Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Stephen Downes works with the Digital Technologies Research Centre at the National Research Council of Canada specializing in new instructional media and personal learning technology. His degrees are in Philosophy, specializing in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. He has taught for the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, Grand Prairie Regional College and Assiniboine Community College. His background includes expertise in journalism and media, both as a prominent blogger and as founder of the Moncton Free Press online news cooperative.  He is one of the originators of the first Massive Open Online Course, has published frequently about online and networked learning, has authored learning management and content syndication software, and is the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily. Through a thirty year career Downes has contributed pioneering work in the fields of online learning games, learning objects and metadata, podcasting, and open educational resources. Recent projects include:gRSShopper, a personal learning environment; E-Learning 3.0, a course on new e-learning technologies; research and development in the use of distributed ledger technology in learning applications; and research on ethics, analytics and the duty of care. Downes is a member of NRC's Research Ethics Board. He is a popular keynote speaker and has spoken in three dozen countries on six continents.


DONATE TO DOWNES.CA ~ ~ Vision Statement ~ ~

Stephen Downes Photo
h-card: Stephen Downes,, Casselman Canada

Contact: · · · · ·
Subscribe: · · · · · · ·

Coronavirus / Covid19 quick reference kit, to take your class or conference online cheaply and in a hurry:

Creating an Online Class or Conference - Quick Tech Guide

Students’ sense-making of personalised feedback based on learning analytics


The core argument in this paper (19 page PDF) is that students' perception of feedback from learning analytics has an impact on how they regulate their own learning (see the diagram), which means that (in theory, at least) if you can tailor the feedback to individuals you can have a greater impact on processes like goal-setting. As always (from my perspective) it's really hard to work from such vague terms and imprecise measurements such as, say, self-perception of motivation, to recommendations for specific individually tailored prompts. I mean, what do you make of this? "I think some of the ways it might have recommended might not have been part of the normal peoples' way of studying. ... personally I didn't do any of the [e-book] because that's not how I like to do it." Still - what we would do is exactly what the conclusion says we should do: talk the students through their dislike or particular tools and methods.

Today: 60 Total: 60 Lisa-Angelique Lim,, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 2021/01/01 [Direct Link]

An introduction to data science and machine learning with Microsoft Excel


To be clear, you probably shouldn't do machine learning in Excel. As one Reddit comment said, it's like learning to drive in a Model-T. But still, if you're comfortable with Excel, why not? This article summarizes a book describing machine learning in Excel, and where there are bits and pieces in columns elsewhere (I searched), you'd probably want to pay the 30 Euros at APress  (their "dedicated site for Canada" leads to the U.S. site, which is more of an insult than a convenience). That's a far sight cheaper than the $2795 course (delivered virtually) from Global Knowledge and a little cheaper than the $10/month for a bundle from Packt, but not as cheap as Microsoft's own documentation, which is free.


Today: 52 Total: 52 Ben Dickson, TechTalks, 2021/01/01 [Direct Link]

What’s Ahead For 2021? Five Lessons For The Coming Year.


I am in my won way a futurist and so I feel obligated to post at least a couple sets of predictions from other people. The third and fourth predictions in this post are noteworthy (the rest are throwaways). The third looks at the difference between business-centered and people-centered leadership, and these (mostly) translate to education. The fourth looks at the topic of the 'employee experience' and while this might seem like a lark, the last year made clear just how important it is. This, again, translates to education, for both teachers and students. "It demands a whole nest of integrated digital tools (read about IBM’s focus here) that go from case management to knowledge management to safe workplace to daily productivity."

Today: 55 Total: 55 Josh Bersin, 2021/01/01 [Direct Link]



In a meeting a few days ago I was asked to predict what's upcoming. I had two items, one of which matches what Matthias Melcher in this post: the resurgence of anti-technology sentiment. A lot of it will be expressed as 'getting back to normal', and a lot of it will be expressed as 'what a disaster digital learning was in 2020'. As Melcher says, "people are craving for the real, the genuine and the authentic." Maybe. And maybe there's a point to what he describes as Luddism. But I think that a lot of people, for a lot of things, won't want to go back. (p.s. the second prediction? I think we'll begin in 2021 to consider the huge deficits the pandemic created, and that by 2022 education will be in a full-blown public funding crisis, the severity of which depends on your particular government). Image: Forbes predictions.

Today: 64 Total: 64 Matthias Melcher, x28's New Blog, 2021/01/01 [Direct Link]

Recordings of Contact North/ATD’s Learning and Technology Conference now available


Tony Bates notes that "Contact North and the Association for Talent and Development have now made available video recordings of all the presentations at their virtual conference on December 8-9" and offers short summaries of "some jewels amongst them." Among those is a summary of my own talk, but I don't know what he thought because he says only that " this was not what I was expecting from Stephen." I'll take that as success! He also highlight's Phil Hill's talk (Hill is always excellent), Preeti Raman on blended learning, and Hewitt and Brett on skills, microlearning and emerging technologies. This article lists the entire set of downloads (scroll to the bottom); they're only available until March 19, 2021 but you can use the Video DownloadHelper Firefox plugin to download and save the webm recordings for later viewing.

Today: 103 Total: 290 Tony Bates, Online learning and distance education resources, 2020/12/31 [Direct Link]

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions: On Technology, Games-Based Learning, and Erasure


The key argument in this post can be found somewhere near the middle: "The uncritical buy-in from administration to the idea of technology and games as a cure-all for all things that need to be cured distracts from questions of basic economic, social, and emotional inequity that plague public education." Well, I agree, which is why I take pains to argue for greater social equity (real reforms that improve public services and address income inequality, among other things) alongside educational technology. But attacking the "uncritical buy-in from administration" is to pick an easy target. There are many more subtle, critical and effective arguments for educational technology, arguments that take into account providing support to under-served populations. And honestly, I don't know why critics such as the author defend the old way of doing things when the old way is so demonstrably ineffective, as evidenced by the very poverty the author rails against.

Today: 67 Total: 185 Joshua Jackson, Hybrid Pedagogy, 2020/12/31 [Direct Link]

[All the Posts]
Thanks to Reclaim Hosting for their generous donation to support this site.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.