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February 10, 2014

A Personal Learning Framework
Stephen Downes, February 10, 2014, Connecting Online for Instruction and Learning 2014, Online, via EizIQ

In this talk I review two major threads of our work at NRC over the last few years, MOOCs and Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). I describe the gRSShopper project and our Plearn PLE prototype development. Placing these in the context of a network theory of learning, I then outline the new Learning and Performance Support System (LPSS) program being undertaken at NRC.

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Thoughts on power discrepancy in #MOOC #eMOOCs2014
Inge de Waard, Ignatia Webs, February 10, 2014


Inge de Waard is having "dark thoughts during a really nice conference." Why? "the video recording studio that Jermann talked about, if the content production is supported by such a big HR team, little universities/non-profits… cannot beat their content creation. Content creation is a content avalanche coming from those institutes that can produce, and those who cannot." The big always overwhelms the little, she says; why shouldn't we expect it in MOOCs? See also Reda Sadki's blog for more on the conference.

I was supposed to be at this conference, I think, but my work was totally derailed as a result of taking on the LPSS program. So I didn't even reply to their emails on time, let alone find the time to attend (and they're not alone - conferences in Germany, Ecuador and China also got lost in the rush). But I'll be at INTED in Valencia in March, so I'm getting back on track. And I'm not complaining - I really wanted to do LPSS and am eager to see the work in progress. And maybe I'll be able to visit these places in the future.

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Crowd-Frauding: Why the Internet is Fake
Eric Hellman, Go To Hellman, February 10, 2014


The message for me in this - beyond the obvious, which is that you should take any claims about web traffic with a grain of salt - is that models built on mass will tend to fail over the long run. The reason is described in this post. "I'm naturally optimistic that the crowd, connected by the social internet, will be an immensely powerful force for good," writes Eric Hellman. "I'm also continually reminded that the bad guys will use the crowd, too. And it won't be pretty." He points to a program called Jingling. "Once you've activated Jingling, the webpages you want to promote start getting hundreds of visitors from around the world. The visitors look real, they click around your page, they click on the advertisements, they register accounts on websites, they click "like" buttons and follow you on Twitter. Meanwhile, your computer starts running a website-visiting, ad-clicking daemon. It visits websites specified by other Jingling users." If you only care how many people are connecting to you, you leave yourself open to things like this.

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Do you know networks? on leaving the Garden of Eden
Bonnie Stewart, The theoryblog, February 10, 2014

It reads a lot like a TED talk (complete with a "here's the thing" expression near the end, pointing to a conclusion which isn't the main point of the post at all (but would make the people in the audience all feel comfortable ("Maybe it was the best we could do"))) but it has a good point right in the middle: "Things written in print are either finished or not. They do not blend into each other; they do not create webs. They create canons, privileging some over others and erasing the steps of their logic so as to make it all appear natural. They encourage us to see knowledge as finite and discrete; truth as singular, sanctioned... Books teach us implicitly that the culmination of writing as an act of communications is a product, not a conversation; a finite rather than a fluid thing. Books teach us that the one speaks to the many, but the many cannot speak back and be heard." And maybe that's why I've always been uncomfortable with the world of publishing, because I definitely don't think of the world in this way.

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Tom Friedman Is As Clueless As Arne Duncan
Diane Ravitch, Diane Ravitch's blog, February 9, 2014

Something for local education administrators (and their friends in the local media) to take note: Diane Ravitch writes, "After 13 years of test-based evaluation and school closings, no one claims success. We need what: More of the same!" She is criticizing Tom Friedman who champions what amounts to a 'blame the poor' strategy to promote education reform: "Too many parents and too many kids just don’t take education seriously enough and don’t want to put in the work needed today to really excel? Is this the key cause of income inequality and persistent poverty? No. But it is surely part of their solutions..." It's really a call to have children sit still with hands folded and repeat what the teacher says. Those poor children.

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Being Stellar: A Manifesto
Helen Hayward, YouTube, February 8, 2014


Really nice video from Gary Stairs of @StellarFutures describing a manifesto I can subscribe to. I like this line: "We create more value than we capture."

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MOOCs, Trust, and the Signature Track
Jade E. Davis, The Chronicle: #FutureEd, February 8, 2014

Courser's signature track offers a way for students to verify their identity by taking a photo of themselves and displaying their government-issued ID on camera. Face-recognition technology matches the images. Thegovernment-issued ID information, we are told, is deleted (if you believe that, please look up 'Snowden' on Google). The point of the current criticism is that "the company described itself as a platform for hosting (learning content) and proprietary algorithm." Like Facebook. But more, as it is using biometrics - like faces, and typing patters - as identifiers. Yet "the trust we place in MOOCs arises not because monetary funds are being exchanged for a service; rather, the trust is formed by the associations with big named professors or universities." So there's a tension here - people know what they're getting (association with elite universities) but they don't know what they're paying (platforms that can detect who they are visually or by the way they type).

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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