OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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December 10, 2010

Confessions of a Massive Open Online Course Flunkie
Matt Crosslin, EduGeek Journal, December 10, 2010.

Two perspectives on MOOCs. On the one hand, Matt Crosslin finds them difficult to understand. "I just don't have time to figure out how to use one. Yes, I will spend forever trying to figure out how to customize a WordPress app, but I won't take the time to figure out how to participate in a MOOC." And this is a problem. "If you have to take a mini-course on how to take your course, you are probably having to focus too much on the structure and not the learning." Which is actually, in my mind, a bit silly - after all, you have to learn to read to take just about any course, and that's a lot more preparation than watching a four-minute video. Perhaps it's difficult for Crosslin because there's so much unlearning to do.

We have, as a contrast, Jim Shimabukuro who sees clearly how it works and contrasts it with the dojo model for student organized learning. "Compare this to a typical class in most U.S. schools and colleges. When the teacher is not present, nothing happens or, worse, chaos reigns. In colleges, students are usually free to leave if the instructor fails to show up after so many minutes. This never happens in a dojo... if the top instructor, the sensei, is absent, the highest ranking student present runs the class. If none of the black belts are there, then the highest ranked brown belt takes the lead. Even when only two white belts show up for class, training continues."

It's about attitude and approach. If you're looking for someone to tell you how it works, you will find a MOOC confusing and frustrating. But if you take responsibility for your own learning, you will find any connection in a MOOC either an opportunity to teach or an opportunity to learn. No instructions necessary.

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files/images/3389581452_2a5b6a8ba0.jpg, size: 91891 bytes, type:  image/jpeg
Google proof your image attributions
Judy O'Connell, heyjude, December 10, 2010.

I admit to having mixed feelings about this item. On the one hand, I agree that we should provide attribution for images. On the other hand, I think that the pollution of text with (c) and (tm) marks represents the degeneration of society and the collapse of discourse. So I think I'll continue as I have in the past: attribution by linking, but by no means filling up my work with copyright symbols. Because my writing is not to be subject commodification, colonization and settlement by commercial interests.

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Interpreting international comparisons in academic achievement
Tony Bates, e-learning & distance education resources, December 10, 2010.

Good and sane analysis of the PISA results (in contrast to what we've seen from much of the media). "I would expect," writes Tony bates, "something more from reporters than just taking the OECD handout, quickly scanning it, and jumping to conclusions that are not really justified by even a cursory look at the data." In particular, we should question the study methodology, sampling criteria, and regression to the mean. As Bates notes, "Shanghai of course is not typical of China. It is the richest city and a key centre in its education system."

And I can't resist echoing his final comment, which is dead on: "My final comment is that standardized tests are a cornerstone of the right wing agenda referred to in an earlier post as the 'dysfunctionality narrative': state schools suck and the private sector would do better. The irony here is that the 'best' PISA performance comes from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Finland, and Singapore, all of which have a long history of state-controlled education. So, Sarah Palin, be careful what you wish for."

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The Knowledge Economy is the Economy
Neil Kay, Innovation Leadership Network, December 10, 2010.

files/images/duckrabbit.jpg, size: 45859 bytes, type:  image/jpeg The duck-rabbit makes a routine appearance in the blogosphere, but you don't see references to Tversky very often, and the connection between 'knowledge' and 'economy' is usually restricted to discussions of marketing. In this intelligent discussion of the knowledge economy, however, we get instead an intelligent discussion of the impact of framing on our deliberations. "The problem is that even where the existence of knowledge activities is recognized in economics, the convention – or frame – has been to treat them as residuals or add-ons which can somehow be treated as separable and isolatable from "normal" economic activities."

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10 Ways to Create Comics Online
Richard Byrne, Free Technology For Teachers, December 10, 2010.

I'm not really a comic creator, but people who enjoy this method of self-expression will find this resource useful.

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The Rich Are Bad for Your Health
Jonathan Kay, Literary Review of Canada, December 10, 2010.

There's always a risk when you raise this point, because the bulk of policy, discourse and sanctions in society today are motivated toward the opposite view. But as I have argued from time to time in these pages, the gap between rich and poor in society is a destructive force: it harms education, endangers health, and increases social instability. Now an editor from the National Post, one of the more conservative papers in Canada, is calling income inequality a source of concern and an issue that should be debated. "The Trouble with Billionaires (excerpt) succeeds in communicating its core message: that creeping income inequality is a menace to the economies and social fabric of western countries, and that some form of redistributionist policies eventually are going to be a necessary antidote." Via CCPA.

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The Great College Degree Scam
Richard Vedder, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 10, 2010.

Richard Vedder cites statistics showing that a significant number of college graduates are working in jobs that do not require a college degree, and then observes, "the push to increase the number of college graduates seems horribly misguided from a strict economic/vocational perspective." It is keeping people out of the workforce, being used as a terribly inefficient screening system by employers, and of course not compensating students themselves for their effort and expense. And yes, if we view education as nothing more than preparation for employment, this argument could be made. But the other thing about an education is that it is enlightening, liberating and empowering. Yes, we should make the system more efficient and affordable. But what we should not give up on is the idea that every person has a basic right to access the sum total of human knowledge, development and culture.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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