We become what we behold

    An insightful and nuanced post from Stephen Downes, who reflects on various experiences, from changing RSS reader through to the way he takes photographs. What he calls ‘AI drift’ is our tendency to replace manual processes with automated ones.

    What I appreciate is that Downes doesn’t say this is A Bad Thing, but that we should notice and reflect on these things. For example, I’ve found it really useful to use AI with my MSc studies and to understand (and accelerate) some of the client work I’ve been involved with.

     This image depicts a person in a dimly lit room, surrounded by stacks of books and papers, focusing on a bright computer screen. The room fades from bright red near the screen to dark gray in the corners, with yellow sticky notes scattered around. The light gray walls are adorned with fading pictures, representing the neglected interests due to 'AI drift'.
    What's important is to notice what's happening. When I use AI to select the posts I read in my RSS reader, I'm finding more from the categories I've defined, but I'm missing the new stuff from categories that might not exist yet - the oft-referenced filter bubble. Also, I'm missing the ebb and flow of the undercurrent, of the comings and goings, of the stuff that seems off topic and doesn't matter - and yet, to someone who dwells in the debris like me, it does.

    This is what I’m calling ‘AI drift’ in humans. It’s this phenomenon whereby you sort of ‘drift’ into new patterns and habits when you’re in an AI environment. It’s not the filter bubble; that’s just one part of it. It’s the influence it has over all our behaviour. One of those patterns, obviously, is that you start relying on the AI more do do things. But also, you stop doing some of the things you used to do - not because the AI is handling it for you, because as in this case it might not be helping at all, but because you just start doing other things.

    […]

    AI drift isn’t inherently good, and it isn’t inherently bad. It just is. It’s like that quote often attributed to McLuhan: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” Recognizing AI drift is simply recognizing how we’re changing as we use new tools. We then decide whether we like that change or not. In my own case, it comes with some mixed feelings. But that’s OK. I wouldn’t expect anything else.

    Source: AI Drift | Half an Hour

    Decentralising online learning

    A “technical presentation that is structured and designed for a non-technical audience” by Stephen Downes. With the Twitter lifeboats again being deployed, this is a timely look at how federated and decentralised technologies can be used for removing the silos from online learning.

    As a new generation of digital technologies evolves we are awash in new terms and concepts: the metaverse, the fediverse, blockchain, web3, acitivitypub, and more. This presentation untangles these concepts and presents them from the perspective of their impact on open learning.

    Source: Open Learning in the Fediverse | Stephen Downes

    Skills-based hiring vs universities

    This is Stephen Downes' commentary on an article by Tom Vander Ark. I think crunch time is coming for universities, especially when you think about how people are increasingly applying for jobs with portfolios, microcredentials, and proof of experience, rather than simply a CV with a degree on it.

    Educators need to be aware that the marketing campaign against their unique value proposition is well underway. "Companies are missing out on skilled, diverse talent when they arbitrarily ‘require’ a four-year degree. It’s bad for workers and it’s bad for business. It doesn’t have to be this way," says former McKinsey partner Byron Auguste, who founded Opportunity@Work. "Instead of ‘screening out’ by pedigree, smart employers are increasing ‘screening in talent for performance and potential." The question for colleges and universities is this: if people no longer value your degrees and certificates, what will you be selling them when you charge them tuition fees?
    Source: The Rise of Skills-Based Hiring And What it Means for Education | Stephen Downes

    The importance of co-operation

    Quoting Stephen Downes in the introduction to his post, Harold Jarche goes on to explain:

    Managing in complex adaptive systems means influencing possibilities rather than striving for predictability (good or best practices). Cooperation in our work is needed so that we can continuously develop emergent practices demanded by this complexity. What worked yesterday won’t work today. No one has the definitive answer any more, but we can use the intelligence of our networks to make sense together and see how we can influence desired results. This is cooperation and this is the future, which is already here, albeit unevenly distributed.

    Harold Jarche, revisiting cooperation

    It's all very well having streamlined workflows, but that's the way to get automated out of a job.

