Bryan Alexander – A Devil’s Dictionary of Educational Technology

This entire dictionary is awesomeness and gold.

Blended learning, n. The practice of combining digital and analog teaching. Also referred to as “teaching”, “learning”, and “the real world”.

Flipped classroom, n. “The practice of replacing lectures that instructors give to summarize a course’s readings with videos of lectures that summarize a course’s readings.”

LMS, n. 1) A document management system, whereby a faculty member can transfer a single document to his or her students. Curiously overpowered for this purpose, nevertheless universally deployed.

2) A good way to avoid legal notices about copyright.

3) The graveyard of pedagogical intentions. A sump for IT budgets.

Source: A Devil’s Dictionary of Educational Technology – Medium

Doc Searls – The problem for people isn’t advertising, and the problem for advertising isn’t blocking

Doc Searls, writing on Medium1 about some important projects to help pull the balance of power on the internet back to the individuals that make it awesome in the first place.

There’s a new sheriff on the Net, and it’s the individual. Who isn’t a “user,” by the way. Or a “consumer.” With new terms of our own, we’re the first party. The companies we deal with are second parties. Meaning that they are the users, and the consumers, of our legal “content.” And they’ll like it too, because we actually want to do good business with good companies, and are glad to make deals that work for both parties. Those include expressions of true loyalty, rather than the coerced kind we get from every “loyalty” card we carry in our purses and wallets.

When we are the first parties, we also get scale. Imagine changing your terms, your contact info, or your last name, for every company you deal with — and doing that in one move. That can only happen when you are the first party.

Source: The problem for people isn’t advertising, and the problem for advertising isn’t blocking. – Medium

  1. I had somehow unsubscribed to his Harvard blog, so hadn’t seen this. Until he cross-posted on Medium. Oops. Resubscribed. []

Reclaiming subscriptions and access to information

After deactivating my twitter and facebook accounts (again. again.) I was struck that most people don’t seem to subscribe to RSS feeds anymore, relying on twitter and facebook for notification when content is published. Which means, on the one hand, I’ve muted myself because many people will no longer know when I post something (which may be for the better). On the other hand (actually, I guess it’s the same hand…), it means that many people have completely abdicated control for their information to companies and their opaque/secret/unknown algorithms.

Platforms like twitter and facebook aren’t the same as subscribing to an RSS feed. They tweak what you see. They adjust the order. They hide things or emphasize things. They are not in the information sharing business. They are in the advertising business, which means their number 1 priority is making sure you click on their links and stay on their platform for as long as possible. So, they play with the information streams to do that, rather than just giving you the raw information from feeds you thought you subscribed to.

End rant.

So. If you’re interested in reclaiming some sense of control over what information you access, RSS is still a thing. There are a whole bunch of applications of various types that you can use to subscribe to the raw RSS feeds from any site that still generates them (over 25% of the web is published on WordPress, which still generates RSS feeds wonderfully, and most other platforms do it at some level).

I still use Shaun Inman’s fantastic self-hosted Fever˚ RSS aggregator to read 1011 feeds every day. I use Reeder on macOS and iOS as well, as it can connect to a self-hosted Fever˚ server for syncing.

There are 220 other alternatives to Google Reader listed on AlternativeTo. Many are free. Many are trivial to set up and use. There really is no reason not to manage your own subscriptions.


Mike Caulfield – Internet of Broken Things

When it comes to security, where will this sea of abandoned devices get security patches from? Who will write them, and how will they get paid?Like Ward, I worry that it’s not just an internet of things, but a proprietary mess of interdependent services built on the shifting sands of unstable business models. Unless we develop standards and protocols that reduce that proprietary interdependency we’re eventually going to have a lot bigger problem on our hands than Twitter outages.

Source: Internet of Broken Things | Hapgood

Audrey Watters – Attending to the Digital

The transcript from a presentation by Audrey Watters at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. She was invited to talk about digital discourse as part of their launch of a domain-of-ones-own initiative. What a fantastic way to launch such a thing1. Read the entire thing.

Building on Postman, Chaucer, Caulfield. Nice.

In part, I find that those who want to dismiss such a thing as “digital distraction” tend to minimize the very real impact that new technologies do have on what we see, what we pay attention to. It’s right there in that phrase – “pay attention.” Attention has costs. It is a resource – one involving time and energy, a resource of which we only have a limited amount. Attention has become a commodity, with different companies and technologies bidding for a piece of it.

Audrey also touches on “reclaiming the web” – pointing out, rightly, that reclaiming isn’t about nostalgia or romanticizing a pristine past. It’s about reclaiming a voice. Restoring some of the individual control that has been so thoroughly trampled by large corporate platforms that have claimed to own so much of modern communication.

I want to turn here, to close, to the second part of my title – a phrase I haven’t referred to yet: “reclaiming the Web.” I want to invoke the speaker’s prerogative to change the title of my talk here as I come to its conclusion. I’ve used the word “reclaim” a lot in my work. I’ve done so in part because the word does mean to bring back. Reclamation is to reassert, to protest, to heal, to restore. But again, I don’t really believe the tale that the Web was once something pristine that we must rescue and convert from wasteland. Yes, we need to engage in a reclamation. But it’s not the Web per se that we must rebuild. It’s broader and deeper than that. Broader and deeper than technology. Broader and deeper than “the digital.”

If there’s something to reclaim – or for many voices, to get to claim for the very first time – it is public discourse. It is, I hope, one that rests on a technological commons. I think we start towards that commons by thinking very carefully, by thinking very slowly and deeply, by cultivating very lovingly our spaces and places and own domains.

Source: Attending to the Digital

  1. I’ve got to find a way to bring her to UCalgary… []

Charlene Chin – Will this be the classroom of 2050?

