Archive for the ‘Annoyed’ Category

Social Media Literacy – willfull misunderstanding and malicious editing

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

A video of a student advisor has recently gone viral.  It shows her threatening to call security because a student is waiting to see a student advisor.  There is also posting of an email exchange which supposedly backs up the claim that this person is unreasonable.  People (with no real stake in the issue) are in a froth and as a result someone’s career is at stake.

toys pram CC BY-SA 3.0

Now this person may be at fault, but there is no actual valid evidence presented to back this up.

As someone who has had an office near an academic standards manager who regularly dealt with students who expected the world to conform to their requirements regardless of the rules and regulations (which they had chosen to ignore), I would like to know a bit more before I get out my flaming torch and pitchfork.

Judging from the comments, people have chosen a side based on their world view.  While social media provides the opportunity to widen our perceptions and understandings, in reality what often happens is it provides greater opportunities to find people who are just as ideologically hamstrung as ourselves.

“Confirmation biases impact how people gather information, but they also influence how people interpret and recall information. For example, people who support or oppose a particular issue will not only seek information that supports their beliefs, they will also interpret news stories in a way that upholds their existing ideas and remember things in a way that also reinforces these attitudes.”

Having said that, I think it’s worth at least looking for ‘good’ evidence that backs our position rather than just saying “hell yeah” to any crap bouncing around our echo chamber.

A couple of things about the video

1. There is no evidence that this is a fair representation of what actually occurred.  A few things to note.   The person pushing the record button has the option of:

  • using their calmest, most reasonable voice.
  • choosing which part of the recording best suits their position.
  • selecting the footage that shows at their target at their most unreasonable.

If I see a video showing an adult throwing all their toys out of the pram, I’ll want to see the lead up before I make a judgement.

2. Don’t try this at home.  Australian universities are government owned, and are not public spaces.

While no one gets too fussed about students taking photos of their friends around campus, if you take an image of a staff member and maliciously post it online, the university is fully entitled to take a legal swat at you and you don’t have a leg to stand on.

At Monash we have this statement in our privacy documentation.


No. You must first obtain consent from staff to use their photos for a webpage or staff notice board. Consent can be obtained at the time of taking the photo. It is important to be aware that staff may revoke consent in the future and if they do, the photo must be removed from the webpage or staff notice board.

About the email evidence.  Again it is a small (and selectively chosen?) exchange.  On it’s own it could easily be an exasperated response from a person dealing with a student who doesn’t like the answer they are getting.  Again pick you own bias.

I’m not sure what the answer is.  School curriculums  in Australia already deal with clear thinking and media analysis, but I think it needs to extend to the creation of digital media, and to the issues related to comments and re-posting.

Learning Spaces and learning results

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

I am a fan of flexible teaching spaces that allow for collaboration and active student participation, but this article highlights a common problem in learning and teaching research i.e. the lack of standardized detailed definitions of teaching approaches.

How can we comment on the effectiveness of the room or technology without a commonly understood description of what was being done and to whom.

In this case we are talking about “active learning, multimedia-enabled classrooms and swivel chairs”  !!?!?

To be fair the article does provide more detail particularly around demographics, but it still doesn’t give us enough information to identify if the outcomes are due to the room, or the teaching approach, or the charisma of the teacher (among many other things).

The company responsible for the equipment in the rooms found “a statistically significant correlation between classroom configuration and student engagement” (vendor results should always have a grain of salt added).

Ball State found their students “believed they were more likely to attend class, engage with their classmates and finish with better grades, but their academic results haven’t necessarily matched their enthusiasm.”

If engagement aids retention, then this could be a good outcome regardless of results. Maybe students are getting the same results but understanding more. Maybe they are getting the same results with less effort.   Maybe the assessment does’t focus on the things that an active collaborative environment fosters.

Anyway, the article is worth reading.

A bit about trolling

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

There is a fairly high profile trolling issue going about at the moment.

Why the trolls will always win

Tech trail blazer, Kathy Sierra coined the term “Koolaid Point” when describing the escalation of trolling behavior.  She later unfortunately found herself the target of a troll, who orchestrated a nasty and long term campaign against her.  She is a brave person and the article is worth a read.

Here is a video from PBS in the US about the “why’s” of trolling.

“Don’t Read The Comments: The Psychology of Online Trolls”


Author and Journalist John Scalzi is a uniquely thick skinned person when it comes to trolls.  He is one of those people we can watch and applaud, knowing there is no way on god’s green earth that we could emulate him.   His “Site disclaimer and comment policy” has achieved fairly wide spread notoriety.

