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by Stephen Downes
June 23, 2008

The struggle for all of us in the business of sense-making is to find good tools for conceptualization and analysis. Phil Barker points us to VUE 2, a new edition of the Visual Understanding Environment from Tufts University. I use concept mapping (or "mind mapping") in my work a lot, especially in trying to lay out the landscape of an emerging field or innovation. While I haven't used VUE, the fact that it has interfaces with fedora, Flickr, JSTOR and Wikipedia caught my eye. The new version supports predefined ontologies, and "has tools to apply semantic meaning to the maps" that are constructed. Phil also points to a new JISC study on the "potential of semantic technologies for learning and teaching". -GW Phil Barker, Phil's JISC CETIS blog, June 23, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , ] [Comment]

The Great American Timesuck
I was astonished at this statement: "Studies show that there are 77 billion corporate email messages sent every day, worldwide." By 2012, that number is expected to double, and already those of us in the corporate world spend about 20% of our working time on e-mail, on average. Personally, I like getting email, as I work from my home in the country. It's a form of social contact. But when my Outlook program was set to retrieving messages every minute or so, I found it very interuptive. I'm experimenting with different settings, and will report on the results later. (Right now it is set for every two hours). Help is on the way in the form of various e-mail management programs. Xobni and ClearContext, which identify your most valued contacts, and which give you interesting information on your e-mail habits. -GW Clive Thompson, Wired, Issue 16.07, July 2008, June 23, 2008 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Petabyte Age: Because More Isn't Just More - More Is Different
"The End of Science" proclaims the cover of the July 2008 issue of Wired magazine. This article by Chris Anderson (Editor-in-Chief, author of The Long Tail), is deliberately provocative. Anderson claims that the availability of large data sets spells the end of theories, models, hypotheses and testing. "Big Data" makes all of these obsolete, as all you need is to see what the data reveals. To me, this is an incredibly naive view of science, as large data sets still need to be understood, interpreted, and explained to others. We construct our worlds out of sets of symbols, and the same data, whether it is massive or not, can be used to paint many different pictures. Most revealing in the many examples that follow Anderson's essay are the examples where visualization techniques, statistical algorithms, and data reduction procedures try to make sense of the overwhelming amount of sheer information that is available. All these techniques require theories, models and rules. End of science? Not likely! -GW Chris Anderson, Wired, Issue 16.07, July 2008, June 23, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

A New Virtual World Winter?
I ran across this post at Terra Nova while doing some research for an upcoming debate about the future uses and the usefulness of Second Life and other virtual worlds (VW) in education. Bruce Damer asks "Is interaction in a VW that much more enriching and valuable than the simpler modalities available in other platforms? Will VWs ever really go mainstream? I continuously hear complaints about VWs not being worth the trouble, especially from people much younger and hipper than me (I am 46) who prefer much lighter weight forms of interaction. What does this portend?"

In his eighth point (of 8) he adds, "the "walled gardens" represented by multiple proprietary VW platforms guarantee a certain (high) percentage of failure in the near-term. All industries with a large number of small players using proprietary technologies soon undergo traumatic downsizing or consolidation with a few monopoly players emerging. Think of the telephone system and Ma Bell." You can also think of Blackboard and the other VLEs. Also, can anyone read those sentences without thinking about the VW Beetle first before getting the brain back on track? -BD Bruce Damer, Terra Nova, June 23, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Why Aren't You Talking To Me?
There's a post about Twitter at Stowe Boyd's blog that spoke to me about one feature of Twitter. In particular, the guest author (Matt Balara) writes about the value of having a daily presence in the life of someone you care about, and compares that to the amount of communication we typically have with someone who's not connected. "He writes emails (rarely) and calls me occasionally. Although he's one of my favourite people in the world, and we have a great time together when we see each other once a month, I know less about what's he's doing every day than I know about any number of people I've never met who're sitting on the other side of the world." I'm still searching for the killer way to use Twitter in online learning. It's got to be there somewhere, but very well hidden. -BD Matt Balara, /Message, June 23, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Immersive Games Beats Classroom in Maths
Donald Clark refers to a University of Central Florida study indicating that video gamers do better at mathematics. "Students who played the math video games scored significantly higher on the district-wide math benchmark exam,..., and on the math performance test generated by the publisher,..., than students who did not play the games." More evidence that we need to revisit curriculum design. -HJ Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, June 23, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

De-Grading the Workplace
Grades are bad for learning at school and in the workplace, says Michele Martin citing Alfie Kohn. "How can we structure social media participation so that it isn't dependent on external rewards? How do we help people see that effective use of social media can be rewarding in its own right?" Much social media participation, through blogs, photos and videos, is intrinsically motivated, so the Web would be a good model for our schools and workplaces to look at. -HJ Michele Martin, The Bamboo Project Blog, June 23, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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