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Stephen Downes
Works at National Research Council
Attended University of Alberta
Lives in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
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Stephen Downes

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There are three separate threads in Siemens's response to my last post, all of which are fascinating: The thread concerning whether or not the study he published was bad, The thread examining the question of whether univer...
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Defending himself against my criticism of his recently released reserach study on distance and online learning, George Siemens tweets: Au contraire mon frère. There are many non-research articles cites, with a particular pre...
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"However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." -- William Bruce Cameron, 1963

Everything can be counted. Everything (the things that "can't be counted" are either present or absent, one or zero). That's the problem. When we count, we select and highlight this over that, one value over another. Because counting divides the world into one and zero (and all the rest) without the recognition that the one and the zero are of equal value, that existence is not inherently any better than non-existence, that goodness is not inherently more valuable than evil. Counting and naming are, inherently, the same (as Russell and Frege discovered). If you name it, you can count it. And both naming and counting are arbitrary. Once this is understood, once we understand that all value is a matter of choice, we reach what Nietzsche called the transvaluation of value, and what the Taoists called the Way.
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So it's really an issue before hypotheses... Struggling to get the question out... There is this question about whether something can really be studied or, put another way, whether a question can be asked... Something like, "If I can't name it, I can't enquire about it." The argument has something to do with whether science is the best fit - that there are emergent meanings or understandings that come when we don't have a question... Not sure about this. If something is too big for any of us to really understand, do we create many names for the same thing to count causalities, or does this mix us up? Can we know parts and label parts without knowing a whole? This seems trivial, but it's where I have been starting with my students (aged 4-6) during the last few days. Amazing to see how their "untrained minds" work. 
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Patrick Dunleavy offers this list of ten typical questions that might be asked on your PhD oral exam. I always felt I would have aced my oral exam, but I never got to take it because my examiners did not want me to work on ne...
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This is a summary of a debate including four participants, listed below, at OER2014. Errors and omissions are still my own. What is your mission in OER and what is your business model? David Harris - OpenStax It's really abou...
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Stephen Downes

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I wrote the other day that the study released by George Siemens and others on the history and current state of distance, blended, and online learning was a bad study. I said, "the absence of a background in the field is glari...
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This is a summary of Mozilla CEO Mark Surman's talk at Oppen Education Global in Banff April 24 (today). It is a paraphrase with lots of direct quotation, but shouldn't be taken as word-for word literal. All errors are my own...
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Drafted in January and just released, the Johns Hopkins statement on academic freedom will no doubt be widely cited.I cite the full text below. This post is a version of the document designed to draw out and represent exactly...
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So again I have to inject a dose of reality into the "learning styles don't exist" camp... Original Facebook thread here: https://www.facebook.com/graham.stanley/posts/10152686435407791?pnref=story

I think that if your argument requires saying that people in advanced education are being brainwashed, you should reconsider your argument. If it were that easy to brainwash people, we wouldn't need an education system.

The fact is, learning styles literature appeals to the intuitive and observed characteristic that people learn differently - very plainly, for example, the blind person won't learn by looking at pictures, and the deaf person won't learn by listening to a lecture. Similarly, some people (like me) can't stand story-telling, while others can't live without it. Some people (like me) hate being led step-by-step through something, and others can't live without it. These differences are easily observable, and if they weren't, then it would be impossible to describe them as I have just described them. It's not about 'proving nonexistence'. If you say "there are no learning styles" then there's a bunch of contradictory observational data you have to contend with.

That is why the actual arguments opposed to learning styles are couched in terms of educational outcomes. I've had this conversation with Willingham. The conclusion has to be, "well, yes, there are these preferences, but they do not impact learning outcomes." Even this is too grandiose a claim to make, because making a deaf person depend on audio lectures will very definitely impact learning outcomes. So what they really mean is that there aren't different 'styles' as identified by (say) Kolb or Gardner.

