New Learning, New Society

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I am not sure what Kevin Carey is imagining here….
Steve Krause,, Jul 30, 2015

I mentioned Kevin Cartey's post in another item a few days ago; this post is a good antidote to the specious reasoning Carey offers his New York Times readership. Based on the example of college athleete cheating scandals, Carey argues, "colleges/universities are 'not coherent' when it comes to consistency, standards, classroom excellence." This is in itself a terrible argument, but then Carey goes on to argue that there isn't much difference between what you learn in the elite colleges and the other colleges. True enough. But as Steve Krause rejoinds, "then that means that there actually is a lot of consistency and coherence in higher education." The article is classic Carey, running a contradiction to prove whatever he wants. And as Krause observes, "I guess what bothers me the most about Carey’s views here and in other places, notably in The End of College, is the amount of airtime it gets in places in the mainstream media like The New York Times." Too true. 

The UdG Agora Project (part 1 of ∞)
Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, Jul 30, 2015

I'm posting this partially because I will also be at the University of Guadalajara; for me it's the last week of August. I doubt that I will be able to manage a program as detailed and comprehensive as the one described by Alan Levine in this post, but through a talk and a couple of workshops I will be working with participants there to develop ideas around what we think personal learning should look like. So I will be seeking to build on the work done here, described in part as "the approach specified in the design and described by Tannis as focused around 'Studios'. It’s a metaphor that has long spoken to be as ideal for creativity and learning technology in a hands on design but also in proximity to others." Hence: Agora. To my Stoa, I guess. Guadalajara is a lovely city; I look forward to returning.

Five Ways Online Learning is Enabling Change in Post-Secondary Education
Contact North, Jul 30, 2015

Short report from Contact North emphasizing the affordances enabled by online learning. Here they are:

  • Access to knowledge, ideas and information
  • Community of learners
  • Mobile mentoring
  • Adaptive curriculum
  • Differentiated teaching

It's interesting, because some of these have to do with the enhanced communications capacity, while others have to do with the inherent capability of computers to process data.

Tablets in education
Michael Trucano, EduTech, Jul 30, 2015

This post contains links to 14 tablet initiatives in countries around the world (and another three in which the governments are taking them back). The article is generally sceptical in tone: "the evidence base when it comes to tablet use in schools and to support student learning is rather weak, and can be used in support of or against pretty much whatever scheme is being considered." Well, true. Because it's hard to have an evidence base for national tablet initiatives in developing nations based on "research to date (which) comes from schools in 'highly developed' (OECD) countries, relies on projects with small sample sizes, are of short duration and/or rely heavily on self-reported and/or qualitative data." The only way to know is to try, and to their credit, these nations are trying. Goodness knows, the developed world isn't stepping forth to meet the need. And it wasn't very long ago that the World Bank's answer was high-end videoconferencing facilities for business and small mobile phones for everyone else.

On Labor, Learning Conditions, and Affordable Education
Tiffany Kraft, Hybrid Pedagogy, Jul 30, 2015

"Here are three takeaways," writes Tiffany Kraft. "1) Students cannot afford the price we pay for higher education. 2) The debt-for-diploma exchange is gutting our Millennials. 3) The antidote for corporate academe is student activism." These have been true since I was a student in the 1980s (and hence, a student activist). Student activism was probably necessary, but certainly not sufficient. I'm not sure, after these 35 years, what would be sufficient.

PNBHS Haka for Mr. Dawson Tamatea's Funeral Service
PNBHS, YouTube, Jul 30, 2015

A brilliant tribute to a fallen teacher. I especially liked Megan Brown's comment: "I think what it is, at least from my perspective, is that haka requires the performer to cast aside any societal bonds that prevent men from expressing emotion, especially grief, as these boys would have been experiencing. Haka therefore permits and actively encourages men to be emotional. Whether that's angry, proud, respectful, or affected by sadness, it doesn't really matter. It allows men (and women, there are haka for women and women often back up men performing haka as well) to reach right down into their guts and voice what's in there with no fear of being shamed by others. There's something primal about it, it's visceral, and it's incredibly powerful. Very seldom do any of us, especially those of us living in predominantly Western societies, allow ourselves the chance to express emotion in this way. That is why it connects. Because it is raw and we don't let ourselves be raw."

Rethinking 'What Counts'
Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jul 30, 2015

This is a reprint of an Audrey Watters article that appeared in a paywall site back in April. She writes: "Learning is not a counting noun," says Dave Cormier, "so what should we count?" I first want to say that 'learning' is a verb :) but that the question is nonetheless valid: with walking we count steps or distance, with writing we count words or arguments, but what of learning? What is counted? What counts? Even if we do away with the language that leads us toward quantification, writes Watters, "how do we identify what matters?" My own answer to this question is at once simple and complex. What counts? Stillness. Balance. Harmony. Resilience. To me, the answer is a lot more about what we become, rather than what we acquire, which is why measurement is a challenge, if not impossible. It is, nonetheless, something we can recognize when we see it.

