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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Coronavirus / Covid19 quick reference kit, to take your class or conference online cheaply and in a hurry:

Creating an Online Class or Conference - Quick Tech Guide

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


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: 33 Total: 33 Mark Johnson, Improvisation Blog, 2021/06/14 [Direct Link]

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


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: 34 Total: 34 Ben Dickson, TechTalks, 2021/06/14 [Direct Link]

Khan Academy Expanding To Littles


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 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: 5 Total: 5 Peter Greene, Curmudgucation, 2021/06/15 [Direct Link]

New for educators: Seamlessly migrate content from your LMS to Coursera


It says something about the state of interoperability of learning resources that, despite decades of standards efforts, there is a company that specializes in transferring content from one LMS to another. That company is K16 Solutions, and they are the ones supporting 'content ingestion' from your LMS to Coursera. Anyhow, that's all there is in this short PR post, but I wanted to take note.

Today: 5 Total: 5 Jyoti Motwani, Coursera Blog, 2021/06/15 [Direct Link]

Concept Mapping: a Powerful Tool for Building Actionable Knowledge


This article feels like a 'guest post' promoting a specific product, though it allows me to address some wider points. There's this space where graphs and concept maps interact and as I've been working on an open graph for gRSShopper I've come across a number of approaches, including not only concept maps but also more restrictive approaches like ontologies and linked data. As I read this article (or, more accurately, looked at the images) I was struck by the vagueness of the lables being used in the connectors - things as varied as 'the most important is' to 'is not just a' to 'means'. My feeling right now is that this approach is too loose - you're not going to find any useful associations if you just use lables willy-nilly. By the same token, I find Semantic Web style lables too restrictive. Not every association is a semantic association. I think, overall, that there are different types of connectors for different purposes (though this may one of those claims that is either false or trivial).

Today: 54 Total: 54 Marek Dudáš, EmergingEdTech, 2021/06/14 [Direct Link]

Truth and Reconciliation Updates


Alex Usher steps very carefully though this discussion of the implementation of the calls to action in Justice Murray Sinclair's 2015 report on Residential Schools. In particular, Usher points to recommendations that universities offer programs in Indigenous languages and offer specific curricula to doctors, lawyers and journalists on residential schools, Aboriginal-Crown relations and intercultural competency and anti-racism. And, notes Usher, while institutions did a lot of things, most notably they mostly failed to do these things. Why not? He perhaps wisely doesn't press. But I think we should, because it could be at least argued that these curricula would undermine the fundamental structures of power and culture the university system was developed to promote and preserve. Image: CBC.

Today: 69 Total: 69 Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates, 2021/06/14 [Direct Link]

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