Today's theme, forcefully stated by Marc Pesce (the inventor of VRML and various other technologies still shrouded being the veil of patent wars): "Although Wikileaks successfully resumed its work releasing the cables, the entire incident proved one ugly, mean, nasty point: the Internet is fundamentally not free. Where we thought we breathed the pure air of free speech and free thought, we instead find ourselves severely caged. If we do something that upsets our masters too much, they bring the bars down upon us, leaving us no breathing room at all. That isn't liberty. That is slavery."
If you wonder what I'm up to with gRSShopper and with PLEs and the rest of it, that's it. It is an agenda which is very much not popular with the people in power. I don't care. If people can take it upon themselves to stand in front of tanks, set themselves on fire or pray in the streets, I can take it upon myself to write a few thousand lines of philosophy and open source code.
A lot of people are upset at the government's decision to close the Australian Learning & Teaching Council but David T. Jones comes out in support. He writes, "I'm not convinced that ALTC had, or could of hope to have, a significant impact on the higher education sector within Australia." The very fact that the ALTC is "the champion of teaching and learning in the higher education sector" illustrates, he argues, the disconnect. Universities should be the champions, but they have other priorities these days, making money being not the least of them. And this means "the efforts of an external body like ALTC are always going to be limited" because there's "a chasm which inherently limits the ability to spread the ideas generated by the interested folk to the uninterested folk."
This is a worthwhile initiative. These things empower and liberate. "Algeria launched the Maghreb Digital Library on Sunday (January 23rd) in an effort to expand access to information. The initiative was part of a joint endeavour between the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education and US-based NGO Civilian Research & Development Foundation (CRDF)." Full announcement in Arabic from Magharebia.com (which translates passably well in Google Chrome).
Excellent analytical commentary from Joshua Debner, reposting on the basis of his experience in the field deploying OLPC computers in Peru. He advocates four actions to, as he says, "stop the bleeding":
- Internet: Connect your current schools. Stop your current deployment plans and fix the ones that are already existing
- Update: Push through this new software update currently said to be done by end of January
- Teacher Network: build a network and tools for teachers to share lesson plans, or communicate with each other
- Leverage the Intern Program: leverage the model of the intern program set up by OLPC.
These points, even the fourth, would make excellent points of reference for educational computing initiatives worldwide, not just in Peru.
I have been using Google Chrome recently (because Firefox is quite flaky at the moment) and one extension that's always turned on is called Ghostery. Why? Because it blocks tracking cookies and the other tricks advertisers use to monitor my online activities. It's not that I'm paranoid; it's just that I find unwanted tracking applications to be, well, sleazy. Slimy. And I think that's the essence of why internet privacy is important to me. I don't trust these people, and I don't want to give them anything, because I know they'll misuse it. The same with Facebook, and yes, more and more, Google. (Which produces Chrome, I know, and I'm aware of the contradiction.) Anyhow, happy Data Privacy Day, and I hope the links in this post help you have a safe, private, and SEO-free day.
Good short video from the Xplanation: "This week, students told us how they used various social media, in particular Facebook, to better themselves in the classroom. They also discussed the benefits of consulting YouTube for any questions they have."
I'm generally supportive of the observations in this post of things misted the recent (and widely criticized) article in the NY Times on online learning:
- online Learning is Not Anti-Teacher
- traditional notions of class size make no more sense for online learning
- the Times article is shockingly bereft of any reference to actual research
Now of course we here are doing actual research in online learning. And it makes me want to reflect a bit more on the first point. Because while teachers play an important role in online learning (what do you thing I do?) it is nonetheless true that the traditional role of teacher is abolished. The idea of the teacher as a wage-labourer producing class after class of identical student output is dead, dead, dead. The only people who don't know this yet are (a) teachers, and (b) educational administrators and 'reformers'. See The Role of the Educator.
I am loving #ds106 radio, so much so that I have been spending some serious time this week (I'm on a week's vacation, after all) looking at things like Shoutcast, , Icecast and WinAmp and all the rest of it. Some of my earlier reflections are here. I'd love to have my own internet radio station; I've been envious of the people at Ed Tech Talk for years now. The other big lesson from Brian Lamb's post is: don't ask permission. The approvals process for anything like #ds106 would be a nightmare. Not because it's doing anything wrong or illegal or anything like that, but because it's so out there, so beyond the scope of anything academic institutions do today. It's all about centralized approval, official content and managing the message. That totally the opposite of what we should be working toward. See also Grant Potter's description of how Radio #ds106 was created, and Alan Levine's commentary.
The bloom is off the OpenID rose, and we are now seeing withdrawals, such as this announcement from 37 Signals that it will no longer support OpenID. "Much has been written about the usability and reliability problems facing OpenID. Some of the better ones are OpenID Is A Nightmare by Rob Conery and the What's wrong with OpenID? thread on Quora. No need to repeat all that here." Moreover, OAuth and OAuth-type services are proving an alternative, albeit a branded alternative. I still don't know why providers have not aboped a browser-based sign-in, as I advocated. Maybe now they will.
Some good heady conceptual stuff. "For Soames, to entertain a proposition is simply to predicate something of something else. So to entertain the proposition that o is red is simply to predicate redness of o.... Soames argues that we should take propositions to be event-types. He notes that utterances are events, suggests that we can take a sentence S to be an event-type of which utterances of S are the tokens.... But this raises a host of interesting questions. Can we predicate flying of Pegasus? And is this a different sort of event from predicating flying of Fafner?"
Events today should make it clear that the internet has an "off" switch and that, under certain circumstances, those in power will use it. This makes it all the more important that we understand the need for an open and distributed internet, one that can't simply be switched off. Unfortunately, we are going in exactly the opposite direction. Bill St. Arnaud writes, " we need a National Public Internet (NPI) that is dedicated to the concept that the 'Internet is for everyone' and not a small number of multi-billion dollar content companies or service providers." What we don't need are the 'special deals' internet providers are setting up with sites like Facebook. Contrary to St. Arnaud, I think we do need to discourage, and perhaps even legislate against, such special deals. The time is short, and events in Egypt make it clear what are the stakes.
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