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by Stephen Downes
April 11, 2008

In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined
As a philosopher by both training and inclination, I never thought philosophy was out of fashion. Students today are beginning to agree. "I''s a major that helps them become quick learners and gives them strong skills in writing, analysis and critical thinking." And I am evidence, I think, that not all philosophers spend their lives in academic tweed sipping wine and discussing Marx over caviar. Via Open Culture. Winnie Hu, New York Times, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Is the Edublogosphere a Closed, Elite Cocktail Party?
Jon Becker writes, "It's as if folks like Will Richardson, David Warlick, Wes Fryer, Vicki Davis, Dean Shareski, Stephen Downes, Chris Lehmann... (and, yes, you Scott) are having an awesome cocktail party conversation and I'm standing on the outside staring over their shoulders and listening in." I'm sympathetic; I often feel, as Vicki Davis does, that I'm on the outside.

But more to the point (because it's pretty irrelevant what I feel) my own online participation is nothing remotely like an exclusive cocktail party. I am very careful to sample widely; I harvest hundreds of feeds and over the years have cited 6,121 separate authors (here they are). I do not collect long comment strings because I encourage people to write in their own blogs. I try not to aggregate readers to my own blog; I have even split my online writing into several distinct sites. There may be exclusive clubs out there, but I am neither part of them nor do I encourage them. Vicki A. Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Speak Up 2007 - Selected National Findings
Alec Couros reports on the Selected National Findings, "an analysis of data from online surveys, focus groups and interviews of parents, teachers, school leaders and students in the US." Among the things he notes are stidents' increasing frustration with filters, the rise of personal learning, the interest in gaming in learning, and student-directed change. Alec Couros, Open Thinking and Digital Pedagogy, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Which Verb Will Keep Your Learners' Interest?
This is a fun little presentation that nicely demonstrates active writing. Note that you have to make a selection (click on the star) at various points (the instructions to do this are easy to miss). Cathy Moore, Making Change, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

The Rise of 4P Computing Solutions for the Developing World
The terminology of '4P' is one that could stick. It refers to a type of computing technology that keeps thing simple and emphasizes: power, performance, portability and price. A number of 4P computers are now on the market, of which the OLPC is just one. There's a handy chart (with links) of the seven major 4P projects currently out there.

4PC NamePowerPerformPortabilityPrice
Asus Eee PCNoYes
Classmate/2Go PCNoYesNoYes
Elonex OneYesYesYesYes
Everex CloudbookYesYesNoYes
HP Mini-Note PCNoYesNoNo
Norhtec GeckoYesYesYesYes
OLPC XO-1YesYesYesYes
Wayan Vota, One Laptop Per Child News, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Forms, Fields and Flows
Similar to the presentation I saw by Susan Metros a couple of years ago, "some basic principles of visual language: Forms, fields and flows. I think of this as the 'alphabet' of visual language. This set of principles is the primary set of marks you need in order to create visual meaning." Via Jay Cross, who quite rightly recommends a closer look at this site; "Don't go to his new site for the standard 20-second hit-and-run skim." Dave Gray, dot info, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Webducate Dragster (and the Value in Open Sharing)
This is kind of neat: create a new educational 'use' and drag it onto a matrix. Even better, use the 'dragster' Flash tool that made this possible to create other drag and drop exercises. (It doesn't work in Flash 7 though - I know, Flash 7 is so 2006... why can Ubuntu update totally obscure software I never use while leaving my Flash plugin to become more and more obsolete?). Scott Leslie, EdTechPost, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Beyond Reduction: Philosophy of Mind and Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science
Among my circles, at least, the prevailing wisdom is that the mind is made of material stuff, and nothing more. This is sometimes called the mind-body identity theory, and sometimes also represented as a 'reductionist' theory: that is, explanations of mental phenomena 'reduce' to statements about physical phenomena. For a variety of reasons, the reductionist approach is (in my view) wrong - not wrong in such a way that physicality becomes false, but wrong in the sense that the reductionist view of science, in general, is false. The book reviewed here explores these themes, describing what it calls 'cognitive pluralism', an approach that essentially places 'truth about P' into a framework that includes P. This is fair enough as it goes, but it's really difficult to pull off without descending into some sort of full-blown relativism, which is the point at which most observers resist. Reviewed by D. Gene Witmer, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Learning Makers
Git email about this application and viewed the introductory video. It looks useful enough in its own right, and may offer interesting search capabilities behind the scenes, though I find that its front-end - which allows instructors to create online courses (what they are calling 'learning experiences') was staid and ordinary. I would like to see learning designers think well beyond the traditional course. Various Authors, Website, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Widely Used Government Textbook Under Fire After High School Student Raises Concerns
We hear almost every day about how online sources - such as, say, Wikipedia - are inaccurate. My objection throughout has been that print sources are no more reliable. Here's a case where student Matthew LaClair approached print materials with the sort of scepticism usually reserved for online sources. "I just realized from my own knowledge that some of this stuff in the book is just plain wrong," said LaClair. As PEN Newswire reports, "legal scholars and top scientists find the teen's criticism of the textbook to be well-founded." Associated Press, International Herald Tribune, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

The Provenance of Electronic Data
The provenance of a document is the history of its creation and ownership. In a sense, it is like the 'history' of a wiki page or Google Docs document. This paper proposes to capture the provenance of electronic documents by having authoring software report on and save every change. This already happens in the case of online applications, but there is some debate around allowing this with offline document authoring tools. More info. Related: Dabiel Lemire asks, do you share and index your history? Luc Moreau,, Communications of the ACM, April 11, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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