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June 3, 2015

[liveblog] Walter Bender

Walter Bender of SugarLabs begins by saying “What I’m all about is tools.” “The character of tools shapes what you can do.” He’s an advocate of “software libre” that lets the user be the shaper. That brings responsibility, which Walter wants to celebrate.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

He’s going to talk about http://turtle.sugarlabs.com

He goes back to Papert and Cynthia Solomon who in the late 1960s invented Logo. Fifty years ago. Then Jobs and Gates gave us babysitting: sw was there to be used, not an environment for creating ideas. You have to be given the tools and the knowledge.

In 1971, Papert and Solomon wrote “Twenty things you can do with software.” Walter today is going to give us a sense of the breadth of things you can do with software:


  • Using Turtle Blocks to draw interesting shapes, or create a paint program or paint with noise or attach pen size to time. “Once it belongs to you, you’re responsible for it it. And then it has to be cool, because who wants to be responsible for something that’s not cool?”


  • Challenges and puzzles


  • Add sensors, cameras, etc., create aa burglar alarm that photos the burglar


  • measure gravitational acceleration


  • Continent game written by a third grader


  • Build a robot


  • Model math


  • Collaborate across the network in a multimedia chat program


You can even extend the language. You can export your program into another programming language. A child wrote an extension to the language to download maps.

Turtle Blocks tries to make the learning visible to the learner — statistics about what the learner is doing, etc.

It’s got to be easy enough that you’ll try it, but it has to be hard if you’re going to learn. Many tools have low floors to enable easy entry but they also have low ceilings.

“Debugging is the greatest oppportunity for learning in the 21st century.” (Walter ties this idea to Cynthia Solomon.)

What motivates people: autonomy, a sense of mastery, and having a sense of purpose.

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[liveblog] Renee Hobbs on teachers as creators

Renee Hobbs from the Harrington School of Comm and Media is giving a talk about teachers as makers.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

The myth of the digital native has hurt teachers and students alike. Students come into classrooms feeling superior. Teachers think the students already know how to use tech.

The concept of literacy is changing. It means being able to go out in the world and do something. That means educators who have to learn concepts like open access, multitasking, transmediation, identity, curation, play. We have to think about who owns our data, how our community is represented, addiction, displacement, and propaganda. And there are more and more “stakeholders.”

There’s a big opportunity to connect culture and the classroom. E.g. minecraft. E.g., analyzing the news. Vital to make connections between school and the world. Popular culture is an important tool for connecting and relevancy. We need to make the “stand and deliver” method obsolete.

There is an art to creating a digital literacy learning environment. Renee has encountered several archetypes:

Teacher 2.0 helps students use media and tech to connect with and learn from others as networked digital citizens. Another teacher is a “spirit guide”: help students use media to support their social and emotional well-being.

So Renee’s group developed a “horoscope”: questions that show what sort of teacher you are, eg., trendsetter, taste-maker, watchdog. (see powerfulvoicesforkids.com), etc.

When teachers become media creators, they gain confidence. It’s important for them to learn how to use the relevant tools. E.g., a couple of teachers made a video about “how to solve a maht problem.” Another made a short video of children helping someone across the street. Another used Screencast-o-matic to capture interaction with a google doc to share a lesson plan. The teachers eventually got more playful and fun.

As teachers became more comfortable as media creators, they were better able to connect to students as creators.

“The same way that music is not in the piano, learning is not in the device.”

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[liveblog] Jeremy Roschelle

Jeremy Roschelle is at Stanford Research leading the Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (Circlcenter.org) is going to talk about cyber-learning. But first he asks to take a deep breath and reimagine learning.

He shows images of places of learning. “What tech we think is good for leaning depends on what we think learning looks like.” Therefore, we need to imagine learning, not tech.

To advance education we need to advance both the science of deep learning and tech.

Jeremy studied with and was inspired by Seymour Pappert.

