agregador de noticias
This is a follow-up to the Erin Bartram story, the history PhD who couldn't find a position and left the field, writing a letter about her departure that everyone read. I wrote about it back in February. The Chronicle also published a short abridged version of her article. The original is much better and we know this because the comments that follow from the academic crowd that reads the Chronicle are, well, brutal and unsympathetic. Today Bertram writes, "Academe isn’t even fully honest about the bleak conditions of its own job market — perhaps because to describe it accurately still feels like hyperbole to some. Giving Pollyannaish advice doesn’t help those leaving the faculty career path any more than it does for those remaining." No kidding.Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]
Short article with some advice that seems, on the face of it, obvious. Start with the cheap cardboard VR headsets and maybe have some students do demos for their classes. After experience with this, purchase one or two higher-end headsets and do some exploration projects. Have some students support those teachers who may be interested. Don't buy full-class sets of VR headsets; it's way too early for that. Maybe do some reading (some articles are listed at the end).Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]
Los libros de magia de CS4FN – Computer Science For Fun (Informática Para Divertirse) – relacionan la magia con la informática y el pensamiento computacional. Lo novedoso es que a través de la explicación de trucos de magia y de forma amena, no solo aprenderemos a hacer magia, sino que también descubriremos que tras un truco de magia a menudo se encuentran ideas interesantes y formulaciones matemáticas similares a las que se utilizan en informática. Este conjunto de libros nos enseña con detalle que detrás de cada truco de magia existen algoritmos y fórmulas matemáticas que podrían ser ejecutadas mediante una aplicación informática. En consecuencia, cuando nuestro alumnado vaya practicando con los trucos, desarrollará su pensamiento computacional y aprenderá a relacionar cada truco con diferentes aspectos de la informática.La magia, el conocimiento y la informática
La magia se basa en la psicología, el conocimiento, las matemáticas y la informática. Para llegar a ser un buen mago se necesitan conocimientos de todas estas materias. Los grandes magos tienen un gran conocimiento y comprensión sobre la psicología cognitiva y el comportamiento de las personas. Son capaces de manipular lo que estamos mirando, lo que recordamos, lo que olvidamos e incluso pueden hacernos recordar cosas que nunca ocurrieron.
Los científicos están investigando estos mismos temas, sin embargo la diferencia entre un mago y un científico, es que mientras los primeros tienen como objetivo guardar el secreto, los segundos buscan sacar a la luz y mostrar a todo el mundo sus investigaciones.¿Qué tiene todo esto que ver con la informática?
La ciencia de la informática usa por tanto los resultados extraídos para crear mejores sistemas informáticos que nos ayuden en nuestra vida. La interacción entre los humanos y los ordenadores es un área de gran importancia para la ciencia, ya que de igual forma que la magia se basa en la psicología también lo hace la interacción de los humanos con los ordenadores. Las reglas que los psicólogos descubren se convierten en principios de diseño a seguir que permitirán a los “magos informáticos” desarrollar programas que cambien nuestro mundo.
Cuando uno hace un truco de magia quiere estar seguro de que siempre va a salir bien. Porque si trabajamos con un truco que solo funciona bien el 99% de las veces, ¿cómo podría estar seguro de que cuando vaya a tratar de impresionar a un amigo o cuando esté frente a una gran audiencia no resulte ser el 1% y no funcione? Además, algunos trucos requieren contar con la habilidad del mago en el juego de manos para que funcionen.
Un algoritmo es simplemente un conjunto claro de instrucciones que se realizan en un orden dado para lograr una tarea. Los pasos que debes seguir para realizar un truco son similares a la forma en que un ordenador ejecuta las instrucciones en un programa de software. En realidad todo lo que los ordenadores hacen es seguir las instrucciones de los algoritmos que los programadores han elaborado. La idea es que si siguen el algoritmo al pie de la letra, siempre completarán su tarea, ya sea jugando al ajedrez, enviando correos electrónicos o aterrizando un avión.
En la descripción del recurso del mes de Code.educaLAB, puedes ver, a modo de ejemplo, las instrucciones y descripción del truco de las 21 cartas, y su relación con la informática.
In my last post, I wrote about the goal of the Empirical Educator Project (EEP) as getting a critical mass of educators to be "socially empirical":
Socially empirical educators view effective teaching not as an individual art but as a shared pool of knowledge and experience that everyone can learn from and contribute to. They seek out common vocabulary, methods, and standards of proof so that they can learn with their colleagues and raise the collective bar. This is the beginning of disciplinarity.
