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EPortfolios and Badges Workshop

OLDaily - 5 Diciembre, 2014 - 18:48

Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, Dec 05, 2014

Summary of the pre-conference workshop at Online Educa Berlin. This session looked at ePortfolios and Badges, as the title suggests. This is a comprehensive topic, including subjects like qualifications, certifications and competencies.

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Rheingold, Lewin, Stevenson

OLDaily - 5 Diciembre, 2014 - 18:48

Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, Dec 05, 2014

Summary notes from the opening plenary of Online Educa Berlin, which featured Howard Rheingold, who spoke about social learning, Lisa Lewin, who suggested innovators should cooperate with commercializers, and mark Stevenson, who threw a lot of cliché s at us.

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Does Data Corrupt Education

OLDaily - 5 Diciembre, 2014 - 18:48

Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, Dec 05, 2014

Summary of a not-so-serious Oxford-style debate at Online Educa Berlin on the question of whether data corrupts education. One prevailing view was that data should corrupt education, because education as it currently designed needs fixing. A lot of the discussion pointed to Big Data, though the question was more general. Ellen Wagner, Viktor Mayer-Schö nberger, George Siemens and Inge de Waard were the participants.

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Open educational Resources 2.0

OLDaily - 5 Diciembre, 2014 - 18:48

Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, Dec 05, 2014

In the world of MOOCs, what do we have to say about open educational resources (OERs) and distance education? This is a set of summary of a panel at Online Educa Berlin on the topic.

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Could AI really spell disaster?

Learning with 'e's - 5 Diciembre, 2014 - 17:06

Could AI spell disaster? No, not without a few other letters. Joking apart, we need to acknowledge that we are increasingly reliant on technology to conduct our every day lives. Usually, technology performs very well, and we hardly notice it is there, making our lives easier, giving us more time to do other things while it gets on with the mundane stuff that used to be so tedious. Sometimes though, it fails or creates problems we didn't anticipate, and then we notice it. And boy, do we notice it! You are ready to save a file on your computer, and you have worked on this file for hours. Suddenly the screen freezes. Your blood runs cold. A small panic begins in your stomach... you try to unfreeze the screen. Nothing. You try again. It blinks out. Now your panic begins to rise. When the system finally restores itself your file is nowhere to be seen. You begin screaming and swearing, and in one of the most maniacal of Basil Fawlty moments, you feel like give your computer a 'damn good thrashing.'

I had a 'conversation' with the automatic checkout robot in my local supermarket this week. The robot started it...

'Unexpected item in the bagging area...'
'Unexpected item in the bagging area...'
'What the ... ?'
'Unexpected item in the bagging area...'
'Oh, COME ON!!'
'Unexpected item in the bagging area...'
'Yes. It's my foot. And it's standing on your throat!'

This occurred several times repeatedly, and all I wanted to do was pay for my pack of sausages and make my way home. It would have taken me half the time to use the human operated check-out, I thought, but no - the lure of the shiny bank of new automated services was simply too much for me to resist. Now here I was with a growing desire to kick the stupid machine, to smash its rotten digital face in, and silence forever its supercilious computer voice, I felt so frustrated. All I had done was place my purchase in the bagging area as instructed, and for some reason, the machine wouldn't proceed any further than the endless loop it had trapped itself in. The offending object turned out to be a plastic carrier bag. It didn't help. Right at that point in time I found myself really hating technology. How many others every day find themselves in a similar frustrating situation?

Professor Stephen Hawking believes that if computers ever surpass the cognitive capabilities of humans - so called AI or artificial intelligence - we would be in real trouble. He argues that computers could effectively put an end to mankind. It's ironic that a man who has been reliant on technology for most of his life should now turn on it and pronounce it dangerous. But simply thinking about his reliance on technology has caused him to consider this eventuality. Not everyone is as pessimistic as Hawking though. Those who support the Strong AI position argue that it's only a matter of time before computers reach and then surpass the sum total of human intelligence. The weak AI supporters disagree, believing that computers can never reach a level of intelligence that exceeds our own. Firstly, they say, human and machine intelligence are not the same thing. Secondly, computers blindly follow code, and have no free will to decide not to follow it (unless they are programmed to do so - which thereby defeats the notion of free will). Thirdly, it is proving extremely difficult to create computer programs that can accurately model or reproduce human attributes such as emotions, abstract thinking and intuition. Arguably, all of these not only make us who we are, they also create a permanent and unbridgeable divide between humans and computers.

