OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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February 16, 2012

Different Perceptions
Doug Peterson, Off the Record, February 16, 2012.

There is of course a danger in playing a game like "which things should we cut first" because it assumes that what we should be doing is cutting things. Having gotten past that hurdle, though, it's fun. Look at the difference between what students inside a school would choose to cut and what's on the list provided by the general public via survey results. The students would take aim at "School Newspaper or Broadcast Outlet" while the public's first choice to cut would be "Administrators" - they went after the student media second. Which fills me full of anguish - the creative outlets, like the school newspaper, ought to be the last thing cut. Meanwhile, I'd go after some of the things not on the list - the school building itself, computer labs (student should have their own personal tech), and paper-based textbooks. I'd keep the teachers, as many of them as I could, but they'd be doing very different work alongside students online and in the community - or in their newspaper or broadcast outlet.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Gaming, Schools, Online Learning]

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The Age of Encouraging the Aged to stay in education (Big Little Thing #3)
Vicki A. Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog, February 16, 2012.

I am 52 years old, an age some people still consider to be young, but an age that seems pretty old to me. I do pose myself the question from time to time about whether it still makes sense to keep learning, or whether I have enough knowledge to allow me to coast on my laurels. My recent excursion into language learning (plus my elbows-deep investigation into Drupal and OpenPublish would suggest which way I've fallen - squarely on the side of continual learning. I don't expect to ever be otherwise; assuming I make it to 83 I expect to be fully engaged in learning and creating (and hopefully cycling 12 miles a day like Grace Adkins). There are all kinds of reasons to encourage lifelong learning, and then there's the other side: when you stop learning, it's over.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Drupal, Content Management Systems, Online Learning]

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Apprenticeship in critical ethnographical practice - Jean Lave's new book
Selena, learning elearning, February 16, 2012.

Summary of a recent book by Jean Lave and Thomas P. Gibson called Apprenticeship in critical ethnographical practice (2011) (it's too bad they don't post these books online so we can all read them). "It traces Lave’s journey as an ethnologists. Her initial studies of apprentices have contributed to a better understanding of how learning occurs in the real world. This book details her research of Vai and Gola tailors’ apprentices in Liberia in the 1970s. Threaded through the book is the practice of ethnography, the many facets of becoming a researcher through doing field work."

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

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Stephen Downes’ overview of e-learning: and a little history lesson
Tony Bates, Online Learning and Distance Education Resources, February 16, 2012.

Tony Bates offers some nice words about my recent talk and mentions some work that took place even before the timeline I offered (which began 20 or so years ago). He writes,
- "In particular I would like to recognize the pioneering work of Murray Turoff and Roxanne Hiltz (who) developed a networked collaborative learning approach that they called computer-mediated communication (CMC), which they used as a blended learning model, using NJIT’s own computer network...
- "In the early 1980s the Open University in the United Kingdom developed an audio-graphics system called Cyclops that worked over the public telephone system for delivery through its regional study centres
- "Staff at the University of Guelph in Ontario... in 1983 developed a text-based online collaborative learning tool called CoSy that worked over telephone systems."

Interestingly, I worked with all three systems he describes here (and have mentioned each in passing over the years). As a student, I took part in John A. Baker's CMC-supported philosophy of mind class in 1986 at the University of Calgary. I actually developed an audio-graphics course for Athabasca University in 1994 (though I considered the use of telephone lines to deliver audio a bit of a hack). And of course Athabasca used CoSy in those years, which I absolutely hated (that was part of the resason I set up my own BBS). Not to downplay these important developments, but none of these is internet learning - they all used private networks or mainframes. So they're all part of 'generation 0', to my mind.

But Bates quite correctly notes the big debate at the time. "The very first article in the then new Journal of Distance Education in 1986 was entitled 'Computer‑assisted learning or communications: which way for information technology in distance education?' (Bates, 1986). This argued that the use of IT for communication between teachers and learners was far more important than trying to use technology to manage learning in a behaviourist way." He also mentions the 'massive online discussions hosted by OU, and similarly, I remember massive email courses ('introduction to the internet' or some such thing) subscribed by thousands of people (I wish I could remember them in more detail, or had a reference).

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Great Britain, Networks, Online Learning, Blended Learning, Audio]

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Will MITx work?
Tony Bates, Online Learning and Distance Education Resources, February 16, 2012.

MITx, as everyone knows by now, has launched its free open courses in pilot phase. As Tony Bates notes, the online course is 'fully automated'. So what does this mean for the future of online learning? Bates writes, "automated online courses are not new; in fact the main form of computer-aided learning in the 1970s was programmed learning, based on behavioristic principles of punishment (failure) and reward (positive feedback). However, in the 1980s there was a move away from behavioristic approaches to teaching, at least in post-secondary education, because it did not develop critical thinking skills." And so, he writes, "I am trying to ignore my gut reaction that this is in fact a step 30 years backward in e-learning, and I wish to give this very interesting experiment the benefit of the doubt."

And then he sets up the conditions for success: "making such courses open is terrific, but ONLY if they lead to engineers with the same quality as those who are privileged to be inside the tent." But how now are we to evaluate the quality - with the same behavioristic principles of punishment and reward? What if many more people graduate, because far fewer drop out, but with the result that the overall graduating class has a lower average grade? I really question the making of 'quality' the sole criterion of success (and to be fair Bates openly questions whether we could accept graduates who 'aren’t quite as good', whatever that means).

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Quality, Online Learning, Attrition]

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A Conversation: The Future of Our Universities
University of New Brunswick, YouTube, February 16, 2012.

Leaders of the four New Brunswick universities responded to remarks on major trends affecting university education by Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates and an internationally recognized expert in quality measurement in post-secondary education. A lot of discussion about recruiting students from out of province as a route to immigration.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Quality]

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Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee
Cable Green, TWV, February 16, 2012.

"You know it's a good day," writes Creative Commons head Cable Green in an email, "when you testify about how OER will help more students learn; and the Committee Chair so strongly supports the idea that the American Association of Publishers and Elsevier opt not to testify."

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Open Educational Resources, United States]

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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