Thursday, December 31, 2009

Two decades of distance education research

Zawacki-Richter, Baecker and Vogt recently published a review of distance education research from 2000 to 2008 in IRRODL.  Comparing their findings with Berge and Mrozowski's review of 1990-1999 research (2001) struck me that not much has changed in the state of research in distance education.  

What worries me more is that the least studied area is cost and benefit.  Are distance education institutions going the way of correspondence schools as presented by David Noble in Digital Diploma Mills, Rehearsal for the Revolution?   How can we refute or support his arguments if there is not enough research?

References:

Berge, Z.L., & Mrozowski, S. (2001). Review of research in distance education, 1990-99. The American Journal of Distance Education 15(3), pp. 5-9.  Full text available in Practitioner Research and Evaluation Skills Training (PREST) A1 module reading resources, http://www.col.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/A1%20resources.pdf.

Noble, D.F. (1999). Digital diploma mills, part IV. Rehearsal for the Revolution. Retrieved December 31, 2009, from http://communication.ucsd.edu/dl/ddm4.html.

Zawacki-Richter, O., Baecker, E., &; Vogt, S. (2009). Review of distance education research (2000 to 2008): Analysis of research areas, methods, and authorship patterns. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 10(6). Retrieved December 31, 2009, from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/741/1433



Monday, December 21, 2009

On PLE and walled gardens

Just like many of the terms in distance education (DE), I've come across the term Personal Learning Environment (PLE) a year or two ago.  But I did not get it.  I thought it was some kind of software that would glue together free services like Google tools and social software.  My DE thinking was still dominated by the Learning Management System.

It was only this year after retaking Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2009 (CCK09) that I think I get it. My understanding is not merely one that is logical but actually explains a subjective experience I had with one of the online courses I was taking in my Masters of Distance Education.  The previous semester after I attended Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2008 (CCK08) I had a course on Multimedia Educational Materials for DE. Both online courses encouraged the creation of the student's PLE. That was the first time I've attended such courses; online courses not centered in an LMS. I found them to be exhilarating, overwhelming and at times exasperating.  The following semester, the courses I've attended returned to the LMS, the walled garden learning environment.  I could not explain it, but I felt uncomfortable with a learning environment that I had been attending for the past three years.  It appeared bland compared to the PLE.  I didn't even use the word PLE, and I could not explain why I was feeling bored and limited with the LMS centered course. 

It's like the feeling you get when you have an older and slower computer.  As long as you have not used the newer and faster computers you don't really notice the speed difference.  But when you touch the newer computer, you find it difficult to work with the older computer.  You can't ignore the speed difference, and it irritates you.  You just can't go back to the old computer, similarly it was difficult going back to the LMS centered course.  Could it just have been the novelty.  But the fact is I continued creating my blog and other bits outside the course, even if they were not going to be evaluated.  I probably did half of my thinking aloud outside the course, in the parts of my PLE beyond the teachers' bounded learning environment.

I was recently reading Theo Hug and Norm Friesen's Outline of a Microlearning Agenda (2009), and they spoke of "technologically emancipated" education (Fiedler and Kieslinger as cited in Hug & Friesen).  That's what I feel at this moment about PLEs, they are technologically emancipating.  But at the same time I can't help but think that from the learner's perspective there could be "technologically emaciating" education as well.

Reference

Hug, T., & Friesen, N. (2009, September). Outline of a Microlearning Agenda. In eLearning Papers, 16. Retrieved December 13, 2009, from http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media20252.pdf.

Trying to create a PLE in Tagalog

I've been a bit quiet lately in this blog and I also failed to finish CCK09... again.  I only participated up to the 3rd forum in CCK08 and in CCK09, I only managed up to the 5th forum (I think).  It's because my mind wandered towards how to experience and communicate Connectivism in Tagalog.

I'm bilingual.  I speak Tagalog and English.  Tagalog is my first language, my language at home and in my community.  English is a language I use at work, at school, in business and in communicating online with an international English speaking community.  I cannot learn anything if it is only in one of these two languages.  For me to learn something there should be parallel subnetworks of new knowledge in my brain, otherwise I will forget it.  I have to translate in order to learn.

So what I've been doing lately is developing my Tagalog PLE at http://ugnay.blogspot.com.  The Tagalog word "ugnay" means connection.  Hopefully I would be able to share what I've learned about distance education, and connectivism with Tagalog speakers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Training contributors to free software projects

With the release of Ubuntu Karmic Koala a few days ago, I think a lot of great software are being abandoned because there are not enough developers in the upstream or not enough packagers. This is the case with CinePaint which is an HDR image editor and an industry standard in film editing. eXe, a scorm authoring software appear to be heading in the same direction. If only newbies, mostly occasional bug hunters could be trained to become developers or packagers.

Moodle may be on the right track with courses such as Introduction to Moodle Programming. I wonder if other projects are looking at the possibility of offering free training for eager users to be contributor-developers in free software.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dana Boyd's advice on choosing the right grad school

I like what Dana Boyd said about choosing a graduate school. She said NOT to choose the best but the place that will "allow you to explore the questions you're interested in in a way that works best for you." I also think she correctly pointed out the importance of an advisor in a graduate students success. For the full artilcle read: http://www.danah.org/GradSchoolAdvice.html

Funny but true PHD comics (also applies to Masters)

He-he-he. To lighten the depression from post-graduate burn out. PhD Comics.

