Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Selfish Blogger Syndrome

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

The Selfish Blogger. Well that could certainly be me! So I’ll stick to form and post my thoughts here rather than in Tony Bates‘s comment stream.

I have not been following #Change11 except through the blogs of people I found interesting in previoous MOOCs like #CCK11 and #PLENK2010, so without Jenny’s (selfish?) post I would never have read Tony’s piece or the presentation it refers to. And part of what I took as takeaway from the CCK experience is that what Tony describes as selfish is in fact the best way for all of us to be sharing. One thing I did not like in PLENK was the difficulty of recovering my own thoughts from the Moodle comment stream and I liked the CCK11 emphasis on facilitating communication and connection between individual blogs.

Tony is concerned about not being able to see and follow the comments on his work but I think we now have the technology to address that without forcing everyone to give up ownership of their own contributions.  It is true that once, in the absence of appropriate technology, it was always necessary for people to meet in person to exchange ideas. Then we invented writing, and all that was needed was a common location for all the written material. Then we invented telecommunication and computers, and the libraries and discussion threads became accessible remotely. And now we have trackback…

It seems to me that whatever the limitations of trackback, the issue is one of technology and the answer to Tony’s complaint is not to force everyone back into the domains of recognized “leaders” as in a prehistoric centralized community, but rather to appropriately extend and use the technology of networking to allow each voice its own home while collecting whatever is relevant to any particular individual’s interest in a particular chain of discussion for easy access as needed.

What seems to me to be needed is to integrate trackbacks and pingbacks into the comment stream (rather than listing them separately as an afterthought) and displaying a more useful excerpt  so that they actually do contribute tot he conversation. (This might require some slight extra work from the responder when posting so as to identify an appropriate “teaser”,  and ideally the technology should be extended so that eg replies to me in Tony’s comment stream would appear also here as comments and vice versa)



Philosophy News | My Philosopher Can Beat Up Your Computer Scientist

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Philosophy News | My Philosopher Can Beat Up Your Computer Scientist.

Philosophy’s perceived market disrespect (inferiority complex ?) is a reaction to the fact that there is no philosophy credential which predicts any useful skill any more effectively than any other arts degree. This is not to deny that a degree in philosophy may be correlated with a slightly above average skill level in literacy and basic reasoning, but I doubt that correlation is any stronger than for any other subject.  And more importantly, the absence of explicit training in philosophy not a negative indicator.  What a CS or Nursing degree has over one in philosophy is that it certifies a required minimum level of knowledge for certain kinds of employment (and if that minimum includes some exposure to the liberal arts then it should of course be included). The difference between philosophy and subjects like literature, art history, or pure mathematics seems to be mostly in the frequency of posts like this which take the legitimate value of a broad education as endorsement of philosophy in particular as some kind of technology for solving problems – for which I have seen no serious evidence and for which I am disappointed to see philosophers feeling a need.

The Case for Play

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The Case for Play – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“OK kids, you can stop your creative paper folding exercise now and the monitor will collect your products for evaluation. And now, let’s take a break from all that with a quick game of Drill’nKill!”

Many traditional children’s games have a high level of rote learning and/or rule-based behaviour.

Most scientists consider their nominal work to be a form of play.

It’s all in the attitude (which is hard to define and quantify), and I suspect that a lot of educational “research” is confounded by subtle infections of attitude which dominate whatever effect is purportedly being observed.

Learning Theories

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

In all of my efforts to participate in Connectivist MOOCS (#CritLit2010, #PLENK2010, #CCK11) I have run into a roadblock when discussion turned to “Learning Theories” and I have found myself unable to express (or perhaps even determine) what I want to say on this topic. My instinct is just to shout that the emperor has no clothes because none of the proposed “theories” make well-defined testable predictions, but I realize that this would be unduly dismissive of something that a lot of serious people take seriously.

Notwithstanding several helpful posts outlining the basic principles of the various “theories”, I can’t let go of those scare quotes because they don’t seem like true theories to me.

