On the Twelfth Day of Christmas – My 12 Favourite Gifts from OLDaily

‘Tis the season, eh? I’m feeling so grateful, that in addition to this year’s Nessie’s, I thought I would give thanks for the bounty that is OLDaily and Stephen Downes.

Stephen pretty much does not need an introduction in our field; OLDaily is, by my reckoning, still pretty much the “paper of record” in the edu-blogosphere and I have a hard time thinking of any other individual who has had such an impact on the direction and thinking of educational technology as him over the past decade. I know I am sounding like a bit of a fanboy, and heck, I am, but don’t think it’s all been smooth sailing. I regular challenge Stephen in his comment area and elsewhere, and some of my struggles to understand what he is saying have lasted almost as long as I’ve known him. And this is one of the things I am most grateful for, because that is how I learn, by challenging, by contesting, by not getting it and pushing until I do. And so far, through it all, I have felt respected, heard and considered. I don’t think Stephen is *right* about *everything,* but I’m not looking for him to be “right about everything,” to give me THE answers. Those I need to figure out for myself. But I consider it an honour and pleasure to count him as one of the people I constantly learn from and with.

Which got me reflecting today on which of his posts, articles and presentations have had the biggest impact on my learning over the past almost decade I’ve been reading him (a tall order, considering that on his article page alone he lists 1134 items!) Below, in no particular order, is my selection of “OLDaily’s Greatest Hits”:

elearning 2.0

I would guess this is possibly one of Stephen’s best known and most cited articles. It is an early effort and for a pretty general audience/magazine, and so does not, for me, represent his best writing on the subject, but it pulled together as well as anyone had the trends we were all starting to see (which, also somewhat following Stephen, I took to calling “network learning” instead of this 2.0 moniker.)

“Role of educator in network learning”

A more recent talk, and one which put more flesh to the earlier shorthand instruction to “model” for learners that had been the response for a few years on how instructors should behave in this new world of ubiquitous content, participatory culture, peer to peer support and networks.

Things you really need to learn

As I wrote in a comment recently when Stephen re-posted this 2006 article, the thing I’ve always admired most about this piece is that, alongside the more conventional “academic” skills Stephen also lists “empathy” and “self care” as important things to learn. What I especially like is that these don’t feel like nice liberal values added on; in my understanding, these are actually key pieces of what it means to know.

Groups vs. Networks

I am still not convinced we have this completely right; there is definitely an important distinction, but I have a feeling that by focusing on these as “entities” (groups and networks) we are missing other ways of looking at this that don’t result in polarizing binaries; that perhaps looking at it from the perspective of participation and belonging-ness might ultimately evolve a more nuanced understanding. But I am not sure. All I know is that this distinction has resonated with many and served as a useful opening to explain the difference that could be had in networks from learning in pre-constrained cohorts and classrooms. See also “Communities and Networks” for additional exploration of this.

RSS for Educators

I had forgotten this one but luckily Alan Levine reminded me in response to my twitter shoutout about this absolutely critical essay from Stephen. I think it would be safe to position Stephen as the first, or certainly one of the first, to start promoting RSS as a simple and effective means of syndicating content, especially learning content. The Three Amigos deserve a lot of credit for raising awareness about RSS in 2003, but this article preceeded that talk by almost a year, and I think they all recall it as a seminal piece that inspired that work (work I will forever kick myself for not getting, or getting on board with, at the time I was invited – El Guapo forever shall I be.) Indeed, in the annals of ed tech guides, this deserves a spot up there with @cogdog’s own Writing HTML, high praise in my books.

Models of Sustainable OER

I’m interested to hear where Stephen stands on this paper now. It was written in 2006 and for its time was absolutely the most comprehensive write up I know of looking at the sustainability of OER (conceived in the sense formal institutional publishing efforts.) And I don’t know that much of the thinking, from that perspective, has changed much. This year’s Open Ed 2010 took as its theme “Impact and Sustainability” as I believe did 2008 (and maybe even 2007?) No, what’s changed is realizing (and I don’t think this is new, for many including Stephen) that this sustainability issue rears its head when you try to institutionalize sharing or share stuff after the fact; that if instead you simply start from a posture of openness, and don’t coerce people to share who aren’t actually interested in sharing, that it just happens. Like OLDaily. Like the MOOCs. Which is why I’m interested in Stephen’s take now; because I don’t think this paper is “wrong,” I just think he, and others, have moved on from forcing the round peg into this square hole.