Doing online research with tomfox for tomboy notes

I always find it a drag to have to type in references for a web page while doing research over the Internet. Here's a tool that will make web page citation easier. Harry Coal's Tomfox for Firefox. After installing the extension simply highlight a text (an interesting quote, author's name, title, citation, etc.); right click, and select "Create Tomboy Note". It will create a note in tomboy notes in a notebook called Snippets. It will also add the url of the web page.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Doug Englebart's eerie demo of the mouse in 1968

While watching Doug Englebart's demonstration of the mouse in 1968 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfIgzSoTMOs and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFRSBzn3vgw I can't help get a feeling of chill, the same one when I saw Neil Armstrong land on the moon.

It also corrected my belief about "new" technology that I take for granted now, like the mouse. I was not even born when the mouse and graphical text editing was already fully functional! It took 20+ years before that technology reached our home here in the Philippines. It's a bit humbling.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

CCK09: Wiki syllabi, PLE and Connectivism

George Magoulas and Sherry Chen defined learner control as "an alternative procedure for accommodating instruction to the learners' individual differences. Learners are allowed to take varying levels of initiative and direct their own learning experience. Learner control can be considered as the degree to which individuals control the path, pace, and/or content, approach of instruction. (2006, p. 358)"

Greater learner control appears to be one of the boon of Personal Learning Environments. While I was studying sequencing and learner control in course pages/syllabi I have noticed that CCK08/CCK09 is unique in that it used a wiki for its syllabus. Technologically wikis afford learner control as we can see from Wikipedia. The use of a wiki syllabus by CCK08/CCK09 appears to be an invitation to learners to participate in planning the path, pace and content of the course. But looking at the syllabus it will be seen that it does not display the collaborative pattern of a Wikipedia page. It appears to me to be the most stable node of the CCK08/CCK09 course network.

Its content and sequencing had been scaffolded in the topic/unit level. Only the content in the topic/unit grow within the syllabus. The timing/pacing is also predetermined and the course does not divert from it. The weekly timing is also propagated in the Moodle forums. E.g. some participants may be dying to hear about how connectivism can be used in teaching, but they have to wait for a few more weeks. In this sense CCK08/CCK09 is not so different from other courses that are guided by different learning theories. Sequence, content, and timing are predetermined by the instructor.

Assuming that the wiki syllabus is open to the participants, why do we not see a lot of learner contributions in it? Would novices (who are the majority of students) even dare to touch the wiki? Would K-12 and under students also avoid editing a syllabus even if it is an open wiki?

The other question is that: what if the syllabus was even more unstable, like an etherpad page? How would it affect the course itself? Would participants end in an edit war of the syllabus without anything being discussed at all? If a lot of people take part in making the rules of the course in terms of the syllabus, when would it achieved enough quiescence so as to start the course. Or will there be endless branching, aborting, and restarting of topics?

Finally, how much learner control in a course does connectivism allow? Does it allow for changes in the syllabus? Up to what and when?

It would really be very interesting to study the effects of an emergent curriculum that is subject to full learner control; on learner performance.


Reference

Magoulas, G.D., & Chen, S.Y. (2006). Advances in web-based education: Personalized learning environments. Hershey: Information Science.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

CCK09: There's too much salt in my conceptual network

I think there are two self-organizing learning networks. One is the neural network and the other is the bit network. The human and the computer. The beauty of connectivism is its explanation of how these two networks connect such that two humans can share neural networks.

Unfortunately humans do not directly connect neurons, nor do we connect neurons to bits. Our communication with other humans and with computers is mediated by language. And imho language is an arbitrary system of symbols i.e. words, gestures, voice, and images.

It is (unfortunate that) these symbols which make up our conceptual network. Even if one where to deny a symbolic system in connectivism, he/she would still be forced to use language to deny that. I think it would be more practical to admit the limitations of our languages and try to approximate the "if" neurons of one person can directly communicate with the neurons of another.

What had bothered me about the current state of connectivist explanation of concepts is the selection of what nodes should represent. In the neural level it is explicit. In the social level it is natural to identify an actor as the node. The human is after all a world in himself/herself. But in the conceptual level, made up of words, it is not so clear. I think a lot of what is represented as nodes should be represented as ego networks or component networks.

This could be illustrated in Chemistry. If we consider salt for instance. Salt is not represented as a node but a network of basically Sodium and Chlorine, connected by bonds (please correct me if I'm wrong because I'm not a chemist). I think we misrepresent a lot of concepts like salt as nodes in our conceptual layers, and have not gotten around to identifying the basic elements of a learning conceptual network that are simple enough to have no meaning when standing by themselves. Resulting in a salty network.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stopmotion animation with a webcam in UbuntuStudio

This educational tool is probably for under K-6 education. I still can't think of an example for secondary and higher ed students.

The Stopmotion software for stop motion animation is included in the distribution of UbuntuStudio. The demo here was done with UbuntuStudio 8.04 based on Intrepid.

I used an A4Tech web cam which is v4l2. Stopmotion has a problem with these kind of web cameras so you'll need to follow Aearenda's solution here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=931208 . I do hope they've already solved this in Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04.

Create an mplayer video import device in Stopmotion


Start Stopmotion and in the menu find settings->configure stopmotion or ctrl-P.

Click add button.

Resize the dialog box to see the start deamon & stop deamon text boxes.

Click video import tab.

In the start deamon text box enter the following (change the ~/RENDER/stopmotion/ folder with your preference):

~/RENDER/stopmotion/startmplayer $VIDEODEVICE $IMAGEFILE 2 0.25s .tempjpgs &


In the stop deamon text box enter this code:

killall startmplayer && killall mplayer


Download my startmplayer file from: http://www.mediafire.com/file/zm2ytmnqa2j/startmplayer.zip.

Extract this startmplayer file in the ~/RENDER/stopmotion/ folder, you can change this folder.

