OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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February 15, 2011

The Answer to Teacher Retention: Find Passion (Not Data) Driven Schools
Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator, February 15, 2011.

Sometimes your terminology is your own worst enemy. For example, academics use the term 'curiosity-driven research' to describe work that doesn't produce immediate commercial results. But such research is based on much more than curiosity, and its value is much greater than the word 'curiosity' suggests. The same with this article. The phrase 'passion-driven schools', when posed as an alternative to the data-driven model, does not really depict an attractive alternative. You want your schools to be founded on something a little more credible than 'passion'. After all, quackery and charlatanism thrive very well in passion-based environments. But the idea of data-driven schools is exceptionally unattractive because it leaves out what really matters in schooling - not simply 'passion', not simply 'curiosity', but something to do with the relation between student, subject and culture. A better phrase is needed. Because a better school is needed.

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Using Wikipedia
Lorcan Dempsey, Lorcan Dempsey's Weblog, February 15, 2011.

People are still agonizing over the use of Wikipedia in academic work. Personally, I don't really understand the problem. I link freely both to Wikipedia and to mroe primary sources. It depends on what I want to do with the link. Wikipedia is a reference work, like, well, an encyclopedia. It's not a primary source, nor does it pretend to be. So you link to Wikipedia if you want to provide a quick reference for people who want to learn more. And for citations and quotations, the facts on which your own work rests, it is more proper to use primary sources. So I link to journal articles (when they're available online), blog posts, and other primary literature to substantiate my own opinions. The problem only occurs when you create this fabrication, the 'academic paper', which only allows the links to citations, and not to reference material. Which, if you ask me, isn't a very user-friendly way to design academic works. If there's a Wikipedia article - or some other reference work, it doesn't have to be Wikipedia - that provides background on what you're talking about, why not refer to it as a service to the reader?

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NYU Launches Open Courses
Dan Colman, Open Culture, February 15, 2011.

As noted here, "NYU announced that it will join the open courseware movement by making free courses available online, all in video. Fast forward several months, and you can now see the first fruits of NYU's labor." But the really interesting bit is not the open courses, but the Open Study system being used to support them. Branded with links to Fox News, CNN and ReadWriteWeb, and sponsored by NSF and NIH, among others, the service links to your Facebook account and lets you join study groups and ask questions. "OpenStudy is a social learning network where students ask questions, give help, and connect with other students studying the same things. Our mission is to make the world one large study group, regardless of school, location, or background." But let's be clear: OpenStudy is a for profit business and there's no open source - or anything like that - around here.

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Federalism and Higher Education in Canada (Paul Cappon)
Paul Cappon, Commonwealth of Learning, February 15, 2011.

I thought about writing an article of my own and asking the Commonwealth of Learning to publish it as a reply to Paul Cappon, but I don't think I need much more than the space here. Cappon is calling for a single pan-Canadian post secondary education (PSE) system, for "solutions in PSE that incorporate both publicly agreed national goals and mechanisms, including a strong federal role, and the national experimentation and local accountability that follows on provincial jurisdiction." He argues that otherwise "it is likely that federal-provincial incoherence will damage Canada's PSE capacity and outcomes," citing concerns like student mobility, international standards, equivalence of quality, and attracting international students.

In as short a response as possible: I disagree. There's no good reason to believe that federal management of the post-secondary system will address these concerns, and significant reason to believe that a single management structure will impair our ability to design programs that meet the diverse social, cultural and academic needs across the country. The call for a pan-Canadian system satisfies that manager's desire to standardize measurement across the system, and then manage to that measurement. But there is not, I believe, evidence to show that this would actually result in an improved system. My own experience suggests that a system that fosters greater diversity and autonomy will be less likely to ossify and more likely to innovate. And that our existing diversity is the explanation, not the impediment, to our success thus far. Our diversity is our strength, not our weakness.

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Cyberbullying: An Interview with Nancy Willard
Claude Almansi, educational technology & change, February 15, 2011.

files/images/nancy_willard.jpgw223h300, size: 22157 bytes, type:   So how best to ensure students make good decisions online? Regulations? Contracts? Codes of practice? Here's Nancy Willard: "The basic format I am now recommending is that you survey students at the school location about their standards and why they adhere to these standards. Schools will find that the vast majority of students are making positive choices. Then you tell students what the majority of their peers are saying - and this should result in a greater number of them choosing to make positive choices." As per, she says, Craig and Perkins. I've been following Nancy Willard's work on internet safety for two decades now, and I'm not sure there's anyone in the field better informed.

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#CCK11 – Week 4: A Dog Can Not Lie #ELTchat
Thomas Baker, Profesorbaker's Blog, February 15, 2011.

This is a great video. It's not really Wittgenstein, of course, but rather a well-acted version of Wittgenstein. And I doubt that he would touch on all of the major elements of his philosophy in a single lecture. Still. It's just this sort of thing I think that we still have a very hard time grasping, that meanings and uses of words are the same, that they are phenomena in the external world, not located inside the mind like some sort of dictionary.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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