OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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April 20, 2011

Feature Article
Response Statement
Stephen Downes, April 20, 2011.

My second contribution to the debate at the WSIS-UNESCO site, consisting of my response to David Wiley and some of the commenters. The key point is that I define 'commercial use' as 'use that blocks access' in order to resolve the vagueness the proponents of commercial use complain about (and at the same time, try to take advantage of).

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Language Structure is Not Innate
Russell Gray, Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database, April 20, 2011.

One of the enduring theses about language and language learning is Chomsky's contention that it is based in a common and innate deep or structural grammar. But here now is a study showing that "language structure is not set by innate features of the cognitive language parser (as suggested by the generativists), or by some over-riding concern to "harmonize" word-order (as suggested by the statistical universalists). Instead language structure evolves by exploring alternative ways to construct coherent language systems. Languages are instead the product of cultural evolution, canalized by the systems that have evolved during diversification, so that future states lie in an evolutionary landscape with channels and basins of attraction that are specific to linguistic lineages." See also LanguageHat and Languiage Log (and if you're not familiar with these blogs, and if you have an interest in language, then by all means explore them further - they are both fantastic sources and staples in my daily reads).
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Trust and Networks
Gideon Rosenblatt, Alchemy of Change, April 20, 2011.

files/images/Relationship-Status.jpg, size: 17314 bytes, type:  image/jpeg I really have mixed feelings about arguments linking the role of trust with success in networks. I mean, I get what the authors mean when they say things like "Trust builds living networks that are highly resilient, flexible and efficient." My project is, while I can get a handle on what is meant by 'resilient', 'flexible' and 'efficient', I don't know what is meant by trust. It's something that can be high or low, it's something that can create tolerance or forgiveness, and all the rest of it. But when you push the concept, it begins to break down into thinks like autonomy, diversity, openness or interactivity, that sort of thing. When you push it, 'trust' itself vanishes and more rather more pragmatic and concrete values manifest. So we see in this article the author talk about the idea that network membership is voluntary, that members are autonomous, that they interact as peers, that there is no external controlling force. So why don't wee address trust in these terms? I think it's because the larger entities online don't want there to be a balance of power, and so the word 'trust' is a nice euphemism can can be used; it sounds good, and it puts a human face on some very unhuman entities. Just my thoughts, for what they're worth.

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University Newspaper Figures Out How To Get Around Administration's Censorship Orders
Mike Masnick, TechDirt, April 20, 2011.

files/images/dq1iY.jpg, size: 48322 bytes, type:  image/jpeg I spent the better part of my misspent youth in student newspaper offices and had to deal with the censorship thing on numerous occasions. So I'll just echo Mike Masnick of TechDirt: "Frankly, the administration at LaSalle should be ashamed of itself. It's not teaching these students journalism at all. It's teaching them about a paranoid administration that wants to hide from the truth. This aspect of the story seems a hell of a lot more damaging to LaSalle University than the original story of the strippers. That could have just been one crazy professor. But the systematic censorship of a student newspaper concerning "damaging" content suggests a university that people shouldn't want to be associated with. If an organization is afraid of the press, there's usually a damn good reason why: because they have things to hide."

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Advice from 13 Canadian and World Experts
Maxim Jean-Louis, Website, April 20, 2011.

Maxim Jean-Louis has shared a number of documents related to the development of a proposed Ontario Online Institute. I have access to three of these:
- Advice from 13 Canadian and World Experts
- What I Heard, a summary of results of consultations
- Advice from Private Sector Providers of Platforms, Services and Infrastructure for Online Learning in Ontario
"If an OOI is about students, then it should be about lifelong learners, not just those already in college or university, but also those who are seeking to upgrade their essential skills for work or further studies or seeking to leverage online learning for their workplace learning and development."

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Social Learning, Complexity and the Enterprise
Harold Jarche, Life in Perpetual Beta, April 20, 2011.

Harold Jarche weighs in with a longish post that touches elements that will be familiar to his regular readers but which offers an excellent overview for those new to his thinking. In a nutshell, he argues that "our relationship with knowledge is changing as our work becomes more intangible and complex." This means our workplaces must change, and workplace learning must change, to embrace social learning in a complex environment. This doesn't just happen by waving your hands; you need something like Jane Hart's five ways of using social media for learning in the organization, he suggests. There are examples and business cases and plenty of resources to learn from.

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Adapt.js Offers JavaScript Alternative to CSS Media Queries
Scott Gilbertson, Webmonkey, April 20, 2011.

Nice nifty little Javascript that will handle stylesheet selection for you, thus offering support to browsers that don't recognize the @media directive in CSS.

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hooks, bell. (2010) Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom
Reviewed by Leonel Lim, education review, April 20, 2011.

There has long been a need for "a more congenial form of rationality that emphasizes contextuality, ambiguity, creativity, and a tolerance of heterogeneity over logical certitude, validity, universal principles, and polarizations typified by binary 'us–them' thinking." But what would such a critical thinking look like, and is the book being reviewed here a step in the right direction? I don't know. I can see how, as the reviewer says, "Teaching Critical Thinking is in many ways a reaction to the dominant ideas and ideals of the field." But I'm not sure I'm ready to accept just any reaction; it has to be about more than just transcending bias. The reviewer writes, and I agree, "Developing a form of critical thinking rooted in practical wisdom may require more than the acknowledgement and inclusion of individuals' subjective and emotive qualities, or the eschewal of the skills of logic and argument analysis in thinking curricula."

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The Usability of Passwords
Thomas Baekdal, Baekdal, April 17, 2011.

This is something worth taking note of for the future: "It is 10 times more secure to use 'this is fun' as your password, than 'J4fS<2'." Moreover, it is much more likely that I would remember a phrase like 'this is fun' than some random - or even non-random - string of numbers and characters. But there are other, much more effective, ways to block brute force attacks: "A hacker can hack the password 'alpine fun' in only 2 months if he is able to attack your server 100 times per second. But, with the penalty period and the 5 second delay, the same password can suddenly sustain an attack for 1,889 years." Long enough for most of us. Related: Moodle Security.

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Local social capital through e-mentoring: an agenda for new research
D. Kevin O'Neill, Learning, Media and Technology, April 17, 2011.

I was disappointed when I read this paper, not merely because of the generally weak writing, the glaring logical error in the first paragraph, or the use of references for no good reason (such as the citation to support the assertion that "information and communications technologies are re-shaping our culture in far-reaching ways") but because the topic is of sufficient importance and even insight to merit a much more serious and far-reaching enquiry. Contra Putnam (who is cited approvingly in this article) the online mentoring provides the opportunity to extend and enhance (what is euphemistically called) social capital. Still, you'll get some description of tele-mentoring projects, so it's not all a loss.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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