Learning sciences teach us some principles:


  • Learning is social, and we must design supports for collaboration


  • Learning is multi-representational: it’s important to onnect stories and pictures, and connect the everyday and the symbolic, and enable children to see the meaning among these


  • Learning is in a situation: Take advantage of the setting, the people, the physical world, not only the tech

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[liveblog] Ronen Sofer from Intel

Ronen Sofer from Intel shows a video that is in favor of education.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. Listening through a translator. You are warned, people.

How do we connect tech and people? [He gives a post-ironic spiel, mocking typical industry pitches.] But the real challenge in “going beyond the screen.”

So far, the screen has been an interactive text book. Very structured. Visually rich. How to get closer to personal tutoring.

Barriers: 1. Sensing, recognizing and understanding me; 2. Reacting and reasoning

What Intel can offer:


  • Perceptual computing


  • RealSense enable detection of faces, expressions, sentiment, etc.


  • PerC Avatars: avatars that mimic your expressions


  • Physical activity context – fitbit-ish


  • understanding of time: when is the optimal time for studying


  • Makerspace stuff


  • Natural language, cognitive computing, connected classroom, KNO content management for ed


  • RealSense + Scratch (RealScratch)

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[liveblog] Yoram Yaacovi on Hololens

Yoram Yaacovi from Microsoft talks about Hololens and shows an awesome video. Maybe this one.

Imagine, he says, being at home but seeing the people next to you in the classroom. Also: collaboratie prototyping. Interactive whiteboards. Expanded user interfaces. Design for Reparability.

He shows a supercool video of an educational use.

He doesn’t know when it will be available.

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[liveblog] Todd Revolt on AR

Todd Revolt is worth Meta. It has 70 people. It’s shipping a Meta 1 developer kit. You use common hand gestures to manipulate virtual things.

He shows a video of people wearing Oculus Rifts in the real world and failing to navigate. Instead, Meta wants you to be together with people in the real world.

With augmented reality, he says, people know how to work it without training. Examples:

Fourth largest cause of death in the US: medical error. But with AR we can do more useful simulations. You can see the vital signs and the next steps in the procedures.

Princess Leia standing on your clipboard.

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[liveblog] Miriam Reiner on VR for learning

Miriam Reiner is giving a talk on virtual reality. Her lab collects info about brain activity under VR to create a model of optimal learning.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Her lab lets them provide sensory experiences virtually: you can feel water, etc. New haptic interfaces. There’s a kickstarter project for an Oculus Rift that lets you smell and feel a breeze and temperature.

They also do augmented reality, overlaying the virtual onto the real.

A robot she worked with last year suffers from the uncanny valley. Face to face is important. “Only 10% of information is conveyed through words.”

In an experiment, they re-created a student virtually and had her teach another student how to use a blood pressure machine.

VR can help us understand what learning is. And enhance it.

Exxample: A human wears electrodes. As she plays a VR game, her brain activity is recorded. They measured response times to light, auditory, and haptic signals, Auditory was fastest. But if you put all three together, the response time goes down dramatically. What does this mean for learning? We should find out. It looks like multi-modal sensation increases learning.

If you learn something in the morning, and they test you over the next few days, your memory of it will be best after sleep. Sleep consolidates memory. If you can use neuro-feedback perhaps we can teach people to do that consolidation immediately after learning. Her research suggests this is possible.

“The advantage of vVR is not just in creating worlds that do not exist. For the first time we have a mthod to organize and enhance learning.”

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[livebog] Avi Warshavski

Avi Warshavski begins with a stock image of young people smiling at a computer screen. He points out that they’re all smiling, as if in an ad. There’s racial and gender balance. And they’re all looking at a screen. Having one object on whih we all focus is an old idea. He shows an old Roman frieze. Everyone is looking at a scroll.

Now we are in physical spaces, he says, not just brains that sit and learn: Maker movement, Internet of Things, Oculus Rift (which isn’t physical space, of course)…

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. And I’m getting this through a translator. You are warned, people.

He cites HD Thoreau saying that it’s great that everyone in the country can now communicate “but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” We now have forms of communication that go beyond text on a screen. E.g., drones began with DIY makers who created open source software. Mary Meeker last week showed the incredibly steep growth in the drone market.

