Visitors and Residents is more useful than Natives and Immigrants

I was never a fan of the Prensky distinction between digital natives and immigrants. I suppose it was because the natives were supposed to be the cool folks and by definition, I was an immigrant. Being an adult working with technology before and during the earliest days of public access to the Internet, I was put off by the advantages attributed to the natives. Those young folks usually had little idea how things actually worked and were limited by a mechanical approach to the use of some tools most adults had yet to discover. The native/immigrant distinction seemed mostly to be a way for adults working with younger people (e.g., many educators) to excuse their lack of experience AND interest.

I hope we are past the use of the natives/immigrants labels. Everyone has now had ample opportunity to learn. The adult Facebook-only users are the equivalent of the teen Snapchat users – neither knows much beyond their tools of choice.

While the “I am not a native” excuse lingers, I am pleased to see some more helpful descriptions have emerged. I like the visitors/residents distinction being promoted by White and Cornu. This simple model is based on patterns of use rather than quantity of knowledge.

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DocentEDU is now InsertLearning

When you write about educational technology, you put in a permanent form descriptions of a moving target. In writing about the possibilities of Layering educator/designer guidance on online resources, I have selected several key examples and one of these services has been DocentEDU. I had the opportunity when generating the content that I did that the developers were thinking about changing the name of their service. Docent makes perfect sense if you know what a docent does and what the service is intended to do. I am guessing many educators did not make the connection so the developers were considering a name change. I knew this might happened and with a manuscript ready to be published I waited a couple months, but then decided to go ahead. Sure enough, the name change followed in short order.

DocentEDU is now InsertLearning. I am pretty much indifferent to the names – either works for me and both will be vague to some. Deciding on a title is not easy – Layering for Learning is just as vague. I do like the service and recommend that educators who want to break away from heavy use of textbooks take a look.

I have generated some video descriptions you may find helpful.

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Mastodon is here

A few months ago I wrote a post explaining why I thought Twitter chats were not productive and proposing that those wanting to have collaborative, text-based discussions should look for a better platform. Among the limitations I identified in that post was the capacity of a Twitter tweet (140 characters) and how so many tweets contained so little information. I recommended the search for a more versatile online service and I used a new open-source service I had been exploring called Mastodon as an example. Mastodon is a “microblog” similar to Twitter, but has an expanded 500 character limit.

Mastodon takes me back to the good old days when online services were innovative and open. I ran blogger and b2 on my own server before blogger became a Google service and B2 morphed into WordPress. I still like the idea of freedom and independence online and Mastodon has this feel. You can host an “instance” of Mastodon yourself if you have the tech chops. I am afraid that my PHP and MySQL skills don’t provide the necessary skill set or I would be tempted.

If you are a Twitter user or an edchatter willing to innovate a little, I would recommend that you take a look at Mastodon. Wired has written a more recent and complete description than my own so you might want to read it and then give Mastodon a try.

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Free textbooks will not move higher ed ahead

The cost of textbooks in higher ed receives a lot of attention. For the record, I have written college textbooks and I have written about the misrepresentation of the cost of such textbooks (most textbooks are resold so the actual cost to the student is typically one-half the cost of a new book). I have taken calling this deception as the “beer money ploy” as college students may not always tell their parents they have sold their textbooks back to the bookstore.

I came across a blogger writing on this same topic and he argues that OER (open educational resource) textbooks may be less costly, but nearly all are simply an online version of a traditional textbook. He argues that innovation will come when commercial providers augment their content with personalized study systems and personalization is what will actually make higher ed cost effective. He takes a broad view and notes that a large proportion of college students do not graduate and innovations that increase this percentage will improve the cost effectiveness of the total process. He has hit on a position I agree with and focused on as a research focus during my professional career. It is only the commercial content providers who have the resources (because of the economy of scale) to provide systems that allow students to progress at their individual rates of understanding.

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You may have missed this one

With the political news concerning health care and “collaboration” with Russia, you may have missed this story. The Senate, voting along party lines, has decided that is OK for you ISP (Internet Service Provider) to sell your data. That means your browsing history is not as private as you thought or hoped. Since you likely know who holds the majority in the Senate, you know who voted to sell you out.

I cannot imagine as a consumer who would think this was OK. Even if you did not care who knew what you viewed online, why would you want to allow the ISP to sell this information. You already pay the ISP for online access. At best, I would think it appropriate that “sell my data” would be an opt in that would compensate you against your monthly bill. Since, your browsing preferences would be a great way to feed you ads, I would think $5-10 a month would be appropriate.

Here is the thing that irks me about Republicans. Why is it that business interests are given priority over the interests of individuals? Yes, I do know the answer to my own question.

As to why senators would want to overturn privacy rules, Vocativ (via TNW) reported earlier this week that the 22 Republican senators behind the resolution had received more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the telecoms industry in recent years.

There is still time to contact your representative, but I suppose most of them are on the payroll too.

The question of online privacy has been prominent recently. For example, I have written on several occasions about the rights of creators to allow ads on their content and against those who feel it a right to block such ads. Yes, ads and cookies are a way to annoy users and collect information, BUT when you get content for free the ads provide a form of compensation for the free content received. If you don’t like the ads, don’t visit the content generated by creators. This is not an issue with ISPs – you have no choice. You use the service and they have your data.

