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by Stephen Downes
April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

We Learn
David Wiley and Michael Feldstein have the same concern - that OERs will not be enough. This all in response to Anya Kamanetz's book DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. Wiley writes, "if we move wholesale to an independent study model of 'have fun at the library, honey, I'll pick you up at 3!' where DIY opportunities were the only opportunities offered, we're going to fail (in both senses) the vast majority of our students." And Feldstein writes, "edupunk and OER do nothing, in and of themselves, to help these student leap the chasm that they will have to leap in order to further their education. Pretending otherwise is pernicious." This post is a response to that. I argue, "If you get beyond the characterization of open education as an alternative institutional response, and see it in its much more true light as a set of mechanisms to encourage and allow creativity, engagement, and empowerment, then you locate in edupunk and OER the missing elements." As the title suggests, we do, in fact, learn, and there's is plenty of empirical evidence of that. Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, April 4, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Resource profiles for learning materials
Phil barker comments on my short Resource Profiles paper. He comments, "One thing I'd like to see demonstrated is how you link all the information together. The same resource is going to be identified differently in different systems, and sometimes not at all." Quite so, and this is exactly what I'm working on now. But I think it's important to keep in mind that you don't need one universal system of identification - you only need a system for the resources you access (who cares, really, about the rest?) and it needs only to work for you. We each see the world in our own way, and this applies, as well, to the identification of objects. Phil Barker, Phil's JISC CETIS blog, April 4, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

OpenCourseWare economics in the New York Times
The New York Times happily declares that open content is a commercial enterprise. As summarized by Creative Commons blog:
- sharing does not preclude making money. To the contrary, artists have long been making CC licensing part of their business strategies,
- there needs to be an ecosystem built around open materials, and businesses are an important part of that ecosystem.
- free can refer to price and freedom. Businesses, universities, and others can charge a price for access or services around OER.
Mike Linksvayer, Creative Commons Blog, April 4, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

What do instructors need to know about teaching with technology?
What I like about this is the clear understanding that you need to know about more than just technology in order to teach with technology. Among other things, argues Tony Bates, you need to know epistemology - "understanding different kinds of knowledge, for instance the difference between objectivism and the social construction of knowledge" - biology - "a basic introduction to how the brain works, particularly regarding memory, cognition, and emotions" - and the design of teaching - "applying theory to practice: this would include needs assessments related to learner differences, an introduction to instructional design, defining learning outcomes and objectives". Tony Bates, Weblog, April 4, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Is Phenomenal Consciousness a Complex Structure?
The title - Is Phenomenal Consciousness a Complex Structure? - is the best part of this paper. The question it explores is interesting: is consciousness the result of evolutionary mechanisms ("an adaptation based on its complexity"). To be such, though, it would have to be the result of a physical mechanism (a 'complex system', in the parlance of this paper, though the definition of 'complex' ("composed of many interacting parts") is inadequate (to be 'complex', in my sense, the parts must not only interact, they must change each others' state - gears interact, but a system of gears is not complex (it is only complicated) because a gear remains the same from one interaction to the next). But in any case, is consciousness even 'made up of many parts'? Steig argues it might not be. "They fail to establish that phenomenal consciousness is a complex structure in the relevant sense." Explaining consciousness through biology is a mistake, Steig argues, because "that task is already in the domain of cognitive science." Um, well, no. Cognitive science is not the only alternative to modular theories of mind. Complexity - properly understood - is another alternative. Chuck Steig, Cogprints, April 4, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Making a Simple Connection

Why improving student learning cannot happen in many parts of this country: pretty much it in a nutshell. A classic case of mutually dependent variables creating a complex environment, resulting in a situation where simple solutions based on linear causation are doomed to fail.
Tim Stahmer, Assorted Stuff, April 4, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Setting Up and Maintaining Netbooks/Laptops with K-12 Students
Short post but rich with links on setting up Linux on netbooks for schools. Doug Holton writes, "If I were to set up a classroom netbook/laptop cart for a K-12 class or a school-wide 1-to-1 netbook/laptop program, I would follow what Jim Klein did as part of the SWATTEC program at the Saugus Union School District.  They also used Ubuntu Netbook Remix, but with nice extras like a nice 10 second recovery system (by keeping system files in a read-only partition using UnionFS) and battery-life optimizations." Doug Holton, EdTechDev, April 4, 2010 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Educators' Use of Twitter: Survey Results
Survey of about 300 educators, mostly from the U.S., on their use of Twitter. To me the most telling statistic is that of the 5800 educators (She gathered data from the pre-registered educators for COSN), only 300 responded. It's a short survey, and would take maybe five minutes to complete. So why a response rate of around 0.5 percent? Kathy Schrock, Kaffeeklatsch, April 4, 2010 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment] [Tweet]

We ARE the system
Scott McLeod touches a nerve pointing out to teachers and administrators that they are the system. True enough, though it is worth pointing out that they are only small parts of the system, and are often subject to the whims of the big wheels, like, say, uninformed politicians. Still, there's nothing like a sense of self-doubting angst to keep people reading. Do a little digging and you can see where the thought came from - Eric Hoefler makes the comment (in all caps) that "We are the system" on a Scott McLeod post from 2007. You can read Hoefler's intelligent follow-up discussion here. What a difference three years makes. Arne Duncan also makes the "we are the system" remark last year, and it is indeed a central Obama theme that "we are the change we want to see." Andrew Watt also comments. Greg Byrne also responds. McLeod's short post is reprinted at Education Week. Scott McLeod, Dangerously Irrelevant, April 4, 2010 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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