Link Log (2014-04-16)

Reusing Resources – Open for Learning Special Issue
“A selection of five chapters written for the book ‘Reusing Open Resources: Learning in Open Networks for Work, Life and Education (Littlejohn and Pegler, 2014).”
If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel
A powerful little bit of info presentation. Aka “A tediously accurate map of the solar system”
Engaging Flexible Learning (Audrey Watters)
This reads like someone who knows what’s inside my head and then expresses it better than I could. Short excerpt: ‘“Engage” doesn’t mean “embrace.” “Engaging” means “grappling with” and “debating.” It means contestation and criticism. Not simply cheering. “Engaging” implies that there is discussion to be had about the shape our policies and practices take. This isn’t about passive or unquestioning adoption of new technologies; it’s about actively wrestling with difficult questions about what these technologies might mean, about who benefits and how. [...] And so here we are. Do we empty out our ability to come together as a community because we believe, as Morozov has argued, in “technology solutionism” — that somehow apps can solve the very difficult problems that we’ve struggled with for centuries, the very difficult problems that we’ve created ourselves as “21st century problems.” Poverty. Environmental destruction. Education. Rather than “engaging” with these challenges — through debate, through democracy — we opt for an app. We choose the “easy button” — not because it works, but because it’s bright and shiny and says “click here.”’
Invasion of the MOOCs: The Promises and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses
Available as a free, CC licensed, PDF. “Unlike accounts in the mainstream media and educational press, Invasion of the MOOCs is not written from the perspective of removed administrators, would-be education entrepreneurs/venture capitalists, or political pundits. Rather, this collection of essays comes from faculty who developed and taught MOOCs in 2012 and 2013, students who participated in those MOOCs, and academics and observers who have first hand experience with MOOCs and higher education. These twenty-one essays reflect the complexity of the very definition of what is (and what might in the near future be) a “MOOC,” along with perspectives and opinions that move far beyond the polarizing debate about MOOCs that has occupied the media in previous accounts. Toward that end, Invasion of the MOOCs reflects a wide variety of impressions about MOOCs from the most recent past and projects possibilities about MOOCs for the not so distant future.”
The First Emoticon?
“In reading some of Robert Herrick’s poetry last night, I discovered what looks to be the first emoticon! It appears at the end of the second line of “To Fortune,” which was published in Hesperides in 1648″
77 Facts That Sound Like Huge Lies But Are Actually Completely True
Trivia fun! Some of these did confound me. Maine the closest state to Africa? Cleopatra lived closer to the invention of the iPhone than she did to the building of the Great Pyramid? Oxford University is older than the Aztec Empire?
Radio Shack Catalog Archive
1939-2005…geekgasm, nerd out, etc. I remember being captivated by these in the early 80s.

Link Log (2014-04-09)

Full: An App For Your Bucket List, Not Your To-Dos
“Full is an app for tracking meaningful things, rather than getting things done.”
One Artist Is Printing 250,000 Pages of Pirated JSTOR Documents, In Tribute to Aaron Swartz
Kenneth Goldsmith’s work is usually uninteresting. But printing Aaron Swartz related JSTOR docs is brilliant…
On Mike Judge’s new comedy Silicon Valley
I have to see this. The first episode is (legally) available on YouTube.

Link Log (2014-04-02)

