by Stephen Downes
March 23, 2009
The New Nature of Knowledge
On my way home Friday I took the time to read Tony Bates on the question of whether knowledge is changing in the internet age, and to add my response arguing that, yes, knowledge is changing. Bates responded, clarifying a number of his points, and I answered back, clarifying a number of mine.
The key point, to me, is this: "The central tenet of emergence theory is that even if stuff flows from entity to entity, that stuff is not knowledge; knowledge, rather, is something that 'emerges' from the activity of the system as a whole. This network - and subnets with the network (aka 'patterns of connectivity') - may be depicted as knowledge. A second way of representing knowledge, and one that I embrace in addition to the first for a variety of reasons, is that patterns of connectivity can be recognized or interpreted as salient by a perceiver."
Why is this important? Because if this description of knowledge is correct, then the methods and objectives of traditional academic enquiry - "deep understanding, general principles, empirically-based theories, timelessness, etc." - are misplaced, and should be abandoned. Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: Networks, Academia] [Comment]
What I Do
Every once in a while I like to report directly on what I'm doing in my employment at the National Research Council, and this is one such time. The post linked here is taken directly from my Performance Planning and Review document and documents what I did last year and what I'm doing next year. Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]
The Laptop Backlash
We are seeing reports of a backlash to laptops in the classroom - not surprisingly the Chronicle of Ancient Education is right in there to tell us about "professors increasingly frustrated by students who use laptops for non-class activities." Meanwhile, in the real world, the state of Main - well known for its pioneering laptop program - is now set to expand its laptop initiative. Because the technology really works, if you can get past the grump. Unattributed, Board Buzz, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: Schools, Online Learning, Portable Computers] [Comment]
The Impact of High School Distance E-Learning Experience On Rural Students' University Achievement and Persistence
"The results of this analysis," write the authors, "suggest that first year university performance and persistence is significantly different for students who have previous experience with on-line education experiences and those who do not." This is a result that makes sense to me, based on my own work in rural Manitoba. The survey is substantial, "of a census sample of 2,515 first year rural university students enrolled during the 2003-04 through 2005-06 academic years." The authors write, "these results provide support for the provision of on-line education in high school as an alternative to the traditional face-to-face classroom format." Of course, given the greater choices and access e-learning offers, there would be good reason to support e-learning in rural communities even if university-level persistence were the same, especially for those who never make it to university at all. Charlene Dodd, Dale Kirby, Tim Seifert and Dennis Sharpe, Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: Schools, Online Learning, Experience, Academia] [Comment]
Good Morning Yahoo
Jon Harman recommended this to me. I really like the format - nice big video screen, and a sequence of stories I don't have to search for. But what we need now is some way to use the same system but without the pap that counts for news today (as I watched it in the afternoon, it contained a basketball story, a Zoo birthday story, scuba rehab for soldiers, self-promotion at work, twittering brain surgery, haircuts for cancer, outlawed porch sofas, and a bit on Geoffrey Canada (which was the best of the lot)). I'm sure I could put together a better set of videos, especially with an entire community to help. I'm sure most people could. Various Authors, Yahoo!, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: Twitter, Video, Canada, Yahoo!] [Comment]
Learning Technology Products 2009
Brandon Hall has released this document as a free 526-page report containing "short one- to three-page profiles of the products featured in three Brandon Hall Research KnowledgeBases: Authoring Tool KnowledgeBase, LMS KnowledgeBase, and the LCMS KnowledgeBase." This is a direct download with no subscription barriers (good job!). The profiles are pretty brief, but they give you the lay of the land, websites and contact info, in addition to a brief overview of the product.
Various Authors, Brandon Hall, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: Subscription Services, Content Management Systems] [Comment]
Media Giants Asking Google To Weight Its Content Higher
My take is, if media giants want better Google ranking, they can do it the same way the rest of us have to: by writing good credible content that is freely accessible and widely linked. They haven't done this, and giving them extra weight would reflect only their wealth, and not their credibility or reliability. But that said, watch for a lot more of those sort of attempt to manipulate search results or to otherwise reduce the range of options and alternative sources available to most readers. More from Ad Age and from Bryan Alexander. Mike Masnick, TechDirt, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: Google, Accessibility] [Comment]
Social Learning Survey
Elliott Masie reports on the results of a social learning survey returned by 1069 of his newsletter readers. It goes without saying that this sample will have a certain significant inclination to use technology in learning, which will be reflected in the results. According to the survey, there is a recent surge in interest, but not a large corporate uptake yet. Elliott Masie, The Masie Center, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: Newsletters] [Comment]
Personal Learning Networks - The Beginning
Dave Warlick attributes the term 'Personal Learning Network' to George Siemens's 2004 paper, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. In the comments I add that the term 'Personal Learning Network' is directly derived from 'Personal Learning Environment', which as this history shows was first used at the The Personal Learning Environments Session at a JISC/CETIS Conference in 2004 (this comment has yet to be approved by moderators as of this writing). Warlick wonders why he is being asked about the origin of the term: it could be because he has been busy popularizing it, as in this ISTE magazine article. For an overview of the concept of the PLN, see Lucy Gray's new slide show on the topic, and this presentation from David Jones on PLEs. Also, one of the most interesting PLNs I've found out there is this one by Chris Smith. Dave Warlick, 2 Cents Worth, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: Connectivism, Personal Learning Environment, Wikipedia, Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)] [Comment]
Better with Pie: Feed2JS 2.0! Testers Wanted
This item led me to a nice discovery, the new SimplePie RSS reader for PHP. What I really like about it (I went exploring through the code) is that it allows designers to write functions that extend the RSS it can read. For example, there are extensions for custom Digg fields and custom YouTube fields (this lack of extensibility in Perl RSS reading modules has been an ongoing source of frustration for me). Alan levine, CogDogBlog, March 23, 2009 [Link] [Tags: Video, RSS, YouTube] [Comment]
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