New Learning, New Society

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Tablets in education
Michael Trucano, EduTech, Jul 29, 2015

This post contains links to 14 tablet initiatives in countries around the world (and another three in which the governments are taking them back). The article is generally sceptical in tone: "the evidence base when it comes to tablet use in schools and to support student learning is rather weak, and can be used in support of or against pretty much whatever scheme is being considered." Well, true. Because it's hard to have an evidence base for national tablet initiatives in developing nations based on "research to date (which) comes from schools in 'highly developed' (OECD) countries, relies on projects with small sample sizes, are of short duration and/or rely heavily on self-reported and/or qualitative data." The only way to know is to try, and to their credit, these nations are trying. Goodness knows, the developed world isn't stepping forth to meet the need. And it wasn't very long ago that the World Bank's answer was high-end videoconferencing facilities for business and small mobile phones for everyone else.

On Labor, Learning Conditions, and Affordable Education
Tiffany Kraft, Hybrid Pedagogy, Jul 29, 2015

"Here are three takeaways," writes Tiffany Kraft. "1) Students cannot afford the price we pay for higher education. 2) The debt-for-diploma exchange is gutting our Millennials. 3) The antidote for corporate academe is student activism." These have been true since I was a student in the 1980s (and hence, a student activist). Student activism was probably necessary, but certainly not sufficient. I'm not sure, after these 35 years, what would be sufficient.

PNBHS Haka for Mr. Dawson Tamatea's Funeral Service
PNBHS, YouTube, Jul 29, 2015

A brilliant tribute to a fallen teacher. I especially liked Megan Brown's comment: "I think what it is, at least from my perspective, is that haka requires the performer to cast aside any societal bonds that prevent men from expressing emotion, especially grief, as these boys would have been experiencing. Haka therefore permits and actively encourages men to be emotional. Whether that's angry, proud, respectful, or affected by sadness, it doesn't really matter. It allows men (and women, there are haka for women and women often back up men performing haka as well) to reach right down into their guts and voice what's in there with no fear of being shamed by others. There's something primal about it, it's visceral, and it's incredibly powerful. Very seldom do any of us, especially those of us living in predominantly Western societies, allow ourselves the chance to express emotion in this way. That is why it connects. Because it is raw and we don't let ourselves be raw."

Rethinking 'What Counts'
Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jul 29, 2015

This is a reprint of an Audrey Watters article that appeared in a paywall site back in April. She writes: "Learning is not a counting noun," says Dave Cormier, "so what should we count?" I first want to say that 'learning' is a verb :) but that the question is nonetheless valid: with walking we count steps or distance, with writing we count words or arguments, but what of learning? What is counted? What counts? Even if we do away with the language that leads us toward quantification, writes Watters, "how do we identify what matters?" My own answer to this question is at once simple and complex. What counts? Stillness. Balance. Harmony. Resilience. To me, the answer is a lot more about what we become, rather than what we acquire, which is why measurement is a challenge, if not impossible. It is, nonetheless, something we can recognize when we see it.

Here's How 20,000 Reddit Volunteers Fight Trolls, Spammers, And Played-Out Memes
Steven Melendez, Fast Company, Jul 29, 2015

Interesting article not only because it describes how Reddit's community of volunteers manages to filter the discussion forums, but also because it makes it clear the impact of unmoderated speech. "There are Chicago newspaper websites that have comment sections that are full of hate speech, and we wanted the Reddit community to be something different. We banned them. We silenced them. We removed their comments. We told them to go away... They can wreak havoc on our threads and really mess with people's heads. I don't think most people realize what little it takes to seriously damage someone" (I've combined a couple of quotes here). If you do not have 20,000 volunteers in a massive course, you have limited options: do without forums (the xMOOC approach), pay a lot of money for moderators, allow nasty and vile comments, or break into a network of multiple communities (the cMOOC approach).

H1 2015 International Learning Technology Investment Patterns
Sam Adkins, Ambient Insight, Jul 29, 2015

Ambient Insight has released a report describing a huge increase in investments in ed tech. "In the six month period between January and June 2015, $2.51 billion was invested in learning technology companies across the globe. This is astonishing considering that the total global investments made to learning technology companies for the entire year of 2014 was $2.42 billion, which set a record in the industry." 19 page PDF. See also Inside Higher Ed.

The Trouble with Pinker's Argument about 'The Trouble With Harvard'
Cathy Davidson, HASTAC, Jul 29, 2015

What does elite education provide, and why do the rich do whatever it takes to gain entrance into top tier institutions? If we don't understand this, we don't understand what we need to provide for everyone else. Here's the full study.

Here's a key point: it's not content knowledge. It's not even academic skills nor critical thinking. If we focus only on these, the elite institutions offer no advantage. Why then are they elite? Kevin Carey suggests that the elites "select the best and the brightest", but this isn't true either. They select the richest. They then turn these very average intelligences into social and economic successes.

The focus on quality, as I argue, is a distraction. We need to provide people not only with learning, but with the social network, tools and empowerment that a proper education produces. As Cathy Davidson says, "What if the issue isn't what Harvard can and does do brilliantly but what, for the students who do not go to elite schools, they must do for themselves: ensure their own success.

The #blimage challenge spreads
Steve Wheeler, Learning With Es, Jul 29, 2015

It has been quite a while (years, really) since we've seen such an outburst of fresh writing in the edublogosphere. The current deluge is courtesy of the #blimage (blog image) challenge issued by Amy Burvall, which she explains in a video: one person sends the other an image, the other writes a blog post about education related to the image. HJ.DeWaard explains more. Here's the list of just some of the items posted by Steve Wheeler in this item:

Space to make ideas your own by Jeff Merrell
Organic Growth by Andrew Jacobs
The #blimage challenge by Jane Bozarth
Fortunate Learning and Learning Fortunes by Sue Beckingham
Desks of Doom by David Hopkins
Taking up the #blimage challenge by Ignatia de Waard
Not just a waiting room by Rachel Challen
Human Writes by Simon Finch
It's only a jigsaw puzzle by Sandra Sinfield
Playing chess with the enemy by Steve Wheeler
Learning while wandering by Tracy Parish
The #blimage challenge by Charles Jennings
Learning in limbo by Wayne Barry
Time for a fresh perspective by Sukh Pabial
The colours of active learning by Anna Wood
Breaking bread with Steve Wheeler by Amy Burvall
The joy of learning #blimage by Jane Hart
The Web: Network, dreamcatcher, patterns by Whitney Kilgore
The #blimage challenge by Sheila MacNeill

There are many more. To see the full list, visit FlipBoard or browse over to the #blimage tag on Twitter and enjoy watching your morning disappear.


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.
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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

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