OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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September 3, 2012

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The Robot Teachers
Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, September 3, 2012.

This is an extra-long newsletter today, beginning with an article I wrote yesterday and finishing with some Labour Day themes. The article takes a resent post by Tony Bates as a starting point, in which he expresses his fear that "computers can replace teachers in higher education" and that "a number of CEOs from other companies all thought this was the right way to go." I take up this argument, and find good grounds to agree with his fears. As is lavishly documented in the article and today's newsletter (hence the length) the push toward online learning is increasingly associated with an ongoing campaign to commercialize and privatize the public education system. In my column I offer good reasons why we would not want to do this, and so am in agreement with Bates on this point. But I don't think that his response - entrench the existing system - is the answer. The existing system is designed to support corporate interests and the influence of the elite. We need to restructure the system, professionalizing teachers and instructors, while at the same time building a public learning infrastructure network.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Networks, Online Learning, Newsletters]

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How to dismantle a sector
Martin Weller, The Ed Techie, September 3, 2012.

Two-part article (part one, part two) on the dismantling of the higher education sector in Britain. In the first part, Martin Weller describes the creation of a student load system:

In the second part, he looks at why London Met university had their licence to act as a sponsor for overseas students revoked. This nsort of action destabilizes the system. "By these commando tactics, the Government could achieve a radically different higher education model, with the high brand universities remaining intact, and the rest of the market provision from private universities, which fits better with a conservative free market model."

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Branding, Great Britain, Private Schools]

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Checking HE for Cracks…
Tiny Hirst, OUseful Info, September 3, 2012.

Tony Hirst looks for and find evidence of cracks in the British higher education system. Here's the list (I am quoting Hirst here at length):

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Scotland, Great Britain, Private Schools]

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Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine
Colin Woodward, The Portland Press Herald, September 3, 2012.

The influence, through foundations and think tanks, of corporations on education policy is well-documented. Here is an illustration of the forces at work to produce scandal in Maine. “There’s this drumbeat at state legislatures to pass what I think is a scam to milk dollars out of public schools,” says Rep. Andy O’Brien, D-Lincolnville, sponsor of an unsuccessful amendment to last year’s charter school bill that would have closed the door to full-time virtual schools, which already exist in 27 states. “If you’re an investor these days with the economy going down, where are you going to invest? Oh, look, there’s a trillion dollars in public education funds waiting to be manipulated.” Via Education Notes Online. See also Lee Fang on schools selling out and Diane Ravitch on the Maine scandal.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Schools]

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More Venture Capital for Higher Education: $10.75 million for rSmart
Jim Farmer, e-Literate, September 3, 2012.

From the article: "Why does GSV like rSmart? There is a major shift underway in the higher education software market today, largely driven by continuing IT budgetary constraints, demand for higher ROI [return on investment] on technology investments, and most critically, the rapid consolidation of alternative LMS platforms." Jim Farmer closes with this very puzzling advice, which seems to suggest that private equity has the answers the rest of us don't, and that public awareness and opinion are something to be avoided.

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If You Were the Next Steve Jobs...
Umair Haque, Harvard Business Review, September 3, 2012.

Umair Haque has one of the best quotes I've read in a while (I want to stick it on the office wall): "One common misinterpretation of management theory goes thus: pit your best people against one another, like dogs in a fight, and the wondrous power of 'competition' will unleash vital energies heretofore unseen in the history of great endeavor. Taking a hard look at the organizations that practice this style of management-by-Mordor, my guess is that the unbridled exaltation of aggression is more like the express train to Sociopath City." Instead, he points the way to genuine innovation by focusing on enlighted organization and on problems that actually need solving. "Profit is a solved problem: we know, to a pretty good approximation, how to make companies profitable... Work fewer people harder, with faster, smarter robots — and hey, presto: productivity. And that seems to be, sometimes, our entirely inadequate recipe for national prosperity — one destined to doom the middle class to even more striking levels of hardship and penury."

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Apple Inc.]

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The Labor Day Manifesto Of the Passionate Creative Worker
John Hagel, Edge Perspectives, September 3, 2012.

John Hagel advises us how to be creative and passionate workers. I quote:

  • no one else, no matter how wise, rich, or well intentioned, can decide how we should spend our lives.
  • we will need to step off the well-trodden trail and blaze our own.
  • we must never compromise growth for short term efficiencies.
  • we find better ways to share and exchange knowledge.
  • we don’t exist for institutions, they exist for us.
  • give up the corner office, fancy car or anything else of little consequence that may be holding us back from pursuing our passions.
  • master the delicate art of deciding what’s not most important to us and letting them go.
  • no one ever regrets taking the path that leads to the better story.
  • people who change the world are out at the edge of their field, pushing back the boundaries of the unknown.
  • only as we continually reinvent ourselves can we start to discover and reach our full potential.
  • never settle.

It's a nice list for people who have options. As for the rest of us, well, we have to make our own passions in a more subtle and less in-your-face manner.

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7 talks about work to watch on Labor Day
Various Authors, TED, September 3, 2012.

The TED blog came up with this list of Labour Day talks and it struck me as I read the titles that this is a list of talks about work by people who don't work. We have The happy secret to better work, Learning from dirty jobs, and How to make work-life balance work. There is one talk on making global labour fair, but Auret van Heerden is most interested in monitoring the multinationals, not questioning their role in the economy. It's all about giving them a way of "assuring us" that nobody had to mortgage their future to work in their plants.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Web Logs]

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10 Ideas for Classroom Video Projects
Alec Couros, open thinking, September 3, 2012.

I almost never run 'list posts' because they're lazy, but I'll make an exception for Alec Couros, who weighs in with a first-rate list of ideas for student video editing projects (and it's not because he quotes he; I didn't even notice that first time through). "In this post," he writes, "I share ideas on certain types of videos that I’ve gathered and how educators might use related methods or styles to engage students in constructing and deconstructing media while becoming critical consumers and producers of digital media." If you're still stuck you can find new ideas from this impressive ds106 assignment list.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Project Based Learning, Video]

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Plan Now for a Year of Social Success
Doug Peterson, doug -- off the record, September 3, 2012.

Doug Peterson has good advice for teachers wanting to work with social media for the upcoming year: define a hashtag right away and get students into the habit of using it from Day One. Once the hashtag is in play, you can use any number of services - from RSS Readers to Google Alert and more - to aggregate content and get a class blog (or website, or social media page) going.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Thomson Corporation, Web Logs, Google, RSS]

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Playlist: Labor Day
PRX Editors, PRX, September 3, 2012.

Some good audio content to stir your labour-organizing blood. "The work we do, from Wall Street traders to taxi cab drivers. People who work with brassieres, with dead bodies, and off-the-books in an underground economy. A tone-poem by Ken Nordine, a podcast from Love and Radio, and sound-portraits from Radio Diaries, Toni Schwartz, Ben Rubin, David Greenberger, and hosts Ann Heppermann and Kara Oehler." And so much more.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Podcasting, Audio]

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Labor Day - 12 songs / 67:54
Michael Saltsman, Wolfgang's Vault, September 3, 2012.

Good list of songs to keep us in the Labour Day mood, beginning with a little Springsteemn and wrapping up with some Elvis Costello.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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