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by Stephen Downes
January 18, 2010

Blasting Academic Silos
I'm all for getting rid of silos, but I am wary of the micromanagement that usually follows. It's an old story - we get rid of silos, but replace them with management-driven cross-department project teams with no autonomy. Cross-institutional collaboration can depend on management strategies and centralized communication systems. It needs to be driven by grass-roots person-to-person connections, the sort that can be managed and that can be enabled only by giving individual staff more autonomy and more power. If you're not going to do that, you may as well stay with the silos. Anyhow, this article presents something like the micromanagement view, suggesting that "we need to collect faculty resources from different disciplines" (as though they could be 'collected') and produce research relevant to "the big issues of the day" (as determined by, um, who?). Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed, January 18, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

This is why I'm excited about new tablets...
Well, actually, I would put a 'next' button in the corner. The convenience and ease of a lightening-fast paging feature cannot be overestimated. Having a way to read without messing around with links and pointers and scroll-bars would be a huge plus. The ebook reader that gives you open content and a really good '
next' button will be the one that wins the day. Everything else is - quite literally - bells and whistles. (Well, OK, you need touchscreens and wifi and cameras and microphone jacks and flash memory and.... but my main point still holds). What do we not need? A special tablet for Sports illustrated, different tablets for each publisher, locked in proprietary content, digital rights management... Mark Oehlert, e-Clippings, January 18, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Teachers must be a class apart
There's an easy way to make teaching an elite profession: pay teachers more money. Simply instituting tougher entrance standards or limiting student funding will produce nothing other than a shortage of teachers. If, however, the pay for teachers were doubled, then there would be a surge in applications, and entrance standards would reflect this demand. That is, after all, how it works for other professions. Demanding higher standards, while offering zero incentive, defies common sense (or sensible economics) and really represents nothing more than an effort to shift the blame for educational outcomes from a society unwilling to pay to a workforce unwilling to work for poverty-level wages. Melanie Newman, Times Higher Education, January 18, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Understanding meaning
So when you use a word like 'meaning', what are you trying to say? isabella mori, psychotherapist in vancouver, canada (and who doesn't use capital letters) explores several points of view and asks people to comment. isabella mori, change therapy, January 18, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

A Passion-Driven Teacher-Student Agreement
Something counts as an "agreement" only if either party could change the wording or refuse to sign. Similarly, a "contract" requires free and willing consent from both sides. This eliminates from consideration pretty much everything called a student 'agreement' or 'contract' in education. If the students cannot refuse to sign (and let's face it, they can't) then it's a sham. Now maybe such agreements 'work' on some students (they certainly wouldn't work on me, as I don't ever feel obligated to honour an agreement extracted through coercion). But they are misrepresentative, and in my view, for that reason, they should not be used. Angela Maiers, Weblog, January 18, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

NY Times Apparently Planning To Commit Suicide Online With Paywall
If the NY Times wants a successful paywall, they should charge only for access in the first 24 hours. After that, they could make the comment free. That way, they have the best of both worlds - they collect from high-paying business customers who want their original reporting right away, while at the same time they share their content with the rest of the world, maintain advertising revenue, and remind people on a regular basis of how good their coverage is. Sadly, this model (in yet another bid for immortality, I propose we call it the 'Downes' model) is not under consideration. Hello? NY Times? Anyone? Mike Masnick, Techdirt, January 18, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

SocialLearn 2010
SocialLearn, an Open University project, steps onto the stage. They write, "We're moving from operating as a confidential business project, to an open source, open architecture, open partnership modus operandi. In forthcoming posts we'll share how we're thinking about the challenges and opportunities, and invite your participation." Simon Buckingham Shum, SocialLearn, January 18, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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