Then follow this demo:



Finished product (a bit crude):

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Symbolic versus Connectionist Simulation

While happily trying to learn Soar due to my quest for my own simulated student, I came across Allen Newell's statement that:

"The final risk [to unified theories of cognition] is the rising tide of connectionism, which is showing signs of sweeping over all cognitive science of the moment. The excitement is palpable--we are all hot on the trail of whether neuroscience and th cognitive world can finally be brought together. That is indeed an exciting prospect. But my message relates to symbolic architectures and all the other good things that connectionism sees as the conceptual frame to overthrow. So the final risk is that my timing is terrible. John Anderson had it right when he wrote his book on the architecture of human cognition for publication in 1983. It is too late now. (1994)"

My heart sank when I realized I wasn't paying attention to the issue of symbolic cognitive science and connectionist cognitive science. The fact is that connectivism appear to be siding with connectionist. And here I am fiddling with a symbolic cognitive architecture, Soar. I had to look for a connectivist i.e. neural network simulation tool, and found emergent. The question is whether emergent can be used to build a simulated student. It looks so daunting, and appears to be rooted in computational simulations.

Reference:

Newell, A. (1994). Unified theories of cognition. USA: Harvard University.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Paul Rosenbloom explains SOAR

If you can ignore the trial version text overlayed in this video, it is a good intro to SOAR.



And another video where John Laird talks about Soar's extensions e.g. declarative memory, emotions, and reinforcement learning.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ORA report on the Union of All Social Networks in CCK08 Moodle Forums

ORA ALL-MEASURES REPORT ON THE UNION OF ALL SOCIAL NETWORKS IN THE CCK08 MOODLE FORUMS

I can't really interpret all of these values because I haven't gotten around reading the ORA manuals yet. Also, the reader should take note that ORA is a "risk assessment tool for locating individuals or groups that are potential risks given social, knowledge and task network information. (CASOS, http://www.casos.cs.cmu.edu/projects/ora/)"

Download report in html & text format: http://www.mediafire.com/file/ifxy2zmmizm/cck08_ora_report.zip

Input data: Meta Network

Start time: Tue Aug 25 21:03:04 2009

COMMUNICATION RISK



The risk based on the level of communication and the authority structure of the organization. Are agents able to effectively communicate to accurately complete tasks? Is communication too centralized or decentralized? Do agents have recourse to managers to settle disputes?

























































Network Level MeasureValue
Average Distance3.18015
Agent x Agent
Clustering Coefficient/Watts-Strogatz0.151525
Agent x Agent
Component Count/Strong253
Agent x Agent
Component Count/Weak128
Agent x Agent
Connectedness0.568498
Agent x Agent
Density0.00808805
Agent x Agent
Diameter537
Agent x Agent
Efficiency0.98408
Agent x Agent
Efficiency/Global0.208385
Agent x Agent
Efficiency/Local0.263409
Agent x Agent
Fragmentation0.431502
Agent x Agent
Hierarchy0.48668
Agent x Agent
Link Count/Lateral1.02105
Agent x Agent
Link Count/Skip0.901203
Agent x Agent
Network Centralization/Betweenness0.0695023
Agent x Agent
Network Centralization/Closeness0.00309231
Agent x Agent
Network Centralization/In Degree0.53284
Agent x Agent
Network Centralization/Out Degree0.523494
Agent x Agent
Network Centralization/Total Degree0.529156
Agent x Agent
Network Levels7
Agent x Agent
Span Of Control12.7104
Agent x Agent
Speed/Average0.31445
Agent x Agent
Speed/Minimum0.142857
Agent x Agent
Transitivity0.217969
Agent x Agent
Upper Boundedness0.977557
Agent x Agent









































Node Level MeasureAvgStddevMin/MaxMin/Max Nodes
Centrality/Betweenness0.001618910.006348680278 nodes (51%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.070992v481
Centrality/Closeness0.00402850.001776810.0018622202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.00557034v409
Centrality/Eigenvector0.00186220.007437110132 nodes (24%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.0811172v67
Centrality/In Degree0.01479340.05006080161 nodes (29%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.546642v67
Centrality/Information0.001862190.001478530202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.00303777v80
Centrality/Inverse Closeness0.1383620.1176610202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.374534v67
Centrality/Out Degree0.01479340.04833580202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.537313v67
Centrality/Total Degree0.01479340.04851650123 nodes (22%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.541978v67
Clique Count8.0465530.98610292 nodes (54%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

329v481
Clustering Coefficient/Watts-Strogatz0.1515250.2253440289 nodes (53%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

114 nodes (2%) have this value
Constraint/Burt0.2128820.2916540202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

148 nodes (8%) have this value
Effective Network Size/Burt7.7670926.04720200 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

293.096v67
Node Levels3.428312.80180202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

730 nodes (5%) have this value
Simmelian Ties0.002939210.009699060431 nodes (80%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.0783582v67


CRITICAL EMPLOYEE RISK



The risk based on employees having exclusive knowledge, resources access, or task assignments. Would the removal of one or two employees from the organization greatly affect its ability to complete tasks? Do employees tend to have exclusive access to knowledge or resources?









