Thursday, February 27, 2014

Inaccuracies in scientific illustrations

Michael Stevens provides a brief overview of some inaccuracies found in common science illustrations (including several historic ones).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Seamless document exchange between devices with Infinite Surface

Infinite Surface setup

Startup company Infinite Surface offers promising software that allows seamless exchange between multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, PCs, multi-touch tables).

The exchange can be bi-directional (by swiping a document off the edge of the screen it will be moved over to a specified device). Alternatively, the devices can be in synchronization mode (screen mirroring with authoring rights for all devices). The software is web-based and runs on a wide range of devices. The multi-touch table acts as the central hub for all the devices.

A promising concept that hopefully will become available soon.

What's new about MOOCs? Insights from the eMOOC conference 2014

The MOOC 2014 conference took place at EPFL in Lausanne Switzerland in February 2014. The catchphrase of the conference was "All you need to know about MOOCs".

In the introduction, conference chair Pierre Dillenbourg asked the participants not ask "what can MOOCs do" but rather "what should MOOCs do".

Some interesting observations from the conference:

MOOCs for corporate and vocational training:

  • Currently, MOOCs are mostly developed for higher education and further education. However, the corporate and vocational training market is much larger than higher education. Several initiatives are developing MOOCs for corporate (COOCs) and vocational training (VOOC), e.g. customer training. Open question: Can MOOCs be used to teach physical skills, eg vocational skill, sport? If companies do their own testing and training, what are universities still needed for?

MOOC users:

  • Mostly Western countries and mostly people who already have a higher degree (master or higher): MOOC as a form of further education (but not initial education). Should MOOCs in developing countries be seen as a form of cultural colonialism or a democratization of education? How can MOOCs advance new forms of pedagogy instead of being glorified video lectures?

Novelty of MOOCs

  • Open question: Are xMOOCs actually different from existing eLearning platforms (besides the larger user numbers)? [Siemen's and Downes' cMOOCs differentiated themselves through their connectivist pedagogy, but what about xMOOCs?]. Suggestion: Go beyond the university-semester model -> Trend towards shorter courses (as people don't have much time).
  • The conference presentations offered a plethora of new terms: SOOCs and BOOCs (Small and Big open online courses (Is a MOOC with fewer participants still a MOOC?), COOCs (MOOCs for corporate training), VOOCs (MOOCs for vocational training), pMOOCs (project-based MOOCS), DOCC (Distance open collaborative course), etc.


  • How can success be measured in MOOCs? An example from Proversity (UK): To prepare job applicants with job specific skills, applicants take a MOOC and then go through an assessment in which they have to apply that knowledge in job-specific scenarios. If they did well, they will go through an online job interview process. Peer review vs peer assessment

Certification/ Accreditation:

  • New forms of awards are needed. Gamification of education: badges. Currently, no university or employer accepts MOOC credits, but some allow complementing with on-campus courses to get credit. Some (few) employers recognize MOOC certificates on CVs. Trend towards certification of MOOCs by professional organizations (rather than universities).
Dropout rate
  • xMOOC companies (like EdX and Coursera) offer "premium track" models in which participants pay a fee in advance to get access to the final exam and get a certificate. Users in the premium track have a completion rate of up to 70% (which is much higher than regular MOOC participation). The increase could be explained by economic motivation to get your moneys worth and a selection effect as only motivated participants are willing to pay in the first place.
I created a brief overview of MOOCs in the dynamic mindmap below [Click on a term to read the attached notes in the window below].

Tangible user interface of the future

MIT Media Lab presents a prototype for a tangible user interface. A Microsoft Kinect and a camera detect a user's hand movements and replicate them on a custom-built table with hundreds of moveable pins.
While this prototype is far from being portable, it offers a glimpse of what future tangible interfaces might look like.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Creationist education in Swiss private schools

A newspaper article published in "Le Temps" reports that three private schools in the French-speaking part of Switzerland are teaching creationist ideas in their classrooms. A representative of the three schools stated that "the theory of evolution is also presented, but not as a truth."

Teaching creationism as truth violates the local education policies that demand that students in private schools receive an education equivalent to public schools.

I find it interesting to note that the journalist found it necessary to provide a description of what creationism is "Creationism is a doctrine which, in its minimalist version postulates that the universe and living beings were created ex nihilo by God, as opposed to the theory of evolution." [I doubt that a US journalist would have found it necessary to provide a definition of creationism.]

Source: "Les écoles créationnistes réveillent les autorités romandes",  Friday 31 January 2014, Le Temps (Switzerland)