👓 Book review by Nicolas Rashevsky of Information theory in biology | The bulletin of mathematical biophysics

Read Book review of Information theory in biology by Nicolas Rashevsky (The bulletin of mathematical biophysics, June 1954, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 183–185)

While sifting through some old bookmarks from CiteULike which is going to disappear from the web soon, I ran across one for this book review of Henry Quastler’s book Information Theory in Biology (1953).

The last page of the review had an interesting information theoretical take on not only book reviews, but the level of information they contain with respect for improved teaching and learning in an era prior to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas about “flow”.

As it isn’t the easiest thing to track down, I’ll quote the relevant paragraphs from page 185:

The purpose of a scientific book (we at least hope!) is to store and convey information in a given field. The purpose of a review is to convey  information about a book. It is therefore legitimate to attempt a mathematical theory of writing books and to find the optimal conditions which make a book good. At first it may seem that the optimal conditions consist of maximizing the amount of information per page, that is, in minimizing the redundancy. But a certain amount of redundancy may not only be desirable, but necessary. When presenting a new subject to young students who have never heard of it, a judicious amount of repetition is good pedagogy. Giving an exact abstract definition and then illustrating it by an example already constitutes a logical redundancy. But how useful it frequently is! The minimum of redundancy that is found in some well-known and excellent mathematical books (nomina sunt odiosa!) occasionally makes those books difficult to read even for mathematicians.
The optimum amount of redundancy is a function of the information and intelligence of the reader for whom the book is written. The analytical form of this function is to be determined by an appropriate mathematical theory of learning. Writing a book even in a field which belongs entirely to the domains of Her Majesty the Queen of Sciences is, alas, still more an art than a science. Is it not possible, however, that in the future it may become an exact science?
If a reviewer’s information and intelligence are exactly equal to the value for which the book has been optimized, then he will perceive as defects in the book only deviations from the optimal conditions. His criticism will be objective and unbiased. If, however, the reviewer’s information and intelligence deviate in any direction from the value for which the book is intended, then he will perceive shortcomings which are not due to the deviation of the book from the optimum, but to the reviewer’s personal characteristics. He may also perceive some advantages in the same way. If in the society of the future every individual will be tagged, through appropriate tests, as to his information and intelligence at a given time, expressed in appropriate units, then a reviewer will be able to calculate the correction for his personal bias. These are fantastic dreams of today, which may become reality in the future.

Some of this is very indicative of why one has to spend some significant time finding and recommending the right textbooks [1][2] for students and why things like personalized learning and improvements in pedagogy are so painfully difficult. Sadly on the pedagogy side we haven’t come as far as he may have hoped in nearly 70 ears, and, in fact, we may have regressed.

I’ve often seen web developers in the IndieWeb community mention the idea that “naming things is hard”, so I can’t help but noticing that this 1950’s reviewer uses the Latin catchphrase nomina sunt odiosa which translates as “names are odious”, which has a very similar, but far older sentiment about naming. It was apparently a problem for the ancients as well.

🔖 Future Trends in Technology and Education

Bookmarked Future Trends in Technology and Education (Future Trends in Technology and Education)
Future Trends in Technology and Education is a monthly report. It surveys recent developments in how education is changing, primarily under the impact of digital technologies. Its purpose is to help educators, policy-makers, and the public think about the future of teaching, learning, research, and institutions. Every month FTTE aggregates recent developments, checking them against previously-identified trendlines. As certain trends build in support and significance, the report recommends watching them for future impact. FTTE also notes trends which appear to be declining in significance.

🔖 academicpages is a ready-to-fork GitHub Pages template for academic personal websites

Bookmarked academicpages is a ready-to-fork GitHub Pages template for academic personal websites (academicpages.github.io)
This is the front page of a website that is powered by the academicpages template and hosted on GitHub pages. GitHub pages is a free service in which websites are built and hosted from code and data stored in a GitHub repository, automatically updating when a new commit is made to the respository. This template was forked from the Minimal Mistakes Jekyll Themecreated by Michael Rose, and then extended to support the kinds of content that academics have: publications, talks, teaching, a portfolio, blog posts, and a dynamically-generated CV. You can fork this repository right now, modify the configuration and markdown files, add your own PDFs and other content, and have your own site for free, with no ads! An older version of this template powers my own personal website at stuartgeiger.com, which uses this Github repository.
Checked into Cross Campus Old Pasadena

Attending the weekly Innovate Pasadena Friday Coffee Meetup to hear about The Future of Healthcare: Digital Health Becomes Personal.

