OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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April 4, 2011

Networking Distributed Public Expertise: Strategies for Citizen Sourcing Advice to Government
William H. Dutton , SSRN, April 4, 2011.

This is a really good paper not just on learning but on governance in general. Don't skip this one. Bill Dutton gets this right. "The very notion of crowds and crowd sourcing is misleading.ii In order to capture distributed intelligence, networks of individuals must be cultivated and managed. As argued in this paper, they are not crowds. Networking platforms and management strategies must be carefully developed to capture the value of distributed expertise."

He makes a subtle point, which is masked a bit by the terminology. "Citizens are more than constituents, whose opinions are equally legitimate. Citizens also have the potential to be experts on particular issues... Citizens are not necessarily experts, but any given citizen might conceivably have expertise in some specific areas." If you just count people's opinions, you are ignoring the person's connection to the issue. You need to allow people with the interest, skills and expertise to contribute to a solution to connect with each other and to develop the solution themselves.

This kind of organization develops through three stages:
- Sharing - The ability to create linked documents, data, and objects within a distributed network
- Contributing - The ability to employ social networking applications of the Web to facilitate group communication
- Co-creating - The ability for individuals to collaborate through networks that facilitate cooperative group work toward shared goals

Via Seb Schmoller, who summarizes Hutton's nine strategies for for fostering bottom up initiatives to harness distributed public expertise.

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Why can't we build something like this for "Objects Used for Learning"?
Mark Oehlert, e-Clippings (Learning As Art), April 4, 2011.

files/images/oehleryexfm.png, size: 50136 bytes, type:  image/png Mark Oehlert takes a look at this Chrome extension, called ef.fm, and asks, why can't we build these for learning resources? "Exfm turns the entire web into your personal music library. As you browse, exfm runs in the background indexing every MP3 file you come across, building a music library for you. exfm will continue to check the sites you've visited, adding new music for you to listen to every day." Well it's a bit trickier than just finding and saving MP3s, but it's not that much more difficult. Why can't our tools build audio, image and other libraries for us? Don't want your resource used in this way? Just tag your page with a 'no-use' or 'I-hoard-content' tag and the extractor can pass it by. Now I wish I were using Chrome again; I'm sure I encounter a week's worth of MP3 content in a day's browsing.

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Sigh...will someone in Learning/Training Field Just Please Rip This Off?
Mark Oehlert, e-Clippings (Learning As Art), April 4, 2011.

files/images/g.pngw241h229, size: 21052 bytes, type:   Also from Mark Oehlert, a link to Google Guru, a chatbot interface to Google's search services. "Google Talk Guru is an experimental service that allows people to get information like sports results, weather forecasts, definitions etc via chat. It works on many popular chat applications that support Google Talk" (ie., any Jabber/XMPP compliant client). MG Siegler writes, "this is nothing new, but Google does tend to have more information at their disposal than just about anyone else on the planet. So perhaps this chatbot will be more useful than the ones I used in 1997." Still, Oehlert suggests, "A corporate chatbot, chiling as that may sound at first blush, could be a natural and non-threatening way for people to interact with a ton of information. Now tie that chatbot interaction back to the employee's profile in the LMS and...do I need to draw this out?" Yeah, but if my chatbot doesn't know Austin Powers, it's broken.

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Why the cloud's important for education: saving $199,995 on one test
Ewan McIntosh, edu.blogs.com, April 4, 2011.

I definitely get this. My web server is hosted in the cloud. If I had a radio or video server, it would be hosted in the cloud. Why? Because it costs me a tenth as much as trying to do it at home, and the servers are more reliable. The same thing works for online exam servers. "DET estimated for them to host an online test for 65,000 students simultaneously would require a A$200,000 investment in server infrastructure... Paying A$40 per hour for 300 Microsoft Azure Servers, DET estimated the cost of hosting the online exam for one day was just A$500." See also, A Berkeley view of Cloud Computing.

Related, and significant: "Ahead of their province wide conference on Privacy and Cloud-Based Educational Technology happening on April 4th, BCcampus has released a background white paper on Privacy and Cloud-Based Educational Technology in British Columbia (PDF)." Via Ray Tolley. In this white paper, Victoria Klassen outlines the benefits and cost savings of cloud computing, then examines the privacy implications.

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The Problem with Social Media
Gary Stager, Stager-to-Go, April 4, 2011.

