Friday, February 12, 2016

Personal Learning MOOC

Instructor: Stephen Downes

This course explores the topic of learning in three ways: first, through an examination of research and development issues related to the topic; second, through interaction with a personal learning environment (specifically: LPSS) to take the course; and third, through activities supporting the development of a personal learning environment at a conceptual level.

Course objectives: participants will develop an appreciation of different models of online course delivery, ranging from the traditional LMS through connectivist MOOCs to potential future models of personal learning and performance support.

Course environment: NRC01 Personal Learning will be delivered using OpenEdX and will include text-based content, videos, discussion, and exercises. Participants will be also invited to explore additional learning environments, including the gRSShopper, and Arke prototypes developed by NRC. In addition, participants will be encouraged to explore and work in online environments related to the topics covered in the course and report their findings in the discussion area or their own website. Participants may also be subscribed to a daily newsletter for the duration of the course.

Course Tag: #NRC01PL

Course Registration:

Registration is now open!

February 22 – April 8 (7 weeks)

Week 1 – Feb 22  -  Learning Through Practice
The first week will introduce participants to the online learning environment, exploring the EdX learning environment, and exploring similar MOOC environments that have been developed in the last few years. Main environment: OpenEdX 

Week 2 – Feb 29 – Content Knowledge v Practice
In this week we will challenge some of the presumptions about learning embodied in traditional learning management systems. What are the alternatives? We will look for practical examples of online learning outside traditional college and university environments. Main environment: OpenEdX

Week 3 – March 7 – The Case of the cMOOC
The concepts and ideas behind the connectivist MOOCs are explored this week, and participants will have the opportunity to explore the gRSShopper content management and distribution system developed to support the first MOOCs. We will examine how connectivist MOOCs employ social networks to facilitate and encourage multiple perspectives to emerge around a single subject or area of enquiry. Main environments: OpenEdX, gRSShopper

Week 4 – March 14 – Personal Learning Environments – a History
We look at the concept of the personal learning environment as it developed in the 2000s, examine some relevant PLE projects (PLEx, ROLE), Participants are introduced to the prototype and we examine some core concepts of personal learning: content aggregation and personal cloud. Main environments: OpenEdX,

Week 5 – March 21 – Learning and Performance Support Systems - an Overview
Core concepts of the environment are examined, including personal learning records, personal learning analytics. We consider what it means to learn in a personal learning environment, exploring the concepts of competencies and learning objectives. Main environments: OpenEdX,

Week 6 – March 28 – The Personal Learning Assistant
In this week we explore the practical application of a personal learning environment. We explore how people connect with each other to share and support learning, how activity records are recorded in third party environments such as NRC’s NeuroTouch, and examine how personal learning leads to performance support. Main environments: OpenEdX, or Arke

Week 7 – April 4 – Applications and Extensions
What does the future look like for personal learning. In this final week we consider the types of applications and services that could grow around a personal learning environment and think about how personal learning environments could play a wider role in all parts of participants’ lives. Main environments: OpenEdX, or Arke

Participants should familiarize themselves by viewing the following presentations:
·         The MOOC Ecosystem

Stephen Downes
Stephen Downes is a specialist in online learning technology and new media. He is a leading voice in online and networked learning. He speaks from practical experience both as a college and university teacher and the author of learning management and content syndication software. Through a 25-year career in the field, Downes has developed and deployed a series of progressively more innovative technologies, beginning with multi-user domains (MUDs) in the 1990s, open online communities in the 2000s, and personal learning environments in the 2010s. Downes is perhaps best known for his daily newsletter, OLDaily, which is distributed by web, email, and RSS to thousands of subscribers around the world. As a teacher and designer, he is also known as the originator of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

Monday, February 08, 2016

The Green Solution

Canada's PostMedia, concerned as always about meeting Canada's climate change targets, has published an article in the Toronto Sun arguing that Trudeau's emissions reduction targets are (and I quote) "impossible". In support of this conclusion the cite "math".

Here's Lorrie Goldstein:
Reducing our emissions by 127 Mt would mean the equivalent of shutting down all of Canada’s electricity sector (85 Mt) plus half of the building sector (43 Mt), in less than five years.

Achieving the mid-level reduction of a 146 Mt reduction would mean shutting down the equivalent of Canada’s agriculture sector (75 Mt) and most of our emission-intensive and trade-exposed industries (76 Mt), in less than five years.
 You get the idea.

Of course, with "math" you have to have numbers. Goldstein doesn't tell us where the numbers came from, but they're pretty easy to find. Here they are:

Our total emissions are 716 megatonnes (Mt). And yes, the electricity sector is responsible for 85 Mt, or 12% of Canada's total. And the rest of Goldstein's numbers can be found in the chart as well.
But math? Well, maybe the math of a ten-year old. People who actually do math can read for themselves how these numbers are created. Here's the formula:
Emissions = activity data × emission factor 
So, yes, if you reduce the activity to zero, you reduce the emissions to zero. But who, other than a toddler, would do it that way?

Let's take Canada's electricity sector, for example. We could shut the entire sector down to eliminate 76 Mt in five years. But that would be a ridiculous way to do it.

Let's look at how we generate electricity in Canada:

About a quarter of Canada's energy production requires fossil fuel. The majority is created from hydroelectric and nuclear, with wind accounting for about 4 percent. Why would we shut down all of that just to mitigate the damage caused by fossil fuels? Nobody would do that.

Here's some more math. Fossil fuels produce about 130 megawatts in Canada. The cost of installing wind power is roughly $2 million per megawatt. So for an investment nation-wide of $260 million, we could eliminate fossil fuel from Canada's electricity generation. That's two thirds of Trudeau's target right there!

So we would need 42 Mt savings on 630 Mt of emissions. If we made everything else 10% more efficient, we could exceed that target by a lot. Remember, emissions = activity data × emission factor. Is it reasonable to think that, instead of, say, eliminating the transportation sector, we could make it use 10% fewer fossil fuels?

We could look at buildings (86 Mt) for example.Instead of eliminating the entire sector, as Goldstein would have us do, we could search for a 10 percent reduction in heating costs, perhaps emulating Germany, which despite being one of the cloudiest nations on the planet, still manages to produce a surplus of home-generated solar power.

One of the major carbon-producers in the energy-intensive industries (76 Mt) is concrete production. Even passive techniques as on-demand mixing and concrete recycling could create significant energy savings.

Yes, there is a cost associated with this, and with the other ways to reduce the emissions factor.It costs money to electrify trains, to invest in public transit, and to convert from diesel to LPG or even fuel cells (transportation, 170 Mt). But with selective applications of public money to provide incentives, as well as increasing the cost of dirty technologies, all of this is manageable.

What we don't need are columns like this one published in PostMedia exhibiting what amounts to baby-logic. These are changes we need to make, and having a tantrum won't alter that fact.

Accomplishing our climate change goals will ultimately mean not only saving the planet, it will create more efficient industries. And if we can be among the first to accomplish this, we will be able to export these technologies. It is actually an era of opportunity, not crisis.