I lead the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics. I am one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course, write about online and networked learning, have authored learning management and content syndication software, and am the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily.


  • Association of Medical Educators of Europe (AMEE) E-Learning Symposium, Glasgow, Scotland, September 6, 2015.

  • Ghent, Belgium, March 30, 2015.

  • Chang School Talks 2015, Ryerson University, February 23, 2015.

  • Hackademia, Online, to Brazil, March 16, 2015.

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WhatsApp users to receive adverts


Readers of my social network accounts will know that I have shuttered my Facebook accounts and ceased using that service. The reason is that Facebook disabled the ad blocker I use in Firefox in order to force advertisements into the news stream. I have also made sure to uninstall WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook) from my phone. You should too. It's not just that WhatsApp will start sending you advertisements (and remember, you are paying for the data transfer WhatsApp uses). WhatsApp is also going to share your phone number with Facebook, according to newly updated terms of service. Facebook asserts, "Nothing you share on WhatsApp, including your messages, photos, and account information, will be shared onto Facebook or any of the Facebook family of apps for others to see." But it should be noted that, according to the BBC report, "Facebook will still receive data in some situations." So there's that.

Today: 261 Total: 261 BBC News, 2016/08/26 [Direct Link]

Adobe E-Learning Community


Adobe has launched a new e-learning community which they say is "a place where you can connect with peers, engage with a universe of experts, and pick top Adobe brains on just about anything. From blogs, tutorials, and product conversations, to event notifications, news and updates and much more." It seems mostly focused on Captivate, which is not surprising given their push to market their Captivate LMS, which was announced last year. Here's a review from last December. The site encourages you to "play all kinds of content seamlessly with our Fluidic Player that also allows note-taking to facilitate revision. Foster a learning culture using gamification and mobile learning." Here's a marketing piece from Adobe on the LMS.

Today: 328 Total: 328 Adobe, 2016/08/25 [Direct Link]

Folk Psychology as a Theory


Given a substantive revision this past week, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on folk psychology is well worth reading. The idea behind folk psychology is that we can explain the behavior of humans in terms of their possessing mental states. For example, we say that a person 'knows' what the capital of Paris is, that he 'believes' Paris is in Europe, or that she 'wants' to go there. These mental states are representational states and can be thought of as holding 'mental content'. Most everyone believes some version of this theory (hence it's title as a 'folk' theory) and it permeates educational theory. That's why it's important to study this article. And it should also be noted here that my own 'belief' is that the theory is wrong, that there are no representations, mental contents, etc., and that cognitive processes are not linguistic, logical or computational processes. See eliminative materialism.

Today: 201 Total: 681 Ian Ravenscroft, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016/08/24 [Direct Link]

On the value or otherwise of SAMR, RAT etc.

This is a topic that could occupy the rest of your day if you let it. Don't.


Here is the argument: "SAMR is not a model of learning.... SAMR does not relate to skills; it does nothing to develop the higher order skills of Bloom’s revised taxonomy: creativity, evaluation, analysis – the areas that we clearly need to focus on and develop with our young people." SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) may indeed may be derived from RAT (Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation). But the criticism is that SAMR lacks "a body of appropriate, peer-reviewed academic research, demonstrating the benefit of the SAMR model in improving outcomes for learners." Contrary to what the critics say, references to SAMR are to be found in peer reviewed literature - here, for example, or here, here, here, and on for several pages in Google Scholar (hard to find because 'Samr' is also a popular first name).

But all the above is pure straw man argument. Here's the real argument, as offered by Charlie Love: "the SAMR model degrades/demeans meaningful technology based learning activities and directs teachers to think of their use of technology as insufficient if it is not 'transformative'." And this version I've seen a lot. I've even used it. For example: "it is a waste of time and technology to simply use Second Life to recreate the classroom experience." Or "digital technology could be used much better than simply recreating flashcards for memorization." Against that Love argues, "the whole reason to bother with substitution/augmentation tasks is to gain the efficiencies of time, reduce the level of administration and reduce opportunities for learners to go down the wrong path." That's fine - but there is a ton of literature showing you can and should use technology to go beyond your original teaching task. 

Today: 255 Total: 799 David T. Jones, The Weblog of (a) David Jones, 2016/08/26 [Direct Link]

The entry and experience of private providers of higher education in six countries


There's a lot in this report (97 page PDF) and it should be read in full. The experience of private institutions varies a lot from country to country - they may increase access in a country like Brazil while doing nothing to increase in a country like Australia. And there's this, which stood out to me: "There is very limited evidence to suggest that the presence of the private sector, in the countries studied, has improved the quality of provision or driven down prices in either the public or private sectors. Indeed, relative to the public sector, the quality of provision in the private sector is often found wanting, while tuition fees usually are higher." As University World News reports, the system  requires "better regulation to reduce the 'often considerable' risk to students, according to a six-country study."

Today: 312 Total: 998 Stephen Hunt, Claire Callender, Gareth Parry, Higher Education Funding Council for England, 2016/08/24 [Direct Link]

How Twitter Got Angry


This is a surprisingly insightful article on the dynamics of Twitter abuse (surprising because the title and lede are so very very bad). "The 'everyone sees everything' worldview of web comments was first transcended by Twitter, driving its initial vibrant culture and rapid growth. But then the explicitly engagement-amplifying changes brought in many of these old assumptions implicitly, bringing back those problems." The problem is with the "everyone sees" part of the equation; massification creates marketing, which creates abuse. "What if, under a popular tweet, instead of seeing all the replies by default, we saw only those from people both ourselves and the post author followed?" What is we could dial it out or back, by degrees of separation? The only way to stop abuse is to prevent them from getting into our inbox in the first place. Unfortunately for Twitter, that is also the cure for marketing.

Today: 163 Total: 737 Kevin Marks, Fast Company, 2016/08/25 [Direct Link]

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
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