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by Stephen Downes
April 11, 2007

If We Taught English the Way We Teach Mathematics...
The author ponders, "Imagine that your only contact with "English" as a subject was through classes in school. Suppose that those classes, from elementary school right through to high school, amounted to nothing more than reading dictionaries, getting drilled in spelling and formal grammatical construction... You would probably hate the subject."

I have been toying with half an idea recently, nothing fully formed, that we ought to be teaching language rather than a language. Instead of, for example, teaching 'I', 'me', 'you', 'he' we would teach the concept of pronouns generally and how they are handled in a dozen or so languages. And students would see the relation between 'I' and 'Je' and 'Yo' and the rest, see how the same concept yields what is more or less the same word in these languages.

Why do it this way? Well because it's not clear to me that people have a good understanding of basic and fundamental concepts - not merely the concepts of self and other, but things like the attribution of properties to things, expressing relations between entities, the idea of (non-mathematical) set and membership, and the whole host of logical categories that are simply absent from a word-based, rather than concept based, treatment of language. Coryoth, Kuro5hin April 11, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

eLearning Guild Annual Gathering 2007
I am in Boston where I'll be presenting at the E-Learning Guild conference tomorrow. I caught most of the keynote summarized by Jay Cross in this post and while it surveyed the trends evident in the participation culture it didn't, I think, capture the import. We are seeing today movements that are derivative of popular culture - people protesting WTO and governments, people mashing up commercial media, people gaming American Idol. But these are transition phenomena. Eventually (and sooner than you might thing) people will want to govern themselves, create their own media, select their own idols. What then? On this, I think, Jenkins was silent.

If you were unable to access the audio from yesterday, it is now accessible. Just another artifact of my use of a new Mac on this trip - who would have thought Fetch (its stupidly-named FTP client) would upload files with no access permissions? I can read email but for some reason the Mac won't let me send any. And I have discovered that the Mac simply does not work with my iRiver. Happily I brought the PC as a backup. But in unrelated news, I managed to shatter the iRiver's clear plastic faceplate. Ouch! Jay Cross, Informal Learning April 11, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment]

Interoperability In the New Digital Identity Infrastructure
Scott Leslie sends this paper over, commenting that it might muddy, rather than clarify, the identity waters. He's right, as the author brings in the whole 'card-space' approach to identity into the picture and suggests that the identity infrastructure will need to accommodate those as well as the simpler (and more functional) OpenID-type specifications. The identity space could become complex in a hurry (which of course suits the big companies well). Overall, an informed discussion, but the problem should not be characterized as a 'tragedy of the commons' but rather, unless we can keep companies from carving it up among themselves, a problem of 'theft of the commons' - a far more common, and tragic, scenario. PDF. Mary Rundle and Paul Trevithick, Website April 11, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

These Lessons Could Ruin Your Life
I'm not completely sold on these 'lessons' offered in this e-book by Steli Efti. But I'm pretty sold, and they follow the theme that schools are teaching fear and compliance rather than courage and empowerment. Now I doubt that this is universally true - there are some pretty courageous people out there, and teachers who model that courage. But it doesn't hurt to state this explicitly. TonNet, Education and Technology April 11, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Oh, Boy. Just What I've Always Wanted
As Bud Hunt reports, "Yahoo is about to launch some sort of teacher tool." The Yahoo site says, "Get ready to create, modify, and share standards-based curriculum.". As Hunt says, "Oh, rapture." More seriously, Hunt questions the recent branding companies like Yahoo and Google have brought to education. "I wonder what others think about whether or not a few hours spent with a corporate cadre is a meaningful certification. Sure doesn't sound like one, at least from much of what I see. But teachers get something out of that deal, I'm sure. Why else would so many folks become Discovery STAR Educators, or Google Certified Teachers, or Yahoo Teachers of Merit?" Maybe I should accredit "Stephen Certified Teachers." But Hunt, Bud the Teacher April 11, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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