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-five 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.


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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

World History Commons - Annotated Primary Sources for Students


This article points to a great resource that could serve as the basis for any number of educational activities, allowing students to "locate primary sources, including images, objects, media, and texts. Annotations by scholars contextualize sources." The annotations are brief and to the point, and I'm sure there's a lot of room to dig deeper (so I would use these as starting points and ask students to do more research). What, for example, would we say in 2021 about the Misión San Lorenzo de Picuris where "priests not only supervised the native peoples during worship, but also taught them to work and live according to Spanish customs" and which was "built with indigenous labor in the late-eighteenth century"?

Today: 6 Total: 6 Richard Byrne, Free Technology for Teachers, 2021/07/27 [Direct Link]

Cyndi Mcleod, Global University Systems Canada


This is a look at a skills training provider that has been recently expanding in Canada. "Its focus on preparing students for employment and its role in filling the country’s labour shortages." The article is structured as an interview with chief executive officer Cyndi Mcleod. "One of the focuses for GUS Canada right now is very much around technology, business and the creative industries. And those are the areas where Canada is looking for skilled professionals.We’re also very focused on micro credentials."

Today: 7 Total: 7 Viggo Stacey, The PIE News, 2021/07/27 [Direct Link]

YouTubers are making a living on videos about Microsoft software


The focus of this article is of course on whether people can make a profit making YouTube videos, but I'm more interested in the way we can increase access to learning resources with or without monetary gain. "People often turn to YouTube when they want to get a better understanding of Microsoft software, and while Microsoft has plenty of its own videos available on YouTube, they don’t always come up at the top of the site’s search results." That is how it should be; one of the major issues with Microsoft's help function is that you end up with help from Microsoft, which more often than not isn't very useful.

Today: 6 Total: 6 Jordan Novet, CNBC, 2021/07/27 [Direct Link]

Can AI learn to reason about the world like children?


There are two parts to the claim referenced in the title: first, do children actually learn as described here, and second, can an AI do the same thing? The answers to each are interesting. First up: how children learn. "Even before they speak their first words," we are told, "human babies develop mental models about objects and people." These models go beyond appearance and include "inferences about what other agents are doing or wish to accomplish." Next, can an AI do this? The paper being discussed proposes the Action, Goal, Efficiency, coNstraint, uTility (AGENT) test "to assess how well AI systems can mimic this basic skill." What's key here is that this is all pre-linguistic. What's interesting is whether we need traditional (and usually language-based) tools like models and whether we need cognitivist concepts like beliefs and intentions. I'm saying no.

Today: 53 Total: 53 Ben Dickson, TechTalks, 2021/07/26 [Direct Link]

Connection and resilience in close-knit Kaikōura community


This article is about the response to the 2016 earthquake at  Kaikōura High School in New Zealand. "We had a series of whānau hui and all this mamae (pain and hurt) came out because it needed to," reports principal John Tait. But what's significant to me are the changes in perspective about what's needed in schools as input and how we measure effectiveness as outputs. Regarding the former: "what the earthquake did for us as a school was to make it absolutely clear that the important goal was people’s wellbeing. I think it’s changed an aspect of our thinking about young people and education. It’s made us very clear that wellbeing is essential to successful learning." And success is measured not by grades but real outcomes: "Māori achievement isn’t just about NCEA levels. A huge achievement for Māori is the fact that we never had our young people go to Year 13. Now we’ve got huge numbers who go to Year 13."

Today: 125 Total: 125 Education Gazette, 2021/07/26 [Direct Link]

China bars for-profit tutoring in core school subjects -document


Not surprisingly, the business press is apoplectic over this announcement from the Chinese government banning for-profit tutoring tutoring and restricting foreign investment in the sector. But the new measures, intended to "to reduce burdens on students and family finances", have a reasonable justification: "schools should be responsible for student learning, rather than tutoring companies," said Chinese president Xi Jinping in June. "The out-of-school education industry has been 'severely hijacked by capital,' according to a separate article posted on the site of the Ministry of Education. 'That broke the nature of education as welfare.'" The newly non-profit companies are also prohibited from working children on weekends, holidays and vacation. The coverage I've seen in the media has focused almost exclusively on the loss of profits, with little analysis on the changes that will be felt by families and children. Image: Opera News.

Today: 110 Total: 110 Samuel Shen, Tony Munroe, Julie Zhu, Tom Westbrook, Reuters, 2021/07/26 [Direct Link]

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