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Letter on Open Access
Various authors, Google Docs, Aug 05, 2015

Cable Green writes: "Today, a broad coalition of more than 90 organizations representing the education, library, technology, public interest and legal communities released a letter calling on President Obama to open up educational materials created with federal taxpayer funds." This is that letter on Google Docs. Here's the 11 page PDF. I wish people in Canada would send a similar sort of letter to our elected leaders.

An experiment with the oerpub editor
David T. Jones, The Weblog of (a) David Jones, Aug 05, 2015

The OERPub editor is an interface where you can create your open source textbook on GitHub using a relatively intuitive text editor with various tools. It is in this way a lot like the old Connexions project (now repurposed and called OpenStax), but without the institutional overhead. This post from David Jones recounts some work with the OERPub Editor. Keep in mind that the editor is still in alpha, so a lot of features aren't working yet.

Here’s a $5M Seed Fund to Support Higher-Ed Innovations Besides MOOCs
Tony Wan, EdSurge, Aug 05, 2015

So what's being funded in learning these days? "University Ventures said it’s already invested in four companies:

  • CampusLogic, which helps colleges manage the financial aid process;
  • Entangled Ventures, a “studio” founded by Paul Freedman that connects universities with startups (one of which recently merged with ApprenNet);
  • ProSky, a training platform for specific skills in demand from employers;
  • Portfolium, which allows students to showcase digital portfolios to potential employers.

But Mark Smithers counters: "we need more investment in mainstreaming innovations, not generating new ones."

White House: Innovation in Higher Education
George Siemens, elearnspace, Aug 05, 2015

I can't resist sharing this post describing George Siemenss'ss invitation and visit to the White House (meanwhile people pay very good money to keep people like me far away from such places!). This seems to be true: "Higher education generally has no clue about what’s brewing in the marketplace as a whole. The change pressures that exist now are not ones that the existing higher education model can ignore. The trends – competency-based learning, unbundling, startups & capital inflow, new pedagogical models, technology, etc – will change higher education dramatically."

Also, this: "I was struck by how antagonistic some for-profits are toward public higher education. I sat in one session where a startup spent much of the time expressing intense dislike for higher education in today’s form 'my tax dollars are going to bad actors', ironically to be followed up with 'I loved my time in university. It shaped me and made me'. It reminds me of Peter Thiel’s drop out of school and start a company. But what does Thiel expect when his money and his life is at stake? He expects, for his hedge fund: 'High GPA from top-tier university; preferably in computer science, mathematics, statistics, econometrics, physics, engineering or other highly quantitative.'"

Coursera Update: A New Name for Verified Certificates
Corsera Blog, Aug 05, 2015

They will be called 'Course Certificates'. That is all.

How will ad-blocking software change the web-content industry?
Jean-Louis Gassée, Quartz, Aug 05, 2015

I think that Apple was looking for ways to improve battery life in its mobile devices and someone was smartly thinking out of the box. "With content blocking turned on, the page loaded in two seconds instead of eleven. Once loaded, network activity ceased, which means less strain on the battery." Quite so. I have used ad blocking for years (I use Firefox), not simply because I hate ads but also because they are distracting, slow to load, space-wasting and a huge drain on resources. Plus, they spy on me. "If you have a 1 GB/month mobile data plan, going to the site three times a day will exhaust your data budget—and place you in the caring hands of 22 flavors of spyware."

Developing a framework for teaching open courses
Alec Couros, Open Thinking, Aug 05, 2015

Long and enormously useful post from Alec Couros describing 'semi-structured' open courses. The concept is drawn from Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown: "The new culture of learning actually comprises two elements. The first is a massive information network that provides almost unlimited and resources to learn about anything. The second is a bounded and structured environment that allows unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries."

How big data is unfair
Moritz Hardt, Medium, Aug 05, 2015

Is justice 'fairness'? Is there a requirement that big data be fair? That is the underlying presumption behind this paper that argues that the needs and interests of minorities are subsumed under the unflinching generalizations of big data. Empirically, I think there's no doubt that Moritz Hardt is right. This is the sort of observation that has spurred philosophers since John Stuart Mill to warn of the "tyranny of the majority". How much does it matter, though? Will it even slow down the adoption of big data? It should - but will it? In medicine, we have the "do no harm" principle to prevent doctors from unthinkingly prescribing stock solutions to special cases. But we have no equivalent in education. We don't really get an answer - and at the very end I see the purpose of the article is not to actually address the issue, but to promote a conference. How disappointing.

Links and Resources

(presentations include slides and audio recordings)
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Key Articles

Scholarly Articles

Cites:294 Educational Blogging (Local copy)
264 Learning objects: Resources for distance education worldwide (Local copy)
134 E-learning 2.0 (Local copy)
126 Models for sustainable open educational resources (Local copy)
88 The future of online learning (Local copy
75 Learning networks and connective knowledge (Local copy)
70 Design and reusability of learning objects in an academic context: A new economy of education (Local copy)
59 Resource profiles (Local copy)
40 Learning networks in practice (Local copy)
33 Semantic networks and social networks (Local copy)
35 An introduction to connective knowledge (Local copy)
27 Design, standards and reusability (Local copy)
23 EduSource: Canada's learning object repository network (Local copy)
22 An introduction to RSS for educational designers (Local copy)

(Cites from Google Scholar for an H-Index = 14)

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About Stephen Downes

Stephen Downes is a senior researcher for Canada's National Research Council and a leading proponent of the use of online media and services in education. As the author of the widely-read OLDaily online newsletter, Downes has earned international recognition for his leading-edge work in the field of online learning. He developed some of Canada's first online courses at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba. He also built a learning management system from scratch and authored the now-classic "The Future of Online Learning".

At the University of Alberta he built a learning and research portal for the municipal sector in that province, Munimall, and another for the Engineering and Geology sector, PEGGAsus. He also pioneered the development of learning objects and was one of the first adopters and developers of RSS content syndication in education. Downes introduced the concept of e-learning 2.0 and with George Siemens developed and defined the concept of Connectivism, using the social network approach to deliver open online courses to three thousand participants over two years.

Downes has been offering courses in learning, logic, philosophy both online and off since 1987, has 135 articles published in books, magazines and academic journals, and has presented his unique perspective on learning and technology more than 250 times to audiences in 17 countries on five continents. He is a habitual photographer, plays darts for money, and can be found at home with his wife Andrea and four cats in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.


Stephen Downes travaille pour le Conseil national de recherches du Canada, où il a servi en tant que chercheur principal, basé à Moncton, au Nouveau-Brunswick, depuis 2001. Affilié au Groupe des technologies de l'apprentissage et de la collaboration, Institut de technologie de l’information, Downes est spécialisé dans les domaines de l'apprentissage en ligne, les nouveaux médias, la pédagogie et la philosophie.

Downes est peut-être mieux connu pour son bulletin quotidien, OLDaily, qui est distribué par Internet, courriel et RSS à des milliers d'abonnés à travers le monde. Il a publié de nombreux articles à la fois en ligne et sur papier incluant The Future of Online Learning (1998), Learning Objects (2000), Resource Profiles (2003), et E-Learning 2.0 (2005). Il est un conférencier populaire, apparaissant à des centaines de manifestations à travers le monde au cours des quinze dernières années.

Vision Statement

I want and visualize and aspire toward a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through their avocations or lifestyle.

Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations - or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be.

This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence. This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward.

Canadians who gave their lives in service in Afghanistan

Hundreds of my IAAF Track & Field Photos from Moncton 2010

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