Supertaskers.
The bulk of research suggests multitasking is a myth…except for perhaps a very, very small minority of “supertaskers.” Once word gets around, everyone will claim to be one. It’ll be like the world of hi-fi audio, where everyone has “golden ears,” convinced they can hear things no on else can. Some simple blind A/B testing would save them from buying those $3000 interconnect cables.
The Open Syllabus Project.
It’s not really open and you can’t see the syllabi, but other than that…feh. It’s amazing to me that syllabi are considered secret intellectual property. They should all be open. For all classes. Everywhere.
Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks“new articulated vision and mission”.
Since I didn’t know what their mission was before, I’m not sure what’s changed. It’s a good publication, though, so you might consider submitting a paper.
Intellectual Property in a World Without Scarcity
“A world without scarcity requires a major rethinking of economics, much as the decline of the agrarian economy did in the 19th century. How will our economy function in a world in which most of the things we produce are cheap or free? We have lived with scarcity for so long that it is hard even to begin to think about the transition to a post-scarcity economy. IP has allowed us to cling to scarcity as an organizing principle in a world that no longer demands it. But it will no more prevent the transition than agricultural price supports kept us all farmers. We need a post-scarcity economics, one that accepts rather than resists the new opportunities technology will offer us. Developing that economics is the great task of the 21st century.”
Knowledge Unlatched
“The Knowledge Unlatched model depends on many libraries from around the world sharing the payment of a single Title Fee to a publisher, in return for a book being made available on a Creative Commons licence via OAPEN and HathiTrust as a fully downloadable PDF.”
Serious eLearning Manifesto
Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Where have these people been for the last decade (and more) while many of us have been working on “serious” eLearning? Instead of wasting time with mind-numbingly dull manifestos (if one wants a manifesto, they should write a manifesto for their own damn self) and signing off in some kind of weird, New Year’s resolution style act of confessional commitment, try using the Google to connect with–and support–those who’ve been fighting this fight for a long, long time. The revolution is ongoing…this anemic manifesto has nothing to do with it.
Taking Screen Shots and Image Manipulation
Some pretty geeky stuff for automating and manipulating screen shots. More for my reference someday than your immediate interest…

Link Log (2014-03-26)

  • Creativity vs Quants. Timothy Egan almost gets to the most important point. It’s not just that Common Core and other initiatives squelch creativity in learners, but they represent a refusal to recognize the creativity of the teachers.

  • Stephen Downes MOOCs are Like Newspapers: “But our MOOCs are not designed like that. Though they have a beginning and an end and a range of topics in between, they’re not designed to be consumed in a linear fashion the way a book is. Rather, they’re much more like a magazine or a newspaper (or an atlas or a city map or a phone book). The idea is that there’s probably more content than you want, and that you’re supposed to pick and choose from the items, selecting those that are useful and relevant to your present purpose.” — which is fair enough when a) applied to “their” MOOCs and b) recognizing that the questions about completion are tied to assessment, thus making it apples and oranges. We don’t get assessed by an external agency on what we walk away from our experience with a newspaper or a phone book. We shouldn’t with MOOCs either, but there you have it.

  • Clearing Misconceptions in Distance Ed Enrollments by Sector: IPEDS Reality Check. The headline won’t win a Peabody, but important, hard data for those of us talking about elearning and distance education. Funny thing: in my experience, faculty in public and non-profit institutions tend to think that public/non-profit elearning and distance ed is taking over. Apparently the public thinks the for-profit sector has already done so. The gallows humor part is that those of us who work in distance ed within public and non-profit institutions are usually trying to keep the latter from actually happening. But we’re still routinely seen as the enemy.

  • I write just about everything in markdown (MultiMarkdown, actually, and while I’m at it, let me highly recommend MultiMarkdown Composer for editing markdown). Someday I should post more about why working this way is so awesome. Anyway, Marked is an indispensable Swiss Army Knife for previewing and exporting markdown files. All this to note that Chris Hunt’s Svbtle theme for Marked is tasty. As is Gordon Brander’s Highlighter theme.

  • Crafting Link Underlines on Medium. Type and (web) design geeks dig in; this is the kind of attention to typography detail I admire.

  • USC to offer a Google Glass Journalism course this Fall. Sort of: ‘The university’s Annenburg School of Journalism will offer a new course called Glass Journalism that aims to create apps for the wearable device to help journalists do their jobs more effectively. “The class will consist of teams (Journalist, Designer, Developer) working together to research and develop different types of news apps designed specifically for the Glass platform,” writes digital journalism professor Robert Hernandez, who will be developing the curriculum.’

