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New Tools for Personal Learning. Stephen Downes MEFANET 2009 Conference Brno, Czech Republic, November 25, 2009. Prologue. It turns out to be very easy to teach people things - people are very impressionable What proves to be very hard is teaching people the right things - how not to learn.

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New tools for personal learning

New Tools for Personal Learning

Stephen Downes

MEFANET 2009 Conference

Brno, Czech Republic, November 25, 2009


  • It turns out to be very easy to teach people things - people are very impressionable

  • What proves to be very hard is teaching people the right things - how notto learn

16000 posts
16000 Posts

What does 16,000 posts look like?

Complicated complex
Complicated, Complex

The first butterfly thesis
The (First) Butterfly Thesis

a butterfly flapping its wings in South America can affect the weather in Central Park…. so why don’t we get that butterfly?

The three body problem
The Three Body Problem

Connectivism engagement
Connectivism: Engagement

  • There is no curriculum, no theory, no body of knowledge

    • (or, more accurately, the curriculum is the McGuffin)

  • The product is not the knowledge, it is thelearner

  • It’s not that there’s nothing to learn, it’s that it’s complex and needs to be navigated…

not memorized

First theme
First Theme

active engagement, not passive observation…

  • a bit like ANT, but no presumption of commonality, translation…

  • a bit like action research, but no presumption of a community of practice

Thinking for yourself
Thinking for yourself

Critical thinking and reflection

Free learning
Free Learning

  • The picture of learning you should have is one of a large set of connected nodes (like the neurons in a brain)




Feed Forward

It s a river not a reservoir
It’s a river, not a reservoir

pattern recognition




The Idea of the PLE…

Plex Personal Learning Environment Example

Collecting and Filtering RSS

RSS Writr


Second theme
Second Theme

Learning…. vs the right learning

Understanding interdependence
Understanding Interdependence

= no simple principles

= no simple cause & effect

Me and my network of friends
Me and my network of friends




Feed Forward

Network structures tree
Network Structures - Tree



Power Law



Network structures mesh
Network Structures - Mesh






Individualism vs mutuality
Individualism vs Mutuality

Independent variables vs dependent variables

eg. Rational decision - vs role model

The myth of solitary autonomy

The sharing thesis
The Sharing Thesis

  • Not just competition - cooperation

  • Open Educational Resources (OERs)

  • The only sustainable model

The second butterfly thesis
The (Second) Butterfly Thesis


“At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.”

What Connectivism Is

Course components
Course Components

The Wiki…

Course components1
Course Components

Course Moodle Forum

Third theme
Third Theme

Groups vs networks

Nancy white me we network
Nancy White - Me, We, Network

Objects we care about
Objects We Care About

  • Nancy White - networks, not just about connecting the people, but the objects they care about

The object system revisited
The object system, revisited

Distributed Resources

Repositories and syndication
Repositories and Syndication

  • Academic - OAI-PMH, Dspace, Fedora, Eprints, SWORD, Connexion, OCW

  • Web - Flickr, YouTube, Slideshare





Self organization metronomes
Self-organization - metronomes

Self Organization

Network Learning…

  • Hebbian associationism

    • based on concurrency

  • Back propagation

    • based on desired outcome

  • Boltzman

    • based on ‘settling’, annealing

Page Creation distribute content.

Pages are created automatically from a database of content types

Course components2
Course Components types

The Daily

Course components3
Course Components types

Feed Harvesting

The students
The Students types

The Course Map…

The Internet of 2007 types

Social Networks

blogs and blogging

wikis and collaborative writing

tagging and Digg and…

Web 2.0


The internet of 2009
The Internet of 2009 types

Beyond Web 2.0

Creating course components
Creating Course Components types

Pageflakes Site

Widgets and gadgets
Widgets and Gadgets types

Widget landscape
Widget Landscape types

Google wave
Google Wave types

Opera unite
Opera Unite types

Windows live mesh
Windows Live Mesh types

Firefox plain old web server
Firefox Plain Old Web Server types

An ecology…

  • The forward) – syndicationpersonallearning centre

Autonomy[email protected]/1363575474

Stephen Downes technologies