Apostolos Koutropoulos’ post on learning theories links to a video by Ian Robertson whose quick summary descriptions of various learning theories somehow caused the penny to finally drop in my mind. (more…)

More MOOCs

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Massively Open On-Line Courses allow large numbers of people to participate at varying levels of commitment in a process of shared learning. Part of the openness aspect is that there are many avenues of participation and rather than relying on a centralized Course Management System people are encouraged to control their own involvement by contributing comments etc through their own social media and blogs. But rather than let contributions to these courses dominate the flow of my personal thoughts here, I will set up separate blogs for each such course that I join.

Superman or Supermoms?

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Davis Guggenheim, director of ‘Waiting for Superman’ has asked for and received some feedback from teachers.

When I saw the film, what struck me as the most invidious distortion (among many) was the failure to acknowledge that the children on whom miracles were being performed came from very special families. They weren’t just selected from the population at random. By lottery yes, but only from those who wanted to do the extra work and had family support in that endeavour. And given their circumstances, the level of support and committment shown by some of those parents was nothing less than miraculous.

With the kind of selection that’s involved, it’s no surprise that the results were better at the special schools – at least for those lucky enough to have the necessary support. But what about the rest? There was actually no evidence given that the KIPP or other special schools would work for them, and taking out the best students and families from the regular schools might just condemn the rest to an even greater rate of failure.

It may be that the KIPP strategy of applying triage to the community is actually the best strategy for overall improvement. And it may be that the current teaching strategies are not optimal for those left behind. But neither of these is demonstrated in the film.

As an ex union member, I must also object to the disgusting ploy of trying to make a political point against unions out of the requirement to discuss and attempt to reach agreement on all aspects of a contract before presenting a unilateral ultimatum to be voted on.

Overall, in the end I felt that the stories of some truly inspiring parents, children, and teachers had been tainted by a dishonest presentation.


Monday, December 6th, 2010

Over the last three months I spent a considerable amount of time following the #PLENK2010 Massive Open OnLine Course organized by Dave Cormier, Stephen Downes, Rita Kop, and George Siemens.

Personal Knowledge Management

Friday, November 5th, 2010

The #PLENK2010 topic for  discussion in Week 8 is PKM. (more…)

Cute Math Problem

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

This came up in a Math Ed discussion at LinkedIn.
Here A, B, and C are three finite sets.
If half of the As are Bs and half of the Bs are Cs and half of the Cs are As, then what are the maximum and minimum possible ratios of the size of A to the size of C?

Learning Theories

Friday, September 24th, 2010

. . . are something about which I have no expertise – but that’s never stopped me from sounding off about anything else, so here goes:

Network Environments for Personal Learning

Friday, September 24th, 2010

In week 2, the focus of #PLENK2010 shifted from the basic terminology, and emphasis on user “client-side” tools to the “server-side” area of support tools (more…)

myPE(N)L ctd

Friday, September 24th, 2010

So here is my current Personal Environment for Networked Learning
(which I think of as the interface with physically remote people and information): (more…)


Friday, September 24th, 2010

is a mess (like this post) because my data streams are not well integrated. (more…)


Thursday, September 16th, 2010

My Sept 13 post on PLEvsPLN does show up in the link from the #PLENK2010  Feeds List, but never seems to have been captured by the aggregator for the Daily.  So I’m giving it another go here just to see if I’ve set things up properly.

PLENK Week 1

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Week 1 of the #PLENK2010 course on Personal Learning Environments,  Networks and Knowledge is devoted mainly to getting used to the terminology.

@maferarenas on microblogging and learning

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

My linking to this is evidence for @Downes of more real interesting learning from #CritLit2010.

But it’s not just the shape of the network that’s important here; it’s also the semantic content of what we are linking about. (If we had drifted off into a classroom conversation about mutual friends in Argentina then the network connections might look stronger but it might not be so “interesting” from the course’s point of view.)

Perhaps some more direction about how to tag things in a coordinated way (beyond just the one #CritLit tag) would have made it easier for Stephen’s colleagues to extract the necessary information from our network activity (and also for us to get more immediate value from the course!)