There are related issues that may be involved and to my knowledge have been overlooked. If you work in education, you may be familiar with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). This law makes it illegal collect without parental approval the online data generated by the activities of children under the age of 13. Since I see no opt in or opt out provisions for the Senate pronouncement, I am unclear on how COPPA requirements would be met.

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Innovation in higher ed – who promotes what

The higher ed system in North Dakota is in serious jeopardy of a great drop in quality. Budget shortfalls that resulted from the downturn in oil prices combined with lower prices for farm commodities and tax cuts based on optimistic legislative speculation has resulted in double digit cuts and faculty downsizing for several years. Politicians have taken the opportunity to urge that higher ed needs to become more innovative.

Here is a video of an interview with the present Governor (start at about the 2o minute mark for comments on higher education). The governor and moderator propose that it is time for higher ed to innovate and speculate that technology should the basis for such changes. As is often the case when someone knows just enough to be dangerous, the recommendations are vague and simplistic. For example, the moderator argues that Google allows access to information so that factual knowledge is less important. The Governor seems more focused on the instructional potential of online educator for what he calls “knowledge transfer”.

A couple of general reactions to points that may resonate with the general public. First, knowing is always better than having access to information. Anecdotally, this may not seem to be the case. Those who argue this point by noting why do I need to know this or that fact. This makes some sense, but the wrong way to think about things. Consider the absurdity of this argument if taken to an extreme. For example, why must I acquire a vocabulary if I can look up any unfamiliar word in second? The answer is that comprehension much occur within seconds to work well because this is the way the mind works. The more disruptions the more impossible comprehension becomes. Those who possess more information and information that is organized in storage will have a tremendous advantage in anything cognitive task – comprehension or general thinking. Technology offers a great advantage in recovering from failures of knowing, but it is not an acceptable replacement for knowing  and the proposal that we can just look things up is a silly and no well thought through understanding of learning and the application of learning.

I taught in a university setting for nearly 40 years and during part of that time I taught some courses online. I continue to teach online. I understand the financial advantage to students enrolled in online courses and I understand the necessity of some students learning in this fashion. However, teaching online is more difficult and less efficient than teaching face to face. I understand that those politicians who argue for more efficient “knowledge transfer” have never been online instructors, but more importantly most have never experienced learning in such settings. I would encourage interested parties to invest 45 hours or so in an online experience to see what they think. Better yet, I would suggest they enroll their children and save the money of sending them to campus. These programs already exist so the requested “knowledge transfer” innovations are already available. Maybe they did not know this. If so, they can count this as an example of technology-enabled “knowledge transfer”.

I also think politicians have some strange ideas about what higher education is and isn’t. Most of worked on what is called a 60/30/10 contract. What this contracted is intended to mean is that we have a 60% commitment to teaching. Teaching involves much more than the stand in front of 200 student lectures (the knowledge transfer part). I might spend more time working with 2 grad students in a week than I spend with the 200 students in an Introductory lecture. If you regard this as my failure, I would note that I sat in my office with door open and any student is welcome. The 60/30/10 assumes that teaching, research and service support each other as scholarly activities. The model also assumes that universities contribute in very important ways beyond “knowledge transfer” and that facilities and social processes facilitate these other activities as well.

I don’t see the campuses at “universities” going away. There are too many efficiencies in the interaction of individuals in face to face settings. These efficiencies may be possible to duplicate online, but I would suggest this numbers involved when such approaches are taken would require an expansion in the number of “educators” involved.

Don’t get me wrong regarding the role of technology. My work for nearly half of my career involved the application and research on the effectiveness of technology to learning. The approaches I value can improve effectiveness, but I do not see opportunities for great cost cutting. Consider a comparison to the practice of medicine. Does anyone question whether technologies have improved medical practice? Does anyone argue that the improvements they have in mind involve lower costs?

So, when politicians argue that the world is changing and technology should play a larger role in most areas what exactly are they expecting? Is it improved performances of those services or is it the expectation that the services should cost less?

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Apple announces lower cost iPads

Apple has announced a new and less expensive iPad. The new iPad comes at two price points – $329 and $429 depending on storage capacity (32 or 129 gigabytes – wifi versions – education price may be slightly lower). The 9.7 inch iPads replace the iPad Air 2.

Some see this product as an alternative to chromebooks for the k12 market.

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New Google investment in world-wide education

Google’s philanthropic arm,, has announced a new worldwide education initiative intended to address equity and issues.

In addition to infrastructure provided by Google, the donation funds specific initiatives hosted by partners. Among the investments U.S. teachers might recognize would be the Kahn Academy. StoryWeaver, a company based in India, offers stories that have been translated into multiple languages.

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Google Vision for Education

Google Cloud Next offers Google the opportunity to share the company’s vision on many topics. Among these topics is what Google sees as the future of education (YouTube video of session). The focus of the presentation is on how teachers can use the tools Google makes available. What are core principles Google believes are important?

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Web annotation now has a standard and why it matters

The opportunity to highlight and annotate the web pages of third parties has been available for some time. Such consumer additions offer advantages in education and for the concept of the participatory web. The limitation of what has been available has been the unique approaches that were used – the individual adding the annotations and the individual wishing to view annotations had to be running similar software.

With the assignment of a web standard, this would not have to be the case. Software complying with this standard could originate from different sources and still allow annotations to be added and viewed.

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