OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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September 27, 2010

The ‘Open Mode' – A Step Toward Completely Online
Tom Preskett, educational technology & change, September 26, 2010.

What we need, writes Tom Preskett, is open learning that goes well beyond traditional learning. He writes, "Much of the e-learning I've been involved in has concentrated on developing blended learning where there was previously just face-to-face. This is largely like banging your head against a brick wall. This policy is often seen as a safer, less ambitious step along the learning technologies route." You can't just go part way; you just end up with a bunch of people who don't want to use the technology. "you need entire MAs offered online, not just one or two modules."

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Shifting perspectives
Clark Quinn, Learnlets, September 26, 2010.

Ol-thinking new-thinking posts are always fun, and if they don't get too deep into a subject they still offer some useful points of comparison. Clark Quinn looks at the differences between old and new management thinking, old and new learning unit thinking, and old and new workforce thinking. For each, he states why the distinction is important, and identifies "the necessary components" (nothing like good old-fashioned groupwork patterns). The ast bit - "the necessary components" - is the weakest. It's easy to say "The necessary components are leadership, culture, and infrastructure. Workers have to comprehend the goals, believe in the culture, and have the tools – individual and collective – to accomplish the goals." It's hard to cash that out in terms of concrete actions, funding, and deliverables.

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The End of Education Is the Dawn of Learning
Trung Le, FastCoDesign, September 26, 2010.

Nobody is sure what is happening to education, but more and more people are convinced it's changing, and all of them are happy about that. See Thomes Frey, for example. Today's case in point: Stephen Heppell. This interview with the "Yoda of learning" outlines his thoughts on educational change. But it begins to sound more like more of the same, not breakthrough. "I have a simple rule of three for third millennium learning spaces," he says. "1. No more than three walls so that there is never full enclosure... 2. No fewer than three points of focus so that the 'stand-and-deliver' model gives way to increasingly varied groups learning... 3. Ability to accommodate three teachers." Open concept, small groups and team teaching? They were trying that on me in the 70s! Not that it's all bad, but it seems like quite a stretch to represent this as 21st century learning.

An unfailing sign that someone is more showman than shaman is that his ideas are fundamentally conservative but tied to the trending and topical. Thus we see Heppell talk about Afghanistan, Pakistan and Haiti in the second-last paragraph. Yes, as he says, "I think we have made learning too expensive." But disaster-hopping and name-dropping won't fix the problems. People who want to write seriously on an issue should be prohibited from linking it to what's current in mass media. It's just pandering, and diminishes whatever they are talking about. Via Zecool.

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Taking OER Beyond the OER Community: Part I
Mike Caulfield, Tran|Script, September 26, 2010.

The UNESCO Open Educational Resources (OERs) discussion has started, with the first topic being the question of taking OERs beyond the OER community. I'm not sure exactly what that is, but my sole contribution thus far is a plea to think of contributors as more than just institutions andf consumers as more than just school teachers. Even this reconstrued it's an uphill climb. Mike Caulfield writes, "Here's the first thing I realized on getting back - we haven't got over our crush on producers." Producers are the rock stars, re-users are... what? Potential pirates? Possible plagiarists?

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Cogged PLE's
Matthias Melcher, x28's New Blog, September 26, 2010.

Interesting description of a cooperative writing process, a good diagram of the structure of that cooperation as it emerges on the wiki (yes, it's a network) and an interesting and possibly novel argument for working in private: "It is not about protecting our content from possible readers, it is about protecting incidental readers from the content. Because this content is just incomprehensible, disturbing noise, like murmuring and babbling in the library reading room."
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5 Pieces of Advice for Lawyers Trying to Scare Educators Who Think Outside The Ban
Unattributed, The Innovative Educator, September 25, 2010.

If a lawyer tells you something is allowed, and you end up getting sued, the lawyer takes the criticism, even if you are in the right. Consequently, they lawyer is motivated to advice you not on the basis of whether you are in the legal right, but rather on the basis of what may or may not get you sued. This has established a creep over the years, one that is accelerating, as the rights of those who sue (read: rich or corporate) expand into the rights of those at risk of being sued (read: individuals, schools and institutions, small corporate). So how do you deal with advice from lawyers that is in the best interest of the lawyer, but over;y conservative and in the long term harmful to you?

This post takes a stab at an answer. I'm not completely happy with the solution, but some of the advice is sound. Ask the lawyers to put it in writing, for one thing, and explain to them that their liability extends both ways: that it's bad advice not only if the school ends up being sued, but also if the school provides an unnecessarily poor education as a result of the advice. But really, from my experience, the best advice is to keep the lawyers out of it wherever possible, and if advice is sought, to request it on the narrowest possible grounds. And ask, not how to mitigate risk (that's not the lawyer's decision) but how to best respond when a risk condition (such as being sued) is triggered.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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