OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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March 28, 2011

Revolutions in Higher Education: how many dimensions of openness?
Sir John Daniel, Commonwealth of Learning, March 27, 2011.

Sir John Daniel cites David Kirp, "Embedded in the very idea of the university... are values that the market does not honor: the belief in a community of scholars and not a confederacy of self-seekers; in the idea of openness not ownership; in the professor as pursuer of truth and not an entrepreneur." It seems to me that traditional scholars have argued for their presence at every step of increased openness; academics would be needed to vet materials, to regulate admissions, to manage curricula. But in a process well-documented in this talk, they (or at least Daniel) have come grudgingly to accept that common people could manage these for themselves. There is no doubting the usefulness of a community of scholars. But the suggestion that "a community of scholars" is not "a confederacy of self-seekers" is quaint at best, naive at worst.

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Who changed the periodic table?
Unknown, Dimensions / National Research Council Canada, March 26, 2011.

files/images/periodic_2-e.gif, size: 15471 bytes, type:  image/gif Here's another example to add to the 'Pluto' example (which explains why up-to-date electronic texts are better): the atomic weights in the periodic table have changed. "The standard atomic weights of 10 elements morphed from a single number to a low and a high value, known as an interval. The update is meant to better reflect how these elements vary in natural substances. For instance, the atomic weight of oxygen is slightly greater in air than in seawater." It took an argument and a vote for the change to be made, but it was, which means if you memorized the periodic table, you'll have to go back and make some changes. Note that this is basic science, with no current industrial application. Just saying.

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The UBB Deception
Unknown, YouTube, March 26, 2011.

As the debate on usage-based billing rages in Canada, people elsewhere are encouraged to watch, as there is no doubt that Canada is intended, as it is for the NY Times paywall, as a 'test case'. On the bright side, with an election call in Canada, our controversial copyright legislation has died on the order paper.

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A potential danger of academic analytics
Colin Beer, Col's Weblog, March 26, 2011.

This is my concern as well: "One of the dangers as I see it, is that while academic analytics provides some great data for educators on what is happening in learning situations facilitated by an LMS, there may be a temptation to use it as some sort of performance measurement." Learning is not reductive. Or, more accurately: even if learning is reductive, attempts to assess learning through reductive mechanisms such as analytics are very likely to abstract out essential elements of that learning. For example, analytical indicators can describe a doctor's performance, but fail to detect his complete lack of compassion. Or analytics may describe a pilot's practice flights, but fail to detect his habit of pushing buttons without looking at them.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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