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by Stephen Downes
August 3, 2010 1:52 p.m.

The Gorilla Illusions
Nice series that makes the case that a lot of knowledge management rests on a series of illusions:
- the illusion of memory - "the weakness of the human brain as a long-term knowledge store... even the most vivid memories can be completely unreliable."
- the illusion of confidence - "the way that people value knowledge from a confident person. This would be fine if confidence and knowledge go hand in hand, but in fact there is almost an inverse relationship."
- the illusion of knowledge - "he way we overestimate how much we know... for example, to how people think they know how long a project will take, and how much it will cost." Nick Milton, Knoco stories, August 3, 2010 1:40 p.m. [Link] [Comment] [Tweet]

5 Energy Efficient Office Gadgets
I think the concept of 'energy efficient gadget' is an oxymoron (because the mere existence of the gadget is not efficient) but I want to highlight one interesting thing here: water powered calculators. Here's more on this. Of course, it's not the water that powers the battery, it's the carbon and aluminum anode and cathode (here's how to build one). What's significant is not the batteries - they've been around forever - but rather electronics that will now run on the very low power outputs of water batteries. I also like the solar power gadget charger - but remember, if this were truly energy efficient, we'd simply use solar cells. But they take a lot of cost and energy to make - at more than $200 per 10 watts they are useful only as camping gear (consider - it would cost $2000 to power your 100 watt stereo, $30,000 to power your 2,500 watt hair dryer). Stephanie Marcus, Mashable, August 3, 2010 1:34 p.m. [Link] [Comment] [Tweet]

Luxand Blink now lets you use your face to log in to 64-bit Windows 7, too
We haven't heard much from biometrics lately, but that doesn't mean nothing is happening. A case in point is this post about a piece of software that allows you to log into Windows using facial recognition. I haven't tried it yet - but I might. Erez Zukerman, Download Squad, August 3, 2010 1:14 p.m. [Link] [Comment] [Tweet]

In defence of the book and other thoughts on the digitalization of knowledge
If I had the time, I would write a book, and if I thought I could make a living off it, I'd find the time. But the reality (despite the assertion that 'authors need to be paid' found in this post and many others) is that making a living off a book you write is a longshot. So while I am well-disposed toward Tony Bates and wish him all the best in book publishing, I simply don't think his defense of the book really scales. That said, this post is a nice analysis of the argument, and I especially like the way it looks at a 'defense of the book' through several dimensions:
- the 'book' as a long form piece of writing, as opposed to short
- the 'book' as a print publication, as opposed to electronic
- the 'book' as a commercial product, as opposed to open content
Related: Blue Skunk Blog, 'Do you work for your publisher, or..?' Tony Bates, e-learning & distance education resources, August 3, 2010 1:11 p.m. [Link] [Comment] [Tweet]

Harvard Releases OpenScholar 2.0
I'm tempted to wisecrack that Harvard professors need something super simple, but I think actually that this software package that helps them build personal and project-oriented web sites is a good idea. OpenScholar, which is available as open source, is in version 2.0 now. Professors can "build an online home for their 'CV, bio, publications, blogs, announcements, links, image galleries, class materials,' and even submit publications to online repositories, such as Google Scholar." There is a caveat: "Before a prof can start using OpenScholar, someone on his/her IT staff will need to install the software on their university's servers." But don't panic - looking at the code I see it's based on a Drupal core, which means a relatively straightforward PHP install. Dan Colman , Open Culture, August 3, 2010 12:33 p.m. [Link] [Comment] [Tweet]

Applying 3D Virtual Worlds to Higher Education
Nice and clear Master's thesis describing the applicability of 3D worlds in higher education. "A process model is developed that describes the process of producing a course that uses 3D virtual worlds as a tool. The model covers the stages before, during, and after the course. The model describes the environment, different phases, roles, provides ideas for creativity, and advices to avoid problems." Good synthesis of various materials, including tables of didactic approaches to environment, problem categories of using Second Life in education, etc. Eero Palomäki, Helsinki University of Technology, August 3, 2010 10:13 a.m. [Link] [Comment] [Tweet]

Nuts and Bolts: Brain Bandwidth - Cognitive Load Theory and Instructional Design
There's a lot of push for cognitive load theory so it's probably important to be familiar with it. The idea is that because we can retain only a certain amount of information at a time, extraneous information should be trimmed from learning materials. Some people go so far as to suggest that cognitive load theory favours some (ie., direct instruction) modes of learning because these modes of learning do not involve extraneous tasks or concepts.

For my own part, I think cognitive load theory misrepresents how we acquire and store information. It supposes that information is atomic and symbolic, like a string of numbers. But our perceptions actually carry multiple meanings. Consider a string like 'school matters' (or 'the representative student'). This is not a single-meaning string, like a set of numbers. It embodies two separate meanings. We 'remember' only a single string. But we 'learn' two separate concepts.

Perceptual information is much more like 'school matters' than it is like a string of numbers. Any given perception has multiple meanings. The purpose of multimedia presentation is to embed multiple meanings - senses, connotations, frames of reference, background values, and more - into a single representation. The 'chimes' are not just chimes - they are telling you how you should approach this material, how you should think of it. And it's in these multiple meanings that the richness of our learning is embodied. Reduce that meaning to a simple essence, and you reduce the learner to a simpleton. Jane Bozarth, Learning Solutions Magazine, August 3, 2010 6:17 a.m. [Link] [Comment] [Tweet]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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