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Posts Tagged ‘information

The headlines highlighted in this tweet are why we need:

  • science and experts.
  • to be information and media literate.
  • to follow entities outside our bubbles.

Forbes and NASA have experts that are good at what they do. Both provided commentary on a shared observation. Only one was actually informative — NASA.

If we were information and media literate — collectively digitally literate — we would be skeptical of Forbes’ report and know how to investigate the issue. We would then find NASA’s version of the event and we would be able to evaluate what we find.

Operating outside our bubbles allows us to see what others see. Operate in the Forbes or entertainment bubble and we see only mystery or ignorance. Operate in the scientific bubble and we see more factual information.

That said, I follow You Had One Job on Twitter because it is funny. It is also provocative in that it helps me make critical connections. So while being digitally literate and sourcing expertise are important, it helps to first operate outside one’s bubble.

Yesterday I mentioned how the edtech vendor DRIP — data rich, information poor — approach was like torture. Today I elaborate on one aspect of data-richness and link that to an under-utilised aspect of game-based learning.

The data-richness that some edtech providers tout revolves around a form of data analytics — learning analytics. If they do their homework, they might address different levels of learning analytics: Descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, prescriptive.

A few years of following trends in learning analytics allows me to distill some problems with vendor-touted data or learning analytics:

  • Having data is not the same as having timely and actionable information
  • While the data is used to improve the technological system, it does not guarantee meaningful learning (a smarter system does not necessarily lead to a smarter student)
  • Such data is collected without users’ knowledge or consent
  • Users do not have a choice but to participate, e.g., they need to access resources and submit assignments to institutional LMS
  • The technological system sometimes ignores the existing human system, e.g., coaches and tutors

I define learning analytics and highlight a feature in Pokémon Go to illustrate how data needs to become information to be meaningful to the learner.

First, a seminal definition from Long and Siemens (2011):

… learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs

ERIC source

The processes of measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting are key to analytics. I use a recent but frustrating feature of Pokémon Go to illustrate each.

My PoGo EX Raid Pass.

The Pokémon Go feature is the “EX Raid Pass” invite system (I shorten this to ERP). Players need to be invited to periodic raids to battle, defeat, and catch the rare and legendary, Mewtwo. The ERP seemed to be random like a lottery and rewarded few like a lottery as well.

Even though Niantic (Pokémon Go’s parent company) provided vague tips on how to get ERPs, players all over the world became frustrated as they did not know why they were not selected despite playing by the rules and putting in much effort.

To make matters worse, a few players seemed to strike the lottery more than once. At the time of writing, I know of one player who claimed on Facebook that he has eight ERPs for the next invite on 9 Jan 2018.

Eight Ex Raid Passes!

Players have swarmed Reddit, game forums, and Facebook groups to crack this nut. Some offered their own beliefs and tips. Much of this was hearsay and pseudoscience, but it was data nonetheless — unverifiable and misleading data.

A few Facebookers then decided to poll ERP recipients about where their EX Raids were. This was the start of measurement as they looked for discrete data points. As the data points grew, the Facebookers compiled lists (data collection).

Such data measurement and collection was not enough to help non-ERP players take action. The collected data was messy and there was no pattern to it.

I know of at least one local Pokémon Go player who organised the data as visualisations. He created a tool that placed pinned locations in a Singapore map as potential EX Raid venues. With this tool, it became obvious that locations were reused for EX Raids.

Potential EX Raids hotspots.

Pattern of reuse of venues for EX Raids.

However, such a visualisation was still not information. While the data pointed to specific spots where EX Raids were likely to happen, they still did not provide actionable information on what players might actually do to get an ERP.

To do this, Facebooker-players asked recipients when their ERPs were valid and when they raided those spots previously. One of the patterns to emerge was normal raids of any levels (1 to 5) at hotspot gyms a few days before Ex Raids. So if an Ex Raid was likely to happen on Saturday at Gym X, the advice was to hit that gym on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to increase the likelihood of receiving an ERP.

Collectively, these actions were a form of analysis because of the attempts to reduce, generalise, and ultimately suggest a pattern of results. This actionable information was reported and communicated online (social media networks) and in-person (auntie and uncle network).

The advice to players seeking ERPs is a reduction of much data, effort, and distilled knowledge from a crowd. It illustrates how data becomes information. I have benefitted from the data-to-information meta process because I followed the advice and received an ERP (see image embedded earlier).

The advice does not constitute a guarantee. With more players using this strategy, more will enter the pool eligible for selection. There is still a lottery, but you increase your chances with the scientific approach. You do not just rely on lucky red underwear; you create your own “luck”.

Now back to edtech DRIP. Edtech solutions that claim to leverage on analytics are only good if they not only help the technical system get better at analysis, but also help the teacher and learner take powerful and meaningful action. Edtech solutions that are data rich but information poor only help themselves. Edtech solutions that turn rich data into meaningful information help us.

I reserved this read, Why We Must Embrace Benevolent Friction in Education Technology, for the new year.

A few concepts from the article jumped out at me, but the one that stood out was DRIP — Data Rich, Information Poor. What does this have to do with edtech?

DRIP is a criticism of edtech companies and providers that tout data analytics as a means of controlling, feeding, manipulating, or enabling learners. Data is just that, data. It is not organised information that might become internalised as knowledge and then externalised as intervention.

What edtech providers, particularly LMS and CMS companies, have yet to do is help their clients and partners make sense of the data. This is in part because programmer or provider speak is not the same as teacher and educator speak. There are relatively few people — like me — who can bridge that gap.

