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May 30, 2011

Videos from the Digital Future of Higher Ed (Feb, 2011)
Norm Friesen, Weblog, May 30, 2011.

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Norm Friesen links to videos from the Digital Future of Higher Education conference held recently at Thompspn Rivers. I haven't seen the videos yet but I plan to.

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10 years after laptops come to Maine schools, educators say technology levels playing field for students
Bonnie Washuk, Lewiston Sun Journal, May 30, 2011.

After ten years, there's no sign Maine has soured on it's laptop experiment. Schoolwork is more interesting. Kids are more engaged. Match scores are better, and so is reading. Even more important, the Maine laptop program has leveled the playing field, giving all students an opportunity to have access to all the exercises and resources they need. And they've become ubiquitous. "They'll say, 'I don't do too much with laptops,'" he said. "But you watch them in class, and you see teachers with classroom Web page where all kinds of information - homework, class work, recommended sites - is available. Teachers e-mail students and parents. They give out assignments on laptops. It's become so common it all seems mundane now."

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Publishers Criticize Federal Investment in Open Educational Resources
Josh Keller, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 30, 2011.

Should government produce open educational resources? The Chronicle quotes publishers with out all the cliches in this troll:
- "I think it's very dangerous for them to be in the product business," said Bill Hughes, vice president of business development and innovation at Pearson Education.
- "There's no free lunch," said James Kourmadas, vice president of strategic marketing at McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
- "I fear when big bucks from government is put into certain places, it actually stops pushing people to innovate," said Kevin Wiggen, chief technology officer of Blackboard Xythos.
The responses in the comments are much better than the 'published' piece. Cable Green also offers a formal response from Creative Commons.

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5 reasons students would rather play Xbox than use the LMS
Dean Groom, Design for Learning, May 30, 2011.

I wouldn't limit the discussion to Xbox, and I wouldn't say all teachers commit all the errors, but it's a pretty good list, as list-articles go.
- "in a game-world, there's always someone there to teach you... there's an automatic differentiation though the games design "
- "Games let you do the same thing at different settings... LMS courses almost never do this. Its just one setting – Confusing."
- "All good games allow the game to be modded by the players in order to make it better."
- "Games just don't act as a totalitarian state, and expect players will create affinity content."
- "Attempts to gamify an LMS – result in all sorts of really bad leader boards and token collecting."

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A summary of Chet Bowers, The false promises of constructivist theories of learning: a global and ecological critique
Leigh Blackall, Weblog, May 30, 2011.

While I believe that there is room for a criticism of constructivism on numerous grounds, and may even one day endeavour to understake such a criticism, I don't think that offered by Chet Bowers is it, or even close. I managed to get about halfway through before abandoning the effort to read it. That said, Leigh Blackall has performed a considerable service by extracting the key arguments from Bowers's book, The false promises of constructivist theories of learning. You can see what irked me about the argument. For example, Bowers makes sweeping generalizations that are probably wrong - "Generally overlooked in the worldwide effort to promote the Western model of development is that one of the primary driving forces is the further automation of the process of production" - um, I mean, what? And he argues against people by pointing out what they don't say, rather than identifying what they do say, and engaging them on that. Perhaps before saying "[Dewey's] silences and misconceptions [include] his failure to recognize the world's culturally diverse knowledge systems..." it may make more sense to describe and discuss what he does say about cultural pluralism (which is a lot).

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Developing vision for teaching with technology
Tony Bates, e-learning & distance education resources, May 30, 2011.

files/images/Brainstorming-300x222.jpg, size: 21680 bytes, type:  image/jpeg I guess it's not a workshop unless it has flipcharts, but that quirk aside, I think Tony Bates has the right idea in pushing academics to try to imagine learning beyond the current context. "Probably the most serious problem we have identified is the general lack of imagination about the possibilities of technology for meeting the needs of today's students," he writes. The response to this, he proposes, is a scenario-building exercise that compels academics to envision different possibilities. "The purpose of scenarios is to develop a way of identifying future possible academic goals and outcomes that are facilitated by or made possible through the use of technology." But it's not automatic. "Many faculty have been badly burned in the past when trying to innovate on an individual basis, so there is often a deep cynicism about such ‘blue sky' thinking and particularly the institution's capacity to support innovative ideas about teaching and learning. Institutional leadership and support for the process is absolutely critical, as is the input of learning technology and IT support staff."

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Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory
Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, Website, May 30, 2011.

Interesting paper in which the authors argue that "The main function of reasoning is argumentative: Reasoning has evolved and persisted mainly because it makes human communication more effective and advantageous." The idea is that we come to conclusions by inference, which may (and often does) happen unconsciously, and that reasoning is the construction of representations that support the inference. But why would we do this, if we have already made the inference. The function of reason is to convince other people. "Reasoning contributes to the effectiveness and reliability of communication by allowing communicators to argue for their claim and by allowing addressees to assess these arguments." This is important, because it makes it clear that the psychological process we use to infer is not the same as the logical process we use to reason. See also this audio interview about the paper. For more on the same idea, see Sperber's publications page.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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