ICT, robots and binge-watching

Are we being too quick to embrace technology in education?

Neil Selwyn: “Many recently developed forms of education seem to benefit those who are already well-resourced and well-educated. The participation and completion rates of many MOOCs tend to be skewed towards college-educated, high-income young males… Emerging technologies have much to offer but there will be consequences – what forms of education do we really want?” Excellent discussion by Brett Clarke in the Comments: Governments have poured too much money into devices and student-computer ratios instead of investing money into the professional development of school leaders and teachers. Teachers need skills in pedagogical practice and creating learning environments that are enhanced by technology.

Listen to the program: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/are-we-being-too-quick-to-embrace-technology-in-education/7211366


Australia will have to face the consequences of its education gap

According to the Fairfax-Lateral Economics Wellbeing Index, each degree or higher trade qualification is worth almost $1 million in wellbeing for the community. Employment in high-skill industries has grown more quickly – low-skill workers face growing competition from new migrants, offshoring and even robots. The growing educational-cultural divide will cause problems – the best predictor of support for Trump has been the absence of a college degree.



Can handwriting make you smarter?

Researchers at Princeton and UCLA found that students who took handwritten notes generally outperformed students who typed their notes – and more type. Those who write their notes appear to learn better, retain information longer and grasp new ideas more readily. Handwriting encodes the information more deeply in memory – longhand notes were more organised and students thought more about what they were going to write. Students who type can take more notes but they are verbatim and this seems to undermine learning – they forget what they have typed after 24 hours.



Lower case for internet and web!

The 2016 Stylebook of Associated Press (AP) will advise that from 1 June “internet” and “web” should be in lower case and no longer capitalised. Some people aren’t happy…they like Internet! Thanks AP – in 2010 they ruled “web site” would become “website” and in 2011, “e-mail” became “email”.



Google: don’t be evil?

Google is one of the US’s largest providers of edtech in K-12 schools. However, Google does track student data – but not to target them for advertising or to get personal details. It tracks students signed into Google Apps for Education when they use Search, YouTube, Blogger and Maps and uses the data “to develop and improve Google products” (Sue Molinari, a Google VP).



Robot tutors

The L2TOR Project (pronounced el-tutor) uses social robot tutors in 4 European cities in the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey to help immigrant pre-schoolers learn the local language. The project is run by linguists and roboticists from European universities. Students work through a course under the watchful eye of a NAO robot. The robot explains learning intentions before the lesson, observes body language during the lesson and assists with problems. Researchers have found that social robots have marked benefits over screen-based tutoring and positive impacts on motivation.




Amazon Inspire

Amazon Education is working on a new free platform that allows schools to upload, curate, share and discover open education resources (OER). Users can self-publish resources and add ratings and reviews. Metadata tags will be assigned to the resources via learning Registry. Schools could upload their entire digital library if it was open and freely available. Scheduled for release in mid 2016.



Ahh holidays…and binge-watching

It was Collins Dictionary Word of the Year for 2015….but it’s not all good. The University of Texas found a strong connection between binge-watching, being depressed and lonely and having a self-regulation deficiency. A team from Zurich noted that binge-watchers want more material things and feel more anxious about life. The American Medical Association examined 25 years of research and found that people who watch a lot of TV have a weaker brain function. So binge if you must but beware!





Internet Trends Report and The Conversation US

The Conversation launches US service

The acclaimed Australian news analysis website The Conversation launched its US service last week – following the UK launch last year. “The 3 newsrooms will work as one, sharing content and ideas from 14 000 academics. Australian academics and institutions will benefit from the increased global audience and opportunity for collaboration” – and readers will have increased access to quality information on current topics.




Technology improves higher learning – it doesn’t kill it

Gavin Moodie (RMIT) believes that MOOCs are unlikely to “disrupt” universities any more than print books did in early universities. Rather – “informal, open and online learning will be absorbed within exisiting universities to augment and improve their practices”. Interesting info about libraries and how they were changed by print…early libraries were closed to undergraduates – at Cambridge they were fined for entering them in the early 17th century! In the 18th century books were so numerous that a pedagogical role emerged for libraries, helping students navigate texts.



Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report 2014

The tech analyst’s influential report comes out annually mid year. She notes the biggest trend is towards mobile devices with sensors that enable users to share a huge range of information. This big data  can in turn be used to solve problems and create new products, but privacy and other rights could be compromised.




Interesting insights:


* Internet users globally growing at less than 10% a year, but initiatives like Google’s Project Loon and Facebook’s Internet.org hope to increase this

* Mobile usage continues to grow strongly – 25% of all web usage

* 30% of all mobile users are now smartphone users

* Tablets are growing faster than PCs ever did

* Unbundling of web and mobile apps – users now want simple apps that do one thing well

* New smartphone sensors (eg. accelerometers, compasses, barometers, heart rate sensors, GPS etc) are fueling the Big Data Age; it is hard to analyse all this Big Data

* 34% of the digital universe is useful but only 7% is tagged

* Cybersecurity is getting harder

* Mobile interfaces are changing everything – transport (Uber), restaurants (Yelp), accommodation (Airbnb), music consumption (Spotify)

* Many developing countries leapfrogged the laptop/PC era and went straight to mobile

* Social networking is changing from broadcast to private sharing – rather than sharing a little with a lot of people, we are sharing a lot with a few close friends. Giant international messaging apps have risen (Snapchat, WhatsApp etc)

* Music streaming up, digital song sales down for the first time (files are a nuisance; streaming is easier)

* Huge interest in cryptocurrencies (eg. bitcoin)