He has also adopted Jenny Lawson’s ( the bloggess ) policy of “kittening” some trolls, which involves re-writing and subverting their comments.  Scalzi provides this example


My Edit: I love hearts and flowers and pretty bows! I could dance in sparkly showers all the day long! Fa la la la la la!


My edit: When I think about all the kittens in the world that need to be cuddled, I just break down into wee little sobs.

His response to one cartload of trolls was create a fundraiser for LGBT victims of assault.

His response to challenges to his “masculinity” and his non alpha male ways he created Gamma Rabbit.

…for those of us who are comfortable with diversity, who try not to be racist, or sexist, or homophobic, who don’t see the world as an apocalyptic zero-sum battle to the death between ourselves and whomever we try to hide our confused fear of by considering them as lesser beings, who aren’t in fact appallingly ignorant bigoted shitballs every single waking hour of the day, may I present to you an avatar — an icon, if you will, of who we are and how we choose to live our lives:

Today’s first job (22/05/14) – Change your eBay security details

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

You have probably already heard this, but if you haven’t, eBay has been seriously hacked.  Your account is not secure.

ebay logo

PayPal data is stored separately and is supposedly secure, but I would change that as well (particularly given PayPal’s occasionally spotty history resolving customer disputes).

MSOXMLMF error (for frustrated tech heads only)

Friday, February 7th, 2014

This is one of those posts very few people will be interested in, but those who are interested will want to travel to Melbourne and buy me a beer.

I am cleaning up a Samsung Series 7 PC Slate and yesterday I couldn’t open any MS Office applications without this message appearing.

MSOXMLMFDLL is either not designed to run on Windows or it contains an error.

Office would attempt to reinstall itself then reboot, but when I opened an Office app again the problem reoccurred.

So I woke up Professor Google and hit the tech forums.

I tried renaming the file , deleting it, copying in a ‘working’ version, running CCleaner (an otherwise excellent app), scanning for malware, running regsvr /u to uninstall it (it couldn’t find the file despite the path being exactly correct – I’m an old MS DOS user so I’m not a total bunny with the command prompt).

And forget the free download fixes.

Eventually I found a post where someone mentioned, almost in passing, you could also try creating a new Windows user account.

That worked, not only in the new account but it also fixed the original account.

The simplest and quickest fix – mentioned by one person – in a minor forum – halfway down the page – on the 7th page of a Google search.

Has Google just opened a loophole to make pirating legal?

Friday, November 29th, 2013

As you’ve probably heard Google won it’s case make copies of any books it wants.

“Google’s massive book-scanning project that makes complete copies of books without an author’s permission is perfectly legal under U.S. copyright law, a federal judge ruled today, deciding an 8-year-old legal battle.

In a 30-page decision (.pdf) Judge Denny Chin of New York ruled that Google’s move to digitize millions of university and commercially available books is on its face a violation of the owners’ copyrights. But Google’s limited use of the work makes the scanning “fair use” under copyright law, Chin ruled.”

The Authors Guild is appealing the decision.

Surely authors have the right to determine how their material is promoted and distributed.   If a commercial third party decides to increase the value of it’s brand by illegally copying someone’s IP surely that’s something they should have a say in.

Surely authors should have the choice to opt in, and if they do decide to help out the Google shareholders, where’s their cut.

Now, I’m not qualified to give legal advice, but it appears from this ruling that it could now be legal (fair use) to pirate all the books you want as long as you make them searchable and provide limited snippets online.

Nice loop hole. There will be an app for that by next week.  No one need ever buy a book again.

Given the new understanding of fair use, Google would probably be within their rights to do the same thing with movies, that court case would be interesting to watch.

If you want the opinion of an author/lawyer listen to this.

This what I’m talking about when I reference Back to the Future.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

I like Carnegie Mellon because of their Open Leaning Initiative, and they have done cool things with robots, but this doesn’t make much sense.

Link to the Universal site

Link to the Universal site

“Carnegie Mellon University is convening a high-powered consortium of educators, researchers, and technology-company executives that will spearhead efforts to develop standards and promote best practices in online education.

The Global Learning Council—to be led by Carnegie Mellon’s president, Subra Suresh—will also look for ways to leverage education-technology resources and disseminate data in an education landscape that some think is being turned on its head.

