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by Stephen Downes
August 16, 2007

Getting Social Networks to Socialize
My recent work to implement OpenID is especially relevant in view of articles like this one as it considers the need for social networks to communicate with each other. What this requires is a system of personal identification that is not owned by any of them - and that, to my mind, is OpenID (as people like Marc Canter are saying (here too - lots of links) - odd that Michael Geist completely misses this, talking instead about Plaxo and Liberty). Today I managed to get the OpenID Consumer script working. I'm thinking about how to implement this into my login system. As I ponder these things, I read a lot and write a lot - which results in today's jam-packed issue. The posts are a bit longer than usual - but I think the length was worth it. Related: Scott Wilson discusses the OpenID group service proposal. Michael Geist, Weblog August 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

The OECD Schooling Scenarios in Brief
So what is the future of learning? The OECD draws a few scenarios for us:

1. Attempting to Maintain the Status Quo
Scenario 1.a: "Bureaucratic School Systems Continue" - The use of ICT continues to grow without changing schools' main organisational structures.
Scenario 1.b "Teacher exodus - The 'meltdown scenario'" - Widely different organisational responses to shortages - some traditional, some highly innovative - and possibly greater use of ICT.

Scenario 2.a "Schools as Core Social Centres" - ICT used extensively, especially its communication capabilities.
Scenario 2.b "Schools as Focused Learning Organisations" - Extensive use made of ICT.

3.  De-schooling
Scenario 3.a "Learning Networks and the Network Society" - A multitude of learning networks, quickened by the extensive possibilities of powerful, inexpensive ICT.
Scenario 3.b "Extending the Market Model" - A wide range of market-driven changes would be introduced into the ownership and running of the learning infrastructure, some highly innovative and with the extensive use of ICT.

Artichoke comments, "Check out the 'ICT triumphs regardless' positioning of information communication technology throughout the thought document... I suspect we may have produced a more compellingly audacious document, something without the pervasive sense that ICTs will be ubiquitous, extensive and in some ill defined way the rescuers of future schooling." Well maybe. But the world in which ICT does not triumph does not, today, seem very likely. And the characterizations of the different schools of thought are certainly to some degree accurate, enough so that I am seeing the terminology repeated elsewhere (reg. required for this one, sorry). Various Authors, OECD - CERI August 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Learning, Knowing, and Reflecting: Literacies for the 21st Century
According to this essay, "students are best prepared for the beginning of the 21st century when they know how they learn, when they convert information into knowledge, and when they document and reflect on their life-wide learning." The first is accomplished by participation in communities of practice, the second by information literacy, and the third by reflective practices such as e-portfolios. This essay fronts the new issue of International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, which is freely and openly available online.

One other article that caught my interest in this issue was Portfolio Assignments in Teacher Education: A Tool for Self-regulating the Learning Process? by Jetske Strijbos, Wil Meeus and Arno Libotton. They argue, via a study, that "Students have difficulty evaluating and re-orientating their learning process... [and] do not set and/or implement new objectives themselves." Hm. Contrast that to this: "When they suddenly had access to the course assessment plan, and could now chart their own progress through their own assessment summary sheets, the impact on their interest and enthusiasm was palpable." Barbara Cambridge, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning August 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Top Edublogs - August 2007
Interesting because McLeod estimates the size of the edublogosphere to be more than 50,000 blogs. In an analysis of 3600 of them, using Technorati link ratings, he identifies the 'top 30'. This blog is ranked fifth, behind Inside Higher Ed, apophenia (Danah Boyd's blog), Weblogg-Ed (Will Richardson) and Education Week. The other blog comes in 26th, making me (I think) the only person with two blogs in the top thirty. So what does it all mean? In a word: nothing.

For one thing, I don't agree with McLeod's argument that "The hubs and superhubs are the essential connectors, the glue that holds the network together." The diagram he uses, from Barabasi's Linked In, is simply wrong. Wrong both descriptively - it's not what the blogosphere actually looks like - and normatively - it's not what it should look like. What we are more like, and more want to be, is a mesh, and not a hub-and-spokes network.

For another, I agree with Jennifer Wagner. "No one should ever feel 'not good enough' to blog." Nor should they feel that rankings - Technorati or otherwise - are in some way indicative of the quality of the writing, despite what McLeod claims. All you have to do is to get a bunch of your friends together, create blogs, link to each other, and voila, you're powerful and influential, at least according to Technorati. Or all you need is some way to give your blog an extra boost - perhaps you can hire writers, have a print magazine, or give seminars on a daily or weekly basis where you encourage people to blog - when I was publishing the MuniMall newsletter my biggest boost in subscriptions was from the booth and talks at conferences.

Don't believe in the myth of 'rankings'. These matter to commercial media and advertisers, people who are more interested in counting eyeballs than insights. Even were the Technorati (or Feedburner) rankings accurate, they wouldn't be worth the paper they were written on. Even the idea that there could be a ranking of 'best' bloggers is mistaken. Blog beauty (as in all other things) is very much in the eye of the beholder - and whether any blog, including this one, is of any use to anyone varies according to who is reading and what they're looking for.

Related: AMS on why we don't provide usage statistics; Amy Gahran, What does Feedburner's 'reach' really mean? Scott McLeod, Techlearning blog August 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , ] [Comment]

What Will Teachers Be Like in 10 Years?
The 'Future of learning agents' conference held Tuesday in Palo Alto, based on a map of future forces affecting education (see also information aesthetics and edu.blogs), has attracted a variety of comments. Steve Hargadon, one of the attendees, noted "that the characteristics that were listed for learning-agents in 10 years are not those that are the primary measures today." Will Richardson, who was also there, comments, "where we lacked consensus was where the pressure points for real change are."

Well and good, but the event has attracted sharp criticisms from some observers. Tom Hoffman remarks, "What's striking about Will's report from the Institute for the Future's workshop on the future of teaching is the extent to which it is focused on the present... You don't need to guess about how the ideas on their cute wall charts play out. We pretty much know that already, and the people who've implemented them are happy to talk about it." James Farmer is even sharper. "I am sick and tired of people who really know very little about education and teaching mouthing off about it," he writes. Steve Hargadon, Weblog August 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Creating Learning Experiences
From time to time I talk about students not only joining communities of practice and interacting with people already working in a field, but of their contributing to the field as though they were actually practitioners (which, in fact, they are). This post describes what I mean, in a learning context, as Konrad Glogowski describes five states of learning based on his emerging practice: discover, define, immerse, build, contribute. Konrad Glogowski, blog of proximal development August 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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