During the two day hackathon, a producer created a video of it, using one of the drones. (He shows a video of the hackathon — impressive job, especially given that it was done overnight.)

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[liveblog] Shaping the future: Minister of Ed

I am at an event in Tel Aviv called “Shaping the Future,” put on by the Center for Educational Technology; I’m on the advisory board. (I missed the ed tech hackathon that was held over the past two days because of a commitment to another event. I was very sorry to miss it. From all reports it was a great success. No surprise. I’m a big fan of Avi Warshavski, the head of MindCET, CET’s ed tech incubator.)

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. And I’m hearing this through a translator. You are warned, people.

The minister of ed, Naftali Bennett, is speaking. He’s a tech entrepreneur ( and also a right winger).

He begins by saying his son helped him fix his home wifi. A hundred years ago, that wouldnt have been possible because here was a monopoly on info, and it didn’t move from child to parent. We are in a time of radical change of reality. The changes in tech go beyond the changes in tech. E.g., the invention of the car also created suburbs.

Tech is not a spice for ed, a nice addition. There’s a transformative possibility. Israel went from 30K grads of a math exam to 9K. This is a threat to Israel, to develop Iron Domes, to win nobel prizes. We’re analyzing the issue. There are many hundreds of schools that don’t allow math ed sufficient for passing this test at the highest level. Few make it through MOOCs. It’s not going to work on its own.

The answer? I don’t know. Trial and error. We’ll fail and succeed.

Take a school with no qualified math teacher. What if we have a MOOC, online courses? The class will teach itself. The teacher will be a coach, facilitator, a motivator. But you need a self assurance on the part of the teacher. The teacher does not know the material. It’s a bungie jump for the teacher. The chain will be measured not by the weakest link but the strongest link. Success will be measured by the average. The 2-4% will get the material through the online materials. Then, just like butterflies, they will teah the other students. The students just has to connect the students. You don’t come to the teacher to ask what is the solution. The teacher says, “I don’t know. Let’s work on this together.” In Judaism, we call this “havruta”[1]: sitting together in a group studying Talmud. We can join online courses with the Jewish idea of studying in a group. Connect the two and who knows what the outcome will be?

We now need teachers who are willing to dare. In the next year we’ll have all sorts of experimentation. No one knows if we’ll succeed .Wherever it’s success we’ll carry on with this.


[1] Thanks to Jay Hurvitz for correcting the Hebrew word. He adds: “Some of us prefer to write it – “khavrutah” – ?????? – from the root for both friendship and joining.”

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November 24, 2014

[siu] Accessing content

Alex Hodgson of ReadCube is leading a panel called “Accessing Content: New Thinking and New Business Models or Accessing Research Literature” at the Shaking It Up conference.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Robert McGrath is from ReadCube, a platform for managing references. You import your pdfs, read them with their enhanced reader, and can annotate them and discover new content. You can click on references in the PDF and go directly to the sources. If you hit a pay wall, they provide a set of options, including a temporary “checkout” of the article for $6. Academic libraries can set up a fund to pay for such access.

Eric Hellman talks about Unglue.it. Everyone in the book supply chain wants a percentage. But free e-books break the system because there are no percentages to take. “Even libraries hate free ebooks.” So, how do you give access to Oral Literature in Africain Africa? Unglue.it ran a campaign, raised money, and liberated it. How do you get free textbooks into circulation? Teachers don’t know what’s out there. Unglue.it is creating MARC records for these free books to make it easy for libraries to include the. The novel Zero Sum Game is a great book that the author put it out under a Creative Commons license, but how do you find out that it’s available? Likewise for Barbie: A Computer Engineer, which is a legal derivative of a much worse book. Unglue.it has over 1,000 creative commons licensed books in their collection. One of Unglue.it’s projects: an author pledges to make the book available for free after a revenue target has been met. [Great! A bit like the Library License project from the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. They’re now doing Thanks for Ungluing which aggregates free ebooks and lets you download them for free or pay the author for it. [Plug: John Sundman’s Biodigital is available there. You definitely should pay him for it. It’s worth it.]