    The old is dying and the new cannot be born

    Education for a post-pandemic future


    Welcome to the fourth instalment in this blog chain about post-pandemic society:

    1. People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character
    2. We have it in our power to begin the world over again
    3. There is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it

    This time, I want to talk about education. It's been a decade since I left the classroom as a school teacher and senior leader but, just after doing so, I co-kickstarted a project called Purpos/ed: what's the purpose of education? While the original website has long since gone the way of all digital bits and bytes, it can still be accessed via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (which may take significantly longer to load than most websites, so be patient!)

    There were some fantastic contributions to that project, each of which were 500 words long. We followed that up with image remixes, audio contributions, and even a one-day unconference at Sheffield Hallam university! All of the written contributions were compiled into a book that was published by Scholastic (I've still got a few copies if anyone wants one) and the campaign ended up being featured on the front page of the TES.


    My reason for returning to this project is that it seems that many people, especially parents and educators, are once again thinking about the purpose of education. There is even a UNESCO Commission on the Futures of Education to which you can add your voice.

    Below are some of my favourite responses to the Purpos/ed campaign, right after a video clip from Prof. Keri Facer, whose work (especially Learning Futures) served as our inspiration.

    [vimeo.com/104793994](https://vimeo.com/104793994)

    Before the first Purpos/ed post was written, I jotted down my own off-the-cuff answer: "the purpose of education is to aid our meditation on purposes — what should we do, why and how?". I know that's a bit glib, but it adds a reflexive twist to this debate: how sophisticated and sensitive to changing context are our education systems and discourse? I worry we may be in for a rude awakening when the education squabbles of the Easy Times are shown up as an irrelevant sideshow when the Hard Times bite.

    David Jennings

    Education should not be just be about the ‘system’ or the schools, it should be about the community and drawing on the skills and knowledge that is within our local communities.  Enabling our children to learn from what has gone before to ensure that they enhance their own future. For many education provides an escape, a way out that broadens their horizons and provides them with opportunities that they did not realize existed, that can ultimately provide them with richness and most importantly happiness.

    Dawn Hallybone

    The internet provides us with rich and free spaces for expansive learning. The institutions only have left their monopoly on funding and on certification. And so capitalism has begun a new project. The first aim is to strike out at democratization of learning by privatizing education, by deepening barriers to equality and access. And the second more audacious aim is to privatize knowledge itself, to turn knowledge and learning into a commodity to be bought and sold like any other consumer good.

    Thus we find ourselves at a turning point for the future of education. The contradictions inherent in the different views of the purpose of education do not allow any simple compromise or reform minded tinkering with the system. For those that believe in education as the practice of freedom there are two challenges: to develop a societal discourse around the purpose of education and secondly to develop transformative practice, as teacher students and student teachers.

    Graham Attwell

    "Education should disrupt as much as it builds" (David White)
    CC BY-NC-SA Josie Fraser

    Education should critically ensure children, young people and adults are equipped to be unsettled, to be confronted by difference, to be changed, and to effect change. Education is a conduit to different cultures, different places, different times - to different ways of thinking about things and doing things. Education provides us with an introduction to things unimagined and unencountered. It should provide the critical challenge to examine our beliefs, interpretations and horizons, the ability to reexamining ourselves in new contexts, to develop new interests, to review the ways in which we understand ourselves and our place in the world. The purpose of education should be to expand expectations, not to confine them - to support our learners in understanding the impact they can and do have on their world. We cannot expect education built upon, and educators who model, a fixation with certainty and inflexibility to meet the urgent and ongoing needs of pressing social, economic and political change.

    Josie Fraser

    For me, the purpose of education is to become a better human being; recognising that we share a commonality with others around us and that we are bound to the ones who walked before and the ones to come. It allows us to draw on the experiences of the past and help prepare us to face the future (with all its attendant opportunities and issues). Conceived in this sense, it allows us to remove the primacy of the veneer (worker, teacher, student, friend) and reinstates these (important) roles within the context that they form part of a larger whole. Doing so would also allow us to rethink the relationship of means and ends and unlock the powerful impact this reconfiguration can have for the lives of people around us when we do treat them as they should be.

