OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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May 31, 2011

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All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
Derek Morrison, The Auricle, May 31, 2011.

Derek Morrison links to a video that explores the philosophy of objectivism (it's ok, stay with me) and the rise of the digital industry and especially a digital culture populated by Ayn Rand heroes. It traces the idea that the "cybernetic dream" could relieve us of the need for government and work toward a self-stabilizing system. Like, say, a Carpenter's computer-assisted wisdom of crowds. Or the self-certainty of Alan Greenspan. That less management is more. This would be the beginning of the long boom. And of a morality best expressed by people like Bill Clinton and Leonard Cohen.

But what we have built instead? Not an new form of democracy with perfect freedom. "Power is exercised over the individual in new and surprising ways," says the video. We commodify ourselves; we turn our intimate thoughts into commodities, which are sold by corporations as entertainment. When governments stepped back, the financiers moved in, not to help society, but to help themselves. The price is paid by ordinary people like you and me. And instead of feeling like Randian heroes, we are helpless components of a global system that we are powerless to control or change. The video on BBC is available in Britain only, but you can see a full copy on YouTube, here and on DailyMotion, here.

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Agile learning: How 'making do' can evolve into 'making good'
David Jennings, ALT Online Newsletter, May 31, 2011.

files/images/320px-Agile_Software_Development_methodology.jpg, size: 25529 bytes, type:  image/jpeg Agile is a software development methodology based on iterative and incremental development using self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It evolved in response to the rapidly changing environments and uncertain end-user requirements characteristic of the internet. Agile learning is the migration of that concept into education. How well does it travel? "Some might say that we are close to that tipping point now, or have already passed it... It is clearly going to be a rough, uneven and sometimes ill-tempered period of transition. The recent hoo-ha over the term Edupunk ... is just a small portent of things to come." As with all discussions of this sort, David Jennings brings up the examples of Sugata Mitra and the Khan Academy. But it's a long way to go from Pong and Duke Nukem to, well, Duke Nukem Forever or the internet. "At the moment the main focus of activity on the site is in what you might call ‘hobby learning': how to play a musical instrument, or speak a foreign language. That locates it firmly in the supplement quadrant of the grid. But imagine a tipping point at which the way you build the learning credentials for your life." More items from the new ALT Newsletter.

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Shorten your own dang URLs
Boone Gorges, Teleogistic, May 31, 2011.

Boone Gorges, who has been working on a project reclaim to freee himself from proprietary web applications, has released a do-it-yourself URL shortener, YOURLS. My, I think I'll just build mine into gRSShopper. D'Arcy Norman, meanwhile, uses Lessn.

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Confirmed: Twitter Plans to Announce Photo-Sharing Service This Week
Liz Gannes, All Things D, May 31, 2011.

files/images/bird.jpg, size: 5213 bytes, type:  image/jpeg The news - still preliminary - that Twitter is launching its own photo sharing service should give people pause for thought. On the one hand, as Dave Winer comments, it makes Twitter important all over again. Because it would connect photos with Twitter identities, long-time Flickr users will be tempted to jump. It also offers a challenge to Facebook, which is currently the world's largest photo sharing site. But it should also give pause on the other side of the ledger. Services like TwitPic would be hurt by this development. "Twitter has previously moved onto turf on which third-party developers had already built Twitter-related businesses." And it "explicitly told developers to stop making their own clients earlier this year." This is where coding for proprietary platforms will lead you.

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Pearson Moves Leading SIF Agent Development Kit to Open Source Licensing
Press Release, Pearson, May 31, 2011.

This is interesting. Pearson has announced "the migration of all versions of its SIFWorks Agent Development Kit (ADK) to the business-friendly Apache 2.0 free and open source software license." SIF - or Schools Interoperability Framework (more here), is, as descirbed here by IBM, a mechanism for sharing data across school systems. In this it is similar to other data exchange systems (such as SADI), but agents are authenticated by a Zone Integration Server (ZIS) before messages are passed (there's an Open ZIS, and also a Pearson ZIS, among others). It makes sense for Pearson to open source its SIF implementation for two reasons. First, it undercuts other developers, and second, it extends acceptance of technology that supports its own digital content. On the other hand, Pearson may simply be abandoning a widely criticized SOAP implementation while opening the way for REST alternatives.

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Chemistry on YouTube: Periodic Table of Videos Wins SPORE Prize
Sheerly Avni, Open Culture, May 31, 2011.

The Periodic Table of Videos is a collection of videos created by the University of Nottingham's School of Chemistry and video journalist Brady Haran. There is a video for each of the 118 elements on the table. It's interesting to contrast resources such as this with the top-heavy attempts to turn open educational resources (OERs) into universities. I wonder how wide a gap there is between the people creating resources like this and the people at UNESCO OER conferences.

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Education Reform: If It Can't Fit into a Tablet PC, Forget It
Jim Shimabukuro, educational technology & change, May 31, 2011.

There's all kinds of talk about education reform, but as Jim Shimabukuro suggests, it's all misplaced. It's misplaced not because it's politically suspect, not because it's incipient corporatization, but because it misses the moment. "A simple rule is that if it's not going to fit into the tablet PC environment, don't put money into it." It's not about test scores. "Our current tests may not be suitable for the evolving digital world, and low test scores may be a symptom of this mismatch." It's about ease of learning. "And easier, in and of itself, is a good enough reason to go with the flow."

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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