OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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by Stephen Downes
March 4, 2014

Daniel C. Dennett: The De-Darwinizing of Cultural Change
Daniel C. Dennett, Edge, March 4, 2014

I don't agree with everything Daniel Dennett says, but what he says is never trivial (in the way, say, Jerry Fodor or David K. Lewis are trivial) - the postulates he offer require serious thought, because they are genuine possibilities, and not just semantical tricks. "If I ask you," he says, "'What is it like to be a termite colony?' most people would say, 'It's not like anything.' Well, now let's look at a brain, let's look at a human brain—100 billion neurons, roughly speaking, and each one of them is dumber than a termite and they're all sort of semi-independent." So what's the difference? Human brains, he says, co-evolved with culture, and termite colonies did not. "In bringing up a child in a social world, what you're basically doing is installing thousands of apps and meta apps, and apps on top of apps on the hardware of the brain."

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Various authors, Spritz, March 4, 2014

The proof is in the reading: it does work. "With compact text streaming from Spritz, content can be streamed one word at a time, without forcing your eyes to spend time moving around the page. Spritz makes streaming your content easy and more comfortable, especially on small displays."

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The DMCA Takedown of a Feynman Lectures eBook Converter
Eric Hellman, Go To Hellman, March 4, 2014

This post is worth a link even if only for its link in turn to the Richard Feynman Lectures, freely published on the internet for everyone to read. Well - not so freely. If you want to convert the text to ePub in order to read it on a Kindle, the copyright owners will get very very angy at you. Still, it can be done in only 136 lines of ruby code (see the script on Github).

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Today's eLearning: Michael Allen & Experts Say "Enough is Enough"
Michael Allen, Allen Interactions, March 4, 2014


Someone will have to wake me up when the date finally rolls around, but on March 13 Michael Allen and three others will release the "serious e-learning manifesto". They are rallying, they say, against bad e-learning design. "While there are a few shining examples of instructional design, a large percentage of elearning created today is woefully inadequate. Instead of deep and meaningful learning, most elearning encourages learners to stay away in droves, unless of course the training is mandatory."

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Writing with Expresso
Doug Peterson, doug - off the record, March 4, 2014

Doug Peterson writes about Expresso, an interesting writing analytics project created by Mikhail Panko, a PhD student in computational neuroscience (you can see the open source for yourself on GitHub.) Give it a few paragraphs of your own writing and it will analyize it for weak verbs, filler words, negations, modals, passive voice, and more. Not all of these are bad (I was pleased to have a substantially high rare word count) but many of them are (and hence I had 5 percent weak verbs and 0.1 percent passive voice).

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University of the People gains accreditation
Chris Parr, Times Higher Education, March 4, 2014

It's far from free, but a University of the People education will cost much less than at a traditional university, and now the degrees are accredited. The online uniersity was "established to take higher education to disadvantaged students around the world has received accreditation."

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Does ‘discovery learning’ prepare Alberta students for the 21st century or will it toss out a top tier education system?
Tristin Hopper, National Post, March 4, 2014

The National Post has never been one to objectively present a story, and it doesn't do so here, but reading between the lines (and a so-called "prominent critic of discovery learning") we have the good news here that Alberta officials have "vowed that the “traditional” teaching methods of textbooks-and-chalkboards will be dead, replaced instead by a unstructured system design to craft 'engaged thinkers,' 'ethical citizens' and 'entrepreneurial spirits.'" I'm not sure why the newspaper would be so blatant in its support of the older approach (unless it's to sell textbooks). The same approach has been adopted elsewhere in Canada, and the nation continues to outperform most of the world on standardized tests despite a much broader curriculum. Oh, but you have to love the way the Post spins the news ("'We’re changing everything,' says a perky voice in a two-minute Government of Alberta video outlining the new program.")

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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