    Nick Dennis

    The desire to learn is woven into the concept of contentment and that, for me at least, is the basic purpose of any education system. Contentment can flourish into happiness, riches, recognition or any other myriad of emotional and material gain. But without a content society, with an ambition to continually discover and question the world around them throughout life, we end up with society's biggest enemies: complacency, stagnancy, apathy and ambivalence.

    Ewan mcintosh

    CC BY-NC-SA ianguest

    An educated population is probably the least governable, the most likely to rebel, the most stubborn and the most critical. But it is a population capable of the most extraordinary things, because each person strides purposefully forward, and of their own volition, together, they seek a common destiny.

    Stephen Downes

    Education, it seems, is the method by which we attempt to make the world come out the way we want it to. It is about using our power to shape and control the world to come so that it comes into line with our own hopes and dreams. In any way we move it, even towards chaos and anarchy, we are still using our power to shape and control the future.

    Dave Cormier

    It is make or break time for humanity and we have a responsibility to draw a line in the sand, admit our mistakes and create a system of education that can begin to undo the harm that we have done to the world. For all the talk over the last twenty years of the ‘global village’, it has not stopped us continuing to destroy our planet, to wage wars and to continue to ignore the inequalities in society. What is the purpose of education? Surely, it is to create unity by helping future generation to recognise the values that humanity share.

    James mIchie

    As Purpos/ed was a non-partisan campaign, Andy Stewart and I didn't give our views on the purpose of education. But perhaps, in a follow-up post, it's time to explicitly state what, for me, it's all about? I'd certainly like to read what others are thinking...


    Quotation-as-title from Antonio Gramsci. Header image via Pixabay.

    Saturday scrubbings

    This week on Thought Shrapnel I've been focused on messing about with using OBS to create videos. So much, in fact, that this weekend I'm building a new PC to improve the experience.

    Sometimes in these link roundups I try and group similar kinds of things together. But this week, much as I did last week, I've just thrown them all in a pot like Gumbo.

    Tell me which links you find interesting, either in the comments, or on Twitter or the Fediverse (feel free to use the hashtag #thoughtshrapnel)


    Melting Ice Reveals a “Lost” Viking-Era Pass in Norway’s Mountains

    About 60 artifacts have been radiocarbon dated, showing the Lendbreen pass was widely used from at least A.D. 300. “It probably served as both an artery for long-distance travel and for local travel between permanent farms in the valleys to summer farms higher in the mountains, where livestock grazed for part of the year,” says University of Cambridge archaeologist James Barrett, a co-author of the research.

    Tom Metcalfe (Scientific American)

    I love it when the scientific and history communities come together to find out new things about our past. Especially about the Vikings, who were straight-up amazing.


    University proposes online-only degrees as part of radical restructuring

    Confidential documents seen by Palatinate show that the University is planning “a radical restructure” of the Durham curriculum in order to permanently put online resources at the core of its educational offer, in response to the Covid-19 crisis and other ongoing changes in both national and international Higher Education.

    The proposals seek to “invert Durham’s traditional educational model”, which revolves around residential study, replacing it with one that puts “online resources at the core enabling us to provide education at a distance.” 

    Jack Taylor & Tom Mitchell (Palatinate)

    I'm paying attention to this as Durham University is one of my alma maters* but I think this is going to be a common story across a lot of UK institutions. They've relied for too long on the inflated fees brought in by overseas students and now, in the wake of the pandemic, need to rapidly find a different approach.

    *I have a teaching qualification and two postgraduate degrees from Durham, despite a snooty professor telling me when I was 17 years old that I'd never get in to the institution 😅


    Abolish Silicon Valley: memoir of a driven startup founder who became an anti-capitalist activist

    Liu grew up a true believer in "meritocracy" and its corollaries: that success implies worth, and thus failure is a moral judgment about the intellect, commitment and value of the failed.

    Her tale -- starting in her girlhood bedroom and stretching all the way to protests outside of tech giants in San Francisco -- traces a journey of maturity and discovery, as Liu confronts the mounting evidence that her life's philosophy is little more than the self-serving rhetoric of rich people defending their privilege, the chasm between her lived experience and her guiding philosophy widens until she can no longer straddle it.

    Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing)

    This book is next on my non-fiction reading list. If your library is closed and doesn't have an online service, try this.


