New Learning, New Society

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How do you promote e-learning?
Grainne Conole,, May 07, 2015

Grainne Conole has the task "to promote the use of technology for learning, teaching and research" in her new position at Bath. My first reaction was, people still need to be convinced? But, OK, I get that. Then I looked at her suggestions for activites, and to me at least, they seemed to be based mostly on in-person events, or in one case, participation in e-learning sessions. This caused me to reflect on how I would do it, if I were in a similar role. When I was at Assiniboine Community College in 1995 I had a similar task (hence my first reaction, some 20 years later!) and the one thing that had the greatest effect was to send all staff a copy of the budget through their email even before it was covered in the evening news. And I think that's key -- don't tell them how, make them see ehy. If they understand it's important, they'll figure it out (and then you can't help), but if they don't get it, all the how-to sessions in the world won't help.

The Hague Declaration
Various authors, Website, May 07, 2015

I've only signed one of these declarations that have come out over the years, and that was the Cluetrain Manifesto, which really did seem to me to represent a new way of looking at the world. Generally, though, the manifestos are too narrow and too parochial to allow me to sign. Such, it seems to me, is the case here. The Declaration calls to free access to the tight to data-mine intellectual property. "Licences and contract terms that regulate and restrict how individuals may analyse and use facts, data and ideas are unacceptable," they argue. "It is unacceptable that technical measures in digital rights management systems should inhibit the lawful right to perform content mining." I sort of see where they're going with this - but at the same time, it leaves me wondering whether my robots.txt file runs afoul of their objectives (or would, if it were more restrictive). And I'm definitely not in favour of "CC-BY for publications and CC0 for research data" - this just turns all my stuff into grist for commercial content mills, which is not what it was created for.

Canada is a Hot Spot for Creative and Imaginative Developments in Online Learning
Unattributed, Contact North, May 07, 2015

As the author says, "Canada is a hot spot for creative and imaginative developments in online learning and open educational resources (OER)." There's a list of names, far from comprehensive - I could easily double it with equally significant contributions. The 'hot points' miss the mark a bit (OERs, French language, First Nations, innovation, PSEs), as do the trends (growth, collaboration, quality). But it gives a glimpse of what Canada has contributed to the field.

The Word David Brooks Dare Not Speak
John Warner, Inside Higher Ed, May 07, 2015

This article is useful for exposing, as the author says, the Rosetta Stone of David Brooks's account of character. "We first have an admission that indeed, capitalism is not without flaw, though in classic Brooks dialectic, the problem is not structural, but individual, moral." Why? Because capitalism, if based strictly on greed, doesn't work. "If everybody is just chasing material self-interest, the invisible hand won’t lead to well-functioning markets. It will just lead to arrangements in which market insiders take advantage of everybody else." But regulations and structural reforms won't address this, he argues. Only individual character - and specifically, the pursuit of something other than material self-interest - will work. Personally, I find the flaws in this reasoning self-evident.

Elsevier's Free MOOC Prepares Med Students for Licensing Exam
Press Release, Elsevier, May 07, 2015

Here's another MOOC business model - MOOC as a loss leader for textbook sales. And 'free MOOC' as pilot (it reads as though they will charge fees for later iterations of the MOOC). "The success of the Crush Step 1 MOOC pilot will help Elsevier evaluate its ability to work within the MOOC model and develop trusted content that informs and engages medical students," said Theodore O'Connell, MD, author of Crush Step 1. "Using results from the pilot, Elsevier will understand how we might develop a full USMLE course and other course guides." Of course, the MOOC starts with a detailed registration form - so I don't think they don't really get the idea of 'open'.

Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, May 07, 2015

Here's another example of the use of MOOCs to ease entry into degree programs. If you graduate with the all-MOOC MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign you'll end up paying the same fees as anyone else - but if you don't need the credential you can get a certificate for a lot less, and you can take courses for free well inot the program. There's a certain point, of course, at which all of these cease being MOOCs, because the university seems to have lost the meaning of the work 'open'. The model is called "fractional learning" and looks like it is going to spread well beyond Arizona and Illinois. It's called the iMBA and is delivered through Coursera.

8-Year Old Creates Stunning Victory For Gender Equality
Leslie Salzillo, Daily Kos, May 07, 2015

I'm always sceptical when I read headlines about the great accomplishments of 8-year-olds like this, because I know that they require a lot of support from their parents just to get in the door of major publishers, not to mention deciding what to say and how to say it. But I also really like it when they (and their parents) do have an impact like that, because it's so good for the child, and it's so good for society to have children having an impact on major policy decisions. We should do it more often. So Kudos to Els of North London for convincing a number of publishers to do away with the harmful 'for girls' and 'for boys' lables on books.

Four Scenarios on the Future of Credentials
Leila Meyer, Campus Technology, May 07, 2015

I'm not really a fan of the 'scenario-building' approach to projecting future trends, but it's all the range these days and so not surprising to see employed in this report (which is overall a pretty good overview of the environment). Here are the four scenarios (quoted from the study (17 page PDF)):

  • “All Roads Lead to Rome,” imagines a future in which degrees awarded by the K-12 and post-secondary sectors still serve as the dominant form of credentials."
  • “The Dam Breaks,” explores a future in which the employment sector accepts new forms of credentials, such as micro-credentials, on a standalone basis.
  • Every Experience a Credential,” considers what credentials might look like if new technologies enabled every experience to be tracked and catalogued.
  • “My Mind Mapped,” imagines a future (with) breakthroughs in both the mapping and tracking of brain functions.

The universities are pursuing scenario 1, naturally. Most others are pursuing scenario 2. We are pursuing scenario 3. Nobody is really pursuing scenario 4, because it will be decades before the technology becomes practical, and would raise serious social and moral issues.

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(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

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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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