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Trey Lathe
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times, they are a-changing

As a minor part of my job, I very occasionally write up little pieces for teachers about the intersection of computers and biology. I did this one on "BioBots" research that was looking at nervous systems and computer interfaces.. just a few months ago: http://www.nsf.gov/cise/csbytes/newsletter/vol2/vol2i9.html

Little did I know that this would soon be a business model on KickStarter?! Yikes, just a bit creepy having a bunch of kids attach their iphones and controlling roaches... http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/backyardbrains/the-roboroach-control-a-living-insect-from-your-sm

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Revolutions are oversold and the counter revolutions overreact. A statement  I've come to find truer the older I get. Music industry was going to be revolutionarily transformed by online music, it was dismissed. In the end it was transformed, and not. Online education (in the late 90's) was touted as the answer to everything, and the answer to nothing. It ended up being the answer to a lot. Electronic books were going to replace the physical book, they definitely have not, but they sure are becoming mainstream. Social Networking is going to connect us into one brain, or it's a silly play toy. It's transformed much, including toys, but we still have our individual brains (I think).

It's the same with lots of transformations. The boosters of the transforming revolution overreach believing the transformation will happen soon, if not immediately and be nearly complete. Often it will bring utopia. The counter-boosters dismiss it all as so much bluster, nearly useless, much less transformative. THey both are wrong. Transformations take much longer than sold and don't replace everything (we still have radios, ox-drawn carts and brick-and-mortor bookstores). Yet, often the naysayers in the end are proven to be nothing but curmudgeons without much foresight. The transformations do indeed take hold and do indeed change the world. 

There are two 'transformative revolutions' I'm deeply interested in right now: Personal Genomics and MOOCs (well, online education in general). Both have a potential to radically transform our society. Both have boosters that think it will happen yesterday and every man, women and child will be effected tomorrow. They are wrong.

And so are the naysayers. Two in particular I've come across in the last two days: Caulfield who thinks we are overselling the personal genomics revolution and then goes to suggest it will mean little "For more than two decades, we’ve been told that we’re in the midst of a genetic revolution. I’m still waiting." http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/time-to-lead/were-overselling-the-health-care-revolution-of-personal-genomics/article6336238/
And then there is the consummate naysaying polemicist, Steven Poole, who believes all this talk about cybertransformation of an 'open' internet, including open education in the form of MOOCs (though oddly he never uses the word), is nothing but cyberhustling. http://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/internet/2012/12/jeff-jarvis-clay-shirky-jay-rosen-invasion-cyber-hustlers

They both have in common the inability to see the tide moving in around their feet dismissing or flat out ignoring the transformations that have and are occurring. It might not be the tidal wave they were expecting from the hype, these two transformations, but in the end they'll be wet.

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I've been saying to personal genomics naysayers for about 7 or 8 years that we just haven't analyzed enough people yet and when we do, that's when it starts to get interesting. I think 100,000 is a pretty good start.

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Yesterday, I and another AAAS fellow organized, ran and attended an all day internal NSF-wide workshop on MOOCs. The two of us started a group (more later) and this was our first outcome.

Obviously, MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses, are the 'big thing' lately. Just last week I attended three separate MOOC-related activities, a briefing at the Brookings Institute that included the CEO of ACE and Daphne Koller of Coursera, a PCAST (Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) meeting that included a report from "the big three" (Thrun of Udacity, Koller of Coursera, Angarwal of Edx) and a talk at NSF by Sebastian Thrun. MOOC MOOC MOOC. Of course I brought this on myself, this immersion. 

To get a good run down of the very fast development of the MOOC phenomenon (hype?), check out Hack Education, it's a good blog and they have a good rundown: http://hackeducation.com/2012/12/03/top-ed-tech-trends-of-2012-moocs/

Because it was an internal NSF workshop I can't really relate much of the discussion. NSF has to be cautious about what is said publicly (lest people think they are funding something). But I can give some impressions I had of the day (and the last few months).

1. We've been through this before. http://www.onlineschools.com/in-focus/history-of-online-education

2. MOOCs are NOT 1 year old. The term was coined and the early ones started 4 years ago: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/MOOC_Final.pdf

3. Wow it's hyped and wow it's moving fast.

4. There is some promise, great possibilities. The confluence of technologies and innovations seems right, social networks, broadband, acceptance of online ed, etc. Maybe it's different this time? http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2012/11/napster-udacity-and-the-academy/

5. Community colleges, AP classes, continuing ed, they seem to be ripe for MOOCification (side note: i dislike the word MOOC and what I just did turning it to a noun is an abomination :D). EDx announced it isworking with two MA Community Colleges. Udacity and Coursera will soon announce similar collaborations (you heard it hear first ;-). If done right and well, it could help with access and broadening participation. And maybe help save the California Community College system? nearly a half million students want to take classes... but can't. http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/08/29/californias-two-year-college-system-in-deep-trouble/ (or maybe the fact that Dems finally have a supermajority might save the once-top-of-the-world CC system.

6. Maybe MOOCs won't replace universities, but they could very well replace text books. 

THere will be more... the group we co-founded (MadTECHEd.. MOOCs and Disruptive Technologies in Education) are planning a symposium in spring.

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Yesterday, I and another AAAS fellow organized, ran and attended an all day internal NSF-wide workshop on MOOCs. The two of us started a group (more later) and this was our first outcome.

Obviously, MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses, are the 'big thing' lately. Just last week I attended three separate MOOC-related activities, a briefing at the Brookings Institute that included the CEO of ACE and Daphne Koller of Coursera, a PCAST (Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) meeting that included a report from "the big three" (Thrun of Udacity, Koller of Coursera, Angarwal of Edx) and a talk at NSF by Sebastian Thrun. MOOC MOOC MOOC. Of course I brought this on myself, this immersion. 

To get a good run down of the very fast development of the MOOC phenomenon (hype?), check out Hack Education, it's a good blog and they have a good rundown: http://hackeducation.com/2012/12/03/top-ed-tech-trends-of-2012-moocs/

Because it was an internal NSF workshop I can't really relate much of the discussion. NSF has to be cautious about what is said publicly (lest people think they are funding something). But I can give some impressions I had of the day (and the last few months).

1. We've been through this before. http://www.onlineschools.com/in-focus/history-of-online-education

2. MOOCs are NOT 1 year old. The term was coined and the early ones started 4 years ago: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/MOOC_Final.pdf

3. Wow it's hyped and wow it's moving fast.

4. There is some promise, great possibilities. The confluence of technologies and innovations seems right, social networks, broadband, acceptance of online ed, etc. Maybe it's different this time? http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2012/11/napster-udacity-and-the-academy/

5. Community colleges, AP classes, continuing ed, they seem to be ripe for MOOCification (side note: i dislike the word MOOC and what I just did turning it to a noun is an abomination :D). EDx announced it isworking with two MA Community Colleges. Udacity and Coursera will soon announce similar collaborations (you heard it hear first ;-). If done right and well, it could help with access and broadening participation. And maybe help save the California Community College system? nearly a half million students want to take classes... but can't. http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/08/29/californias-two-year-college-system-in-deep-trouble/ (or maybe the fact that Dems finally have a supermajority might save the once-top-of-the-world CC system.

6. Maybe MOOCs won't replace universities, but they could very well replace text books. 

THere will be more... the group we co-founded (MadTECHEd.. MOOCs and Disruptive Technologies in Education) are planning a symposium in spring.

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Interesting read
Undergrads are not just studying bioinformatics, but actively collecting and interacting with genomic data. And at some universities (UCLA) working to build (new) genomes.

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