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

Ikhwân al-Safâ’


This is a really bad article about a really interesting topic. The Ikhwân al-Safâ’ is a set of notes - an introductory encyclopedia, really - on science and medicine authored and distributed in the tenth century CE. "It consists of extremely heterogeneous materials, reworked to represent the whole educational training intended for an élite," writes Wolfgang Schwarz in his summary, and so you can see how this would be one of the earliest examples of distance education. I'm rather less than enthusiatic about the Stanford Encyclopedia article because it takes a long time to get around to even telling readers what the Ikhwân al-Safâ’ is and what it contains, first spending eleven long paragraphs discussing disputes about authorship and another section in deep discussion about its ideological commitments. I recommend starting in section 4 and then jumping to section 6 and only then (if you're truly interested) reading the author's vast redactive scholarship. Image: Orientalia.

Today: 26 Total: 169 Carmela Baffioni, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2021/05/14 [Direct Link]

GitHub's Journey with Web Standards and Web Components


Personally I still use jQuery for things like text editors and sliders and such. This article describes how "GitHub has been working for the last few years to move away from jQuery and run its interface entirely on Web standards, specifically Web Components." More. Should I change my strategy? Not yet - the "large library" consists of only 17 elements (and zero demos, so you have to install them to even see what they look like). That doesn't mean that none of this will be important in the future - there are some valid criticisms of jQuery and I can understand GitHub's motivation. But building tools for GitHub isn't the same as building tools for the world, and they're not there yet.

Today: 14 Total: 100 Sergio De Simone, InfoQ, 2021/05/14 [Direct Link]

Educational Technology & Education Conferences #45 June to December 2021


Clayton R. Wright's notable list of education and technology conferences is now available. He writes, "The conference world is still in a state of flux. I was unable to find information for about 18% of the events that were held in 2019. And, some major events seem to have been replaced by a series of webinars. As people get vaccinated, more events will be held in a hybrid or face-to-face manner. But, some may quickly reverse back to an online format which may maintain the same dates or stretch the online events over days or weeks. During the Covid-19 pandemic, events, dates, titles, and locations may change quickly and some events may be cancelled. Thus, CHECK the website of an event you are interested in more than once.  

"The Covid-19 pandemic has led a number of organizations to re-think their operations. Associations are particularly affected as many depend on face-to-face events to help generate funds to pay for staff and support activities, such as publishing refereed journals. We may want online events to be free, but it does cost someone time and resources to organize and produce them consistently year after year. Not everyone can afford to volunteer the significant amount of time required to produce a quality event.  As most 2021 professional development events have an online option, it is possible to sample events from all over the world without leaving the comfort of your home. Do take the opportunity to participate in events that previously may have been out of reach."

Today: 39 Total: 381 Clayton R. Wright, Stephen's Web, 2021/05/14 [Direct Link]

How to use RSS feeds to boost your productivity


RSS is of course a staple in my toolbox. I use it every day, I've built applications around it, and it gives me this huge advantage in keeping up with developments and discussions in the field. This article is presented in the context of a Zapier marketing campaign for 'email subscriptions to RSS'. This is a service offered by other companies as well; I've been using it in Feedly for the last year. Tip of the day: "Some job search sites, like We Work Remotely, offer RSS feeds for each of their categories of jobs that you can subscribe to for updates." Again, note, this is a marketing post, and readers should be aware that the Zapier features touted can also be performed using other (free) applications.

Today: 16 Total: 159 Jessica Greene, Zapier, 2021/05/14 [Direct Link]

CC Search to join


I'm not sure exactly what is meant by "join" here, other than that "Automattic has hired key members of the CC Search team and will sponsor their contributions." This is at first blush a good thing, as development had stalled, as evidenced by this frozen GitHub repository. But does "join" mean "acquired" here? Will the company (WordPress, or Automattic, or whoever is in charge) continue to support (or allow) the search API, or does it become an exclusive WordPress feature? And, for that matter, why can't Creative Commons support what seems to me to be one of its most important services?

Today: 20 Total: 187 Matt Mullenweg, Unlucky in Cards, 2021/05/13 [Direct Link]

Blackbird Code - Overview and First Impressions from My Students


Blackbird's recent marketing campaign began some time in April and if you're teaching computer science you've probably heard of it by now. The sales pitch is that it is "the world’s first educational version of JavaScript." As this article describes it, Blackbird "enables middle school students and teachers to learn real-world coding skills in a supportive, educational environment." Maybe, but it's hard to see this as a world's first anything. This genre has been around for ages and similar supportive environments for Javascript (among many other languages) are widely used by students. Like Codecademy, it consists of "lessons are arranged in progressive units." Maybe we could say it's the world's first Codecademy for Javascript, except again, it isn't. probably the most accurate bit of marketing is, as Richard Byrne observes, that it is "used by teachers who don't have any prior coding experience."

Today: 21 Total: 173 Richard Byrne, Free Technology for Teachers, 2021/05/13 [Direct Link]

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