Landing : Athabascau University


  • Jon Dron commented on a bookmark Research reveals the dark side of wearable fitness trackers September 4, 2016 - 12:03pm
    Indeed, sometimes a bit of extrinsic motivation can help to get us over humps. If you weigh 200 kilos then the good of reducing that probably outweighs the harm of extrinsic motivation, as there is immediate and pressing danger to self, and...
  • Jon Dron commented on a bookmark Moodle mobile app for iPhone September 2, 2016 - 10:15am
    I'm afraid I have no idea - I haven't tried it on a production site at AU. My suspicion is that, because of our CAS authentication process which is separate from Moodle, the login might not work. It is also possible that our Moodle site has not been...
  • From CNN, a report suggesting that fitness trackers are not always wonderful things.  The only thing that surprises me about this is that the reported demotivating effects are not much stronger. I suspect this is an artefact of the way the...
    • "Re: Perhaps more alarming, many felt under pressure to reach their daily targets (79%) and that their daily routines were controlled by Fitbit (59%).

      Uhm, a research study on the (positive) impact of such devices on (bad) habits one wishes to discard would be ideal at this point in time -- thoughts?

      Rita Zuba Prokopetz September 4, 2016 - 5:59am

    • Indeed, sometimes a bit of extrinsic motivation can help to get us over humps. If you weigh 200 kilos then the good of reducing that probably outweighs the harm of extrinsic motivation, as there is immediate and pressing danger to self, and extrinsic motivation can often achieve immediate results. But it is still not a good method. Long term, it is positively harmful to cultivating lifelong habits that persist, unless you keep piling it on indefinitely. Short term, at best, it is far less effective than cultivating intrinsic or internally regulated motivation, albeit that it may achieve its effects more rapidly at first. Typically, it kills intrinsic motivation stone dead.

      Theory distinguishes two distinct forms of extrinsic motivation: external regulation and internal regulation. External regulation is nearly always bad, unless non-compliance would cause immediate harm (e.g. we might externally regulate our kids if they are doing something dangerous or unkind). Internal regulation can be very good. It comes in several flavours - introjected, identified, or integrated  - where we do things not because they give us joy, but because (for instance) we feel we should (it fits our beliefs, or what we believe others think we should do), or because it aligns with our image of ourselves, or because it is needed to achieve some further goal that matters to us. Such internally regulated extrinsic motivation is both necessary and useful, especially when it contributes to a sense of self-worth and value, and it can contribute to achieving a sufficient level of performance to become intrinsically motivated (e.g. when we practice scales to become more capable musicians). This is why I greatly prefer tools like my Pebble watch that simply inform us, thereby supporting us in reaching our own goals and cultivating the habits we want to cultivate. This is why good (human) trainers help trainees to find the motivation within themselves, to reflect on what they want to achieve and how they want to achieve it, who praise effective behaviours rather than the individual, who listen to what trainees want to achieve, who explain the value of doing things a certain way, illustrate the problems with bad habits, show that they care, lead by example, and so on. Good teachers help students find reasons that matter to them for doing things they don't naturally enjoy doing, and support them in overcoming humps along the way.

      Dumb devices that achieve those ends by telling you to get up and jog, and berate you for not meeting goals you did not set yourself (whether by implication or directly) might achieve immediate effects but they are either deliberately or inadvertently creating an addiction. Short term, it works, but it has the opposite effect when you take it away. There have been literally thousands of studies and experiments that have shown this quite conclusively, across all walks of life. Knowing this, for all the short-term good it may achieve, I think it is positively immoral to continue making such things.


      Jon Dron September 4, 2016 - 12:03pm

    • re: "Good teachers help students find reasons that matter to them for doing things they don't naturally enjoy doing, and support them in overcoming humps along the way."

      and "...good (human) trainers help trainees to find the motivation within themselves..."

      Point taken. Thank you for the informative paragraph on motivation. 

      I need to learn more about what is available in wearables, including the Pebble watch you mentioned. 

      I find your posts both informative and interesting- thanks! 

