- My eBooks
Current song: Loading ...
About Stephen Downes
About Stephen's Web
Subscribe to Newsletters
Privacy and Security Policy
Web - Today's OLDaily
Web - This Week's OLWeekly
Email - Subscribe
RSS - Individual Posts
RSS - Combined version
JSON - OLDaily
Stephen's Web and OLDaily
Half an Hour Blog
Google Plus Page
Huffington Post Blog
National Research Council Canada
Research Topics, Research Wiki, Code
All My Articles
December 28, 2012
I agree with Michael Shammas that philosophy should be taught in schools, but not for the reasons Shammas states. He argues that philosophy "creates and nurtures thoughtful minds, minds that can -- as Aristotle suggests -- entertain a thought without accepting it." Maybe sometimes, but - based on my experience with philosophers - not nearly often enough. Philosophers can be petty and closed-minded too, believe me. No, to my mind, the reason philosophy should be taught in schools is for the skill set: philosophers learn how to argue, how to formulate hypotheses and propose explanations, how to speak and write clearly and with precision, and how to observe and describe their environment.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Experience]
January 18, 2012
Well, I found this to be a fascinating research result! "Babies don't learn to talk just from hearing sounds. New research suggests they're lip-readers too.... "The baby in order to imitate you has to figure out how to shape their lips to make that particular sound they're hearing," explains developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz of Florida Atlantic University, who led the study being published Monday. 'It's an incredibly complex process.'"
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Books, Research]
November 24, 2011
Brief article that summarizes the main points of Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World's Leading Systems, edited by Marc S. Tucker. The systems of schooling in Shanghai (China) Finland, Japan, Singapore, and Ontario (Canada) are analyzed. This bit accords with my own understanding:
According to this analysis, six key factors underlie the success of those top performers:
1. Funding schools equitably, with additional resources for those serving needy students
2. Paying teachers competitively and comparably
3. Investing in high-quality preparation, mentoring and professional development for teachers and leaders, completely at government expense
4. Providing time in the school schedule for collaborative planning and ongoing professional learning to continually improve instruction
5. Organizing a curriculum around problem-solving and critical thinking skills
6. Testing students rarely but carefully -- with measures that require analysis, communication, and defense of ideas [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, United States, China, Mentors and Mentoring, Quality, Canada, Online Learning]
"If you study people who are really good at things," says Phillip J. Kellman, "always the first thing that jumps out is these people are picking up information differently." This is the basis behind 'perceptual learning', the subject of an all-too-brief report here. The idea of perceptual learning is to practice picking out patterns in perception (for example, though the use of indicator words) rather than plodding through (and 'decoding') paragraphs and other presentations of problem sets. I definitely think there's something to this. Would I want to replace all of education with the exercises described here? No. But there's merit to the idea that expertise is as much a matter of how we perceive the world as it is (say) the acquisition of a bundle of facts and knowledge.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools]
June 16, 2011
Huffington Post article plus embedded TED Video (hence hitting all the major media) on the central questions of 21st century education:
1. How do people learn best?
2. What are the essential skills of a free people?
3. What does it mean to be free?
According to Chaltain, "we need a model for a new age -- the Democratic Age. And we need strategies for ensuring that young people learn how to be successful in the 21st-century world of work, life, and our democratic society." I agree, but the deeper question here is how we characterize that model. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Video]
This link to the archive of the event will take you to an Adobe Connect recording (with great sound; quelle surprise!) of this free online session on the use of social media in schools. Interesting sponsorship model. The event is a N.J. School Boards Association (NJSBA) live event called Learn@Lunch, and the speaker is Eric Sheninger, principal at New Milford High School. Sheninger writes, "small changes, combined with many others, are beginning to have a huge impact on the teaching, learning, and community culture of my school. Even though I have highlighted examples specific to technology, there have also been changes focused on curriculum and programming. Politicians and self-proclaimed reformers routinely throw around the word change and think that a one-size-fits-all approach is what's needed to increase student achievement and innovation. Each school is an autonomous body with distinct dynamics that make it unique. It's the small changes over time that will eventually leave a lasting impact."