One way of thinking about the goal of EEP is to create a critical mass of socially empirical educators. They may not all arrive at one shared vocabulary, set of methods, and standard of proof. We will likely need a family of subdisciplines and empirical approaches to handle all the many meaningful contextual differences in education. But if a majority of educators see their work as embedded in a collective effort to learn together about how we can be more effective educators, then we will progress much more rapidly as a sector.
What is the value of doing this? Here again, the EEP founding cohort participants weigh in:
Too often, our conversations about education are weirdly bifurcated. On the one hand, we talk about big problems—helping massive numbers of people improve their economic status, educating a sophisticated citizenry, solving societal equity problems, and so on. On the other hand, we talk about the day-to-day work—picking tools and content, solving a developmental math program at a single college...maybe at most we have consortia working on shared problems within the group. But we only rarely and sporadically talk about the link between solving the local problems and tackling the grand challenges. We don't have a plan for thinking globally and acting locally.
We at e-Literate contend that higher education is too focused on immediate peer groups, convinced that the most value will come from the people whose context is highly similar. There is some logic to that, given that effective education heavily dependent on many contextual details. But we seem to need a statement of common purpose around the educational part of the mission that is at once broad enough to accommodate differences and focused enough to bring together different types of institutions and individual stakeholders that have different strengths and resources to offer.
I won't go so far as to say that EEP can offer that, but we aspire to create a collaborative environment out of which that shared vision can emerge by solving specific problems—acting locally—through collaborations that cross peer network boundaries.
"E-textiles, or electronic textiles, refer to 'fabric artifacts that include embedded computers and other electronics'." E-textile programs are now be implemented in some Ontario schools. It's a pretty new part of e-learning, though research dates back to 2012 or so. The authors report (29 page PDF) that e-textiles have been associated with the rise of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) learning in schools. Anyhow, the focus of the current article is on the "production pedagogies" employed in the field, "a focus on the cultivation of participatory and equitable spaces, where students can engage with ideas and issues as joint seekers and co-creators of knowledge and producers." The study is a design-based research project working alongside students in e-textile projects. They conclude that "choice, collaboration, and making for purpose are three vital elements that promote engagement and deep learning." Good paper. Image: Steve Auslander, Exploring e-Textiles in Indiana.Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]
Apr 11, 2018
I think this is a good article but I think that readers in the education sector should read it critically. Parts I agree with. For example, 'tech is not neutral'. The tech we choose changes not only what we do but also what we can do. Others need clarification. For example, the statement 'tech is not inevitable' may be true for some specific piece of tech, but about tech generally. Others need a lot of clarification. For example, "most people in tech sincerely want to do good" is true only if you have a very wide definition of good. Compare, for example, what Mark Zuckerberg thinks is 'good' with what you think is good. Also, I want to point out that 'tech' means way more than 'tech companies'. We have people working in schools, people working in government, people working in open source, all of whom are 'in tech' but who are not in tech companies. That's probably the biggest thing tech journalists overlook.Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]
Royal Bank of Canada,
Apr 11, 2018
The gist of this report (44 page PDF) is that while technology is eliminating a lot of jobs, it won't eliminate work. But we have to be aware of what new skills and abilities the future workplace will require. Among the skills considered most important: active listening, speaking, and critical thinking. The first was a bit of a surprise - but was also the key skill I used in my last two research projects. You should read the Tony Bates summary, as he uses more words than I can here and thus provides a much more comprehensive outline. He also references UBC's Digital Tattoo showing how these skills overlap into our personal lives. In the same context, you might look at the recently released Business Council of Canada skills survey (28 page PDF) which reaches many of the same conclusions. See also Alex Usher's summary and discussion.Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]
Here's what the article says: "According to Susan Dumais, distinguished scientist and assistant director of Microsoft Research AI, the most important reason for launching free, publicly available AI training courses is to lend a broader push throughout the technology industry to fill a gap in workers with skills in artificial intelligence. 'AI is increasingly important in how our products and services are designed and delivered and that is true for our customers as well. Fundamentally, we are all interested in developing talent that is able to build, understand and design systems that have AI as a central component.'" So long as corporations need specialized training, MOOCs will continue to be a viable educational solution.Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]
Royal Bank of Canada (2018) Humans Wanted Toronto ON: Royal Bank of Canada
I have at last got hold of a full copy of this report that came out a couple of weeks ago. Much to my surprise, I found the report essential reading for anyone in education, mainly because it is relatively specific about the skills that the Canadian job market will need between 2018 and 2021, and the results were not quite what I expected to see.Conclusions from the report
I can’t better the summary in the report itself:
1. More than 25% of Canadian jobs will be heavily disrupted by technology in the coming decade. Fully half will go through a significant overhaul of the skills required.