Here's How 20,000 Reddit Volunteers Fight Trolls, Spammers, And Played-Out Memes
Steven Melendez, Fast Company, Jul 30, 2015

Interesting article not only because it describes how Reddit's community of volunteers manages to filter the discussion forums, but also because it makes it clear the impact of unmoderated speech. "There are Chicago newspaper websites that have comment sections that are full of hate speech, and we wanted the Reddit community to be something different. We banned them. We silenced them. We removed their comments. We told them to go away... They can wreak havoc on our threads and really mess with people's heads. I don't think most people realize what little it takes to seriously damage someone" (I've combined a couple of quotes here). If you do not have 20,000 volunteers in a massive course, you have limited options: do without forums (the xMOOC approach), pay a lot of money for moderators, allow nasty and vile comments, or break into a network of multiple communities (the cMOOC approach).

Links and Resources

(presentations include slides and audio recordings)
RSS Feed:

Key Articles

Scholarly Articles

Cites:294 Educational Blogging (Local copy)
264 Learning objects: Resources for distance education worldwide (Local copy)
134 E-learning 2.0 (Local copy)
126 Models for sustainable open educational resources (Local copy)
88 The future of online learning (Local copy
75 Learning networks and connective knowledge (Local copy)
70 Design and reusability of learning objects in an academic context: A new economy of education (Local copy)
59 Resource profiles (Local copy)
40 Learning networks in practice (Local copy)
33 Semantic networks and social networks (Local copy)
35 An introduction to connective knowledge (Local copy)
27 Design, standards and reusability (Local copy)
23 EduSource: Canada's learning object repository network (Local copy)
22 An introduction to RSS for educational designers (Local copy)

(Cites from Google Scholar for an H-Index = 14)

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A World To Change, October 19, 2010.
Connectivism and Transculturality, May 16, 2010.
An Operating System for the Mind, September 19, 2009.
The Cloud and Collaboration, June 15, 2009.
Critical Thinking in the Classroom, June 5, 2009.
The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On, November 16, 2008.
Things You Really Need to learn:

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About Stephen Downes

Stephen Downes is a senior researcher for Canada's National Research Council and a leading proponent of the use of online media and services in education. As the author of the widely-read OLDaily online newsletter, Downes has earned international recognition for his leading-edge work in the field of online learning. He developed some of Canada's first online courses at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba. He also built a learning management system from scratch and authored the now-classic "The Future of Online Learning".

At the University of Alberta he built a learning and research portal for the municipal sector in that province, Munimall, and another for the Engineering and Geology sector, PEGGAsus. He also pioneered the development of learning objects and was one of the first adopters and developers of RSS content syndication in education. Downes introduced the concept of e-learning 2.0 and with George Siemens developed and defined the concept of Connectivism, using the social network approach to deliver open online courses to three thousand participants over two years.

Downes has been offering courses in learning, logic, philosophy both online and off since 1987, has 135 articles published in books, magazines and academic journals, and has presented his unique perspective on learning and technology more than 250 times to audiences in 17 countries on five continents. He is a habitual photographer, plays darts for money, and can be found at home with his wife Andrea and four cats in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.


Stephen Downes travaille pour le Conseil national de recherches du Canada, où il a servi en tant que chercheur principal, basé à Moncton, au Nouveau-Brunswick, depuis 2001. Affilié au Groupe des technologies de l'apprentissage et de la collaboration, Institut de technologie de l’information, Downes est spécialisé dans les domaines de l'apprentissage en ligne, les nouveaux médias, la pédagogie et la philosophie.

Downes est peut-être mieux connu pour son bulletin quotidien, OLDaily, qui est distribué par Internet, courriel et RSS à des milliers d'abonnés à travers le monde. Il a publié de nombreux articles à la fois en ligne et sur papier incluant The Future of Online Learning (1998), Learning Objects (2000), Resource Profiles (2003), et E-Learning 2.0 (2005). Il est un conférencier populaire, apparaissant à des centaines de manifestations à travers le monde au cours des quinze dernières années.

Vision Statement

I want and visualize and aspire toward a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through their avocations or lifestyle.

Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations - or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be.

This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence. This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward.

Canadians who gave their lives in service in Afghanistan

Hundreds of my IAAF Track & Field Photos from Moncton 2010

My calendar

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