Update after the talk
The presentation was interesting, but awfully dull. There was nothing I wasn’t aware of and nothing truly groundbreaking on the tech side. It’s actually a bit more of the same from the perspective of someone trying to use an app to improve public health. The futility of the process reminds me a lot of the issues that the edtech sector faces with people trying to innovate in education. Everyone seems to be falling into the same old traps and ultimately not making the massive difference they’re looking to effect.

It rarely, if ever, happens, but the presenters literally jammed out of the room before the event was completely over. Many were shocked by it.

Educators:

Interested in making the internet and your preexisting website your personal/professional social media platform? Here are some of my favorite examples:
Greg McVerry, W. Ian O’Byrne, Kimberly Hirsch, Kathleen Fitzgerald, John Johnston, Aaron Davis, Cathie LeBlanc, and Dan Cohen

Take a look at IndieWeb for Education for more examples and details.

Ask us about the value of adding technologies like Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, and others to your personal or professional website to interact with others directly from a domain of your own on the web.

Featured image courtesy of laurapomeroy via Pixabay under CC0 license.

The Sixth “R” of Open Educational Resources

The 5 R’s

I’ve seen the five R’s used many times in reference to the OER space (Open Educational Resources). They include the ability to allow others to: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and/or Redistribute content with the appropriate use of licenses. These are all some incredibly powerful building blocks, but I feel like one particularly important building block is missing–that of the ability to allow easy accretion of knowledge over time.

Version Control

Some in the educational community may not be aware of some of the more technical communities that use the idea of version control for their daily work. The concept of version control is relatively simple and there are a multitude of platforms and software to effectuate it including Git, GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket, SVN, etc. In the old days of file and document maintenance one might save different versions of the same general file with increasingly different and complex names to their computer hard drive: Syllabus.doc, Syllabus_revised.doc, Syllabus_revisedagain.doc, Syllabus_Final.doc, Syllabus_Final_Final.doc, etc. and by using either the names or date and timestamps on the file one might try to puzzle out which one was the correct version of the file that they were working on.

For the better part of a decade now there is what is known as version control software to allow people to more easily maintain a single version of their particular document but with a timestamped list of changes kept internally to allow users to create new updates or roll back to older versions of work they’ve done. While the programs themselves are internally complicated, the user interfaces are typically relatively easy to use and in less than a day one can master most of their functionality. Most importantly, these version control systems allow many people to work on the same file or resource at a time! This means that 10 or more people can be working on a textbook, for example, at the same. They create a fork  or clone of the particular project to their personal work space where they work on it and periodically save their changes. Then they can push their changes back to the original or master where they can be merged back in to make a better overall project. If there are conflicts between changes, these can be relatively easily settled without much loss of time. (For those looking for additional details, I’ve previously written Git and Version Control for Novelists, Screenwriters, Academics, and the General Public, which contains a variety of detail and resources.) Version control should be a basic tool of every educators’ digital literacy toolbox.

For the OER community, version control can add an additional level of power and capability to their particular resources. While some resources may be highly customized or single use resources, many of them, including documents like textbooks can benefit from the work of many hands in an accretive manner. If these resources are maintained in version controllable repositories then individuals can use the original 5 R’s to create their particular content.

But what if a teacher were to add several new and useful chapters to an open textbook? While it may be directly useful to their specific class, perhaps it’s also incredibly useful to the broader range of teachers and students who might use the original source in the future? If the teacher who forks the original source has a means of pushing their similarly licensed content back to the original in an easy manner, then not only will their specific class benefit from the change(s), but all future classes that might use the original source will have the benefit as well!

If you’re not sold on the value of version control, I’ll mention briefly that Microsoft spent $7.5 Billion over the summer to acquire GitHub, which is one of the most popular version control and collaboration tools on the market. Given Microsofts’ push into the open space over the past several years, this certainly bodes well for both open as well as version control for years to come.

Examples

A Math Text

As a simple example, lets say that one professor writes the bulk of a mathematics text, but twenty colleagues all contribute handfuls of particular examples or exercises over time. Instead of individually hosting those exercises on their own sites or within their individual LMSes where they’re unlikely to be easy to find for other adopters of the text, why not submit the changes back to the original to allow more options and flexibility to future teachers? Massive banks of problems will allow more flexibility for both teachers and students. Even if the additional problems aren’t maintained in the original text source, they’ll be easily accessible as adjunct materials for future adopters.

Wikipedia

One of the most powerful examples of the value of accretion in this manner is Wikipedia. While it’s somewhat different in form than some of the version control systems mentioned above, Wikipedia (and most wikis for that matter) have built in history views that allow users to see and track the trail of updates and changes over time. The Wikipedia in use today is vastly larger and more valuable today than it was on its first birthday because it allows ongoing edits to be not only improved over time, but those improvements are logged and view-able in a version controlled manner.