Network Level MeasureValue
Fragmentation0.431502
Agent x Agent





























Node Level MeasureAvgStddevMin/MaxMin/Max Nodes
Boundary Spanner0.1061450.3080230480 nodes (89%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

157 nodes (10%) have this value
Cognitive Demand0.008072990.01700320202 nodes (37%) have this value



0.143389v67
Constraint/Burt0.2128820.2916540202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

148 nodes (8%) have this value
Effective Network Size/Burt7.7670926.04720200 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

293.096v67
Interlockers0.05772810.2332290506 nodes (94%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

131 nodes (5%) have this value
Radials000all nodes have equal value
AA:Agent x Agent

0
Shared Situation Awareness0.00186220.01243320241 nodes (44%) have this value



0.164438v391
Triad Count25.070892.84830281 nodes (52%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

844v391


PERFORMANCE RISK



The risk based on ability to complete tasks accurately. Is the organization able to complete all tasks? How well does the organization build consensus? How many tasks would be left undone if a single employee were selected for removal?







Network Level MeasureValue













Node Level MeasureAvgStddevMin/MaxMin/Max Nodes


PERSONNEL INTERACTION RISK



The risk based on agent communication, either agents communicating who should not be, or vice-versa. Are agents with similar skills interacting? Are agents with complementary skills interacting? Are there groups of agents communicating in unexpected ways?









Network Level MeasureValue
Fragmentation0.431502
Agent x Agent





















Node Level MeasureAvgStddevMin/MaxMin/Max Nodes
Centrality/Betweenness0.001618910.006348680278 nodes (51%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.070992v481
Centrality/Closeness0.00402850.001776810.0018622202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.00557034v409
Centrality/Total Degree0.01479340.04851650123 nodes (22%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.541978v67
Component Members/Weak16.469332.56981405 nodes (75%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

128v98


REDUNDANCY RISK



The risk based on redundancy in task assignments, resource access, and knowledge access. An organization with little redundancy is more adversely affected by an agent or resource no longer being available. On the other hand, too much redundancy makes an organization inefficient.









Network Level MeasureValue

















Node Level MeasureAvgStddevMin/MaxMin/Max Nodes
Constraint/Burt0.2128820.2916540202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

148 nodes (8%) have this value
Effective Network Size/Burt7.7670926.04720200 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

293.096v67


RESOURCE ALLOCATION RISK



The risk based on resource allocation on the organization's ability to complete tasks. Is agent workload evenly distributed? Do agents have access to the resources they need to complete tasks? Do agents have access to resources they do not use?







Network Level MeasureValue













Node Level MeasureAvgStddevMin/MaxMin/Max Nodes


SLOW MEASURES



These are measures that are computationally and/or memory intensive.















Network Level MeasureValue
Average Distance3.18015
Agent x Agent
Hierarchy0.48668
Agent x Agent
Network Centralization/Betweenness0.0695023
Agent x Agent
Upper Boundedness0.977557
Agent x Agent





































Node Level MeasureAvgStddevMin/MaxMin/Max Nodes
Centrality/Betweenness0.001618910.006348680278 nodes (51%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.070992v481
Centrality/Eigenvector0.00186220.007437110132 nodes (24%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.0811172v67
Clique Count8.0465530.98610292 nodes (54%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

329v481
Cognitive Distinctiveness0.0154410.0157430.00808805202 nodes (37%) have this value



0.143837v67
Cognitive Expertise0.007773810.000604250.00425421v391



0.00811253v60
Cognitive Resemblance0.9845590.0157430.856163v67



0.991912202 nodes (37%) have this value
Cognitive Similarity0.01174150.01451840212 nodes (39%) have this value



0.0556525v476
Correlation/Distinctiveness0.0154410.0157430.00808805202 nodes (37%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.143837v67
Correlation/Expertise0.007773810.000604250.00425421v391
AA:Agent x Agent

0.00811253v60
Correlation/Resemblance0.9845590.0157430.856163v67
AA:Agent x Agent

0.991912202 nodes (37%) have this value
Correlation/Similarity0.01174150.01451840212 nodes (39%) have this value
AA:Agent x Agent

0.0556525v476
Shared Situation Awareness0.00186220.01243320241 nodes (44%) have this value



0.164438v391

TASK RISK



The risk based on task precedence and task assignment. Do agents have the resources to complete their tasks? Are tasks highly interdependent so that the inability to perform one task prevents many other tasks from being done?










Network Level MeasureValue













Node Level MeasureAvgStddevMin/MaxMin/Max Nodes




Node-level Tables




For each node class a file is made with tables for the measures. If there are no node-level measures of a particular type, then no file is generated.

Agent-level measures saved to: /root/All Measures_Agent-level-measures.html

Produced by ORA developed at CASOS - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Simulated Students: Pinocchio goes to school.

What is simulation?

Simulation is a way of understanding the world by building a simpler model of a complex structure or system being studied. (Gilbert & Troitzsch, 2005). It is great for exploring and developing theories about social processes including education.

What are simulated students?

Simulated students are machine learning systems whose behavior is consistent with data from human students. It can be used by teachers to practice their tutoring skills. It can be used as a collaborative learner that can shift from novice to expert as the need arises. It can be used by instructional designers to test their instruction. (VanLehn, Ohlsson, & Nason, 1994)

There are some researches on these three uses, and they will be noted in the following section.

Researches on simulated students

Simulated students for teacher training

Zibit and Gibson reported an on-going project called simSchool which aims to train novice teachers in teaching 7th-12th grade students. (2005) Their simulated students appear to rely on a database of data gathered from real students rather than a learning algorithm. Interaction with the simulated students involves a 2-D animated interface wherein what needs to be said by the teacher to the students is selected from a menu.

