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New Learning, New Society
Feb 23, 2015. Chang School Talks 2015, Toronto (Keynote). Share

Big data trend now being applied to managing human resources
Dianne Buckner, CBC News, Feb 27, 2015

Intesresting story in CBC rthis morning on the use of data analytics by employers to manage staffing. "A growing number of human resources executives are starting to dig deep into computerized statistical data on employees, to make decisions regarding salaries, promotions, and even benefit programs. It's a trend that excites some and worries others." Obviously such a system has potential for abuse - but on the other hand, there are obvious advantages to being able to quickly identify, recruit and promote qualified employees. The connection between this item and online learning should be clear.

What’s Wrong with the Internet?
Edward H. Baker, Strategy+Business, Feb 27, 2015

Review of Andrew Keenm's The Internet is not the Answer. "Keen argues that 'rather than democracy and diversity…all we’ve got from the digital revolution so far is fewer jobs, an overabundance of content, an infestation of piracy, a coterie of Internet monopolists, and a radical narrowing of our economic and cultural elite.'" My perspective of course is very different. Keen argues "the 'citizen' ... has suffered greatly over the past two decades through the loss of jobs, privacy, and collective identity, and a declining sense of the common good." Maybe. But many people (such as myself) have quietly benefited. We are in a cultural renaissance, a golden age of music, a flourishing of video arts. Yes, there is a concentration of wealth. But the internet didn't cause that, and frankly, I don't see how it can be overturned, except by means of the internet.

National Adjunct Walkout Day
Various authors, NAWD | Tumblr, Feb 27, 2015

As Gawker reports, "Today is "National Adjunct Walkout Day" [in the U.S. and elsewhere] when the overworked, disrespected, and underpaid adjunct professors of the world (the US, mostly) go on strike to raise awareness of the fact that, while colleges keeping getting more and more expensive, adjunct professors keep getting screwed." Or as Tiffany Kraft writes, "Over the course of 40 years, the profession devolved from one largely founded on respect and security to one that standardizes unfair labor conditions and creeping corporate gain. Clearly, the tolerance of this issue marginalizes all faculty. Foremost, we need an ideological culture shift, and then we may confront the real issues that undermine the profession, with restored ethos, voice, and action."

More: TakePartAmerica (national Catholic review), the Chronicle ("Will it make a difference?"), Slideshare presentation of the issues, the Daily Texan ("walkout begs reflection on state of US faculty"), CASA News, CPFABryan Alexander ("a deeply exploited population attempts to make its voice heard"), a snippet and short article from Inside Higher Ed, Bleeding Heart Librarians ("even though universities are culpably mismanaged, there’s little reason to feel sorry for adjuncts"), the Atlantic ("activists are wondering how to galvanize a collection of workers who drift from campus to campus"), Ontario CAFA  ("growing use of contract faculty in Ontario traps many in precarious work, threatens quality of higher education"), Storify feed, adjunct walkout Twitter Feed and Facebook page.

6 Best Practices for Developing Competency-based Job Profiles
Unattributed, HRSG, Feb 27, 2015

This is advertorial content supporting marketing for HRSG’s CompetencyCore's profile builder, but it's also a good snapshot of where learning management is heading in the corporate space (and probably in the institutional space as well). That doesn't mean everything's going to be broken down into individual competencies (though that is the vision of some). But it does mean that the traditional metric of seat-time or the credit-hour is in the process of being disrupted.

Questioning the Data
George Couros, Connected Principals, Feb 27, 2015

"There are a few things that I question when I hear schools talk about solely 'data driven'," writes George Couros. "Nothing works for everyone. Nothing.  So when we look at “proven methods”, we are often looking at something that is more focused on the “system” than an individual." Also, "there are often so many things that are going on in school, how can we really compartmentalize the 'one thing' that works?" Finally, he asks, "what is the measure of success?" Education is a complex system designed for individual needs and to serve multiple objectives. Of course no single model can describe it, let alone determine how it should operate.

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Baby Photos Online
Dimitri Tokmetzis, Matter, Feb 27, 2015

This is a sign of the growing backlash against use of the CC-by license, and may well spur additional backlash. The authors have set up a commercial website that sells coffee mugs with CC-by photos of other people's infants and children on them. "Initially, the recipients who saw those pictures were all users of Flickr — family members, friends, or maybe other amateur photographers. But by shifting the flow of information to a commercial platform, the recipients are now anyone who might be interested in buying a mug that has a picture of a kid on it. What has changed is the social context, and this is why it feels uncomfortable." Adding the 'NC' clause to your license makes such reuse illegal.

Trends in Distance Education Research: A Content Analysis of Journals 2009-2013
Aras Bozkurt,, The International Review of Research in Open, Distributed Learning, Feb 27, 2015

Some interesting nuggets in this article. It focuses entirely on research in a set of the seven most influential academic journals in the field of distance education, which would not count as my favourite data set in the world, but creates a listing based on academic journals of record. Aras Bozkurt tweets one of the findings: "#Connectivism is a rising theoretical background. @gsiemens and @Downes are among the most cited authors." In fact George Siemens has one more citation than me, making him 11th in the list, and myself 12th (the top four are Anderson, Garrison and Archer, who were my colleagues at the University of Alberta in 2000, and of course MG Moore). It's also interesting connectivism was the fourth most commonly cited theory, which I guess officially makes it a theory.

Now This Is An Example Of Truly Educational Radio
Linda Poon, NPR | Goats, Soda, Feb 27, 2015

We've heard a lot about the ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, but less about how the education system is adapting. This article fills that gap a by by describing the educational radio service that has been put into place there. It strikes me as absurd that only 25 percent of the population owns a radio (listenership is much higher, suggesting many radios are shared, but still, access to a radio should not be an issue in 2015). We are told: "That's where organizations like BRAC, one of the world's largest education organizations, have stepped in." But this to me also points to the weakness of depending on charity to provide basic social services. We need mechanisms that enlist nation-sized commitments of funds, not the dribs and drabs charities can pull in.

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:

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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

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