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The Book of Life
Various authors, Mar 03, 2015

Another find from Doug Belshaw is this absolutely fascinating Book of Life. It's organized into Capitalism, Work, Relationships, and Self, each one with a number of subtopics. I did not have nearly enough time to read it all, but I sampled quite a number of the topics (especially 'Capitalism') to get a sense that this is worth reading, even if you don't agree with everything it it. And I really like the approach: "The Book of Life is being written by many people over a long time; it keeps changing and evolving. It is filled with images and films as well as texts. By floating online, it can grow a bit every day or so, as new things come along and it can be equally accessible all around the world, at any time, for free."

What Necessary Adult Skills Were You Never Taught Growing Up?
Eric Ravenscraft, LifeHacker, Mar 03, 2015

Doug Belshaw flags this article in LifeHacker asking people to comment on the life skills they never learned growing up. As one commenter says, "I just realized, this entire article boils down to 'give Lifehacker ideas for future articles'." But hey, why not? In any case, the comments section is filled with ideas for good life lessons. Here's a sampling:

  • basic hygiene habits like flossing/brushing teeth, taking showers, shaving, cosmetics, and hairstyling.
  • education on how to have constructive relationships
  • basic finance. My parents handled everything and didn't teach me about budgeting at all
  • how to exercise or be physically fit
  • emotional intelligence. Being able to communicate exactly how I feel instead of sticking my head in the sand
  • knowing a little bit about car repairs and maintenance
  • how to wear makeup
  • how to handle repeated failure. How to be content with doing "alright", not "outstanding" in life
  • how to cook

Sensing a theme?

The Voodoo That MOOCs Do
Ryan Craig, Inside Higher Ed, Mar 03, 2015

When friends at the University of Alberta told me about their upcoming Dino 101 MOOC, I was enthusiastic. "It's going to draw a million people," I said. It went on to draw considerably fewer, still a success, but nothing like what it could have been. What happened? The course that was produced was formal, stuffy and academic - designed, almost, to repel interest in dinosaurs, not cultivate it. And that is the sort of mistake institutions in general have been making with MOOCs, writes Ryan Craig in this article. They're targeting them to older professionals, when they should instead be targeting them to a younger audience. "While no institution needs to hurry up to produce MOOCs with DisneyCollectorBR or even Justin Bieber, universities should view MOOCs as an important channel for reaching prospective students around the world, and target content accordingly."

Silicon Valley likes to promise ‘digital socialism’ – but it is selling a fairytale
Evgeny Morozov, The Guardian, Mar 03, 2015

One of the things I've learned over the years is to resist letting positions I hold be defined by their opponents. One of those positions happens to be socialism, and while it is true it has evolved over the years, it nonetheless resembles nothing like what is discussed by Evgeny Morozov in this column for the Guardian, or by Kevin Kelly in the 2009 article Morozov is responding to. Morozov warns that Silicon Valley's promise to bridge "the gap in consumption inequality" will ring hollow: "we might be forced to sell our cars and default on our mortgages, but we would never lose access to Spotify and Google." Perhaps when Morozov is discussing socialism he should look up the phrase "means of production". Inequality is the symptom of wider structural issues in society, a natural consequence of a system based on hoarding, and something socialists seek to redress, but socialism is (despite years of caricature in the American press) about making everybody the same. I would add that even the image attached to the article perpetuates the same misinformation - Obama isn't in any way socialist, and should not be represented as such.

Won’t somebody please think of the children?
Dylan Collins,, Mar 03, 2015

So this sounds so unlike Europe, but maybe I'm just naive: "There is a new generation of kids startups focused on platform, tools and adtech fuelled by a broader structural shift in the sector. Occasionally referred to as ‘kidtech’, they are tackling opportunities in the kids market that are worth billions of dollars in the adult sector." The tenor of the argument is that the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) prohibits behavioural online advertising, and that this is being adopted by Europe, creating a spending gap that is being addressed by, well, what? Advertgising? Kidtech? "Already kids brands are doubling and tripling their digital ad spend for 2015 and it seems highly likely that kids digital ad market will be a $2 billion space inside two years driven by the availability of kid-safe platforms..." It seems to me that if they're loaded with advertisements, they're not exactly kid safe. But like I say, maybe I'm naive.

A Town Where a School Bus Is More Than a Bus
Sam Chaltain, New York Times, Mar 03, 2015

Sam Chaltain is gaining traction for some ideas that will be familiar to readers of this newsletter (plus one about school buses that is new to me). From his newsletter: "What if... we started to design schools in ways that imagined young people moving more like a murmuration of Starlings than, say, a regiment of soldiers? What if, in order to reimagine schooling, we got specific about all the things we have always done that we will need to hold onto - and all the things we must let go of in order to make space for something new? And what if, instead of viewing a thing like a school bus as merely a vehicle for transporting children to and from school, we viewed it (as one community has done) as an essential link in the chain of our overall effort to support the needs of children?"

Whoa wow wow!
swiked, Tumblr, Mar 03, 2015

So look at this photo of a dress and answer one simple question: what colour is it?

