Saturday, October 25, 2014

Data Analytics and Learning MOOC (#dalmooc) - reviewing week 1

Decided follow the Data, Analytics, and Learning MOOC from edX to further my education and deepen my knowledge of Analytics within the context of Learning.  The instructors of this MOOC have a different approach to learning such as having learners "own their learning environment" by creating artifacts and linking to other users. The Visual Syllabus looks interesting along with the extra sessions and hangouts done by the instructors.

The MOOC introduces some new tools for learners to use and share. After playing with them for a short while I felt overwhelmed given that some had some issues (that were fixed subsequently). Hopefully, over time my familiarity increases and using them becomes second nature.

One of the tools, the Bazaar Collaborative Chat tool, did not want to work for me. I tried several times to log into the system but was not paired up with any other students. 

When I was finally paired with someone, the other student disconnected within two minutes. My discussion was short and directly with virtualcarolyn to answer a series of questions. After my 5th or 6th try, I connected to a student in Dallas Tx.

ProSolo was much more interesting from a social perspective. However, the fact that I have to keep logging in (over and over) is annoying. edX remembers my credentials. Why would ProSolo not retain it for at least a period of time?

The discussion by the instructors touched on  information overload and the following quotation was shared: 
"Information overload is the elephant in the room that most neuroscientists pretend to ignore,".  "Without a way to organize the literature, we risk missing key discoveries and duplicating earlier experiments. Research maps will enable neuroscientists to quickly clarify what ground has already been covered and to fully grasp its meaning for future studies."
Alcino Silva, a professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.
That is how I felt. However, what professor Silva highlights goes much deeper. If we do not find ways to build on existing knowledge, we will be condemned to repeat more than just studies but avoidable mistakes that others have done.

The discussion then continued on the classification of analytics tools :
  • Proprietary / Open source
  • Single functionality / Integrated suites
To retain (and applicable to this class), the learning curve for learning an entire system is higher.

As for analytics, I have been experimenting with the open source R through RStudio's user interface in the past year or so. My intitation to R was with the Coursera  "Computing for Data Analysis" MOOC. The power of R is impressive and reviewing the work of talented code writers is always a joy. Recently, I have been introduced to data.table for big data analysis and would love to experiment further. 

One big bonus of this MOOC is using Tableau for visualizing data.

With the emergence of MOOCs and other online learning systems, educators have access to tremendous amounts of data on how learners are progressing through learning systems and how to intervene / help them at the appropriate point(s) to nudge them forward. One can imagine instructors doing A/B testing on different student groups and experimenting with the assignments to understand where knowledge seekers get stuck.

The key issue for me is how to fit in all what I would love to do and experiment with (including this MOOC) into an already busy schedule.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On the power of words

"All important events in the world - whether admirable or monstrous - are always spearheaded in the realm of words" Vaclav Havel
Vaclav Havel passed away last week. He was a playwright, essayist, poet, dissent who ended up as  the president of the Czech republic (see Wikipedia for further information). He is a strong believer in the power of words. His writings are quite interesting and relevant with all the changes we are seeing around the world. Here are some excerpts from his “The Power of the Powerless” and his acceptance speech after receiving a literature prize in 1990.

There is a documentary on "The Power of the Powerless" narrated by one of my favorite actors Jeremy Irons.  Time to look it up...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Until when Montreal? qu'est ce que nous attendons?

Are we lucky or what? Perceptive and proactive window cleaners notice issues with the facade of the building and call the emergency services.
Concrete blocks come loose on University St. building - CTV News
Nous sommes chanceux à Montréal... un désastre potentiel a été évité (encore une fois) grâce à des laveurs de vitres avertis...

Immeuble sur la rue University à Montréal - Des morceaux de ciment menacent de tomber - TVA Nouvelles

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Make this a movement Montreal!

The October 1st, 2011 edition of the Gazette of Montreal focused on the infrastructure issues in Montreal by putting  back in the limelight the July 2009 Peel street tragedy in which Lea Guilbeault (33) lost her life and Hani Beitinjaneh (34) was terribly injured by a large cement block while having dinner at Mikassa Sushi under the Mariott Residences building.

The Gazette did an excellent job of putting together an interview with Hani (his first since the tragedy) and several related commentaries to move this topic of infrastructures forward. Some key statements from the interview: 

"How do we make this into a movement? I do not understand why everybody is arguing. We all have the same point. We all want to work. We all want to be happy. We want to be safe"
It's not one person, it's the whole system that needs to be changed. We need to fight for concrete laws that will improve our society. The word is concrete."

The interview by Peggy Curran

Two years after his wife Léa Guilbeault was killed by a falling piece of concrete, this reluctant activist is frustrated by how little has been done

The Gazette’s View: End the foot-dragging on high-rise inspections

An independent infrastructure unit: it's a good idea

From the archives - the Peel Street Tragedy timeline (as of July 15, 2010)
We have created a Facebook page if you would like to discuss further or to be part of a movement to change things. 

Join us at

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More infrastructure failures in Montreal?

Reading the news today, I could not determine if a piece of cement fell from the Papineau overpass (see 1 hurt as Montreal overpass sheds concrete - CBC) or was dropped (see Morceau de béton lancé sur une voiture à Montréal : la police enquêtera - Radio Canada).

Let's see what happens with the investigation... in all cases, our infrastructures in Montreal are not getting any better!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Facebook : Montréal : Qu'est ce qu'on fait? Nous nous Souvenons ♥ Lea Guilbeault ♥

Nous avons commencé sur Facebook :
Montréal : Qu'est ce qu'on fait? Nous nous Souvenons ♥ Lea Guilbeault ♥

Nos buts:
- de s'assurer que la tragédie de Léa Guilbeault ne se reproduira pas ici au Québec
- de célebrer la vie de Léa et le bonheur qu'elle nous a donné

Our Objectives:
- to ensure that no other Montrealers go through what we went through.
- to celebrate Lea's life

Please forward as appropriate.

Partagez le site.

Death from Above + Fallen slab is concrete proof Montreal’s crumbling

Two articles stories on Montreal's crumbling infrastructures. Now it is Ville Marie's Tunnel turn. A 15 meter slab fell.

An important statement from the article:
No one was injured in the collapse in the Ville-Marie tunnel, but the incident could have had disastrous consequences if it had occurred on Monday at the same time, during rush hour traffic, police said.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Have we become a pass the buck society?

On July 7th, 2011, the Montreal Gazette published two excellent articles that every Montrealer / Quebecer should be reflecting on.

Make your own conclusions...

Action is needed.