Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community


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The Brain, Gut and Consciousness: Microbiology of Our Mind, Radek Vana, Inquiries, Dec 30, 2020

I'm going to give this post full marks for creativity while at the same time saying "there's no way, right?" Here's the claim: "the brain-gut-microbiome axis forms a complex system creating our consciousness." In other words, our brain communicates "with trillions of symbiotic microorganisms that perform various physiological functions crucial for our health" and our sensation of thought and experience - consciousness - comes into existence as an ... [Direct Link]

Creativity in Education: Reflections From ISTE 2020, Pronita Mehrotra, edCircuit, Dec 22, 2020

I think this summary makes some useful points but should be read from a wider critical perspective. For example, this is a good point: "simply giving students the space to be creative doesn’t necessarily equip them with the skills to think creatively." But this seems wrong to me: " creativity is the ability to come up with ideas that are both novel and useful." This may define innovation, but creativity has to make room for the useless. Also, it's useful to ... [Direct Link]

Why discipline is one of the 7 habits of successful journalists, Paul Bradshaw, Online Journalism Blog, Dec 01, 2020

By 'discipline' here we don't mean 'enforcement' but rather the development of good habits. Paul Bradshaw writes, "Discipline can sometimes be seen as creativity’s killjoy, but this is a myth: there are numerous books about the subject, and in education around creativity you will find exercises that involve putting limits on the creator to encourage it." The big difference, to my mind, is between limitations that you impose on yourself, and limitations that ... [Direct Link]

It’s easy to mistake engagement for learning. Here’s how I learned the difference., Precious Boyle, ChalkBeat, Nov 25, 2020

This is a case, I think, of missing the point (though you don't have to read it that way; it's just my opinion). The author illustrates the point that 'engagement is not the same as learning' with a (probably fictional) interaction with an assistant principal. "Laughter and joy filled the room. But were they learning, or was it just 'pretty'? ... He asked me to look at students’ reflections to see what they were retaining. Sure enough, more of the responses ... [Direct Link]

What happens when students launch their work to an audience?, John Spencer, Nov 24, 2020

This post reminds me of the early days of writing about blogging. "Participatory cultures remind us that creativity isn’t a solitary endeavor. It is nearly always to and from a community. Great ideas rarely happen in isolation. Instead, they are a part of the constant sharing back and forth of what we are learning, doing, and making. This is why it’s so valuable to show our work." [Direct Link]

Here’s how we teach creativity in journalism, Paul Bradshaw, Online Journalism Blog, Nov 19, 2020

Every subject is a little bit different, so the method of teaching creativity in journalism doesn't map perfectly to other disciplines, but quite a few bits of advice travel well. For example, "one of the most basic things we do in journalism education is to expose students to a wide range of journalism." This way, they know what has already been done, they have a source of inspiration to draw from, and they learn what counts as a good idea. These are tools you can use anywhere. ... [Direct Link]

Open Practice in Practice, Lorna M Campbell, Open World, Nov 12, 2020

This is a short post on a presentation, but I mostly want to quote it to share these resources (quoted): OEP to Build Community – which included the examples of Femedtech and Equity Unbound. Open Pedagogy –  including All Aboard Digital Skills in HE, the National Forum Open Licensing Toolkit, Open Pedagogy Notebook, and University of Windsor Tool Parade.  Open Practice for Authentic Assessment – covering Wikimedia in Education and Open Assessment Practices. ... [Direct Link]

Creative Commons Strategy 2020 - Second Draft, Catherine Stihler, Brigitte Vézina, Sarah Pearson, Creative Commons, Nov 06, 2020

Creative Commons is calling for comments on a draft of the CC organizational strategy. The draft asserts that licenses have not been sufficient and issues a call "for a new approach to protect what we have achieved so far and to create the world we want to see—a world where knowledge and culture are equitably shared in ways that serve the public interest." It's not exactly clear what that means, but there are strong hints throughout that it wants to see creators paid ... [Direct Link]

The importance of ‘intangibles’ in teaching and learning, Tony Bates, Online learning and distance education resources, Nov 04, 2020

The thing about intangibles is that they're really hard to talk about. Intangibles are, says Tony Bates, "what we feel or think to be there, but can’t quite put our finger on it (both realistically and figuratively)." And, says Bates, "Teachers and instructors as well often feel ‘intangibles’ in many contexts. One in particular is assessing ‘soft’ or ‘durable’ skills such as creativity." And it is in detecting these intangibles ... [Direct Link]

Seven HCI Grand Challenges, Constantine Stephanidis, Gavriel Salvendy, International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, Oct 06, 2020

I am attached to the human-computer interaction (HCI) team at NRC, and ever since that placement I have railed against this characterization of my work, and especially against interpretations that reduce it to things like user testing and interface design. This paper takes a much broader approach. The seven grand challenges are as follows: Human-technology symbiosis Human-environment interactions Ethics, privacy and security Well-being, health and eudaimonia Accessibility and ... [Direct Link]

