I am excited to hear from Stephen Downes today at the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE) conference hosted by the Faculty of Arts at UBC who are supported by multiple stakeholders across and beyond the institution. The conference theme of making waves in education is creative and representative of what innovation is like.

The need to stay on top of the wave of innovation resonates with me. In particular, the epic whiteout stream is my favorite because learning from failure is so important. I hope to experience some transformative experiences over the next few days.

Stephen Downes

Watch to the recording here.

Stephen has quite an extensive career in innovative educational practices, including connectivism and open education. In his E-Learning 3.0 MOOC, participants explored how online learning works. He described three waves of online learning. I would really like to be riding the third wave but the context that I am in is not quite there yet.

Stephen Downs’ Slides


Big Ideas

  • Courses in containers – using tools that allow sharing of applications through cloud services
  • Decentralized web applications – using containers in different locations to fix issues with centralized services

A lot of my experiments are like that. They work, but they don’t work great.

Stephen Downes

Stephen has many thought provoking ideas I would love to explore. I have learned over the last year that being innovative is difficult, particularly in contexts that are pushing for maintaining minimum and consistent standards. Innovation is, by definition, different. Students, faculty, and administrators do not like change. However, in order to improve someone needs to explore this innovation in safe ways. Safe, because we should not jeopardize student success by going too far too fast.


Using connected data elements how can we make learning more open, connected, meaningful, and accessible?


Content Accessible Resources for Education (CARE)

He thinks they will replace open educational resources (OER). OER is defined by licensing. With CARE the difference is is now it is put together and identified. With places like Git hub you do not overwrite old data. Copies are linked together. Each piece of content is given a unique address that can be used to track contributions. Change the content, change the key. This system allows for better tracking of contributions to resources and verification of where data came from.

Data. This is the beginning of all things.

Stephen Downes

Creating Open AI – in the future AI may be able to complete works.

What do we do? He says work with the AI. We need to think in terms of data not narrative. That is an entirely different talk. A talk I want to hear.

Content and creation combined.

This is our future. The future of students. Why are we giving them content to remember? In the future we should not be giving them content but helping them to create it themselves. I would argue that I am already doing that where possible. this idea does meet resistance. However, it is more meaningful for students in w world where students have Google. Content creation is part of the content in live casting and videogames. How can we create content live with students? There are many programs that can help us do that. The challenge I see is again institutional resistance and the need to respect student choice and privacy.

We are the content.

Content is what is around today. Content can change tomorrow. It is evolving. The outcome of education is a person not what the person remembers. How can we organize them in a way such that they can recognize patterns. We need to teach pattern recognition not memorization. We need to control our own online identity instead of allowing the government, social media, institutions etc to control our identity.


Competency based education looks at recognizing when people can do certain things, which is a step away from traditional testing. Stephen says if it has not hit your institution yet it will. It is something we are working on in our program.

Community as consensus – how can we create consensus and community? Stephen says it is possible to improve how we do this. There are algorithms that can be used – the question is which ones should we be using to define our society?

Redefining success

We need to move away from defining success as “someone who graduates with a certain degree having a body of knowledge.” Agency should be part of how we define success. I like the idea of measuring success differently than simply according to possession of “knowledge.” We need creativity and the ability to learn. Our wold is changing so fast – knowledge is a useless outcome in most cases. That being said, some knowledge is needed especially in emergency situations (I am thinking about nursing). However, I think the ability to use and access knowledge is more important than simple possession of knowledge.

Do we want people to learn how to be instructed? Or how to discover? Or how to construct? Or how to be connected? Or how to be free?


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.


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