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by Stephen Downes
June 16, 2009

Passing of a scholarly friend
We are all saddened to learn today of the passing of Robin Mason. "Robin was an influential and important figure in the development of computer conferencing for educational applications. She worked for many years at the British Open University and there she was the first to develop computer conferencing for large scale implementations." I interacted with Robin on a number of occasions and paired with her in a 2000 online debate: Online Learning: Your Dream, My Nightmare. We were the 'dream team'. Reading and reporting on death always makes me angry, as it's such a terrible waste, and this is no more evident than in the present case. Posts from Martin Weller. Robin Mason's home page. Terry Anderson, Virtual Canuck, June 16, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Chronicle Article on the Internet and Student Writing
Mike Caulfield: "If I was trying to make an argument that the explosion of social media has adversely affected student writing (as Bauerlein does later in that article) I am not sure I would choose a test that shows writing gains since social media began to take hold around the turn of the millennium." But that's the Chronicle of Higher Education for you. And even were writing in decline, as Alex Reid asks, "Why not ask whether academic writing makes you a better user of social media?" He argues, "The real problem with this whole debate is the continuing mythology that there exists some generalizable academic discourse. In the Chronicle article, Keller notes that skeptics believe social media genres 'have little relevance to the kind of sustained, focused argument that academic work demands.' Really? and what 'kind' would that be?" Alex Reid, digital digs, June 16, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

The Cloud and Collaboration
This is a paper I wrote as a contribution to the Ars Electronica symposium on Cloud Intelligence. "If we are to think of the internet as a global mind, then the interpretation of the community created by such a network as characterized by cooperation, rather than collaboration, then we need to reframe some of the discussion regarding the attributes of that network, and reform our understanding of the processes and the technologies most appropriate for the creation of such a network." Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, June 16, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Opera Unite for Windows/Mac/Linux gives you immediate access to group or personal learning spaces
I said it on Twitter this afternoon and I'm saying it here this evening. I am formally declaring web 3.0 to have arrived. Web 3.0 (someone (probably O'Reilly) will probably trademark some unique name for it) is not the semantic web, and it's not the 3D web. It's what we see in Opera Unite (and especially when combined with what we see in Google Wave). And what we see, crucially, is your web browser acting as a web server. You might think, who cares? But it's a game-changer. Ann that stuff we depend on web 2.0 service providers for - social networks, shared documents and photos, chat rooms, etc. - we can run off our own desktop with no special knowledge. We will (eventually) be able to host our own (Google) waves. Now Unite is not yet ready for prime time - my experiments with the chat application were unbearably slow. But the threshold has been crossed. The web will never be the same. More from Wired, George Siemens, Brian Kelly, and Mashable.
Inge de Waard, Ignatia, June 16, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , , , ] [Comment]

Social Network Analysis: An Introduction
George Siemens points to this paper posted just last week from the forthcoming Handbook of Social Network Analysis. Put this book into your wish list if it is as good as this introduction. Marin and Wellman crisply chop through the major elements of social network analysis, conveniently identifying major schools of thought and major approaches along the way. The references won't lead you astray; they are authoritative. Of this excellent paper I have only one quibble: they write "social network analysts argue that causation is not located in the individual, but in the social structure." I would be much more careful with my wording, because causes are located in the individual. What is a mistake, I would argue, is to assign sole causation to such factors. The authors explain, "large number of people acting similarly because they are similar, but as a large number of people acting on one another to shape one another's actions in ways that create particular outcomes." But this is a tiny matter of wording. Alexandra Marin and Barry Wellman, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, June 16, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Where's Walter? Adjunct Outreach Strategies to Bridge the Virtual Distance and Increase Student Retention
This is a goodish paper describing five strategies for creating engagement in an online environment (though I am not fond of the examples involving 'Walter', which seem forced and fake). The five strategies are: timliness or immediacy, knowledge of the technology, using student names, creating community, and being personable. More articles are available from the current issue of OJDLA. Maryann Lamer, Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, June 16, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich: technology, politics and the reconstruction of education
Found this while writing a paper yesterday. Well worth reading. "Both Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich saw that a glaring problem with contemporary educational
institutions is that they have become fixed in monomodal instruction, with homogenized lesson plans, curricula and pedagogy, and that they neglect to address challenging political, cultural and ecological problems. The development of convivial tools and radically democratic pedagogies can enable teachers and students to break with these models and engage in a form of Deweyian experimental education." Richard Kahn and Douglas Kellner, Policy Futures in Education, June 16, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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