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by Stephen Downes
February 16, 2007

Toward a New Knowledge Society
My presentation to the VENUS seminar on Wednesday. In this talk I describe connective knowledge, and in particular I compare it with traditonal knowledge, both on the level of generalizations (which correspond to pattern recognition) and concrete particulars (which correspond to complex linkages between entities). The online seminar was seen in six European locations as well as streamed online. (Click the title of this post to see my new-style presentation page. Enclosure should also be working, for those who like to listen to podcasts.) Presentation by Stephen Downes, Virtual and E-mobility for Networking Universities in Society (VENUS), online, [Link]

Courses Vs. Content: Online Offerings From Major Institutions Are Not Created Equal
A look at the differences between open learning, as offered by MIT's OpenCourseWare project, and open learning, as offered by the Open University. Published in eLearn Magazine, February 12, 2007. Stephen Downes, February 16, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

The Future Wave of School Volunteerism: Be the Textbook
Vicki Davis's heart is in the right place, and her proposal to have people volunteer, via Skype connections, to teach online at a school "in the most impoverished areas" (I assume she means areas in the United States) echoes comments made here and elsewhere to the effect that the future of learning online is one in which every person is a teacher. Here, for example. But why Skype? Why volunteers? And why only the disadvantaged? Education isn't some sort of charity to be meted out by volunteers at their convenience. It is a social necessity. And like other essential services, such as food and shelter support or health care, it should be fully funded from tax dollars, and distributed in equal proportions to each child in the community. Vicki Davis, Coot Cat Teacher Blog February 16, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

America's Perfect Storm
The release of the NCLB report in the United States has prompted many to consider the relation between learning and prosperity. The Public Education Network applauds the report as a "first step" but calls for more resources. The Annenburg Institute, though, asks "what is proficiency?" As Robert Rothman notes, "NCLB leaves the definition of proficiency up to each state - and states have defined it in widely varying ways." One wonders about the advantage of such confusion.

The bottom line on NCLB, though, seems to be this: no change. Despite the focus on education, despite the focus on reform, despite the focus on standards and testing, achievement rates remain flat and the socio-economic gap remains. Anyon and Greene argue, "the Act does function as a substitute for the creation of decently paying jobs for those who need them." And not a very good substitute.

The Educational Testing Service reports: * substantial disparities in skill levels (reading and math) * seismic economic changes (widening wage gaps) * sweeping demographic shifts (less education, lower skills). And it seems to me that what we are seeing is one attempt at education reform after another as a substitute for addressing the persistent and pervasive problem standing in the way of achievement in society: the ever widening gap in socio-economic status and opportunity. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Various Authors, Educational Testing Service February 16, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Does the Business Community Give a Damn About Kids?
Roger Schank's criticism misses the mark a bit, as the report he cites comes from the New Media Consortium, which isn't exactly the 'business community' (though there's an overlap). His comment, though, is interesting: "Money will be spent on things that actually have nothing to with education in the hope to make a buck by calling it education." Roger Schank, The Pulse February 16, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

EU to Push Online Publication of Scientific Data
With the publishers on the sidelines pleading for leniency, the European Commission is going ahead with plans to ensure that scientific data and the results of scientific research are freely available online. Funny, I didn't see any leniency on the part of publishers when users were pleading for an access system that involved reasonable pricing and less stringent DRM. Paul Meller, InfoWorld February 16, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

U Learning = Elearning + Mlearning
This is quite a good presentation (slides in PDF, ugh) describing the integration of learning resources and communications to support learning using handheld computers at Monash. There are bits that don't appear to me - like the use of Microsoft's ASP.Net to implement the service (there's that whole 'closed architecture' that characterizes mobile learning again) but the sections on technical considerations and educational considerations are basically spot-on. Via Anne Paterson. Janet Fraser, Monash February 16, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

OER Commons: Open Educational Resources
Jorge Goncalves cites from the website: "OER Commons is the first comprehensive open learning network where teachers and professors (from pre-K to graduate school) can access their colleagues' course materials, share their own, and collaborate on affecting today's classrooms. It uses Web 2.0 features (tags, ratings, comments, reviews, and social networking) to create an online experience that engages educators in sharing their best teaching and learning practices." The materials seem to be drawn mostly from universities participating in OpenCourseWare initiatives. I applaud the project, of course, but in browsing the courses found myself feeling uneasy about the skew of the courses. We need to see courses from China, Iran and India in the same space. Jorge Goncalves, Learning Online Info February 16, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Wikiversity, Wikieducator Please Join and Make Wikilearner
Leigh Blackall is forced by site outage to shift his attention from Wikiversity - a Wikipedia style online learning platform - to Wikieducator, a similar project set up in December, 2006, by the Commonwealth of Learning. "Wikieducator has made fantastic progress since last I looked," he writes. "Apart for a range of great tutorials, the key players in wikieducator have been more innovative and experimental in my view. They now have a web based IRC chat facility on the main nav - which is getting closer to Teemu's vision of a VOIP supported community learning network; they support media embedding, they use funky templates to play around with navigation and content layout, and they already have some significant contributions." Well good, but I wonder about his call for the two to join forces. Sure, they my be doing the same thing, but the management styles, I suspect, are miles apart. Leigh Blackall, Learn Online February 16, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Desktop Sidebar - Getting Rid of Desktop Widgets and Still Having It All
I pay little attention to web page widgets because I find they slow down the page and are much more interesting to the page owner than to the page user. Desktop widgets are more interesting, save that they're mostly an Apple thing and would be covered by my applications. Enter the Desktop Sidebar, which almost takes us back to the days of PointCast. I think we're close to something like a breakthrough here. Luis Suarez, ELSUA ~ A KM Blog February 16, 2007 [Link] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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