    Cup, er, drying itself...

    7 things ease the switch to remote-only workplaces

    You want workers to post work as it’s underway—even when it’s rough, incomplete, imperfect. That requires a different mindset, though one that’s increasingly common in asynchronous companies. In traditional companies, people often hesitate to circulate projects or proposals that aren’t polished, pretty, and bullet-proofed. It’s a natural reflex, especially when people are disconnected from each other and don’t communicate casually. But it can lead to long delays, especially on projects in which each participant’s progress depends on the progress and feedback of others. Location-independent companies need a culture in which people recognize that a work-in-progress is likely to have gaps and flaws and don’t criticize each other for them. This is an issue of norms, not tools.

    Edmund L. Andrews-Stanford (Futurity)

    I discovered this via Stephen Downes, who highlights the fifth point in this article ('single source of truth'). I've actually highlighted the sixth one ('breaking down the barriers to sharing work') as I've also seen that as an important thing to check for when hiring.


    How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory tore through the internet

    The level of interest in the coronavirus pandemic – and the fear and uncertainty that comes with it – has caused tired, fringe conspiracy theories to be pulled into the mainstream. From obscure YouTube channels and Facebook pages, to national news headlines, baseless claims that 5G causes or exacerbates coronavirus are now having real-world consequences. People are burning down 5G masts in protest. Government ministers and public health experts are now being forced to confront this dangerous balderdash head-on, giving further oxygen and airtime to views that, were it not for the major technology platforms, would remain on the fringe of the fringe. “Like anti-vax content, this messaging is spreading via platforms which have been designed explicitly to help propagate the content which people find most compelling; most irresistible to click on,” says Smith from Demos.

    James temperton (wired)

    The disinformation and plain bonkers-ness around this 'theory' of linking 5G and the coronavirus is a particularly difficult thing to deal with. I've avoided talking about it on social media as well as here on Thought Shrapnel, but I'm sharing this as it's a great overview of how these things spread — and who's fanning the flames.


    A Manifesto Against EdTech© During an Emergency Online Pivot

    The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented moment in the history of social structures such as education. After all of the time spent creating emergency plans and three- or five-year road maps that include fail safe options, we find ourselves in the actual emergency. Yet not even a month into global orders of shelter in place, there are many education narratives attempting to frame the pandemic as an opportunity. Extreme situations can certainly create space for extraordinary opportunities, but that viewpoint is severely limited considering this moment in time. Perhaps if the move to distance/online/remote education had happened in a vacuum that did not involve a global pandemic, millions sick, tens of thousands dead, tens of millions unemployed, hundreds of millions hungry, billions anxious and uncertain of society’s next step…perhaps then this would be that opportunity moment. Instead, we have a global emergency where the stress is felt everywhere but it certainly is not evenly distributed, so learning/aligning/deploying/assessing new technology for the classroom is not universally feasible. You can’t teach someone to swim while they’re drowning.

    Rolin Moe

    Rolin Moe is a thoughtful commentator on educational technology. This post was obviously written quickly (note the typo in the URL when you click through, as well as some slightly awkward language) and I'm not a fan of the title Moe has settled on. That being said, the point about this not being an 'opportunity' for edtech is a good one.


    Dishes washing themselves

    NHS coronavirus app: memo discussed giving ministers power to 'de-anonymise' users

    Produced in March, the memo explained how an NHS app could work, using Bluetooth LE, a standard feature that runs constantly and automatically on all mobile devices, to take “soundings” from other nearby phones through the day. People who have been in sustained proximity with someone who may have Covid-19 could then be warned and advised to self–isolate, without revealing the identity of the infected individual.

    However, the memo stated that “more controversially” the app could use device IDs, which are unique to all smartphones, “to enable de-anonymisation if ministers judge that to be proportionate at some stage”. It did not say why ministers might want to identify app users, or under what circumstances doing so would be proportionate.

    David Pegg & Paul Lewis (The Guardian)

    This all really concerns me, as not only is this kind of technology only going be of marginal use in fighting the coronavirus, once this is out of the box, what else is it going to be used for? Also check out Vice's coverage, including an interview with Edward Snowden, and this discussion at Edgeryders.