Google Documents

This is another example of an extensible OER platform that allows simple accretion. With the correct settings on a document, one can host an original and allow it to be available to others who can save it to their own Google Drive or other spaces. Leaving the ability for guests to suggest changes or to edit a document allows it to potentially become better over time without decreasing the value of the original 5 Rs.

Webmentions for Update Notifications

As many open educational resources are hosted online for easy retention, reuse, revision, remixing, and/or redistribution, keeping them updated with potential changes can potentially be a difficult proposition. It may not always be the case that resources are maintained on a single platform like GitHub or that users of these resources will necessarily know how to use these platforms or their functionality. As a potential “fix” I can easily see a means of leveraging the W3C recommended specification for Webmention as a means of keeping a tally of changes to resources online.

Let’s say Robin keeps a copy of her OER textbook on her WordPress website where students and other educators can easily download and utilize it. More often than not, those using it are quite likely to host changed versions of it online as well. If their CMS supports the Webmention spec like WordPress does via a simple plugin, then by providing a simple URL link as a means of crediting the original source, which they’re very likely to do as required by the Creative Commons license anyway, their site will send a notification of the copy’s existence to the original. The original can then display the webmentions as traditional comments and thus provide links to the chain of branches of copies which both the original creator as well as future users can follow to find individual changes. If nothing else, the use of Webmention will provide some direct feedback to the original author(s) to indicate their materials are being used. Commonly used education facing platforms like WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Grav, and many others either support the Webmention spec natively or do so with very simple plugins.

Editorial Oversight

One of the issues some may see with pushing updates back to an original surrounds potential resource bloat or lack of editorial oversight. This is a common question or issue on open source version control repositories already, so there is a long and broad history of for how these things are maintained or managed in cases where there is community disagreement, an original source’s maintainer dies, disappears, loses interest, or simply no longer maintains the original. In the end, as a community of educators we owe it to ourselves and future colleagues to make an attempt at better maintaining, archiving, and allowing our work to accrete value over time.

The 6th R: Request Update

In summation, I’d like to request that we all start talking about the 6 R’s which include the current 5 along with the addition of a Request update (or maybe pull Request, Recompile, or Report to keep it in the R family?) ability as well. OER is an incredibly powerful concept already, but could be even more so with the ability to push new updates or at least notifications of them back to the original. Having the ability to do this will make it far easier to spread and grow the value of the OER concept as well as to disrupt the education spaces OER was evolved to improve.

Featured photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

Following David Wiley

Followed David Wiley (davidwiley.org)
David Wiley headshot

Dr. David Wiley is Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning, an organization dedicated to increasing student success, reinvigorating pedagogy, and improving the affordability of education through the adoption of open educational resources by schools, community and state colleges, and universities. He is also currently the Education Fellow at Creative Commons, an Ashoka Fellow, and adjunct faculty in Brigham Young University's graduate program in Instructional Psychology and Technology, where he leads the Open Education Group (and was previously a tenured Associate Professor).

As an academic, Dr. Wiley has received numerous recognitions for his work, including an National Science Foundation CAREER grant and appointments as a Nonresident Fellow in the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, a Peery Social Entrepreneurship Research Fellow in the BYU Marriott School of Business, and a Shuttleworth Fellow. As a social entrepreneur, Dr. Wiley has founded or co-founded numerous entities including Lumen LearningDegreed, and Mountain Heights Academy. In 2009, Fast Company named Dr. Wiley one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.

David was born and grew up in West Virginia. He is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). He served a two-year mission for the church in Fukuoka, Japan, and now serves as bishop of a student congregation at Brigham Young University. David lives in Utah with his wife and five children and enjoys hiking, running, playing basketball, listening to and making music, and reading.

Primary blog at https://opencontent.org/blog/

I suppose it should cease to amaze me that educators are so far ahead of the curve on owning so much of their identities and content online. Many seem to be OG IndieWeb. I like the way his primary page sets up his identity and he’s owning at least all of his bigger article output. And then there’s a lovely blogroll on his blog page, with so many names I recognize and several more I’m going to have to add to my own.

As I look at his bio and see Degreed, it reminds me while shadowing Greg McVerry’s EDU 522 course, that I’ve been wanting to own more of my learning online. I’ll have to take a look again at how Degreed is set up from a UI perspective and see what I can glean from it, particularly as it takes data from multiple other platforms and pulls it into it’s own platform in a very PESOS sort of workflow. I wonder if Degreed might take personal websites as a source of content and then be able to add certifications? This might also fit in with using Webmention as infrastructure for doing badges and credentialing.

