OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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by Stephen Downes
Dec 26, 2014

I Will Not Post This
Dave Pell, Life, Philosophy, 2014/12/26


Subtitled "the coming age of self-censorship" this article discusses the way the internet critics pile on when you tweet or write something inappropriate - or, as in the case of Donald Sterling, get recorded tirading through a racist rant. The conclusion, writes Dave Pell, is that "these new realities will lead us down path towards self-censorship." He writes as though this is a bad thing. But let's think this through. The examples he raises are actually all pretty despicable. If by "self-censorship" he means "not launch into racist tirades," then my response is, bring on self-censorship. Students are always taught "be careful what you pur on Facebook." But a much better lesson is, "be careful what you do." Not because it might end up on Facebook, though it might. But because, if it's wrong when it's all over the internet, it was wrong when you did it in private too. This and the next item via Doug Peterson.

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Outside the Skinner Box
Gary Stager, Independent School Magazine, 2014/12/26


Gary Stager reprises his restatement of Seymour Papert's educational philosophy in this article touting learning by creating and by programming. "The satisfaction, personal efficacy, and knowledge construction resulting from the act of making something is well established," he writes. "Schools embracing the energy, tools, and passion of the Maker Movement recognize that, for the first time in history, kids can make real things - and, as a result, their learning is that much more authentic."

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The moos you can moo
Mark Liberman, Language Log, 2014/12/26


This article looks at news reports that anthropomorphize elements of scientific reports and, as a consequence, misrepresent their conclusions. In this case, scientists examine how cows use distinctive calls to communicate with offspring. The news media adds a human element to this behaviour by saying these are "names" for the calves. What's happening is that the news media, by describing cows as though they were human, are essentially making stuff up. Geoff Pullman writes, "They actually print what are obviously lies, even when the text of the same article makes it clear that they are lying."

I think the same thing happens in educational writing. If this article, for example, we are told about "the brain’s danger detector, the amygdala, being down-regulated, trading energy normally spent on vigilance for heightened focus and enhanced recall." But the brain is doing no such thing; that is an interpretation of a set of neural phenomena. Or this: "the human brain locks down episodic memories in the hippocampus." Or this, "the eyes and hands of children save memories for them." Assigning cognitive functions to things that do not have cognitive capacities is pernicious anthropomorphism, and it imposes a theory of self on the evidence that has no basis in reality.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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