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by Stephen Downes
July 1, 2009

Symbol Grounding and Proportional Analogy
"If symbols must be grounded in perception," writes Peter Turney, "how does this grounding happen?" We might naively suppose a 'picture' theory of meaning, along the lines of Wittgenstein's Tractatus, but this version quickly falls to objections such as Quine's 'gavagai' example, cited here. But I don't think Turney's proposal, to ground them in relations ("we note meta correlations between relations between symbols"), fares any better. The meta correlations are still radically underdetermined by the phenomena; this is the root of Quine's challenge. There's a similarity between this approach, and Minsky's "second-order-differences", and Russell's theory of types, and as I share Wittgenstein's dissatisfaction with the latter, I am dissatisfied with the former. Yes, symbols are grounded in perception - but we must redefine what "grounded" means. Peter Turney, Apperceptual, July 1, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Arguing About Free and the Future
There's one very right thing and one very wrong thing in David Wiley's post. The very right thing is this: "In a world of free, everyone can play." This, in a sentence, captures what is inevitable - and what is right - about the world of free. It is not just a price revolution, it is a liberation for those who, in the past, had no voice. The very wrong thing is this: "Competition! Massive amounts of almost-no-barrier-to-entry competition." This represents a sort of market-oriented thinking. But in the world of free, market economics makes as much sense as lead parachutes. I don't feel I'm competing against the other people (including Wiley) who post online for free. Quite the opposite - we are engaged in this great enterprise together, and what each of us does supports the other. David Wiley, iterating toward openness, July 1, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Back to The Past
I have numerous memories of the North Country (in Alberta) too, and it's nice to be reminded of the land and the people. But I'm really linking to this because of the nifty audio and video comment system Terry Anderson is now using in his blog. I want! (And I'll link to the IRRODL stuff when I get a chance to take the time needed to read it). Terry Anderson, Virtual Canuck, July 1, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Working Session on Open Social Learning (I). Marc Alier: Open Social Learning?
I want to think about the combination of 'open' and 'social' with 'learning'. I know, it all seems to hang together, but it's too neat, and doesn't fit outliers like me. Anyhow, this is a summary of a presentation from Marc Alier. starts off with useful definitions of open learning and social learning - though these may not be universally accepted ('open' learning means something very different here). See also summaries of sessions by Ruben Diaz and Dolors Reig. Ismael Pena-Lopez, ICTlogy, July 1, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Congratulations to the teachers of New South Wales, who are now able to access YouTube. "Access will of course allow teachers to plan, research, display and embed YT videos in their resources, within their working context . One giant step…for liberal access and OER . Now state teachers can enjoy the same access entitled to many private school colleagues." Tim Hand, Tim's Blog de Blog, July 1, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , , ] [Comment]

EdubloggerCon 2009 Reflections
Smaller, less scripted, and therefore better. That's Jeff Utecht's summary of this year's EdubloggerCon at NECC. Also: "Because of Twitters live constant scrolling feed, we also talked about how the "life span" of a blog post is shrinking. I use to get comments on a blog post lasting weeks. Now I post a blog, it gets a comment or maybe two in a the first 10 minutes, gets retweeted for about 20 minutes and then it's old news." Jeff Utecht, The Thinking Stick, July 1, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

NECC Unplugged
This is kind of cool, and there should still be time to catch some of the Wednesday (July 1) sessions. "Also variously referred to as "NECC 2.0," the NECC "Fringe" Festival, or the NECC "Unconference." NECC Unplugged is held during and as a part of the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC ) June 28th - July 1. It is three days of presentations where anyone can sign up to present, either on-site or virtually, and held on-site in it's own "lounge" area and also hosted virtually in Elluminate." Various Authors, Website, July 1, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Note to President Obama: Want to Fix the Schools? Look to Portugal!
Don Tapscott recommends that the United States follow the example of Portugal, which has taken to online learning in a big way. He also writes, "It's too early to assess the impact on learning in Portuguese schools. Studies of the impact of computers in schools elsewhere have been inconclusive, or mixed." First, I think Portugal is very different from the United States. And second, I think that jumping on some sort of Portuguese bandwagon is premature. Not that I'm disagreeing with his recommendations; it's just that the evidence he cites for them is lacking. And there are many more positive examples closer to home. Don Tapscott, Huffington Post, July 1, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Expert Blogs - Education
At the EdMedia conference the topic of "experts" was a recurring theme. The suggestion was that web 2.0 and the wisdom of the crowd could not - and should not - replace the wisdom of experts. My own reaction was top point out that the supposed "experts" more often than not argue in their own interests, not society as a whole, and that the assignment of the designation "expert" was almost random, having much more to do with money and connections than with any actual expertise. The National Journal's new "experts" blog on education makes my case for me. Lisa Caruso, National Journal, June 30, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Making the UK Federation usable
All is not well in access-federation land. "I'm sorry if all this seems very blunt but the current deployments are so un-friendly that something has got to be done - otherwise we might as well just bite the bullet and go back to having separate login accounts for every service we access." Andy Powell, eFoundations, June 30, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Personal Learning Environments
Summary of "a panel of students that tried to answer the question: Personal Learning Environments. What do students think?" The author writes, "you cannot create an entire PERSONAL learning environment for students! It is impossible. Every student has their own way of learning, every student evolves their environment continuously (look at how my tools have changed) and any one tool will be obsolete as quickly as any other piece of technology. Don't despair though… there is still plenty of work for you to do. What students really need are small, lightweight tools to help them learn." Andre Malan, Weblog, June 30, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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