    Is This the Most Virus-Proof Job in the World?

    It’s hard to think of a job title more pandemic-proof than “superstar live streamer.” While the coronavirus has upended the working lives of hundreds of millions of people, Dr. Lupo, as he’s known to acolytes, has a basically unaltered routine. He has the same seven-second commute down a flight of stairs. He sits in the same seat, before the same configuration of lights, cameras and monitors. He keeps the same marathon hours, starting every morning at 8.

    Social distancing? He’s been doing that since he went pro, three years ago.

    For 11 hours a day, six days a week, he sits alone, hunting and being hunted on games like Call of Duty and Fortnite. With offline spectator sports canceled, he and other well-known gamers currently offer one of the only live contests that meet the standards of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    David Segal (The New York Times)

    It's hard to argue with my son these days when he says he wants to be a 'pro gamer'.

    (a quick tip for those who want to avoid 'free registration' and some paywalls — use a service like Pocket to save the article and read it there)


    Capitalists or Cronyists?

    To be clear, socialism may be a better way to go, as evidenced by the study showing 4 of the 5 happiest nations are socialist democracies. However, unless we’re going to provide universal healthcare and universal pre-K, let’s not embrace The Hunger Games for the working class on the way up, and the Hallmark Channel for the shareholder class on the way down. The current administration, the wealthy, and the media have embraced policies that bless the caching of power and wealth, creating a nation of brittle companies and government agencies.

    Scott Galloway

    A somewhat rambling post, but which explains the difference between a form of capitalism that (theoretically) allows everyone to flourish, and crony capitalism, which doesn't.


    Header image by Stephen Collins at The Guardian

    The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention

    Thanks to John Burroughs for today's title. For me, it's an oblique reference to some of the situations I find myself in, both in my professional and personal life. After all, words are cheap and actions are difficult.

    I'm going to take the unusual step of quoting someone who's quoting me. In this case, it's Stephen Downes picking up on a comment I made in the cc-openedu Google Group. I'd link directly to my comments, but for some reason a group about open education is... closed?

    I'd like to echo a point David Kernohan made when I worked with him on the Jisc OER programme. He said: "OER is a supply-side term". Let's face it, there are very few educators specifically going out and looking for "Openly Licensed Resources". What they actuallywant are resources that they can access for free (or at a low cost) and that they can legally use. We've invented OER as a term to describe that, but it may actually be unhelpfully ambiguous.

    Shortly after posting that, I read this post from Sarah Lambert on the GO-GN (Global OER Graduate Network) blog. She says:

    [W]hile we’re being all inclusive and expanding our “open” to encompass any collaborative digital practice, then our “open” seems to be getting less and less distinctive. To the point where it’s getting quite easily absorbed by the mainstream higher education digital learning (eLearning, Technology Enhanced Learning, ODL, call it what you will). Is it a win for higher education to absorb and assimilate “open” (and our gift labour) as the latest innovation feeding the hungry marketised university that Kate Bowles spoke so eloquently about? Is it a problem if not only the practice, but the research field of open education becomes inseparable with mainstream higher education digital learning research?

    My gloss on this is that 'open education' may finally have moved into the area of productive ambiguity. I talked about this back in 2016 in a post on a blog I post to only very infrequently, so I might as well quote myself again:

    Ideally, I’d like to see ‘open education’ move into the realm of what I term productive ambiguity. That is to say, we can do some workwith the idea and start growing the movement beyond small pockets here and there. I’m greatly inspired by Douglas Rushkoff’s new Team Human podcast at the moment, feeling that it’s justified the stance that I and others have taken for using technology to make us more human (e.g. setting up a co-operative) and against the reverse (e.g. blockchain).

    That's going to make a lot of people uncomfortable, and hopefully uncomfortable enough to start exploring new, even better areas. 'Open Education' now belongs, for better or for worse, to the majority. Whether that's 'Early majority' or 'Late majority' on the innovation adoption lifecycle curve probably depends where in the world you live.

    Diffusion of innovation curve
    CC BY Pnautilus (Wikipedia)

    Things change and things move on. The reason I used that xkcd cartoon about IRC at the top of this post is because there has been much (OK, some) talk about Mozilla ending its use of IRC.