Simulated students as a collaborative learner

Vizcaino created a simulated student that can chat with two other students studying computer programming. The real students did not know which one was the simulated student. What the simulated student have to say is taken from a database rather than using natural language processing. They wanted the simulated student to intervene in the discussion to solve the problems of off-topic conversations, students with passive behaviour and problems related to students' learning. (2005)


Simulated students for instructional design

Mertz used a Soar simulated student. Then it is given training in how to assemble a circuit board. This training is iteratively done, and the lesson is refined until the simulated students learn better. Thereby the lesson is made better each time. (1997)

These researches show that the use of simulated students in improving teaching and learning is not in the realm of science fiction. We can expect it to develop even further in the future and probably even to become mainstream.


References:

Gilbert, N., & Troitzsch, K.G. (2005). Simulation for social scientist. (2nd ed.). England: Open University.

Mertz, J.S. (1997). Using a simulated student for instructional design. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 8, 116-141 [Electronic version]. Retrieved August 7, 2009, from http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/19/73/84/PDF/mertz97.pdf.

VanLehn, K., Ohlsson, S. and Nason, R. (1994). Applications of simulated students: an exploration. Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 5(2), 135-175. Retrieved August 8, 2009, from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=2850F00F49F6DCE6F5E8F657D6EAE9C6?doi=10.1.1.4.6200&rep=rep1&type=pdf .

Vizcaino, A. (2005). A simulated student can improve collaborative learning. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 15, 3-40 [Electronic version]. Retrieved August 7, 2009, from http://ihelp.usask.ca/iaied/ijaied/members05/archive/Vol_15/Vizcaino/Vizcaino05.pdf.

Zibit, M., & Gibson, D. (2005). simSchool: The game of teaching. Innovate, 1 (6). Retrieved August 17, 2009, from http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=173.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Simulation of July 22, 2009 Solar Eclipse with Stellarium

I should have done this last July 22 but did not have the time. Since we in the Philippines was only going to see a partial eclipse I wanted to find out how Stellarium will simulate the solar eclipse.

I tried it on a Stellarium 0.9.1 on an Ubuntu Intrepid. (Stellarium 0.10.2 has an eclipse simulation! I should try that when I can find an ubuntu package.) The location setting is 89 degrees 40 minutes and 53 seconds east longitude, and 25 degrees 45 minutes north latitude. I could not change the seconds setting so this is an estimate of Kurigram, Bangladesh. It is where this Wikipedia photo of the solar eclipse is taken.



The time setting is between 7:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. Philippine time, because it was my locale.

Here are the videos captured with gtk-recordMyDesktop. I wanted to capture it until the moon separates from the sun but it seem to have gotten cut towards the end by gtk-recordMyDesktop.

without atmosphere


with atmosphere


Although I don't teach natural science I think this would be cool to use as an illustration since you can repeat it over and over again. You can also look at it from different locations.

Links

Solar eclipse scripts for Stellarium: http://www.stellarium.org/wiki/index.php/Scripts

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hack Bandwidth Adaptivity for Moodle using the Multi-Language Content filter

Aptivate's "Web Design for Low Bandwidth" states that a web page should have about 25 - 75 KB of content otherwise the user will abandon the download of the page. Of course it would be difficult to estimate this, that is why my hack leaves it to the user to determine which version of the content to use. But the instructional designer should also keep in mind the overhead of the logo, headings and blocks of a moodle page. Perhaps this approach should be combined with an appropriate low bandwidth user selected theme. It is up to the designer to determine what are the cutoff bandwidths for low, mid, and high bandwidth content.

I developed this hack because I am thinking about a mix set of students coming from around the globe; specially in developing countries where bandwidth is still low.

This hack is for Moodle administrators who know where and what the moodle data folder is. You have to have access to the moodledata/lang folder to perform this hack i.e. if online you should have a Cpanel, shell or ftp access to the Moodle site. Try it first in a local test server before performing in a production server. There are no moodle files to be replaced, it only involves installing language packs which should be safe to do.

Download the language files: http://www.mediafire.com/file/fg4tjtdun1n/mdlbandwidth.zip (3.4 KB)

These language files contain only a moodle.php, and a language.php file with parent language set to en_utf8, the default. The only relevant string customized in both files was:

 $string['thislanguage'] = 'High Bandwidth'; 

Unzip the archive mdlbandwidth.zip to your lang folder in the moodle data folder which is usually moodledata/lang/. If you want to be able to edit these language files change the owner to the web server. In Ubuntu's Apache server this is www-data so:

open a terminal
cd to the moodledata/lang folder then,
sudo chown -R www-data:www-data *


After copying go to Moodle web site. You should see the languages Low Bandwidth (loband), Mid Bandwidth (midband) and High Bandwidth (hiband) listed in the language dropdown box. If you're using language caching it make take a while before the list gets updated.

Login as administrator. In Site Administration block ->Modules->Filters->Manage filters. If the Multi-Language Content filter is disabled (grayed out and the eye is closed), click on the eye to enable it (eye will open).



WARNING: Make sure the Multi-languge Content filter is above the Multimedia Filter if you are going to include multimedia files in the body of the content. Or make sure that the Multi-Language Content filter is above all other filters that you will use in the body of the content. Otherwise all the multimedia files will be displayed at the same time.





Go to your course and create a web page. Turn on editing and then Add a resource...->Compose a web page. Click the [<>] button in the HTML editor to enter code editing mode. Then type the following:

<span class="multilang" lang="XX">your_content_here</span>
e.g.

