OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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March 20, 2012

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Of dead trees, living networks, and encyclopedic ambition
Matthew Battles, Metalab, March 20, 2012.

As the Encyclopedia Britannica ceases print publication, it is worth keeping in mind that the concept of the encyclopedia began as a philosophical exercise, with Denis Diderot and the French Encyclopédie. It was from the beginning a social and political project:

"The ecclesiastical party detested the Encyclopédie because it gave a voice to materialistic and atheistic philosophers. The French aristocracy felt threatened by the promotion of concepts such as religious tolerance, freedom of thought, and the value of science and industry, and the assertion that the well-being of the common people ought to be the main purpose of a government. A belief arose that the Encyclopédie was the work of an organized band of conspirators against society, whose dangerous ideas were now being openly published."

But today, "by the twentieth century, encyclopedism’s grand epistemological project had been blackboxed, dumbed down, and commodified for aspirant middlebrow readers, the disruptive ambition of Diderot sold door to door. As a project, the encyclopedia was bracing and grand; as product, EB was just another widget courting obsolescence." The move to digital isn't just the surrender of the paper form. It is also a surrender of hegemony over knowledge, of the preeminence of a single 'Britannic' world view, of a world as empire and people as subjects.

See also: David Weinberger, New Republic, David Andrade, CNN, Audrey Watters, O'Reilly, Doug Peterson, Inside Higher Ed, ACRLog, Education Week, Wired, BBC, and of course, the Britannica Blog (and again, and again).

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Thomson Corporation, Online Payment, Books, Project Based Learning, Operating Systems, Networks, Copyrights, Wikipedia]

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Albert Einstein Archive Now Online, Bringing 80,000+ Documents to the Web
Dan Colman, OpenCulture, March 20, 2012.

Someone at Yale, I think, didn't get the message about the dignity of people when he or she coined the title Einstein for the Masses. No matter. Now the masses can access Einstein directly, without Yale's patronizing summary. "A quick way to sample the archive is to enter this gallery, where, among other things, you’ll find Einstein’s manuscript introducing his famous equation, e=mc2." Yeah.

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Bryan Alexander Paints Four Futures for Education
Bryan Alexander, CogDogBlog, March 20, 2012.

It used to be that futurists predicted the future. That's no longer in vogue. Now what we see more typically are four (or so) 'scenarios', such as those described by Bryan Alexander in this video shared by Alan Levine. The four (and they always have catchy names): Phantom Learning, The Lost Decade, alt.residential, Renaissance. And they are based on trends, drivers, prediction market outcomes, and other superstitions. I think the use of scenarios tends to make it appear as though people have a choice in determining their own future. But for the most part, future social phenomena lie outside the realm of individual decisions (except as emergent phenomena or chaotic 'butterfly effect' outcomes). Personally, I think the range of possible futures is rather less wide than imagined. I think we can 'read' (rather than 'project') the future, and that a lot of it is pretty basic logic. Cause and effect, supply and demand, the will to power and human nature are much better guides than mathematics and statistics (one - just once - I'd like to see the economists predict the recession and prescribe a fix before it happens, rather than explain why their projections were wrong after). (Update: around the 1:28 mark there's an interesting short discussion of using historians' methods for predicting the future, which addresses some of my points - glad I stayed with it!).

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Project Based Learning, Video]

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The One Worthy Session From SXSWedu
Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, March 20, 2012.

So there was a SXSW Edu stream in Austin while we were in New Delhi, and reporting from the front row Alan Levine says there was only one non-meh session at it, Jane McGonigal’s 'Learning is an Epic Win', on the topic of games in learning. The post includes slides and a 48-minute hand-held video of reasonable quality (not great quality, though). Best line from the slides (from Slideshare, which is manifestly not broken): "The opposite of 'play' isn't 'work', it's 'depression'."

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Video, Quality]

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An update on the use of e-readers in Africa
Michael Trucano, EduTech, March 20, 2012.

files/images/worldreader-cropped_0.jpg, size: 23874 bytes, type:  image/jpeg I have always maintained that e-readers (or other digital readers) are better than paper-based texts, even in Africa. I know what it feels like to lug a few hundred (or thousand) books around, and I also know first-hand how quickly a leaking roof will destroy a library. So how are things going with e-readers in Africa? Thus far, theft and power haven't been the major problems. Dust, water and breakage have been. Meanwhile, there remain issues with content (there's free content through Gutenberg, but the Kindle-based WorldReader has mostly been using purchased and commercial content. Perhaps with a more platform-agnostic approach that will change. There's also the issue of working with text-based content in oral cultures - I'd love to see a free MP3 audio archive of community learning created.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Africa, Audio]

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The Open Data Handbook
Daniel Dietrich, et.al., The Open Knowledge Foundation, March 20, 2012.

The Open Knowledge Foundation has announced the launch of The Open Data Handbook v1.0 "This handbook discusses the legal, social and technical aspects of open data. It can be used by anyone but is especially designed for those seeking to open up data. It discusses the why, what and how of open data – why to go open, what open is, and the how to ‘open’ data." The handbook isn't especially deep but will serve as a good introduction to those new to the concept of open data.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Books]

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The State of Learning Analytics in 2012: A Review and Future Challenges
Rebecca Ferguson, Knowledge Media Institute / SocialLearn, March 20, 2012.

"Learning analytics," advises this report, "is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs." drawing on papers submitted to the learning analytics conference (LAK11) the author provides a good overview of the subject, including origins, schools of thought, and major themes.

"There were now separate groupings focusing on each of the challenges driving analytics research:
- Educational data mining was primarily focused on the technical challenge: How can we extract value from these big sets of learning-related data?
- Learning analytics was primarily focused on the educational challenge: How can we optimise opportunities for online learning?
- Academic (and action) analytics were focused on the political/economic challenge: How can we substantially improve learning opportunities and educational results at national or international levels?" (Cover page)

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Schools, Research, Online Learning]

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National Research Council changes driven by business needs
Anna Maria Tremonti, CBC News, March 20, 2012.

Audio recording of a news report on the National Research Council, where I work (give the audio a few moments to load). "You can set your clock by it but the Conservative government thinks the National Research Council is locked in time. It wants the NRC to focus more on research that will grow business. Critics say that could stifle creativity and innovation." See also this earlier article on the same subject.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Research, Audio]

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Eileen Ambrose: Want a scholarship? Watch what you post online
Eileen Ambrose, Baltimore Sun, March 20, 2012.

Yet another article warning students to watch what they post online. I still don't get this. Why don't they warn students (and politicians, and themsleves) not to be racist thugs, not to damage public property, not to run campus drug rings - and all the other stuff which, when publicized on Facebook, gets their scholarship terminated. The overwhelming message underlying these articles seems to be "don't get caught" rather than "don't do it." This tells me, I think, about the moral bankruptcy of the system producing these articles.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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