New Learning, New Society

New Today

Writing an online, open textbook: is it worth it?
Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Jul 06, 2015

The answer, unsurprisingly, was "yes" (though you have to read a fair way into the article to see this). The interesting bits, though, concern the function of PressBooks as a way to write an open textbook (the good: it was relatively easy to use; the bad: persistent hacking attacks, and exporting images into the various formats. Also, despite Tony Bates's credentials, professors still didn't want their students citing it because it wasn't peer reviewed (I have this issue as well, made all the more difficult because I don't write typical journal articles that peer reviewers like). But still, as Bates writes, "I was able to go from initial idea to final publication of the book in 15 months. I have had a publisher take that long from handover of the final draft to publishing. For a book of this kind, quick publishing is important otherwise it starts to look out of date, even if the main foundations do not change." Also worth noting: the cost of producing the book was $80 - $130K.

Working in Blackboard
Jenny Mackness, Jul 06, 2015

Once many years ago I authored a course on introductory ethics in Blackboard. It was a good course; sadly I've lost all the content. Anyhow, what I remember was that I had to insert my own links from page to page, writing the code myself, to give students an intuitive flow from one page to the next in the environment. It is this sort of attitude I think that characterizes Jenny Mackness's post on working in Blackboard today. Sure, she writes, there are a lot of restrictions. But what do you tell people who have to work in the system? "We have to recognise what the positives of working within an LMS might be," she argues, "acknowledge the constraints, keep an open mind, be willing to experiment (and fail sometimes) and look for ways to overcome the constraints."

Why character development in education might not be such a good idea
Nick Hassey, Think Tank Review, Jul 06, 2015

"This is something I often ponder," writes Doug Belshaw in his newsletter. "I've been discussing it recently with friends and family recently, too. 'Character education' or 'grit', however, is a very right-wing concept taken down pretty well in this response to a recent Demos report." The report essentially asserts that there is no scientific basis for promoting character or 'grit' - either is is an inherent personal trait resistant to enhancement by education, or it is irrelevant in educational outcomes. We don't know. But more, to my mind, appeals to 'grit' are code for saying someone's culture (or race, or religion) makes them constitutionally resistant to education, which is a pernicious position at best (and flat out false at worst).

Prior Learning Assessments Done Right
Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, Jul 06, 2015

Longish article about prior learning assessment (PLA) at Empire State College, "everything to do with the kind of humane and truly personal education that we should be talking about when we throw around phrases like 'personalized education.'" The focus is on PLA for women of colour; according to Feldstein "PLA (is) more impactful than average for women and people of color... By recognizing that they have, in fact, already acquired college-level skills and knowledge, PLA helps them get past the insults to their self-image and dignity and helps them to envision themselves as successful college graduates."

The Social-Network Illusion That Tricks Your Mind
MIT Technology review, Jul 06, 2015

The subhead is this: "Network scientists have discovered how social networks can create the illusion that something is common when it is actually rare." It depends on the number of connections. Three people might own motorcycles, but if they're loners, it might seem like nobody owns motorcycles. But if they're really well connected, it might seem like everybody owns motorcycles. It's called "the majority illusion", and as the authors say, "the majority illusion can be used to trick the population into believing something that is not true." Here's the full paper.

HOTS for Bloom’s, part 1
Kathy Schrock, Discovery Education Network, Jul 06, 2015

When you use an acronym in your title you have some obligation to define it in the article, but that doesn't happen here, so I did some searching to determine that 'HOTS' means 'Higher Order Thinking Skills' (presumably 'LOTS' means 'lower order thinking skills). This article relating HOTS to Bloom's Taxonomy (and Bloom's revised) gives some pause for thought, which is useful. But the meaning of 'higher order' bothers me. Verbs related to 'creating' are counted as HOTS. But ants create. Beavers create. Birds create. Are they capable of higher order thinking? We can find similar examples of lower-order thinkers such as cats and raccoons 'analyzing' and 'evaluating'.  Are these even 'skills'? My first thought on reading the acronym was that they were 'strategies'. So while this characterization seems natural at first blush, something else is going on.

New ADL #mLearning Design Reference model: adjust to your needs
Inge de Waard, Ignatia Webs, Jul 06, 2015

Inge de Waard reports that Peter Berking, lead of the MoTIF project, has released the newly adapted mLearning Design Reference model, and is now inviting us all to have a look at the reference model, and adapt it to our own needs." The MoTIF project (Mobile Training Implementation Framework) is an ADL initiative currently focused on a model that "embodies and integrates mobile learning constraints and best practices at the fundamental level of the design process itself, leading the ISD to consider using alternative learning approaches, unique mobile device capabilities, and leveraging context and usage patterns of users in ways that desktop DL and classroom learning do not usually address."

Universities push for higher fees
Sean Coughlan, BBC News, Jul 06, 2015

British universities are learning very well what North American universities have known for some time, that it is easier to convince governments to increase fees paid by students than it is to increase direct government expenditures. Any old excuse will do. 'These changes should be made now to ensure universities can continue to provide high quality education that meets the needs of students,' she (Janet Beer, vice-president of Universities UK) said." Yeah. 'Quality'.

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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

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.
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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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