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by Stephen Downes
July 28, 2008

EdTechTalk#81 - The Mega-Connectivism Course (Part #1)
As you know, George Siemens and I are planning to offer a course on Connectivism at the University of Manitoba this fall. The course looks like it will be interesting, which we conclude from the fact that 1200 people have so far expressed interest. So last night George and I and a few other people chatted online at Ed Tech Talk about how we were approaching the course and what the implications are. My best eye-opening moment came when I responded to someone: 1200 people is not new to me - I deal with many mroe than that every day in this newsletter. 1200 is only a big deal if we are trying to offer a traditional class. But that is exactly what we are not doing. Alec Couros, George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Leigh Blackall, Dave Cormier, Jeff Lebow and Doug Symington, Ed Tech Talk, July 28, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Patton Oswalt's Brilliant, Politically Incorrect, Graduation Speech
In the wake of Randy Pausch and this post celebrating both Pausch and Jim Valvano it seems appropriate to link to this earlier post citing from a talk by comedian Patton Oswalt. "First off," says Oswalt, "Reputation, Posterity and Cool are traps. They'll drain the life from your life. Reputation, Posterity and Cool = Fear." Right. "Secondly: The path is made by walking. And when you're walking that path, you choose how things affect you. You always have that freedom, no matter how much your liberty it curtailed. You... get to choose... how things affect you." Right again. And, finally, "There Is No Them."

Why does any of this matter? A little (very personal) story: as I was walking around Memphis, late at night, in the dark, talking to people on the street, I realized, I was not afraid. It was, for me, a very unusual feeling. You know, because you can say all this stuff about being your own person and all that, but in the end, this knowledge (like all knowledge) comes down to having the right sort of feeling, the right sort of sensation. Which, once had, is impossible to thereafter ignore (kind of like, as I have so often said, finding Waldo). We may get to choose - yes - but there is a very long journey between the choosing and the feeling, and that is what exploring the world is all about. Thomas, Open Education, July 28, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Innovations in E-Learning Symposium
Various videos are now available from the Innovations in E-Learning Symposium held in Fairfax, Virginia, early in June. These include a video of my own talk, Light, Agile and Flexible: Collaborating the Web 2.0 Way. I had previously made available a video recording, but only the semi-skilled version shot from my own video camera. I'm sure this video is much more professional (and I'll add it to my presentation page). Various Authors, Website, July 28, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Modeling and Intervening Across Time in Scientific Inquiry Exploratory Learning Environment
From the latest issue of the Journal of Educational Technology and Society: this article begins from the perspective that "exploratory learning approach is often the preference when it comes to development of computer-based learning environments" and then proceeds to examine how a dynamic decision network can supply the intelligence needed by such a system to foster interactions and other behaviours. Such systems are able to assess mastery, as demonstrated by comparisons with test results. "One of the aims of the proposed methodological approach was to provide a mechanism to explicitly visualize the evolving mastery level as the learners interact with a particular computer based learning environment." If we view mastery as a complex phenomenon, and not a simple (and testable) on-off phenomenon, then approaches like the one described in this paper will offer better, and more fine-grained, performance assessments. Choo-Yee Ting, Somnuk Phon-Amnuaisuk and Yen-Kuan Chong, Journal of Educational Technology and Society, July 28, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Competence Description for Personal Recommendations
From the latest issue of the Journal of Educational Technology and Society: the authors argue for the inclusion of complexity factors into competence descriptions by means of contextually defined 'learning and performance situations' (LPs). The definition of context employed isn't any great shakes, but it is certainly acceptable ("Tessmer and Richey (1997, p. 87) define context as 'multilevel body of factors in which learning and performance are embedded.'") Frans J. Prins, Rob J. Nadolski, Adriana J. Berlanga, Hendrik Drachsler, Hans G.K. Hummel and Rob Koper, Journal of Educational Technology and Society, July 28, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Hyperpolitics (American Style)
This is exactly right (and by no means limited to American politics): "The future looks nothing like democracy, because democracy, which sought to empower the individual, is being obsolesced by a social order which hyperempowers him" (my emphasis). Some think this might look like Wikipedia (I hope not, for reasons evident in the article) while others (such as myself) think it may look like the blogosphere. In any event, this article is worth reading. "We are all committed, we are all passionate. We merely lacked the lever to effectively translate the force of our commitment and passion into power. That lever has arrived, in my hand and yours." Mark Pesce, Edge, July 28, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

The Greatest Scandal
From where I sit, the greatest scandal is the ongoing campaign of newspapers like the Wall Street Journal against the public education system. The author of this ill-conceived report suggests that "the facts" support the advocacy of "alternatives" to the public system. What facts? The Journal tries this: "student performance at Philadelphia public schools managed by Edison and other outside providers has improved by nearly twice the amount as the schools run by the district." Edison Schools? Are they kidding? The privately run schools basically hit bottom following mis-management, near bankruptcy, and a litany of questionable practices. What other evidence does the Journal have? Well, none, unless you count the name-calling at the end of the article. In fact, of you look at systems that perform well, you will find systems that resist the creation of high-cost alternatives for a moneyed elite. Quite unlike the United States today. Editorial, Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Open Web Foundation
Scott Wilson reports on the launch of the Open Web Foundation, announced at OSCON last week. The purpose of the Foundation is to "create a home for community-driven specifications" such as oAuth and OpenID. Wilson questions the need for the Foundation: "On the other hand, what about IETF? What about W3C? What about ISO? What about UN/CEFACT?" Perhaps it's the way they characterize themselves as 'not a standards body'. Why? "Stephen Walli at OSCON this week: Standards are how companies declare war against the market leader." Models discussed include the Apache incubation model and the OASIS specifications body. Scott Wilson, Scott's Workblog, July 28, 2008 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Cuil (pronounced 'cool') launches today. Cuil is a new search engine that reports searching more than 121 billion web pages. It's nice and snappy, but the results ordering is questionable. Also, while I like the little images it associates with the link results, these could be done better, as I saw my own image associated with other people's pages. The drop-down category listings, though, are quite nice. See especially the search for e-learning. Various Authors, Website, July 28, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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