Stephen Downes

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Vision Statement

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. Downes is a member of NRC's Research Ethics Board. He is a popular keynote speaker and has spoken at conferences around the world.

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Stephen Downes,, Casselman Canada

How to use Perplexity in your daily workflow
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Perplexity is an AI chat application that answers questions for you. What makes it really useful is that it finds and cites its sources. I haven't worked with it yet (I certainly will) so I can't say how well it works, but this article is a really good starting point, offering practical applications and a number of examples.


Today: 104 Total: 104 Michael Spencer, Alex McFarland, AI Supremacy, 2024/07/23 [Direct Link]
Dispatches from the media apocalypse
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A long, detailed, and fascinating post from Ben Werdmuller on the future of online news. "There are two pivotal facts for every newsroom," he writes. "Their work must reach an audience, and someone must pay for it. The first is a prerequisite of the second: if nobody discovers the journalism, nobody will pay for it. So, reaching and growing an audience is crucial." The same is true for educational institutions, which lag news media by about 10-20 years. And what's crucial in the current environment is that the lock-down of social media and the sceptre of the 'dead internet' have made reaching an audience almost impossible.

Today: 48 Total: 323 Ben Werdmuller, Werd I/O, 2024/07/22 [Direct Link]
Things I was wrong about pt2: The Death of the VLE
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Another of Msttin Weller's "I was wrong" series that I like so so much. Here again he was not alone. "I think during the late 00s we were all still caught up in web 2.0 fever, and let's face it, naive about the robustness of third party tools." Instead, those tools all died (or became their own sort of silo) snd the LMS - which by now is fully entrenched into administative systems - survived.

Today: 41 Total: 387 Martin Weller, The Ed Techie, 2024/07/22 [Direct Link]
Academic authors 'shocked' after Taylor & Francis sells access to their research to Microsoft AI
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All I can say is, what did you expect? "Authors claim they have not been told about the AI deal, were not given the opportunity to opt out and are receiving no extra payment." I think it's good that academic papers are being used to train AI - it's far better than using Twitter posts. But deals like this are characteristic of what we will get if we continue to support a closed-access publication system. If we want open access to AI, we have to offer open access to our publications. If you don't like the idea of corporate AI running everything, then you have to be willing to contribute to training the alternative. Simply saying "there should be no AI" is not an alternative. Via Robin DeRosa.

Today: 39 Total: 249 Matilda Battersby, The Bookseller, 2024/07/22 [Direct Link]
After Tesla and OpenAI, Andrej Karpathy’s startup aims to apply AI assistants to education
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According to this story, "Andrej Karpathy, former head of AI at Tesla and researcher at OpenAI, is launching Eureka Labs, an 'AI native' education platform." While most pundits will criticize the AI component (including the three-handed student in the 'school of the future' image) my own concern is that while the vision of AI may be futuristic, the vision of education doesn't step at all beyond the traditional collegiate model. Why oh why if we had AI in our pockets would we build a cathedral-sized learning institution out of glass?

Today: 48 Total: 243 Rebecca Bellan, TechCrunch, 2024/07/22 [Direct Link]
DIF announces DWN Community Node
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According to this item, "the Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF) today announced the availability of the Decentralized Web Node (DWN) Community Instance... personal data stores that eliminate the need for individuals to trust apps to responsibly use and protect their data." Now I haven't tried using this yet and don't know exactly how it works. But it does relate to a use case I'm working on - creating a web application that lives entirely in the browser using nothing but local storage. DWN would allow me to use the same credentials on different computers - at least, I think that's how it would work. (Why a browser-based application? Because, as someone once said, "the fediverse lives in the client". More on this in the fall.

Today: 6 Total: 145 Decentralized Identity Foundation - Blog, 2024/07/19 [Direct Link]

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Jul 23, 2024 07:37 a.m.

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