OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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September 16, 2010

How To Be Alone
Andrea Dorfman and Tanya Davis, YouTube, September 16, 2010.

The internet teaches us stuff that we never learn in school. Like, for example, how to be alone. Via D'Arcy Norman.

This describes much of my adult life, and some of the really valuable lessons I learned about self-dependence and autonomy. Also, it's nice to think that this video was made just down the road from here, in Halifax.

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MA thesis on Open Educational Resources in China released, watch it fly
Stian Håklev, Random Stuff That Matters, September 16, 2010.

files/images/2442459125_87f19eb041.jpgv0, size: 156156 bytes, type:   Stian Håklev has posted his thesis on open educational resources (OERs) in China. The purpose of the thesis is to look at "China Quality OpenCourseWare", and thus "to look at this project, how had MIT inspired the Chinese, how had the Chinese changed the North-American idea to better fit their own context, and what could this tell us about the large-scale changes that Chinese higher education was undergoing at the moment?" It's interesting to note some of his reasons for not depending on the university repository to provide access to his thesis: "my thesis will not appear until after my convocation (in a few months), and will be limited to one officially formatted PDF (I hate reading double-spaced PDFs on my screen, and they don't play nice with Stanza). I get no statistics from who downloads it, nor any opportunity to interact with the readers." These reasons can be added to my own set of reasons I write this morning explaining why I prefer to put my resources on my own web site, and not an institutional repository.

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Principles of form and function
David T. Jones, Weblog, September 16, 2010.

Though the point of this article is to formulate an information systems design theory for e-learning, I'm more interested in the properties of an emergent university e-learning system described in the middle of the post. David T. Jones writes that "an emergent university e-learning system should:
-- Provide a method or methods for packaging and using necessary e-learning services from a variety of sources and of a variety of types.
-- Provide numerous ways to enable different packages to interact and integrate.
-- Provide a packaging mechanism that allows for a level of independence and duplication.
-- Provide an initial collection of services that provide a necessary minimum of common e-learning functionality
-- Focus on packaging existing software or services for integration into the system
-- Present this collection of services in a way that for staff and students resembles a single system.
-- Minimise disruption to the user experience of the system."
files/images/3463514963_1cd78fa364.jpg, size: 45322 bytes, type:  image/jpeg

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Certification with OER: Considerations and Examples
Glen Moriarty, Open Courseware Consortium, September 16, 2010.

files/images/twb-logo.jpg, size: 10191 bytes, type:  image/jpeg This is an interesting (if slow-moving) development in the recognition of credentials. While currently, institutional accreditation is the gold standard underpinning formal education, it is centralized, complex and time-consuming. People are looking for alternatives. According to this article, "Certifications provide one such avenue. Their value is inherently tied to the individuals or organization doing the certification. These people or institutions are vouching for the students they are vetting through the process of endorsing their learning." And, as Konrad Glogowski, the chair of Teachers Without Borders, argues, "this certificate is often the difference between being hired or not hired for educators in sub-Saharan Africa." Though TWB courses are not accredited, they provide, as the article notes, "a measure of competence."

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Don't tell teachers how to act on Facebook, says union
Unattributed, The Guardian, September 16, 2010.

files/images/Woman-looks-at-facebook-006.jpg, size: 16476 bytes, type:  image/jpeg I always consider it ironic when politicians or administrators draft codes of conduct for other people. And I have always felt that codes of conduct are not needed by those who would follow them anyways, and ignored by people who would not. But there is, it seems, an unending supply of people willing to tell other people how they should conduct themselves in areas about which the first group of people knows little or nothing. That is why I am a cynic, or worse, when it comes to codes of conduct.

Thus, I am in agreement with Nasuwt, which "is mightily fed up with an attempt to tell teachers how to behave themselves on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites." According to this Guardian report, "The Welsh General Teaching Council has got right up Nasuwt's nose by issuing a code full of platitudes, telling teachers to 'conduct their relationships with pupils professionally and appropriately both in school and out of school' and base their relationship with pupils on trust and respect." This despite the complete lack of evidence that the teachers in question have been doing anything but.

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Conference paper for OpenEd 2010 on technology, resilience and open education
Joss Winn, Expedient Means, September 16, 2010.

files/images/2212346111_9d7706b61b_o.jpg, size: 7672 bytes, type:  image/jpeg Interesting paper by Richard Hall and Joss Winn on the role of technology in open education. The authors write, "Technology underpins the development of an open curriculum for resilience in three key areas:
I. The enhancement of student-agency, in producing both relationships within and across open communities, and open, socially-situated tasks...
II. Re-framing HE experiences as open, in order to allow learners to test their self-concept...
II. Feedback for learning from multiple perspectives...
In this tripartite approach, the production and re-use of artefacts is of secondary importance to the social relationships that are re-defined by educators and students, and the focus on people and values that is in-turn assembled through open education."

Equally interesting, to me, is the motivation for the study: "There is still a risk that the provision of frameworks for free associations between individuals will leave some people marginalised, and the creation of appropriate contexts that spark or forge opportunities for participation is pedagogically critical." One of the key roles institutions play (albeit, sometimes very badly) is in the creation of frameworks for participation and inclusion. This is an important objective generally, and not just within the context of education.

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Higher Ed and the Real-Time Web
Georgiana Cohen , .eduGuru, September 16, 2010.

"The real-time web," writes Georgiana Cohen , "is about immediacy, availability, presence and on-demand engagement. It's about a pulse of information that we have no choice but to feel for, a stream of content we have no option but to wade into. It's not just Twitter, though that's the most prominent example. It's seeping into every corner of the online world." One really good example of that are the real-time online events, which are beginning to proliferate. But also we are seeing real-time publishing and real-time data and information. But "the tradeoff is time. You have to be there, and being there takes time."

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Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts
Jane Austen, Website, September 16, 2010.

files/images/decalRight_bg.jpg, size: 12218 bytes, type:  image/jpeg This sort of online resource is better than anything we could get otherwise. The idea was "to create a digital resource reuniting all the known holograph surviving manuscripts of Austen's fiction in an unprecedented virtual collection" and "to provide for the first time full descriptions of, transcriptions of, analysis of, and commentary on the manuscripts in the archive, including details of erasures, handwriting, paper quality, watermarks, ink, binding structures, and any ancillary materials held with the holographs as aspects of their physical integrity or provenance." And I must say, it is quite an experience to read, say, this Juvenilia with text and actual handwriting, corrections and all, online.

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The New Science of Morality
various Authors, Edge, September 16, 2010.

files/images/moderate_islam_univeral_compassion_morality.jpg.jpg, size: 200663 bytes, type:  image/jpeg This is a fascinating document that should probably be read by any person in the social professions, including teachers. It represents the significant advance in our understanding of morality that has resulted from discoveries made over the last 50 years. The consensus document is authored by some of the top moral philosophers of our time (though one would wish for a more international representation).

But it should not be read uncritically. The style is telling. Each point represents something that seems very clear (for example, "morality emerges from the interaction of multiple psychological building blocks within each person, and from the interactions of many people within a society") and when then is followed with a much more controversial kicker (such as "These building blocks are the products of evolution, with natural selection playing a critical role").

Be sure as well to read the series of commentaries on the consensus document. And if you have a lot of extra time, these Edge videos, on a variety of philosophical topics, are well worth your time. Think of them as TED for intellectuals.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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