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Developing Personal Learning
Dec 20, 2014. 6th IEEE International Conference on Technology for Education, Amrita University, Kerala, India, online via A-View (Keynote). Share

Real talk
Vyvyan Evans, Aeon, Dec 22, 2014
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"For decades," begins this article, "the idea of a language instinct has dominated linguistics. It is simple, powerful and completely wrong." There is no language instinct - yes, we have the capacity to learn a language, but what`s key here is that language is something that is learned, and not the basis for learning. And the arguments against Chomsky`s theory of a universal grammar`should also cause you to doubt theories of learning based on similar ideas (especially, for example, Piaget or Pinker). We learn language the way we learn everything else: by observing examples of language being used, by imitation and practice, and finally, by reflection. And the ability to use language is a type of recognition, no different from recognizing Aunt Lucy, and not some artful manipulation of codes and rules. If this long article doesn't convince you to abandon the innateness-of-language theory, then I don't know what will.

The End of Sitting
Ronald Rietveld, Erik Rietveld, Arna Mackic, RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances], Dec 22, 2014
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As we get away from classrooms we begin to look at new ways of creating environments for working together. The modern design - offices with desks, tables and chairs - is no real improvement on the classroom. This research project looks at alternatives, designing various shapes based on the different ways we can lean or stand when working with each other. I'm not sure I like it - it probably has the acoustical problems inherent in open-concept workspaces, and there's no place to put down my coffee or to grow a plant. But I like the thinking behind it. More from Wired, Science Alert, Fast Company, etc.

How to Write a Resume That Stands Out
Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review, Dec 22, 2014

Yes I know, there's a million of these articles out there already. But this is short, clear, and really good. It made me rethink how I wrote my own c.v. (you get to call a resumé a c.v. is you're looking for an academic position). Not that I'm looking for a job (I have really enjoyed the last year at NRC as a program leader) but it makes me rethink how I would organize my accomplishments and those of the people who work with me. As the article says, "'I managed a team of 10' doesn’t say much. You need to dig a level deeper. Did everyone on your team earn promotions? Did they exceed their targets?"

The moos you can moo
Mark Liberman, Language Log, Dec 22, 2014
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This article looks at news reports that anthropomorphize elements of scientific reports and, as a consequence, misrepresent their conclusions. In this case, scientists examine how cows use distinctive calls to communicate with offspring. The news media adds a human element to this behaviour by saying these are "names" for the calves. What's happening is that the news media, by describing cows as though they were human, are essentially making stuff up. Geoff Pullman writes, "They actually print what are obviously lies, even when the text of the same article makes it clear that they are lying."

I think the same thing happens in educational writing. If this article, for example, we are told about "the brain’s danger detector, the amygdala, being down-regulated, trading energy normally spent on vigilance for heightened focus and enhanced recall." But the brain is doing no such thing; that is an interpretation of a set of neural phenomena. Or this: "the human brain locks down episodic memories in the hippocampus." Or this, "the eyes and hands of children save memories for them." Assigning cognitive functions to things that do not have cognitive capacities is pernicious anthropomorphism, and it imposes a theory of self on the evidence that has no basis in reality.

Article at the Open Badges in Education workshop
Hans Põldoja, hanspoldoja.net, Dec 22, 2014

Post linking to an article on the use of open badges in education. Covers badges briefly and most notably, identifies the following use patterns (quoted from the post):

  • composite badges can be achieved by completing multiple assignments;
  • activity-based badges can be awarded automatically based on measurable learning activities;
  • grade-based badges are based on the grades that the learners have received;
  • hierarchical badges are divided to several levels, some of which may be composite badges based on lower level badges.

Interestingly, as the author notes, none of these are based on learning outcomes, showing that there is still a gap between the implementation of badges and the ideal envisioned.

The conundrum of creating an open course in a closed site – Storyboard OOC update
Gabi Witthaus, Art of e-learning, Dec 22, 2014
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So this, I think, is the opposite of a MOOC: "We chose to use a platform that requires people to have accounts and sign in, in order to be able to set up and manage the groups effectively." Ironically the letter they choose to drop MOOC is not 'O' for 'Open' but 'M' for 'Massive'. It's true that if the course is not open, it won't be massive, but the really important bit is whether or not it's open. Additionally, setting up a course in such a way as to require management of groups is also contrary to the intent of MOOCs. So why not just call it an 'OC' (Online Course)?  Well, it wouldn't be very interesting if it were just one of those, would it? And that's why we're getting so much false-MOOC pollution.

The secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality
Leo Mirani, Quartz, Dec 22, 2014
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We need to be careful about which part of the new technology-enabled on-demand economy we are cheering for. Uber, for example, or AirBNB appear to be tech-enabled, but they're not, really. " In my hometown of Mumbai," writes Leo Mirani, "we have had many of these conveniences for at least as long as we have had landlines -- and some even earlier than that. It did not take technology to spur the on-demand economy. It took masses of poor people." This isn't exactly what we're trying to achieve in education. Via Kottke.

Strict Finitism and Transhumanism
Peter Rothman, Humanity+, Dec 22, 2014
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I have a very unhappy relationship with the concept of infinity. I maintain that I can't comprehend infinity, and infinity insists on inserting itself into my cognition. This impacts what I think about pretty much everything (including, even, what I mean when I say 'everything'). For me, the pragmatic question is that, if infinity is in any sense 'real', then it may be impossible to 'grow' or 'develop' cognitive processes that rely on it. This has a direct impact on what I can (or want to) say about learning and cognition - for example, a network process that does not have 'infinity' somehow built in will be incapable of performing 'real' mathematics or other cognitive functions. My own thought is that the concept of infinity is a convenient fiction - there are no 'real' infinities, and a system of reasoning (such as mathematics) that produces one is to that extent also a convenient fiction. To get a sense of the sort of debate I have in mind here, read this article.

Links and Resources

(presentations include slides and audio recordings)
Videos: http://www.downes.ca/me/videos.htm
RSS Feed: http://www.downes.ca/news/OLDaily.xml
Podcast: http://www.downes.ca/news/audio.xml

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)

Recent Popular Articles

The Purpose of Learning, February 2, 2011.
The Role of the Educator, December 6, 2010.
Deinstitutionalizing Education, November 5, 2010.
Agents Provocateurs, October 28, 2010.
What Is Democracy In Education, October 22, 2010.
A World To Change, October 19, 2010.
Connectivism and Transculturality, May 16, 2010.
An Operating System for the Mind, September 19, 2009.
The Cloud and Collaboration, June 15, 2009.
Critical Thinking in the Classroom, June 5, 2009.
The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On, November 16, 2008.
Things You Really Need to learn: http://www.downes.ca/post/38502

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Contact: stephen@downes.ca Stephen.Downes@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
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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.

Biographie

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

My calendar

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