I lead the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics. I am one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course, write about online and networked learning, have authored learning management and content syndication software, and am the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily.


  • Association of Medical Educators of Europe (AMEE) E-Learning Symposium, Glasgow, Scotland, September 6, 2015.

  • Ghent, Belgium, March 30, 2015.

  • Chang School Talks 2015, Ryerson University, February 23, 2015.

  • Hackademia, Online, to Brazil, March 16, 2015.

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Folk Psychology as a Theory


Given a substantive revision this past week, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on folk psychology is well worth reading. The idea behind folk psychology is that we can explain the behavior of humans in terms of their possessing mental states. For example, we say that a person 'knows' what the capital of Paris is, that he 'believes' Paris is in Europe, or that she 'wants' to go there. These mental states are representational states and can be thought of as holding 'mental content'. Most everyone believes some version of this theory (hence it's title as a 'folk' theory) and it permeates educational theory. That's why it's important to study this article. And it should also be noted here that my own 'belief' is that the theory is wrong, that there are no representations, mental contents, etc., and that cognitive processes are not linguistic, logical or computational processes. See eliminative materialism.

Today: 240 Total: 240 Ian Ravenscroft, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016/08/24 [Direct Link]

On the value or otherwise of SAMR, RAT etc.

This is a topic that could occupy the rest of your day if you let it. Don't.


Here is the argument: "SAMR is not a model of learning.... SAMR does not relate to skills; it does nothing to develop the higher order skills of Bloom’s revised taxonomy: creativity, evaluation, analysis – the areas that we clearly need to focus on and develop with our young people." SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) may indeed may be derived from RAT (Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation). But the criticism is that SAMR lacks "a body of appropriate, peer-reviewed academic research, demonstrating the benefit of the SAMR model in improving outcomes for learners." Contrary to what the critics say, references to SAMR are to be found in peer reviewed literature - here, for example, or here, here, here, and on for several pages in Google Scholar (hard to find because 'Samr' is also a popular first name).

But all the above is pure straw man argument. Here's the real argument, as offered by Charlie Love: "the SAMR model degrades/demeans meaningful technology based learning activities and directs teachers to think of their use of technology as insufficient if it is not 'transformative'." And this version I've seen a lot. I've even used it. For example: "it is a waste of time and technology to simply use Second Life to recreate the classroom experience." Or "digital technology could be used much better than simply recreating flashcards for memorization." Against that Love argues, "the whole reason to bother with substitution/augmentation tasks is to gain the efficiencies of time, reduce the level of administration and reduce opportunities for learners to go down the wrong path." That's fine - but there is a ton of literature showing you can and should use technology to go beyond your original teaching task. 

Today: 272 Total: 272 David T. Jones, The Weblog of (a) David Jones, 2016/08/26 [Direct Link]

The entry and experience of private providers of higher education in six countries


There's a lot in this report (97 page PDF) and it should be read in full. The experience of private institutions varies a lot from country to country - they may increase access in a country like Brazil while doing nothing to increase in a country like Australia. And there's this, which stood out to me: "There is very limited evidence to suggest that the presence of the private sector, in the countries studied, has improved the quality of provision or driven down prices in either the public or private sectors. Indeed, relative to the public sector, the quality of provision in the private sector is often found wanting, while tuition fees usually are higher." As University World News reports, the system  requires "better regulation to reduce the 'often considerable' risk to students, according to a six-country study."

Today: 343 Total: 343 Stephen Hunt, Claire Callender, Gareth Parry, Higher Education Funding Council for England, 2016/08/24 [Direct Link]

How Twitter Got Angry


This is a surprisingly insightful article on the dynamics of Twitter abuse (surprising because the title and lede are so very very bad). "The 'everyone sees everything' worldview of web comments was first transcended by Twitter, driving its initial vibrant culture and rapid growth. But then the explicitly engagement-amplifying changes brought in many of these old assumptions implicitly, bringing back those problems." The problem is with the "everyone sees" part of the equation; massification creates marketing, which creates abuse. "What if, under a popular tweet, instead of seeing all the replies by default, we saw only those from people both ourselves and the post author followed?" What is we could dial it out or back, by degrees of separation? The only way to stop abuse is to prevent them from getting into our inbox in the first place. Unfortunately for Twitter, that is also the cure for marketing.

Today: 287 Total: 287 Kevin Marks, Fast Company, 2016/08/25 [Direct Link]

We Were Mostly Wrong: Looking back at 25 years on the web


My father was what they call a telephone pioneer and I guess I'm an internet pioneer. I wrote my first computer program in 1979 and was working for Texas Instruments by 1980. By 1991 I was studying for a PhD I would never get, playing in an internet multi-user dungeon (MUD), teaching critical thinking by telephone for Athabasca University, and playing with a thing called the Maximus BBS. At first I didn't like the web (the URLs were too long to type and it was too much like a dead-silent library). But the world of personal web sites and discussion boards opened up the world to me, and I never left. I never thought any of it would turn into a career, but within four years I had my own website and a new job in distance education and new media design. Twenty-five years. Half my life, almost. What a ride. 

Today: 300 Total: 300 Martin Veitch, IDG Connect, 2016/08/25 [Direct Link]

A Domain of One's Own in a Post-Ownership Society


This article describes what is in retrospect a remarkable turn of events: in the digital world, private enterprise has realized the Marxist ideal, the elimination of private property. "You do not own your Amazon Kindle books... You do not own the music you stream... You don’t own the movies you watch... You (likely) do not own the software you use (unless it’s open source);... you (likely) do not own the operating system that powers your computer; you’ve paid for a license there as well. And increasingly, there are restrictions with what you can do with the computer hardware as well as the software that you might think is yours because it is in your possession." This is something, writes Audrey Watters, that we must fight against. "To own is to possess. To own is to have authority and control. To own is to acknowledge. It implies a responsibility."

Today: 341 Total: 341 Audrey Watters, Hack Education, 2016/08/25 [Direct Link]

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
Sponsored this month by: Rory McGreal