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by Stephen Downes
March 8, 2010

First Principles
Let me begin the week with this uplifting post from Dave Pollard. "When much of your life is tied up with work (collaborative or hierarchical) and the schedules and priorities of others, most decisions are made for you, or at least restricted by the constraints of society. It is a bit startling to realize that, suddenly, almost every decision I face is mine alone to make. Each decision may have repercussions for others, which I of course have to think about, but ultimately my decisions are now driven by principles, not by accommodation." What are these principles, he asks? Being generous, valuing time, and living naturally. Dave Pollard, How To Save The World, March 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

DIY U Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation…
Norm Friesen previews a book, "DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education" by Anya Kamenetz. We both received email this week from the publisher announcing the forthcoming release and noting "Dr. Friesen and you are briefly noted within the text, based on a session that the author attended at UBC." In fact, I was interviewed for the book by the author in January, 2009, and as I reported to our own public affairs people, "The interview focused mostly on models of learning for the future - I talked about the idea of personal learning, the idea that assessment will be dis-aggregated, and that credentials would be granted from numerous agencies." Norm Friesen says the book takes a moderate approach, and the publicity materials I've seen seem to agree. Norm Friesen, Weblog, March 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Is Higher Education Evolving?
If higher education were like an organism that evolved, what would it look like? Probably nothing like this mixed-metaphor formulation: "the pendulum swing(s) faster between proprietary integration and open modulation to accelerate the clock speed for more effective and efficient knowledge creation and distribution?" Evolution isn't teleological; it isn't based on the imperative to "adapt or die". Rather, evolution is more a process of mixing an multiplying, aided by random mutations. If the environment stays the same, most mutations fail; if the environment changes, new mutations multiply rapidly to fill the new niche. In higher education, evolution would be aided by creating a lifecycle of things that grow, flourish, replicate themselves (with some variation), and then die. It is only when we create things that never die naturally - be they institutions or corporations - that we need to start talking about adapting. But adapting is a very different process, and has very different results. Paul Kim, EDUCAUSE Quarterly, March 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Time to Start Taking the Internet Seriously
"The Internet is like a new computer running a flashy, exciting demo," writes David Gelernter, "but now it's time to start making the internet do what we want it to do." What the internet brings to the table, he writes, is a sense of "now" that we didn't have before - we know what people are doing now, we know what the price of aluminum is now, the weather now, public opinion, trends and fashions now. But we should refine this into a more complete mastery of time, to enable more reflective, deeper analysis of trends past and future. Scott Leslie, who sent me the link by email, asks, how much of this do we want to program into our machines? We don't want it to do our thinking for us, I think, but it should help us to newer, more reflective kinds of thinking. David Gelernter, Edge, March 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

How Does the Educational System Becomes Decentralized?
George Siemens and I have something in common: a background in the restaurant industry. That's just one tidbit from this wide-ranging interview available on video by Ulrike Reinhard. Siemens emerges as a thoughtful and articulate advocate of personalized learning and social networks. Of most interest to me, of course, is his discussion of the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course we taught starting in 2008. But the key question is found in the title of the post, addressing how the education system can become decentralized. Ulrike Reinhard, Conversations At the Beginning of a New Time, March 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Building a Better Teacher
A longish article in last Tuesday's New York Times argues that great teaching can be taught. The basis for this proposition is a study by a former teacher named Doug Lemov who, we are told, conducted a study of the techniques used by successful teachers (as determined, in part, by standardized test scores). The advice, summed up as the eponymous "Lemov Taxonomy", a non-school of thought (I found zero scholarly references to it) that incorporates unsurprising techniques to hold the attention of students and to give them clear directions. Even supposing this produces a better teacher, I am left wondering whether this produces a better education.

The New York Times will soon put articles like this behind a subscription paywall, which will raise some issues in some quarters. This article, though ostensibly journalism, is in reality breathless promotion for Lemov's book, Teach Like a Champion, which in turn is promotion for Lemov's consulting service, Uncommon Schools, which in turn promotes aspects of the charter school and core content movements and the oublishing industry that supports those. When the Times is behind a paywall, these promoters will have to publish their articles elsewhere, because the stories will no longer receive wide distribution. Which, for the Times, raises the question of where it will get its stories from in the future. Elizabeth Green, New York Times, March 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Edufountain: Virtual and Personal Learning Environments My Thoughts
With all the talk of the "death of the VLE" one might wonder what Blackboard thinks about it. Wonder no more, as Blackboard's platform evangelist delivers a long and wide-ranging post defending the VLE in general and the company in particular. The post deserves more attention than I can give it in this short space. John Fontaine talks about the drivers for change - what features should count as core, the need for lower-cost systems, the desire to leverage emergent knowledge in a network. He responds to criticisms about the VLE's inflexibility and hegemony. Drawing on research into ten years of the VLE, he argues, "I do not see students requesting that instructors use Blackboard less, and even cites a student newspaper article arguing that the use of Blackboard should be mandatory. John Fontaine, Fountains of Fontaine, March 8, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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