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September 9, 2010

Reflections on 21st Century Education
Various Authors, Weblog, September 9, 2010.

files/images/earth.pngw128h128, size: 22545 bytes, type:   While our local newspaper can do no better than to recycle tired old talking points, it is refreshing to be able to find local blogs from the New Brunswick educational community talking about, and working with, 21st century educational practices. As one writer cites from Dave Warlick: "When teachers are released from district managed portals, and allowed to shape their own personal learning networks, when they are granted a voice and ear to a global conversation about education, when students begin to take a more active role in affecting the 'what' and 'how' of their own learning, then education changes, and the barriers between the 'classroom' and 'world' start to disappear."

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Affordance and educational games
matangdilis, Open Educational Tools, September 8, 2010.

files/images/switches.png, size: 43909 bytes, type:  image/png Very nice discussion of the concept of 'affordances'. "Affordances can be thought of as possibilities for action. Affordances are detected by a goal-driven agent as they move about in an 'information field' that results from the working of their senses in concert with their body movements." Matangdilis contrasts affordances - which are more like facts of nature - with cultural conventions (though obviously one is related to the other, as we see easily with the QWERTY convention for typewriters). And he draws some interesting conclusions about perceptual learning. "The idea here is that knowledge does not only exist in the world but also in the environment. And that in order to learn one does not need to be separated from the environment; one does not need to withdraw inside the mind to learn. That separation from the environment would lead to loss of knowledge. The unity and inseparability of man and environment is important." Good stuff.

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Introducing Higher Ed Live
Seth Odell, As Media Changes, September 8, 2010.

Look like a good thing: "Higher Ed Live is a brand new LIVE weekly web show focused on the emerging role of social media and digital media marketing in higher education. Hosted by [Seth Odell], the show will broadcast live every Sunday at 7 p.m. EST." Via Kyle James.

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The .edu Bust? College Costs, Technology, and the Future of Higher Education
Jason Green, Pulaski Technical College , September 8, 2010.

files/images/abarre_logo.jpg, size: 30367 bytes, type:  image/jpeg Another open online course in the connectivist mold: "Many are predicting that higher education, like dot-coms and housing before it, is the next "bubble" ready to burst, and that technology will be at the forefront of college cost control. Using Anya Kamenetz's DIY U as a starting point, we'll consider what these trends might mean in an open seminar." Definitely worth a look. "I imagine this as more of a discussion of issues than an exercise in learning a particular something, so it seems to lend itself better to the seminar label. We'll scaffold our discussions around DIY U by Anya Kamenetz, but it is merely a point de d├ępart. For those who don't have the book or don't wish to read it, there will be other suggested resources on each topic." It started September 7 so you're not too late, really.

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files/images/progressiveinquiry.jpg, size: 54010 bytes, type:  image/jpeg
Expertise and guidance
Heli Nurmi, Heli on Connectivism, September 8, 2010.

Some excellent expertise and guidance from Heli on Connectivism on the eve of out PLENK 2010 course. She summarizes and draws some conclusions from a dissertation by Minna Lakkala (also recommended, especially the first 40 pages). It's a bit much to summarize in a paragraph, but one of the conclusions, "educational settings should include elements that explicitly advance students' metalevel awareness and understanding of inquiry strategies," is relevant.

"In particular," Heli summarizes, "those elements in students' activities should be structured and directed, which are central to the aim of Progressive Inquiry, but which the students do not recognize or demonstrate spontaneously without explicit modelling or promotion, and which are usually not taken into account in existing pedagogical methods or educational conventions. Such elements are, among others:
- productive co-construction activities;
- sustained engagement in improving produced ideas and explanations;
- critical reflection of the adopted inquiry practices, and
- sophisticated use of modern technology for knowledge work."

I have my criticisms, but these should not detract from the excellent reading to be found in both the dissertation and the blog post describing it. In particular, I find the notion of enquiry pictured above (as much as I like Hintikka) to be too narrow. This results in questions that (in my view) presuppose their own conclusions. For example, when Lakkala poses the question (p. 69) "what kind of on-line intervention from tutors would be functional to elicit more in-depth inquiry than students are able to reach without procedural guidance" we already know she believes what she will conclude, that "on-line intervention from tutors would be functional to elicit more in-depth inquiry."

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A Paperless Survival Guide to Managing the Occasional Tech Snafu
Shelly Blake-Plock, Teach Paperless, September 8, 2010.

I know tech breaks down, and most frequently breaks down when you're trying something new in front of an audience. But this is exactly why I try new things in front of an audience. I know that people live almost in fear of their tech breaking down - hence this "survival guide" helping teachers cope with the inevitable problems. But while the suggestions here are very useful - I've used almost all of them myself - the most important tip is missing: solve your problem openly. While you're working on the problem, describe what you're doing, how you planned for the problem, and how you're addressing it. Let students know your thinking process. Let them see you think! I've done this in front of full auditoriums - and had people come to me after to say that this was the most interesting part of the talk.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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