Marge Avery, ex of MIT Press and now at MIT Library, says the traditional barriers sto access are price, time, and format. There are projects pushing on each of these. But she mainly wants to talk about format. “What does content want to be?” Academic authors often have research that won’t fit in the book. Univ presses are experimenting with shorter formats (MIT Press Bits), new content (Stanford Briefs), and publishing developing, unifinished content that will become a book (U of Minnesota). Cambridge Univ Press published The History Manifesto, created start to finish in four months and is available as Open Access as well as for a reasonable price; they’ve sold as many copies as free copies have been downloaded, which is great.

William Gunn of Mendeley talks about next-gen search. “Search doesn’t work.” Paul Kedrosky was looking for a dishwasher and all he found was spam. (Dishwashers, and how Google Eats Its Own Tail). Likewise, Jeff Atwood of StackExchange: “Trouble in the House of Google.” And we have the same problems in scholarly work. E.g., Google Scholar includes this as a scholarly work. Instead, we should be favoring push over pull, as at Mendeley. Use behavior analysis, etc. “There’s a lot of room for improvement” in search. He shows a Mendeley search. It auto-suggests keyword terms and then lets you facet.

Jenn Farthing talks about JSTOR’s “Register and Read” program. JSTOR has 150M content accesses per year, 9,000 institutions, 2,000 archival journals, 27,000 books. Register and Read: Free limited access for everyone. Piloted with 76 journals. Up to 3 free reads over a two week period. Now there are about 1,600 journals, and 2M users who have checked out 3.5M articles. (The journals are opted in to the program by their publishers.)

Q&A

Q: What have you learned in the course of these projects?

ReadCube: UI counts. Tracking onsite behavior is therefore important. Iterate and track.

Marge: It’d be good to have more metrics outside of sales. The circ of the article is what’s really of importance to the scholar.

Mendeley: Even more attention to the social relationships among the contributors and readers.

JSTOR: You can’t search for only content that’s available to you through Read and Register. We’re adding that.

Unglue.it started out as a crowdfunding platform for free books. We didn’t realize how broken the supply chain is. Putting a book on a Web site isn’t enough. If we were doing it again, we’d begin with what we’re doing now, Thanks for Ungluing, gathering all the free books we can find.

Q: How to make it easier for beginners?

Unglue .it: The publishing process is designed to prevent people from doing stuff with ebooks. That’s a big barrier to the adoption of ebooks.

ReadCube: Not every reader needs a reference manager, etc.

Q: Even beginning students need articles to interoperate.

Q: When ReadCube negotiates prices with publishers, how does it go?

ReadCube: In our pilots, we haven’t seen any decline in the PDF sales. Also, the cost per download in a site license is a different sort of thing than a $6/day cost. A site license remains the most cost-effective way of acquiring access, so what we’re doing doesn’t compete with those licenses.

Q: The problem with the pay model is that you can’t appraise the value of the article until you’ve paid. Many pay models don’t recognize that barrier.

ReadCube: All the publishers have agreed to first-page previews, often to seeing the diagrams. We also show a blurred out version of the pages that gives you a sense of the structure of the article. It remains a risk, of course.

Q: What’s your advice for large legacy publishers?

ReadCube: There’s a lot of room to explore different ways of brokering access — different potential payers, doing quick pilots, etc.

Mendeley: Make sure your revenue model is in line with your mission, as Geoff said in the opening session.

Marge: Distinguish the content from the container. People will pay for the container for convenience. People will pay for a book in Kindle format, while the content can be left open.

Mendeley: Reading a PDF is of human value, but computing across multiple articles is of emerging value. So we should be getting past the single reader business model.

JSTOR: Single article sales have not gone down because of Read and Register. They’re different users.

Unglue.it: Traditional publishers should cut their cost basis. They have fancy offices in expensive locations. They need to start thinking about how they can cut the cost of what they do.

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