“In the last few years there has been a lot of discussion thanks to the development of technology about the delivery of education in a scalable way to large numbers of students across national borders,” Mr. Suresh says. “The missing piece is how much are students learning amid all this technology? The other piece is what are the metrics, best practices, and eventually standards, if you will, that are collectively developed and acceptable for those who engage?””

It sounds very impressive but I suspect they could achieve 95% of their aims by employing a research assistant from their Education faculty to do a Lit Review.

I’ll let you make up your own mind on the personnel on the (U.S. only) Global Learning Council.

Here’s my problem with the term MOOC

Friday, September 20th, 2013

From my experience this is what you get with MOOCs as currently presented

  • A bundle of freely available automated online courseware
  • Usually with a time release
  • Maybe with a discussion, it may be minimally moderated, but not effectively moderated.
  • Maybe it has peer assessment, but it’s not effectively moderated.

So MOOC is a new name for something we’ve had for while, it’s just bundled up and marketed better now – That’s OK.

Here’s my problem.

From an organisational perspective is it really a course, or just tricked up courseware?

Are the outcomes verifiable in any meaningful way?

Is it just bundled relabeled version of what we have via OER?

To my mind a MOOC doesn’t really become a course until there is some serious engagement and intervention by a teacher.  And you can’t make claims about effectiveness without some form of fair, valid and reviewed assessment (i.e. not an online quiz or a student evaluation form).

In a sense it doesn’t become a MOOC (i.e. a course)  until you add either the (always fee based) assessment/credentialing option (assuming this is a valid invigilated assessment), and/or a serious (usually fee based) tutoring option.   The notion we have to drop (despite all the early hype) is that MOOCs are by definition free.

So what should we call these things.

I  have joked about this in the past, but maybe we should forget the pithy acronyms and start updating our definitions.  Here’s what I’m going to do:

  • Open enrollment online courseware, usually free  – MOOCw
  • Open enrollment moderated online courseware, free or fee based – MMOOCw
  • Open enrollment online course, usually with a fee attached but the courseware is usually free – MOOC

I think this more than semantics.  As industry experts we need to be able to define what we’re talking about.  MOOC just doesn’t do it.

MOOCs in the Media update

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

I’ve just gone through the MOOC items I tagged for review.  Here’s the summary.  Lots and lots and lots of articles, from lots and lots and lots of sources, all saying nothing new.

Apart from Audrey Watters, can anyone point me in the direction of proper journalist reporting on MOOCs who isn’t a total moron or commenting on a field they only marginally understand.

(OK, that’s a little unfair, but how about a least researching the field back beyond 10 years when most of the relevant research was done.)

A.T.L.A.S., F.O.C.s, L.L.O.C.s and M.O.O.C.s what’s in a name

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Based on the current media success of MOOCs I am proposing a new teaching revolution based on the same model – ATLAS

Applied Textology Learning And Stationary – the disruptive use of photocopied hand outs to revolutionize Higher education, because it’s broken.  I just need to get an Ivy League Professor with a good but rudimentary grasp of pedagogy (preferably with contacts in Silicon Valley) to get an interview in a few big name papers, preferably financial ones because I’m going to need some cash to get this going.  And don’t tell me it’s been done before; the photo copiers of today bear no resemblance to those ancient models from 5 years ago.

Yes, I know this is a massive oversimplification and manifestly unfair to many people, but I’m trying to make a point.  The current MOOC mania is more about re-branding, selective memory and commercial hype than any real change.

At the risk of repeating myself.

MOOCs are free online courses with unrestricted entry (which is good thing).  A course being, some text based content and an automated quiz, at the minimum, and scaling up from there.  These have been around for over a decade.  They weren’t disruptive in Higher Ed because they require a specific, and targeted business plan to make any economic sense.  Despite the spoutings from vested interests and the uninformed, this hasn’t changed.

They don’t become viable until you start talking about adding a fee, turning the MOOC into a FOC – Fee based Online Course (which we have also had in various forms for over a decade).  If the business plan is to make money or cover your costs, the course by definition is no longer a MOOC.  What you have is a fee based course that offers a loss leading introduction to entice people into the money making part of your business.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s becoming a standard model of online commerce.  But it’s not a MOOC, it’s the LLOC – Loss Leading Online Component (my term)  of your fee based course.

The generic use of the word MOOC just perpetuates the confusion.

It appears that the vast number of journalists reporting on ‘MOOCs’ don’t understand this.