An Introduction to Connective Knowledge

I would warrant this is the article that Stephen should be best known for, and ultimately may become so, but that likely fewest people have read. Because it is not an easy read. Not because it is not well written. But because it really pushes you to think beyond simplistic notions of knowledge and knowing. And while Stephen seems to have made peace with George Siemen’s Conectivism, I have always looked to this piece for the much deeper version of that slogan. It is also, in my recollection, the first place where Stephen started talking about the key network properties of “diversity, autonomy, openness, and connectivity,” a set of heuristics anyone would do well to memorize for looking at how effective one’s network interventions are likely to be.

No, Really, This is What We Want

I know there’s a few people who love this talk for what it didn’t do – it was a keynote for an IMS Standards meeting, and instead of pandering to the mechanistic vision of learning that has always lain beneath that agenda, Stephen got up there and blew it out of the water. I only got to see it on video (if I recollect correctly) as I came down with chicken pox the day before I was to attend that meeting in Vancouver. But it is still legendary in some circles. See also “One Standard for All: Why we don’t want it and why we don’t need it” for another brilliant challenge to the metadata orthodoxy.

Community Blogging (NV ’05)

For me, this talk was significant because it was my first (and one of the only) occasions to hear Stephen speak live. I want to say this was the first Northern Voice (I think, I’m getting old.) The one piece that really stuck with me in this entire talk was Stephen’s distinction of “groups of proximity” to “groups of affinity” (which I take as an early phrasing of the “groups vs. networks” distinction.) I can remember already viscerally wrestling with this as the talk was still going on, wanting to burst out of my seat to engage with him on it. Not that it was wrong, just that it was a distinction that got me thinking (and feeling) overtime.

Open Content, Enclosure and Conversion

I don’t know for sure if this was the start, but certainly this piece was an early foray into the ongoing discussion between another friend and mentor of mine, David Wiley, and Stephen on the merits of Non-commercial licensing of Open resources. This piece also represents for me the clearest example of where, over time, I have come about face and now agree with something that at first I didn’t get at all. From a purely theoretical point of view, which is how I first approached this issue, the fears of the potential of commercialization seem not well founded, as the free and open version should always be there. But I have come to see that in the actual world, the ability of commercial entities to enclose and obscure access to free and open versions of content they have exploited is not only very real but a natural extension of their existing business practices. The tricky part, of course, is the argument about not-for-profits and other educational organizations needing to resell improved content to cover costs, something I expect many in the free and open world don’t want to prohibit. I do not know the answer for sure; I do know that on a personal level I deal with this on an ad hoc basis, which in some ways runs completely against the entire purpose of the CC licensing scheme…

How to attend a conference

Simply put, good advice from a veteran conference attendee and another great example of the network teacher as model

Speaking in LOLCats

This is another real hidden gem; it is easy to mis-understand the depth of the argument here, couched as it is with the introductory piece about “lolcats.” I hope Stephen will consider re-riffing on this again, and indeed will keep experimenting with “form” as he explore this and other messages, because I have the sense that from the perspective of radically contextualizing technology and knowing, this talk and approach offers one of the best avenues.

What not to Build

We need more posts like this, especially from people inside institutions stnading up to the next big project that comes along which sure sounds like a good idea at the time, but doesn’t understand that the network doesn’t stop at your doorway. That sounds harsh, I’m sure, and I know there are many good reasons why we end up building yet another system. Indeed, as my understanding of the role of “users” in regards to educational technology changes, I am less and less offended by the notion of local systems; it is more understanding the kinds we need to build (or help/encourage faculty and students to build) instead of continuing to impose monolithic, centralized approaches that neither encourage autonomy nor engage well with the net as a whole.

