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Open Education and Personal Learning
Apr 23, 2015. Open Education Global, Banff, Alberta (Keynote). Share

Blackboard’s “Modern-Day Pragmatism” K-12 Trend Report
Jon Kolko, Blackboard Blog, Apr 27, 2015

So today's newsletter takes a tour around some of the companies active in the field of online learning - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This post starts with some of the good. It is a report freely available from Blackboard summarizing some of its recent research on personalizing education. "An expectation of inclusion has led to personalized learning in a supportive context, but has increased the workload and demands on the individual k-12 instructor... This implies a different set of teaching methods and a different set of educational outcomes. Teachers need to become more comfortable with a broader, worldly set of skills – facilitating a cultural educational space, rather than disseminating knowledge."

Accessibility: A Journey Towards Openness
JoAnna Hunt, Blackboard Blog, Apr 27, 2015

Interesting article on Blackboard's increasing emphasis on openness - as evidenced by its support for Moodle - and accessibility. In particular, I think these activities are providing good public relations for the company: "All issues that were discovered were resolved and published back to Moodle headquarters for inclusion in the core code; a collaborative accessibility group within the global Moodle community was established to continue testing efforts." Blackboard is also pushing an initiative to create online learning for government agencies. They have an eBook on this, but you have to give them your personal information to read it. Oh well, take away those good publicity points.

Programming an Essential Literacy for the Future
Charlie Chung, Class Centreal, Apr 27, 2015

Coursera is highlighting a new course on programming in Python. One wonders why the course doesn't consist of a single page containing a link to Codeacademy. But the big news here is that they've landed Charles Severance (“Dr. Chuck”) of the University of Michigan. And yes the course "is also designed to equip people to take advantage of other programming classes that are out there (Khan Academy, Code Academy, etc.)." But this is nice (and not reaclly characteristic of Coursera): "All of his teaching materials, including his code auto-grader, can be downloaded and used under a Creative Commons license to be re-used or re-mixed for any purpose. Dr. Chuck is very emphatic about encouraging the use of his materials, he pleads: 'Please reuse my stuff!'"

New Features! Private Comments and Group Lists
Ronnie Burt, The Edublogger, Apr 27, 2015

Edublogger is touting some new features added "on both free and Pro Edublogs and will be added to all CampusPress networks next week." The blogs will now support 'provate comments', which the blog poost says "can only be created and read by those that can edit the post. This means blog admins, teachers, editors, and the author of the post." Also new are 'group and class lists' - "You will be able to see a live feed of all posts from blogs in a list as they are published." Thes rto me feel like they should have been introduced five years ago or more, but better late than never, I guess.

Prime Minister David Cameron visits Microsoft Global Showcase School Sandymoor
Andrew Robertson, Microsoft UK Schools Blog, Apr 27, 2015

Microsoft appears to have picked a side in the UK election and is campaigning with them on education issues. The occasion is a visit to Sandymoor School - "a Free School with a unique vision to provide an education for the future." There's also another article on another Microsoft feature school, Wymondham High Academy in Norfolk. According to this article: "'I am in favour of Free Schools. They give parents choice. Everyone wants the best for their children.' - David Cameron, UK Prime Minister." Whihc is a ridiculous assertion, in my view, since choice can be provided by all manner of education systems, and not just (whathe calls) free schools. I think the point of of the post is to wrap Microsoft's schools initiatives (and Office 365) with the British flag and the ideals of private education system. I don't think this emphasis does Microsoft - or the British people - any real good.

Who we are and what we stand for
John Fallon, Pearson Blog, Apr 27, 2015

John Fallon addresses Pearson's most pressing issues in an address at the annual shareholder meeting. "It has been a bruising time for our colleagues," he says. "We’ve cut 5,000 roles – mainly in print or mature markets – whilst we’ve added new roles in tech, efficacy, education, research and fast growing markets." The shift to digital learning also underscores his remarks, as he touts the Pearson System of Courses. So what aere the underlying values of the company? "Our values – to be brave, imaginative, and decent – have been tested, but ultimately they’ve been reaffirmed and strengthened – and we are working hard to reward our people. And now we’ve added a fourth value – accountability – highlighting our commitment to a simple and incredibly powerful idea – that every product we sell can be measured and judged by social impact." On the other hand, there's also this: "some folk may question whether a sense of social purpose and a profit motive can go hand in hand. We think that what makes Pearson an incredibly special company is that they always go hand in hand." So don't expect to see any good coming from Pearson unless it's also making them money.

The STAR Project
Porter Palmer, Discovery Education Network, Apr 27, 2015

Discovery Channel, which has the Discovery Education Network (DEN), is focusing on space travel and digital storytelling (I thought I was reading a Jim Groom entry at first). You have to love the Star Trek uniform in space. The two come together in what it calls The STAR project - "Share. Teach. Assist. Report." This post links to a PDF with '10 ways to start sharing'. They're also pushing a summer institute for principals, and also their spring virtual conference (featuring Don Levy (not Jim Groom) on digital storytelling).

ASU and edX, Further Thoughts
Matt Reed, Inside Higher Ed, Apr 27, 2015

The big news this week is that Arizona Statue University will in effect replace first year studies with MOOCs (that's probably an overstatement, but it will do for now). This article draws out some implications and major underlying issues (these are all quoted from the article):

  • Prior learning assessment -- the mechanism by which credit is granted -- is not covered by financial aid.
  • there’s nothing stopping someone now from taking a MOOC in a “gen ed” area and then taking a CLEP exam to get credit.
  • ASU took a nasty funding cut from the state, and responded by growing its reach (contrast with LSU, which is attempting to survive though massive cuts)
  • the edX partnership allows ASU to move failures off-book, thereby keeping its success rates high.
  • many of us in higher ed think of it as an ecosystem. ASU may have decided that it’s actually a Hobbesian war of each against all
  • the partnership is a desperate attempt to provide something resembling a business model for MOOCs.

In my view, higher education institutions should consider themselves lucky that the MOOCs provided by EdX are replacing first year. There will not be much talk of expanding the model, and the failure rate will we high, Had something like the Connectivist MOOCs and the cooperative approach taken hold, the damage to traditional institutions would have been much greater, as students would have propelled each other to success in spite of, not because of, the institution.


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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)

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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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