    While we still use it heavily, IRC is an ongoing source of abuse and harassment for many of our colleagues and getting connected to this now-obscure forum is an unnecessary technical barrier for anyone finding their way to Mozilla via the web. Available interfaces really haven’t kept up with modern expectations, spambots and harassment are endemic to the platform, and in light of that it’s no coincidence that people trying to get in touch with us from inside schools, colleges or corporate networks are finding that often as not IRC traffic isn’t allowed past institutional firewalls at all.

    Cue much hand-wringing from the die-hards in the Mozilla community. Unfortunately, Slack, which originally had a bridge/gateway for IRC has pulled up the drawbridge on that front, so they could go with something like Mattermost, but given recently history I bet they go with Discord (or similar).

    As Seth Godin points out in his most recent podcast episode, everyone wants be described as 'supple', nobody wants to be described as 'brittle'. Yet, the actions we take suggest otherwise. We expect that just because the change we see in the world isn't convenient, that we can somehow slow it down. Nope, you just have to roll with it, whether that's changing technologies, or different approaches to organising ideas and people.


    Also check out:

    • Do Experts Listen to Other Experts? (Marginal Revolution) —"very little is known about how experts influence each others’ opinions, and how that influence affects final evaluations."
    • Why Symbols Aren’t Forever (Sapiens) — "The shifting status of cultural symbols reveals a lot about who we are and what we value."
    • Balanced Anarchy or Open Society? (Kottke.org) — "Personal computing and the internet changed (and continues to change) the balance of power in the world so much and with such speed that we still can’t comprehend it."

    Is edtech even a thing any more?

    Until recently, Craig Taylor included the following in his Twitter bio:

    Dreaming of a day when we can drop the e from elearning and the m from mobile learning & just crack on.
    Last week, I noticed that Stephen Downes, in reply to Scott Leslie on Mastodon, had mentioned that he didn't even think that 'e-learning' or 'edtech' was really a thing any more, so perhaps Craig dropping that from his bio was symptomatic of a wider shift?
    I'm not sure anyone has any status in online learning any more. I'm wondering, maybe it's not even a discipline any more. There's learning analytics and open pedagogy and experience design, etc., but I'm not sure there's a cohesive community looking at what we used to call ed tech or e-learning.
    His comments were part of a thread, so I decided not to take it out of context. However, Stephen has subsequently written his own post about it, so it's obviously something on his mind.

    Reflecting on what he covers in OLDaily, he notes that, while everything definitely falls within something broadly called ‘educational technology’, there’s very few people working at that meta level — unlike, say, ten years ago:

    [I]n 2019 there's no community that encompasses all of these things. Indeed, each one of these topics has not only blossomed its own community, but each one of these communities is at least as complex as the entire field of education technology was some twenty years ago. It's not simply that change is exponential or that change is moving more and more rapidly, it's that change is combinatorial - with each generation, the piece that was previously simple gets more and more complex.
    I think Stephen's got what Venkatesh Rao might deem an 'elder blog':
    The concept is derived from the idea of an elder game in gaming culture -- a game where most players have completed a full playthrough and are focusing on second-order play.
    In other words, Stephen has spent a long time exploring and mapping the emerging territory. What's happening now, it could be argued, is that new infrastructure is emerging, but using the same territory.

    So, to continue the metaphor, a new community springs up around a new bridge or tunnel, but it’s not so different from what went before. It’s more convenient, maybe, and perhaps increases capacity, but it’s not really changing the overall landscape.

    So what is the value of OLDaily? I don't know. In one sense, it's the same value it always had - it's a place for me to chronicle all those developments in my field, so I have a record of them, and am more likely to remember them. And I think it's a way - as it always has been - for people who do look at the larger picture to stay literate. Not literate in the sense of "I could build an educational system from scratch" but literate in the sense of "I've heard that term before, and I know it refers to this part of the field."
    I find Stephen's work invaluable. Along with the likes of Audrey Watters and Martin Weller, we need wise voices guiding us — whether or not we decide to call what we're doing 'edtech'.