So, Stephen, for all you do, this posts for you. Have a great Christmas and a fantastic 2011. Cheers, Scott

The Nessie Awards – 2010 Edition

The Nessie AwardOnce again, it’s that time of the year. I time for pleading, needling, pandering, giving and receiving. No, not Christmas, you silly rabbit – Awards Season!

I know you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your seats for this year’s Nessie Awards (this year with a new Award Statue – the old one seemed to scare the children) so, here we go:

Favourite New Subscription(s)

A brand new category this year. And… it’s a tie! Between two posterous blogs. And two Brits who I got to meet for the first time last summer.

David Kernohan works as managing the UK OER initiative for JISC, but his blog at http://dkernohan.posterous.com/ is intended to, as he says, “deal(ing) with the gaps between my ‘day job’ at JISC and my general personal interest in openness and education policy.” And that it does, with incisive clarity. Since I started following in July, David has been absolutely on fire with a string of posts about the de-funding of education in the UK as well as the ins and outs of OER.

Joss Winn is the owner of the other winning site, http://stuck.josswinn.org/, which is markedly different than David’s. Joss uses this posterous site to gather clippings, sometimes with notes and commentary, about his latest (and I must say – prolific) readings. His focus is often around resiliency, peak oil and Marxist theory, and I greatly credit reading his feed and some wonderful exchanges with Joss over the last 6 months for en-courage-ing me in my own pursuit of these topics, interests I’ve always had but always sublimated so as to be a polite Canadian.

The “Blog which Posts Least Often and Yet whose Every Post I Anxiously Await” Award

This next award is a recurring category with some fairly distinguished past. recipients. This year’s recipient is not as well known but is even closer to my heart. This year’s award goes to my friend and colleague Paul Stacey for his site, Ed Tech Frontier. Paul is not a prolific blogger, but each post is incredibly well written and thought through. Paul really does deserve more credit as a thought leader in the field of Open Educational Resources and is one of the Canadian’s in my opinion making the biggest practical difference in the field, not waiting for changes that may never come but helping to transform government funding from within.

The “Blog whose Posts remain ‘Keep Unread’ in my Reader longest (and not because they are boring!)”

Another regular award (and one that really is meant as a compliment), this year’s go to Graham Attwell for http://www.pontydysgu.org/. As I tweeted recently, Graham is on my short list of edubloggers who I have yet to meet in real life but hope to soon. Graham is especially impressive to me for how consistently he has articulated a vision of personal learning and the importance of a critical stance both towards institutions and technology. Like other past recipients, Graham’s feed stays unread for long periods as I am often daunted to open it, there often just being too much good stuff in there.

The “Makes me Laugh My Ass off Most Often” Award

In past years this award has gone to master satirists for their intentional work. This year, though, I can’t help but award this to an organ that, I’m pretty sure unintentionally, makes me laugh my ass off almost every time I read it. The award this year goes to The Chronicle of Higher Education Blogs (and it’s unfair to pick on their blogs, because the whole damn thing is so often funny, but this is a “Blog” awards thing.) Making fun of The Chronicle is, well like Suck.com used to say, like “shooting fish in a barrel” but damn if they (and the people who continue to look to it for validation) don’t deserve it.

The “Most Unsung EdTech Blogger” Award

This award is always a tough one to give, but also one of my favourite to award, because they are so many great overlooked edubloggers out there, but at the very least I can do my small part to bring attention to a few I think deserve it. This year’s goes to friend and BC colleague Grant Potter who blogs at Network Effects. Awarding this for being an “unsung edtech blogger” doesn’t go far enough, though, to express the richness that Grant brings to the blogosphere and our province. Not only has he done some amazingly innovative work at UNBC on Open Sim and WPMU, his blogging about his projects with his kids is truly inspirational and demonstrates a lifelong learner, pure and simple. And the man plays a mean, well, pick your instrument! Yet a more humble soul I don’t think I know. I know I feel grateful every chance I get to work with Grant as well as every time we get to hang out, which is not nearly often enough.