Except this isn't quite right either. People like Gardner respond (correctly) that 'multiple intelligences' were never intended to determine instructional approach, but rather, to identify different dimensions of competency. The major criticism of Kolb isn't so much the categorization as with the inability of the learning style inventory (LSI, ie., the 'test') doesn't accurately measure learning styles. So maybe it's a misapplication of the theory to test for a style and then adapt instruction based on the test. Most of the proponents aren't even advocates of "direct instruction", as Willingham is, so small wonder they wouldn't have a theory that supports it.

My main criticism of the 'critiques of learning styles' line of argument is that it presumes from the outset that instructivism is correct, and that any meaningful theory must describe a practice that produces different outcomes if adapted to create different modes of instruction. I think this is an absurd criterion, and the tendency to say based on it that "learning styles don't exist" is a vast over-generalization. I think that the picture of education as "intervention leading to specific outcomes" is very naive, and does not reflect either actual nor ideal practice.

So before you accuse people of talking "rubbish" or that their arguments are "complete arse" it may be worthwhile to take stock of what has actually been proven and not proven, and work from there. A dose of respect and politeness couldn't hurt either, especially in social situations involving people with actual, you know, experience and credentials.
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Learning is stored as meaning related rather than related to the mode of input. We do not store the learned material in, say, an auditory fashion so the particular input mode is not going to affect the quality of the learned material.
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Summary of a panel at the Hewlette Grantees' Conference. Errors are again my own. Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies In the past we've been saying that it's important to the field of OER to improve content. But really, it's about ...
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This is a summary of a talk at the Hewlett Grantees' Meeting, San Francisco, March 25, 2015. Errors (and typos, etc) are my own. Douglas Gayeton Lexicon of Sustainability http://lexiconofsustainability.com Our food system is ...
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Education
  • University of Alberta
    Philosophy, 1987 - 1993
  • University of Calgary
    Philosophy, 1981 - 1987
  • SAIT
    Computer Science, 1980 - 1981
  • Algonquin College
    Computer Science, 1979 - 1980
Basic Information
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Male
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Free Learning
Introduction
Stephen Downes
Moncton's most prominent cyber-citizen. See also my main website at http://www.downes.ca
Work
Occupation
Researcher
Employment
  • National Research Council
    Researcher, present
  • Athabasca University, Assiniboine Community College, Grande Prairie Regional College, University of Alberta, Texas Instruments, Versa Foods
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Previously
Metcalfe, Ontario, Canada - Brandon, Manitoba, Canada - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada - Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada - Eaglesham, Alberta, Canada - Montreal, Quebec, Canada - Candiac, Quebec, Canada - Melbourne, Australia - Austin, Texas
Stephen Downes's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
Why Numbers Exist
halfanhour.blogspot.com

by Stephen Downes One exists to show us the way It is the self, it is today It is the place where we departed It is the one to get us starte

Half an Hour
halfanhour.blogspot.com - written by Stephen Downes

This is a summary of theexpert discussion at the conclusion of Day One of the International Monitoring Organization conference Each paragraph denotes a ...

» How I ended up leaving Poynter JIMROMENESKO.COM
jimromenesko.com

How I ended up leaving Poynter. “How did this go off the rails?” Poynter's attorney asked me during a Nov. 12 phone conversation about m

Half an Hour: October 2011
halfanhour.blogspot.com - written by Stephen Downes

This is a summary of theexpert discussion at the conclusion of Day One of the International Monitoring Organization conference Each paragraph denotes a ...

Half an Hour: A Conversation on Innovation
halfanhour.blogspot.com - written by Stephen Downes

A Conversation on Innovation. This is a summary of theexpert discussion at the conclusion of Day One of the International Monitoring Organization conference

Support Pussy Riot’s appeal for justice
action.amnesty.org.uk

Pussy Riot appeal in court next week. We need your help to defend free speech - ask the Russian authorities to stop their persecution of the

They gave me mountains of very good food, making it the only place in Oslo I could afford to eat while I was visiting there! My only regret is that I didn't find the place sooner. Seriously, if you're in the city on a budget, take the short walk from downtown and eat here.
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