👓 “The Audrey Test”: Or, What Should Every Techie Know About Education? | Hack Education

Read "The Audrey Test": Or, What Should Every Techie Know About Education? by Audrey WattersAudrey Watters (Hack Education)
I want us to set the bar really high when it comes to education technology -- both in its development and its implementation. I don't think it's too much to ask. I mean, we're talking about teaching and learning here, and while I believe strongly we should all be lifelong learners, most often when we talk about ed-tech, we're talking about kids. As the Macarthur Foundation's Connie Yowell said at the recent DML conference (and I'm paraphrasing), there's value in risk-taking and failing fast and often, but not in "high stakes environments with other people's children."

📺 EDU 522: Daily Update VI: Sending A Manual Webmention | YouTube

Watched EDU 522: Daily Update VI: Sending A Manual Webmention from YouTube

A short video on how to send a manual webmention to a WordPress site that's using the Webmention plugin.

WordPress sites also have a separate visual endpoint that can be used manually. They’re typically found at http://example.com/wp-json/webmention/1.0/endpoint.

Other manual methods for both WordPress-based and non-WordPress sites include:
http://sendawebmention.com
http://mention-tech.appspot.com/

Replied to a post by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (INTERTEXTrEVOLUTION)
For today’s you need to highlight some cool tools. Give us 3-5 apps or websites we should try in class.

Some of my favorite and often used edtech tools:

Hypothesis – a service that allows me to quickly highlight and annotate content on almost any web page or .pdf file

IFTTT.com – a service which I use in combination with other services, most often to get data from those sites back to my own. For example:

Huffduffer.com – a service I with audio related content I find online. I use its bookmarklet to save audio from web pages. Huffduffer then creates a custom RSS feed that I can subscribe to in any podcatcher for catching up on podcasts while I’m on the go.

Post Kinds Plugin for WordPress – since many in the class are also using it, I’ll mention that I love using its bookmarklet functionality to quickly bookmark, favorite, or reply to other posts on the web.

URL Forwarder – This is an Android-based app that I’ve configured to dovetail with the Post Kinds Plugin and my website for posting to my site more quickly via mobile.

Jon Udell’s media clipper – I use this audio/video tool for finding and tagging the start and stop points of media so that I can highlight specific portions for others

IndieWeb technology for online pedagogy

An ongoing case study

Very slick! Greg McVerry, a professor, can post all of the readings, assignments, etc. for his EDU522 online course on his own website, and I can indicate that I’ve read the pieces, watched the videos, or post my responses to assignments and other classwork (as well as to fellow classmates’ work and questions) on my own website while sending notifications via Webmention of all of the above to the original posts on their sites.

When I’m done with the course I’ll have my own archive of everything I did for the entire course (as well as copies on the Internet Archive, since I ping it as I go). His class website and my responses there could be used for the purposes of grading.

I can subscribe to his feed of posts for the class (or an aggregated one he’s made–sometimes known as a planet) and use the feed reader of choice to consume the content (and that of my peers’) at my own pace to work my way through the course.

This is a lot closer to what I think online pedagogy or even the use of a Domain of One’s Own in an educational setting could and should be. I hope other educators might follow suit based on our examples. As an added bonus, if you’d like to try it out, Greg’s three week course is, in fact, an open course for using IndieWeb and DoOO technologies for teaching. It’s just started, so I hope more will join us.

He’s focusing primarily on using WordPress as the platform of choice in the course, but one could just as easily use other Webmention enabled CMSes like WithKnown, Grav, Perch, Drupal, et al. to participate.

As the new school year draws near and enthusiasts continue to push the benefits of #OER, let’s also take  a moment to remember and celebrate the ability of students to choose their own educational resources and books.

Teachers need to do a better job of providing options, flexibility, and guidance in the panoply of choices available to students of all income levels and abilities. Increased choice at the student level will drastically improve both the literal and proverbial marketplace of ideas.

Here’s some additional detail I wrote on this day a few years back:

On Choosing Your Own Textbooks

👓 Ed-Tech That Makes Me Want to Scream | Inside Higher Ed

Read Ed-Tech That Makes Me Want to Scream by John Warner (Inside Higher Ed)
I'm not losing my mind yet, but it's close.

This makes me want to write out a full thesis of the fact that there’s a limit to individual human knowledge. Perhaps I could call it the Aldrich limit as a corollary to Shannon’s limit? I suspect it could be a part of a larger thesis about the various levels of knowledge and how to protect freedom.