The “Makes my Jaw Drop and Scratch my Head Most Often” Award

This year’s winner is a very recent addition to my RSS reader and not someone I had ever run across before, though as soon as I did I ran his site past some trusted colleagues and found that sure enough they were already engaged in conversation. Giorgio Bertini blogs at Learning Change and could easily have one any number of the awards above; his rich, thoughtful posts often stay unread in my reader for fear my head will not be able to handle them. I love his approach as he is not looking at learning simply from a technological or institutional perspective, but instead running his site as an action research project to enable, as he writes, “collective intelligence of communities of self-organized educational and change researchers to develop their potential as change agents.” Right on, I say! Check him out.

Most Valuable Twit Award

Last year saw the introduction of some new Twitter-focused awards, which I’ll continue on with this year. The MVT (Most Valuable Twit) is a tough one, because I feel blessed to connect with so many smart, creative and skillful folks from around the globe on twitter. But in terms of sheer quality references, it is hard to beat @courosa. Alec has an immense twitter network himself, and he acts as a fantastic hub, redistributing great references while making connections, between people, countries, sectors. His impact on educational twitter users makes me think of him as the “OLDaily of Twitter” except with more acting credits to his name.

Tweet that made me LMAO

Twitter makes me laugh, a lot sometimes. It is hard to pinpoint one tweet that made me laugh more than others (partly because I don’t capture all the ones that I find funny.) but going back through my twitter favourites, I found a tweet from someone whose tweets pretty consistently make me chuckle. So this year’s Nessie for “Tweet that made me LMAO” goes to Darren Barefoot, not only a damn funny guy, but skilled communicator and intrepid organizer of many past Northern Voice events.

The Nessie Lifetime Achievement Award

And to go out with a bang, a new category, the “Nessie Lifetime Achievement Award.” I can think of no one better to give the inaugural award to than the inimitable Alan Levine. You may know him better as @cogdog, and whether you realize it or not, if you work in online learning there’s a good chance you’ve ended learning or using something he’s done. (Seriously – some of us have taken to wondering if he’s not superhuman or maybe one of the un-dead, he never seems to sleep!)

cogdog avatar
The CogDog

Alan really is the consummate open educator – I know some people attribute the idea of “blogging your process” to others, but it was Alan who for me first exemplified this practice. The number of times one of his posts comes back as the answer to a google query never ceases to amaze me, constantly showing the value in sharing early and often. And it doesn’t stop with blog posts – Alan’s feed2js really was groundbreaking when he released it, and it is STILL the simplest piece to insert RSS I know of. I use it all the time. If you ever get the chance to see Alan present, take it. He makes it seem so effortless (though anyone who knows him knows how hard he works) and constantly innovates on stage and in virtual worlds. And don’t listen to any of his guff decrying theory – I mean, don’t get me wrong, he means it, he is foremost a practitioner, but he also has a deeply reflective and thoughtful practice.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Nessie Winners. The cheque is in the mail. To all those who didn’t win, better luck next year. But like I always say – if you really want to make sure you win an award, run your OWN awards contest! – SWL

The Nessie Awards ’09 Edition

Hard as it is to believe, a year has gone by and it’s that time again, silly awards season, and so without further ado I bring you the 2009 Nessie Awards (with new improved award categories!)

Tweet that made me LMAO

In order to keep up with the Jones, we here at the Nessie Awards have introduced a whole set of new awards to acknowledge the profound wonder that is Twitter. The first, 140 characters that litertally caused me to fall to the floor, is this tweet from @dougsymington “A computer without a Microsoft operating system is like a dog without a bunch of bricks tied to its head.” Enuf said.

Tweet Containing Largest Amount of New (to me) Resources

If you are like me, you regularly find great tips and learn about new sites and services through tweets. But rarely have a received one like this award winning tweet from @BryanAlexander (“Wondering about schools using free semantic plug-ins and add-ons, like Tagaroo, Semanti, TrueKnowledge, Clearforest, Semantic MediaWiki.”) that alerted me to not 1 but 5(!!!) resources that were pretty much completely new to me. Bryan is also an exemplar of twitter use in general – modest in his volume but almost always with novel or high quality references, and a smattering of personal notes and responses that show him engaged as a person and with twitter as a network.

