OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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December 20, 2011

files/images/freakonomics.jpg, size: 22598 bytes, type:  image/jpeg
Freakonomics: What Went Wrong?
Andrew Gelman and Kaiser Fung, American Scientist, December 20, 2011.

A lot of what was published in Freakanomics turned out to be wrong because, as summarized by Alexander Russo: "the authors of Freakonomics have been presenting research -- in part because they seem to rely on trusted colleagues and friends without 'adequate vetting of research.'" On the one hand, popularizers make research more accessible to the public. On the other hand, when they do it incorrectly, it all goes wrong. "In our analysis of the Freakonomics approach, we encountered a range of avoidable mistakes, from back-of-the-envelope analyses gone wrong to unexamined assumptions to an uncritical reliance on the work of Levitt’s friends and colleagues. This turns accessibility on its head: Readers must work to discern which conclusions are fully quantitative, which are somewhat data driven and which are purely speculative."

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Accessibility, Books, Research]

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UNESCO Launches Global Portal to Track Open Access
David Wojick, the scholarly kitchen, December 20, 2011.

UNESCO has launched something called the Global Open Access Portal (GOAP) "designed to summarize the current status of open access to scientific information, especially from a regional and country-specific perspective." Pretty good summary post that falls off the rails in the final paragraph (see the first comment).

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Portals, UNESCO, Open Access]

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MITx: The Next Chapter for University Credentialing?
Audrey Watters, Inside Higher Ed, December 20, 2011.

files/images/MIT-Rogers-building-300x221.jpg, size: 27659 bytes, type:  image/jpeg An official blog and media frenzy has followed MIT's announcement that it will grant certificates for work completed using its open access learning materials. Most - like Open Culture, along with Audrey Watters in Inside Higher Ed, suggest MIT's move is in response to Stanford's Open Courses. Others, like Mashable, Edudemic and GigaOm, popint to MIT's Open CourseWare as a precursor. Mark Smithers suggests it's possibly a game-changer. Time to remove the blinders, says David Jakes. But as Tony Bates argues, there's something Johnny-come-lately about the whole thing. "I fear that some of these elite institutions in the USA are making it up as they go and are failing to base their strategies on the substantial body of knowledge, research and experience that already exists about online learning and distance education. They are coming to the party late, making a mess, and bragging about it. Hubris is the word that comes to mind. Welcome to the 20th century, MIT – now how about the 21st?" Agreed.

Following up meanwhile from Stanford's AI MOOC, we have this really interesting commentary from Rob Rambusch: "The whole drawn-on-a-napkin feel of the class was responsible for much of its charm. The napkin was visible to 160,000 people but that didn't detract from the personal nature of the learning experience." Seb Schmoller also weighs in with his final report from the course, comparing it with a pre-web course from 20 years ago: "the underlying sense of connection between students and teachers felt similar; and the way in which education would be changed irrevocably by the Internet was already apparent." Maybe we are now really learning how to set up a free school.

Meanwhile, in another thread of the same story, open content is gaining steam, according to this report in the Chronicle. Washington State announced its open course library in October, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has been awarding faculty grants for the creation of open content, and a bill has been proposed in California to produce 50 open online textbooks.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Schools, Traditional and Online Courses, Research, Web Logs, Google, Experience, Online Learning, Open Access]

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Content as curriculum?
Steve Wheeler, Learning with 'e's, December 20, 2011.

files/images/OldclassroomLearnTEC2011.JPG, size: 44633 bytes, type:  image/jpeg There's been an interesting dust-up over the last few days involving some unlikely sources. It begins with this article on content as curriculum. Steve Wheeler argues that "the tired, just in case model of curriculum just doesn't make sense anymore," an argument familiar to most OLDaily readers. Instead, we see an endorsement of inquiry-based and authentic learning. The reference to Wikipedia may have tweaked someone's search alert, because erstwhile Wikipedia and Citizendium founder Larry Sanger responds to Wheeler's post with a missive titled An example of educational anti-intellectualism. Sanger's post is essentially a defense of declarative knowledge. "To be sure," he writes, "there are some teachers out there who have great contempt for books and what I would call substantial learning. But surely they are still a minority." Wheeler responds, arguing that he isn't against knowledge, just calling for "an end to the compartmentalisation of subjects within the curriculum." Brian Kelly, meanwhile, examines the failure of Citizendium. "It seems clear that in the battle between the online encyclopedia 'governed under more sensible rules, and with a special place for experts' has been unable to compete with the 'vibrancy and basic concept of Wikipedia.'"

I think that what we need to undertsand is that this isn't a debate between what is learned so much as how it is learned. You can go out and simply remember stuff you need to know - that is the declarative knowledge approach. And it works, and is often useful. But it may be more appropriate to learn the stuff - frequently the very same stuff through a process of projects, problem-solving and engagement. It's an approach that depends on using the knowledge, and not just remembering it. I personally favour the latter, not because I'm anti-intellectualist, but for precisely the opposite reason. I believe that knowing is much more than merely remembering. It involves understanding, and indeed, embodying. It's a type of knowledge numerous 'experts' lack, because for all their research they've never actually put their hands on the subject, which is why we need an encyclopedia that draws from the masses as well as from the elite.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Project Based Learning, Patents, Wikipedia]

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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