  • Coffitivity is a site/app/program that provides a variety of streaming ambient coffee shop and cafe noises that are bueno for working. Ironically, I use it all the time in actual coffee shops where I need to drown out the catchy indie pop and/or the angry old peoples’ table. When I’m not using Coffitivity, I often us Ambiance, which runs on a similar array of computers/devices with a focus on, as you might imagine, ambient sounds. I’m particularly fond of sounds like “rain on a tent, “surf,” etc. Focus at Will is a paid service that offers a variety of ambient sounds and music–plus some productivity tracking–while making huge claims for the science. I feel pretty comfortable saving $5+ a month and just using a playlist.

  • Many improvements to the already pretty cool PressBooks publishing platform (which uses WordPress as the base for creation and collaboration). Note that the basic publishing system is also available as an open source plugin. These publishing platforms are really coming along. Softcover is another one to watch. And Leanpub.

  • The TSA Isn’t Good at Reading Body Language (And Neither are You). Answer a) no kidding. Answer b) you mean TSA is inefficient and ineffective?

Creativity Extra

  • Research showing it might be that ordered environments support healthier behaviors but disordered environments support creativity: “Experiment 1 showed that relative to participants in a disorderly room, participants in an orderly room chose healthier snacks and donated more money. Experiment 2 showed that participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room. Experiment 3 showed a predicted crossover effect: Participants in an orderly room preferred an option labeled as classic, but those in a disorderly room preferred an option labeled as new.”

  • It’s not just for envy anymore… the color green might enhance creative performance: “In four experiments, we demonstrated that a brief glimpse of green prior to a creativity task enhances creative performance. This green effect was observed using both achromatic (white, gray) and chromatic (red, blue) contrast colors that were carefully matched on nonhue properties, and using both picture-based and word-based assessments of creativity. Participants were not aware of the purpose of the experiment, and null effects were obtained on participants’ self-reported mood and positive activation.”

  • While counter-intuitive, it’s possible that we are more creative when we are tired: “In accordance with this expectation, results showed consistently greater insight problem solving performance during non-optimal times of day compared to optimal times of day but no consistent time of day effects on analytic problem solving. The findings indicate that tasks involving creativity might benefit from a non-optimal time of day.”

Unlearning and Delearning

Learn Unlearn Relearn

The concept of “unlearning” has never made sense to me. Reading Tom Woodward’s dismantling of the idea has me thinking about it more. Part of the problem stems from the grammar lying restless beneath the common language. The prefix “un-” typically means a reversal: we unwrap a present, unlock a lock and unmake a bed. We change the thing itself to a new state that negates the old. We can detune a guitar, leaving it in an untuned state…but we don’t untune a guitar. I’ve never experienced unlearning. Learning is a process. We can learn new things–and stop doing old things–but nothing is unlearned.

Cognitively and neurologically, unlearning is obviously a deeply suspect concept. To unlearn would demand removing and/or replacing memories. We don’t live in Charlie Kaufman’s Montauk; there is no Lacuna, Inc. to erase our anemic learning experiences (even worse, there’s no erasing the horrible memories of how those experiences felt). What we seek isn’t a state change, but a change in subsequent action and consequence. Learning is about agency.

But I get why the word “unlearning” gets bandied about–when the art of teaching gets squeezed by demands for quantitative measures for the purpose of allocating resources, the resulting learning is often programmed and rubricated and people want a term to describe the process of replacing that kind of learning with something richer. If we have to have a word for what I think people mean when they use the word “unlearning,” it would more accurately be “delearning” ala deprogramming or decompiling, something that implies a process of action and examination that leaves the original intact. Without getting all Derridean, there’s a good reason we talk about deconstruction rather than unconstruction.

Isn’t it all just learning, whether that learning is part of learning something completely (relatively speaking, of course, as I don’t think any learning can actually be completely new) new or learning something that refines, enhances or supplants something old?

Speaking of guitars: when I was teaching myself to play, I learned what I thought was the pentatonic scale. I was wrong (in retrospect it should have been obvious since I had six notes in the scale, but I was trying to rock, not thinking about the root of the scale’s name). I didn’t have to unlearn anything; I simply learned the proper scale. And more importantly I learned how to use it. Funny thing: it turned out later I wasn’t wholly wrong after all. The extra note turned out to be the common “blue note.” Good thing I didn’t (couldn’t) actually unlearn anything!

Link Log (2014-03-19)