Landing : Athabascau University


  • Very true - it's horribly self-reinforcing. Our educational systems tend to teach people how not to learn and, like drug pushers, to make students into grade addicts, ideally having grades mainlined via a process that demands least thought and...
  • We already know that extrinsically motivated students (mainly those driven by grades and testing) are far more likely to cheat than those who are more intrinsically motivated. I bookmarked yet another example of this effect just the other day but...
    • Jon,

      I appreciate your sharing this article. And, I agree, the results are completely consistent with other related research (and Self Determination Theory).

      I wanted to add that there is also this Catch-22 in the mix potentially as well. Students who are extrinsically motivated tend to dislike a course that does not exactly fit their ideas of how a course should be organized, thereby idisincentivizing instructors who are seeking more rigor or depth or an innovative design. For me, It is all part of how you say:

      We - the educators and, above all, the educational system - are the cause of cheating, as much as we are the victims of it. And we are the ones that should fix it.

      Gerald Ardito October 8, 2017 - 1:31pm

    • Very true - it's horribly self-reinforcing. Our educational systems tend to teach people how not to learn and, like drug pushers, to make students into grade addicts, ideally having grades mainlined via a process that demands least thought and effort to get the purest possible hit (cheating is a high-risk self-destructive shortcut, but it's totally understandable how and why it happens).

      To be fair, it's the whole system, not just educational institutions, that creates the addiction, and students themselves are part of that as well as employers, professional bodies, families, etc, etc.  It's a big, wicked, deeply entangled, complex problem to solve. We can patch things up locally but the problem is inherent in the design. I think that mandatory decoupling of grades and learning would go a long way towards fixing things, not because it is the answer in itself, but because the rest of the house of cards sits on top of that.

      Jon Dron October 8, 2017 - 1:50pm

    • I completely agree that the whole system is the problem. I find myself mostly doing the work of trying to patch a system that is inherently flawed if not completely broken.

      Separating grades and learning would make a big difference.

      Gerald Ardito October 8, 2017 - 1:54pm

  • I invite you to draw your own conclusions about this paywalled paper and the amount of quality control and editorial input that goes into IEEE publications nowadays. Here's the abstract, which is one of the more coherent passages in the...
    • It's from Malaysia. I wonder if it could be a direct translation gone wrong? I see that it's submitted through this computer gaming conference in Jakarta, which is associated with 'IEEE Indonesian Section', whose submission criteria says that "Non-presented papers will be pulled from submission to IEEE Xplore." These papers must slip through the cracks. I wouldn't be surprised if the conference paper peer reviewers didn't review the non-presented papers and forwarded them directly to IEEE Xplore (managed in the USA), expecting them to review them (or not really caring, since it's not being presented in their conference).

      Even [formerly] trusted big publishers like Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, and Sage have accepted papers with no peer review (at least, they did a few years ago). I wrote about John Bohannon's experiment to get publishers to accept his purposefully and glaringly flawed paper in Science (04 Oct 2013, Vol. 342, Issue 6154, pp. 60-65, DOI 10.1126/science.342.6154.60): Who's Afraid of Peer Review?

      Vigilence, that is the price we have to pay for the proliferation of scientific resources and industry. (Yep, I'm quoting The Drumhead... again.) Informed skepticism is a skill that does not appear to be keeping pace with technology.

      Tyler Lucas October 7, 2017 - 2:21am

    • The sad part is that my 16 year old granddaughter (BC school system) still comes home with the conversation and related paperwork from her classes