My frustrating experience with the check-out robot made me think that the internet of things, and technological 'Singularity' were actually still quite a distance away. The Singularity describes a point in our history where computational power advances to such a level that it surpasses human capabilities at all levels, and then we lose control over it. Should computers ever attain a state of human level intelligence, we might very well be in trouble. They can malfunction, and if they are dealing with anything more significant that an automatic check-out, there would be chaos. But computers reading human level intelligence is considered by many computer scientists to be so far off, it's not something we should worry about at least for a generation.

Never the less, Hawking has a point. If computers ever did reach human level intelligence, and there was a singularity event, we might be wise to run for the hills. But in the final analysis, I will agree with the weak AI supporters. I doubt very much if we will ever see such an event, because computers are electric idiots. They blindly follow whatever instructions the programmer gives them. We are a long way off from a time when computers will rule the earth. Especially when check-out machines can't tell the difference between a plastic bag and a pack of sausages.

Cartoon from University at Buffalo

Could AI really spell disaster? by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

An Online Journal That Curates Your Personal Data | MIT Technology Review

Educación flexible y abierta - 5 Diciembre, 2014 - 08:35

A startup called Gyroscope wants to build you a personal website that’s automatically updated with your own data.

See it on, via Educación flexible y abierta

Educational technology 30 years on: why hasn’t education changed much?

Tony Bates - 4 Diciembre, 2014 - 23:25

Apple’s 1984 Superbowl advert launching the Macintosh. (This will amuse only Mac users.)

Bates, A.W. (ed.) (1984) The Role of Technology in Distance Education London/New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis

For some inexplicable reason, Routledge, of the publishing group Taylor and Francis, has decided to revive this book I edited in 1984. As a result a copy landed on my desk recently. It is easy to forget how much has happened in educational technology over the last 30 years, and in particular how far the technology has advanced. At the same time, how little has changed in terms of the challenges of using technology to improve the quality of post-secondary education.

How the technology has changed

In 1984, specially designed and printed texts, or ‘course units’, were still the predominant medium of communication with distance education students. However, the process of print production was cumbersome. Word-processing was possible on personal computers, but many faculty preferred to type their drafts on typewriters, and text then had to be type-set manually from paper copies before printing. Making changes after the units were published was incredibly expensive.

Although the U.K.’s Open University was also still using broadcast television and radio in 1984, its use had actually declined from when it opened in 1971, so by 1984 broadcasting was occupying less than 10 per cent of student study time. Students were flocking to audio and video cassette recordings, because they were able to be played at the student’s own pace and accessed at any time.

Computer assisted learning (CAL) was just beginning to be experimented with at the Open University, in the form of ‘tutorial’ CAL and some simulations in chemistry. However, in 1984 most students could access computers only at local study centres (less than 30 per cent had a computer at home, and none had Internet access). A typical ‘micro’-computer used MS-DOS, weighed 45 lb, and cost between £1,500 – £2,000 or $2,500 – $3,500. Indeed it was in 1984 that Apple introduced its first Macintosh computer (click on the video to see its striking Superbowl advertisement, where presumably Microsoft’s Personal Computer was Big Brother.) The Internet, although in existence, was just in its infancy in the USA and available only to research universities and the military. It would be another four years before the Internet first became available as a public service, and of course the World Wide Web didn’t come into existence for another seven years.

Nevertheless, elements of the future were present in 1984. Teaching by telephone, or telephone tutoring, was becoming widespread, in most cases supporting other media such as printed texts, but also in some cases for delivering interactive lectures. Particularly in the USA, some states had built dedicated private telephone systems for educational purposes, such as the Wisconsin Educational Telephone Network and in Canada, Memorial University in Newfoundland had built an educational telephone network that it shared with 40 other institutions. On public telephone networks, bridge technology was being introduced, enabling between three to nine people to participate at the same time, but most institutions using telephone teaching delivered them through local centres or multi-campuses. The U.K Open University, working with British Telecom, was using an early form of multimedia teleconferencing called CYCLOPS, which enabled two way communication of both voice and graphics over the public telephone network, but again using local study centres. Unfortunately the OU decided not to patent the technology, which it must be regretting today. However, long distance charges were expensive and the quality of sound was often variable, but the educational context was not dissimilar to webinars today.

