areas where a lack of this critical approach to the world has led to a stumbling of our species. Think of the hysteria of witch-burning, UFO abductions, racism and all the other instances where a lack of critical thought has brought so much suffering and misunderstanding about the world. This book should be required reading for everyone.

 

The robot teachers (Stephen Downes). Stephen argues against the idea of universities and higher education in general as a system designed to maintain division between a cultural elite and everyone else. He suggests that the solution is not to open up those institutions (i.e. MIT, Harvard, etc.) but to build a better system outside of them.

We must develop the educational system outside the traditional system because the traditional system is designed to support the position of the wealthy and powerful. Everything about it – from the limitation of access, to the employment of financial barriers, to the creation of exclusive institutions and private clubs, to the system of measuring impact and performance according to economic criteria, serves to support that model. Reforming the educational system isn’t about opening the doors of Harvard or MIT or Cambridge to everyone – it’s about making access to these institutions irrelevant. About making them an anachronism, like a symphony orchestra, or a gentleman’s club, or a whites only golf course, and replaced with something we own and build for everyone, like punk music, a skateboard park, or the public park.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-22

Powered by Twitter Tools

Mozilla Open Education project blueprint

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll have realised that I’m participating in the Mozilla Open Education course, jointly hosted by the Mozilla foundation, ccLearn and the Peer to Peer University. The course has involved participating in online seminars over the past 6 weeks with the objective of creating a project blueprint that takes into account the concepts of open education, open technology and open licensing.

I decided that my project was going to involve something I’ve been thinking about for a few months and saw the course as an opportunity to take the first few tentative steps. The idea was to create an online, distributed authoring environment that would allow physiotherapy clinicians, educators and students to participate in collaboratively writing a national physiotherapy textbook. The problem with imported (American and British) textbooks is a complete lack of cultural and contextual relevance, as well as being associated with a high cost and not being adaptable to local needs (think, multiple languages).

I won’t go into any more detail here (check out the blueprint page), only to say that the idea is taking shape slowly and that I’m quite excited at the prospect of refining it over the next month or so. The course was so information-heavy (not so much from the organisers, but from the back chatter of participants) that it’s going to take some time to review the aggregated content.

Mozilla Open Education course: seminar 6

I know that this is all out of sync but the audio for sessions 4 and 5 aren’t up yet and I haven’t had a chance to go through the slideshows yet.  Today’s session was about the actual practice of teaching, using “open” as a framework.  Here are my notes:

Session 6 – Open pedagogy

Focus on educators and the impact of “open” on them.

Jason Jones

Initially started using wikis for groupwork.

Noticed a few problems when teaching – no one takes notes in class, “no real content”, inattention.  Also, when taking notes, educators aren’t always sure what notes are being taken.  Notes can “go wrong” when other thoughts intrude or when students mis-hear.

Paper notes are hard to improve and are private and difficult to organise.

Wikis are public and solve some of the problems just mentioned.  Everyone collaborates and there is negotiation of content.

An unexpected result was noticing that under the old system of teaching the only way you would know if the students have the wrong information is when they fail a test.  With a public wiki, you realise more quickly that students may be on the wrong track.

Lessons learned along with way.  Merely pointing students towards the wiki doesn’t work.  Students don’t always understand technology.  They’re also not sure what to record when taking notes, so templates are useful.  Students can sometimes find it difficult to use other resources (one benefit of using wikis / being online).

Problem of using old assessment techniques with new approaches to teaching and learning.

Garin Fons

Using wikis to get faculty to put teaching materials online, as well as collaborating with dedicated classmates to build community (reflect on communities of practice).

With wikis, faculty get a chance to have materials edited and reviewed in a way they can’t do alone.

Participatory pedagogy – John Seely Brown and the social view of learning.  We can no longer look at the classroom in a cartesian system.  We participate, therefore we learn.

Melanie McBride

Students create blogs as emerging professionals, rather than personal blogs (about what’s happening in their industry).

