OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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May 16, 2011

Your education is not an equal opportunity
Sam Chaltain, CNN, May 16, 2011.

I left home before finishing high school, and living on my own in Ottawa, determined I would finish on my own. I knew Lisgar Collegiate was a very good school, but though I lived just a few blocks away in downtown Ottawa, was not allowed in. I had to try to ride the bus for an hour each day out to the suburbs, to the decidedly lower class Laurentian High School out on Baseline road. That didn't work out. But the injustice (for that's what it was!) convinced me that I had to work the system, so I faked an address to get myself into Nepean High School, in the upscale west end, to take a year of day classes and eventually graduate through summer night school. It was through Nepean that I was introduced to the Ottawa Learner Centre, the writings of Francis Moore Lappe, and the whole idea that we could do things differently (though I guess I was working that out for myself). Well now, in some places, apparently, what I did is now a felony. What I wonder is, have they also addressed the injustice? Thought not.

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Knowledge development and Personal Learning Environments
Graham Attwell, Pomtydysgu, May 16, 2011.

Interesting and novel presentation of the functionality of a personal learning environment developing (as we have in Plearn) the concept of knowledge modeling as a stage between aggregation and syndication. Modeling, in turn, gives us access to various processes, such as expertise analytics, process modeling, and document similarity. These, in turn, facilitate output processes, such as quality-based resource recommendation, expert ranking, or context-aware notification. But what seems to me characteristic of this system is that it is entirely automatic - it is not a place where people meet and work, it is a machine that finds, measures and analyzes. Nothing wrong with that, but you need the interaction and creativity to form a complete PLE.

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University Presidents on Irrelevance
David Wiley, iterating toward openness, May 16, 2011.

files/images/photo_12368_wide_large.jpg, size: 23482 bytes, type:  image/jpeg David Wiley mixes the results of a survey of 1,000 university presidents with some lessons from scripture to argue (reasonably) that there are, and will always will be, some wealthy elite colleges with well-prepared students that have nothing to worry about from new models of education, but that these institutions can have a powerful voice in effecting change. He also remarks, in passing, that "MOOCs and their like are not the answer to higher education's problems" because they require the best and most motivated students, not those who have never been, or who have been and failed. "Don't expect to see them displacing your local community or technical college any time soon." Except that - I would say - the less likely you are to need a specific degree or credential, the more likely a MOOC or MOOC-like approach is already being used to provide training and education. Meanwhile, in brighter news, these university presidents are beginning to see the writing on the wall. "We're staring fundamental change in the face," said Stephen R. Portch, a former chancellor of the University System of Georgia. "Our system is bankrupt, and we've got to have a new model." See also coverage from a new Pew Research Center survey on whether college is worth it.

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Various Authors, Weblog, May 16, 2011.

files/images/plane.png, size: 26929 bytes, type:  image/png I wish the About page were much more informative (for example, telling me who is behind the project and where it is based), but via Adam Taylor I now know that PLANE is a "cross-sectoral (government, Catholic and independent schools) project happening in NSW (New South Wales, Australia)." PLANE will work toward "developing the skills, knowledge and experience for teachers to become more confident practitioners in embedding ICT into teaching and encouraging students to use ICT productively for their learning" through the development of "a suite of on-line learning experiences." PLANE stands for "Pathways for Learning Anywhere anytime; a Network for Educators." The blog posts are much more informative and worth a look.

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Hash URIs
Jeni Tennison, Jeni's Musings, May 16, 2011.

If you think you're beginning to get a feel for this whole web thing, don't get comfortable. A series of debates over the use of "hashbang urls" shows you just how complex the web is becoming. Here's the issue, in a nutshell: if, instead of pointing your browser to http://twitter.com/downes you point it to http://twitter.com/#!/downes you are sending a request to twitter.com and storing "!/downes" in your browser's memory; this information is then used by an application on Twitter's site to send an AJAX response. Twitter does this because it reduces the load on the site, which is smart, but it's a lot less robust, which is not smart. The technique is called "JavaScript routing" and because it breaks many of the conventions of the web and URLs, the use of hashbang urls has sparked a widespread debate among developers. Tim Bray has posted probably the main argument against their use.

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Looking Through the Lens
Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, May 15, 2011.

files/images/2629905708_bde6f3d366.jpg, size: 86991 bytes, type:  image/jpeg Absolutely fantastic presentation on photography by Alane Levine. Several threads are woven through this talk (summary, slides, video): the difference between amateur and professional, the impact of shooting a photo a day, what learning photography teaches us about learning in general, the use of photos to tell stories, the question of whether photos record truth, the capacities and features (ISO, aperture, shutter speed) of the camera. Presented using examples from Flickr Creative Commons photographs, the whole is engaging, thoughtful, and passionate. Do take the time to browse through the links and additional resources at the bottom of the presentation page. See also: six applications of photography in education.

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It Takes Half of College to Be Ready for College?
Susanne Nobles, Google Docs, May 14, 2011.

Interesting presentation from Susanne Nobles for her Pedagogy and Instructional Design class with Kevin Romberger-DePew. She focuses on research involving the transition from high school to college reading and writing. "College students can spend two years growing into the reading and writing that will serve them best in college." This seems extreme, and there may be ways to address this by connecting students with more advanced discourse while they are still in high school. "Through online collaboration with peers and graduate students, high school students can interact more deeply with their reading and writing." And the basis for this sort of solution, she writes, is found in connectivism. "We as teachers can do something right now to prepare our students for four fully successful college years."

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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