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November 4, 2011

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The Metasociety
Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, November 4, 2011.

OWS is, at its heart, a change in the way we view social change and political action. It's a recognition that the placement of too much of anything - power, money, influence - into the hands of a few is ultimately damaging to society. It's an attempt to create enough social friction to make the accumulation of so much wealth and power unbearable to the few who possess it. And its an attempt to understand how we govern ourselves in the coming era after we have rejected the attempts of the rich and powerful to do our governing for us.

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Standardized Testing: The Modern Bloodletting?
Vicki A. Davis, Cool Cat Tecaher Blog, November 4, 2011.

files/images/cartman_reach_these_kids.PNG, size: 265238 bytes, type:  image/png Every time I see any sort of detailed account of standardized testing - either pro or con - I am always reminded on a South Park episode in which Cartman becomes on of these 'miracle' teachers who succeeds with disadvantaged children. Between bouts of "how do I reach these kids" Cartman resolves to help the disadvantage to succeed the same way their wealthier counterparts succeed: by cheating. Oh, and one more thing: "The customer of education has become the DOE and the standardized testing data keepers who determine the money and resources that flow to a school because of a test score that is flawed at its very core." It's just like Facebook. Children are not the customers, they are the product.

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How 5 Tech Giants Are Giving Back to Education
Melissa Jun Rowley, Mashable, November 4, 2011.

I think the phrase "giving back" might be a bit too generous a way to describe these companies' involvement in education, as not everything they do is done with charitable intent. Nonetheless it is worth reviewing the sort of involvement the large companies have had in education - from Microsoft's shape the future initiative to Intel's 10 million teachers to Time Warner's Connect a million minds. Conspicuously absent from Mashable's list is Apple in Education. After looking at the videos I want to comment that education is not - and should not be thought of as - a charity. The moment you think of an education as something you 'give' to someone else, you've broken education.

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Be Your Own Hero
Nilofer Merchant, Harvard Business Review, November 4, 2011.

files/images/andromeda.jpg, size: 19358 bytes, type:  image/jpeg There's a phrase I've cited before from the television series Andromeda: "Every man is the hero of his own story." (*) I think that perhaps due to my own background I took this statement to heart. The books that I read - everything from Twain to Stevenson to Verne to Asimov - led me to imagine myself as the hero, the central character in all of these stories, taking risks, figuring things out, making things happen. The hero of my own story. I don't see that represented so much today; in contemporary media I see the other represented as the hero, and the story told from the point of view of the everyman waiting for the hero to arrive (there are some exceptions: the Star Trek stories, say, or Sherlock Holmes). It's a subtle thing. Anyhow. As this article says, we need to be our own heroes. That's what I love about well-designed games for learning: you are the hero, you are the actor, you make things happen. And that's why I think that traditional education, which is designed to encourage passivity, is so damaging. (*) p.s. I stayed with the gender-specific version because the meaning of the phrase is contained in its reference to a specific person, a specificity that is lost when the gender is neutralized. Readers should obviously feed free to substitute "Every woman is the hero of her own story."

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Why Peter Drucker Distrusted Facts
Stephen Wunker, Harvard Business Review, November 4, 2011.

I agree with Peter Drucker here, but we should be clear that there is a difference between 'evidence' and 'facts'. So 'distrusting facts' is not the same as operating without regard for the evidence. But the sort of problems listed here suggest the sort of problems he had with facts (paraphrased somewhat liberally by me):
- for any opinion we have, we can find existing facts to fit
- opinions should be tested against new evidence, not just existing data
- often there is no right answer; decisions are judgements, not right or wrong
- new decisions need new data; existing data reflects yesterday's criteria
- opinions reshape our understanding of facts
This is important, because so much writing in education is little more than some opinion stacked up against some handy (and carefully selected) facts. But rarely does any give set of facts support a single explanation.

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New York
Stephen Downes, Flickr, November 3, 2011.

Photos from my recent visit to New York. See the wonderful slide show version. Also from my recent trip, photos of Barcelona, Brussels, Providence, Rhode Island, and Occupy Wall Street. Most of these photos are far from what they could be, because my beautiful Nikon D5100 was stolen in Barcelona. No, my travel insurance doesn't cover it. So I'm a pretty unhappy camper these days.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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