Found that some students weren’t very keen on blogging.  Reasons included: “I don’t know who I am yet, or who I want to be (powerful statement)…and that some don’t like the idea of being told what to do.  Anonymity was also an issue.

Students did take ownership of their own emerging industry knowledge.

“Banking” model of education = passive recipients of education.

Concerned with progressive asessment models.  Using wiki as means of checking in on student learning.

Issues of social justice and equity.  Not every student has access to tech (in America…try Africa).  Educators must be aware of that.

Pre-defined roles fall away with open pedagogy – students take ownership of courses and rewrite / restructure them.  Allow this to happen.  This can make teachers nervous.  Dichotomy of losing control but giving freedom.  Be careful about too much freedom.

Teachers and control…depends on the teacher, if they’re willing to dive into the participatory learning environment.  Getting teachers involved in the process.  What does their classroom look like normally and what is their teaching style?  Are they willing to break out of that?  if not, it’s difficult to move forward with this approach.

Mozilla Open Education course: seminar 3

Open web tech

Again, I missed this seminar because of poor internet connectivity on the day and am catching up on the audio after the fact.  Here are my notes from the presentation given by Mozilla’s Chris Blizzard.

  1. Open as a concept
  2. Innovation and change = important building blocks
  3. Relevance and why open matters
  4. Repurposing key web technologies

“Open”: what does it mean?  First of all, the opposite of open is not necessarily “closed”…though useful terms, in this context they shouldn’t be seen as polarising.  In the context of the open web, the opposite of open may be thought of as opaque…you don’t understand how it works, can’t see inside it, don’t know how it came about.  Gives a sense of the visual.  Therefore, open could be thought of as “transparent”.

Not requiring permission is an important component of open because it relates to patents, licensing, etc.  Comparison of video codecs like h264 and ogg theora and the difference that open licensing makes with regards permission to use the code.

Side note: all content from this course is available under an open license for anyone to re-purpose for any use.

“Generative” – word that is used widely in academia.  Meaning that through your action you allow others to do something as well. It allows people other than the original creator of the work to change the work and use it for things that the creator didn’t think of, it facilitates the mulitiplication of efforts and exploration.

“Innovation” is over-used in many circles…a black box in which things are improved but where the process is invisible.  The most important characteristic of innovation is that it represents change (both good and bad change).  Intentional disruption = standing up to make a difference in a way that’s going to be uncomfortable…and people are often reluctant to change because it’s uncomfortable.  Setting things up to purposefully be uncomfortable and going up against various interests (possibly commercial or political) who would not benefit from that change.  Setting yourself up against the status quo.  In an open model where you’re trying to encourage change / innovation / disruption, you’re going to run up against issues.

Where does experimentation come from?  Assume that progress and innovation stem from experimentation and failure (learning from our mistakes), it’s important to understand this process as it leads to change.  The core group of contributors to large projects are not necessarily the ones doing the experimenting, it usually comes from the periphery.  How do you set yourself up to have “edges” in the community and be open in order to promote experimentation and innovation?  This disruption is difficult for business to commit to because it’s hard to determine future value in experimentation and innovation.

As messy and painful as it is, the open web has worked well.  Very few other inventions have disrupted communication so comprehensively before the web (maybe the printing press, telephone).  An instantaneous communication network that people are continually changing and re-purposing without having to ask permission from anyone is very important.  The nature of the web made this possible i.e. intentionally built on a model of open technology / software where anyone could make changes without permission.

What makes something open web technology?  Web browser is the gateway to the web and we spend a lot of time using it, therefore it should be comfortable and easy to use.  Can you see the page source to understand how it works?  Being able to look at somebody’s source is part of the transparency / open-ness of the web.  Source is delivered (HTML, Javascript) and compiled / executed locally.  Historical mistake where originally authors were writing simple documents where source didn’t matter as much.  Now, this presents as a learning opportunity where others can see what you’ve done and use it in other ways.  This doesn’t mean that you should copy and paste everything, rather figure out how it works and learn that way.

