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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PNAS Bemoans Peak Science

PNAS It has long been traditional for senior scientists at the top of the tree to pull the ladder up after them. This Malthusian moan in PNAS continues that tradition. "Broadening the career paths for young scientists"? Not while the cloning of MiniMes continues.

I do wonder how different my career would have been if I had done that postdoc with Harold Varmus I sought in the 1980s. But I have no regrets.

Bruce Alberts, Marc W. Kirschner, Shirley Tilghman, and Harold Varmus. Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws PNAS USA doi: 10.1073/pnas.1404402111




It's not the length of your e-learning that matters, it's what you do with it that counts

In a flash of the blindly-obvious-but-now-we-have-evidence-to-prove-it, this well-designed and well-controlled paper investigates the hierarchy of e-learning:
  1. Expository, where content is transmitted unidirectionally via the technology.
  2. Active, where students use the technology individually to explore information and solve problems.
  3. Interactive, where the technology mediates human interaction and knowledge emerges from such interaction.
and shows that length of time spent online is unimportant compared to length of time engaged in interactive learning activities such as time on task The communicating with staff and peers. The results reinforce the arguments of previous research on the benefits of face-to-face collaborative and cooperative learning and extend such arguments to computer-mediated learning.

You want evidence? We got evidence. Repeat after me:

A VLE is not a filing cabinet.


Castaño‐Muñoz, J., Duart, J. M., & Sancho‐Vinuesa, T. (2014). The Internet in face‐to‐face higher education: Can interactive learning improve academic achievement?. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 149-159.
Abstract: Recent research on e-learning shows that blended learning is more effective than face-to-face learning. However, a clear empirical response has not been given to the cause of such improvement. Using a data set of 9044 students at two Catalan universities and a quasi-experimental approach, two possible hypotheses identified in previous research are studied. The results show that the principal cause of the improvement is not, in itself, the increase in time spent online for educational purposes. Rather, increasing the time devoted to studying online is only useful when it takes place as some form of interactive learning. The educational implications of these results are discussed.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The only way is ethics

Ethical and privacy principles for learning analytics. Abelardo Pardo and George Siemens. BJET 01 April 2014 doi: 10.1111/bjet.12152
Abstract: The massive adoption of technology in learning processes comes with an equally large capacity to track learners. Learning analytics aims at using the collected information to understand and improve the quality of a learning experience. The privacy and ethical issues that emerge in this context are tightly interconnected with other aspects such as trust, accountability and transparency. In this paper, a set of principles is identified to narrow the scope of the discussion and point to pragmatic approaches to help design and research learning experiences where important ethical and privacy issues are considered.


A very useful article setting out four key principles for the use of learning analytics:

  • transparency
  • student control over the data
  • security
  • accountability and assessment







Monday, April 14, 2014

Thoughts on the future of (scientific) publishing

Publish I've been reading some interesting stuff recently on publishing so the purpose of this post is to try to pull it all together and reframe it in the (specific) context of scientific publishing.

First up is Michael Kinsley's piece, The Front Page 2.0, in which he demonstrates that the Golden Age of monopoly publishing was killed by Stein’s Law: It was too good to last. Kinsley concludes "It will all work out somehow", which it will, but not for traditional publishers. Look out guys, BuzzFeed is coming.

Following directly on is Jeff Jarvis' emerging essay on new publishing forms:


My problem is that most of the scientific publishers I work with don't want to hear these messages. For them, I fear it is Kinsley's actuarial solution.




Teaching style and attitudes towards Facebook as an educational tool

There is a distinct lack of research that has considered university staff use of and attitudes towards Facebook. The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of how teaching staff at one UK university use Facebook, and their attitudes towards Facebook and online professionalism, in terms of the student–staff relationship. An online survey was developed that included the Principles of Adult Learning Scale to explore whether attitudes towards the use of Facebook as an academic tool differed between teaching staff with a teacher-centred style and teaching staff with a learning-centred style. This article offers insight into teaching staff attitudes towards the use of Facebook in an educational context. The results shed light on whether or not teaching style is related to attitudes towards use. Differences in attitude were found which indicate those with a teacher-centred style do not view online and offline identities blurring as much.

Julie Prescott. Teaching style and attitudes towards Facebook as an educational tool. Active Learning in Higher Education 01 April 2014 doi: 10.1177/1469787414527392


[Editorial] This is research you can believe in - note the effect sizes for the data.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mrs. Thatcher - Sue Townsend

Do you weep, Mrs Thatcher, do you weep?
Do you wake, Mrs Thatcher, in your sleep?
Do you weep like a sad willow?
On your Marks and Spencer's pillow?
Are your tears molten steel?
Do you weep?
Do you wake with 'Three million' on your brain?
Are you sorry that they'll never work again?
When you're dressing in your blue, do you see the waiting queue?
Do you weep, Mrs Thatcher, do you weep?
- Sue Townsend


Friday, April 11, 2014

Reasons to be cheerful: xkcd

Things you should know:
  1. I hate all infographics.
  2. All generalizations are false.
  3. Here's an infographic I like:

How the Heartbleed bug works

xkcd