New Today

From free to fee: How U.S. dailies decide to use paywalls
Natalie Jomini Stroud, American Press Institute, Jan 31, 2015

Interesting report that observes that few newspapers use research of any sort (beyond asking each other whether it's a good idea) before implementing paywalls (it's a summary of a recent paper that is not available online (I searched)). The research also looks at the value of paywalls and reports that, even in the success stories, "paywalls most likely will not offset steep losses in advertising revenue." But another report suggests that the real value in paywalls might not be the subscription fees, but rather the user data. Erica Sweeney writes, "demographic data can help publishers tailor and recommend specific content, which could increase subscriptions and the value of content." Of course, this means that as you read your newspaper, your newspaper is reading you.

Cyber surveillance worries most Canadians: privacy czar's poll
Staff, CBC News, Jan 31, 2015

This is one of the major reasons we have focused on creating a personal application in LPSS. According to this report, "Canadians deeply value privacy, but fear they are losing the control they have over their personal information. It’s imperative we find ways to enhance that sense of control so that people feel their privacy rights are being respected." It doesn't help that we also discovered this week that Canada's security agency CSEC has been monitoring millions of users' file downloads in an (ostensive) effort to identify terrorists. "Every single thing that you do – in this case uploading/downloading files to these sites – that act is being archived, collected and analyzed."

Investigating the Yik Yak attack
Alex Reid, Digital Digs, Jan 31, 2015

From the moment an application came into existence that allowed people in the same general area to make anonymous comments to each other it became inevitable that students would use it to criticize a professor (hence, the 'Yik Yak attack'). It is also inevitable that within a few minutes to the incident the Chronicle would publish an article lamenting the behaviour. Steve Kraus describes the coverage (here (the original Chronicle article is paywalled). I won't pretend the behaviour was not offensive and abusive (from the snippets I saw). But I also don't blame the technology for the behaviour - I blame the environment, I blame the entitled students who think there are no limits to their behaviour, I blame a media environment which promotes this sort of behaviour on a daily basis. And how does this help: "The only student so far punished in connection with the Yik Yak incident is one who stepped forward and confessed?" Alex Reid says, " Ultimately some mechanisms of social interaction arise to regulate behavior." Not unless you can remove or kick off the offenders. The trolls and the haters don't bend to social pressure; that's kind of what defines them.

Cloudy Logic
Robin James, The New Inquiry, Jan 31, 2015

A few talks ago I cause a twitter in the audience by comparing big data analytics to astrology. It was no more than a half-formed thought, but as it turns out I'm not the only one who has had this thought and this author - via the mediation of Thomas Adorno - has given it substance. Robin James writes, "Scaled up in size and in processing power, big data could be the realization of what Adorno called 'the potential danger represented by astrology as a mass phenomenon.'" Their apparent objectivity allow them to be represented as value-neutral - but "astrology rearticulates unfashionable superstitions in the occult, in mysticism, and so on, by presenting them in empirical rather than supernatural terms—star charts and tables, for example. Upgrading the medium in which they are expressed, obsolete social myths gain new life as apparent fact." Just as does big data analytics. "Down-to-earthness is precisely the problem with forecasting: It only ever reproduces society and its most conventional norms, values, and practices. All that data up in the cloud opens no new vistas; it just repackages tired social, political, and economic institutions (white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy) in new, hip abodes on more seemingly solid ground." Yeow!

New complaint about the iPad
Doug Johnson, Blue Skunk Blog, Jan 31, 2015

It's a sad commentary. Doug Johnson writes, "despite the popularity of the iPad in schools, Chromebooks seem to be making huge inroads. It may well be that because there is one complaint not mentioned above that still persists about the iPad: it is a SOB to manage in an institutional environment that likes control... We in education just don't much care for things we can't control easily." That said - the next time I'm looking for a tablet, I'll be looking for an Android, not Apple. Why? Because Apple maintains tight control of the device, I have to pay pay pay for anything useful, and there's a closed application and content marketplace. Oh, and I can't change the battery.

3 Questions to Get the Most Out of Your Company’s Data
James Allworth, Maxwell Wessel, Aaron Levie, Harvard Business Review, Jan 31, 2015

I love the way the first paragraph of this article cuts straight through to the heart of the issue in a manner that is compelling and evocative. I won't spoil it for you. It's just cracking good writing, and I appreciate that. The article as a whole is less about the three questions and more about the idea that data-driven decisions can be more reliable than human intuition. Of course, I think that human intuition is driven by data, and that it's largely a matter of exposing it to the right information (ie: a discussion between you and your buddies in the s-suite isn't going to cut it). And additionally, data-decision decision-making is more effective when dealing with mass, not individuals. Netflix doesn't care about the 5 percent of users who hate all of its new original series, because they can make an excellent return on the remaining 95 percent. But in disciplines like education and health care, we can't afford to simply throw the 5 percent under the bus. And data leaves us guessing in these cases.

The Carnegie Unit: A Century-Old Standard in a Changing Educational Landscape
Elena Silva, Taylor White, Thomas Toch, Carnegie Foundation, Jan 31, 2015

This report should be read if only for the fascinating account of the history of the Carnegie Unit - now known as the 'credit hour' - as a unit of academic measurement. Inside Higher Ed summarizes the rest of the report concisely: "The credit hour is an inadequate unit for measuring student learning. Yet no better replacement for higher education’s gold standard has emerged, and getting rid of it right now would be risky." I remember back in the 90s writing that time would be replaced as the unit of academic instruction. I thought it would be replaced with knowledge units. But what is a knowledge unit? A competency? This requires a focus on assessment, but as the report authors write, "a great deal of very difficult design, development, and improvement work needs to be done to build the standards and assessments required to make education more transparent and to transform emerging design innovations from compelling concepts to sources of educational rigor at scale."

Balancing the use of social media and privacy protection in online learning
Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Jan 31, 2015

The United States, Russia, China and the U.K. are all classified as "Endemic surveillance societies." India and France follow close behind as "Systemic failure to uphold safeguards." So it's clear there's a problem. We probably can't fix it within educational technology, but we need to address it. Tony Bates does address it, but he does so largely from an institutional perspective. "Institutions want to protect students from personal data collection for commercial purposes by private companies, tracking of their online learning activities by government agencies, or marketing and other unrequested commercial or political interruption to their studies." The thing is, I don't think we can trust the institutions any more than I trust the governments or the companies.

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: 34613 today, 346860 all time.