If you have access to the source you may be able to figure out the API (or the API is open), which means that you can then re-purpose the application.  Twitter is an example…even though it’s only a simple application (status updates), others have figured out how to use it in different, more complex ways because of it’s open API and a whole ecosystem has developed around it. 

Another example is how people have changed Google search by implementing code in the browser, even though Google hasn’t explicitly given that permission.  An example of people using the open-ness of the web to figure things out and make changes that have not explicitly been allowed by an open license.

Key peices of open web technology:

  • HTML = core of open web, describes document structure, content, continually improving and evolving
  • XML = more generalised data management (not as widely used), semantic meaning is important in the open web
  • CSS = controls presentation of content (unlike HTML), can imply visual structure, media context, also implies semantic meaning
  • Images = static visual medium that conveys expression (jpg, png are simple but allows everyone to use), adds context to the open web
  • Javascript = integration of all the other peices, makes the static web dynamic
  • Open video = transparent, generative, not closed implementation of web video (in contrast to Flash), using ogg theora (patent- and royalty-free video codec)

Mozilla Open Education course: seminar 2

Open educational resources

I missed the second session of the Mozilla Open Education course that was held about two weeks ago because of Internet issues, and only just had the opportunity to listen to the audio. Here are my notes from the session, which featured a panel of experienced users and creators of Open Education Resources (OER).

Began with an overview of the open ed movement / background to set the context against which the case studies are set…what is the big picture? OER features many people involved at many levels, using many technologies and business models are being built around this idea…shows it’s an idea who’s time has come.

Create a movement of diversity, seeing how different ideas play off one another.

Fundamental adherence to openness means that ideas and content designed for one task need not be delimited to that task but can be “re-packaged” for others i.e you needn’t design materials for everybody, just for your own needs, but then to endow it with the characteristics (legal and technical) that make it available for everybody to redesign.

OER should be:

  • designed to give learners access to a broad array of tools
  • available for anyone to use/share/adapt to their needs
  • relevant for formal/informal and lifelong learning needs

Open licensing is crucial – current systems undermine the premise that creative content can be shared and changed, therefore OER is important for catalysing new ways of learning, critical thinking, collaboration, engagement, reflection

Education is the key to an informed population, therefore it needs broad, optimistic ideas that do away with the notion that “you don’t get to have an education because of your circumstances”.

4 topics that came from previous interviews:

  1. Open means not being afraid to solve problems publically (and to fail publically)
  2. Open means creating space for people to do things that you don’t anticipate
  3. Open means giving up control
  4. Open means sharing models that others build on for quick diffusion of good ideas

What is an edupunk and how does it relate to online learning? Edupunk came from a notion that you could do a lot in education by yourself, and not being afraid to fail. Moving against the corporate base who designs courses based around management, rather than learning (isn’t this a bigger problem within Learning Management Systems. Take this further with the idea of “managed learning”). Also, proprietary, no control, they shape our learning experience.

Traditional methods of learning and teaching are clean, easy and simple for lecturers to follow, textbooks are available, curriculum can be moved through in a predetermined way, boundaries are evident. Open source communities allow involvement with real things, which can be scary…you don’t always know where it’s going. The opportunities to talk about things that wont’ come up in other contexts adds to a richer expereince. Better place to learn because it scales.

Discussed issues with institutions catching on to and embracing change, eg. hosting content on external servers.

Difficult to get students to contribute to blogs:

  • Thought no-one would read it
  • Thought that if they did read it, they’d think it was stupid

Realised that by aggregating content, they could draw a much larger audience. Students were blown away by comments on blogs (profound moment when the person you’re blogging about comments on your blog). Aggregation helps build critical mass. Powerful idea that people from all over the world are reading your work and following it.

A key competency is understanding how to manage online identities. Posts can’t be thrown out there, reflection before posting is important because these conversations are available forever. People beocme more conscious about how ideas and conversations can travel.

