OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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December 23, 2010

The stuff is all connected
George Siemens, Connectivism, December 23, 2010.

I've been working all week on a way to say something like this: "brains don't hold knowledge in chunks – it's networked. A simple task, such as picking up a pencil, requires numerous areas of the brain to harmonize their distributed activity (sometimes referred to as the 'binding problem') in order to produce the intended action. Recognizing a human face is an astonishingly complex distributed neural activity – an image of a face doesn't exist in our brains." It hasn't come to me yet, but it's really important that it be understood by educators and administrators.

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PISA: It's Poverty Not Stupid
Mel Riddile, The Principal Difference, December 23, 2010.

Detailed analysis. Same conclusion. "To Secretary Duncan, poverty is not an issue that educators must address. At least he won't admit it in public.... Our education leaders don't trust us enough to tell us the truth. The problem is that we will never solve a problem that our leaders refuse to admit even exists. The comparison of PISA scores by poverty clearly identifies our strengths and challenges as a nation. Our schools with less than 50% poverty are some of the best in the world. Our extremely high-poverty schools, with over 50% poverty, are among the poorest performing internationally... by not acknowledging poverty as a challenge to be overcome, Duncan is forgetting about our disadvantaged students."

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Canadian Education Faces Technology Tipping Point
Michael Geist, Weblog, December 23, 2010.

The tipping point faced by Canadian institutions parallels that faced by those around the world, as they strive to reduce their overhead by adopting openly licensed materials. "The net effect will result in trading some short term pain for considerable long term gain. Professors and students will experience some immediate challenges as the use of traditional course packs disappears alongside the expiry of the copyright licences. Yet the longer term benefits are enormous since publishers and authors will continue to be compensated through mechanisms such as CKRN (Canadian Knowledge Research Network)and Canadian higher education will be able to leverage their massive investments in technology to provide students with better, more engaging and interactive learning experiences."

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The Blast Shack
Bruce Sterling, Webstock, December 23, 2010.

Bruce Sterling mixes John le Carré and Edgar Allen Poe and comes up with a sharp and insightful analysis of the Wikileaks scandal. You have to read it as Sterling the novelist speaking - it doesn't much matter whether Manning is guilty, that's just the role he plays. But as an account of the fiction that is global intelligence, it's cracking good reading, and keenly straddles the contradictions that are the grist for a novelist's mill. And Sterling, who knows these cypherpunks and hackers and has made a career studying them, wants them to succeed, and at the same time doesn't, because the very institutions that need to be destroyed are the ones holding the whole system together. But, as in the novel, "Saints, martyrs, dissidents and freaks are always wild-cards, but sometimes they're the only ones who can clear the general air."

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Consultation on the promotion and validation of non-formal and informal learning
George Veletsianos, Weblog, December 23, 2010.

From the website: "The European Commission is seeking input on the promotion and validation of non-formal and informal learning. The implications of an EU-policy on this issue would be far-reaching, especially if it were to devise an accreditation initiative or framework evaluating informal learning experiences (e.g., through those gained via open courses such as the ones offered by George Siemens, Alec Couros, Jim Groom, Stephen Downes, David Wiley, & Dave Cormier)." Cool, and potentially very important.

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Supportive systems for continuous and online professional development
Nils Ove Lennart Jobring and Ingemar Svensson, elearning papers, December 23, 2010.

This paper highlights four differences between formal educational systems and supportive systems which have to be taken into account in order to design a system rooted in online environments and social media:
- from pre-produced to user-generated content
- from individual subject motives to joint qualification interests
- from limited duration to continuous and sustainable activity
- from subject and thematic areas to a broad perspective on the participants' skills.
From these the authors derive a methodology for continuous support systems: "What Preston (2008) describes using the term "Braided learning" can be described as a circular method of working whereby the participants' own contributions are dealt with, commented on, written, and used as a basis for development." Full PDF version.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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