* Photo sharing is huge – we also upload fitness, events and computer code

* Decreasing cost of digital storage

* 84% of mobile owners use devices while watching TV

* Viewers are ditching traditional TV for online video content

* TV channels growing fast as mobile apps

* YouTube channels have huge reach and growth; YouTube stars are the new movie stars

* Rise of BuzzFeed (top Facebook news publisher)

* New genre of video – “Spectator gaming” – watch others playing – Twitch is top video streaming site

* Top 5 internet properties are from the US – Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Wikipedia – but majority of their users are from abroad

* Top public tech market leaders – Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tencent (China)

* China is becoming a tech superpower with many innovations eg. WeChat


Summary of slides (54 slides): http://techcrunch.com/gallery/mary-meeker-internet-trends/

Full report (164 slides): http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends


With the dreaded increases to university fees put forward in the budget, maybe now is the time to enrol in a free MOOC…

Massive Open Online Courses: 10 million enrolments globally

ANU, UNSW, Monash, Melbourne University, RMIT & University of Queensland all offer MOOCs, as well as many overseas universities.

University of Melbourne (via Coursera)

13 May: In just over 12 months, over 500,000 students from across the globe have enrolled in 11 MOOCs – “an exhilarating experience” (VC Glyn Davis). Upcoming MOOCs include: Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (30 June); French Revolution (7 July): https://www.coursera.org/unimelb


Australian National University (via edX)

Engaging India: the world’s first Hindi-English MOOC

This 10 week course started 29 April with over 10 000 enrolments. Presented by Dr McComas Taylor and other experts – a rich overview of contemporary India. Videos and readings will be available in Hindi and English.


Upcoming MOOC: Exoplanets – presented by Prof. Brian Schmidt, 2011 Nobel prize winner (24 June; 10 wks). Prof. Schmidt also presented Greatest unsolved mysteries of the universe (started 25 March).



ANU is the first Australian university to join edX, which was set up in 2012 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University as a non-profit organisation (unlike other providers such as Coursera and FutureLearn). The platform and source code for edX courses are freely available. Google was developing its own education platform called Course Builder, but has now decided to use the edX platform. In February 2014, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would use edX for SocialEDU, the online educational system it is providing for Rwanda. Nokia will provide affordable smartphones, Airtel will provide free data to students (1 year); the government will provide free wifi to unis.




Benefits of MOOCs

Anant Agarwal, edX CEO,  talks about the transformative power of MOOCs and how they are set to democratise education (2 min. video): http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/news-events/video/power-moocs#.U12l3rS-Wzo


Completion rates of MOOCs?

Could be as low as 4 or 5%….but you could learn a lot even if you don’t formally complete!



MOOC List – MOOC aggregator:   http://www.mooc-list.com/

MOOCs Directory: http://www.moocs.co/

50 top sources of free eLearning courses:


Coursera – largest provider; 80 top unis (Stanford, Yale, Columbia):  https://www.coursera.org/

edX – Harvard, MIT, Berkley, ANU, Uni of Qld etc:   https://www.edx.org/

FutureLearn – UK unis, Monash Uni, British Museum, British Library: https://www.futurelearn.com/

Udacity – IT and computer science (some have a charge): https://www.udacity.com/courses#!/all

MOOEC (Massive Open Online English Course) – Aust. site, supported by Qld Govt; teaches English language at all levels:   http://www.mooec.com/about


Thinking about MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses. India is the second largest consumer of MOOCs after the US. In February, ANU joined edX (founded in May 2012 by MIT & Harvard), the only Australian university so far. Courses start in 2014 (Astrophysics by Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt and Engaging India by McComas Taylor). Schmidt also believes ANUx could help high school students who may not have had access to highly qualified teachers in some subject areas, due to shortages.

The US Dept of Education meta-analysis of 46 studies in online learning (mostly in higher education), showed that the most powerful learning outcomes resulted from blended learning – a combination of face-to-face with online learning.

Public good or playing markets? The real reason for MOOCs – Prof. Thomas Clarke, UTS.
Interesting article. Enrolment figures are highly speculative, with high reported drop-out rates (up to 90%). Are they committed to providing mass education as a public good or are they more interested in global domination of education markets? Will they start out free and end up with advertisements and fees? Even with the availability of MOOCs,  “universities are gradually morphing into mass online campuses in their own right, though maintaining the wonder of face to face encounters, and retaining a role for the most flexible, interactive, intelligent and responsive pedagogic technology of all – the teacher in the classroom”. Nice quote.

What college students really think about online courses
A US study of college students shows that students want to be involved in the online learning conversation – blended learning models are valued rather than everything being online. They want courses that match their learning style and technology integration that improves learning.

Why we should never return to the 3 Rs – Stewart Riddle, USQ.
Some politicians are calling for more didactic teaching methods and the traditional curriculum. But – “the 3 Rs will not help young people to use computers efficiently, search the internet and access electronic texts for information and then have effective tools to analyse, critique and synthesise that information…..(one for the TLs!). On the question of prizing knowledge over skills, one only has to consider the information processing power of the humble smart phone sitting in our pockets or bags, which contains the capacity to access more information than we could ever hope to store in our memory by rote learning, to see the pointlessness in such a cause”. http://theconversation.com/why-we-should-never-return-to-the-three-rs-13179

The iPhone killed my creativity – Brian Hall.
Yes it’s true! With smartphones we are never bored, sitting around with nothing to do. And our creativity suffers – we need to be bored to allow our minds to drift & wander, to have the time and space to think about things. Using all the fun stuff on our smartphones is also lowering impulse buys at the checkout!