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by Stephen Downes
November 15, 2007

More Bogus Percentages. This Time On Wikipedia
It is worth reporting (since this newsletter has a reasonably wide readership) once again that the famous 'cone of experience' is a hoax. I've seen it debunked in several places, and on several mailing lists, over the years. But still it persists - it shows up in academic papers, education guru seminars, and now, most recently, on Wikipedia. Showing, I guess, that nothing is immune. Anyhow, Will Thalheimer has a good set of links showing where it appears and, if you scroll down, giving it a thorough debunking. Will Thalheimer, Will at Work Learning November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment]

PLEs and the Institution
The core of this post is in the diagram (which is Scott Wilson's), which takes a very institution-centric view of the personal-learning environment. My own feeling is that as PLEs become mainstream institutions can reassess whether a course-centric mode of delivery is the most appropriate. Stephen Powell, thoughts mostly about learning November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Pathfinder Journeys Now Available
Derek Morrison points to the release of these descriptions and reflections of the 'Pathfinder' projects undertaken at various UK universities. The packages are zip files, which will need to be unpackaged. projects include the Design of the ADELIE Framework for Intervention, at Leicester, and the CABLE Project (for Academy Subject Centre: Health and Sciences Practice) at Hertfordshire. Derek Morrison, Pathfinder November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Google's New Virtual Machine: Dalvik, Part of the Android Project
Google has released a virtual machine. My main experience with virtual machines is with Java - "write once, run slowly") . Though maybe with the hardware (like my PowerBook, which seems to handle virtual Windows just fine) catching up, the age of virtual machines may finally arrive. Anyhow, the Google machine "basically runs a cell phone emulator from the Eclipse IDE and compiles Java code to the Dalvik virtual machine." Doug Holton, EdTechDev November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Religious Wars
Clive Shepherd may refer to my contribution to SURF Education days as part of a "religious war", but I would point out that it's only a religious war to the side that's got religion. "I don't feel under any pressure to take a position on one educational approach or another," writes Shepherd. "Am I missing something?" Well yes, Clive, you are. And that is, the discipline of educational technology is not - or at least, it should not be - a matter of faith. What really bothered me about the paper I criticized was the poor reasoning and the poor understanding of science. Apparently some people think I was being therefore unreasonable and unfair. Yes, many teachers - including Clive Shepherd, apparently - govern their classes according to what they want (and pretend it's the value-free neutral ground that they're taking), where what they want is informed by superstition and myth (left-brain right-brain indeed). The religious wars will stop when people stop acting like it's a religion. Clive Shepherd, Clive on Learning November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

American (Perhaps North American) Kids Are Not Even Close
SETDA and ISTE have released a report outlining what they thing students should learn and how technology should help them learn it (they say it's "a shared vision of a 21st century education system," which means it isn't shared at all, but they'd like it to be). T.H.E. has a summary. What I found interesting in the report is that the core subjects, even when supplemented by four "21st century themes", amount to less than half what needs to be learned. As Raj Boora notes, "Even if all students mastered core academic subjects, they still would be woefully underprepared to succeed in postsecondary institutions and workplaces, which increasingly value people who can use their knowledge to communicate, collaborate, analyze, create, innovate, and solve problems." Raj Boora, EDITing in the Dark November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Making a Difference
'Free Rice' is a program that gives rice to the U.N. World Food Program people if you define words for them. Get the word right and you successfully donate ten grains of rice. If you're wondering how much rice that is, it's less than a spoonful. Which makes me ask, how much does rice cost? If you define words for a full hour, how much worth of rice have you donated? Well if you want to know about rice you go to rice online, which puts it between $350 to $450 per metric tonne, bagged, depending on the quality of the rice and where you buy it. According to Brett Jordan (who appears to have looked it up) 1000 grains of rice makes 26 grams. That gives each grain of rice a value of less than one one-hundredth of a cent (obviously it costs more if you buy it at Safeway, but the U.N. doesn't buy it at Safeway). So if you define one word, you have earned less than a tenth of a cent. At that rate, if you manage to define 100 words in an hour, you will have contributed 10 cents to poor people. Much less than the site is making in advertising - and rather less than if you had spent the time working at McDonalds and mailing them the cash. David Truss, Weblog November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship
The new Journal of Computer Mediated Communication is out, featuring articles on social networking, with danah boyd and Nicole Ellison guest-editing. The pair also team up to write an introduction that defines 'social network sites' ("as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system"), gives a history (with a good timeline), and then outlines the scholarship. The stuff on 'network and network structure' is pretty light and, not surprisingly, looks only at social networks (no neural nets here!).

I don't know why they focus on social networking sites, instead of the phenomenon generally - it would b interesting to see what could be made of distributed peer-to-peer social networking, like (say) instant messaging. It would at least include the contribution from R. Kelly Garrett and James N. Danziger, who write on instant messaging's disruptive effect in the workplace. They find - counterintuitively to those not used to quick communication with ICQ - "people who utilize IM at work report being interrupted less frequently than non-users, and they engage in more frequent computer-mediated communication than non-users." IM is great - it waits for you, unlike (say) a telephone call or personal visit.

You'll also be interested in Publicly Private and Privately Public: Social Networking on YouTube, by Patricia G. Lange, an interesting look at the way connections between members work in the video culture. She proposes "new categories of nuanced behavior types that are neither strictly public nor strictly private," and specifically, looks at the ways members delineate belonging to different communities. Thanks to Emma for the link. danah boyd and Nicole Ellison, Journal of Computer Mediated Communication November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment]

Overlap of User Communities in Social Networking Sites
This is the first quantification of the social network overlap problem that I've seen. How bad is it? Well, 64 percent of Facebook users also have MySpace accounts. Beyond Facebook and MySpace it drops sharply, with the sole exception of LinkedIn, which draws a lot of Ning and Plaxo users. I wish the survey had also included LiveJournal, which is often (inexplicably) left out of these social network comparisons, despite its millions of socially networked users. The original report is at Compete. Beth Kanter, Beth's Blog November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Should I Stay Or...
It's sort of odd to think of a vocabulary test as posing a moment of truth for a blogger, but that seems to be what happened to Miguel Guhlin as on the one hand the blog readability test ranked his writing as 'elementary school' level while in the same post he offers a survey asking whether he should continue blogging. Posting into the reading level meter suggests that it is written at 'genius level' - but if you find that a bit much, you can rest easy knowing that OLDaily.htm comes in at 'high school level'. Miguel Guhlin, Around the Corner v2 November 15, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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