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by Stephen Downes
November 5, 2009

The Gay Animal Kingdom Should Now Be Required Reading
From the "we'll never read about this kind of thing in the New World Order" file - "high school English honors teacher, Dan DeLong... was suspended for offering students the Seed magazine article "The Gay Animal Kingdom" by Jonah Lehrer as an optional extra credit assignment." He has now been reinstated - but it raises to mind what turns out to be a theme for today's issue, the confusion between science and mysticism in the public mind, and the attendant fall of the learned and democratic society we enjoy today. Eric Michael Johnson, The Primate Diaries, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science
Oh, I'm in heaven. I cannot count the hours I spent embroiled in the Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. And now they're available online, complete, for free - including some of my absolute faves, like Language, Mind, and Knowledge (1975, ed. Keith Gunderson) and Scientific Explanation (1989, eds. Philip Kitcher & Wesley C. Salmon). Oh! This is fabulous stuff. I know I can't make these tomes required reading - but can't I urge that public policy makers at least read series editor Ronald Giere's completely worthwhile Understanding Scientific Reasoning? Eric Schliesser, It's Only a Theory, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Secret copyright treaty leaks. It's bad. Very bad.
If described accurately, the provisions outlined in secret negotiations on copyright amount to a sovereign coup - an usurpation of basic rights and freedoms by a corproate government entity. Don't take my word for it. The provisions include:
- ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material (which basically makes it impossible to host user-created material, because of the cost of this)
- ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability (which effectively terminates the presumption of innocence)
- rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused -- again, without evidence or trial (which effectively eliminates freedom of speech or the press)
- Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM, even if doing so for a lawful purpose

Michael Geist has more, and in addition: "Further coverage from IDG and Numerama. Update II: InternetNZ issues a press release expressing alarm, while EFF says the leaks "confirm everything that we feared about the secret ACTA negotiations." Electronic Frontiers Australia provides an Australian perspective on the ACTA dangers. Update III: There are additional articles and postings from around the world (Germany, Italy, Sweden, UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands, U.S., Germany, Italy) as well as coverage from some of the most popular websites (Gizmodo, ReadWriteWeb, TorrentFreak, BoingBoing, Slashdot). Update IV: See additional posts on Day two of the ACTA talks (Criminal provisions) and Day three (transparency)." Mark Federman says it's time to write your politician - I already have, but in a matter of the disenfranchisement of the people, it turns out, the people don't have a say, and I don't think writing a stern letter will be enough. I hope I'm wrong. Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , , , ] [Comment]

Google Dashboard: Now You Know What Google Knows About You
Google knows a lot about you, more than you do. To help balance that a bit, there is now a Privacy Dashboard. It's not complete, and there are no doubt even more deep dark secrets Google knows. But it's a step in the right direction. Now - how to make this data portable? Stan Schroeder, Mashable, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Write to Reply
Write to Reply, developed by Tony Hirst and Joss Winn, is a great concept that has yet to achieve mainstream status (perhaps if it were "invented" by one of the more famous internet pundits it would gain more traction - where is Boing Boing when we need it?). It allows people to comment, paragraph by paragraph, on reports, licenses (like the Kindle license), and other longish documents. Andy Powell, eFoundations, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

The Higher Educational Bubble Continues to Grow
Higher education, writes Karl Kapp, is in the grip of a bubble. The signs?
- core mission and fundamentals are ignored
- disproportionate compensation at the highest levels
- product value doesn't match marketplace expectations
- prices are manipulated without regard to market supply and demand
- perception of exclusivity
- a delusion that "this market is different"
I have long affirmed that such a crisis is coming and that it would arrive very suddenly after being years in the making. It is now very close - within a matter of months. 2010 some time, maybe (at the outside) 2011, at least in North America. Funding will dry up, there will be significant staff reductions, institutions will merge or close, and administrators will be desperate for alternatives. Not just in education, but education will be very hard hit, and at all levels.

Related: the New York Times on public universities. As Leiter notes, "The Neoliberal Paradigm in Higher Education has been preparing the demise of 'public' research universities for 25 years now. Those that become de facto privates like Michigan will survive as major research universities, and those that don't will see their former excellence gradually erode--unless, of course, there is some dramatic transformation in the economic and political culture." Just saying...

Also related: We must... - "a call to action to create the university of the future - Here are five tasks prioritised las month at a "create the university of the future" meeting sponsored by the Open University of Catalonia and the US based and led New Media Consortium, and attended by "forty leaders in open education and technology" Barcelona. Source."
Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

The E-Learning List
Janet Clarey reports, "The e-learning list is 'the marketplace for e-learning services and solutions. It's a directory of 283 e-learning companies of off-the-shelf courseware, LMSs, bespoke development, and authoring tools." I wouldn't take the voting system too seriously - anyone can vote, and if you know a little about browsers, you can vote enough times to set your rating right. Janet Clarey, Workplace Learning Today, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Communities don't just happen
Every time we read about community someone wants to bring up the essential (and some say mystical) element of leadership. Because - so gores the argument - "Strong community cannot be built though artificial means. Unless you have a leader you want to follow and who's design you believe in – you don't join." I don't agree with this. I don't agree that communities need to be designed, led, strongarmed, in order to exist. Dean Groom, Design 4 Learning, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Blackboard/Moodle/Sakai Session Recording Now Available
By far the most popular session at EDUCAUSE (at least so far) this discussion on the relative merits of two open source and one commercial learning management system (LMS) is a great listen, especially as they begin to talk about the future, the claim that "the LMS is dead" (or so it has been reported in some of the blogs), personal learning environments and the increasing demand of colleges to focus on outcomes and competencies. Also interesting: "We (Sakai) don't have a financial incentive to own large swaths of the higher education infrastructure." The recording, with slides and video, loads instantly and is beautifully presented. Colleen Luckett, EDUCAUSE, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment]

Crossing the Finish Line: The SAT and ACT
A couple of links today focused on this new report, the result of a massive (more than 200,000 students) study which makes, as arguably its most important conclusion, the satatement that the SAT and ACT do not matter in predicting college success. "High school GPA is a better predictor of college graduation rates than SAT/ACT score. This findings holds true across institution type, and gets stronger the less selective an institution is." There are some obvious implications: "colleges and universities need to take a hard look at this new research... [and] higher education rankings need to drop the SAT and acceptance rate as measures of institutional quality." But also, what does that say about high stakes tests as measures of achievement? Chad Aldeman, The Quick and the Ed, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Aussie school tries to liberate teen brains
By liberating teens, rather than constraining them, writes this author, a pilot project in Australia is geared to the strengths of the teen brain, rather than the weaknesses. "The traditional school struggles to box in the vast adolescent energy and bend it to function on adult terms for adult goals. In traditional high schools, kids are getting factory schooling and their big brains are being treated as storage reservoirs rather than dizzyingly creative machines. It's the opposite of what the teen brain is geared for." Alanna Mitchell, The Toronto Star, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Danish pupils use web in exams
This is interesting. If students access Wikipedia, Gutenberg, and the rest, you can't really ask them to memorize stuff for tests - you have to test for their skills and abilities instead. Minister for education in Denmark, Bertel Haarder, says, "The internet is indispensible, including in the exam situation. I'm sure that is would be a matter of very few years when most European countries will be on the same line." Judy Hobson , BBC News, November 5, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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