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Abstracts of Three Studies Related to Pedagogical Agents
Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Dec 18, 2014

Quoted from the article:

  • "Pedagogical agents produced a small but significant effect on learning."
  • "Gender bias affects learner’s perception on virtual agent. Implications are discussed in terms of how stereotypes of expert-like and peer-like agent can be effectively utilized"
  • "Students who viewed a highly embodied agent also rated the social attributes of the agent more positively than did students who viewed a nongesturing agent."

So - students get more out of agents that act like people, but that isn't always a positive thing.


Try Out / Please Break TRU Writer?
Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Dec 18, 2014

So I like this idea: "The idea of the TRU Writer is a simple way for faculty, researchers, students to publish web content in a rich, media form without having them create accounts. Rather than try and explain, take a ride on the random example spinner (Randomness is something I nearly always try to toss into the mix)." You can try out the TRU writer here.

Adaptive learning markets: talking Turkey
Philip J. Kerr, Adaptive Learning in ELT, Dec 18, 2014

This post looks at work being done to advance adaptive learning in Turkey. "OUP," writes Philip Kerr (referring to Oxford University Press) "probably the most significant of the big ELT publishers in Turkey, recorded ‘an outstanding performance’ in the country in the last financial year, making it their 5th largest ELT market." Why is Turkey special? Kerr lists several reasons: it has a young population, it's " in the middle of a government-sponsored $990 million project to increase the level of English proficiency in schools," it "one of the world’s largest educational technology projects: the FATIH Project," it has a "burgeoning private education sector," and is in the process of adopting educational technology. My main counsel to Turkey would be to be cautious: the private sector will promise the moon, but you have to hold them to outcomes.

EMMA project meeting – Madrid
Grainne Conole,, Dec 18, 2014

Grainne Conole summarizes an EMMA project meeting - EMMA is "The European Multiple MOOC Aggregator" and collects information from, as the name suggests, several MOOCs. The MOOCs (and we're beginning to see this as a trend) had a small number of participants, about 70 each for five MOOCs. At the bottom iof the post is a set of criteria to assess MOOCs I(that are pretty specific to this project).

Skype Real-Time Language Translator Goes Live
Angela Moscaritolo, PC Magazine, Dec 18, 2014

It's probably really bad (though I can't wait to try it) and it's limited to English and Spanish for now, but this is the face of the future: real-time translations of online conversations. How awesome is that? "The Microsoft-owned chat service on Monday launched the first phase of its Skype Translator preview program first announced back in May. Jointly developed by Microsoft researchers and Skype engineers, the new feature uses real-time speech translation technologies to let you have a conversation with someone over the Internet who speaks a different language."

France plans elite top-10 mega-university
Sean Coughlan, BBC News, Dec 18, 2014

I'm not sure whether this counts as education technology (I guess it does, in a way) but France has announced plans to combine 19 separate institutions into one large super-university that will be large enough in scale and ambition to compete with places like Harvard and Oxford. It will be called Paris-Saclay, and according to this article, will have "a campus south of the French capital. The project has initial funding of 7.5bn euros (£5.9bn) for an endowment, buildings and transport links." I personally can think of better ways to spend $10 billion.

A business model view of changing times in higher education
Lloyd Armstrong, Changing Higher Education, Dec 18, 2014

I've been exposed to this way of thinking about education (and innovation generally) a lot over the last couple of years. Parts of it I resist, parts of it I embrace, and all of it I view with a certain scepticism. But it's important to understand that there are large masses of people (specifically, the business community) who view all systems this way, including the education system. The key elements to focus on are, in my view, the value proposition and the profit formula. The former talks about what effects you want to produce (I think the current article has far too limited a view of the value proposition, as does the business perspective generally) and the latter has to do with costs and efficiency - not only for institutions (again, a limitation of the business-centric view) but also for individuals engaged in the system.

Outlook on instruction: Class around the clock
Jessica Terrell, District Administration, Dec 18, 2014

It's only half way through December and already the predictions for next year are starting. This article features a headline that doesn't match the content, a poorly-conceived line graph that doesn't match the content, an even poorer comment (an engineer proposing multiplication chants? really?) and a few predictions. They are mostly based around the idea of personalization and self-management of learning. I expect this too. But watch for an even bigger pushback, from two directions - first, from the instructivists, who say everyone should learn common core content and eschew differentiated instruction, and from the paternalists, who insist students are incapable of managing their own learning. 2015, I expect, will be a year of retrenchment (aka the calm before the storm).

Links and Resources

(presentations include slides and audio recordings)
RSS Feed:

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.
Things You Really Need to learn:

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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

My calendar

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