Most Valuable Twit Award

This is a tough one, there are so many people I value on twitter, but consistently and without fail D’Arcy Norman, @dlnorman, posts useful, informative tweets, details of his life as a Dad and a renegade biker combined with his unique blend of fracktarded sarcasm. D’Arcy, we never did manage to foment the twitter revolt and lead them to the promised land of Jaiku, but even if it had just been you and me, well that would have been fine. Ok, maybe not.

The “Blog whose Posts remain ‘Keep Unread’ in my Reader longest (and not because they are boring!)”

Hopefully people understand this award as a compliment – I keep things “unread” in my Google Reader to indicate I must come back to them, and will keep marking them “Unread” even after I’ve read them once to remind me to come back to them again. I was incredibly fortunate to get to work with this year’s award winner, David Wiley, author of the Open Content blog, in organizing the Open Education conference in Vancouver, and it represented for me a peak experience I am so grateful for. David represents one of those people from whom I have learned enough now that when he writes something I don’t understand or even initially think I disagree with, there is enough trust there for me that he *has* something for me to learn that I will come back to it, numerous times, make the effort to understand.

Blog I misunderstand the most but wish I didn’t

Which perhaps makes this next award bittersweet – for Dave Cormier’s blog is the one which I feel I have the most to possibly learn from but time and again find myself not “getting.” Maybe it’s the tone (which would be ironic, because while I don’t think I hold a candle to Dave, I do think we share a certain gadflyish quality) or the draftish nature of some of the posts, but I doubt it. I fear it’s me. All I can say, Dave, is I have not given up at all, meeting you this summer has made me much more committed to trying to understand what you are getting at, as I think there is something there even if I don’t really get it. Remember, I am a *slow* learner.

The “Makes my Jaw Drop and Scratch my Head Most Often” Award

So I pity anyone vying for this award, as last year’s winner, Tony Hirst, could likely be the lifetime recipient, but fairly consistently, not just this year but over the past decade, Scott Wilson’s work at CETIS which he often documents at Scott Wilson’s Workblog, disrupts my day with yet another breakthrough, new idea to pursue or code to play with. I believe work such as that on widgets and the wookie server will ultimately prove to be, if not the straw that breaks the LMS’ back, then at least the crack that lets the light in (and out). I still have Ensemble open in a browser window 6 weeks after he mentioned it to me on twitter (trying to figure out what to do with it). And his work on PLEs in general leads much of higher education’s thinking and work in this area.

The “Blog which Posts Least Often and Yet whose Every Post I Anxiously Await” Award

I should probably alter this blog award title a bit because really, Martin doesn’t post particularly infrequently, but I’ll keep it the same for consistency with last year. This year’s winner, Martin Weller of The Ed Techie, represents a very special combination for me – an ed tech academic who is able to bridge the worlds of academic respectability and the blogosphere, who walks the talk by constantly exploring new tools and techniques and who is also a great guy to banter with on twitter. As much as I admire David’s work on openness and Scott’s work on PLEs and widgets, I admire Martin’s work on academic recognition for non-traditional scholarly work for addressing yet another key piece in the puzzle for how to start overcoming the intertia of the academy.

The “Most Unsung EdTech Blogger” Award

And finally, these year’s “Most Unsung EdTech Blogger” award goes to…. Clint Lalonde. If you don’t follow Clint, I highly recommend that you do – his posts are always thoughtful and informative and low key, like Clint, but typically contain more than you first realize (or more that *I* first realize), also like Clint. I feel very fortunate to have Clint as a local colleague and friend, and Camosun is lucky to have him.

So that’s it for the 2009 Nessie Awards, but one last note. I am not totally oblivious to the absence of women from the awards. This absence represents all sorts of deficiencies, in ME, but what it doesn’t represent is an absence of women who make a big difference, both in our field and to me personally. I will not name them all here, I hope they know who they are, but I will promise to personally keep examing my own relationship to gender, to inclusivity, to technology, power and communication. I am a slow learner, but I refuse to stop trying. – SWL