Landing : Athabascau University

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  • Jon Dron posted to the wire December 12, 2017 - 11:49am
    Update: the Landing will be offline tonight between approx. 8:30pm and 10:30pm, Mountain Time.
  • Jon Dron posted to the wire December 11, 2017 - 11:11am
    Reminder: the Landing will be offline 8:00pm Dec 12 - 2:00am Dec 13 (Mountain Time) while it is moved to a new virtual server
  • Jon Dron commented on the blog Strategies for successful learning at AU December 3, 2017 - 10:37pm
    Thanks Viet! My suggestions just scratch the surface.  COMP602 is quite different from COMP266, for which I originally wrote this, but there are nonetheless consistent concerns that the courses share. Those central issues of motivation -...
  • Jon Dron commented on a bookmark A Universe Explodes: A Blockchain Book, from Editions At Play December 3, 2017 - 12:33pm
    I don't think blockchain will be useful in tracking as such - quite the opposite. Even the evil Erudition Digital approach relies on different mechanisms to perform its dirtier deeds. The big idea is that it makes it possible to wrap up other tools...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked DADA - social networking through drawing December 2, 2017 - 1:53pm
    DADA is a social network where communication occurs through drawings. Conversations turn into collaborative artworks. It's wonderful.
    Comments
  • Martin Rees (UK Astronomer Royal) takes on complexity and emergence. This is essentially a primer on why complex systems - as he says, accounting for 99% of what's interesting about the world - are not susceptible to reductionist science despite...
  • A really nice project from the Editions at Play team at Google, in which blockchain is used both to limit supply to a digital book (only 100 copies made) and, as the book is passed on, to make it 'age,' in the sense that each reader must remove two...
    Comments
    • Your perspective on blockchains is very interesting, in particular the distributed nature of the digital tech.  I am wondering how crypto-washing of money and information will affect bandwidth and the actual environment where the network energy is being exploited? How can blockchains efficiently (CPU) track open e-book versions and associated layered information (i.e., annotations)? Would an open DNA/GPS content tagging standard be more efficient on the network?

      PS. Blockchain crypto-stratedgy seems like a game of trivial pursuit on implosion, while the actual world is exploding.

      Steve Swettenham December 3, 2017 - 3:31am

    • I don't think blockchain will be useful in tracking as such - quite the opposite. Even the evil Erudition Digital approach relies on different mechanisms to perform its dirtier deeds. The big idea is that it makes it possible to wrap up other tools and standards (including those to implement intentional decay) fairly robustly without requiring a central server or authority, without (necessarily) disrupting the traditional economics of publication, including the rights of buyers to resell, gift, or mutilate their purchases.

      In my scenario, blockchain doesn't have to eat power to quite the extent that it does in Bitcoin because it is only used to manage a single, indivisible (transferable) resource a finite - and usually low - number of times. A book is not like a currency: there is no profit to be made for end users from mining new books. At a wild guess, I suspect that the environmental impact would be significantly lower than that of traditional books, averaged out over time, once you factor in transportation and storage costs as well as the more obvious embodied energy costs of deforestation and production. It might even be not much higher (and possibly lower) than the current centralized approach, which still consumes quite a bit of bandwidth, storage, and processing power, not to mention sustaining armies of managers of such systems, with all the associated costs involved.

      And yes, ideally, books would all be open and we could use tools (that already exist in most ebook standards) to add glosses or whatever metadata we liked. Right now, a 'purchase' of a DRM-encumbered ebook is no more than a provisional rental, with the added burden that sellers can arbitrarily choose to disable our access to it at any time as, most famously, Amazon did to readers of 1984. Combined with the ability of publishers to impose a range of conditions on how long we can read it, where we read it, on what device we read it, and so on, not to mention their creepy ability to track what, how, when, and where we read, it's a raw deal for consumers. In return we get very little: mainly, the potential to receive updates and, what a blockchain-based approach would give us for free, the ability to annotate and share annotations. All of this is available from DRM-free works such as those published by Tor or O'Reilly, (or, for that matter AU Press) that are thriving without such ugliness, so the added constraints are the result of pure greed, not business necessity. That said, in the near future, it is unlikely that we are going to stop most publishers from jealously protecting their wares with DRM (though it could happen: the music industry has, with reluctance and huge caveats, mostly reversed course on that). Although it would, if done well, prevent them from exploiting the technologies in new ways to make even more money, using blockchain with DRM and a decay mechanism would still allow publishers to make money the same way that they have always done, and for people to actually own the books they buy.