      Rita Zuba Prokopetz September 4, 2016 - 3:29pm

  • Jon Dron replied on the discussion topic Student request stays unanswered August 30, 2016 - 12:13pm
    It is - I'm on vacation right now but will get to it as soon as I return.  Under exceptional circumstances I am allowed to grant a few days extra time: you have my approval to submit the final portfolio before Tuesday 6th September. Jon
  • And so the world ends. Sadly, I don't think the title was intended ironically. This kind of destructive local thinking creeps in all over the place. For example, Athabasca University is in financial trouble, so individual departments are being...
  • This is a very interesting move that, on the face of it, seems very positive. PowerShell is not that great and there are plentiful better alternatives available for *nix systems already, so I doubt that it will have much impact in the existing...
  • tl;dr - forcing people to regularly change their passwords is counter-productive and actually leads to less security (not to mention more errors, more support calls, more rage against the machine). Of course, in the event of a security breach, it is...
  • Jon Dron posted to the wire August 17, 2016 - 11:51am
    Dr Neil Fassina to become AU's 8th president, October 11 -
  • Jon Dron posted to the wire August 16, 2016 - 8:15pm
    All emails to AU staff bouncing, including notifications from the Landing, Moodle, etc. More at
  • Jon Dron published a blog post True costs of information technologies August 16, 2016 - 7:12pm
    Technological debt is not removed by buying off-the-shelf products. It just transfers the debt - with a usurious rate of interest - to those that have to use them.
  • Jon Dron posted to the wire August 12, 2016 - 10:26am
    Over 50 legitimate emails found in the usual 500 new junk emails this morning. Another 30 minutes of my life stolen by Microsoft O365.
  • Great article reporting on George Siemens's and Rory McGreal's (both Athabasca University profs) take on the promise and threats of adaptive technologies, learning analytics, data-driven approaches to education, and personalization. George and Rory...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked What is open source? — Open Words in the group Open Source Software August 2, 2016 - 1:32pm
    From Ben Werdmuller, amongst other things the co-creator of the Elgg software used to run the Landing and Known, a great social publishing platform, this is among the clearest commentaries on open source that I have come across, including its...
    • Based on the number of software released under a variant of the GPL versus any other license shows that FSF was actually quite successful. Here's a count of the top 10 licenses used by packages making up my Fedora 24 install:

      omiday ~ $ rpm -qa --qf "%{license}\n" | sort | uniq -c | sort -n | tail
         31 Public Domain
         34 ASL 2.0
         39 LGPLv2
         74 GPLv2
         84 GPLv3+
         124 GPL+ or Artistic
         187 BSD
         234 MIT
         319 LGPLv2+
         358 GPLv2+

      Also, from a total number of software packages:

      omiday ~ $ rpm -qa | wc -l

      more than a half is licensed under some kind of GPL:

      omiday ~ $ rpm -qa --qf "%{license}\n" | grep GPL | wc -l

      A full Elgg package is also licensed under GPL. A reference to The GNU/Linux FAQ by Richard Stallman is a good resource for understanding why "free" is important.

      Money wise, there is definitely less to make with free and open source software. In both free/open source and proprietary cases the "product" is made once, however in the latter case it is then sold millions of times. Take Microsoft as an example. The question to ask is whether increasing the profit margins benefits the society.

      With regards to women participation, it is worth mentioning that at least in the Linux world there is no shortage of support: FSF, Arch, Debian, Fedora and many others are all supporting this initiative.

      A more elaborate discussion could make it into a chapter for the already discussed Open Source course at AU.

      Viorel Tabara August 3, 2016 - 11:54pm

  • Jon Dron commented on the blog White elephants and other e-readers July 23, 2016 - 7:35pm
    @Richard - app decay is a major problem. I've had apps that I've paid plenty for that are no longer available and, of course, free ones that I rely upon come and go all the time (more fool me for relying on free apps). Same is true of things that...
  • Jon Dron published a blog post White elephants and other e-readers July 23, 2016 - 11:27am
    When I get new devices I tend to make notes about them: it's part of my tinkering approach to research, a way to explore the edges of the adjacent possible.
    • Thanks Jon for this informative review.

      Just for sharing: I found


      is very helpful to me to organize and store phf files


      Oscar Lin July 23, 2016 - 5:50pm

    • @Richard - app decay is a major problem. I've had apps that I've paid plenty for that are no longer available and, of course, free ones that I rely upon come and go all the time (more fool me for relying on free apps). Same is true of things that are built-in. I hate the new Apple Notes which, of course, ties you to iCloud: the one and only reason the old version was worth having was that it could use any IMAP account for storage. As I mentioned, we don't own our devices any more. The same is even true of cars. When they rely on a complex ecosystem of operating systems, other apps and cloud services, the control is in the hands of the seller (or whoever buys the seller), not the purchaser, and we only ever have a licence to use them. Even Linux boxes suffer a bit from app decay, though to a much lesser extent, especially as they are far more likely to use standards that do not change anything like as fast, and that usually remain backwardly compatible. For the record, I still use an iPad 2 from time to time, and it is so far fine. The iPad 1 gathers dust, the iPhone 3 lost its screen, and the iPhone 4 is without a SIM right now but was OK last time I checked, a few months ago. The hardware is still fine but, indeed, the range of apps that run on them is diminishing all the time.

