by Stephen Downes
Feb 22, 2016
The non-Uberization of education
The Ed Techie,
I am somewhat sympathetic with this point, but for very different reasons. I think most of the apparent benefit of the so-called 'sharing economy' is based on offering an end-run around taxation or regulation. And unlike education, it's not immediately obvious that a completely unregulated transportation or housing service is a bad idea. But it is a bad idea, and especially so for education.
But that's not the tack Martin Weller takes. He argues that taxis and hotels are fundamentally different services. A taxi ride is a brief interaction, but a learning experience is much longer. The needs of learners are much more diverse. Riders know where they want to go, but learners don't. And "the ability to construct a curriculum or design a learning activity that can be effectively delivered online is quite rare." On reflection, I don't think any of these are true. Or, if they are true, so much the worse for education. The whole 'education is such a difficult and complex process' argument has never appealed to me.
Can Blogs and Wiki Be Merged?
I spent a few moments trying to think of what a merged product would look like. The main feature of a blog is that new articles can be written, with new articles at the top of the list, and made available through RSS and the website. The idea of a wiki is that, first, anybody can edit it, and second, it keep[s old versions of the edited pages, so you can roll them back. So what would the benefit of merging them be? Well, in a sense, instead of sending articles to subscribers, it would send editable source of blog posts to subscribers. Mike Caulfield wrfites, " the recent work of Ward Cunningham to create federated wiki communities moves wiki a bit more towards blogging. Voices are still minimized in his new conception, but control is not shared or even negotiated." Interesting thoughts.
Stop writing specs, start finding needs - what I've learned working on Known
I've learned similar lessons with the LPSS program. "A lot of developers think of design as a superficial layer that you add at the end. Instead, if you're serious about making something that people can actually use, it should be the thing that comes first. And second. And third. Scientific design should be part of every stage of development. Development becomes one part actual engineering, one part investigative journalism, and one part data science."
A Neuroscientist’s Radical Theory of How Networks Become Conscious
I don't think the theory is all that radical - it's the same theory I have! "Consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. All animals, from humans on down to earthworms, are conscious; even the internet could be." It's like the charge on an electron, continues the explanation. It "doesn’t arise out of more elemental properties. It simply has a charge.” There's a nod in the article to 'panpsychism' (probably your best read on this is Spinoza) and a discussion of John Searle's objection ("there are 300 million Americans, interacting in very complicated ways. Why doesn’t consciousness extend to all of America?")(my response: maybe it does). It's a Wired article, so there's a lot of breathlessness. But it's still an interesting read.
Natural Verus Unnatural Learning
User Generated Education,
It's tempting to want to support informal learning because formal learning is unnatural. As Jackie Gerstein writes, "The unintended consequences of these artificial and unnatural ways of learning include believing that learning is or should be difficult, painful, disciplined, and not fun." There's even a nifty graphic contrasting traditional learning with summer camp. And I loved summer camp. But if you read 'Ought and Is' and recall the key points, you know we can't infer simply what what sort of learning seems 'natural' to what sort of learning we ought tom pursue. Sticking your hand in the fire is also 'natural' - goodness knows enough children have done it. No, if we want to support informal learning, it will have to be on the basis of some subjective criterion it satisfies, not the entirely arbitrary criterion of it being 'natural'.
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