      Jon Dron December 3, 2017 - 12:33pm

  • Jon Dron uploaded the file A Universe Explodes December 1, 2017 - 7:36pm
    Screenshot of a really interesting blockchain-based decaying ebook from Editions at Play
  • Good points, Gerald. It is indeed a lot to do with controlling pedagogies. And, like so many such studies, these looked at average effects but, to the best of my knowledge, I have never met an average student.
  • The Verge reports on a variety of studies that show taking notes with laptops during lectures results in decreased learning when compared with notes taken using pen and paper. This tells me three things, none of which is what the article is aiming...
    Comments
    • Jon,

      I am so glad you responded to this article. It has been festering under my skin all week and I haven't had the chance to blog about it (yet).

      I completely agree with the issue primarily being a structural one about teaching and learning instituions. It also strikes me that (not surprisingly) it is about control on the part of the instructor (or fear of loss of control).

      The other component missing is the idea that learners are individuals with individual needs and motivations.

      Cheers.

      Gerald Ardito November 29, 2017 - 7:06pm

    • Good points, Gerald. It is indeed a lot to do with controlling pedagogies. And, like so many such studies, these looked at average effects but, to the best of my knowledge, I have never met an average student.

      Jon Dron November 29, 2017 - 10:52pm

    • Jon,

      Agreed. And thanks for the reminder to start The End of Average.

      Gerald

      Gerald Ardito November 30, 2017 - 2:45pm

  • Jon Dron commented on a bookmark Weighing the Importance of a Computer Science Degree | Inc.com November 24, 2017 - 1:02pm
    @Vive - yes, I agree, that does accord with my idea of a university too, at least when combined with the practical application of that knowledge to help the community.  Technically, the word 'university' derives from "universitas magistrorum...
  • Jon Dron commented on a bookmark Small talk, big implications November 24, 2017 - 11:44am
    Thanks Gerald - it's a book that keeps on giving! I think you'll like it. Spells things out very clearly with some wonderful examples. I may be a little biased in its favour: though he takes a different (and I think more rigorously grounded) path to...
  • An interesting opinion piece from a person in a consultancy that hires a lot of developers. tl;dr a computing degree still tends to be very useful if you want to make a living as a developer, despite the fact that there are lots of alternative,...
    Comments
    • Universities do two things. Help learn about knowledge and help create new knowledge. One can drive students to the leading edge and expose opportunities for them to be creative, the conventional learning pathway. The more successful a university is in this, the more prominent they become, which leads to more students believing in this traditional way of learning and knowledge creation and flocking to such conventional universities.

      Unconventional learning pathways are themselves fine as far as helping to learn about knowledge, and the help is non-traditional, mostly self-help. But, how successul is this pathway about creating knowledge? I doubt that the creation of new knowledge naturally follows in unconventional pathways. It could be done, no doubt, but it is not geared for it yet. 

      The very word "University", an insitution about learning at the highest level, demands that new knowledge be created through a follow up research. If universities don't see themselves as beacons of rigorous knowledge creation and confine themselves to 'just learning', then they should rename themselves to some sort of higher (not the highest) learning institutes and give up the identity of being a University.  

      Vivekanandan Kumar November 24, 2017 - 5:32am

    • @Vive - yes, I agree, that does accord with my idea of a university too, at least when combined with the practical application of that knowledge to help the community. 

      Technically, the word 'university' derives from "universitas magistrorum et scholarium" which means 'community/society of teachers and scholars' and says little about the level or expectations of what that community actually does apart from to learn and to teach. But I agree that, at least since von Humboldt (notwithstanding the awkward and counter-productive Canadian distinction between comprehensive and other universities), an acknowledged role of that community is the generation of new knowledge.

      But I don't think there is any contradiction at all between performing that role and accepting, supporting, or actually providing unconventional pathways to get there. Quite the opposite, in fact: we should positively encourage it, if for no other reason than that it drives innovation and creativity. I'm pretty sure that most of us professional academics use self-teaching (or non-formal methods like attending conferences) most of the time when we need to learn stuff that moves our research forward. I don't see why we shouldn't encourage students to do the same.

