Archive for November, 2011

A good visualisation of the European Crisis

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

The Debt Quake in the Eurozone

visualisation of European debt crisis

This static image is simple, well designed and focuses on one key issue, public debt as a percentage of GDP in 2000 and 2010.

You could use this type of image as the backbone for a lecture, or series of lectures.   It could also be the starting point for a range of problems and exercises. also has an education page.  It’s aimed at secondary students but the structure of the lesson plans is worth a look.

Using electricity on students to improve grades (it’s not as much fun as it sounds)

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

“Air Force researchers were delighted recently to learn that they could cut training time in half by delivering a mild electrical current (two milliamperes of direct current for 30 minutes) to pilot’s brains during training sessions on video simulators.”

The problem remains, how do get students to voluntarily wire their own brains?  Perhaps an iPad app connected to a hat with an Apple logo on it.

Facebook is not your friend, they want to make money.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Facebook’s latest slight of hand effort to make a buck from your data is  “Seamless Sharing”.

“Critics say that Seamless Sharing is causing over-sharing, violations of privacy, self-censorship with regard to what people read, dilution of value in the Facebook experience and more.”

“I think this is a violation of the relationship between the web and its users. Facebook is acting like malware.”

“Facebook is experimenting with a trend that countless organizations will engage in soon: leveraging our passively created activity data. Why do they have to be so creepy about it though?”

Lock down your privacy settings using the Custom options.

Don’t put any personal information in your profile.

Don’t use any Facebook apps.

Get paid to put your out of print text online (hooray for Creative Commons).

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Perhaps this is something we should consider locally.  A Monash branded repository of Creative Commons texts. Rather than 2oK we could probably only offer an extended life and bigger audience for a text with your name emblazoned on it.

If you are looking for a way to make a some money from your old textbook check out the  Saylor Foundation Open Text Book Challenge.

Do you own the rights to a textbook that you are willing to share with our project? We will offer you a $20,000 award if you submit your textbook to us and it is accepted for use in our course materials.”

“Did you know that, according to the College Board, the average college student at a four-year public school spends over $1,000 for textbooks each year?  This means that in just America alone, the total cost for course materials is in the billions of dollars.  These high costs are greatly impacting students’ access to education, with 7 of 10 students reporting they’ve not purchased a textbook simply because of its cost.

We need to provide a cost-free alternative, and we need your help doing so.  If you know about a textbook that might be eligible for inclusion in one of The Saylor Foundation’s free, online college-level courses, let us know! We are offering potentially millions of dollars in bounties and awards for referrals and submissions that meet our criteria.”

At the very least the site is worth looking at for the free texts.

The Saylor Foundation is interesting.

“The mission of the Saylor Foundation is to make education freely available to all. Guided by the belief that technology has the potential to circumvent barriers that prevent many individuals from participating in traditional schooling models, the Foundation is committed to developing and advancing inventive and effective ways of harnessing technology in order to drive the cost of education down to zero.”

Some thoughts on OpenClass

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

I am a cynic by nature.  If you tell me something is magical I want to see actual magic.  If you give me hype instead of information I will walk away, and if you tell me something is free I will give you my definition of free and see if you still want to play with me.

So I have been giving some thought about Pearson’s offer of a free LMS.  In hunting around I came across this blog post by eLearning industry expert Michael Feldstein and it provides some food for thought.

“Overall, I don’t think the biggest concern is whether Pearson will fail to maintain the platform as free. Rather, the more serious question is what will they be getting if they succeed.”

This statement may seem a little extreme but read the full post and you will see how he gets there.

“What does Pearson get out of all this? They potentially get all the data on your students and an iron grip on the point of sale for all curricular content. Everything that worries you about what Facebook and Google know about you and everything that worries you about the control that Apple exerts over the iTunes and App stores should worry you about Pearson’s ambitions.”**

And he finishes with a statement which I am totally on board with.

The future has yet to be written, and a lot depends on the kinds of agreements that Pearson strikes with its customers and commercial partners. And, of course, OpenClass may not be successful, for any one of a variety of reasons. My point is simply that people need to pay close attention to what the company is doing with OpenClass. Pearson is attempting to shift from being a product company to being a platform company, in the way that Google and Facebook (and, increasingly, Apple) are platform companies. I happen to use Google and Apple products quite a bit and, for the most part, accept the trade-offs that I am making in order to reap the benefits that they provide. But we don’t have anything like this kind of a bargain in the educational technology market, and the implications are far reaching. Now is the time to think carefully and read all the fine print.

To sum up my own position – maybe yes, maybe no, but probably not yet.

** If you don’t have a least a passing concern about these things you really should.

More Centrally created free text books

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Following California’s open text initiative Washington is getting in on the act.

“The state community-college board is creating low-cost textbooks and course materials and distributing them online for free in a new program”

“The entire library, funded with state money and a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is free and available to anyone who wants to use it.”

Low fuss grading?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

When it come to marking and grades there are no real good or bad ideas just good and bad implimentation (supported or hamstrung by policy).

The basic idea in the above article is, if you complete all the work you get a credit,  if complete most of the work you pass, if you don’t complete enough work you fail.  Students review each others work and decide if each completed item is good enough.  The teacher provides the work and the marking framework for the students.

If this is treated as a way to increase teaching and learning time by reducing part of the marking load then it could be a winner.  Done right, the process will produce valuable teaching opportunities.

If (as is more likely) it’s treated primarily as a way to reduce marking workload with no serious QA and no tradeoff back into teaching, then it’s a potential disaster.