Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community


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Teach Your Students to ‘Explode’ Complex Text, Sunday Cummins, Middleweb, Dec 20, 2020

It is common for students to disguise their inability to comprehend a text by simply regurgitating text or citing evidence with little explanation. This post offers ways to help them improve by 'exploding' complex test. I would describe this as finding ways to critically analyze text (and it is a huge advantage to be able to do this naturally while reading). I used to do this a lot with my critical thinking students; I'd have them bring in clippings from the newspaper and we'd ... [Direct Link]

Dependency Grammar v. Constituency Grammar, Mark Liberman, Language Log, Oct 10, 2020

Nothing could be more basic than language and math, right? And these are built on solid foundations that form the basis for literacy and numeracy, right? Well - no. Today I have two cases in point. The lead item points to "three different foundational ideas can be identified in recent syntactic theory: structure from substitution classes, structure from dependencies among heads, and structure as the result of optimizing preferences" (my italics). In another post, Daniel Lemire notes ... [Direct Link]

Keeping girls in the picture: youth advocacy toolkit, UNESCO, Sept 25, 2020

This document (31 page PDF) is part of a UNESCO campaign to ensure girls are able to receive an education during and after the pandemic. The concern is that 11 million girls will be added to the 130 million already being denied an education. The document is intended to help people "influence decision-makers like local counsellors, the government, a board of directors, educators and people who invest in and fund projects" on behalf of these girls. Among other things, the document ... [Direct Link]

Principles for Microservice Design: Think IDEALS, Rather than SOLID, Paulo Merson, InfoQ, Sept 03, 2020

We've previously discussed the trend toward distributed infrastructure based on microservices. This article offers a useful contrast with the previous object oriented (OO) paradigm (and thus, offers a technical-level contrast between learning objects, properly so-called, and next generation learning resources). The big different (if I may interpret loosely) is that in OO the parts combine to create a single unified whole (which is why reuse is some important), while in microservices, the ... [Direct Link]

3 Documentaries you must watch to understand the pain fueling the BLM movement, Kevin “NivekPro” Jackson, Medium, Jul 07, 2020

This article is interesting not only because it offers a glimpse of three stories underlining the need for the Black Lives Matter movement, but also because it points us to kweliTV, a video streaming service that is not Disney+, and which offers "400+ undiscovered, award-winning indie films, documentaries, web series & kids shows celebrating global black culture from anywhere in the world." The three stories, meanwhile, document the attacks on Black Wall Street, the massacre in ... [Direct Link]

A plan to redesign the internet could make apps that no one controls, Will Douglas Heaven, MIT Technology Review, Jul 03, 2020

I think the headline is a bit overstated, but there is something interesting in this plan. "Dfinity is building what it calls the internet computer, a decentralized technology spread across a network of independent data centers that allows software to run anywhere on the internet rather than in server farms that are increasingly controlled by large firms, such as Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud." It's a bit like taking the cloud, and putting it into the cloud. And it's ... [Direct Link]

TikTok makes moves into education market, Osman Iqbal, BBC News, Jun 18, 2020

The story here is that "universities and charities are among those who will be paid to create bespoke content for the social media giant" and "the new focus could appeal to the trend for micro-learning, said one expert." While my first reaction might be to respond that nobody wants education on TikTok, when I think of it (I've been a regular viewer for about a year now) I've seen a lot of videos (on my 'For You' feed) promoting indigenous culture, offering ... [Direct Link]

Educational Crises and Ed-Tech: A History, Audrey Watters, Hack Education, May 19, 2020

What I like about this post is that it recounts a history of the use of technology to replace traditional schools during times of crisis and disease, thus proving that our times are not exactly "unprecedented". Unfortunately the history is entirely US-based, and essentially (to my reading) boils down to the well-worn argument that "previous uses of tech to replace schools didn't work, so we shouldn't expect anything different this time." And maybe not, in the U.S.... [Direct Link]

21st century democracy requires an open web, Ben Werdmuller, May 12, 2020

Back in 2012 Sebastian Thrun made the ridiculous statement that in fifty years, there will be only 10 institutions in the whole world that deliver higher education. But what if it wasn't so ridiculous? No, not in the way we think, where there are only 10 universities. But more like what has happened to the news industry: "the entire news industry has consolidated down to two points of distribution... Facebook and Google have outsized supplier power over the entire news industry." ... [Direct Link]

The true purpose of education, Doug Johnson, The Blue Skunk Blog, May 01, 2020

We have been forced more than usual recently to think about the purpose of school. Doug Johnson writes of the process, "this is simply society using education as a means of slowing cultural change by only allowing students who are willing to conform and delay gratification to gain positions of responsibility in society.... Graduating from school depends far more on a student's EQ than IQ, if EQ is the ability to conform to societal norms.  And how much of EQ is knowing when to ... [Direct Link]

