I work in the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics. I am one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course, write about online and networked learning, have authored learning management and content syndication software, and am the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily.

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Self-paced language learning

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The point of departure for this post is self-paced language learning using Duolingo, but it quickly moves into a fascinating history of self-paced learning generally. Efforts began in the 1800s with the massification of learning, and very quickly self-paced was associated with personalized learning as designers attempted to adapt their designs to the different abilities of students. Another early feature of self-paced learning was the student-teacher learning contract. Self-paced learning flourished in the 1970s with programmed learning, an offshoot of behaviourism, and the cycle began again. For all that work, the results have been less than impressive. "Over forty years ago, a review of self-paced learning concluded that the evidence on its benefits was inconclusive (Allison, 1975: 5). Nothing has changed since."

Today: 91 Total: 308 Philip J. Kerr, Adaptive Learning in ELT, 2017/03/28 [Direct Link]

Cloud computing pushes into the classroom, but not without challenges

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"Slowly but surely, in spite of the issues, cloud tools are coming to the classroom," according to this report. But infrastructure challenges remain. "One of our biggest challenges is providing technology solutions that require bandwidth and some computer." As well, there is the complexity of adding new tools to a classroom environment. No single set of tools provides a perfect fit. " In order to decide which tools are best from the universe of choices on the Internet, teachers communicate with one another, participate with other teachers on social networks to find what's working for them."

Today: 59 Total: 453 Ron Miller, Ars Technica, 2017/03/28 [Direct Link]

The three exclamation point problem

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The best way to create a bias against a group is to normalize a behaviour that others can't, or won't, conform to. American digerati have perfected this in the form of casual profanity in writing. It's a marker they can use to identify each other in writing and because many cultures and individuals won't indulge, they can maintain a firm barrier between themselves and outsiders. Which - ironically - the the point of the current article, though the example is different. You must write a certain way. You must not write a certain way. Only the latter can be resisted in any real sense, which is why the effective biases are formed out of the former. Now straighten your tie, don't slouch, look people in the eye, and smile.

Today: 41 Total: 294 timoni west, Product Matters, Medium, 2017/03/28 [Direct Link]

Education is Changing—It’s Time Assessment Caught Up

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This is a lightweight article touting the benefits of adaptive testing "where, based on a student response to one test item, that student was presented with another item, appropriately targeted so that the student’s response would provide more information about his or her range of understanding." This won't be new to educators but it does point to where Stanford's future work may go.

Today: 36 Total: 298 Esther Care, Alvin Vista, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2017/03/28 [Direct Link]

Can We Afford Free Textbooks?

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This is an argument that can't be ignored. It runs as follows: OER textbookss address the cost of higher education, and while cost is a significant problem, the low completion rate is an even more significant problem. Part of the reason for the low completion rate is poor learning strategy, a strategy that is entrenched with existing (and now OER) textbooks. Compare that to what paid learning materials provide: activities, interactivity, analytics, and more. So we should continue to pay for learning resources. It's a lovely argument and Robert S. Feldman should be commended.

But. First, neither publishers nor professors were not prepared to budge from the textbook model until free textbooks came online. Moreover, only some OERs are textbooks; the vast majority are learning resources that are out in front of publishers in addressing real learning needs and challenges. Finally, many features of progressive education - interactivity, constructionism, etc. - really work only with open learning resources. If we drop support for OER we lose all this, and we lose the main force for innovation in our field.

Today: 26 Total: 481 Robert S. Feldman, Inside Higher Ed, 2017/03/27 [Direct Link]

Weapons of Math Destruction: invisible, ubiquitous algorithms are ruining millions of lives

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When I spoke at the London School of Economics a couple years ago, part of my talk was an extended criticism of the use of models in learning design and analysis. "The real issue isn’t algorithms, it’s models. Models are what you get when you feed data to an algorithm and ask it to make predictions. As (Cathy) O’Neil puts it, 'Models are opinions embedded in mathematics.'" This article is an extended discussion of the problem stated much more cogently than my presentation. "It's E Pluribus Unum reversed: models make many out of one, pigeonholing each of us as members of groups about whom generalizations -- often punitive ones (such as variable pricing) can be made.

Today: 33 Total: 483 Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, 2017/03/27 [Direct Link]

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.