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by Stephen Downes
August 13, 2008

PLEs - Designing for Change
This seems right: "establishing a learning environment, i.e. a network of people, artefacts, and tools (consciously or unconsciously) involved in learning activities, is part of the learning outcomes, not an instructional condition." Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, August 13, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Do Rewards Shape Online Discussions?
I think the author has engaged in an interesting discussion, even if I think that the study she publishes here has some serious flaws. The proposition advanced is that feedback will improve online discussions. This proposition is considered from with the context of 'feedback theory' as found within the more general context of systems theory. "Put simply, a system has interacting parts and feedback provides information to those parts in ways that maintain the system." Well and good, but there are mechanisms - back propagation, for example - where feedback does not operate as though it were pressing on little causal levers. In this paper, the feedback consists of 'rewards' - points given for quality contributions. And "it appears that these rewards did not affect students' motivation to prepare good postings." Well, no. More likely, as she says, "perhaps online discussions such as these serve multiple missions – to share knowledge and to discuss ideas -- but also to learn how to think like a graduate student (or a college student or major in the discipline) as well as how to engage others in complicated topics online." That requires a complex understanding of 'good' - and a complex understanding of 'feedback'. Via Online Universities Weblog. Katrina A. Meyer, Journal of Interactive Online Learning, August 13, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Higher Education - Dangerously Close to Becoming Irrelevant
This post reads like a news article summarizing some of David Wiley's views and activities, so it feels a bit odd reading it on his 'Open Education' blog (it was written by someone called 'Thomas', according to the RSS feed; no attribution on the web page). Despite the oddity of the presentation, the message is worth heeding: "the Internet and wealth of developing technology provide young people outside of education with a sense of 'openness, connectedness, personalization, and participation' that is simply not found at the university level today." Thomas, Open Education, August 13, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Bring On Da Noise: The Backchannel Panel
As you know, I have been experimenting with backchannel software in my presentations and panels, including one recent panel that included Michael Feldstein. Of the experience he writes, "I would first want to try having a little more preparatory dialog with them about the most productive ways to use the backchannel." Yes, it's novel now, and people will play. That was expected and - indeed -appreciated. My own take is that as the technology becomes more mainstream, people will be able to learn to use it on their own. They don't need me at the front of the room telling them how to dialogue. We always seem to have this urge to tell people how they should manage themselves. It's an urge we should resist, really. Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, August 13, 2008 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Learning Design Handbook Now Out!
Congratulations to the contributors of the Handbook of Research on Learning Design and Learning Objects: Issues, Applications and Technologies. Now - do you think you could have contributed your expertise to the field in such a way as to not require people to pay $495.00 to see it? Grainne Conole,, August 13, 2008 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

A Taxonomy of Interactivity
The taxonomy is about what you would expect, ranging from Level 0 (talking head) to Level 6 (open-ended activities). But I find it limited - it only postulates one track. Even in my conference talks, I have more than one track: me, the talking head, along with the very open-ended back-channel. Now, of course, there can be interplay between the talking head and the back-channel. In think interactivity is more complex than something that can be simply graded with a single-dimensional set of levels. Clark Aldrich, Style Guide for Serious Games and Simulations, August 13, 2008 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

First Impressions
Interesting take on edublogging by Darren Draper as he examines the first posts of numerous edublogs in contrast to what we know about them today. In my own case, the newsletter he cites, from 2001, is my first email newsletter and is only accidentally all about higher education; my 'first post' was made in 1995 (as you can see from this page) and is a transcript of an online conference in a multi-user vertual environment (yes, they existed before Second Life). Darren Draper, Drape's Takes, August 13, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Harmony and the Dream
Writing in the New York Times, David Brooks trots out that old truism that Asian countries display a collectivist mentality while western countries display an individualist mentality. This may or may not be true, as Mark Liberman comments (in great detail), but the research he cites is wrong in a deceptive and misleading manner. This is not uncommon, and I have complained elsewhere about the misrepresentation of research that occurs both in blogs and in traditional media. What bothers me is that such misrepresentation perpetuates a systematic misunderstanding of one's own society. When we look at American society, for example, e pluribus unum, with its mass media and mass movements, with its million man marches and pageants and spectacles, I see a society that is as collective in its own way as China is in its. But that said, for myself, I have long since abandoned the simplistic description of 'individualist versus collective' forms of organization, and I think that alternative forms of organization within societies bears at least as much examination as the (tired old) east-west dichotomy. David Brooks, New York Times, August 13, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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