OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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July 4, 2013

A New Use for MOOCs: Real-World Problem Solving
Zafrin Nurmohamed, Nabeel Gillani, and Michael Lenox, Harvard Business Review Blogs, July 4, 2013


I like this! (And it's from Harvard - I'd better check for a blue moon or lions lying down with sheep...) "Perhaps it's time we stop trying to fit MOOCs into old educational molds and start considering how we can harness their powers in new and exciting ways. We can use MOOCs as platforms for real-world problem solving... over 90,000 life-long learners from 143 countries enrolled in Foundations of Business Strategy ...with their unique backgrounds, the students wove a rich tapestry of ideas and creative insights." Yes, exactly. This is how MOOCs are supposed to work.

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What Does It Mean To Be Literate?
Alec Couros, Open Thinking, July 4, 2013

Alec Couros is asking, as he prepares for a conference presentation, what it means to be literate? "I will be sure to share all submissions openly for others to see," he writes. I have my own ideas on the subject, of course, and to me literacy breaks down to the following sets of skills and abilities:

  • recognizing patterns, regularities, rules, similarities, processes
  • understanding sense and reference, connotation, association, meaning and truth
  • using expressions, having an impact, asking and interrogating
  • describing, defining, inferring, explaining
  • recognizing and defining context, framing and placement
  • using and understanding flow, connection, change, timing and progression

These are what I call critical literacies, with the sense that these underlie all forms of literate activities, and not merely the use of language. Minimally, any 'literacy' (such as, say, 'emotional literacy', or 'digital literacy') must account for all six elements, and these six elements fully describe any such literacy. All in my view, of course.

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Should webinars be recorded?
Clive Shepherd, Clive on Learning, July 4, 2013

Oh, how often have I read this? "If we want the same easy flow of communication that can be obtained face-to-face when we're online, then we have to consider not pressing the record button." The funny thing is, when you press the 'record' button, after feeling self-conscious for a bit, people soon forget it's there. After a while, people realize they're glad they have a recording of that event (whatever it was) so they can review what they saw, what they felt, what they did. And most people don't behave in such a way that recordings are embarrassing to them.

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Who Will Teach U.S. Kids to Code? Rupert Murdoch
theodp, Slashdot, July 4, 2013

I think this makes the case for concern pretty well: "For all of their handwaving at Code.org about U.S. kids not being taught Computer Science, tech execs from Microsoft, Google, and Facebook seem more focused lately on Plan B of their 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy . So, who's going to Teach Your Children CompSci? Enter friend-of-the-Gates-Foundation Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch's Amplify Education is launching an AP Computer Science MOOC this fall (Java will be covered), taught by an experienced AP CS high school teacher. An added option, called MOOC Local, will provide additional resources to schools with students in the CS MOOC. MOOC Local will eventually cost $200 per student, but is free for the first year."

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Computer Visionary Who Invented the Mouse
John Markoff, New York Times, July 4, 2013


The internet will be filled with tributes today to Douglas C. Engelbart who at 88 has passed away after one of the most remarkable lives of engineering and invention. Engelbart is known as the man who invented the mouse, but his vision spanned much more than that. As the Times sums up, "he set the computing world on fire with a remarkable demonstration before more than a thousand of the world’s leading computer scientists... in little more than an hour, he showed how a networked, interactive computing system would allow information to be shared rapidly among collaborating scientists. He demonstrated how a mouse, which he invented just four years earlier, could be used to control a computer. He demonstrated text editing, video conferencing, hypertext and windowing."

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An Inside Look at Duke University’s MOOC Initiative
Jimmy Daly, Ed Tech, July 4, 2013


Interview with Randy Riddle, a Duke University technology consultant who for 11 years has worked on Duke's explorations of online learning. One interesting thing caught my eye: "The one piece of hardware that almost never fails to engage students is a whiteboard — anything that gets students in a classroom to get out of their seats, talking to each other, debating and solving problems creates a dynamic class experience." I've found using the whiteboard in Elluminate (Blackboard Collaborate) has had a similar effect (though on another platform the students were pleading "no, please, not the whiteboard", so your YMMV). Here's one of his blog posts about a critical reasoning course called Think Again. It's interesting to note the Facebook groups that grew surrounding this Coursera course.

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CATA Launches Accelerator.com and the Summer Innovation Programming
Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, July 4, 2013

Courses on the AcceleratorU platform range from $5 to $25. The site is really sluggish but is in just-launched mode. "Some people prefer to learn on their own schedule, others prefer set times, interaction and support. AcceleratorU offers every curriculum in each method, to you can live your life while still advancing your dream." They're not being called MOOCs (because they're not) but these almost-open online courses are filling a huge gap in corporate learning. It's like this article from eLearning Guild (subscription, extract only (sorry)) says. "Known as the “Summer of Learning,” their course on HTML5 attracted 10,000 participants in August 2012 and was specifically designed to bridge their known skills gap and fill open jobs. Now, less than a year after that first offering, Aquent has placed more than 200 candidates in new positions." The revolution is consumer-based.

See also this, from CATA's John Reid: "Canada is no longer one of the top 10 innovation countries due to our declining educational funding, reduced # of patents being filed, scarcity of investment capital to fuel emerging growth, reduced numbers of companies going public and sustaining growth globally, and declining expertise in innovation execution. In Canada, there is no more ground to lose anymore. We are in a crisis and we cannot fall anymore in global innovation rankings. To help close the innovation gap we must think outside the box. The current practices and processes for agile learning are not working anymore."

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How to Pitch a Blogger
David Meerman Scott, Learn It Live, July 3, 2013

I deliberately cultivate multiple sources of information in order to stay current and have a deep understanding of our field, which means I get a lot of what might be called 'pitches' from people. I don't really encourage this, but it's OK. I reject all requests to place guest articles or infographics; I'm not interested in guest content, partially because I want to preserve the identity of the place, and mostly because most such content is paid placement designed to get some URL or another into my site. If I recognize one of those URLs (you know who you are) I won't link to the item at all; I am the anti-SEO.

So what else? This article has some good advice. I'm not big on product pitches (send them to Jeff Dunn, Jane Hart or Richard Byrne), event announcements, calls for papers or impersonal email (if you can't learn my name or the address of my home page, don't email me). If I can't link to it I won't post it, if the link requires a login or subscription I won't post it, and if the site is an obvious come-on for some commercial product I won't post it. I do not honour embargoes; don't even ask. I rarely (pretty much never) link to posts with casual profanity and other offensive language in the title or text (if you're not sure whether the language will offend, it probably does).

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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