OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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January 2, 2012

Sky’s the limit: the world’s cheapest touch-screen tablet
Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, January 2, 2012.

files/images/Aakash1.jpg, size: 38730 bytes, type:  image/jpeg In a year that was very good for educational technology, Tony Bates says this was one of the best educational technology stories. It's hard to disagree. "Datawind, a relatively small Canadian company based in Montreal, has won an Indian government contract to produce a 7 inch touchscreen tablet named Aakash that costs $52 to manufacture and will sell, with Indian government subsidy, for $35 for universities, colleges and high schools in India. The tablet runs on Google’s Android software." This is of huge significance. "India already has a thriving e-learning software and content development industry. Expect this to take off in the next year or so as universities, colleges and schools start demanding content for the tablets."

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Schools, Google, Canada, Online Learning]

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Philosophy Only A Philosopher Could Love?
Jonathan Livengood, Metafilter, January 2, 2012.

files/images/face_glymour.jpg, size: 23980 bytes, type:  image/jpeg Jonathan Livengood calls this "philosophy only a philosopher could love," and while I don't actually stand as a counterexample, I think there might be wider love for Clark Glymour's manifesto than the author suggests. His point of view, in a nutshell, is that for all the criticisms logical positivists receive, they contributed much of value to society, including not only computational logic and artificial intelligence, but a better and more moral view of the world than, say, Heidegger, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. I have said many times that "my morality is based on my science; my science isn't based on my morality." Though Hume famously said you cannot derive an "ought" from an "is" I take it as foundational to ethics that you can't simply argue your way out of what is a transparently flawed morality. You have to account for the facts, and if your morality leaves half the world starving, or unleashes death and destruction on an entire nation, or sanctions and accommodates fascism and tyranny, then your morality has somewhere gone off the rails. Society is a network, and behaviours that wreck networks are immoral. I think the logical positivists understood that, and while their overt stance was the preservation of a "distinction that made a difference" their underlying objective was to rid the word of the vapid equivocations and rationalizations of unethical systems with which we are all so familiar today. Clark Glymour is one of my philosophical influences; read more of his work today. See also the John Stuart Mill quote from the bottom of this article by Michael Ruse.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Networks]

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Lessons learned from using Khan Academy content in a blended learning pilot
Alfred Essa, Innovation | Analytics, January 2, 2012.

I'm highlighting this item just to scratch my head in public. What we have here is a study (reported via Seb Schmoller) where "students using Khan Academy content in a blended learning model showed, on average, a 6.4% gain compared to a 5.2% gain in the control group. The two groups scored roughly the same overall, each showing better results in some areas compared to the other group." Well, OK, typical if uninformative. But then we learn from Alfred Essa that, "the students in the study had all failed algebra. The authors mention this but only in passing. We need to keep this in mind before deriving hasty conclusions. A tentative hypothesis might be: 'Khan Academy in a blended context shows no gains for failing students…'" Or something! And Schmoller then opbserves "despite this the students’ pre and post-test scores were not deplorably poor." Who publishes a study like this? Google and the Stanford University D. School, that's who. Odd. Leaves me scratching my head.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Schools, Books, Google, Blended Learning]

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The Un-Internet
Dave Winer, Scripting News, January 2, 2012.

files/images/mickey.gif, size: 8404 bytes, type:  image/gif Dave Winer writes, "I’ve written about it so many times, but that’s how it goes with loops.... At issue is this: Control. For whatever reason, the people who run the tech companies want it. But eventually the users take it." And so, he says, we are entering the look again, this time with microblogging services like Tumblr and tablets like iPad. It's funny - doing a follow-up to find other views, all I find are copies of the Winer post, with nothing else added. As though there's nothing else to say. Here's a Slashdot thread on the post, which at least has some opinion. My own observation is that the time you come to depend on a cycle to get you out of something is the time the cycle breaks down, and what you didn't like (warming, inflation, centralization) becomes permanent. Don't assume these things work on some principle of perpetual motion - if you want users to take control, take control.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Google]

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Research in Learning Technology
Various Authors, ALT, January 2, 2012.

Nice to see: All back volumes 1993-2011 are now available! ... Research in Learning Technology is the journal of the Association for Learning Technology. It aims to raise the profile of research in learning technology, encouraging research that informs good practice and contributes to the development of policy. "

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Research, Academic Journals]

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What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success
Anu Partanen, The Atlantic, January 1, 2012.

Excellent article about the success of the Finnish educational system, from a Finnish author who makes many of the same points others cited in these pages have made in the past. The Finnish model is exactly the opposite of what is touted as 'reform' in the United States: teachers are unionized, they are highly paid and take responsibility (as opposed to 'accountability), there are no private schools, the overall aim of the system is equity, and success is not based on competition. The comment thread, by contrast, is terribly disappointing, indeed a disgrace, offering tangible but sad proof that a certain readership would rather just change the subject (and play the race card) than deal head on with the proposition that a school system that is most successful is one that focuses on success for all its students, not a selected few. Despite the comment thread, this is a must-read article.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Schools, United States, Private Schools, Online Learning]

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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