OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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October 29, 2010

Monterrey, Mexico
Stephen Downes, Flickr, October 29, 2010.

Photos from this week's visit to Monterrey, Mexico.

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Open for Use? The Challenge of User Generated Content and its Impact on Open Educational Resources
Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, October 29, 2010.

Graham Attwell links to Steve Wheeler's presentation on open education resources (OERs) given to the 2010 EDEN Research Workshop. The presentation reinforced the idea that OERs are really the creations of a community sharing content with itself. Why is this important? Well, because contrasted with that is the picture of content as commodity, of publishers creating and students consuming, of a view of education as a market, rather than a social or community activity. View more presentations from European Distance and E-Learning Network

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Open education, cracks, and the crisis of higher education
Richard Hall, DMU Learning Exchanges, October 29, 2010.

I'm seeing widespread praise for Richard Hall's analysis of the funding crisis in (British) education. While it seems true that "the impact of crisis is used to justify a tightening and a quickening of the dominant neoliberal ideology," it also seems true that the institutions have brought a lot of it on themselves. "In particular we might now revisit the critical work on the neoliberal university, the student as consumer and the marketisation of HE, in order to critique and negate the path that we are pushed towards."

Hall's analysis also focuses on how we should react. "This work identifies the types of controlled, economically-driven, anti-humanist organisations that will possibly emerge, and the ways in which oppositional, alternative, meaningful social change might be realised." In particular, "Technology should be in the service of an ethic of open learning. Just as technology provides ways to open up access to information, there are technological tools to close it off and reinforce existing barriers and potentially inequalities. Wherever possible investment should encourage open standards and avoid overly restrictive access management."

David Jones argues, "It's the focus on the product that has led university leaders to place less emphasis on the process and the people." Hall writes, "I suggest that a discussion and critique of what higher education is for, and how it is actualised has never been more pressing. I suggest that business-as-usual is not an option... I suggest that we need to offer up alternative views of the idea and forms of higher education, based on shared values beyond acceptance of economic shock doctrines. I suggest that we might focus upon resilience and openness as alternatives, and as cracks in the dominant ideology."

Leigh Blackall also cites James Vernon's post in Inside Higher Ed:

"Before rushing to join the denunciations of our short-sighted and philistine politicians we have to accept that no-one within the English university sector emerges from this process with much dignity. Administrators have grown fat, plumping up their personnel, enlarging their office and buildings, as well as inflating their salaries. Most damagingly they meekly accepted the economistic logics that drove the auditing of productivity and were naive enough to believe that the introduction of fees would supplement, not replace, state funding. They have turned away from the public they are supposed to serve in the quest for new ‘markets': professional schools, overseas students, and creation of empires with institutions that franchise their degrees."

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The place of content in teaching and learning
Jenny Macness, Jenny Connected, October 29, 2010.

Reflecting on Maria Anderson's presentation in PLENK2010, Jenny Macness writes, " I wonder whether content is the starting point (I think Maria suggested that learners  need some content to base their learning on – or words to that effect) or whether there is an ‘engaging the learner' stage, a ‘learning how to learn' stage,  which precedes or circumvents content  – just as Matthias and I feel that e-resonance precedes online communication, and  whether ownership of learning or personalized learning means making it legitimate for learners to determine their own learning content."

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Adoption as Linking: A Response to the Stephens
David Wiley, iterating toward openness, October 29, 2010.

There's a lot going on in David Wiley's response to myself and Stephen Carson. I can't attempt a full response here (and a full response isn't needed; we can deal with the issues bitwise over time). But the key argument turns on this conditional: "If linking is going to constitute the primary method of adopting OER, every penny spent on the process of openly licensing material for OCW or OER publication has been wasted."

But in reply:
- there are other benefits to open licensing, such as allowing file sharing, format shifting, and free access;
- it is indeed hard for me to see the value on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars 'openly licensing' educational content;
- my support for 'adoption by linking' does not entail students "successfully navigate a MOOC or something like one";
- the reason why I speak so negatively about the existing university system is that it is abundantly clear that they are not concerned about access.

I also wonder, when the United States is facing its own 40 percent cut to higher education budgets (and it will, oh it will) whether Wiley will be so inclined to depend the way universities have defined their missions and served the public.

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The Welcome Earthquake
Chester E. Finn, Jr., Fordham Institute Education Gadfly, October 29, 2010.

There is no war on teachers, proclaims the Wall Street Journal. But teacher and public sector unions remain the largest and last non-corporatist voice in politics and society, and the union pension fund the largest and last pool of money not in corporate hands. Opponents may claim to be against the union only, not the teachers, but it is the teachers' wealth and influence they will plunder. And I think that it is ironic that those complaining about the 'power' of the teachers' unions are themselves the most powerful people in society. Via Education Next.

Just as an aside, it really bothers me that the anti-education people have laid claim to online learning (as we see again in this article). Finn announces that "Online learning and hybrid schools are beginning to come into their own, for both quality and economic reasons," as though this is another weapon in the war against public education. It is not. The role of online learning is not to replace or disempower teachers. It is to extend their capacities, to help them increase access and success rates.

This is an important point The emphasis on "achievement" iin education is a complete red herring. Finn writes, "America may finally face up to the fact that over the past half century we have reduced the student/teacher ratio from twenty-seven-to-one to fourteen-to-one with no matching gains in achievement." Really? If you count achievement on a per student basis, then maybe grades have not gone up. But if you count the number of people who have succeeded you see a substantial difference in the drop-out rate, from 14 percent in 1980 to 8 percent in 2008.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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