<span class="multilang" lang="loband">Low Bandwidth Content</span>

<span class="multilang" lang="midband">Mid Bandwidth Content</span>

<span class="multilang" lang="hiband">High Bandwidth Content</span>

Because you can only change the language setting in the front site page, it would be good practice to put links to the 3 types of content as a lead list to serve as navigation aid. Add &lang=loband_utf8, &lang=midband_utf8, &lang=hiband_utf8 to the web page url e.g. let's say the url is:

http://localhost/moodle/mod/resource/view.php?id=329

then the 3 links should be:

http://localhost/moodle/mod/resource/view.php?id=329&lang=loband_utf8
http://localhost/moodle/mod/resource/view.php?id=329&lang=midband_utf8
http://localhost/moodle/mod/resource/view.php?id=329&lang=hiband_utf8

Download file: Template content for bandwidth adaptivity in Moodle in utf-8 encoding (605 bytes)

I tested the setup with the following content:

Low bandwidth: transcript all text pdf 69.5 KB


Mid bandwidth: mp3 audio 5.9 MB


High bandwidth: avi video 95.5 MB


The content for this test is available as a scorm package at: http://matangdilis.moodle4free.com/mod/scorm/view.php?id=10

This hack was tested on a Moodle 1.9.4+ (Build: 20090204) installation in a local PC running in an Ubuntu Intrepid operating system. Sorry I can't show a live demo since I do not have access to the site files in my free online Moodle installation.

Reference:

Aptivate. Web Design for Low Bandwidth, Introduction. Retrieved August 22, 2009, from http://www.aptivate.org/webguidelines/Introduction.html.

Multi-language content. In Moodle Docs. Retrieved August 22, 2009 from http://docs.moodle.org/en/Multi_language_content.

Links:

Download the language files: http://www.mediafire.com/file/fg4tjtdun1n/mdlbandwidth.zip (3.4 KB)

Download file: Template content for bandwidth adaptivity in Moodle in utf-8 encoding (605 bytes)

Moodle forum discussion about this hack: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=127619/discuss.php?d=127619

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Links->Concepts Problem

George Siemens asked “what are the implications of people being connected in a certain way? (2009)”. That question is related to a corollary question: How do connections contribute to conceptual formation?

I am currently haunted by this question and I am writing here the leads that I found that may answer this profound problem.

My knowledge of how the brain works is quite superficial. I have always thought that the links are important as indexes for the brain, so that the entire semantic network need not be modeled in long term memory.

Indexing external semantic networks in memory


The indexes are either keywords, url, people you know, that will give you a semantic network. The semantic network's nodes may already exists in long term memory. It is the links that may be weak and even in danger of disappearing (forgetting). The equivalent or similar mental network in memory may be connected by weak links, so there is a need for a trigger to fire these links. That trigger is the indexes which may draw the semantic network structure in working memory and remind the brain of the path of the links to fire.

The question is whether the concepts in the semantic network of the external document is mapped in the declarative (semantic, episodic) or procedural memory in the cognitive architecture. Another is how many times do we need to keep drawing the external semantic network (e.g. asking a friend, rereading a blog) in order to strengthen the links and reduce the centrality or importance of the index.

Of course this is just my guess, I don't know whether this is true, I don't have any idea. But there may be a way to find out.

Simulating the CCK08 Moodle Forums

I am not a neuroscientist and the closest I can study a living brain is an artificial one. Fortunately cognitive scientists have developed cognitive architectures which are agents that tries to model the brain. One of these is Soar. I find Soar fascinating as it's underlying design of working memory is "organized as graph structures in states (Laird, 2008)". I was totally suprised to find nodes and links in their cognitive architecture. So I think it's not far fetched if someone has already found a way to relate this memory network to semantic networks and social networks. It's just a matter of time before I find those papers. Here is how I located the tools used in my on-going study of the CCK08 Moodle forums in Nigel Gilbert's diagram of the logic of simulation as a method (2005).


(based on Gilbert as cited in Gilbert & Troitzsch, 2005, p.17)

Ron Sun's Cascading Levels of Analysis

Although I have not fully read Ron Sun's "Cognition and multi-agent interaction (2006)" I found his idea of cascading levels of analysis providing some methodological meat to my skeleton of a general model of distance learning. I gather that he is advocating the integration of cognitive architectures and agent-based modeling in this book. He further states that "we may view different disciplines as different levels of abstraction in the process of exploring essentially the same broad set of questions (Sun, 2005)". His hierarchy of this different levels of abstractions are as follows:

Sun's Hierarchy of Four Levels

Level Object of Analysis Type of Analysis Model
1 inter-agent/collective processes social/cultural collections of agent models
2 agents psychological individual agent models
3 intra-agent processes componential modular construction of agent models
4 substrates physiological biological realization of models
(Source: Sun, 2006, p.7)

These levels looks similar to what I call modes in my skeletal model. And he further argue that we should engage in cross and mixed level analysis. I won't go any further on Sun's ideas since I still need to read the entire work, but I find it really exciting. His advocated approach may shed light on the problem of how linkages affect conceptual formation.

My skeletal model of distance learning


References

Laird, J.E. (2008, August 27). The Soar 9 tutorial. Part 1. Available in the software package here: http://sitemaker.umich.edu/soar/soar_software_downloads

Gilbert, N., & Troitzsch, K.G. (2005). Simulation for social scientist. (2nd ed.). England: Open University.

Siemens, G. (2009, July 30). Different Social Networks. Retrieved, August 9, 2009, from
http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2009/07/30/different-social-networks/.

Sun, R. (2006). Cognition and multi-agent interaction. From cognitive modeling to social simulation. Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

CCK09: CCK08 Moodle Forums' Density of Networks according to Pajek

Forums Density (loops allowed)
Introduction 0.0028287
General 0.0263728
1 0.0345478
2 0.0561677
3 0.1119792
4 0.1186224
5 0.0890023
6 0.0911111
7 0.1264000
8 0.0242215
9 0.1173469
10 0.1041667
11 0.0832653
12 0.0986920
Forums 1-12 0.0346763
Union of All 0.0082464

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CCK09: CCK08 Forum's Social Networks in Pajek

Download dataset (.net & .vec): http://www.mediafire.com/file/retuy1yn45i/cck08_pajek.zip (51.76 KB)
Open dataset in Pajek.

