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

From Maps to Apps: Introducing Students to Argument-Mapping


In 2001 I was given a three-month fellowship to work in Australia at the University of Melbourne with Tim van Gelder, this not on the basis of my work in online learning, but because I had posted my Guide to the Logical Fallacies online. His project at the time was to create and market argument-mapping technology. I helped with that a bit, created some web applications for him, and came home ready to launch my OLDaily newsletter. It was a good three months. The appeal of argument mapping has never waned. It seemed like a natural to me and to anyone who had been working in network-based approaches to thinking, as van Gelder certainly was. The idea is that there is a flow of logic (or truth, or inference) across a set of interconnected statements; the truth of one has an impact on the truth of the others. Logic (and critical reasoning generally) just is a way of working out that mapping.

Today: 31 Total: 31 Chad Mohler, Daily Nous, 2020/11/25 [Direct Link]

Let’s ‘build back better’ on post-COVID digital transformation


I'm sure I live artificial intelligence as much as the next guy. Maybe even more, especially the type of AI that employs neural networks and draws connections between things. And so I like the idea of using artificial intelligence to support learning, and I have no doubt we will. But not like this, "where using the full potential of advanced technologies can personalise learning to the students' needs and wellbeing, modernise assessment and harmonise the digital and physical campus." That's just the S of SAMR, and greatly under-estimates what we will be able to do with advanced AI technology. If you're just thinking of how AI can make existing institutions (even universities) bigger and better, you're probably missing the point of AI. Technology advances always and only when it takes institutional capacities and puts them into the hands (and control) of individuals.

Today: 45 Total: 45 Paul Feldman, JISC, 2020/11/25 [Direct Link]

It’s easy to mistake engagement for learning. Here’s how I learned the difference.


This is a case, I think, of missing the point (though you don't have to read it that way; it's just my opinion). The author illustrates the point that 'engagement is not the same as learning' with a (probably fictional) interaction with an assistant principal. "Laughter and joy filled the room. But were they learning, or was it just 'pretty'? ... He asked me to look at students’ reflections to see what they were retaining. Sure enough, more of the responses were about the activity than about the content." I would observe that they were still learning, and more to the point, learning the important lessons about creativity and communication and presentation rather than the trivialities of fact-based content. Anyhow, I think the take-aways from this article are worth repeating: don't give up on engagement, learn each tool before moving on, build relationships, and be reflective. Via Joanne Jacobs.

Today: 46 Total: 46 Precious Boyle, ChalkBeat, 2020/11/25 [Direct Link]

Using Student Data to Identify Future Criminals: A Privacy Debacle


According to this article, "a news report last week revealed that a county police department in Florida uses sensitive data from the local school district to keep a secret list of middle and high school students it deems as potential future criminals." The story reports, "In its intelligence manual, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office says most police departments have no way of knowing if kids have 'low intelligence' or come from 'broken homes' — factors that can predict whether they’ll break the law. 'Fortunately,' it continues, 'these records are available to us.'"

Today: 61 Total: 61 Mark Lieberman, Education Week, 2020/11/25 [Direct Link]

Esoteric metrics based on analyzing extensive data


This is a Twitter thread asserting that "metrics based on analyzing extensive data about employee activities" has been built into Microsoft 365. Here's a promotional video advertising the feature. According to Wolfie Christl, "Employers/managers can analyze employee activities at the individual level (!), for example, the number of days an employee has been sending emails, using the chat, using 'mentions' in emails etc." Here is the Microsoft documentation describing this function. In education, companies like Chegg are helping administrators catch cheating, while at the same time companies that help students cheat (so-called 'contract cheating' sites) are in some cases blackmailing former clients.

Today: 55 Total: 55 Wolfie Christl, Twitter, 2020/11/25 [Direct Link]

What happens when students launch their work to an audience?


This post reminds me of the early days of writing about blogging. "Participatory cultures remind us that creativity isn’t a solitary endeavor. It is nearly always to and from a community. Great ideas rarely happen in isolation. Instead, they are a part of the constant sharing back and forth of what we are learning, doing, and making. This is why it’s so valuable to show our work."

Today: 57 Total: 159 John Spencer, 2020/11/24 [Direct Link]

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