TikTok creativity, Dave Truss, Daily-Ink, Sept 03, 2020

Some of the most original online work these days is appearing on TikTok (which probably explains better than 'China' why some people want it shut down, what with its user campaigns and such). This short post links to a few highlights (TikTok is mostly a mobile application, and has recently become more insistent on viewers logging in, but you can still see individual snippets in a browser). Dave Truss comments, "What I find interesting is that much of this original work is ... [Direct Link]

Can the U.S. fix unemployment with 'Universal Basic Jobs'? , Stephen Johnson, Big Think, Jul 02, 2020

One of the reasons I support a universal basic income is that it would release a flourishing of creativity and personal development. I also believe it "is a policy of care, one that fundamentally rejects the notion that people in economic distress, communities in disrepair, and an environment in peril are the unfortunate but unavoidable collateral damage of a market economy." However, making it a job guarantee, rather than an income guarantee, eliminates the creativity and personal ... [Direct Link]

The Downes, Siemens and Lamb debate: Two Internets and Two-Cultures , Mark William Johnson, Improvisation Blog, Apr 20, 2020

I haven't followed up on the 'unstructured and unplanned' debate because it began to drift (but if you want to, here's Brian Lamb's post, and here's George Siemens's reponse, and my main reaction is gratitude that they cared enough to be honest and clear in what they said). But I did like this summary of the discussion from an arm's length perspective, and I'm sympathetic with the argument. "Lockdown will give them plenty of food for thought about the ... [Direct Link]

Reflections Week Three: creativity and compassion, Lawrie Phipps, lawrie : converged, Apr 05, 2020

This is some much-needed pushback against the widespread purchase and deployment of online proctoring systems. "Do we need proctoring? I like Ken Bauer Favel’s response: 'I prefer and suggest that we start with trusting our students and their desire to learn.'” Quite so. And as Lawrie Phipps goes on to argue, " We need to stop buying into the vendor driven narrative that starts with the premise that all students cheat. Stop it. Enough." [Direct Link]

In Times of Crisis Self-Care is More Important Than Ever, Eric Sheninger, A Principal's Reflections, Mar 29, 2020

So I'm pacing myself by writing this post on a rainy Sunday to give myself time on a sunny Tuesday to add a few extra minutes on the bicycle. Because, yes, taking care of yourself is the top priority, as Lawrie Phipps writes. But note: this has always been the case. When people ask me about it - whether it's personal self-care, personal learning, career management, whatever - I have always responded with that old adage passed on my the sailors who worked on the top sails: "one ... [Direct Link]

Moving past the ‘tyranny of innovation’ , JISC, Mar 07, 2020

At first I was folling my eyes a bit as this article said things like "more concrete signs that your organisation isn’t nurturing a culture of innovation... include teams working in siloes, and decisions not being driven by data." But there's a nice turn about half way through where the author cites a Lawrie Phipps blog post (that I didn't see last fall when it came out) reflecting on eCampusOntario’s TESS2019 conference. "Phipps cites a successful ecosystem ... [Direct Link]

Microsoft Threatens To Change the LXP Market: EdCast and Others Respond, Josh Bersin, Feb 18, 2020

According to this article, " the Office 365 team is getting very focused on the corporate learning market. This $240 billion space is wide open for Microsoft and they are beginning to understand how their tools (plus the connections to LinkedIn Learning) can play." I ahve to agree. Even without LinkedIn Learning (which can be expensive) there's a lot Microsoft can do to help Office 365 support learning. For example, Microsoft Cortex "indexes all the documents and ... [Direct Link]

In serving big company interests, copyright is in crisis, Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, Jan 25, 2020

I'm of two minds regarding this post. On the one hand I agree with Cory Doctorow that the world's copyright system is a mess. There's an ever tightening vice clamping down on the potential for innovation, competition, and even creativity. On the other hand, I don't care. Not because I am ambivalent, but quite the opposite. I see all that as their rules for their economy, but I have long ago moved past all that. I have always said I will make money in other ways, by offering ... [Direct Link]

Major Research Review on Learning Transfer , Will Thalheimer, Work-Learning Research, Jan 10, 2020

Will Thalheimer presents this report (22 page PDF) on 'learning transfer', which he says "occurs when people learn concepts and/or skills and later utilize those concepts/skills in work situations." What we know about transfer is based on what he states upfront is weak evidence. "I will roughly estimate as well over 80%... do not actually measure transfer," he says. He writes that "far transfer hardly ever happens. Near transfer—transfer to contexts ... [Direct Link]

Platforms and big data in ELT – a look back at the last decade, Philip Kerr, Adaptive Learning in ELT, Jan 07, 2020

This post mostly looks at the sad saga of Knewton. "It was clear, from very early on (see, for example, my posts from 2014 here and here) that Knewton’s product was little more than what Michael Feldstein called ‘snake oil’. Why and how could so many people fall for it for so long? Why and how will so many people fall for it again in the coming decade, although this time it won’t be ‘big data’ that does the seduction, but AI (which kind of boils down ... [Direct Link]

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Jan 11, 2021 6:11 p.m.