Figure 1: Introductions


Figure 2: General Discussion


Figure 3: Forum 1, What is connectivism?

Figure 4: Forum 2, Rethinking Knowledge

Figure 5: Forum 3, Networks

Figure 6: Forum 4, History of Learning Networks

Figure 7: Forum 5, Groups and Networks

Figure 8: Forum 6, Complexity and Chaos

Figure 9: Forum 7, Instructional Design

Figure 10: Forum 8, Power, Authority, Control

Figure 11: Forum 9, Changing Roles

Figure 12: Forum 10, Openness

Figure 13: Forum 11, Systemic Change

Figure 14: Forum 12, Next Steps & Research

Figure 15: Union of Forums 1-12

Figure 16: Union of All Forums

CCK09: CCK08 Forum's Social Networks in Netdraw

Download dataset: http://www.mediafire.com/file/myd1zzd1jqy/cck08_netdraw.zip (78.77 KB)
Open dataset with Netdraw.

Figure 1: Introductions


Figure 2: General Discussion

Figure 3: Forum 1, What is connectivism?

Figure 4: Forum 2, Rethinking Knowledge

Figure 5: Forum 3, Networks

Figure 6: Forum 4, History of Learning Networks

Figure 7: Forum 5, Groups and Networks

Figure 8: Forum 6, Complexity and Chaos


Figure 9: Forum 7, Instructional Design


Figure 10: Forum 8, Power, Authority, Control

Figure 11: Forum 9, Changing Roles

Figure 12: Forum 10, Openness


Figure 13: Forum 11, Systemic Change


Figure 14: Forum 12, Next Steps & Research

Figure 15: Union of Forums 1-12

Figure 16: Union of All Forums

Monday, August 3, 2009

Anonymizing CCK08 forum network files

I hit a wall last week when I tried to anonymize the forum level network VNA (Netdraw) files. First I tried converting them to ODS (Openoffice.org Calc files) and trying vlookup, but that only worked with numbers as search for the lookup table. Since I don't have excel I couldn't use VB macros, and I don't know how to create OOO macros. I am not a programmer and I don't know SQL, bash scripting with sed and awk make my hair stand on end. I've forgotten my elementary perl and python as well.

My problem is that I have to anonymize the subset forum level networks by using as a lookup table from the union of all networks vertex labels, that was anonymized in Pajek. If I anonymized all the forum network files in Pajek, then they will not be comparable because Pajek will renumber then from 1 to n. I need them to be comparable so as to track ego's in each forum. Ex.

original file
"Roel Cantada" "Juan dela Cruz"
...

lookup table
"Roel Cantada" "v1"
"Juan dela Cruz" "v2"
...

target anonymized file
"v1" "v2"


I couldn't find a tool for the purpose. rpl appears to me to require me to input 537 codes one by one. So I ended up writing a python script. In the script, anonall is the lookuptable, origfile the vna file to convert, and newfile is the anonymized text file. The python file needs to be in the same folder as the VNA files and it requires manual input of the names of the VNA files. In addition the output needs cleanup of double quotes of the headers of the VNA. But it's better than manually anonymizing all the network files. Here it is.

import csv
origfile = raw_input('csv filename to anonymize: ')
newfile = (origfile + 'new.txt')
table={};
anonall = csv.reader(open('anonall_code.csv'), delimiter=' ', quotechar='"');
forum1 = csv.reader(open(origfile), delimiter=' ', quotechar='"');
output = open(newfile,'a');

for row in anonall:
table[row[0]] = row[-1]

for row in forum1:
for i,j in table.iteritems():
if i in row[-4]:
row[-4] = j
for i,j in table.iteritems():
if i in row[-3]:
row[-3] = j
output.write('\"'+row[-4]+'\" \"'+row[-3]+'\" \"'+row[-2]+'\" \"'+row[-1]+'\"\n')
output = open(newfile,'a')
Python file: http://www.mediafire.com/file/3ttzggdnmtk/anonymizecck08.py.zip (0.43KB)

I'll be sharing the VNA files for the individual forums within this week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

*ORA: Unifying Pajek net files has never been easier

Legal stuff of *ORA

*ORA is NOT free software, just like many of the network visualization tools out there.

According to it's "About *ORA" dialog box "Permission to use, copy and modify this version of the software or any parts of it and its documentation is hereby granted for RESEARCH ONLY purposes and provided that the above copyright notice and this permission notice appear intact in all copies of the software that, that you do not sell the software, nor include the software in a commercial package."

*ORA is a copyright (2001-2008 of the version I'm using) of Kathleen M. CArley, Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems (CASOS). Institute for Software Research International (ISRI), School of Computer Science (SCS), and Carnegie Mellon University(CMU).

The version I'm reviewing is 1.9.5.29 with a build date of July 2008 in Ubuntu. And version 1.9.5.4.3 in Vista with a build date of June 2009.

*ORA is available at http://www.casos.cs.cmu.edu/projects/ora/

I am not connected to the copyright holders.

Why is the union of networks in Pajek wrong?

When you hit Menu->Union of vertices in Pajek it doesn't seem to take into account labels. It will simply add all the vertices resulting in duplicate vertices with the same label.

What is *Ora?

