By Stephen Downes
June 21, 2005

Canada Introduces New Copyright Bill
I am off to the SeaChange conference in Saint John this afternoon where the topic of discussion will be governance and society. While rubbing shoulders with our society's self-proclaimed leaders I will be pondering the wandering (and withering) future of democracy in this country and elsewhere. The latest exhibit is the blatant and undemocratic influence wielded by the commercial content industry. Canada's new copyright bill, as described in this article, demonstrates little (if any) concern for the public at large (which Geist describes as "the biggest loser" in this legislation). It is a pointless piece of legislation, designed to protect a dying industry through a continued erosion of our rights and freedoms. By Michael Geist, June 20, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

EdTech Posse
Rob Wall announces: "The EdTech Posse will feature a rotating group of educational technologists who work in K-12, post-secondary and research areas. So far, the posse consists of Rob Wall, Alec Couros, Dean Shareski and Rick Schwier." The first podcast is already available. Comments by Couros, Shareski, Schwier. By Rob Wall, et.al., June 16, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Conference on Open Source for Education in Europe – Research and Practice
I don't do conference announcements. Just so you know. But this Open Source for education conference is an exception, because organizers of open source conferences usually don't have money for advertsing and publiscity (it's also kinda hard to get corporate sponsorships). I hope to make it to this one - but it depends on the funding situation here at NRC. As an aside - I have been thinking of incorporating a conference announcement and coverage system into OLDaily, using an RSS-events specification. Good idea? let me know. By Graham Attwell, The Wales-Wide Web, June 20, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

More Than Cat Diaries: Publishing With Weblogs
This presentation is about the use of blogs to publosh, as the author says, "more than cat diaries" (which reminds me, it's time my cats had their own blogs). It will take you a second, but you'll soon see that it's not a PowerPoint presentation, though it looks and feels like one. Nice, visual, and informative. It will take another while, but you'll later see that the presentation was created using Blogger. Yes, that's right, Blogger. Nifty. By Alan Levine, June 16, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Are Computer Games Rebooting Our Minds?
A romping discussion of video games and learning, most valuable because of its link to Spacewar. I think Bill Brandon sums it up nicely: "Good grief. Can people possibly learn as a result of playing a game? Of course. Can people learn as a result of playing any game? Of course not. If a game is designed to be an environment for learning, people can learn from it if it's a good design. If a game is designed to be an environment for entertainment, people will learn to play the game but not much else. If a game is designed to "teach" (i.e., to deliver canonical outcomes), nobody should expect far transfer from it." By David Secko, The Tyee, June 16, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What Value do Australian Employers Give to Qualifications?
Interesting. This report examines how Australian employers value and use academic qualifications in their business decisions. "Qualifications are considered more important for higher-level occupations and employers use them predominantly to recruit new employees and to ensure regulatory compliance. Employers regard qualifications as a signal of potential for future learning and skills acquisition, not as a signal of immediate competence. Overall, employers drew a strong distinction between qualifications and experience, and favoured and valued the latter more in regard to many of their business decisions." This is a key indicator, and if it shoudl tgrack toward experience over qualifications it bodes difficult times for educational institutions. By Lee Ridoutt, Chris Selby Smith, Kevin Hummel and Christina Cheang, NCVER, June, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Role of Critical Thinking in the Online Learning Environment
"Critical thinking," cites the author, "is the method of evaluating arguments or propositions and making judgments that can guide the development of beliefs and taking action." Having taught critical thinking for seven years I have by habit been leery of proposals to integrate critical thinking into the curriculum, not because I don't think it's a good idea, but because critical thinking isn't a discipline that can simply be picked up in passing, and because the proposals I have seen either misunderstand or misinterpret what is meant by critical thinking. So when Kelly Bruning published an article on the role of critical thinking in last month's IJITDL, I passed it over. Since then, as this month's IJITDL editorial notes, the article has seen a "surge of interest." Maybe so. According to the author, "The BUS105 Create-A-Problem exercise described in this paper incorporates critical thinking in the online environment to meet the goals of developing reflective critical thinking." Maybe - but I don't see it. By Kelly Bruning, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, May, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Insights into Promoting Critical Thinking in Online Classes
Many people equate critical thinking with reading skills. This flavour comes through clearly in this article, the core of which is a discussion of critical thinking and reading, with an eye to using the former to "increase the student’s cognitive information processing skills." Applied to writing, the same discourse stresses the importance of reflection and editing. I see critical thinking as related to reading and writing, but distinct from them. I see linguistic forms (such as those characteristic of logical fallacies) as cues for pattern recognition, not entry points for a deconstruction of the material. I see the goal of critical thinking to be instant (and even intuitive) recognition of reasoning, and the end point of writing to be to get it right on the first draft. By Daithí Ó Murchú and Brent Muirhead, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, June, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Critical Thinking in Asynchronous Discussions
The bulk of this essay is devoted to a description of various strategies that can be employed to introduce critical thinking into online discussions. In a sense, these are all common sense strategies - "Higher level cognitive and affective questions encourage learners to interpret, analyze, evaluate, infer, explain and self regulate." But I think most of all what is required is an attitude, one that is not necessarily taught so much as demonstrated by faculty and advisors, staff that, as the author notes, need to have a good grounding in critical thinking in order to pass it along. By Greg Walker, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, June, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Reading Between the Lines: Understanding the Role of Latent Content in the Analysis of Online Asynchronous Discussions
Prompted by a discussion on DEOS the other day I have been pondering the difference between traditional distance learning, as advanced by people like Keegan and Moore, and online learning. If I had to put it in a nutshell, I would say that it is the difference between communications theory and network theory, the difference between structured symbolic representations and unstructured subsymbolic reflections. It has made me more sensitive to the theoretical foundations of works such as this article, which I would place squarely within the traditional context, analyzing as it does latent content in message transcripts as a means to improve learning outcomes. It's quite a good article, and people will enjoy reading it. But I look at it - today, at least - and ask myself, what do these kinds of questions even look like in the post-structuralist world? By Elizabeth Murphy and Maria A. Rodriguez Manzanares, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, June, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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