2. An assessment of 20,000 skills rankings across 300 occupations and 2.4 million expected job openings shows an increasing demand for foundational skills such as critical thinking, co-ordination, social perceptiveness, active listening and complex problem solving.
3. Despite projected heavy job displacement in many sectors and occupations, the Canadian economy is expected to add 2.4 million jobs over the next four years, all of which will require this new mix of skills.
4. Canada’s education system, training programs and labour market initiatives are inadequately designed to help Canadian youth navigate this new skills economy.
5. Canadian employers are generally not prepared, through hiring, training or retraining, to recruit and develop the skills needed to make their organizations more competitive in a digital economy.
6. Our researchers identified a new way of grouping jobs into six “clusters,” based on essential skills by occupation rather than by industry.
7. By focusing on the foundational skills required within each of these clusters, a high degree of mobility is possible between jobs.
8. Digital fluency will be essential to all new jobs. This does not mean we need a nation of coders, but a nation that is digitally literate.
9. Global competencies like cultural awareness, language, and adaptability will be in demand.
10. Virtually all job openings will place significant importance on judgment and decision making and more than two thirds will value an ability to manage people and resources.
So, no, automation is not going to remove all work for humans, but it is going to change very much the nature of that work, and it is in this sense that technology will be disruptive. Workers will be needed in the future but they will need to be very different workers from the past.
This has massive implications for teaching and learning and the bank is in my view correct in arguing that Canada’s education system is inadequately designed to help Canadian youth navigate this new skills economy.What skills will be in demand?
Not the ones most of us would have thought that a bank would identify:
You will see that the most in demand skills will be active listening, speaking, critical thinking and reading comprehension, while the least important skills include science, programming and technology design.
In other words, ‘soft skills’ will be most needed for human work. While this may seem obvious to many educators, it is refreshing to hear this from a business perspective as well.Methodology
How did the Royal Bank not only identify these skills and their importance, but also how did it put actual numbers in terms of workers against these skills?
The data were derived from an interesting application of big data: an analysis of the skills listed on the web in ‘future-oriented’ job advertisements through media such as LinkedIn, combined with more qualitative interviews with employers, policy-makers, educators and young people.What does this mean for teaching and learning?
There are several challenges I see:
- first, getting teachers and instructors to accept that these (and other) skills need to be taught within any subject domain;
- second, as these skills are not likely to be developed within a singe course, identifying how best to teach these skills at different ages, throughout a program of study, and indeed throughout life;
- third, codifying these skills in terms of appropriate teaching and assessment methods; too often educators claim they are teaching these skills but if so, it is often implicit or not clear how or even if students acquire these skills.
- we need to determine how best digital technology/e-learning can support the development of skills. For instance well-designed digital learning can enable skills practice and feedback at scale, freeing teachers and instructors to focus on what needs to be done on a face-to-face basis.
The Royal Bank has done a very good job in identifying work-force skills, but these are not the only skills needed in a digital age. Equally if not more important are the skills we need as humans in handling everyday life in a digital age. Examples would be:
- a wide range of non-work oriented digital literacy skills, such as managing our digital identities (see UBC’s Digital Tattoo as an excellent example) so we as individuals have at least some control over the technology and how it is used
- understanding the organization and power structures of digital companies and digital technologies: one example might be understanding how to identify and challenge algorithmic decision-making, for instance
- teaching the important non-digital skills necessary in a digital society (for instance, mindfulness, or social awareness and conduct in both real and online environments).
Identifying such skills and finding ways to integrate the development of such skills within the curriculum is a major challenge but essential if we are to not only survive but thrive as humans in a digital world. We are just getting started on this, but it’s none too soon. In the meantime, the Royal Bank has done a good job in making the discussion about 21st century skills more concrete and practical.
In Spring 2015 Moody's affirmed their B2 rating for Blackboard's nearly $1.4 billion in debt as part of the company's acquisition of Schoolwires, with a negative outlook for the ratings (meaning there was risk of a further downgrade). Three weeks ago, that downgrade took place.
("Moody's") downgraded Blackboard Inc.'s Corporate Family Rating ("CFR") by two notches to Caa1, from B2, as well as its Probability of Default Rating, to Caa1-PD, from B2-PD. Moody's also downgraded Blackboard's $135 million first-lien revolving credit facility and $920 million (remaining balance) first-lien term loan to B3, from B1, and its $378 million second-lien notes to Caa3, from Caa1. Moody's also changed Blackboard's outlook to stable, from negative.
