Stephen Downes

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Vision Statement

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. Downes is a member of NRC's Research Ethics Board. He is a popular keynote speaker and has spoken at conferences around the world.

Stephen Downes Photo
Stephen Downes,, Casselman Canada

EdTechnica: a vision of an educational publishing community of practice that is accessible, flexible, and just
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The website EdTechnica describes itself as "The Open Encyclopedia of Educational Technology" and is part of the EdTechBooks website. It contains about 30 articles on ed tech topics written by various authors. This article describes the project and asserts, "As an OER, EdTechnica extends the 5Rs of openness—retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute by also attending to the 3Rs of social justice—recognition, representation, and redistribution." The articles are of acceptable quality, though over time I would expect to see more rigour and standardization.

Today: 235 Total: 235 Bohdana Allman, Royce Kimmons, Camille Dickson-Deane, Aras Bozkurt, Melissa Warr, Jill Stefaniak, Monalisa Dash, Fanny Eliza Bondah, International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 2024/05/20 [Direct Link]
Virtual reality stories can spur environmental action
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According to this article, "Compared to traditional video, environmental stories told through metaverse technologies, including virtual reality and 360-degree video, can better motivate people to act on environmental threats." It's based on a research report (8 page PDF) by Daniel Pimentel and Sriram Kalyanaraman. All very well but it should go without saying that if VR can motivate environmental activism, it can also use misinformation to do the opposite.

Today: 247 Total: 247 Molly Blanchett-U. Oregon, Futurity, 2024/05/20 [Direct Link]
Students Pitted Against ChatGPT to Improve Writing
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To quote Matthew Tower, "A new type of homework assignment: write an essay that is better than ChatGPT's answer to the same prompt." According to the article, "Students in two courses at the University of Nevada, Reno, are going head-to-head with ChatGPT by answering the same prompts as the AI and aiming to get a higher grade." Tower finds this "super compelling" because "You have to 1) understand the assignment, 2) are effectively deterred from using ChatGPT because the ChatGPT answer is a given, and 3) have to think about what makes your response 'better' than the stock robot answer." I have to admit, it's creative, even though the assignment might boil down to finding a better prompt than the one the instructor used.

Today: 247 Total: 247 Lauren Coffey, Inside Higher Ed, 2024/05/20 [Direct Link]
National Labor Relations Board hearing begins for proposed Berea College labor union
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As reported by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), "Berea College is a work college and requires all students to work on campus." Working conditions, however, are terrible. "The schedule left me struggling, sleeping through my morning classes, and failing a class that I had to drop," said one student. "If you get stuck with a certain position and have no voice on the job, there's a correlation and a causal relationship with drop-outs." After several days, the Labor Relations Board hearing has finally started. According to the Chronicle (paywalled) the College calls it an "Existential Threat." If your existence depends on exploiting student labour, then maybe it should be questioned. More: Fox56, which points out the students don't pay tuition; Lex18, which reports "Our message is it is pro-Berea to be pro-union," said Andi Mellon, a Berea student. Berea hasn't charged tuition since 1892 and has an endowment "worth around $1.2 billion, and profits from the investments cover a large portion of what it costs to educate more than 1,600 students.

Today: 237 Total: 237 Shepherd Snyder, WEKU, 2024/05/20 [Direct Link]
Fake science journals
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As Victor Mair reports, "the fake science sickness has infected some of our mainstream publishing  houses." It's easy to blame AI for this, but of course it's not just AI. It's the people abusing AI to try to tap in to the the nearly $30 billion academic publishing industry. And they've always been around. Mair argues that the law should get involved. "Accredited authorities should go on the offensive and work for the enactment of laws and penalties," he writes. "Make these crimes of sham scholarship cost." More effective, I think, would be to take the money out of the system. Colleges and Universities could publish in-house and make the papers open access. Then there's no way to make money out of the system, and the people who pay for the existing system - authors and institutions, who would now be publishing in-house - end up paying a lot less.

Today: 233 Total: 233 Victor Mair, Language Log, 2024/05/20 [Direct Link]
When Online Content Disappears
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Remember when people told you "what's online is forever?" Well, according to this Pew report, "A quarter of all webpages that existed at one point between 2013 and 2023 are no longer accessible." I have no reason to doubt that, based on my own experience. "23% of news webpages contain at least one broken link, as do 21% of webpages from government sites.... 54% of Wikipedia pages contain at least one link in their "References" section that points to a page that no longer exists.... Nearly one-in-five tweets are no longer publicly visible on the site just months after being posted." Via Dogtrax.

Today: 133 Total: 353 Athena Chapekis, Samuel Bestvater, Emma Remy and Gonzalo Rivero, Pew Research Center, 2024/05/20 [Direct Link]

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

Copyright 2024
Last Updated: May 20, 2024 9:37 p.m.

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