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by Stephen Downes
October 20, 2009

Open Courses: Free, but Oh So Cheap
A response to the Chronicle's examination of mostly foundation-funded open educational access initiatives with "student-centered and cheap models for open education." And this should be clipped and stabled to the wall of the Hewlett Foundation: "The key to understanding the value of open education is that most of the benefits accrue to the sharer, not the recipient." Who do you want to benefit from open education? Then that's who you find (and not, say, the richest educational institutions in the history of the world). Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed, October 20, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

There Is Not Research on the Impact of Twitter on Education
That the headline is factually false is easily shown with a selected link or two pointing to the research we are told does not exist - but as its source is Daniel Willingham we realize it depends of specialized definitions of "research" and "outcomes" massaged to point us to the One True View of education. Then, throw in a misinformed and useless slogan: "We can't all just be contributing to wikis and tweeting each other. Somebody's got to create something worth tweeting." Milton Ramirez, education & tech , October 20, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

The Reconstruction of American Journalism
When the authors of this long article say that American journalism is being transformed, they do not mean the press release rehashes or partisan hackery that you may associate with the genre. These are apparently secure. Rather, what is at risk are the (mythological) "independent reporting that provides information, investigation, analysis, and community knowledge, particularly in the coverage of local affairs," "accountability journalism," and "emotionally engaging coverage by newspapers and television."

What is happening, argue the authors, is that new technologies have eroded the advertising market and at the same time distributed the news reporting function across the entire population. Still, even as news organizations get smaller, they are, maintain the authors, profitable, and finding a balance in the new market increasingly filled with alternative sources. "Lumped together as the 'blogosphere,' these sites are sometimes seen as either the replacement for-or the enemy of-established news media. In fact, the blogosphere and older media have become increasingly symbiotic." But their status is precarious, and so the authors recommend that "any independent news organization substantially devoted to reporting on public affairs to be created as or converted into a nonprofit entity or a low-profit Limited Liability Corporation serving the public interest."

They also recommend increasing funding for publicly supported news agencies. And they suggest that public agencies widen their mandate: "Universities, both public and private, should become ongoing sources of local, state, specialized subject, and accountability news reporting as part of their educational missions." To pay for this, they argue, "A national Fund for Local News should be created with money the Federal Communications Commission now collects from or could impose on telecom users, television and radio broadcast licensees, or Internet service providers."

What the authors miss in this, in my view, is that what motivates the legions of bloggers providing news coverage is the perceived need for an alternative. Newspapers would not be decreasingly popular if they actually served the functions described: independent reporting, accountability journalism, and engaging coverage. Increasingly, they become their masters' voices, serving the financial and political interests of their corporate owners and sponsors, a loss of function seen in an extreme in the outrageous example of Fox News. Nothing in this proposal reverses that trend; indeed, it entrenches the existing order, cementing in a publicly-funded tax-free status an instrument of advocacy for the rich.

The same situation exists for universities. Their financial position is increasingly untenable. Corporate sponsors are demanding more explicit return. And despite billions in government investments, the university system remains - and is increasingly - the bastion of the well to do, an instrument for cementing advantage rather than distributing it. And universities, like the press, have not come to grips with what motivates the legions of people providing access to learning online, the perceived need for an alternative.

We no longer have the resources in society to continue to provide massive subsidies to the richest five percent of the population. Leonard Downie Jr. and Michael Schudson, Columbia Journalism Review, October 20, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment]

The National Research Council (of Canada) has launched a new magazine called Dimensions. It's more of a public relations magazine than a research magazine, but the contents look interesting enough. There is an RSS feed - the link is at the bottom of the page - but there's no autodiscovery, no feed title or link, and you'll have to subscribe manually (it's an old-style RSS 1.0 feed). Various Authors, National Research Council, October 20, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

College: More expensive than ever
We keep heading toward this crisis in higher education, and we keep behaving as though it's business as usual. And attitudes among lenders are getting callous. "I think that the silver lining to the current problem is that we'll waste less money on kids who don't need it," she (the College Board's Sandy Baum) said, "and focus on kids who need the funds." It's worth noting how the student loan industry parallels the health insurance industry, how we see many of the same arguments (and many of the same forces) at play. Hibah Yousuf, CNN Money, October 20, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Lasers used to write false memories onto the fruit fly brain
This is kind of indirect - they stimulate the release of dopamine rather than creating the connections directly. As a commenter writes, "I'm not sure why they speak of it as writing memories, rather than writing experiences." Still, it's a fascinating look into the structure of little tiny minds. Mo, Neurophilosophy, October 20, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Retail Learning
"So it seems," writes Tony Hirst, "that Lord Mandelson 'says he expects students to adopt a more consumer-led approach to their university education' (Mandelson backs consumer students). So as well as students championing their (consumer) rights, I guess that means the marketing folk will also get the opportunity to hatch all sorts of new marketing plans…" Meanwhile, Mark Oehlert is saying the term "Learning 2.0" is "torquing" him off because it "puts all the burden of change on the learner. If they are all 2.0 and changed then clearly we (The Organizations) don't need to do anything on our end." Which is not true at all, but if that's how he wants to think of it... Finally, John Connell reports on an even more extreme opposition to learning 2.0 and related ideas. Tony Hirst, OUseful Info, October 20, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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