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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Philosophy Labs: Some Recommendations


Th term 'philosophy labs' is a bit misleading, and what the authors describe bears little resemblance to 'labs' as you find them in college and university classes, but I like what they're actually doing and thought I'd share it here. "Philosophy labs follow the model provided by STEM labs in bringing together researchers at various stages of development—faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students—to work collaboratively on professional-level projects." Again, that doesn't resemble the experience I had in STEM labs in university, but from my perspective it would have been great to work with a whole range of people on real problems. This article goes into quite a bit of detail about how to set up such a lab experience in a philosophy class, but thinking more broadly, I think this would be a better way to structure learning generally.

Today: 4 Total: 4 Joseph Vukov, Kit Rempala, Katrina Sifferd, Daily Nous, 2021/07/23 [Direct Link]

Mental disorders are brain disorders – here’s why that matters


There's a lot of overlap between education and psychology, and therefore also a lot of overlap between different approaches to these two subjects. Take a disorder such as depression, for example. What causes it? Is it entirely internal, or do external factors matter? And if external factors matter, can we treat it with external remedies, like counseling? There's a lot we don't know here, and it doesn't help that sometimes widely separate treatments - psychotherapy versus antidepressants, say - produce similar results. But this (from my perspective) masks the difference between being able to manage the symptoms versus treating the symptoms - between, say, being able to cope with a feeling of sadness, versus being able to remove that feeling of sadness. Different types of learning (probably) result in different types of changes as well. Which is why we (intuitively) say that being about to talk about something is very different from being able to do something.

Today: 4 Total: 4 Camilla Nord, Psyche, 2021/07/23 [Direct Link]

Why people end up mad when AI flags toxic speech


There's a lesson here anyone interested in the ethics of AI or education or whatever should heed. "There are no simple solutions, because there will never be unanimous agreement on highly contested issues. Making matters more complicated, people are often ambivalent and inconsistent about how they react to a particular piece of content." There's no one thing called 'ethics'. "For example, human annotators rarely reached agreement when they were asked to label tweets that contained words from a lexicon of hate speech. Only 5% of the tweets were acknowledged by a majority as hate speech, while only 1.3% received unanimous verdicts."

Today: 45 Total: 45 Edmund L. Andrews-Stanford, Futurity, 2021/07/22 [Direct Link]

Blackboard launches Center for Advancing Learning to address education policy


On the heels of Instructure's recently announced Edtech Collective comes Blackboard's Center for Advancing Learning, it's new lobbying arm. It will focus on "top priorities for the education community" as it sees them, which right now means "supporting historically Black colleges and universities and community colleges, exploring accessibility and discussing online program management alternatives" (this is called 'tranching', where you take two popular initiatives and add to them a third riskier element that is mostly about your business bottom line). "Blackboard employees can volunteer time for the center and leaders will name fellows from academia and nonprofits in industry." Yeah. 'Volunteer'.

Today: 3 Total: 3 Emily Bamforth, EdScoop, 2021/07/23 [Direct Link]

My ‘Man on the Moon’ Project


Clark Quinn's moonshot is this: "I’d like to see an entire K12 curriculum online." But he has some conditions. "It can’t be the existing curriculum," he writes. "Common Core isn’t evil, but it’s still focused on a set of elements that are out of touch." Um, OK. Also: "it can’t be the existing pedagogy... Instruction is designed action and guided reflection." OK, that's one view. Finally, "having a teacher support component along with every element is important." So, I'm sympathetic, but I'm sceptical of a moonshot that people can't currently use and won't be able to use in their actual schools even when trained. I think that instead of thinking of education as one big thing, like sending a person to the moon, it's better to think of it like many little things, like words and sentences and languages, that anybody can use.

Today: 71 Total: 71 Clark Quinn, Learnlets, 2021/07/22 [Direct Link]

Proctorio sponsor OEB, so it’s a no from me


I haven't been invited to Online Educa Berlin (OEB) for a few years now (not since my disastrous 'gRSShopper in a Box' workshop) but if I were I would still attend even if they are sponsored by Proctorio. Why? Well, Proctorio is just one of many companies whose practices I oppose. I've attended conferences sponsored by Apple, Blackboard and Microsoft even while very opposed to their business practices of the day. So why would I announce a boycott of a conference I wasn't planning to attend anyway? No, what I do instead is attend the conference and then harangue them at their booth, or in their presentations, or in my presentation, about what they are doing. Yes, it gives me a reputation of being unpleasant, but I think it's far more effective to register my objection by doing something than by doing nothing.

Today: 74 Total: 74 Martin Weller, The Ed Techie, 2021/07/22 [Direct Link]

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