OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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December 6, 2010

Feature Article
The Role of the Educator
Stephen Downes, December 6, 2010.

Posted in Huffington Post. As each part of the teaching task becomes more complex, and as we as educators seek to reach more specialized populations in more difficult circumstances, the need to understand, and where necessary unbundle, the varied roles of the educator becomes more pressing. A narrow focus on the idea of the teacher as "the purveyor of an education" is unhelpful and misleading.

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It's time to transform undergraduate education
Pierre Zundel and Patrick Deane, University Affairs, December 6, 2010.

As university leaders prepare to meet on the topic of undergraduate education Pierre Zundel and Patrick Deane argue that "what is required is a radical re-conceptualizing of the teaching and learning process, where the goal becomes "helping students learn" rather than 'teaching.'" The simple expedient of meeting revenue pressures by cutting back services will no longer suffice. "We could craft processes of study better suited to the outcomes sought by students, more efficient and more encompassing in the deployment of resources, and less vulnerable to changes in our material circumstances." Right, and that's why I have been trying to describe the role of the educator in a student-centered digital world. But I notice in this University Affairs article that the authors still can't tear themselves out of the course and program paradigm. They have to try.

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The truth about failure in US schools
Paul Thomas, The Guardian, December 6, 2010.

Can't say it better than this: "Throughout the world, the full picture of any nation's schools reflects the social realities of that country; when schools appear to be failures, the facts show that social failures (the conditions of children's lives outside of school) are driving the educational data. And we will certainly never address these social failures – and the truth about our schools – if political leaders and media voices refuse even to say the word 'poverty', while promoting simplistic manipulation of data." And I would add that much of the churn around 'school reform' is deflection in an attempt to avoid dealing with poverty and social equity.

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Google eBooks
Various Authors, Google, December 6, 2010.

Google has launched its eBook reader and store, and while the store is only available in the U.S., we can get a sense of the service by accessing the free eBooks it offers. Google has learned from services like Apple and Netflix and the interface is clean, predicable and easy to use. Even better, it supports multiple book readers: Android, iPhone, Nook, Web. But reading my copy of Vanity Fair (I have no idea whether this link will work for you; it's all I have) I find that I cannot copy and paste or do anything at all - the book is inert, static. All I can do is read it. It's not that it couldn't be presented in a more useful format - the search function actually extracts text and displays it at the side (and still won't let you copy it). I have only one word for this: broken.

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Policy Forum 1, December 2010, Paris, France
Various Authors, UNESCO, December 6, 2010.

Through 2010 UNESCO's Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative has hosted a series of forums, which I have covered here. This series, which focused on adoption and use of OERs, wrapped up with a policy forum last week that was almost invisible to the wider community. Now that a link has been posted to the discussion papers, I have to express my disappointment. These presentations, with some few exceptions, are all of the 'look at our project' variety - which would be fine for the information-gathering stage, but as a contribution to the wrap-up of a year-long initiative is completely unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Sir John Daniel's remarks suggest that while he may have made the grand tour of Africa, he did not even look at the online discussion, as this work is not reflected anywhere in his remarks. The dichotomy is not between proprietary content and open content, as he suggests, but between institutionally manufactured content and community-based content. The OECD intervention from Dirk van Damme, meanwhile, is firmly based around the idea of an education industry, where "OER is best defined as a systemic innovation in the global education and knowledge system." Maybe something good happened at the policy forum, but who would know? All we have are these presentation slides. Related: JISC on making OER visible and findable.

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State Department To Columbia University Students: DO NOT Discuss WikiLeaks On Facebook, Twitter
Rob Fishman, Huffington Post, December 6, 2010.

files/images/tegmeyer-213x350.jpg, size: 12773 bytes, type:  image/jpeg Now with more than 355 mirrors, Wikileaks is not going away, despite efforts to shut down its DNS, block it from using web hosting or eliminate its use of PayPal. Probably as well, orders to students to not discuss Wikileaks on pain of losing job prospects will prove equally futile. Still, what should not be lost on people is the way the federal mechanism has moved swiftly to shut down debate. Wikileaks may survive, but the government has ways of making your online presence simply disappear and is not afraid to use them. The more centralized the internet becomes - the more we depend on big hubs, common services, large providers - the more likely we will be made to disappear for increasingly trivial offences. Remember, what Wikileaks is doing today is what newspapers used to do in the past, back in the days when we had journalists rather than speechwriters and shills. See also Hello, Big Brother: Columbia Tells Students, "Don't Talk About Wikileaks".

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New Facebook Profile Page Now Live. How To Get It
Unattributed, Edudemic, December 6, 2010.

The purpose of Facebook's new profile page feature, of course, is to entice users to submit more content that Facebook can turn over to its customers, the marketers and advertisers who pay it well. But it's an enticing and alluring feature, one that I'm sure will attract millions to submit more photos, more facts, more links. More from Mashable.

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Is Fundamental Change Really ‘Inevitable'?
Perry A. Holloway, Inside Higher Ed, December 6, 2010.

I am sympathetic with many of the arguments offered by this California professor but I feel that his depiction of curricular and pedagogical change as being driven by the administration for fiscal purposes to support business interests is too narrow. Yes, professors should protect student interests, and yes, professors should be able to freely, without fear of reprisal, voice their opposition for change. But it's a far cry today from the day when professors were the voice for change, when it was professors, not cynical administrators, who were at the head of the drive to increase access and democratize institutions. If professors merely retrench, they lose. If they find a clear sense of purpose and values, they drive the agenda at their own pace.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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