      Stuart Berry September 16, 2019 - 6:11pm

  • Jon Dron bookmarked The NGDLE: We Are the Architects | EDUCAUSE October 3, 2017 - 11:44pm
    A nice overview of where the NGDLE concept was earlier this year. We really need to be thinking about this at AU because the LMS alone will not take us where we need to be. One of the nice things about this article is that it talks quite clearly...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked The return of the weblog – Ethical Tech September 28, 2017 - 11:58am
    Blogs have evolved a bit over the past 20 years or so, and diversified. The always terrific Ben Werdmuller here makes the distinction between thinkpieces (what I tend to think of as vaguely equivalent to keynote presentations at a conference, less...
  • Another in a long line of algorithm fails from the Facebook stable, this time from Instagram... This is a postcard from our future when AI and robots rule the planet. Intelligence without wisdom is a very dangerous thing. See my recent post on...
  • A straightforward and briefly reported study that supports the rather obvious hypothesis that quite young (15-month-old) children can and do learn from observing adults, at least in the short term. The twist here is that adults in the study were...
  • Jon Dron commented on a bookmark Amazon helps and teaches bomb makers September 23, 2017 - 1:34pm
    As in all things, it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it. Having worked on recommender systems, especially adaptive ones, for my PhD and for some years afterwards, I do see that there are many ways they can have a place. But there are...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked No, you aren't a 'visual' learner September 21, 2017 - 7:16pm
    It's a damning indictment of our collective resistance to truth that the point of this article still has to be restated, yet again. Amazingly, 93% of the general public and 76% of educators still erroneously believe that we should be taught in ways...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Amazon helps and teaches bomb makers September 19, 2017 - 5:30pm
    Amazon's recommender algorithm works pretty well: if people start to gather together ingredients needed for making a thermite bomb, Amazon helpfully suggests other items that may be needed to make it, including hardware like ball bearings, switches,...
    • Jon,

      I agree with the points you are raising here.

      There is a pervsuasive (and generally inaccurate) notion that learning is the acquisition of simple sets of skills. We seem to believe that out of that acquisition of skill sets that higher order thinking and problem solving simply emerge magically.

      If that were the case then the recommender engine model would work great. Students would have the much heralded (of late) playlists of lessons to build those skills and viola!

      However, this model excludes the most basic truth about learning which is that it is labor intensive, experience dependent, and therefore not realy programmable in the way that Sal Khan and other ed tech gurus seem to believe. 

      Gerald Ardito September 23, 2017 - 12:33pm

    • As in all things, it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it.

      Having worked on recommender systems, especially adaptive ones, for my PhD and for some years afterwards, I do see that there are many ways they can have a place. But there are also enormous dangers and, as you suggest, having them drive a teacher-determined learning agenda is not smart. Collaborative filters of the sort used by Amazon, Netflix, etc, turn out to be less promising than you might at first think, sadly: either too crude to work (it's not about relatively static preferences, as in books or music, but about evolving learning needs that change as you learn) or too difficult to use (e.g. my PhD systems!).

      I find small chunks of stuff to learn from (YouTube videos, StackExchange dialogues, etc) can be immensely useful when used by learners to achieve goals they have set for themselves: I have learned a great many skills that way, which are a necessary part of (but only part of) learning. And there is great value within a small, known community to sharing and ranking stuff that the group uses - the objects the bind, the ideas that connect, the shared cognitive artefacts - which can be greatly enriched with added visualization, analytics, and rich qualitative metadata, as long as these simply support, rather than drive learning, and reflect rather than dominate the group's dynamics.

      As an interesting addendum to my post, Amazon's recommendations turn out to be far more benign than the media at first suggested: the recommendations come about as a result of people making backyard fireworks and doing science experiments. Context is everything, and context gets lost in large-scale recommender systems whose purpose is to sell stuff, not to support learning!

      Jon Dron September 23, 2017 - 1:34pm

    • Jon,

      I think that recommender systems can be good (and I know yours were/are). I was responding to the corporate instantiations in education in particular. 

      Mike Caulfield had a nice piece about Netflix recommender engines not really recommended things for you, but rather recommending things you might like that they have rights to.

      I also agree that I have sought out YouTube and Stack Overflow and other similar places to support my own learning, and they have been immensely helpful. The difference there is the self-directed piece I think. 

      Gerald Ardito September 23, 2017 - 1:43pm

  • 'Suggests' is the operative word in the title here. The title is a sensationalist interpretation of an inconclusive and careful study, and I don't think this is what the authors of the study mean to say at all. Indeed, they express caution in...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Highly praised children are more inclined to cheat September 15, 2017 - 3:27pm
    The title of this Alphr article is a little misleading because the point the article rightly makes is that it all depends on the type of praise given. It reports on research from the University of Toronto that confirms (yet again) what should be...
    • This post was interesting to me as I consider my use of praise multiple times a day as parent and teacher. Jon Dron's comments bring attention to the differences in praising who a child is vs. what they do, in extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation.

