Shifting Baseline Syndrome

Feral (2013), George Monbiot I'm writing the morning after the UEFA cup final. One manager, Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel, is being praised for tactical intelligence, one, Manchester City's Pep Guardiola, has been criticised for an apparently erratic squad choice. I didn't watch the game, so I'm not sure whether City played in a more interesting or …

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“Wait for it!” – Problems using predictions to instigate COVID 19 lockdowns

The reaction time of a typical human being is apparently 250 miliseconds. In other words, it takes us about quarter of a second to get out of the way of a speeding snowball, or catch the dropped vase. That stuff's easy - 1. Danger - 2. React - 3. Try not to look embarrassed when our response …

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Black Box Thinking – a review and a challenge to universities

This post is a piece of procrastination. And I'm partly writing it because Matthew Syed brilliantly describes a form of procrastination in his excellent book Black Box Thinking, but truthfully I'm just procrastinating because I'm putting off a task that I'm finding difficult. 🙂 The book deserves a better review than this, because I think it's …

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Chaos theory from the perspective of the butterfly: learning analytics and change

In a recent discussion about how we help academics to use learning analytics, a very wise colleague made the point that we need to constantly remind them of the relationship between average engagement and success. This arose during a conversation about the accuracy of each individual alert raised. They can never be 100% accurate and …

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Diagnosing student ‘risk’: categorising learning analytics to prevent early withdrawal

Universities are awash with data about students that could function as early warning signs that a student may need help. These data sources range from the highly personal, for example tutors observing that a student appears to be having a bad day, to the highly systematised, for example automatic early warnings based on a metric …

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Big data/AI: examples of concerning practice unintended consequences

I'm not apocalyptic about the role of big data in society generally and education specifically, but I do feel strongly that we all have a responsibility to stand back and think about how we accept and use technology. The brilliant writer Yuval Noah Harari has written a great piece on the philosophical challenges of what …

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Excellence from Analytics: Panel Discussion at Digifest, 12th March 2019

I have just taken part in a panel discussion at the Jisc Digifest 2019 event. The session was called Excellence from Analytics. I  know that, as a panel, we all worried about whether we'd been informative (or excellent), but I found it really interesting to listen to the other panellists talk (perhaps not the point). …

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Favourite big data proving nothing story #1 (yes we’re doing shaggy dog stories now)

A few years ago a colleague attended an event with a company of data specialists. The company was experimenting with personalised learning for professionals. As I understand it they had lots of interesting ideas about personalising online learning. For example, if you got an answer wrong about marketing, you'd be routed to an easier set …

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