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.

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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


For Some Black Students, Remote Learning Has Offered A Chance To Thrive

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I don't know what the statistics on this would be overall, but it's worth noting that the impact on individuals can be significant. As the article says, for Black students like Josh, "in addition to learning algebra and coping with social awkwardness, they're often navigating an educational system that historically hasn't supported them.... (but) for Josh and kids like him, learning from home has given them a chance to thrive." Historically we've simply been blind to the shortcomings of in-person learning, but now, having focused on the shortcomings of remote learning, we're more focused on shortcomings in general.

Today: 4 Total: 4 Elizabeth Miller, Mind/Shift, 2021/03/02 [Direct Link]

Making Education Research Relevant

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This is an engaging and interesting article, well worth taking the time to read. The central focus is on the question of why teachers ignore the scientific evidence that is "regularly invoked in defense of one classroom practice or another." There are several reasons, but in the end they boil down to the idea that the research as conducted simply isn't relevant to their classroom experience. For example, a result that shows "x is better than nothing" isn't helpful to a teacher who considering a range of different options. Moreover, it is rare that a single best practice applies for all circumstances; context matters. Now I don't think all this is as easy to fix as the authors suggest; you can't just "start with with whatever trusted intervention is considered the current 'gold standard' for the desired outcome and used that as the control group." For most things, there is no 'gold standard'. So there needs to be, at a minimum, a back-and-forth with teachers to identify the context and intent. That's why a whole discipline called 'knowledge mobilization' emerged' a number of years ago. And to the extent that this doesn't happen, teachers will continue to ignore what is essentially uninformed research.

Today: 62 Total: 62 Daniel T. Willingham, David B. Daniel, Education Next, 2021/03/02 [Direct Link]

What are the key themes associated with the positive learning experience in MOOCs? An empirical investigation of learners’ ratings and reviews

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This paper is really smart on a number of levels. It endorses a "students as co-creators" approach to course design, making their responses part of the design process. It uses a third-party site to collect reviews because several MOOC platforms don't support student feedback. It uses Leximancer, "a data-mining tool which extracts key concepts from collections of textual documents." It surveys a large number of varied responses - 8475 ratings and reviews submitted for 1794 MOOCs. It recognizes "there are underlying differences between MOOCs and credit-bearing university courses, and learning outcomes valued in traditional HEIs (e.g. achievement, persistence) may not be the best indicators to represent MOOC learning outcomes." And it produces a useful list of six propositions for promoting the learning experience in MOOCs, which I would summarize as follows::

  • provide realistic learning contexts and instructional conditions
  • design for mental challenge and stimulation
  • design the course content, materials, and communications to generate interest
  • create high-quality video lectures
  • employ video lectures to simplify complex, difficult concepts
  • address learners’ queries.

Today: 114 Total: 114 Ruiqi Deng, Pierre Benckendorff, International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 2021/03/02 [Direct Link]

Open Education Challenge Series

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Yesterday while reading Alan Levine's post I confused Open ETC Inspire with Open Education Challenge Series, then saw immediately after that 'How to Submit', and the pattern-matcher in my brain said 'contest'. It's not a contest, of course, it's an exercise where people recommend inspiring OpenETC sites, offering some words of explanation why. Atoning for my error, I read the post much more carefully, and this led me to the aforementioned Open Education Challenge Series, which (more accurately this time) is a set of ten challenges that take ten minutes or less to complete. It's intended for people new to OER, it started March 1, but hey, nobody says you have to follow the schedule. Via Alan Levine.

Today: 70 Total: 70 Carolee Clyne, Josie Gray, Clint Lalonde, Krista Lambert, Melanie Meyers, BCcampus, 2021/03/02 [Direct Link]

The Future of Web Software Is HTML-over-WebSockets

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I understand the criticism of frameworks and Single page Applications (SPA). But I think there are many questions unanswered, but the core of  argument is right here: "Finalized in 2011, support for WebSockets in modern browsers ramped up throughout the 2010s and is now fully supported in all modern browsers. With the help of a small bit of client-side JavaScript, you get a full-duplex socket connection between browser and server. Data can pass both ways, and can be pushed from either side at any time, no user-initiated request needed." I remember Wired coming out with a huge banner headline PUSH in 1997. That's what this is. Maybe it is the time for push. But I have my doubts.

Today: 21 Total: 125 Matt E. Patterson, A List Apart, 2021/03/01 [Direct Link]

Starlink changes everything. It may be the most important form of learning technology of the century

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One thing we hear every time we talk about online learning outside developed urban areas is the problem of access to the internet. The concern is so pervasive, and basically stops all other discussion, that I just want to wave my hands and say "I know, I know" and keep talking about videoconferencing. But of course I can't. That's why Starlink is so important. It provides internet access - proper broadband internet access - to rural and remote regions worldwide. And that makes it vitally important to online learning. Donald Clark has the details, so I won't repeat them all here. But after all the false starts (for example: WiMax) this may be the real deal.

Today: 31 Total: 152 Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, 2021/03/01 [Direct Link]

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