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools]
One of the major reasons why it is important to have public-sector involvement in the production of learning materials is that you can't trust the private sector to stay focused on the learning. If there's money to be made, say, by selling a particular message, they'll sneak it in. Thus we see material distributed by Scholastic Corporation recently influenced by the pro-Coal lobby. And while they've backed off on the Coal Lobby, "Scholastic's InSchool Marketing clients have included the Cartoon Network, Claritin, SunnyD, Disney, and McDonald's." And for how long will Scholastic remain this contrite: "We acknowledge that the mere fact of sponsorship may call into question the authenticity of the information, and therefore conclude that we were not vigilant enough as to the effect of sponsorship in this instance?"
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Online Learning]
May 20, 2011
Pretty much everything I know about industrial drafting and construction I learned in two practical classes I took in high school (which I recall by the names 'drafting' and 'industrial arts', though I'm sure they had more formal names. These were the classes for the 'dumb students', which I always felt was ridiculous. In any case, the practicality of clear writing and drawing, the correct use of a circular saw, the elements of a biscuit join - all these are still with me today, and while I am by no means a professional, I can still design and build some pretty nice things. Joe Astroth asks, "Why would today's wired kids need to know how to work with their hands?" and answers, "The answer is that they still need the inspiration and understanding that results from turning something digital into something real." [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Flickr]
March 2, 2011
I saw the graph at right in a in a column by Bill Gates. I was inclined to link to it, but I find myself far more sympathetic with Gary Stager's response. " In his incredibly condescending TED Talk, Gates went on to suggest that we film excellent teaching and share it with others; another long-established practice he thinks he invented to rescue children from all of the awful teachers consciously suppressing standardized test scores. Gates doesn't offer to film the classrooms his children attend, but rather the obedience schools like KIPP he prescribes for poor children. In the world of Bill Gates his children deserve one quality of educational experience and other people's children should receive a joyless diet of remediation, testing, deprivation, compliance and shame.
But you know, if we're going to reduce education policy debates to simplistic graphs, perhaps Gates and his allies should consider my reworking of his graph, below, and ponder what really is the problem in the educational system.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Microsoft, Quality, Experience, Online Learning, Tests and Testing]
January 7, 2011
The underlying message of connectivism: it is a pedagogy based on the realization that knowledge is not something we can package neatly in a sentence and pass along as though it were a finished product. It is complicated, distributed, mixed with other concepts, looks differently to different people, is inexpressible, tacit, mutually understood but never articulated. Posted on Huffington Post.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Connectivism]
January 6, 2011
Ewan McIntosh taps into two very good points in this analysis of the trend toward using iPads in schools. First, purchasing the $750 machines might not save the money administrators expect. Not only will they be very out of date by the time they 'pay for themselves', the computers also require ongoing software and media purchases, increasing their costs. Second, the trend toward purchasing general use iPads, effectively recreating the computer labs in use in the 90s, belies the fact that iPads are intended to be personal machines, customized to their owners' preferences, and that many of the benefits of an iPad are lost if they are anonymized. Good points, good argument.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Customization]
December 15, 2010
Though we may not always follow it perfectly or completely, we tend to try to make our classrooms fair: fairness in learning, fairness in assessment, fairness in reward. But what are the grounds for fairness and equity in education? In this article, I argue that they represent the conditions necessary for a dynamic, active and living society. Posted to Huffington Post, December 15, 2010.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Assessment]
December 6, 2010
Posted in Huffington Post. As each part of the teaching task becomes more complex, and as we as educators seek to reach more specialized populations in more difficult circumstances, the need to understand, and where necessary unbundle, the varied roles of the educator becomes more pressing. A narrow focus on the idea of the teacher as "the purveyor of an education" is unhelpful and misleading.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: none]
December 6, 2010
Now with more than 355 mirrors, Wikileaks is not going away, despite efforts to shut down its DNS, block it from using web hosting or eliminate its use of PayPal. Probably as well, orders to students to not discuss Wikileaks on pain of losing job prospects will prove equally futile. Still, what should not be lost on people is the way the federal mechanism has moved swiftly to shut down debate. Wikileaks may survive, but the government has ways of making your online presence simply disappear and is not afraid to use them. The more centralized the internet becomes - the more we depend on big hubs, common services, large providers - the more likely we will be made to disappear for increasingly trivial offences. Remember, what Wikileaks is doing today is what newspapers used to do in the past, back in the days when we had journalists rather than speechwriters and shills. See also Hello, Big Brother: Columbia Tells Students, "Don't Talk About Wikileaks".
