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May 23, 2011

Etherpad + small groups in Skype, a new way of doing P2PU meetings
Stian Håklev, Random Stuff that Matters, May 23, 2011.

files/images/Screen-shot-2011-05-23-at-8.07.51-PM.png, size: 125932 bytes, type:  image/png One thing we've found important in our open courses is the hosting of regular meetings online. Even if only a small percentage of people join the meetings, they provide continuity, presence, and a personal touch. But when you get into the hundreds or thousands of participants, the online meeting becomes unwieldy (and the technology gets pretty expensive). It's better to allow the larger group to break into smaller group meetings. In this post, Stian Haklev discusses a zero-cost way for people to enjoy the best of a hosted online meeting environment - Skype plus Etherpad. It's certainly an approach worth investigating (the main thing I want to add is to create some way to record and share at least the audio, if not video, of the breakouts).

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The Pull of Narrative – In Search of Persistent Context
John Hagel, Edge Perspectives, May 23, 2011.

files/images/johnhagel.jpg, size: 3099 bytes, type:  image/jpeg "Narratives," writes John Hagel, "are stories that do not end – they persist indefinitely. They invite, even demand, action by participants and they reach out to embrace as many participants as possible. They are continuously unfolding, being shaped and filled in by the participants. In this way, they amplify the dynamic component of stories, both in terms of time and scope of participation. Stories are about plots and action while narratives are about people and potential." So - national histories are narratives, religious orders are narratives, scientific communities (eg., "the cure for cancer") are narratives. There's value in belonging to a narrative. But the context is only a part of it. Context provides meaning, and it is the drive for meaning that makes the narrative significant in education, or anywhere else.

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MOOCs: a Model for Open Education?
Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, May 23, 2011.

I do think that George and Dave and I (along with the help and support of thousands) have found something important in MOOCs. The MOOC is a way of leveargibg the best of the network to directly address the short-comings of the mass-market self-study programs that characterized early distance education. Graham Attwell points to three major lessons that have been learned over the last three years of MOOCs:
- "the model of courses which are free to participants but charge for institutional enrollment and for certification appears to be gaining traction."
- "most of these programmes are using all manner of social software and Open Source applications."
- "such initiatives place great emphasis on peer support for learning, with a greater or lesser extent of formal learning support and formalization of networks."
Attwell notices, and I notice as well, that the demographics of people taking MOOC tend to be older, more experienced, and more self-sufficient.

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If You Haven't Been On Food Stamps, Stop Trying to Influence Government Policy
Latoya Peterson, Racialicious, May 23, 2011.

files/images/poverty.jpg, size: 26878 bytes, type:  image/jpeg In 1985, my term at the Gauntlet ended, I broke my wrist, and so was unemployable for the summer. So it was back into the poverty zone for me and another stint on welfare as I tried to appeal my way into summer student loans (which eventually paid off three months later). That summer was when I found the combo of a Lipton side dish and a tin of tuna could feed me for a day. Once a month, give or take, I would spend about 14 of my incredibly scarce dollars for a box of wine. It's the sort of purchase that probably wouldn't get past food-stamp guidelines, but for me, my wine was my one pleasure. Life that summer was hard, but it was bearable, and I spent my days drawing cartoons and studying philosophy. Eventually I got back on my feet. But I totally relate to this article. "The problem comes in when people try to nickel and dime the SNAP program... It's a popular program, but thanks to the way we demonize people on any sort of government assistance, it seen as something that we need to regulate, lest the undeserving poor get to live the high life on taxpayer dollars.... Instead of trying to regulate government policy, how about we all try to meet people where they are to create a healthier nation?" Meeting people where they are is, to me, core.

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The Quiet Revolution in Open Learning
Kevin Carey, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 23, 2011.

files/images/photo_12414_landscape_large.jpg, size: 14075 bytes, type:  image/jpeg Kevin Carey follows up his badge article with a description of the 'quiet revolution' that is the emergence of Open Educational Resources. Not surprisingly, he focuses on the well-known projects, such as MIT's OpenCourseWare, and on government programs around OER's, such as the proposed funding of college OERs by the U.S. government. And he tracks what appears to be an emerging trend in government funding: "Community colleges that compete for federal money to serve students online will be obliged to make those materials-videos, text, assessments, curricula, diagnostic tools, and more-available to everyone in the world, free, under a Creative Commons license." There remains the problem of credentials, but this problem is solvable: "assessment-driven 'cognitive tutors' developed by learning scientists at Carnegie Mellon are woven into science, engineering, and philosophy courses... Assessments create evidence. And that's all a credit is, in the end: credible evidence of learning." This is the direction we're headed, and I find it interesting that though Carey and I are at the very opposite end of the political spectrum, we still see the same end-game.

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files/images/ipad-news-360.jpg, size: 47413 bytes, type:  image/jpeg
13 Alternative Ways to Consume Your News
Jennifer Van Grove, Mashable, May 22, 2011.

If you want to look at the ways learning will be provided in the future, look at the ways the news can be found today. This article from Mashable summarizes 13 ways of vieing the bews, from Flipboard to Zite to Flud. Most of these do two things really well: they aggregate news from sources of interest to you, and they display the result in an engaging and useful format.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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