by Stephen Downes
[Sept] 17, 2015
New Program Will Make Free OnlineTextbooks Available to Manitoba Post-Secondary Students: Minister Allum
Government of Manitoba,
Some good news from my former home province of Manitoba: "Post-secondary students will soon benefit from access to a free online textbook library thanks to the province’s new Open Textbook Initiative, Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum announced today. 'Textbooks are one of the biggest costs faced by post-secondary students,' said Minister Allum. 'While we work hard to keep tuition fees among the lowest in Canada, this new initiative will save students money by giving them free online access to the reading material they need to achieve academically.'" Even when I lived in Manitoba in the late 1990s I agitated for open textbooks; it's nice to see it finally happen.
Quebec's La Presse to scrap weekday print edition to focus on app
Remember when people said newspapers would never disappear because people would always prefer paper? "You can't read a computer in the bathtub." Remember that? La Presse is a major newspaper in Canada. "It is too costly to sustain both the print paper and digital initiatives, and that cutting printing to one day a week will save La Presse $30-million annually." This after making investments of more than $16 million to get it off the ground. They will soon be digital-only. It won't be long before the print version is the rarity and the electronic version is the norm - this applies to newspapers, magazines, and books. Paper publications have maybe ten years left. Max.
NASA shows the world its 20-year virtual reality experiment to train astronauts: The inside story
This is a terrific article on NASA's use of virtual reality to train astronauts. A lot of the focus of VR is on skills training, but the article makes it clear that one of it's key roles is to give the astronauts a feeling of familiarity with the environment and to help them develop the right intuitions for working in a weightless environment. "There's a great advantage in just feeling as though the environment isn't entirely new. 'It means everything. It's not hard to realize that just beyond that thin little visor is instantaneous death. It's oblivion,' Wheelock said." E-learning (including VR) can prepare us far better than traditional instruction for such situations (indeed, the idea of teaching it in a classroom is laughable). So - to answer the traditional objection to e-learning - I wouldn't want to employ an astronaut (or a pilot, or a brain surgeon) who didn't use e-learning.
Ask Polly: Should I Just Give Up on My Writing?
Good article. The musicians I admire are the ones who keep writing and playing even if they haven't become stars. The artists are the ones who draw and paint and photograph even if nobody buys their work. The ball players who work on their skills for ten years in the minors. Those of us who are lucky are those who are able to pursue their chosen craft for a living (whether that craft is auto mechanics, law, medicine or engraving). This - and not fame and awards and big contracts - is what counts as success. The rest, honestly, is all timing and who you know and whether your father made enough money to get you into Yale.
It's like selling lemonade when you're a kid. I sold lemonade at the age of 9 or 10, you probably sold lemonade (or at least knew someone who did). But we don't make it into the New York Times. Not because we're failures, but because we don't live in Silicon Valley and don't have a father who is a social media expert (my father worked for 30 years as a telephone pioneer in Montreal and Ottawa, and he wasn't a failure either, but he wasn't ever going to get me into the NY Times). If your definition of success is to be on Oprah and be covered by the NY Times, you have to be in the right place at the right time, and you can't make that happen (at best, you have to have spent years honing your craft so you can make the most of the opportunity).
Welcome to hell: Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook and the slow death of the web
I think there's some truth and some error in this article. All of it is important. First is the (not-so-)slow strangulation of the traditional web by the big three ocntent providers: "It's Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook, all with their own revenue platforms. Google has the web, Facebook has its app, and Apple has the iPhone. This is the newest and biggest war in tech going today." But this is based on what is probably the most pervasive myth about the internet that there is: "the ads pay for all that content, an uneasy compromise between the real cost of media production and the prices consumers are willing to pay that has existed since the first human scratched the first antelope on a wall somewhere." No. Not even close. The ads pay for some content, but huge swaths of content (including antelopes scratched on walls) appear without advertising, and serve a social service (such as education, governance, or public order). Indeed, I pay a huge chunk of the cost when I pay for my own bandwidth, software and Netflix subscriptions, and computer equipment. And that's why I don't think I should have to view advertisements.
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