Article with question mark in title? Answer likely “no.” But, it’s going to be some classrooms, for sure. An interesting use of computer vision and machine learning to generate metadata about student engagement. This could (should|will) be used for more than just lecturing, and what if students had access to their own data? This could be a powerful tool to support self-reflection on teaching and learning…

In a case of almost-perfect-timing, I presented to the iLab yesterday about some of my ideas for PhD work – looking for ways to help support self-reflection on teaching and learning. I talked about how student teachers use video of their teaching as a tool to learn teaching skills, and how video is basically an opaque blob of media that is extremely time-, labour- and cost-intensive to use for non-trivial projects. I then compared to some of the tools that enable some understanding of teaching and learning interactions in online learning, and that these types of tools are completely unavailable for face-to-face learning. These kinds of technologies can help, as long as they’re not weaponized into a surveillance culture or student assessment tools.

So, it’s already happening. We need to figure out what that means, and how to use this kind of thing for good before Pearson et al commercialize it and start selling silver bullets.

His team is looking into the use of facial recognition in classes, so lecturers will know when students start losing interest. “We want to see, when the lecturer delivers the lectures, whether the students are paying attention – do they grasp the idea or they show a doubtful face?”, he says. This will help lecturers intercede in their learning journey before exams, which would otherwise be “too late”, Tang says.

The analysis will be anonymised so that individual students’ identities are not revealed. “We do have to respect the students’ privacy”, he asserts. “That means we don’t go down to the individual student to say ‘this person was lost’, or ‘this person smiled’”. Machine learning will crunch out the analysis and give an aggregate review of class emotions. “This way, I feel that the personal privacy is being protected, yet still able to benefit the class and lecturer”.

Source: Will this be the classroom of 2050? | GovInsider

Adam Croom – A brief pause from social media

For an undetermined amount of time, I’m going to be taking a break from most social media activity. Call it whatever you want: rest, recovery, therapy, need for a change of scenery, election fatique, information overload, a distraction. They are all correct.

Source: A brief pause from social media. – Adam Croom

Yup. I’m right there with you, Adam. I deactivated my Twitter and Facebook accounts about 10 days ago. Not sure if I’ll let them evaporate at the end of the 30-day cooling-off period, but I sure feel less frustrated with the world since dropping out.

I did it in direct response to the insane election circus south of the border. Social media was just too much, too often, for too long. So, the accounts are gone. I haven’t missed them for a second.

I’ll still be blogging here, of course, and I’ll be reading 1011 RSS feeds and articles on Medium and elsewhere. I don’t think I’ll be missing out any important news.

Antti Oulasvirta on reforming CHI

I’m new to the CHI community, and have been involved with only one project that submitted a paper to CHI. I was struck by the cadence – it’s a once-per-year submission deadline that sets the pattern of activity for an entire research lab. That feels weird. Maybe it’s good, though, as it pushes people to publish their work on a regular basis rather than just at the end of a thesis or dissertation project…

9) Stressful once-per-year deadline. This is not only unnecessarily stressful, but it incentivizes short-term planning. If you have to choose a research problem that can be solved in 8 months versus another that takes 2-3 years, which one would you pick if you are under pressure to advance your career by churning out CHI papers? Worse, the risk of “losing one year” may incentivize authors to bloat their claims about contributions.

Source: We must reform CHI or start an alternative – Oulasvirta on User Interface Design

Kyle McDonald – A Return to Machine Learning

A crazy/deep overview of some of the amazing developments in machine learning in the last couple of years, especially as a medium for artistic expression and exploration.

This last year I’ve been getting back into machine learning and AI, rediscovering the things that drew me to it in the first place. I’m still in the “learning” and “small studies” phase that naturally precedes crafting any new artwork, and I wanted to share some of that process here. This is a fairly linear record of my path, but my hope is that this post is modular enough that anyone interested in a specific part can skip ahead and find something that gets them excited, too. I’ll cover some experiments with these general topics:

  1. Convolutional Neural Networks
  2. Recurrent Neural Networks
  3. Dimensionality Reduction and Visualization
  4. Autoencoders

Source: A Return to Machine Learning – Medium

Quincy Larsen: Live asynchronously

We’ve been adapting to life in a shared, open workspace environment. Most of us in the Taylor Institute are in pods, trying to balance productivity, collaboration, distractions, competing demands for attention. It’s hard to describe what it’s like, but it adds overhead on top of everything. Quincy describes it well, from the perspective of s programmer, but I think it applies to the rest of us as well.

Let’s talk a bit about how us humans get work done. Is it four hours of crushing it, a lunch break, then four more hours of crushing it? No. It’s more like coffee, email, coffee, meeting, coffee, lunch with coworkers, coffee — OK finally time to get some work done!


But employers, for the most part, don’t listen. They continue to cram their teams together into noisy open plan offices. They continue to pepper their teams’ days with meetings. They expect their teams to be responsive to emails or Slack, further dashing hopes of ever reaching a flow state and getting some real work done.

Source: Live asynchronously.

I don’t know how to respond to this. Our workspaces are likely much smaller than the 190 square feet described as small in the article. And we seem to have a lot of meetings. So many meetings, that I’ve reduced the number of times my team meets as a group partially in response – and now we’ve become somewhat disconnected. Haven’t found the right balance yet…

We’ve added Luxafor indicators to each pod – green light means come talk, red light means do not disturb. Even that isn’t working – often, I forget to set the indicator at all, so it’s off. Or, it’ll be red and “hey. So, I noticed the light is red. Are you really in the middle of something, or should I come back later?” (Always from one of the few who have a private office)

How to balance competing demands for collaboration/connection with productive/creative/flow?