by Stephen Downes
Dec 30, 2015
Improving Instruction in a Digital World
A Principal's Reflections,
When I first saw the diagram I thought it was about the use of open educational resources (OERs). Then I thought it was about Bloom's taxonomy. In the end, it's a little of both, as it outlines a framework (specifically, the Rigor and Relevance Framework) for learning and learning technology. I wish it could go beyond seeing learning resources as content to be learned. Even at the highest level ('adaptation') we're seeing nothing more than mash-ups, broadcasting and commenting. But what ar they doing? Remembering the content is irrelevant; building capacity is everything. That's where the learning really happens.
A South African perspective on what makes a great teacher
There's plenty of evidence that the main premise of this article - "no factor is more important to education standards than the quality of the teacher" - is false. Factors outside the classroom, usually related to socio-economic status, are far more important. But what caught my eye in this post were the characteristics of teachers rated to be most important. At the top of the list: patience, caring and dedication. At the bottom: making ideas and content clear. That, I think, is the opposite of what most people would expect.
I recently uploaded a new video of my panel presentation on agile learning design at OEB (the sound on the first was gibbled, but this came out much better). Not long after I got an email from a friend saying volunteers had completed a set of subtitles for the talk. The site they used was Amara. Here's the pitch: Amara "makes it easy to caption and translate video. Amara also hosts volunteer localization & accessibility communities, and offers professional tools and services for subtitles." I found my subtitles here, and following the instructions here, added the subtitles to my YouTube video in seconds. I also created an article out of the subtitles, which you can view here. I'll do the same for any other videos of mine that people subtitle.
6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person
This was written a few years ago, but it's making the end-of-year rounds again, and I think it should be shared (note, though: language warning - it's on Cracked.com after all). The harsh truths are all to the effect that the world is not a nice place. Here they are (quoted):
- The world only cares about what it can get from you
- You are nothing more than the sum total of your useful skills
- What you produce does not have to make money, but it does have to benefit people
- You hate yourself because you don't do anything
- What you are inside only matters because of what it makes you do
- Everything inside you will fight improvement
This is both right and it is wrong. Here is where it is wrong: it is basically a denial that you - or anyone else - has any intrinsic worth. And really, if you get down to it, the Cracked article is really nothing more than effective SEO: find a hope or fear we all tap into, illuminate it with some over-generalizations, and promote the package with some spicy language. And "'the world' appears to mean '21st century Western society in the wake of neoliberalism.'" Surely we can create a society that can do better than this, if only to ensure that children and infants (who produce nothing) are fed.
And yet... and yet... forgetting the part about what other people will pay you or give you, isn't there truth to the idea that we will feel better about ourselves if we're doing something? For all my faults, I feel better about myself when I write something than when I don't, when I cycle somewhere (or work out on the trainer) instead of sitting all day, when I write software instead of playing Civ. Sure, I enjoy the relaxation - we all need that - but the point is, it's rest, it isn't life. Yes, I have worth even if I do nothing, but I feel better if I do something worthwhile (and especially if I can help other people).
Cycling in Berlin. (Theory vs. Reality)
I have an interest in cycling, but that's not why I'm posting this item here. The filmmaker Claudia Brückner writes in the credits, " I learned a lot from the amazing online DIY & indie-filmmaker scene - and its hero Casey Neistat - that influenced and inspired the style of making this video." This, I think, is where the future of education and journalism overlap. It's informal, it's practical, and it has an impact on both the filmmaker and the wider community. I'm not saying everyone should be making videos like this, but I am saying that videos like this are an example of the sort of education (and journalism) we can expect in the future. The content of the video, by the way, is spot on.
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