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by Stephen Downes
January 16, 2010

Saturday Extra Edition
Just to catch up a bit, a special Saturday version of OLDaily, with enough reading to fill your Sunday.

An apologia for learning contents
I can understand why people stress learning 'content' but I feel their concern is misplaced. A case in point is offered by Joanna Muukkonen who describes "how difficult it is to learn mathematics without enough basic knowledge of it." Well, what is basic knowledge of mathematics? It's an axiom-based field; everything can be derived from a few simple rules. Learn the method and you can figure out the rest of mathematics for yourself, as you need it. But we do not teach the axioms as basic, we teach a few specially selected equations (2x2=4, for example) as basic. But, of course, this is not basic knowledge, it's a shortcut that, if memorized, allows the person to get by without actually learning how mathematics works. Consequently, mathematics becomes very difficult, because as you get more and more advanced you have to memorize more and more shortcuts. And that's the problem with 'content' - although represented as somehow foundational, it's not, and it is what is in fact taught instead of the genuinely foundational - the methods of mathematics, the literacies involved in reasoning itself. Joanna Muukkonen, Joanna's techno-pedagogical blog, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

A new look for University Affairs
CAUT's University Affairs has redesigned its website and added some new columns. For example, we have Margin Notes from Leo Charbonneau, Career Sense by Carolyn Steele, and a column from Doug Owram. I've updated by RSS subscriptions and will continue to monitor CAUT content. It's good to see an expansion of the online offering from what has been a fairly traditional publication. Though the rededication of energy and resources into their print publication is a bit hard to understand. Leo Charbonneau, University Affairs, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Transforming Higher Education Through Technology Enhanced Learning book – downloads and chapter visualisations
Derek Morrison offers chapter visualizations from the new 'Transforming Higher Education' book. It's an interesting approach, but I wish the word selection were more intelligent. In Chapter 1, for example, the word 'transformation' is easily the most important (the author arguing that "technology has transcended transformation") but is only a tiny green text in the Wordle. Or chapter 7, Benchmarking e-learning in UK universities: the methodologies, for example, is unhelpfully tagged 'benchmarking', but specific benchmarking methodologies, such as MIT90s, do not show up at all. I think a better version of Wordle would not simply count words, but would also prorate them according to their relative scarcity across all publications. In an unrelated point: as I reviewed these articles, I found a tension throughout the book between transformation and quality and (concordantly) tensions between research and practice. Derek Morrison, Auricle, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Still Not Invited to the Buffet
ISTE attendees can vote for their keynote, but the selection - 5 white males - is raising eyebrows. Tim Holt asks, "Where are the women? Where are the minority groups? Why couldn't the list like like this for instance: Marco Torres, Sheryl Nussbaum Beach, Bonney Bracey Sutton, Chris Lehman, Ken Shelton?" I would add that it is possible - indeed, more likely - that you will find a diverse set of people through fair recruitment techniques. In order to get an all-white-male set of speakers, the selection process has to have been skewed in such a way as to select (even if unintentionally) for that outcome. Tim Holt, Intended Consequences, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

The challenge of quality in peer-produced eLearning content
This article asks how we maintain quality in peer-produced e-learning, but I think critical readers are more important. You can't set up an educational system by vetting the quality of every resource; it's just too labour-intensive. But if you prepare your readers to assess resources for themselves, you can make a much larger body of resources available to them. This paper proposes a quality mechanism enabled through peer validation. "The peer validation work can include benchmarking (comparing the produced content with other sources), peer reviews (systematically validating the content with other peers and peer groups), peer reflection (reflecting the content with other peers) and peer learning (joint learning and mutual development through continuous assessment)." Fair enough - but peer validation should not be allowed to operate as a substitute for individual critical assessment, and even more importantly, it should not be allowed to degenerate into peer popularity. More articles from the current elearning papers. Ari-Matti Auvinen, elearning papers, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

eSN Special Report: Learning in 3-D
When I first saw NRC's 3D scanning back in 2002 I recommended they create 3D learning objects. They would be projected using a dual-projector technology and could be manipulated using a computer. My suggestion was never taken up (sadly) but 3D projection (in the form of passive experiences like movies) may be hitting classrooms in a big way in a year or two. What was once a 'technology of the future' has been made mainstream by Avatar. This link is to an eSchool News special report on 3D technologies, explaining how they're created and listing some 3D projectors for classrooms. Meris Stansbury, eSchool News, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

JISC online conference presentations available
Presentations and resources from JISC's Innovating e-Learning online conference are now available. There's much more here than I can possibly describe; each presentation is supported with multiple resources, including live presentations, slide shows, transcripts, and more (the exact list varies for each presentation). The full program is here. Sessions include Brian Lamb's on whether the wheels are coing off the open education "juggernaut", and Attwell, Howe and Weller on whether universities have a future (I wish there werte transcripts for everything - I can read a 1-hour talk from a transcript in about 10 minutes). Sarah Knight , JISC, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments
Why do people spend their time creating closed-access journals? I posted the question to Daniel Livingston, who posts on the newly launched Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, closed access, of which he is an associate editor. On a side note - I am saddened to see the concept of the personal Learning Environment, with which I have been intimately associated since its inception, appropriated for commercial and proprietary use in this way by a publishing company that is contributing nothing to its development. Daniel Livingston, Learning Games, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

A Technical Development Strategy for Bridging S1000D and SCORM
S1000D is a specification for technical publications; this paper discusses bridging it to SCORM 2004. Originated by the aviation industry, S1000D ties each item of data to a system component. Bridging it to SCORM ensures that learning resources are appropriate for the material being studies. "This paper [discusses] strategic visions, tactical problem statements, and project methodologies to improve the harmonization of learning and technical data using the bridge specification." Wayne Gafford and Paul Jesukiewicz, ADL, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

STRIDE Handbook 8: E-Learning
The STRIDE handbook on e-learning has now been released and is an essential introductory resource. The book contains five conceptual overviews, including Perdagogical Affordances by Som Naidu and Managerial Perspectives by Tony Bates. Following are 20 technology-specific chapters, from Electronic Mail by Sanjaya Mishra, my own Blogs in Learning, Social Networking by Terry Anderson, and Twitter by Any Ramsden. Sanjaya Mishra, ed., Indira Gandhi National Open University, January 16, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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