OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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January 13, 2011

Sorry About the Multiple Copies
If like everyone else you received 12 copies of OLDaily yesterday, please accept my apologies. The cause was a crontab error. A cron table is a list of commands to be executed on a server at a set time. The command to send the newsletter every day is:

0 15 * * * /var/www/cgi-bin/admin.cgi www.downes.ca send_newsletter off codeword 2>&1 | mail -s "Email Results" downes

The important bit is the 0 15 at the start, which means that the command should be executed at 15 hours 0 minutes (Houston time, which is where my server is located). Yesterday, I set the command as follows:

* 15 * * * /var/www/cgi-bin/admin.cgi www.downes.ca send_newsletter off codeword 2>&1 | mail -s "Email Results" downes

which means that it was instructed to send the newsletter at 15 hours and every minute. I was on my was home as it happened, but I managed to catch it and stop it before you got 60 newsletters instead of 12. For which I breathed some sight of relief.

Anyhow, sorry, it was the first time I've ever done that, and I hope it never happens again.

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Starting Life in a Browser
Doug Peterson, doug - off the record, January 13, 2011.

I've been using Chrome at home recently because Firefox 4 and Flash seem to be waging a war of attrition on my desktop. I haven't been using many extensions (just the usual ad-block stuff) but I installed this one today which has already proven useful: the Incredible Start Page from Visibo. In the right pane it lists your bookmark pages and your apps (of which I have exactly one - SlideRocket - which I never use because it only allows me 2 gig worth of uploads). In the left pane, though, it displays the pages you've closed, in the order you've closed them. That's great for me, because I have a habit of closing a page I'm writing about before pasting its URL into the form. Will I stay with Chrome? Only if they give me 'view selection source' rather than making me dig through whole web pages to see what's going on ('inspect element' is not a substitute).

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Introducing Hunch
David T. Jones, The Weblog Of (A) David Jones, January 13, 2011.

David T. Jones has been reviewing materials from the Learning Analytics course George Siemens has been offering. In this post he looks at Hunch, a recommender system that gathers your Facebook or Twitter data, asks you some questions, and maps your profile against known sets of products, such as Camcorders or books. As artificial intelligence goes, it's pretty light, but it's a great example to illustrate the concept, because it's simple enough that anyone can see what's going on, and flawed enough that it supports a good discussion.

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6 Jobs that Enable Students to Make Valuable Contributions to their Learning Community
Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator, January 13, 2011.

I have mixed feelings about assigning people specific tasks during classes or events. On the one hand, it gives people a way to make a contribution and thus increases their sense of ownership. But on the other hand, while they're performing their task they drop out of what is happening in the main group, which leaves them lost and out of place when they come back. So I would encourage tasks that increase engagement, like 'scribe' or 'Google jockey', but lessen the emphasis on tasks that promote withdrawal. That said, this is a good discussion of the tasks students can perform, with plenty of links to examples.

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It Is Official: The 2011 EdTech Camp Season is Now Open
Jennifer Wagne, Thoughts By Jen, January 13, 2011.

Although there are some oddities in this list (sifting opinion from fact isn't a matter of percentages, despite what tip #6 says, and it seems odd to say "share out" instead of just "share") but the advice is generally pretty good. Only one thing is missing: participate. Get out to your local EdTech Camp, and once you're there, immerse yourself i n the activities. (p.s. whoile you're at Jennifer Wagner's site, take a moment to visit a few of the monthly teacher sites she has been listing since 2003).

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Launch of a significant journal
Bill Hubbard, Research Communications Strategy, January 13, 2011.

Well this is cool: "Online and open access, Scientific Reports is a brand new primary research publication from the publishers of Nature, covering all areas of the natural sciences - biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences." It being a commercial publication, I hesitate and wonder what the catch is (authors are charged a 'processing fee' of £890/ $1,350 but articles will be freely available to everyone under a CC licence, deposited in PMC and authors retain copyright).

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What websites should be whitelisted on school content filters?
Wesley Fryer, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, January 13, 2011.

The answer to the question in the title may be an endless list, but I have to applaud the initiative as an attempt to stem the tide of blanket blocking of whole swathes of websites in schools. Enter your suggestions of sites that should be whitelisted in this form to contribute to the project.

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What Went Wrong with Civ5?
Sulla, Sulla's Page, January 13, 2011.

Regular readers know that I am an afficiando of the 'Civilization' games. Like most Civ players, I awaited Civ 5 (or 'V') with enthusiasm. But it was a terrible disappointment for more reasons than I can count. Some critics have counted them, though, and I think that the resulting criticism offers some great lessons for design in general, from the role of penalties, the need for alternatives, fairness and transparency in gameplay, and worthwhile objectives. Herewith, one such criticism. Via Civ Fanatics Forum.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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