New Learning, New Society

New Today

They turned college into McDonald’s: Adjunct professors, fast-food wages and how colleges screw more than just students
Paul Rosenberg, Salon, May 04, 2015

From the article, which needs no further commentary: "The congressional testimony Greenberg gave was taken in conjunction with the release of a report on contingent faculty in higher education, “The Just-In-Time Professor,” summarizing results of an e-forum by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., which collected stories from 845 adjunct faculty in 41 states. 'In 2009, CNN Money ranked college professor as the third best job in America, citing increasing job growth prospects,' the report notes in its introduction, 'But, as will be seen in this report, many often live on the edge of poverty.'"

ASU’s edX MOOC deal: Lots of links and a few thoughts
Steve Krause,, May 04, 2015

As the title says, a bunch of links and some thoughts. I like the Onion's take on the ASU experiment (which is to offer free MOOCs to first year students, where you pay only if you pass): "I always said I would take college classes if I didn’t have to go anywhere, didn’t have to pass anything, and didn’t have to pay for it." heh. But this comment is also relevant: "$200 a credit isn’t really that cheap for these kinds of credits because community colleges are typically cheaper and provide better support for students." Remember, courses are typically 3- or 6-credits. So you could end up paying $600 or $1200 for a course. That's not 'open' the way I define 'open'.

LinkedIn shares plummet after 'extraordinary' revenue miss
Sarah Frier, Globe, Mail, May 04, 2015

Here's another example of a stock losing a quarter of its value after missing an earnings target (and proof that releasing the news via an unauthorized tweet really has nothing to do with the plunge in value). "LinkedIn Corp. shares plunged 25 per cent after the company forecast revenue that missed analysts’ estimates, citing the strong dollar and slower than expected growth." More evidence of the irrationality of the stock market, which in this case appears to be about as accurate at pegging value as a blindfolded man throwing darts at a jigsaw puzzle. (P.S. this story pegs the cause of the drop on missed revenue expectations, but I've seen stocks fall after exceeding expectations, on  the dubious ground that the "didn't beat expectations as much as expected").

Some Assembly Required: STEM Skills and Canada’s Economic Productivity
The Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future, Council of Canadian Academies, May 04, 2015

The arguments around the make-up of Canada's education system continue (there's a surprising lack of consensus which is either a precursor to a national policy, or an argument against one). In this report, the "Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future" argues that they had  "difficulty finding direct and robust evidence that STEM skills are unique ... as central to innovation and productivity growth." They contend that "the fundamental skills required for STEM literacy, such as problem solving, technological proficiency, and numeracy, represent essential components of working smarter."

They write, "STEM skills are necessary for many types of innovation, as well as productivity and growth, but they are not sufficient on their own. Other skills such as leadership, creativity, adaptability, and entrepreneurial ability may be required to maximize the impact of STEM skills. Further, the Panel did not find evidence of a current imbalance in advanced STEM skills nationally, suggesting that the source of Canada’s productivity problem is not a shortage of advanced STEM skills."

This is a really good report that will reward a much closer reading, because it offers not only a surface-level analysis of the stem skills needed for productivity, but a look at how these skills are developed and where they are needed. This is an excellent example of an evidence-based analysis of learning and development issues and trends. More coverage: Globe and Mail, news release. As Academica notes, the National Science Board reached similar conclusions in a report in February.

Scientists achieve critical steps to building first practical quantum computer
Unattributed,, May 04, 2015

This is pretty interesting. To create a stable quantum computer, you have to simultaneously detect for two types of error, bit-flip and phase-flip errors. This article describes a quantum computer that can detect both simultaneously. As the article notes, "Quantum information is very fragile because all existing qubit technologies lose their information when interacting with matter and electromagnetic radiation," so error detection is especially important. Quantum computers, when developed, will represent an increase in speed in orders of magnitude, making currently intractable problems (like decryption, modelling and optimization).  More: magic-state error detection, error-correcting quantum computer, using parity checks in error detection, original journal article.

Preparing for the digital university: a review of the history and current state of distance, blended, and online learning
George Siemens, Dragan Gašević, Shane Dawson, Athabasca University, May 04, 2015

This book-length publication will receive widespread attention, coming as it does with a media campaign complete with Gates Foundation backing and a Chronicle article. It's essentially a meta-study (sometimes known as a tertiary study) of the 'literature' in the field if distance education and (to a lesser extent) online learning. There are six chapters, each of which is a separate study, but most of which follow the same methodology of literature search and analysis. The first four studies focus on the history of distance learning, blended learning, online learning, and assessment. The last two look at future research in MOOCs and technology infrastructure.

Having said all that, this is a really bad study. What it succeeds in doing, mostly, is to offer a very narrow look at a small spectrum of academic literature far removed from actual practice. A very narrow range of sources was considered, limited to a few academic journals, and within this search selection was based on titles, keywords and abstract. Most of the leading thinkers in the field are eliminated from the history of the field (though Curt Bonk does well). And the major conclusion you'll find in these research studies is that (a) research is valuable, and (b) more research is needed (see, eg. "To foster quality interactions between students, an analysis of the role of instructional design and instructional interventions planning is essential." p. 40 and throughout ad nauseum). The most influential thinker in the field, according to one part of the study, is L. Pappano (see the chart, p. 181). Who is this, you ask? The author of the New York Times article in 2012, 'The Year of the MOOC'. Influential and important contributors like David Wiley, Rory McGreal, Jim Groom, Gilbert Paquette, Tony Bates (and many many more)? Almost nowhere to be found.

There are two ways to conduct a study of the literature in a field. One way is to use search algorithms and criteria to find a subset of the literature, and read only that. The other way is to spend the time it takes to become broadly familiar with all of the literature in the field, and select the most important of that. This study uses the former method, and the absence of a background in the field is glaring and obvious. For a contrast, one might want to consult Tony Bate's recent work of equal size and far greater value.

Education in the Digital Age
Bob Gillett, Academica, May 04, 2015

This item (which appears to be a guest post) is a classic example of burying the lede. Skim down to the bottom, where you'll read: "The Conference Board of Canada is doing a five-year study of postsecondary education and skills acquisition... Just think about public education competing with Apple or Google, who could use their massive technology and knowledge assets to provide access to the best professors in the world." An Education in the Digital Age Reference Group has been established to advise the Conference Board; it6's one of a dozen groups focused on education and training in general.

Harper Government Invests in Leading-Edge Technologies to Advance Market Growth and Commercialization
Press Release, Government of Canada, May 04, 2015

A Canadian federal government program will support big data analytics. "This project will promote awareness of the value of advanced computing and big data analytics for small and medium-sized companies; enable the use of advanced computing and big data analytics in the mining, advanced manufacturing, digital media and cybersecurity sectors, as well as support growth of the information and communication technology sector in southern Ontario."

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:

Social Network

Skype: Downes

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

Posts viewed: 19067 today, 3002011 all time.