      @Viorel - I too had a first generation Intel MacBook Pro (circa 2006 I think) that died early this year and is only dead now thanks to cats: it hadn't got operating system updates for a while, but it was trundling along nicely with nothing more than a new battery and upgraded hard drive in all its nearly 10 years of operation till cats poured water on it. I still have a working Asus laptop from around 2003: its batteries (in days when batteries were replaceable I always used to buy 2) are both down to 5 minutes, and it would die if subjected to Windoze, but it runs Lubuntu very happily, if a little sluggishly with its 768MB of RAM and first generation Celeron.

      @Oscar - yes, it's a good app, though it's another cloud-based system that could be yanked or changed at any time, and the DPT-S1 doesn't support it. I'll have another try at the iOS app - I found it OK a few years ago but I don't trust Mendeley with my data, especially now it is owned by Elsevier. I think Zotero is a safer, if rather less slick, option.

      Jon Dron July 23, 2016 - 7:35pm

    • Jon,

      First the history. :-) I have a Radio Shack TRS-80 4P that I upgraded the drives to double-side panasonics the day after I bought it. It still runs and all the software still works. :-)

      I have a Toshiba laptop - my first Toshiba laptop. Still has Win95 and I long ago turned off updates. I keep it because it has a REAL RS-232 port on the back that I use to talk to  my galss furnace and annealer via RS485. It's currently on my side desk as a serial test device as I cannot get my son's Zaurus to communicate with my Raspberry Pi 3 via serial. The PiDP8 (PDP8 copy that uses the RPi as it's engine) is  running Multos  right now and I need a serial terminal to connect a second user. The Zaurus is reliable and portable (and I have the serial cable for it). It was last used to do the initial configuration of a Sun Sparcstation V440 in 2005 which only allowed serial console.

      As for devices, you are correct. My phone does work as a phone and a texting device - something my old Nokia would not do well (text, that is). It's the apps that annoy. All the map applications quit last year and now the Navionics only works via wifi. Hard to use at the dive site.

      As for Linux, I'm not so sure. I just did a big installation using VirtualBox on my PC in order to build a reservoir simulator from source. It worked on Ubuntu 14 but not 16. Turns out someone (expletive's omitted) allowed a broken beta package of a critical library to make it into the release version of 16!

      I'm also running with updates turned off as the latest set of Ubuntu 16 updates destroys the unity desktop. Real fun doing an update only to end up with nothing but a blank window. It's been a known problem since U12. As much as I love open source, sometimes letting these folks loose on so-called stable builds is not the best action plan.

      Even the latest VirtualBox update from the grand master of the buy-up, Oracle, has had problems. It's hard to embrace open source when it can't keep itself running for more than two weeks!

      Of course I long ago turned off all Microsoft updates on my Win 7 box. Far to dangerous to let Mickeysoft tamper with things once it's obvious they no longer care, and only want to force Win10 on the world.

      My 2005 Macbook Pro is still running, but without a battery. The installed one died, so I bought a replacement from Asia. It lasted two years then suddenly expanded. I noticed when the mouse/trackpad cursor developed a mind of it's own. Took out the (then) removable battery and all was well. It's been running that way for the past 3 or more  years. Of course it cannot be upgraded past Snow Leopard but that's not really all that bad.

      My 2012 Macbook Pro is still running and 'updateable'.

      One could argue that it's the way with all things computer, but I know many people that are still getting adequate server life out of Linux or BSD running on old 386, 486 and Pentium boxes.

      Richard Huntrods July 23, 2016 - 7:52pm

  • Jon Dron published a blog post Little monsters and big waves July 16, 2016 - 11:50am
    Pokémon Go heralds a change in the digital landscape like few we have ever seen before, a paradigm shift in how we understand and use digital media. It's very exciting...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Curiosity Is Not Intrinsically Good July 13, 2016 - 12:20pm
    Interesting reflections in Scientific American on morbid curiosity - that we are driven by our curiosity, sometimes even when we actually know that there is a strong likelihood it will hurt us. In the article, as the title implies, this is portrayed...
  • Jon Dron commented on the blog ABC RAPID BLENDED COURSE DESIGN FOR EDUCATORS in the group Teaching and Learning at Athabasca July 11, 2016 - 12:54pm
    An interesting approach. Much better to start with learning rather than what is to be examined.  My suspicion is that you could use any number of different underlying frameworks (including any number of learning style theories and possibly even...
  • Jon Dron commented on the file How to demotivate students (slides from EdMedia 2016) July 2, 2016 - 4:12pm
    Thanks Gerald! Yes - I suspect it is so deeply embedded that we don't see it for what it is, or just assume it is a given over which we have no control. But we do.
  • Jon Dron commented on the blog Cocktails and educational research July 1, 2016 - 11:01pm
    Thanks Mary - yes to all that! Although, in all cases, there are exceptions. Tain't what you do, it's the way that you do it (except maybe enforcing compliance, but even then there are a very few that occasionally benefit - diversity trumps...