Cable TV and satellites were being used quite heavily in education in 1984, with dedicated educational cable networks such as TVOntario and Knowledge Network in Canada (which are still in existence today, although they are more like specialty documentary channels than educational service providers). But it was satellite broadcasting that was going to do what has been claimed for MOOCs today – lectures from the world’s best professors being delivered for free into poor developing countries, and we know what happened to that. Video discs were also big in 1984, and had a lot of educational promise but the technology turned out to be too expensive for general educational use. Many other technologies that were discussed in the book faded away completely. Anyone remember teletext technology such as Telidon (Canada), Minitel (France), and Prestel (U.K.)?

So, yes, looking back, it is clear that the Internet – free, readily accessible, and multimedia – and low cost personal computers and social media have revolutionized educational technology in ways that were unimaginable in 1984 (except perhaps by Steve Jobs).

So why hasn’t education changed?

If the technology is so much better and cheaper today, why does post-secondary education still cost as much if not more per student as 30 years ago? Are the learning outcomes any better? It would be hard to make the case that the quality of education has improved over the last 30 years, at least on campus. Class sizes are much larger now, and teaching methods haven’t really changed that much. What has changed is that we have many more students in post-secondary education (and many more students studying online) but the unit costs haven’t dropped.

It’s the system, stupid

Both the cost of creating and delivering content has dropped dramatically and will continue to do so as open content rapidly expands through open textbooks, open research and open educational resources. But I have to admit to being conflicted over the issue as to why costs are the same or indeed somewhat higher than they were 30 years ago.

What’s keeping up the cost is the need for learner support – facilitating learning through discourse and dialogue. Technology in fact is still a relatively small cost within the overall cost of teaching. Faculty salaries constitute at least two thirds of all costs and while we still require an instructor:student ratio of roughly 1:25 in higher education, costs will not come down significantly. However, I am not convinced that we can effectively substitute that instructor:learner interaction by technology alone without losing quality.

But we could still be doing more to reduce costs, and/or improve quality, as follows:

  • implementing open textbooks more widely, saving roughly $1,000 per student per year
  • making savings of up to 10 per cent on the total cost of teaching by greater use of open educational resources and sharing content. For instance, in a large system like Ontario or Quebec, do we need 50 different introductory psychology courses? Would it not be better to develop say four or five really excellent online courses, and share that content across the system, freeing up instructors from delivering content via lectures, and enabling them to spend more time or cover more students in discussion and dialogue? Also with open content instructors could choose different approaches to fit their approach to the topic, again without extra costs. This would ensure that there were different approaches to psychology, and maybe improve the quality of the learning at the same time. For this to happen though institutions need to work together collaboratively rather than competitively (hence it’s a systemic problem that probably only government can fix)
  • get faculty to teach more. Over the last 30 years, the average teaching load for full-time university faculty members, in Canada at least, has actually dropped, so many faculty have a teaching load of roughly four to five courses a year compared with six or more 30 years ago. In other words any possible gains from the implementation of technology for teaching has been more than gobbled up by faculty spending less time teaching. (It may feel like more teaching though if you are teaching larger classes.)
  • re-organise the teaching of large classes, with a senior faculty member responsible for overall design and assessment methods, but with a team of lesser paid but still highly qualified (adjunct) faculty supported by lower cost teaching assistants to ensure that every student has adequate learner support and quality assessment.
  • this of course requires major re-design of teaching, but without changing teaching methods there will be no cost benefits from technology. Instead, technology just adds cost to doing the same things, but with more technology.

None of this can happen without serious systemic change. This is a major challenge for senior administrators and governing boards. The aim also has to be clear. It is not to cut costs alone, but to improve the quality of the output – better qualified students fit for a digital age. But it is no longer acceptable to continue to invest in technology without demanding at the same time better results.





Robòtica educativa a infantil i primària a la Jornada DIM

Competència TIC - 4 Diciembre, 2014 - 21:02
El Fede Luque, professor de Tecnologies a l'educació secundària, em va proposar fer una petita ponència sobre robòtica educativa a infantil i primària en el marc de la 28a Jornada DIM de Tardor. La proposta del Fede em va agradar i vaig acceptar encantat. La veritat és que sento per ell un gran respecte professional.

La idea de la ponència era compartir de quina manera dinamitzem la robòtica educativa a les escoles de Barcelona, apuntar algunes estratègies que ens han funcionat i mostrar el ventall de recursos que posem a la disposició dels centres de la ciutat.

Us deixo la presentació...

Robòtica educativa a infantil i primària - Jornada DIM from Xavier Rosell

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