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by Stephen Downes
May 25, 2009

Canada's Lost e-learning Decade
I read this report on e-learning from the Canadian Council on Learning over the week-end, and Terry Anderson offers a good summary today. The report surveys the history of Canada's involvement in e-learning, compares it to initiatives in some other countries, and argues, essentially, that there has been a lock of progress and vision over the last decade, a conclusion with which Anderson agrees. Well, maybe. But there's more to this picture than meets the eye.

It doesn't bother me, I suppose, that we could have a 'state of e-learning in Canada' report without my own name in it. It would be a bit much to presume. But I don't see George Siemens in there either. Nor do I see 'connectivism' or even 'constructivism'. I can't find 'Moodle' in the report, in spite of significant Canadian support for the tool. EduSource, a major pan-Canadian e-learning project, is not mentioned at all. There is no mention of the NRC e-learning initiative. No references to Desire2Learn. Nor even Assiniboine Community College, which has been in the field since the mid-90s. Nothing, either, on the Canadian Defense Academy or the Combat Training School, which won a major award recently. None of the people quoted regularly in these pages - indeed, none of the activity regularly described in these pages - makes its way into the report. So, one wonders.

Anderson asks, "what is the point of reiterating ideas from a 2001 report (likely gathered from issues of a decade ago), without looking deeply at why the action plan was never implemented?" Good question. But the data, too, seems to be incomplete or out of date. And don't say there wasn't money for research - the Canadian Council on Learning had something like $80 million to play with, spent on nothing but research. But let's be blunt: they phoned it in. It's an old report, spiced up with a few quotes from some recent summary documents. It is not an accurate statement of the state of e-learning in Canada. It's what you get when you do your research in a library, instead of in the field.

The report is accurate in some respects. There is no national vision and no sustained funding for e-learning in Canada. Institutional support has been slim and the commercial sector has struggled. Canadian support for important initiatives such as Open Courseware or Open Educational Resources has been limited. Agencies such as the Media Awareness Network have had to struggle to mount freely available educational resources. And yet, despite the almost complete lack of official support, there is a seething hotbed of e-learning in Canada, in every province and territory. I have met so many people personally, from Gander to Whitehorse and every city in between.

Every time someone asks me where we should spend our money in e-learning, I talk about these people. You know who you are; you are the people I meet when I speak in Saskatchewan or get together with in Ontario. None of you ever make it into these official reports. But you are the heart and soul of e-learning in this country. Now I don't get to make the decisions on these things. But if I did, e-learning in this country would look very different. It would be a strategy defined by and intended to support the people who actually do e-learning in this country, and not just the usual crowd of managers and academics who talk about it.
Terry Anderson, Virtual Canuck, May 25, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , ] [Comment]

Jamendo reaches 20,000 albums
My best Jamendo find thus far has been Allison Crowe, but I'm always checking back to find more new music. People whose tastes are a little more mainstream will find even more to like at Jamendo. All free Creative Commons licensed music. The sensible alternative to proprietary prison-ware music. Mike Linksvayer, Creative Commons, May 25, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Why Publish Student Work to the Web?
Technically, this recording on YouTube. But from my perspective, any law that makes such a recording illegal is itself illegitimate, a law that simply misunderstands what it is to teach and learn within the context of a culture. And this wonderful recording is also, as Alec Couros notes, more evidence of the reason why student work should be posted online. Alec Couros, open thinking, May 25, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

The Conference Board of Canada's Deceptive, Plagiarized Digital Economy Report
Michael Geist - who reads all this stuff and was in a good position to spot it - documents what is very apparently a plagiarized report produced by the Conference Board of Canada in an effort to support the U.S. copyright lobby. "For Stephen Toope, President of UBC, and Indira V. Samarasekera, President of the University of Alberta, both members of the Conference Board of Canada board: Do they condone or support the use of plagiarism in this report? Will they ask the Conference Board of Canada to review this report and to retract it?" Michael Geist, Weblog, May 25, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Clay Shirky on Helping People Find You, Content as Mere Conversation Fodder, and Letting Users Identify Their Needs

This image, called a 'network of dense clusters' in the article, depicts what I would call a "community of communities" model. This type of network is very efficient, in the sense that messages can pass quickly through it, but if more resilient to cascade phenomena and other pitfalls more characteristic of scale free networks. The diagram introduces this interesting review of Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody. "Shirky asks, and doesn't really answer, the critical question...: How do you reach the people you want, without having to broadcast your message to everybody?" Dave Pollard, How To Save The World, May 25, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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