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by Stephen Downes
January 8, 2010

Open course-wars, redux… the real nastiness is elsewhere
As I sit here in an airport after having shared an obscenely personal patdown with a bunch of other already committed travelers who have to, you know, simply accept it, I read and agree with Brian Lamb, who writes, "I see a number of other trends that strike me as far more threatening to the shared values of self-described open educators... Like the profoundly undemocratic process that is working to establish a shockingly awful global copyright scheme... the diminishment of the qualities that made Web 2.0 so genuinely interesting and innovative... endangered by the return of corporate-driven platform-based computing (hello mobile web) and a disturbingly passive and self-absorbed online culture.... the rise of digital sweatshops and content farms, which will both threaten and demand a response from a global intellectual culture... [and] the absence of a meaningful critical thinking apparatus in mass public discourse."

The customs official said to me, in all apparent sincerity, that I should "be safe" while flying to Las Vegas today, and it is my responsibility (as I feel hands touch me in places I'd only ever heard of) to actually believe. Which is why my leather computer case "isn't a computer case", why my iPod (according to today's Globe and Mail) may or may not be allowed (and they won't tell us which), and why it is a danger to the state that I carry a copy of Tolstoy onto the airplane with me, and why the gentleman following me had to either eat his cookies right away or lose them. I need to find (and express) an answer to this - it is rooted (as you see in the newsletter than follows) in the state of education, but it is also rooted in our mindless, mind-numbing compliance with this increasing unreal reality.

If we, the people, do not begin to exercise our power, our rights, and our responsibilities, then we will lose this society we worked so hard to build, and history will record that freedom and democracy work well only in theory, but when actually given to a society, succumb to a mindless uneducated drivel of passivity. Brian Lamb, abject learning, January 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Five Platforms for a Classroom Back-channel Chat
Many people use Twitter as a backchannel, but there are some people (like me) who would prefer a different solution - because, otherwise, audience members must obtain Twitter accounts participate, which they may not want to do, and the conversation may be more public (i.e., broadcast to the entire universe) than some people might like. Also, it's really annoying to read one half of a conversation through an individual's tweets (whch is what hashtags address, of course, provided people use them correctly, or consistently, and... sigh.) anyhow, here are five alternatives for a classroom back-channel (and I know, I know, you love twitter and thing everyone should - but you'll have to get past that and realize that the world has more than one religion). Byrne (No first name, apparently), Free Technology for Teachers, January 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Using Research to Mis-inform
The reporting of science in supposedly educated publications is, in a word, poor. "I find it particularly troubling when a source of information about higher education fails to engage scientific research in a useful and thoughtful manner. In this article, Facebooking Won't Affect Your Grades, Study Finds. At Least Until Next Month's Study Tells You It Will, Marc Parry provides the worst example of reporting on scientific information." He's not alone - he is merely following well-entrenched conventions for reporting on science in teh Amrican press. Robert Hughes Jr, Open2Learn, January 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Have we learned anything since Dewey regarding experiential learning?
"Students were asked to copy facts from a sheet of paper... to another sheet of paper." That is still what is considered as learning in some quarters. We have learned a lot since Dewey, but what we have learned - what Freire would call an action-based problem-centred theory of learning - is opposed as progressive nonsense by some advocates - advocates who have, mostly, carried the day. "From children in the 1st grade to adults in their first years of college, you can observe students sitting passively in their plastic molded desks, textbooks in hand, listening to the rants of the wise teacher or professor at the front of the room." Unknown, Cognitive Technologies, January 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Engagement v. Empowerment
Warlick is right to say, as many have, that we should aim for empowerment, not merely engagement. But the mathematical formula he offers in part two of his post is - if I may be so gentle - nonsense. What is it to divide, for example, 'information system' by 'skills'? What are the units of 'resourcefulness', or even more importantly, of 'surprise me'? Why is the impact of 'responsibility' exponential? And why is the unit of 'responsibility' the exponent, rather than, say, 'responsibility squared', which is also exponential? Why multiply these figures instead of add them? How would any of this be measured? It is not helpful to create fake mathematical expressions with utterly no basis in reality over and above one's own talking points - and the really sad part about this is that so many of Warlick's enthusiastic followers will interpret this as 'science'. Dave Warlick, 2 Cents Worth, January 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Predictions for 2010
The annual eLearn Magazine predictions edition has arrived. Read predictions from a bunch of people, including myself. eLearn Magazine staff and contributors, eLearn Magazine, January 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Learning Styles Theory Versus Sustained Hard Work

Again with the mantra against learning styles - but what about the evidence that they exist (pictured)? The dilemma posed in Hargadon's title is a load of hogwash - and as nearly as I can tell, simply a fancy way to blame students for all their failings (very handy when statistics show it is the poor and disadvantaged who are mostly failing). But oh! If they just worked harder (their teachers too! let's make them non-union) then everything would be fine. Tom Hoffman writes, "I don't actually have a point about learning styles, except to say that indeed, the hackneyed version that trickles down through professional development lectures to mandated lesson plan requirements is indeed hackneyed. But the truth is out there, and it is subtle and complex." True. But I do have a point, and it's that this anti-learning styles campaign is political, not scientific. Steve Hargadon, Weblog, January 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Too much information to follow? Build your own feed generator
I like this item because it shows you in a few paragraphs how to build your own search feed. For example, if you wanted to aggregate everything 'Downes' - whether it be on YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, or whatever, you could build a simple script like this. I know, web programming is beyond most people right now. But it shouldn't be - it's not hard, it's just unfamiliar. Related: Five Reasons why RSS readers still rock. Rick Martin, Journalism 2.0, January 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Message From The (CCL) President
It looks like the end for the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) as its funding has been cut. Via Terry Anderson, who remarks, "Now if they had of at least cared a bit about network learning...." I have to agree - CCL was very much old-school, and is meeting an old-school fate (not coincidentally on the same day that most of Canada's major newspapers have been put under bankruptcy protection). Paul Cappon, Canadian Council on Learning, January 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

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