According to its homepage at the Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems (CASOS) "*ORA is a risk assessment tool for locating individuals or groups that are potential risks given social, knowledge and task network information." That description may mislead people to think that this tool is only a very specialized network visualization-analysis tool. I found that it is probably the most advance and user friendly, free network analysis tool out there that can be used for all kinds of networks. It is particularly powerful because of its application of metamatrices, and appear to be able to analyze semantic, social, organizational, communication, etc. networks at the same time.

Although I haven't explored it's full potential yet, one particular application is the union of pajek networks. I can't seem to import netdraw files yet, or include the vector files associated with the pajek networks. But perhaps there is a way I haven't found yet.



How to make a union of networks in *ORA



1. In *ORA click menu->File->Data import wizard... or Ctrl-O 2. A dialogue box will appear, select "Create a meta-network from separate network files" and click "Next"
3. In the next dialogue box, I just left the default value of "Create a new meta-network with ID: Meta Network" then I hit Next.


4. A dialogue box for choosing the networks to load in *ORA will appear. Just Browse for your file and hit OK.

I you have more than one network file just click the plus (+) button and another browsing textbox will appear.

I've experienced *ORA complained about the filename of networks like forum1.net, forum2.net. It interpreted it as being the same network. So what I did was to import one network at a time. I don't know if it would be different had I changed the names of the second network.

You can select the type of metamatrix from the drop-down boxes. Since mine is composed of actors, I selected "Agent" as Source type and Target type. I also set "Source node labels: Yes".

Click Finish.


5. A small dialogue box will appear asking "Would you like to anonymize the data?" I hit "No" because I need the labels for the union network. You can always anonymize the data later with menu->Data Management->Meta-Network Anonymize...

6.All your loaded network will appear in the left panel. This should be familiar to people using the Network Workbench Tool.

7. To make a union of the two network (in my example one is size 83 and the other is size 61) click menu->Data Management->Meta-Network Union...

A dialogue box will appear. I kept the default "Currently loaded in ORA" and set "Select how to combine link weights" to Sum.

Then hit Compute.


8. It will create a new Network in the left panel with the name Union. Mine produced a network with 108 vertices from size 83 and 61 networks. Whereas Pajek will create a 144 size network.

9. To Anonymize the network select the Union network in the panel click menu->Data Management->Meta-Network Anonymize... or simply right click the Union network in the panel and select Anonymize...


It will show a dialogue box wherein I checked "Anonymize node titles". You can even create decoder files. Then hit the Anonymize button.

To examine your labels, just select Agent in the panel like in the figure. YOu can see the Node Titles are A-1, A-2 etc.

10. You can examine your Union network with menu->Visualization->Network visualizer->View Entire Meta-Network. It's visualizer is still sluggish and not as impressive as Pajek, but it could be because I'm using the wrong OS platform. See below. It seems it's using JUNG (http://jung.sourceforge.net) library for visualization.

Then click ORA Network Visualizer->menu->Save Image To File...


You can save the graph in PNG, JPG, SVG, and PDF formats.

And here's the output.

11. Converting from *ORA's DynetML to NetDraw's VNA

*ORA'S Network Format Converter will convert from DyNetML, ASSAMML, UCINET, CSV, and DL to DyNetML, UCINET, DL, CSV, and VNA.


Click on File->Network Format Converter and a dialogue box will appear. In the Load tab, select Format DYNETML and Load your Union file that was saved as .xml.


Then go to the Save tab, and select VNA and save.

Here's a graph render of the VNA output in NetDraw.




Problems encountered

I installed the Windows version in a Vista machine. But I coudld not import any network files. It resulted in Java errors.

I was able to import graphs in the Ubuntu Linux Jaunty installation. But *ORA seems 32 bit and I had 64 bit installed. It had a lot of GTK related errors, particularly with the canberra-gtk-module. So it was a bit buggy and I couldn't use the Network Format Converter because it would not open.

I had to shift to the Windows version with the saved DyNetML xml file, and convert it there. I don't think it converts back to Pajek net file though.

Perhaps if I can resolve the 32 bit GTK problem in my installation or install a 32 bit Ubuntu things will be better. But I managed to make a proper union of the networks without resorting to cumbersome spreadsheet techniques.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to unify the vectors yet.

Aside from that, I don't know how *ORA will handle very large networks.

I think, if the developers continue to improve *ORA, particularly its visualizer it will become even better than Pajek in the future.

But remember that *ORA is NOT free software and is available only for research. Pajek too is proprietary and according to its "About Pajek" dialogue box is free (as in free beer) for noncommercial use only. I personally haven't found a free (beer) tool that equals Pajek in speed, visualization, and analysis.

The Network Workbench Tool (version 12.0.0 beta), a copyright of Indiana University is licensed under Apache License Version 2.0. Gephi version 0.5 Beta is GPL 3.0 (gephi.org) but it is only a graph editor. Perhaps Gephi can be partnered with the sna 2.0 R package (http://erzuli.ss.uci.edu/R.stuff) from Carter Butts which is GPL 2.0 and later.

References

Kathleen M. CArley, Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems (CASOS), Institute for Software Research International (ISRI), School of Computer Science (SCS), and Carnegie Mellon University(CMU). *ORA [Software]. Available at http://www.casos.cs.cmu.edu/projects/ora/

Butts, C.T. The SNA Package, v2.0 [Software]. Available at http://erzuli.ss.uci.edu/R.stuff

Indiana University. The Network Workbench Tool [Software]. Available at http://nwb.slis.indiana.edu/download.html.

R Development Core Team (2009). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0, URL http://www.R-project.org.


V. Batagelj, A. Mrvar: Pajek – Program for Large Network Analysis. Home page: http://vlado.fmf.uni-lj.si/pub/networks/pajek/
 
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