For me the effectiveness of Twitter as a tool is definitely increasing as a result of participating in CritLit2010 (though mostly after the fact), and I am learning lots of other things as well. Perhaps my reading of the actual course resources has left me with useful mental hooks for conceptualizing these new skills, but I’m still not convinced of that; so I do think that a more practical approach (as in Maria’s post here) would have been more useful.

Assessing Learning in #CritLit2010

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Stephen Downes post on Semantics at Half an Hour: Having Reasons is devoted largely to the issue of how to establish the well-foundedness aspect of knowledge as well-founded true belief.

A large part of the discussion was devoted to the question of how confidently it can be asserted that “interesting learning” occurred in #CritLit2010. (With “interesting learning” apparently referring to the acquisition of new knowledge rather than just unfounded beliefs or behavioural responses – which are also of course examples of learning but not so interesting)

In the course of that discussion Stephen referred to slide 23, where the inference of learning appears to be derived from observation of behaviour in a social network. But it requires quite sophisticated observation to confirm that the behaviour is based on beliefs that are founded on good reasons as discussed in this posting. (For example it might involve observation of exchanges between members of the network when solving problems together and evaluation of the explanations given to one another in that process.) Also, there would have to be a change of behaviour (beyond that attributable to increasing familiarity with that specific network) in order to infer that the demonstated knowledge was newly acquired and so evidence of learning.  Given the looseness and scale of the network involved it would be a huge task to sift through all of the exchanges to identify signs of increased knowledge in even just a few of the participants.  So I must say I agree with those who are skeptical of Stephen and co’s ability to provide convincing evidence that “interesting learning” has occurred (other than perhaps by direct testimony of the participants).

Ulop’s Theory

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

In the follow-up to #CritLit2010, Ulop OTaat (whoever he may be) has expressed a theory about what the educational theory called “Connectivism” is (or is not).

Basically he appears skeptical of its value as more than just a new lingo without practical consequences:

But that is all that connectivism does, add a different perspective couched in different terminology, jargon if you will.  It does not solve any issues, on its own. It is not the end game of learning theory.

I must admit that I have had similar concerns as to whether it had any direct paedagogical implications. But the jargon has some appeal to me because of its relation to the neural network model of how learning may occur at the physical level, and so I remain open minded as to the possibility that thinking in “connectivist” terms may in fact lead to techniques which might not otherwise have been discovered. (Perhaps it might help in dealing with the chronic problem of failure of “transference” of a concept or technique from one domain of application to another – but I have nothing specific in mind at this point.)
Also of course, any reasonably valid understanding of how learning works may help with the Critical Literacy of avoiding the learning of things that are not true.

Where I have even more difficulty is with imagining possible uses of the analogy between neural and social networks (which seems to get a lot of play in the “Connectivist” worldview). Yes, the development of patterns of connection in a social network may be “reinforced” by interaction with some external stimulus, but I guess I am not sufficiently social to have any idea of a non-trivial pattern as a goal – let alone how to design an appropriate stimulus to achieve it. Perhaps some complex business or political relationships mught be enhanced by forcing a social network to “learn” its way into a particular pattern though – so maybe  Hari Seldon will one day be quoting Stephen Downes as he takes the first steps towards the Foundation. And maybe that makes an understanding of how to train social networks a Critical Literacy for the future.


Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

#CritLit2010 is now over.

I enrolled in this largely out of curiosity about what it would entail and in the knowledge that my travel plans for subsequent weeks would make it difficult to devote much time to it.  I was interested enough to go through most of the readings and to make some discussion entries and blog postings, but if I had had to pay for it then I think I would have been a bit disappointed.

Categories, Links, and Tags

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Both Heli Nurmi and MCMorgan have commented on the CritLit2010 week 4 reading from Clay Shirky Shirky: Ontology is Overrated — Categories, Links, and Tags.

I can’t help feeling that the idea that search based on content and tags will replace heirarchical categories is in one sense overstated, but in another sense doesn’t go far enough. (more…)