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by Stephen Downes
May 14, 2015

The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment
Malcolm Brown, Joanne Dehoney, Nancy Millichap, EDUCAUSE, 2015/05/14

This article describes the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (referred to with the ungainly acronym NGDLE). It takes as its starting point the observation that while the LMS (Learning Management System) succeeded at managing learning, it was less successful as a means of supporting learning. The NGDLE will therefore be more focused toward the individual learner and to alternative pedagogical models. "To be fully realized it must address five domains of core functionality:

  • Interoperability and Integration
  • Personalization
  • Analytics, Advising, and Learning Assessment
  • Collaboration
  • Accessibility and Universal Design

I think they're right but that they need to dig deeper. For example, they write: "Personalization encompasses two aspects. The first is the outfitting and configuration of the learning environment, which is then used to construct pathways to accomplish learning tasks and attain learning goals... The second aspect is adaptive learning, in which an automated system provides learners with coaching and suggestions specific to each learner’s needs." I think this described customization, but personal learning needs to look an in individual, their community, and they specific learning context. Similarly, this article addresses collaboration, which is a mass-oriented system of networking, where I would favour cooperation, which is addressed toward individual needs.

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The Technology Reference Model
Wendy Wickham, In the Middle of the Curve, 2015/05/14


Noted and logged: "The Technical Reference Model (TRM) in TOGAF serves as the high level model and taxonomy for the architecture. Basically a high level model of what we have, where it fits, and what we are going to call it." Good post, useful concept. See also Archi.

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What is the point of op-eds about professors?
Daniel W. Drezner, Washington Post, 2015/05/14


Another example of burying the lede - though maybe nobody would have read the item were the point stated right up front. This post is a response to a (yet another) irresponsible NY Times article about education bemoaning today's irresponsible student, grade inflation, and the lack of adulation of the professoriate. Of course, none of Mark Bauerlein's fantasy world ever really existed (except maybe the grade distribution, which probably reflected the quality of students when only the rich could attend university). "In essence," writes Drezner, "Bauerlein’s lament is a bad sequel to William Deresiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep,” which was a poorly-supported argument as well." Oh, but the buried lede? It's this: "Of course The New York Times will publish essays about elite schools. Of course publishing something like Bauerlein’s essay is one of those trolling exercises that will prompt vigorous replies like this one." That's what education journalism has become these days.

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UN Report Says Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World
Nick Meyer, TechnologyWater, 2015/05/14

This article is really useful in helping me understand the scepticism people have about the sort of view of learning I espouse. When I looked at the headline my reaction was that there is no way small-scale individual food production could be sustainable, let along feed the world. That's what prompted me to follow the links to the source, rather than dismissing the idea as hooey (yes, even I dismiss some ideas as hooey!). And I think at the core of the UN report (341 page PDF) there is an analogue with distributed online personal learning (which is how I'm thinking of connectivism these days). Here's their take (quoted):

  • The perception that there is a supply-side productivity problem is questionable. Hunger and malnutrition are mainly related to lack of purchasing power..
  • The fundamental transformation of agriculture may well turn out to be one of the biggest challenges (with) mounting pressure on food security and related access to land and water
  • The world needs a shift... toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small scale farmers
  • We need to see a move from a linear to a holistic approach... which recognizes that the farmer is not only a producer of agricultural goods, but also... water, soil, landscape, energy, biodiversity and recreation
  • Significant governance issues, power asymmetries' problems in food input and output markets as well as current trade rules for agriculture pose considerable challenge
  • Elements: increasing soil carbon content, reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, closed nutrient cycles, reduction of waste, climate-friendly food consumption, reform of international trade regime
  • Need for a holstic understanding of the challenges...

When put this way, the move away from large-scale automated agricultural production begins to make more sense. Many of the gains we see are illusory and non-sustainable. The same is true in learning. We may achieve what appear to be gains through massive-scale outcomes-focused education automation. But this is a misapplication of educational technology, and does not recognize the importance of education in an ecosystem, and the role educators play as stewards of far more than job-readiness in a society. The key to the MOOC (as I've always said, not that anyone listens) isn't the massive scale, though it is scalable, it's the return of education to individual autonomy, of localized knowledge production, of the integration of community-based learning with other social values (diversity, openness, etc.).

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Immersion in a Story Experience
Ron Scroggin, Google+, 2015/05/14


This is a rich source of ideas. I've spent enough time exploring this item without knowing exactly what I'm looking at to decide it's worth passing along to you to see what you make of it. The core concept being explored here is 'enaction' - "There’s a significant difference between enacting and acting. Acting is following a script and taking on a role, a character that is different from your own. Enacting has no script and you do not take on a performance or play a character. You are playing yourself, and, as the expedition progresses, you enact more and more of your true self." Obviously there's a relation between this concept and those of learning design and learning environments. This post takes work - there's no linear thread and you have to dig around. There's a corresponding Facebook discussion as well which is worth a visit.

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Video is the New Text...Hmmm!
Will Thalhaimer, Will at Work Learning, 2015/05/14


"Video is here to stay," writes Will Thalhaimer. "As of this day in 2015, more and more elearning is utilizing good video; but still more can be done." Maybe so, and of course there's nothing like a good engaging instructional video - TED and Khan Academy were successful for a reason. But I also find that a lot of the time when I click on a link and find it's a video, I move on very quickly. Video requires an investment from the viewer in terms of time and attention. It draws you in, but at the same time it turns off your critical filters. I don't think video is the new text. Nothing is the new text. Even text is not the new text. It all blurs together in a mélange of media we have to see as a whole new thing, not a replacement of old things.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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