I'm a little bit sympathetic with Gary Stager's point here. I've seen the comment section in YouTube, Huffington Post, CBC, Globe and Mail, Kos, and the rest of them. As the list of comments numbers into the hundreds, the opinions become less considered, more extreme and even offensive. But unlike Stager, I don't blame social media. These comment forums are just the outlets though while the bile flows. We ought to be looking at what caused this sort of outpouring in the first place, a toxic media environment in which the one-liner on Springer or Carson was the peak of wisdom, where the crazies are elevated to a platform and represented as normal, where insult, innuendo, and ignorance are propagated as punditry. Combine that with an education system where repeating what you are told is the highest virtue, and the wonder would be that you get anything else in the comments.

You reap what you sow, and in these disgusting comment threads the political and media elite are seeing themselves reflected, and are repulsed at what they see. As they should be. But shutting down the comments is not the answer; that's just a guarantee that nothing will change, that people can pay hundreds of dollars to hear political leaders tell them all is right with the world while meanwhile the rest of us are treated to I Love Lucy or Everybody Hates Chris. If we did not have the eruptions we see in the comment threads, how else would we see how poorly we have used the potential of print, film and electronic media over the last 50 years.

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Sharing the Open Course Library's OER Matrix
UNESCO Chair in e-Learning, UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning Blog, April 4, 2011.

This is pretty nice. Tom Caswell from Open Course Library has shared an open course matrix listing resources organized by subject from various open educational resource initiatives. "The OER Matrix is a collection of college-level OER links, organized by course and by repository. The OER Matrix Google spreadsheet is available to the OER community for viewing and editing."

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What Do Kids Say Is The Biggest Obstacle To Technology At School?
Audrey Watters, ReadWriteWeb, April 4, 2011.

ReadWriteWeb reports on a survey of some 300,000 American students (full report PDF, summary) and obtained results that would surprise none of us - technology use among students is high (lower for the new and expensive iPads, very high for MP3 players), while resistance among teachers and principals is the main barrier to the use of technology in schools. "The two major obstacles that students say they face at school: filters that stop them from accessing the websites they need for homework and bans on using their own mobile devices (namely cellphones) at school."

The comparison between what 6th graders say today and what they said in 2005 is interesting:
- In 2005, half of the 6th graders said they had a cell phone. Today, that statistic still holds true plus an additional one-third say they now have a smart phone.
- Almost 73 percent of 6th graders have an MP3 player today – compared to one-third in 2005.
- In 2005, the 6th graders complained about internet at their school being too slow; today, their number one complaint is that school filters and firewalls block websites they need for their schoolwork.
- Half of all 6th graders take tests online today and three times as many have taken an online class as in 2005.
- 25 percent of today's 6th graders are already using an e-textbook.
- And in 2010, almost half of all 6th grade girls and over a third of 6th grade boys are regularly updating their social networking site, an increase of over 125 percent since 2005.

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How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)
Austin Kleon, Weblog, April 3, 2011.

This is an outstanding list of helpful hints for creative people. There are some really good nuggets in here - the idea that creativity is based on building on others, the idea that you learn to create by creating, the need to focus on what interests you and on what you like, the need for routines and hard work and a focus on quality. Probably the best idea is the last: creativity is subtraction. That's the genesis behind the newspaper blackout site, but is also the basis of logic and critical thinking (from which we infer, art and creativity are logic and critical thinking - they are two sides of the same coin). Via Andy Rush. See also: commentary from Sui Fai John Mak, and more commentary from Alan Levine.

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How to teach with Minecraft in an hour
Dean Groom, Design for Learning, April 2, 2011.

files/images/5580872062_799f975372.jpg, size: 137115 bytes, type:  image/jpeg It's nice to be reminded about the basic sort of learning online multi-player gaming can offer. It's this idea of interacting in an environment where you learn things - even if it's only how to build a shelter against zombies - that brings out the enthusiasm in people (it's the same thing with blogging and Twitter and the rest of it, really). In this post. Dean Groom talks about teaching a couple of people about Minecraft in an hour. Minecraft is a bit like virtual Legos, but with Zombies and a whole lot more. Yes, you're learning how to build shelters, but the content is just a McGuffin. It doesn't matter. The real learning takes place in the activities, the creating and the interactions.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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