OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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February 6, 2014

The medium is the message?
Jaap Bosman, Hit the balloon, comment, February 6, 2014


"Language needs a medium," said Jaap Bosman. By contrast, to me, language is a medium. "Learning depends on language, the medium (books, blogs) of the language restricts or benefits the learning," he writes. To me, language is only one of the many media we could use to support learning. Becominbg literate in the 21st century means recognizing that literacy applies far beyond language; it's a way of understanding the world.

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Is books making us stupid? behind the curtain of #rhizo14
Dave Cormier, Dave's Educational Blog, February 6, 2014

This post actually provides a good overview of the first few weeks of the Rhizomatic Learning course, exploring as it does a set of "challenges" posed by Dave Cormier:

  • Cheating as learning
  • Enforcing independence
  • Embracing uncertainty
  • Is books making us stupid

I can certainly be frustrated by some of this sort of discussion - when people express concerns, for example, about "enforcing independence" my reaction is that they just don't know what those words mean. And in another post I've raised some questions about some of the more nebulous aspects of this approach to learning. But I see value in these discussions. And questioning the authority of the book is certainly something I support.

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Questions about rhizomatic learning
Jenny Mackness, February 6, 2014

At a certain point, perfectly good theories become nonsense. This may be that point. I am sympathetic with the list of questions Jenny Mackness poses to Keith Hamon about rhizomatic learning (a concept I'm increasingly questioning). For example: "I’m not sure that I would know how to distinguish a 'rhizomatic learner' from other learners." And "‘A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo.’" Strictly speaking, this is false of rhizomes (unless you're talking of the specific connection between plant and plant, in which case, one wonders how it is different from any other connection (and wonder why it can't have a middle)). I've commented to Dave Cormier (who seems to have a better handle on this) about this in the past: a rhizome network is a mesh, which is good, but there's no openness, no diversity, not really even any autonomy. And you mix that in with (quite frankly) silly statements from Deleuze and Guattari (like: "‘State space is ‘striated’ or griddled") you get something that really begins to lack coherence. I've long complained of continental philosophers that when they don't understand something, they just make stuff up. There's too much of that in educational theory too.

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When the Times Higher Education Rankings Fail The Fall-Down-Laughing Test
Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates, February 6, 2014

I'm sympathetic with the "fall down laughing test" and I share the author's scepticism about the Times Higher Education (THE) rankings. But at a certain point the argument stretches the point too far. Alex usher suggests that the THE's assertion that "the THE is saying that places like the University of Ireland, Maynooth, the University of Tasmania, and King Abdulaziz University are more international than Harvard, Yale, and Stanford" is laugably silly. But really? When I think of Harvard, Yale and Stanford, I don't think of diversity and inclusiveness, I think of the privilege of a monocultural elite. The world's most diverse cities are located in Europe and Asia, not in New England. So why is it so absurd to think that places other than these U.S. universities are more diverse? It's not silly, and sometimes hearing these universities claim to be diverse strikes me as absurd. It's like they're saying, "We have both kinds of music, country and western."

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Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice: Is the Use of Untested Technologies in Classrooms Unethical?
Larry Cuban, National Education Policy Center, February 6, 2014

So to set this up: M.O. Thirunarayanan argues, "products are typically purchased by schools and used in classrooms before educators start conducting research to determine if they are effective. This is akin to providing treatment using drugs whose effects have not yet been studied."Larry Cuban replies, "many instructional practices that have been used for centuries such as textbooks, worksheets, blackboards, and homework that underwent no tests then or now." He also points to "the flawed assumption that the author makes about technology, in of itself, determining academic achievement when that outcome results from many in-school and out-of-school factors." That said, I think it's just false that these technologies are untested.

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Innovation, Access, and Open Education: The Business & Policy Case for OER
Jason Rhode, February 6, 2014

From Jason Rhode: "UPCEA has made freely available the recording of Cable Green’s general session presentation titled, 'Innovation, Access, and Open Education: The Business & Policy Case for OER' at the recent Summit for Online Leadership and Strategy. While the slides are available here, the recording is now available here." I hasten to add that the business and policy case is only one dimension of the argument in favour of OERs (and not even the most important one). It needs to be made to appear to a certain audience, but this is only one of many audiences.

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Un cours en ligne ouvert et massif portant sur les Ressources Éducatives Libres
Robert Gregoire, YouTube, February 6, 2014


Vraiment bien fait, Robert. "Une initiative de l'Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, réalisée par l'Université de Moncton (NB, Canada) et le Conseil national de recherches Canada. Chef de projet: Stephen Downes (CNRC). Une présentation de Robert Grégoire au Forum ministériel africain sur l'intégration des TIC dans l'Éducation et la Formation. Tunis, 9 - 11 décembre 2013." My colleague from the Université de Moncton, Robert Gregoire, describes our French-language MOOC being launched shortly on the subject of open educational resources. In French.

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