Surprised at how few students read and understand how blogs work. Need to teach them how the internet works. Communciation needs to change, tone, strategy. “Learning to write in a way that honours the web”. We need to spend time teaching students how to communicate online, in a living and open way. It’s wrong to think that this is the Facebook generation and that they know how to do this.

Students taking control of their work and presenting or “re-presenting” themselves online. Where they live online and how they work online. Online identity and data portability. Moving beyond the limited view of institutional services…not about email addresses or university webspaces…framing their own online identity outside of the institution.

Regarding Weave for an “educational passport”. Students taking their own digital identity and learning experiences with them when they leave univerity…portfolios of learning that they own. Storing personal information through the browser that the student owns and can always access. Aggregating online identity through your own domain.

Not about building resources, it’s about building community. Forget about building the one hoop that you can re-use every year to make new students jump through. How can I make sure that my community of students is healthy and finding their own hoops?

Mozilla Open Education course and other thoughts

I was unable to participate in the second session for the Mozilla Open Education course due to local Internet problems that meant I had no sound.  While it was frustrating to begin with, I realised that this is the reality of the situation in most countries and that while we talk about open this and open that, we’re not going to make real progress in South Africa until we get decent bandwidth, lower access costs and deeper penetration of the service.

Taking this idea a littler further, I went on to work out that I’m one of the fortunate people in the top 1% of people in South Africa who have a broadband connection at home, which means that the majority of citizens in this country will remain completely unaware of everything I do that relates to the use of technology in education.  This really helps to keep things in perspective, as high levels of poverty and crime are far more important issues in terms of social change, than the results of my blogging assignment.

I guess my point is that it’s easy to get frustrated with the technical problems experienced as part of this online web seminar, but that I live in a developing country where my lack of streaming audio is the least of our problems.

PS.  In case you’re wondering “Why bother if the technology is so limited?” my plan is to use technology to improve physiotherapy education, which will create better physiotherapists, who will then improve the health service, which will have a positive effect on large numbers of the population 🙂

Note: I calculated the percentage of people with broadband by taking the number of ADSL subscribers in 2008 as a percentage of the population from the 2008 census.  It’s not very accurate but gives a decent estimate.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-04-05

  • @sharingnicely for what it’s worth, my vote goes to #mozopened in reply to sharingnicely #
  • @reflectivelrnr Sometimes, they find you 🙂 in reply to reflectivelrnr #
  • Just went through Alltop Twitterati (http://bit.ly/CoiAC). Are the people with the most to say the least interesting to follow? #
  • Very excited to be participating in Mozilla open education online course http://bit.ly/82ksO #
  • Insightful post: “9 great reasons why teachers should use Twitter” http://bit.ly/qexSG #
  • I hate to be cliched, but “Slumdog Millionnaire” is the best movie I’ve seen in 5 years #
  • Participating in online, open education course with Mozilla, ccLearn and Peer 2 Peer University #
  • Great first seminar on #mozopenedcourse, minor tech glitches. Lots to think about. Looking forward to next week http://bit.ly/82ksO #
  • Just watched “Accepted”…it came on and the remote was too far away. Light hearted comedy about higher education http://bit.ly/WE2mV #
  • @JasonCalacanis Every year the rich pledge a lot of money to the world’s poor. They have yet to deliver. Just another empty promise… in reply to JasonCalacanis #
  • Just posted my notes from today’s #mozopenedcourse seminar. Interesting session, plenty of food for thought http://bit.ly/9DL3G #
  • “Physiopedia”, an awesome evidence-based physiotherapy reference site with really great content http://bit.ly/14IyvT #
  • Just watched “Sicko”…scary, tragic, sad, criminal…all the things that healthcare shouldn’t be http://bit.ly/gvYOO #
  • Another reason to not be a fan of Blackboard. Just my opinion http://bit.ly/gMCFB #
  • Using wikis in learning and teaching, from Leeds University, interesting stuff incl. tips on assessing wiki content http://bit.ly/Ery7 #
  • Great resource for summaries of physio-related articles, available at Physiospot http://bit.ly/wCTER #

Powered by Twitter Tools.