    Source: OLDaily

    Dis-trust and blockchain technologies

    Serge Ravet is a deep thinker, a great guy, and a tireless advocate of Open Badges. In the first of a series of posts on his Learning Futures blog he explains why, in his opinion, blockchain-based credentials “are the wrong solution to a false problem”.

    I wouldn’t phrase things with Serge’s colourful metaphors and language inspired by his native France, but I share many of his sentiments about the utility of blockchain-based technologies. Stephen Downes commented that he didn’t like the tone of the post, with “the metaphors and imagery seem[ing] more appropriate to a junior year fraternity chat room that to a discussion of blockchain and academics”.

    It’s not my job as a commentator to be the tone police, but rather to gather up the nuggets and share them with you:

    My attention was recently attracted to an article describing blockchains as “distributed trust” which they are not, but makes a nice and closer to the truth acronym: dis-trust…
    Blockchains are, in some circumstances, a great replacement for a centralised database. I find it difficult to get excited about that, as does Serge:
    It is time for a copernican revolution, moving Blockchains from the centre of all designs to its periphery, as an accessory worth exploiting, or not. If there is a need for a database, the database doesn’t have to be distributed, if there are decisions to be made, they do not have to be left to an inflexible algorithm. On the other hand, if the design requires computer synchronisation, then blockchains might be one of the possible solutions, though not the only one.
    One of the difficulties, of course, is that hype perpetuates hype. If you're a vendor and your client (or potential client) asks you a question, you'd better be ready with a positive answer:
    In the current strands for European funding, knowing that the European Union has decided to establish a “European blockchain infrastructure” in 2019, who will dare not to mention blockchains in their responses to the calls for tenders? And if you are a business and a client asks “when will you have a blockchain solution” what is the response most likely to get her attention: that’s not relevant to your problem or we have a blockchain solution that just matches your needs? How to resist the blockchain mania while providing clients and investors with something that sounds like what they want to hear?
    It's been four years since I first wrote about blockchain and badges. Since then, I co-founded a research project called BadgeChain, reflected on some of Serge's earlier work about a 'bit of trust', confirmed that BlockCerts and badges are friends, commented on why blockchain-based credentials are best used for high-stakes situations, written about blockchain and GDPR, called out blockchain as a futuristic integrity wand, agreed with Adam Greenfield that blockchain technologies are a stepping stone, reflected on the use of blockchain-based credentials in Higher Education, sighed about most examples of blockchain being bullshit, and explained that blockchain is about trust minimisation.

    I think you can see where people like Serge and I stand on all this. It’s my considered opinion that blockchain would not have been seen as a ‘sexy’ technology if there wasn’t a huge cryptocurrency bubble attached to it.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you need to understand a technology before you add it to the ‘essential’ box for any given project. There are high-stakes use cases for blockchain-based credentials, but they’re few and far between.

    Source: Learning Futures


    Image adapted from one in the Public Domain

    How do people learn?

    I was looking forward to digging into a new book from the US National Academies Press, which is freely downloadable in return for a (fake?) email address:

    There are many reasons to be curious about the way people learn, and the past several decades have seen an explosion of research that has important implications for individual learning, schooling, workforce training, and policy.

    In 2000, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition was published and its influence has been wide and deep. The report summarized insights on the nature of learning in school-aged children; described principles for the design of effective learning environments; and provided examples of how that could be implemented in the classroom.

    Since then, researchers have continued to investigate the nature of learning and have generated new findings related to the neurological processes involved in learning, individual and cultural variability related to learning, and educational technologies. In addition to expanding scientific understanding of the mechanisms of learning and how the brain adapts throughout the lifespan, there have been important discoveries about influences on learning, particularly sociocultural factors and the structure of learning environments.

    How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures provides a much-needed update incorporating insights gained from this research over the past decade. The book expands on the foundation laid out in the 2000 report and takes an in-depth look at the constellation of influences that affect individual learning. How People Learn II will become an indispensable resource to understand learning throughout the lifespan for educators of students and adults.

    Thankfully, Stephen Downes has created a slide-based overview of the key points for easier consumption!

    How People Learn from Stephen Downes

    It would have been great if he’d used different images rather than the same one on every slide, but it’s still helpful.   Source: National Academies / OLDaily