Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Stephen Downes works with the Digital Technologies Research Centre at the National Research Council of Canada specializing in new instructional media and personal learning technology. His degrees are in Philosophy, specializing in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. He has taught for the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, Grand Prairie Regional College and Assiniboine Community College. His background includes expertise in journalism and media, both as a prominent blogger and as founder of the Moncton Free Press online news cooperative.  He is one of the originators of the first Massive Open Online Course, has published frequently about online and networked learning, has authored learning management and content syndication software, and is the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily. Through a thirty-five year career Downes has contributed pioneering work in the fields of online learning games, learning objects and metadata, podcasting, and open educational resources. Recent projects include:gRSShopper, a personal learning environment; E-Learning 3.0, a course on new e-learning technologies; research and development in the use of distributed ledger technology in learning applications; and research on ethics, analytics and the duty of care. Downes is a member of NRC's Research Ethics Board. He is a popular keynote speaker and has spoken in three dozen countries on six continents.

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Whats Going On At SkillSoft?

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This is an interesting look at SkillSoft, in part because it describes the trajectory other EdTech companies that were acquired and taken private may be looking it in the near future, and in part because it describes the market companies like Coursera and Udacity are now playing in. "The company now boasts the largest library of content in the world (more than 10,000 titles, 40,000 books, and thousands of certification programs), a highly refined and modern learning platform (Percipio), and a very deep expertise in technical and professional training, compliance training, industry training, and many forms of credential, certification, badging, and compliance."

Today: 1 Total: 1 Josh Bersin, 2021/06/15 [Direct Link]

Caring for Students Playbook

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Daniel Christian links to this document (60 page PDF) from the Online Learning Consortium offering "six recommendations for caring for students". The resource draws on a background and set of concepts based around the concept of care as a practice. Included in the recommendations are things like: developing an inclusive syllabus, chunking course content to manage cognitive load, authentic assessment, building presence and a learning community, integrating institutional supports into course curricula, and developing a personal learning network. As such, I would say that it presents care not so much as something new (readers will recognize all of those topics) but rather presenting existing and generally useful ideas from a new perspective.

Today: Total: Susan Adams, et.al., Online Learning Consortium, 2021/06/15 [Direct Link]

Just How Niche is Headless WordPress?

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A lot of the work I've been doing with gRSShopper over the last few months is very similar in nature to what's being discussed here - "building out the user-facing site through the WordPress REST API rather than the traditional WordPress theme structure." For me, it has meant a lot of painstaking conversion of old CGI page-rendering functions to functions that produce JSON and are rendered locally using Javascript, and I'm doing it to enable cloud-based functionality I can access with a light interface wherever I want. But nothing is so simple as that, as I've been learning lesson by lesson. Now this article approaches the issue from the perspective of spin - will it become popular, will be be widely demanded, etc? It's not, so it's a 'niche thing'. Maybe in the world it is, but I'm thinking that in the wider world, and in the longer term, we'll build sites that serve data, and let the end-user decide how they want to work with that data. Image: Torque.

Today: Total: Chris Coyier, CSS-Tricks, 2021/06/15 [Direct Link]

AI, Experiment and Pedagogy - Why we need to step back from the critical "Punch and Judy" battles and be scientific

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There's a lot to agree with in this post, starting with the assertion that we should step back from the pro- and anti-AI camps and look at this whole thing more reasonable. AI is an incredible field to study not because it will produce robot teachers but because it has the potential to provide genuine insight into how we learn and who we are. But we'll get there only if we adopt a scientific stance, but a facile misinterpretation of Hume and depiction of "experiment as a thoroughly rational and cognitive operation - which it almost certainly is not." No, "scientists are engaged in something much more subtle when doing experiments. Science is really a 'dance with nature'." Quite right. Quite right.

Today: 35 Total: 152 Mark Johnson, Improvisation Blog, 2021/06/14 [Direct Link]

What Google’s AI-designed chip tells us about the nature of intelligence

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The gist of this article is that recent AIs have outperformed humans in computer chip design, which may be read as 'the virtuous cycle of AI designing chips for AI," but also has some interesting comments to make about the important role analogy plays in human reasoning. It also discusses intuition as "a very complex and little-understood process that involves experience, unconscious knowledge, pattern recognition, and more." And it considers how these differ when manifest in a reinforcement-learning designed AI as compared to a human. In a nutshell, humans need (and use) modularity in a way that machines don't.

Today: 16 Total: 125 Ben Dickson, TechTalks, 2021/06/14 [Direct Link]

Khan Academy Expanding To Littles

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I encountered this post just last week on NEPC and it responds to an interview with Salman Khan published in EdSurge in late April (these sites all refer to him as 'Sal Khan' and I'm not really sure where or why the name changed over time). The article is about Duck Duck Moose, a company founded in 2008 to create learning apps for children and that joined Khan Academy in 2018. The purpose of the post is to undermine the effort. The links are useful and there are some good bits, for example, "'learning minutes' is a clever rebranding of 'screen hours.'" But it's also an attack on schoolhouse.world as "peer-to-peer tutoring, micro-credentials, and a batch of shady characters including Arne Duncan" and "more of the stuff built on a foundation of well-connected, well-heeled amateurs who figure they can easily create an educational revolution." Well I get the argument but when I look at Peter Greene's writing for Forbes the criticisms seem more opportunistic than progressive. Building trust on low-hanging fruit.

Today: 132 Total: 142 Peter Greene, Curmudgucation, 2021/06/15 [Direct Link]

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