So what these providers do is reach out to administrators and policymakers because they all deal with numbers and data. They do so in a way that makes sense to them. It does not help that these discussions are not transparent and also make little sense to teachers and educators.
 

 
A while ago I heard about an interrogative torture technique that involved slowly dripping water onto a victim’s head. The slow drips quickly wear down psychological resistance and the interrogators get what they want.

That method does not transfer via DRIP in edtech. It will only drown clients and partners in meaningless data that does not actually help teachers or their learners.


Video source

There are lots of takeaways from this video. One is this factoid: From 5000 BCE to 2007, the estimated amount of information stored by the human race was 300 exabytes; in 2013, that data had grown four times to 1,200 exabytes.

The information explosion is a key reason why we cannot focus on just teaching and testing for content.

You might argue that what students learn in school is a limited set and that some curricula are reduced to accommodate shorter terms and more tests. If you do, you are missing the point.
 

 
The focus on content does not necessarily require learners to deal with the growing mountain of information. Students resort to learning GIGO — garbage in, garbage out — resulting in short-term learning.

What the learners of today and tomorrow need to know and do is how to process such information. This means knowing how to seek, collect, analyse, and evaluate information and then collating, curating, creating, and critiquing so that it makes sense.

These skills are not new, but they are even more important now that we are in the midst of an information explosion. To deny this or teach otherwise is to be blind and irresponsible.

This tweet is telling.

You can get information and news from an authoritative source or you can get it secondhand.

As social creatures, we rely on social cues. While cues are important for communication, they are not always ideal for facts.

Earlier this month I learnt about the death of a former director of NIE. The initial report came to me via the grapevine, and while that particular source was reliable, it was not official. Short of hearing directly from a grieving loved one, I waited to hear from the university or a press release.

As much as I dislike Facebook, I am part of several groups for professional and personal enrichment. What all groups have in common are speculation, guesswork, and rumour that pass off as fact. More frightening is opinion that masquerades as expertise. What is terrifying is the general acceptance of hearsay.

Today we have no excuse for not even looking for original sources and authoritative channels. It might take some work, but like any skill, you get better with practice.
 

 
Ignore the saying “do not look a gift horse in the mouth” just because someone gave you juicy news or a shiny nugget. You owe it to yourself and to others to get things right. Get the information straight from the horse’s mouth because the stable is open.

I read with interest this CNA article, Students taught to verify authenticity of online information.

One of our two education ministers responded to a timely question in parliament. The MP asked if “there were any programmes to teach students how to tell what’s fake news”.

Like any brief news article, there is information (which needs to be verified) and gaps (that need to be filled).

The MP who asked the question might be happy to get answers to two questions:

  • Is this form of information literacy taught? (Yes)
  • How it is taught? (by integration into subjects like English, History, Social Studies, and Character and Citizenship Education).

However, teaching something does not guarantee that it has been learnt. The urgency of the message might be apparent to the messenger, but it might not be meaningful to the receiver.

So there are at least two other questions that remain unanswered:

  • What is the evidence that such information literacy has been learnt?
  • How are students continuing to learn this given that “fake news” is a moving target?

In other words, what are we doing to move beyond basic competency to fluency?

If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them.

I read this forum letter to STonline, Drawbacks of doing research on the Net.

I am reacting to it paragraph by paragraph. Warning: Some snarkiness ahead. The original letter is in bold italics.

As technology advances and information is readily and widely available on the Internet, more students are turning to the Internet to do research.

Thank you for stating the obvious.

Although Internet tools are welcome, it is a loss when the young generation no longer gets news from the newspaper and knowledge from books.

Although modern milking and killing tools are welcome, it is a loss when our children no longer molest cow udders or get their hands bloody by slaughtering them up close and personal.

We have different means to the same ends. What have we really lost?

I am also concerned that young students do not have the ability to judge whether information on the Internet is appropriate or even accurate.

Parents these days are too busy to police the online activities of their children, especially with their young ones having easy excess to smartphones and tablet computers.

Am I supposed to accept that kids automatically know how to judge that what they read in books and newspapers is appropriate or accurate?

I am concerned that the same parents who provide children easy access these devices are too busy to parent. Parents would rather blame something else…

Recently, my son, who is in primary school, told me he wanted to do research on war. The next thing I knew, he was doing his research through YouTube.

It may be appropriate for primary schools to incorporate lessons on the dos and don’ts of using the Internet. Perhaps some hours of the weekly social studies class could be set aside for this.

I wonder what that parent might have to say if her child also searched Wikipedia, war veteran websites, TED Ed videos on conflict, blog entries or articles by war historians, discussion forums or social media channels on current wars, opinion pieces by news and TV media online, curated resources by hobbyists and experts alike, etc.

Perhaps schools should focus on information literacy skills such as searching, collating, analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing. Perhaps schools should teach kids how to think critically and independently.

Children should start off by doing research from library books, which are more reliable sources of information, before turning to the Internet.

Really? Would a library book about World War II have the same account if you drew it from Japan, Singspore, or the USA? Are there even library books about current conflicts in Syria, Iraq, or Crimea?

I have more responses, but I will put a lid on before I explode.

This letter reminded me of a recent #edsg conversation on Twitter (click on this link if the conversation does not appear below).

It is time for the parent who wrote the letter to step out of the cave into the new world. Stop hiding. Start living.


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