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  • 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

  • Jon Dron commented on the file EdD 'about me' presentation, 2017 August 23, 2017 - 10:29am
    Thanks Oscar! I know very little indeed about quite a lot of stuff, and not very much about anything. Worse, the older I get, the less I seem to know. I'm fairly sure that is not how it is supposed to work.
  • Jon Dron uploaded the file EdD 'about me' presentation, 2017 August 22, 2017 - 1:01pm
    A few slides giving an overview of some of my more notable research activities and interests, including book-writing, tool-building, and model/theory building, presented as part of the EdD DE induction week, August 2017.
    • Great, Jon! You are an interdiscipinary talent and expert!

      Oscar Lin August 23, 2017 - 8:30am

    • Thanks Oscar! I know very little indeed about quite a lot of stuff, and not very much about anything. Worse, the older I get, the less I seem to know. I'm fairly sure that is not how it is supposed to work.

      Jon Dron August 23, 2017 - 10:29am

  • Jon Dron published a blog post Strategies for successful learning at AU August 15, 2017 - 7:01pm
    Earlier today I responded to a prospective student who was, amongst other things, seeking advice on strategies for success on a couple of our self-paced programming courses. My response was just a stream of consciousness off the top of my head but...
    • 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 - autonomy, relatedness, and competence - are (I think) the biggest ones, but it's important to remember that motivation is complex, multi-faceted, and situated. i'm a big fan of self-determination theory, on which I based my concluding comments, which (amongst other things) identifies those three aspects as the fundamental prerequisites of intrinsic motivation. However, most of us hit roadblocks now and then, even when we love most of what we are doing, and intrinsic motivation is seldom sustainable all the time. I deeply hate the worst form of extrinsic motivatlon, external regulation (the typical way we teach, that relies on rewards and punishments to push people along), and will do all that I can to limit that in COMP02, but there are forms of internal regulation that, though technically extrinsic, are self-directed, and can really help. See for a nice, straightforward overview.

      I look forward to greeting you on COMP602!


      Jon Dron December 3, 2017 - 10:37pm

  • Jon Dron commented on the blog SCIS makes a great showing at HCI 2017, Vancouver July 24, 2017 - 4:51pm
    Click to see full size file.... (nb. only available to members of the SCIS group)
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Professor Jon Dron | Beyond Busy July 13, 2017 - 2:14pm
    An interview with me by Graham Allcott, author of the bestselling How to be a productivity ninja and other books, for his podcast series Beyond Busy, and as part of the research for his next book. In it I ramble a lot about issues like social media,...
  • Jon Dron published a blog post SCIS makes a great showing at HCI 2017, Vancouver July 12, 2017 - 8:47pm
     I had the pleasure today to gatecrash the HCI 2017 conference in Vancouver, which gave me the chance to see Dr Ali Dewan present three excellent papers (two with his name on them) on a variety of themes, as well as a great paper written...
  • Jon Dron uploaded the file Jon Dron and Ali Dewan at HCI 2017 July 12, 2017 - 8:42pm
    A selfie of Jon Dron and Ali Dewan at the Vancouver Conference Centre
  • Jon Dron uploaded the file Ali Dewan presenting at HCI 2017 July 12, 2017 - 8:34pm
    Ali Dewan presenting at HCI 2017
  • Jon Dron uploaded the file Miao-Han Chang presenting July 12, 2017 - 8:30pm
    Miao-Han presenting at HCI 2017, Vancouver