Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

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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

Canada Learning Bond's Impact on Post-Secondary Education - SRDC
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I don't know much about the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation so I can't vouch for their credentials, but the results of their latest study are not surprising: the  Canada Learning Bond (CLB) program "is not reaching the lowest income families or children in care... does not close the gap in education savings between low- and high-income families... and varies considerably across Canada", reaching fewer people in remote and rural regions. People don't suddenly become able to afford an education just because you make them save for it longer, just as they don't suddenly become able to save for retirement. These savings plans take something that should be available to all Canadians - education, pensions... - and make them the domain of people who can afford to pay. What's next? Registered Cancer Pre-payment Plan? Here's the full report (86 page PDF).

Today: 104 Total: 104 Reuben Ford, Ashley Pullman, SRDC, 2024/02/26 [Direct Link]
RTO doesn’t improve company value, but does make employees miserable: Study
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I am not even remotely surprised. "The analysis, released as a pre-print, found that Return to Office (RTO) mandates did not improve a firm's financial metrics, but they did decrease employee satisfaction." Managers, however, did have a good reason to mandate RTO. Although CEOs often justified RTO mandates by arguing it will improve the company's performance, "Results of our determinant analyses are consistent with managers using RTO mandates to reassert control over employees and blame employees as a scapegoat for bad firm performance," the researchers concluded. Via Ben Werdmuller.

Today: 89 Total: 275 Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 2024/02/26 [Direct Link]
Collaborative Vs Cooperative Learning: Detailed Comparison 2024
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Think this is a bit of a misrepresentation of cooperative learning, though I admit that it is my own view that might be idiosyncratic. What I think the article gets right is that it depicts collaborative learning as students working in a group to accomplish a task together, while in cooperative learning students work independently on separate tasks that only later come together. But this article also suggests cooperative learning involves greater teacher control, where students work "to achieve a goal set by a specific instructor or teacher under specific rules" and that "cooperative learning requires more supervision and direction from the instructor." That's not how I see it. My version of cooperative learning has each student (or small group of students; it's up to them) working on their own self-defined tasks, and coming together to share resources or exchange ideas that are mutually beneficial.

Today: 19 Total: 491 Alizey Usman, TaughtUp, 2024/02/23 [Direct Link]
There is More to Reliable Chatbots than Providing Scientific References: The Case of ScopusAI
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A subhead states the main point of the post: "suboptimal performance of ScopusAI reveals the real complexity of creating a reliable AI assistant." This is demonstrated through the use of questions about a term used in text, 'electromagnons', that is typically abbreviated as 'magnons' in abstracts. So, sure, you can generate suboptimal results using AI as a search interface (and you would also generate suboptimal results using an abstract search). You can't (yet) find stuff that isn't there. What the search really needed is the thing Elsevier doesn't want to provide: free and open full text access. This is ironic give that Elsevier's own Responsible AI Principles declare that "transparency creates trustworthiness". So, sure, the Scopus AI searchbot is still a work in progress. But so, it would appear, is the system of scholarly publishing as a whole. Via Paul Pival.

Today: 15 Total: 402 Teresa Kubacka, The Scholarly Kitchen, 2024/02/23 [Direct Link]
Moore's Scofflaws
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If I had the money I'd just install my own cloud computing system. I could put it in the basement. Or the attic. Of course, I'd have to pay for a persistent internet connection, and the way things are today, I'd probably have to hire someone to manage it for me. But the dream (my dream, at least) is to be able to have this sort of thing at a price people can afford with everything set up. That's why I'm interested in products like Oxide, which arrives in a single box, pre-configured, with all the (open source) software you need, already set up. Now it's still a bit beyond me to either pay for or set up such a system , but I can see it incrementally getting closer, and gradually (one hopes) putting money-farms like AWS out of business. Image: Oxide-Fundzilla.

Today: 28 Total: 306 Bryan Cantrill, Oxide, 2024/02/23 [Direct Link]
Do I need a little help?
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Doug Peterson points to the Hemingway Online AI editor. Enter your text into the form on the page and it will report on your article's 'readability', looking at things like sentence complexity, passive voice, use of adverbs and simple phrasing. I entered my most recent blog post into the editor and it responded that I reached a 'Grade 8 reading level', which the page says I should strive to attain. It also had a lot of criticisms to make (mostly regarding how hard my sentences to read (pretty much guaranteed with a use of parentheses)).

Today: 8 Total: 369 Doug Peterson, doug -- off the record, 2024/02/22 [Direct Link]

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

Copyright 2024
Last Updated: Feb 26, 2024 3:37 p.m.

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