Downes is up on the Future of Education

Today as part of the WorldBridges Webcastathon called WIAOC2007, Stephen Downes presents a slideshare presentation. WIAOC stands for Webheads in Action Online Convergence. The unconference took place Sunday morning EST using the Education Bridges Chat room and a Yugma. The Yugma allowed Stephen to share his slide show. Skype allowed him to connect with Jeff Lebow who streamed the audio to listeners around the world. Stephen researches and speaks about learning design among other things. The paradigm of Connectionism is key. It is an alternative to artificial intelligence. Instead of being symbol based and rule based it’s analogical, not symbolic. See models by Minsky and Papert to investigate the origin of Connectionism. Also see recent Connectionism Unconference by George Siemens.

Stephen explains that, “Connectionism is a group of individuals autonomously trying to do their own thing in their own way.” Connectionism is predicated on multidimensional interactions online. Patterns of connection within the system become visible and grow as more and more people identify the patterns. To me it seems a little like a swarming (see pdf-article from Harvard Business Review 2001) mentality. I’ll see what he thinks about this. He said their are different kinds of networks. Some are reliable and others are not. Mathematical properties (not sure what he means by this)can identify good networks. They are evaluated and pass the litmus test. Cascade phenomenon is related to swarming. Swarming is less informed and a less valid measure of a meaningful pattern of knowledge as I understand it.

The entities in a good networks are diverse autonomous, open and connected. He covers this is a number of his previous research papers! He is a prolific writier/thinker. Knowledge is about seeing patterns. “Once seen, a pattern cannot be unseen.” This talk focuses on a personal learning network. Instead of many using one site simultaneously, or instead of the typical University LMS (defined on this MIT OKI page)in a central local, each person will have their own PLE. Each one will communicate in a web of connections. It will set each person up as a node in the network. Model, Demonstrate, Practice and Reflection are the pillars of the PLE, Personal Learning Network. Stephen practices this model by using many modalities to capture his thought processes.


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