If you are like me, you will say that the dress is blue (with black trim). But if you are like Andrea and the other half of the internet, you will say the dress is white, with gold trim. Why is this significant? Typically we think we mean the same thing with simple words like 'blue' and 'white'. But in fact, our prior experiences shape the meaning of every word, to the point where we literally see different things when we see the same image. This is why no single model can define a theory of education. Each of us sees the world differently, which means each of us needs unique educational support. More on the blue dress: Daily Beast, Wired, CBS News, Washington Post, National Post, Independent.

NY Times Textbook Publishing, Inc.
Greg Mankiw, Greg Mankiw's Blog, Mar 03, 2015

This is why economists, and especially Harvard economists, have such a poor reputation. Arguing against the New York Times, Greg Mankiw maintaines that high textbook prices are justified because, if prices are too high, a competitor (like, say, the New York Times) could enter the market and undercut prices. Well, of course, this is happening, with free and open content textbooks, because prices are too high. But what we are finding, as Economic Logic observes, is that the textbook market is not an open market. It is "remarkably difficult for a new publisher to enter the market" and existing prices "really looks like (open or tacit) collusion among publishers." Even more to the point, though, is his presumption that textbooks must be published by a profit-driven publishing company. If, say, textbooks were deemed a public good, and offered by the government at substantially lower cost, why would this not be the most viable option? Via Fred M Beshears, by email.

Links and Resources

(presentations include slides and audio recordings)
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Key Articles

Scholarly Articles

Cites:294 Educational Blogging (Local copy)
264 Learning objects: Resources for distance education worldwide (Local copy)
134 E-learning 2.0 (Local copy)
126 Models for sustainable open educational resources (Local copy)
88 The future of online learning (Local copy
75 Learning networks and connective knowledge (Local copy)
70 Design and reusability of learning objects in an academic context: A new economy of education (Local copy)
59 Resource profiles (Local copy)
40 Learning networks in practice (Local copy)
33 Semantic networks and social networks (Local copy)
35 An introduction to connective knowledge (Local copy)
27 Design, standards and reusability (Local copy)
23 EduSource: Canada's learning object repository network (Local copy)
22 An introduction to RSS for educational designers (Local copy)

(Cites from Google Scholar for an H-Index = 14)

Recent Popular Articles

The Purpose of Learning, February 2, 2011.
The Role of the Educator, December 6, 2010.
Deinstitutionalizing Education, November 5, 2010.
Agents Provocateurs, October 28, 2010.
What Is Democracy In Education, October 22, 2010.
A World To Change, October 19, 2010.
Connectivism and Transculturality, May 16, 2010.
An Operating System for the Mind, September 19, 2009.
The Cloud and Collaboration, June 15, 2009.
Critical Thinking in the Classroom, June 5, 2009.
The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On, November 16, 2008.
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About Stephen Downes

Stephen Downes is a senior researcher for Canada's National Research Council and a leading proponent of the use of online media and services in education. As the author of the widely-read OLDaily online newsletter, Downes has earned international recognition for his leading-edge work in the field of online learning. He developed some of Canada's first online courses at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba. He also built a learning management system from scratch and authored the now-classic "The Future of Online Learning".

At the University of Alberta he built a learning and research portal for the municipal sector in that province, Munimall, and another for the Engineering and Geology sector, PEGGAsus. He also pioneered the development of learning objects and was one of the first adopters and developers of RSS content syndication in education. Downes introduced the concept of e-learning 2.0 and with George Siemens developed and defined the concept of Connectivism, using the social network approach to deliver open online courses to three thousand participants over two years.

Downes has been offering courses in learning, logic, philosophy both online and off since 1987, has 135 articles published in books, magazines and academic journals, and has presented his unique perspective on learning and technology more than 250 times to audiences in 17 countries on five continents. He is a habitual photographer, plays darts for money, and can be found at home with his wife Andrea and four cats in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.


Stephen Downes travaille pour le Conseil national de recherches du Canada, où il a servi en tant que chercheur principal, basé à Moncton, au Nouveau-Brunswick, depuis 2001. Affilié au Groupe des technologies de l'apprentissage et de la collaboration, Institut de technologie de l’information, Downes est spécialisé dans les domaines de l'apprentissage en ligne, les nouveaux médias, la pédagogie et la philosophie.

Downes est peut-être mieux connu pour son bulletin quotidien, OLDaily, qui est distribué par Internet, courriel et RSS à des milliers d'abonnés à travers le monde. Il a publié de nombreux articles à la fois en ligne et sur papier incluant The Future of Online Learning (1998), Learning Objects (2000), Resource Profiles (2003), et E-Learning 2.0 (2005). Il est un conférencier populaire, apparaissant à des centaines de manifestations à travers le monde au cours des quinze dernières années.

Vision Statement

I want and visualize and aspire toward a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through their avocations or lifestyle.

Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations - or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be.

This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence. This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward.

Canadians who gave their lives in service in Afghanistan

Hundreds of my IAAF Track & Field Photos from Moncton 2010

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