Friday, September 03, 2004

ITI: Stephen Downes keynote

Stephen Downes gave the closing keynote and did a really good job, I thought. He's a heavy blogger, in fact his OLDaily blog is a daily wealth of knowledge about hot topics in our field that he finds on the internet. If you want to get more updates on the Instructional Technology Institute than I am providing, check out his blog for the last couple of days. He does a much better reporting and analysis job on this kind of stuff than I do.

Anyway, he tied in the three major themes of this conference: reusability, social software, and open learning. I thought he was a perfect closing keynote because he had taken pictures and notes from all the presentations he had seen and used them in his own presentation.

He's a visionary man. he said that “In general new technology is introduced in two stages … First, it duplicates existing products and services. Second, it obliterates them.”

Examples of this phenomenon are:
  • Blog vs. newspapers
  • Internet vs. Television
  • Skype vs. Telephone
  • Wikipedia vs. encyclopedia
Honestly, who reads an encyclopedia anymore when we have the internet? Will anyone read newspapers anymore once you've been thoroughly immersed in blogs? I used to be news reporter--nobody's more of a loyal newspaper reader than I am. But I can now get all the news I want through my aggregator (including the Daily Herald), so I'm canceling my DesNews subscription. I can even get Dilbert comics and Dave Barry's column through my aggregator, what more do I need?

Back to Stephen. He presented some dichotomies between models. The old model is broadcast, commercial, bundled, proprietary. The new model is open, network, free. He then asks:
"What has worked in the past?
FTP, email, usenet, the web, blogs, RSS …
What did these have in common?
They were …
  • - simple
  • - decentralized
  • - open – We could all play
  • - free, etc.
He then said that we are at the point now were in e-learning we have duplicated the existing model of education. The next step is to leave the model and go on to something new. He believes one thing we need to change is to stop trying to organize and structure e-learning. He quotes David Wiley that "Instead of trying to organize learning communities, we should focus on how learning communities can organize themselves."

My opinion? I'm not sure, but I think I'm halfway. We need general boundaries, but without dictating exactly how e-learners have to talk, walk, and listen. If we get too ordered, then we're like the pharisees and stifle their ability to grow. We should provide some general structure, and then let the communities dictate how they will relate and grow and we should be there as instructional designers to support them.

To finish, I'll paraphrase Stephen again:
"We have to gain our voice, to speak for ourselves, to reclaim our language, our media, our culture. Could we learn to read and write if only a small number of people had access to language? No, we need openness for everyone. Go fast, go cheap, let it go out of control."

He quotes a writer who describes it as 'Educhaos'. He feels we should "let go" and let learners take the digital medium to its deteministic end.

To paraphrase him again:

  • "Social software- we need a way to support conversations with content, and not just content.
  • Learning – we need to leverage the principles of self-organizing networks.
  • We need to transform learning … from something we do for people to something they do for themselves."
Which ties into our behavioristic/constructivist discussion this week, eh?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Rick,

Stephen is actually not of Educommons, he is with the National Research Council of Canada, Institute for Information Technology (e-Learning Research Group).

Rod Savoie (of the same Group)