      For instance, if they want to do a project that demands Ruby on Rails (which we don't teach), I reckon it's a perfectly legitimate path for a student to take a bootcamp. Similarly, if our courses bore or intimidate them, or don't use the tools they wish to use, I think it should be absolutely acceptable for them to achieve the same outcomes in different ways, without penalty. It would be great if we could participate and help out ourselves. It would be good if we were not so deeply bound to providing a standardized teaching curriculum that, by its very nature (professional societies are about setting norms, not reaching heights), cannot be on the leading edge of the field, and that admits little variation and creativity.  It would be brilliant if our students were more engaged in solving real problems rather than implementing (and for the most part copying and pasting from the web) yet another solution in Java to the Towers of Hanoi. 

      I'm not suggesting that we should scrap everything we do now and make it a complete free-for-all: it doesn't have to signal a drop in standards at all. But, if we were to provide bit of structure, a bit of support, maybe a few basic foundation topics (optionally replaceable with equivalents), some rigorous criteria of the right kind, and some means of assessing achievement, we could make a more open, embracing, problem-oriented and competence-based approach work far better than what we do now, with far greater student satisfaction and engagement, and far more relevant, useful skills for all concerned.

      Jon Dron November 24, 2017 - 1:02pm

  • Jon Dron bookmarked Small talk, big implications November 21, 2017 - 7:42pm
     An article from Quartz with some good links to studies showing the very many benefits of interacting with others, even at a very superficial level. I particularly like the report of a study showing the (quite strong) cognitive benefits of...
    Comments
    • Jon,

      Thanks for sharing this article, as well as the commentary about the gaps and assumptions in the reporting.

      This is how I frequently feel when I read a great deal of educational research.

      And I look forward to reading Todd Rose's book. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Gerald Ardito November 24, 2017 - 10:20am

    • Thanks Gerald - it's a book that keeps on giving! I think you'll like it. Spells things out very clearly with some wonderful examples. I may be a little biased in its favour: though he takes a different (and I think more rigorously grounded) path to get there, Rose's thoughts on educational reform are remarkably like my own.

      Jon Dron November 24, 2017 - 11:44am

    • I will let  you knowwhat I think.

      In the meantime, I also shared your post (and the article) with the Educational Psychology class I am currently teaching. As you can probably imagine, I have had them spending a lot of time with Self Determination Theory. 

      Gerald Ardito November 24, 2017 - 1:25pm

  • Jon Dron bookmarked Firefox Quantum in the group COMP 266 November 14, 2017 - 11:10am
    The new version of Firefox is very sleek and very fast, while retaining backwards compatibility with older plugins. An easy upgrade for users of the previous version, a quick install for everyone else. An absolute must-have for any web developer....
    Comments
    • I tried Firefox 57 and the experience for me was the exact opposite. Typical of a corporation programming elite controlling the world. Non of my past extensions worked (0 backward compatibility), the speed did not improve, and I lost access to my Adobe Acrobat XI plugin. But hey great advertising by Mozilla, and trying to stop the automatic updating was a displeasure, in particular updating plugins in FF 56.02 seemed to auto-update the entire web browser.  Fortunately I have backups, otherwise I would be forced to buy a whole new computer system just to use Firefox 57 on my 7 year old MAC.

      PS. The only positive was that Google docs worked better in FF 57; I am glad someone else had a better experience, but I will be frozen at FF 56.02 and use Chrome/Safari for Google docs... Smile

      Steve Swettenham November 19, 2017 - 2:03am

  • Jon Dron posted to the wire November 9, 2017 - 1:16pm
    Research demo of online learning tools by @maigac and team at https://athabascau.adobeconnect.com/presentation/ 1:30pm MT today
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Addicted to learning or addicted to grades? November 3, 2017 - 11:25pm
    Figure 1: Skinner's teaching machine It is not much of a surprise that many apps are designed to be addictive, nor that there is a whole discipline behind making them so, but I was particularly interested in the delightfully named Dopamine Labs'...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Signal : now with proper desktop apps November 2, 2017 - 2:32pm
    Signal is arguably the most open, and certainly the most secure, privacy-preserving instant messaging/video or voice-calling system available today. It is open source, ad-free, standards-based, simple, and very well designed. Though not filled with...
    Comments
  • Oh drat. So Doppler Labs is no more. This is very sad. I love my Here One bluetooth earbuds, have recommended them to many people, and would do so again. For simple noise cancelling they run countless rings around every other headphones and earbuds...
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