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by Stephen Downes
December 22, 2009

Personal Learning Environments Survey

The National Research Council of Canada's Institute for Information Technology (Learning and Collaborative Group) has started a research and development project exploring the Personal Learning Environment. The project researches how new technologies can be used in a personalized informal learning environment and focuses on two dimensions: pedagogical and technical.

You are invited to participate in an online survey which will help us collect information about important issues and features in the development of a Personal Learning Environment through your own experiences and perceptions related to learning and your own use of technology.

For more information about the survey please click on the following link:〈=en

Bite Sized Gaming: Using Mini-Games for Full Sized Learning
I think authors should look more at implicit, rather than explicit, learning in games. For example, mastery of this basketball game I spent a good chunk of yesterday playing requires an intuitive mastery of basic geometry; the time limit forces you to react rather than to calculate. This ADL paper looks at games like this, 'mini-games', as a way to add objective-specific fun to learning. "Mini-games are usually small games that are easy to learn; hard to master. Think of Tetris as a good example of a Mini-game." The phage wars game I mentioned last week is a good example of a game that has a specific educational objective. But this paper grounds minigames in cognitive learning theory (which is less convincing) and a 'social cognitive' theory of motivation (which is more so). The paper describes some case studies: virtual field trip, lunar quest and insignia searcher. Now, the cognitive theory underlying this paper is mostly concerned with explicit learning, which it treats as a type of memory. Peter Smith and Alicia Sanchez, ADL, December 22, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Undead Tech: E-Ink and Readers
It is almost impossible to escape the hype surrounding the new crop of ebook readers. This article surveys popular and some lesser known entries into the market (including the flexible-screened Readius) and, even more interestingly, describes the e-ink technology (a.k.a. electrophoric display) that underlies them. We're still waiting for the MP3 player of ebook readers, though - the device that taps into the billions of documents extant on the internet in some widely used and open data storage format. See also Tony Bates, who links to a University Affairs article on whether ebooks are at the tipping point. Chris Dannen, Fast Company, December 22, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

New Features in Wolfram|Alpha: Year-End Update
What is the future for Wolfram Alpha? The developers write (in an email announcing this update) that "today's Wolfram|Alpha is the start of what we expect to be a project that spans decades." I can believe it. But how will it grow? I can't imagine they want it to always be updated manually; if it were me I would be trying to tie it into to data feeds. Similarly, as a reference service it is still difficult to use and unpredictable (for example, though it provides per capita data in general queries, it doesn't understand when you ask specifically for per capita data (notice the chart says $128.4 billion per capita, which is absurd)). Right now when I use it I feel like I'm holding a primitive information motor - it works (sort of) but there are not yet any cars or appliances to plug it into, nor any gas stations or electrical grid to power it. Various Authors, Wolfram Alpha, December 22, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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