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Strict Finitism and Transhumanism
Peter Rothman, Humanity+, Dec 20, 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.

The Internet Is a Zoo: The Ideal Length of Everything Online
Mark Uzunian, SumAll, Dec 20, 2014
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I don't link to infographics. That's one key message I want people to take from this post. So please don't send me infographics to link to. Having said that, this post is a link to an infographic, because this one actually occupied my attention for a couple of minutes, and presented some useful information that appears to be data-backed (you'll have to scroll down past the advertorial content (which is why I don't link to infographics)). So what is it? Basically, it lists the 'ideal' length for everything from tweets to Facebook messages to blog posts. The numbers feel right to me (which is how I evaluate even the most carefully researched data). P.S. if you're going to do infographics, the least you could do is animate them, as Eleanor Lutz does with her beautiful images.

A depiction of space-time-action analysis (STA) in six slides — plus an addendum of revelatory quotes
David Ronfeldt, Visions from Two Theories, Dec 20, 2014
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in computer science we have 'frameworks', which are sets of applications and methods that allow us to do things. In theory, as well, we have frameworks, and these perform similar functions conceptually. I'm not a big fan of them in either realm, but I get their value. The current post discusses aspects of the Space-Time-Action framework. David Ronfeldt writes, "all three circles — space, time, and action — are treated as independent but interactive variables, roughly equal in size and location, with complex overlaps.... It makes 'thinking and doing' — not vague 'action' — the dependent variable. And as I’ve argued in various writings, it’s a more accurate way to depict and assess cognition."

Personally, I don't think we have a clear idea of what either space nor time are. The precision of the measurements and the abstraction of language lull us into thinking we comprehend them. But even the simplest of questions about them befuddle us. Questions like: do space and time end? Are they quantuum in nature? Do they change as our perception of them changes? For foundational principles of cognition, they really are quite fuzzy.

Great Firewall of China
Terry Anderson, Virtual Canuck, Dec 20, 2014
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Terry Anderson writes about some unexpected issues with IRRODL, the online journal he founded. While browsing in China he discovered that it did not run smoothly at all. "Google Translate (banned). Further investigation found that we used Google analytics, google API’s that are built into the Open Journal System we use and one other Google service – on each page view!" The Chinese government is concerned about the expansion of American media, just as we are in Canada, writes Anderson. It would be better if they adopted more open practices to help their own scholars and researchers.

Flickr removes CC-licensed photos from Wall Art program
Ryan Merkley, Creative Commons, Dec 20, 2014
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I can't say that I'm surprised there was an outcry, and I hope people now understand what the CC-by license allows. The Creative Commons blog states, "Our vision is one where content of all kinds is freely available for use under simple terms, where the permissions are clear to everyone. If that doesn’t happen, creators can feel misled or cheated, and users are left uncertain if they can use the commons as a source of raw material." I would content that this is exactly what happened, and that the promotion of the CC-b y license as somehow "more free" fostered exactly this sort of misunderstanding.

Khan Academy founder has two big ideas for overhauling higher education in the sciences
Gregory Ferenstein, Venture Beat, Dec 20, 2014
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So let's have fun talking about why these would never work: "Sal Khan has a few ideas for how to radically overhaul higher education. First, create a universal degree that’s comparable to a Stanford degree, and second, transform the college transcript into a portfolio of things that students have actually created." OK, to be fair, I think that he does point to some things that are broken in today's system of education related to articulation and credentials. But I don't think anyone (except Khan) believes there should be a single standard degree, much less a Stanford degree. And a moment's reflection will reveal the search and intelligence problem that results when grades are replaced with portfolios; how will an employer find what was formerly a BA from a slew of portfolios? The discouraging thing is that the business press and VCs take this level of thinking seriously.

Tech Industry Rallies Around Microsoft in Data Privacy Battle With US
Katherine Noyes, E-Commerce Times, Dec 20, 2014
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It's not only the North Koreans who want to view your private data and email E-Commerce Times is reporting on a case pitting Microsoft against the U.S. government. A number of organizations have come to MS's aid after "a case challenging a U.S. government search warrant for Microsoft customer data stored on a server based in Ireland." This is by no means the first case where American judges have found that the jurisdiction of the American government extends into other countries. Microsoft's Brad Smith argues, "We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws." The U.S. government's "unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk." Just ask Sony, which is having similar problems with a foreign government.

What the Sony hacks reveal about the news industry
David Uberti, Columbia Journalism Review, Dec 20, 2014
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If traditional newspapers won't cover the Sony leaks, then Gawker and Buzzfeed will. And if Gawker and Buzzfeed won't, then someone else will step forward. This changes the role of journalists in a manner that might be instructive to educators: "The new role of journalists, for better or for worse, isn’t as gatekeepers, but interpreters: If they don’t parse it, others without the experience, credentials, or mindfulness toward protecting personal information certainly will." I would feel more sorry for Sony weren't for its decades-long history of user-hostile business practices, up to and including the famous rootkit incident, in which Sony hacked their customers' computers. I do feel more sorry for Seth Rogan, though I don't like his movies a lot.

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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