      The value of teaching mindset, our beliefs about success, is becoming more understood in and out of school systems. Fixed mindset is the belief that success is based on innate ability whereas with growth mindset success is based on hard work, learning, and training.

      As kids, we tend to grow up with fixed mindsets labelling ourselves  'good' or 'bad' at things. Carol Dweck has contributed to social psychology with theories of intelligence and has devoted her life to studying fixed and growth mindset.

      I wonder if we can begin to shift the next generation of thinkers, if, as young parents and educators, we focus our efforts on specific behaviour - directed feedback.


      Jehane Johnson September 16, 2017 - 1:21am

    • Jon,

      I found this really interesting as well, particularly given my recent forays into Self Determination Theory. I also just shared the article, and your comments with my students in a Learning Environments course I am teaching this semester.


      Gerald Ardito September 18, 2017 - 9:12am

  • Today is the final day to get the discount rate if you are planning on coming to E-Learn in Vancouver this year (US$455 today vs US$495 from tomorrow onwards). It promises to be quite a big event this year, with an estimated 900+ concurrent...
  • Jon Dron commented on a bookmark Reddit no longer (quite) open source in the group Open Source Software September 5, 2017 - 5:12pm
    Indeed - a nice metaphor. Open source needs patrons! All software is pretty much like art (or at least craft) and, like art, there are some pretty draconian laws in place about what you are allowed to do with it.  Though I do like Reddit and...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Reddit no longer (quite) open source in the group Open Source Software September 5, 2017 - 4:31pm
    Reddit has released its underlying software as open source since it began but is now stepping away from it - a bit. The reasons are interesting: "Open-source makes it hard for us to develop some features "in the clear" (like our recent video...
    • It's comes down to how much money they want to make vs how needed their product is. Some projects operate based on donations, while others start offering additional services or training. I've never used Reddit much, it just never appealed to me. On the other hand I will continue supporting the GPG and Enigmail project, for example. There are plenty of open source projects that continue to thrive 20 years later. In some ways open source is just like art.

      Viorel Tabara September 5, 2017 - 4:45pm

    • Indeed - a nice metaphor. Open source needs patrons! All software is pretty much like art (or at least craft) and, like art, there are some pretty draconian laws in place about what you are allowed to do with it. 

      Though I do like Reddit and use it for serendipitous discovery quite a bit, I don't resent Reddit's decision. It probably makes good business sense and, anyway, there aren't that many people that actually want to run a clone of a pretty rough-and-ready system (Reddit's value is its communities, not its software), especially when there are vastly superior open source tools performing a similar job like Discourse available. It's just a bit sad that something vibrant has been taken out of the system and that the world has become a bit more closed as a result. The Reddit algorithms are (currently) not particularly great but it is really important to know what they do and how they do it, and useful for those seeking to build better variants. That information may be hidden in future, and that's not a good thing in what is, by some measures, the most popular open discussion site on the Internet. 

      Jon Dron September 5, 2017 - 5:12pm

  • A Quartz article that claims (accurately) that p-learning bootcamps dominate for those learning programming and other technical skills and (inaccurately) that the reason for that is that e-learning is much less engaging. In fact, there's a sneaky...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Why Every Developer Should Learn Javascript in the group COMP 266 September 1, 2017 - 8:45pm
    Not the greatest use of English in the world, and not the most sophisticated explanation of the benefits of the language, but none-the-less a fairly good explanation from TrendinTech of why it is useful to learn JavaScript, that closely mirrors the...
  • The always wonderful Dave Cormier is writing a book (open, of course) about rhizomatic learning and, as you might expect given Dave's eclectic and rich range of skills (from uber-tech-guru to uber-learning-guru) not to mention his cutting edge...
  • "Who does not know the problems with the driving test or studies testing? You have not time to learn and have more important things to do! And suddenly, the date for the exam or test in a few days.If your exam is important to you and you do not know...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked JavaScript Is Eating The World in the group COMP 266 August 25, 2017 - 1:38pm
    Welcome news for students of COMP266 - skills in JavaScript are becoming more and more valuable every day, albeit driven mainly by NodeJS, the dominant server-side variant of JavaScript that is not (yet) addressed in the course.  JavaScript...
    • A few things. C# is open source. The design repo is here It is also an open ECMA standard. 10 years ago you may have been right, but Microsoft has been moving in the direction of making it open source for quite some time.