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Twitter, Online Payment, Security Issues]
November 18, 2010
November 17, 2010
From Don Tapscott's latest blog post (original here), a bit about what we're doing in New Brunswick: "It's heartening to know that a tiny province like New Brunswick is giving teachers plenty of opportunity to change their mode of teaching. Teachers can tap into government funds to create new and innovative programs. They can work with teachers around the globe to come up with new ways of teaching that make the most of the technological tools. Teens in New Brunswick are encouraged to meet teens around the globe in online forums and collaborate with them on projects. Technology, in other words, is only the tool. The real work is creating a new model of learning -- one that fits the 21st century." Now there's always going to be people who think that it's some kind of socialism, but I have confidence in the people here who are genuinely striving to give New Brunswickers the education they deserve.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Project Based Learning, Web Logs, Online Learning]
November 5, 2010
My most recent post on Huffington Post. I write: "Today, the dominant values promoted by our institutional forms of governance are power, ownership and control. We represent as more valuable institutions that are able to manage more people, move ever greater resources, amass ever greater quantities of capital. We need to design forms of social organization based on different values, forms that promote stewardship, agility and stability, forms that draw on and enhance our inherent capacities as collections of individuals, rather than forms that magnify or amplify the abilities -- and ambitions -- of single ones of us."
October 28, 2010
Huffington Post article. If we think of OERs in a wider context, then we start saying some new things about them. We stop thinking of learning resources as something produced by publishers and institutions, and instead start thinking of them as being produced by learners themselves. And this in turn changes out thinking about how we sustain the cost of them, how we vet them for quality, and how we license and use them.
[Tags: Open Educational Resources, Books]
October 19, 2010
My first column for Huffington Post. We are the people who have been rebuilding learning technology from the ground up as free and open source software, not simply to lower technology costs for schools and universities, but to help any organization, institution or individual offer their own online learning.
[Tags: Schools, Open Source, Online Learning]
October 4, 2010
Chris Lehman makes a good point about the nature of the education debate: specifically, that we should be having one. "We should have a great debate in this country about education. Educational ideas are -- and should be -- controversial. The space between people like Alfie Kohn and Robert Marzano, between Deborah Meier and Ed Hirsch, could fill volumes.... That's not the discussion we're having. What is going on right now has little to do with education. We are having a labor debate masquerading as an education debate."
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Online Learning]
October 4, 2010
Michael Levine stakes out what seems to me to be a reasonable position in this column at the Huffington Post: "we are missing two key pieces of the puzzle: We are not committed to early childhood and family support needed to bathe children in a decent start, and we lack a strong commitment to use technology that can deepen and personalize learning in a digital age. Instead of preparing for new needs with modern technologies, national policy has unintentionally turned many of our schools into test prep academies that are focused on standardized skill sets in a world that demands higher-level thinking."
This is probably a good a time as any to let readers know I will be blogging in the Education Section at Huffington Post starting this month. The section, which was launched today, features quite a number of bloggers, including Karl Fisch, Chris Lehman, Margaret Spellings and Diane Ravitch, to name a few. This is, for me at least, an unpaid volunteer activity. My own first post will not display until mid-October, and as always, will also be posted here, with a link in OLDaily and archiving in my Articles page. [Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, Personalization, Web Logs, Online Learning]
February 25, 2010
As funding is cut and tuition fees rise dramatically, the crisis in education approaches. The end won't be pretty. "The free market is really a giant Ponzi scheme where companies hold down workers wages so that the employees are forced to live on debt, and then this debt is bought and sold on a global market... All over the country, tuition is going up, and students are turning to public and private loans in order to finance the cost of their education. Not only does this mean that many students will graduate with huge debts that will take them years to pay off, but the student demand for credit is resulting in a huge gold rush for banks and other private corporations."
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Tuition and Student Fees]
October 13, 2009
Article in Huffington Post advocating open educational resources (OERs) and describing Curriki (sort for 'curriculum wiki'), a major source of such materials. The author, who is executive director of the Curriki project, then describes a number of sustainability models being considered by the site.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Open Educational Resources, Project Based Learning]
Don Tapscott recommends that the United States follow the example of Portugal, which has taken to online learning in a big way. He also writes, "It's too early to assess the impact on learning in Portuguese schools. Studies of the impact of computers in schools elsewhere have been inconclusive, or mixed." First, I think Portugal is very different from the United States. And second, I think that jumping on some sort of Portuguese bandwagon is premature. Not that I'm disagreeing with his recommendations; it's just that the evidence he cites for them is lacking. And there are many more positive examples closer to home.
[Comment] [Direct Link] [Tags: Schools, United States, Online Learning]