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April 6, 2011

In Search of the Secret Handshakes of ID
Ellen Wagner, The Journal of Applied Instructional Design, April 6, 2011.

files/images/Logowbckgrnsmaller1.png, size: 88022 bytes, type:  image/png What is instructional design? It's not clear. Reiser & Dempsey defined it as a "systematic process that is employed to develop education and training programs in a consistent and reliable fashion." If you're a "true believer," as Ellen Wagner was, you made clear the underlying links between ID theory and practice. But in the workplace, "the object lesson (was) that theoretical foundations guiding the study of the evolution of a field can be awkwardly out of alignment with the evolution of a professional practice." This is especially the case if instructional designers come from a technical background - they see the work as supporting a technical process, not a learning process. "There is no emphasis on learning theory. There is no emphasis on instructional theory. There are no assessments."

On the other hand, IDs from the educational disciplines are prepared for a quite different task, unprepared to cope with changing technology. "We used to look more like psychologists than artists, scripters or programmers, but that balance has shifted. ID must work with technology tools, because so much of today's learning and performance support is enabled / managed / distributed via technology." Maybe it's time, suggests Wagner, to stop thinking of ID as a process, and to start thinking of it as part of product development. "If an ID model can effectively guide production,
then all IDs must be able to produce." Via Cammy Bean.

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Thinking through performing and learning
Clark Quinn, Learnlets, April 6, 2011.

I was more interested in the diagram (above) than the text in this article, as it captures the idea of learning through acting. But as i read through it, I couldn't help thinking, "'Process' is for beginners (or for people doing something so complex, like landing an airliner, they can't be trusted to remember everything)." The expert may do things the same way everything, but 'process' is descriptive, not prescriptive, and the expert will vary a routine instantly at the slightest perturbation - that's how we know they're an expert. So we have to view descriptions of process, such as we see here, as highly abstract and to a large degree fictionalized accounts of how to do things (including how to solve problems).

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The value of pure science
Editorial, Ottawa Citizen, April 6, 2011.

The Ottawa Citizen offers an editorial on the National Research Council, one I'm sure was closely read in our offices. "(Nobel prize winner Michael) Polanyi warned the NRC against concentrating too much on industrial work at the expense of pure science. 'The NRC laboratories have the valuable function of bridging the gap between academe and industry. My fear ... is that the NRC's bridge will get weaker,'"... the concerns expressed by Polanyi are important. If, as part of an effort to better support industry, the NRC undermines some of what has made it such an important organization, any gains from this new direction will come at a greater long-term cost."

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The Complete Educator's Guide to Using Skype effectively in the classroom
Sue Waters, The Edublogger, April 6, 2011.

files/images/skype73-ocgla0.jpg, size: 33445 bytes, type:  image/jpeg Nice and comprehensive article about using Skype in the classroom, though its length makes the reader wish more attention had been paid to presentation. You might be better off copying it and pasting it into a Word Document, so you can organize it more clearly. Also note that your version of Skype may look different from the screen shots - Skype has the most inconsistent interface of any software I've seen. All of that said, this article is definitely useful, and if you're thinking of in-class conferencing, you'll want to have a look at it.

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How college students use the Web to conduct everyday life research
Alison J. Head and Michael B. Eisenberg, First Monday, April 6, 2011.

Students use search services quite a bit in everyday life, "many searches involve decision–making to resolve a specific problem with real–life consequences," and for them, like me, "the process of filtering relevant from non–relevant search results was reportedly the most difficult part of everyday life research." This is one of the results from a largish survey of American university students (the most surveyed - and least representative - population on the planet). More interesting is what they searched for. "Participants discussed searching for information to (1) satisfy curiosity, (2) find a fact quickly, and (3) solve a specific information problem... Could a recent tick bite cause Lyme disease? What news is being reported in the hometown newspaper? What does a diagnosis of breast cancer mean for the patient? What is the starting salary for civil engineers? What are the values of a certain religious group?" See also behavior of college students concerning Wikipedia by Sook Lim and Christine Simon, and more from the current issue of First Monday.

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The OER University: Institution or Consortium?
Sir John Daniel, Commonwealth of Learning, April 6, 2011.

Sir John Daniel continues his discussion of extensions of open education. He begins, "the Open Educational Practices movement, developed by Germany's Ulf-Daniel Ehlers and the UK's Gráinne Conole, struck me as a bit flaky." He offers two reasons: first, "innovating on too many fronts at once scares off students," and second, "radical innovations in higher education must be accompanied by particularly robust frameworks of accreditation and credentialing in order to reassure the public."

But perhaps if the extension were endorsed by the right people, it might be acceptable. Daniel finds this person in the form of Jim Taylor, and in particular (though he doesn't cite it directly) this paper, which describes an extended model of open learning. But the main thing, for Daniel, is to keep the old guard in control. "Implicit in my own vision for the Open Educational Resource University is that it is not a new stand-alone institution seeking its own accreditation, but rather an umbrella organisation for participating institutions with longstanding reputations and accreditation." See the related logic model proposed by OERU.

I honestly don't see why it's flaky when Ulf-Daniel Ehlers and Gráinne Conole (or any of the rest of us) do it, but not flaky when Jim Taylor proposes it.

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NDPR Mark Rowlands, The New Science of the Mind: From Extended Mind to Embodied Phenomenology
Reviewed by Robert D. Rupert, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, April 2, 2011.

According to proponents of situated cognition, the human mind is not simply the computing brain. But then, what is it? Proponents argue, "we must pay close attention to the actual material environment in which human cognition takes place and to the way in which we use our bodies -- our whole bodies -- to interact with the world during problem-solving." We have to consider, for example, the way people engage in cognition through tool use, creativity or interaction. Mark Rowlands's The New Science of the Mind is an update of this thesis and defines cognitive processes that "comprise both neural and nonneural bodily processes, as well as processes beyond the boundary of the organism."

There are four major versions of situated cognition:
- the extended-mind thesis - "cognition is constituted partly by elements or processes beyond the boundary of the organism"
- the embodied view - "cognition is constituted partly by nonneural, bodily processes"
- the embedded approach - "genuine cognition occurs inside the organism only -- perhaps only in the skull [but depends] on the contribution of the environment"
- the enactive view - there is "a special role for action in the constitution of cognition," for example, "One does not simply open one's eyes and see... seeing is something one does, by interacting with one's environment"

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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