Put in regular terminology, the previous B2 rating indicated that Blackboard had "the capacity to meet its financial commitments. Adverse business, financial, or economic conditions will likely impair the obligor's capacity or willingness to meet its financial commitments." But with the new Caa1 rating, Blackboard "is currently vulnerable, and is dependent upon favorable business, financial, and economic conditions to meet its financial commitments."
The rationale for the downgrade is that Blackboard holds a very high amount of debt (now more than $1.4 billion) relative to its earnings, and revenue growth is not coming from its core markets.
Blackboard's core North American Higher Education ("NAHE") and K-12 units, representing 56% of total revenue, continue to show weakening top line results, suggesting that the success of its new Ultra user interface is still uncertain. Blackboard's international segment, also weak, has shown modest stabilization of late. Only the campus enablement segment, consisting of recently acquired educational community communications and transaction processing services and representing a quarter of Blackboard's revenues, has shown healthy, reliable revenue growth. Some ratings support is provided by Blackboard's high level of revenue visibility, with three quarters of 2017 revenues coming from recurring products and services, and underpinned by its 90% renewal rates in 2017. Both of these measures, however, represent declines from prior years.
The turnaround is stalling, and the credit cards are maxed out. Blackboard has continued to cut costs, including "late-year layoffs", and Moody's expects "overall revenues to be flat to down slightly in 2018 as competitors have stifled market share gains".
While this is not good news for Blackboard, the ratings action does give the ed tech community additional insight into the operations and health of the company. Blackboard total revenues are between $700 - $720 million, with earnings (EBITDA, adjusted by Moody's) between $160 - $180 million.
And in the rationale for the ratings comes specific commentary on Learn Ultra.
Software renewals have been weaker than expected in the NAHE [North American Higher Ed] segment, as the company strives to sell its latest learning management system ("LMS") software enhancement, Ultra, into a crowded and very competitive marketplace. Given operating seasonality tied to the academic year, the behind-schedule launch of Ultra, in mid-2016, meant that measurable revenue and EBITDA [Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization] contributions from it began to be realized only in the 2017 academic year. There are indications that Ultra is gaining traction relative to Canvas and Desire2Learn, and Moody's believes the packaging of Ultra with transaction- and payment-processing services may support its competitive positioning. But the success of Ultra is far from certain, and the threat from existing and possibly new competitors remains high as barriers to entry, specifically for web-based software, are relatively low. Meanwhile Blackboard, with a brand new CFO, is focusing its research, sales and marketing, and product development resources in an effort to ensure Ultra's future.
We have covered the 2014 announcement and ongoing fate of Learn Ultra here at e-Literate, and claiming a "launch of Ultra, in mid-2016" is generous at best. At that point there were educator previews with no ability for institutional adoptions. Fall 2017 is the closest to what I would say is an actual launch. As of a January, 2018 meeting Michael and I had with Blackboard's management team, they claimed dozens of schools actively piloting Learn Ultra1, and their flagship customer University of Phoenix is beginning rollout of the LMS starting this month.
What is going well at Blackboard is the movement to a SaaS (software as a service, aka 'the cloud') model for the LMS - for both the traditional experience and Ultra experience. As of January there were 284 schools on Learn SaaS and 49 others in migration. In a purchase-only report, Moody's acknowledged this strength and noted the investment that Blackboard is making in this area (more than $50 m expected in 2018).
While the company has shown good progress in migrating its legacy Learn customers onto the appropriate SaaS-based platform from which those customers may choose, in turn, to migrate to Ultra, Blackboard’s efforts to make those transitions smooth for its customers have entailed elevated capital expenditures, which will likely continue through 2019, cutting into free cash flow.
Put this all together, and 2018 is the year that Blackboard needs to transition from 'wait until Learn Ultra is ready' to 'Learn Ultra had better lead to increased sales'. I have been impressed with the new management team's transparent approach to dealing with analysts, and with their honest approach to understanding the problems they need to solve. But the company needs to deliver, and this is shaping up to be a newsworthy year for Blackboard, for good or ill. There's a lot to watch here.
- I have asked several times for this list, or a subset of this list, of schools piloting Ultra to allow interviews. If and when we receive schools to interview, we will cover in another post.
The post Moody’s Downgrades Blackboard Debt, Focuses On Learn Ultra Delivery appeared first on e-Literate.