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by Stephen Downes
December 10, 2009

Big OER and Little OER
A useful and oft-made distinction (I've certainly made it) coupled with a terminology that might stick: "Big OERs are institutionally generated ones that come through projects such as openlearn. Advantages = high reputation, good teaching quality, little reversioning required, easily located. Disadvantages = expensive, often not web native, reuse limited; Little OERs are the individually produced, low cost resources that those of us who mess about with blogs like to produce. Advantages = cheap, web (2) native, easily remixed and reused. Disadvantages = lowish production quality, reputation can be more difficult to ascertain, more difficult to locate." The author then takes the usual cop-out line that "A mixture of the two then is complementary and viable." First, this doesn't follow at all. Second, "mixture" could mean anything from 50-50 to 99 percent of one and 1 percent of the other. Moreover, on more analysis, the "advantages" and "disadvantages" are, at best, rough generalizations, and not assertable with a high degree of probability on any particular piece of work. Martin Weller, The Ed Techie, December 10, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

The Spaces Between Numbers: Getting International Data on Higher Education Straight
Tony Bates points to this report mas a useful antidote to things such reports comparing the Canadian system with the U.S. "Don't be fooled by the [IHE] article's title," he writes, "it is much more complicated than the US catching up." The report examines the data, but is also straightforward in its aims: "This essay confronts the negative propaganda about the comparative performance of the United States because the propaganda is problematic." Propaganda, the authors writes, such as the OECD PISA studies. Based on a quick reading, I would say it appears to be a good report, but I would conclude from it not that American students are doing comparatively well after all, but rather, that the numbers describing their achievement are not especially reliable. Clifford Adelman, Institute for Higher Education Policy, December 10, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Low use of web 2.0 in e-learning
According to this report in the Chronicle, "Online education has grown in popularity, yet it remains dependent on learning-management systems, with content-delivery built around text." This statement is true only if you consider "online education" to be limited to that offered by traditional academic institutions, as the Chronicle does. But if you look at learning more widely, you can see that not only is there a great upsurge in personal learning that is happening , thanks to the internet, a substantial proportion of this learning is enabled through web 2.0 technologies. Tony Bates, Weblog, December 10, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Our Virtuous Internet
The concept Harold Jarche i getting at here is an important one, but not a widely understood one. It is, basically, the idea that you want your network infrastructure to be as simple as possible - to move data from A to B and nothing more. If we want 'intelligence' in our infrastructure - language requirements or data standards, filtering systems, metering systems, etc. - then it should be placed at the edges - either in the sender or the receiver, but not in the pipes or wires in between. The reason for this is, any intelligence added to the infrastructure creates overhead. It adds costs to the transmission of information. Moreover, pretty much any such intelligence is useful only to a minority of users, which means everybody ends up paying for the needs of only a few. Harold Jarche, Weblog, December 10, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Why Controversy Won't Power Next-Gen News
I so hope the value of media changes as described in this item. According to the author, "controversy sells. But it sells for pennies. News publishers should be chasing the big bucks instead. And to earn them, you've got to do a whole lot better than publishing fauxp-eds by the opposite of experts." I think something like that is true - in the edublogosphere, for example, the thoughtful and informed writers seem to attract more dedicated than the political attack blogs. But this could be an artifact of the phase shift, and not long term. Umair Haque, Harvard Business, December 10, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Should Philosophers Referee Papers for Free for For-Profit Journal Publishers?
There's a great discussion in the comment section. My own take is that such activities should be near the bottom of their list of priorities, and that they should focus their efforts instead on supporting work being published in open access journals. But is this an appropriate response? "Please be advised that I do not do any refereeing work for journals published by for-profit entities without compensation. Are you prepared to offer compensation for this refereeing job?" Brian Leiter, Leiter Reports, December 10, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Open Source E-Learning Development 20: Reusable E-Learning Object Authoring & Delivery Suite
Review of RELOAD, the Reusable E-Learning Object Authoring & Delivery Suite, "a UK-based JISC-funded initiative which develops tools to facilitate the use of learning technology interoperability specifications including ADL and IMS." Michael Hanley, The E-Learning Curve Blog, December 10, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Teachers as Senior Education Leaders
Revolutions that simply replace one set of leaders with another are never successful. For a revolution to succeed, you must change the people, not the leaders. It is this fact that those attempting to accomplish a revolution in education by changing the educational leaders do not grasp. That's my view, anyways. John Norton, TLN Teacher Voices, December 10, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Reading Practice Can Strengthen Brain 'Highways'
This will be no surprise to anyone who thinks that people learn by forming connections between neurons: "Intensive reading programs can produce measurable changes in the structure of a child's brain, according to a study in the journal Neuron." Two thoughts: first, what does that say about the internet generation, which has been reading intently on their computer screens for the last decade? This is what we would expect given another study linking technology and writing skills. And second, why can't we encourage people to read the things they want to read, like that stuff on the internet? (Oh, and I guess a third point - can't the NPR story about this use a vocabulary slightly more elevated than 'information highways', 'white matter' and 'fibers that carry information'?) Jon Hamilton, NPR, December 10, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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