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by Stephen Downes
April 27, 2009

New Technology Supporting Informal Learning
From my Half an Hour blog, in preparation for the Challenges 2009 conference in Braga, Portugal: "This paper describes experimentation in the development of distributed online courses and in software - particularly, the personal learning environment - that support the formation of connections between the far-flung pieces of such courses. This work, in turn, is suggesting and supporting the model of a course network supporting and informing an ever-shifting set of course episodes. The intent of such systems is to to facilitate the conversation and interaction around episodic learning events in a distributed environment, transforming them from elements in a linear flow-based design to free-floating objects in an environment." Enjoy. Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, April 27, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Tutorial: Writing Timed Essays That Aren't Crap
The casual language is a bit off-putting, but I really like this approach taken to demonstrate to students not merely the finished product but also the thinking process that takes place when writing an essay. "Here are the second and third parts, in which students get inside this writer's head as he talks through and composes his essay. They hear the thoughts, they see the sentences form, all in real time. (Don't tell me technology can't improve instruction.)" I need to do that - I need to create some videos in which I logically deconstruct (and tear apart) some argumentative pieces. Clay Burell,'s Public Education Blog, April 27, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Network Structure of Swine Flu Pandemic
It is way too early to start calling this a pandemic. Nonetheless, as Valdis Krebs illustrates with diagrams of actual data, the swine flu outbreak nicely illustrates the 'cascade phenomenon' in a network. This is what happens when every node is very quickly infected in a runaway phenomenon. As Krebs suggests, the density of connections is a factor. "The network structure that enhances the transmission of good contagions -- such as ideas, solutions, and knowledge, can also be used to transmit bad contagion such as disease and fear." But it is not the only factor. A healthy population, an effective vaccine - these are things that slow and even stop a pandemic. That's why network structure needs to be resilient, why it's not simply a matter of connecting people, but rather, connecting them in the right way. Valdis Krebs, T N T - The Network Thinker, April 27, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

An Internet Bandwidth Bonanza Coming to Africa
I am less optimistic than the headline writer because I am more likely to believe that corporations will find ways to continue cartel pricing of bandwidth in Africa. But though pessimistic I am still allowed to hope that something will intervene to sway 'market forces' from their usual path. Africa deserves a break; broadband internet at reasonable prices would certainly be one. Edward Cherlin, OLPC News, April 27, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Thinking Differently, Thinking the Same
I am sympathetic with this point of view: ""Transform the traditional dissertation.... there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text. As financial pressures on university presses continue to mount, publication of dissertations, and with it scholarly certification, is almost impossible." I am also sympathetic with others, who say they must publish 'within the system' in order to be recognized (and, indeed, I publish that way myself from time to time). I think that we as a discipline need to be more forthcoming in recognizing less traditional approaches - and at the same time, to cease rewarding those who do their entire work in traditional academic form. Scott Walter, ACRLog, April 27, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

My Internet Is Not the Same As Your Internet
Some coverage, finally, of the increasing practice of denying access to websites based on location. These restrictions are being blamed on copyright; thus, Hulu, for example, asserts that access in Canada is blocked due to copyright restrictions. But the real reason is that the market is not deemed profitable enough to serve. "The earnings, however, are very different; compared to the US, in India, Brazil, Poland or China these sites are earning next to nothing." Well, while the laws of the marketplace make this fragmentation of the internet a virtual certainly, we would hope that a broader sensibility prevails. People should not link to or embed players that will not play everywhere. Commercial censorship is as unacceptable as political censorship, and it doesn't matter that the mechanism that creates it is unfeeling and amoral. Related: the same trend in online music. Stan Schroeder, Mashable, April 27, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

My Bullied Son's Last Day On Earth
Because, you know, it takes a lot more than just a pledge to end bullying. It takes our understanding that it is wrong for any of us to deman any person for whatever we may think is 'wrong' with them. "Anti-gay language is really the ultimate weapon for a bully who wants to degrade his or her peers," she says. "And any effective response to bullying has to take that on." Mallory Simon, CNN, April 27, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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