      The other thing is that I don't see JavaScript supplanting compiled languages any time soon because JavaScript is terrible to maintain the larger the project gets. Lack of strong typing is a big drawback for me, though there are tools to help with this such as TypeScript and Flow.

      In the article you mentioned, most of the large companies you mentioned are still using traditional server side languages for the backend. For example NetFlix is only using JavaScript on the front end only. The back end is still Java. Most large scale apps would not trust their business logic to JavaScript.

      One reason JavaScript is so popular is because it is the only front end language available. For backend we can choose PHP, C#, Python, Java, Ruby ... the list goes on, but for front end there's only JavaScript.

      I'm not knocking JavaScript or anything, but I don't plan on using it for anything more than front end.

      - Louise Eggleton

      Anonymous March 6, 2018 - 3:20am

    • Good points, Louise, thanks - I was certainly being unfair on C#, though I still think it is a redundant and pointless (and largely pointerless!) language that was more a result of marketing than genuine need.

      I guess the big thing I like about JavaScript is its flexibility: not so much technically, as in the way it is embedded in practice. It's like Wordpress - at best so-so architecturally, and nothing like as good as much of the competition when looked at from an objective design perspective, whether in terms of learnability, ease of development, speed, reliability, maintainability, scalability or whatever. However, the overwhelmingly vast number of developers, trainers, administrators and sources, not to mention an enormous range of extensions/plugins/libraries/frameworks to fill in any gaps, mean that it can do pretty much any job at least as well as anything else (often better), with the huge benefits that come from sheer scale. You'd not pick it as a backend if all else were equal, but all else is not equal because we are, as you say, pretty much forced to use it on the Web front end (for now - wasm may change that). Why struggle to stay fluent in two languages (and deal with the hiring, training, maintenance, and other associated costs)  when one will do? I still struggle unnecessarily with different curly bracket languages because I constantly forget which slight syntax variants and constructs matter in which language: I'd rather focus on depth than breadth. Useful, too, that it is increasingly embedded into many native apps and operating systems. Mind you, much of this was once true of BASIC too, which is barely a rounding error in the statistics any more, so who knows?

      It's too early to tell whether wasm will significantly impact JS growth. It makes it much easier to write front end stuff in other languages, and to run code at nearly native speeds, and it has a very powerful consortium behind it, so it's hard to ignore. However, the Web browser is not quite the driver that it once was, and JS has a lot of momentum across the field. My suspicion is that whether it affects JS growth will hinge as much on libraries and frameworks as on the languages themselves. Personally, I'd like to see Python replace JS - not perfect by any means, but it has the best balance I can see between ease of learning, power, elegance, maintainability, maturity, and developer community.

      Jon Dron March 6, 2018 - 10:49am

    • C# may have started as a marketing thing, ie as Microsoft's version of Java, but has some features beyond what Java has such as LINQ, Asnyc/Await, Nullable types. I come from a web programming background (Perl,PHP,VB Script, Cold Fusion) and switching to C# was the best thing I ever did. I love the C style snyntax. I can't tell you how much I dislike Basic style syntax like Visual Basic. I love the Visual Studio IDE and I love strong typing and objected oriented programming. I sound like a Microsoft fanboy (girl in this case), but actally I have been won over to C# despite healthy scepticism about Microsoft.

      The reason I decided on C# is because I can reuse the code in multiple applications. We have a web application, but also several scheduled console applications and soon a smartphone app, all of which can be done in C#.

      I suspect Java would have also provided many of the benefits over the interpreted languages I used in the past, though my understanding is that it is a liitle more invloved to port Java to web applications.

      I don't mind having to use different tools for different things, though I do also get mixed up at times with different sytaxes for different languages. That's when a good editor/IDE comes in really handy.

      Haven't learned Python yet, but am familar with its syntax and understand its appeal.

      I am very interested in learning TypeScript as it addresses a lot of issues I have with JavaScript.

      wasm sounds very interesting. I had a look at the link you sent. Coud be a while before it comes to fruition.

      Louise Nicoll March 8, 2018 - 4:04am