Writing in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic: From Vulnerability to Solidarity, Laura Beaulne-Stuebing, University Affairs, Apr 22, 2020

This is what online learning looks like to me. "In March, as COVID-19 swept across the globe, a team of academics from Wilfrid Laurier University put together a 'rapid response' collection of essays looking critically at the pandemic. Writing in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic: From Vulnerability to Solidarity serves as a 'snapshot' of a moment in time for scholars based in Canada when the world was changing quickly, and self-isolation orders and physical distancing ... [Direct Link]

Common Ground in the Quest for Global Research, Glenn Hampson, OSI Policy Perspectives, Apr 20, 2020

The premise of this report is that "Rebuilding our quest for open research on solid, common ground instead of on narrow and fractured ideological ground is both possible and promising. Ample common already ground exists in this community and the need for a common ground approach to address this complex system’s many challenges is compelling." So where is that common ground? There's some suggestion of it 19 pages into the document, but mostly the authors are saying that the ... [Direct Link]

4 Most Important Things To Remember With eLearning, Nick Gehl, The Art of Education, Mar 19, 2020

Here are the four things (quoted, edited): Develop a plan for student success - start by identifying what students will need to be successful in this new environment. Plan eLearning assignments with an equity lens - plan assignments with a variety of options and choice, provide extended deadlines for longer assignments, differentiate your instruction. Remember the “why” in your curriculum - select one or two aspects of the project and think about how students can accomplish ... [Direct Link]

Evidence is the new catchword in education, but it requires some scrutiny, Phil Lambert, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 24, 2020

This is a solid opinion piece from the Sydney Morning Herald. While we all want evidence to support our education policies, "evidence is not as straightforward as some might imply. Like all knowledge, evidence is socially constructed, context dependent and highly contested. Too often 'evidence-based' policy has involved limiting rather than broadening alternatives, privileging particular forms of evidence over others, and narrowing consultative processes. It is more about whose ... [Direct Link]

Radical acceptance, co-production and cultural democracy: What can the arts teach us about social justice in education? , Jennifer Kitchen, BERA Blog, Feb 07, 2020

Here's how Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) chief executive Roberta Mock opened a recent conference: "The TaPRA Executive wants you to feel welcome and valued – and not simply regardless of your nationality, gender, body, sex, race, ethnicity, dis/ability, age … but because of these lived experiences. TaPRA aims to facilitate an environment in which a productive balance of researchers at all career stages are able to work together, supporting and ... [Direct Link]

Mojo Vision’s AR Contact Lenses for your Eyes, Emory Craig, Digital Bodies, Jan 21, 2020

This is another item to put under the heading of 'future technology'. Not because it's impossible - the proofs of concept are already available. But because it will still take a lot of work to finish and commercialize. The technology in question is the augmented reality (AR) contact lens - that is, a contact lens that projects computer-generated data right into your field of vision. "The first versions will include a tiny single-core ARM-based processor and an image sensor. ... [Direct Link]

From context collapse to content collapse, Nicholas Carr, Rough Type, Jan 14, 2020

When social media first came into being, pundits like Michael Wesch and dana boyd talked of "context collapse" - you would no longer have a work identity, home identity, party identity, whatever; they would all collapse into a single public identity. But eventually people rebelled, and social media began to help us respect boundaries. But now we're entering the real on "content collapse". All content is the same. "A presidential candidate's policy announcement ... [Direct Link]

Graphy, Blake Regalia, Jan 13, 2020

As the website says, "graphy is a collection of high-performance RDF libraries for JavaScript developers with a focus on usability. Each package works with both Node.js and the browser (with the help of a bundler such as Browserify or Webpack)." You would be forgiven if you've forgotten about the Resource Description Framework (RDF), which is a world wide web standard for encoding semantic data in 'triples' (subject-verb-object) using standardized vocabularies. It is ... [Direct Link]

OER Commons Intros Authoring Tool, Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, Jan 07, 2020

According to this short article, the OER Commons has launched a new authoring tool, Open Author. It "consolidates the functions of three other utilities from OER Commons: the Resource Builder, Lesson Builder and Module Builder," says the article. You have to log in to use it (or sign in with Clever, a single-signon for schools - a bit of marketing there, I think). I created a test resource on how to create a resource using the tool to see how it worked - it's very basic (the ... [Direct Link]

Implementing a holistic approach to lifelong learning: Community Lifelong Learning Centres as a gateway to multidisciplinary support teams, Brikena Xhomaqi, Irene Psifidou, Paul Downes, Cedefop, Oct 02, 2019

This is quite a good short report (16 page PDF) outlining the objectives of a lifelong learning programme, and the role played by community learning centres in promoting lifelong learning. It amounts to a large degree to an action plan and business model for these centres. "The aim of such centres would be to create a place where education and social life are closely intertwined with the neighborhood and the wider world, wherein school or any other institution is seen as a learning space ... [Direct Link]

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Jan 06, 2021 12:42 a.m.