Weekend Reading: Atlantis goes down, brands not almighty and be warned about realtime

– News about the darknet. John Biggs on TechCrunch announces the demise of Atlantis, the competitor of the Silk Road online market for all kinds of drugs. Users access these markets, with encrypted web sessions on the Tor net and they pay in bitcoin.

– Interesting observation by David Holmes on Pandodaily about the divorce between Dow Jones and the tech bloggers at AllThingsD. The brand remains with News Corp (parent to Dow Jones) while journalists/bloggers/columnists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg go their way and keep the staff.  Holmes points out that Swisher has more than 900,000 followers (Mossberg  500,000+) while AllThingsD has around 162,000. Guess who the readers will follow?

– Good news about Feedly, the leader of RSS-feeds since the closure of Google Reader. Saroj Kar on Devopsangle reports that Feedly opens APIs for developers to create third-party applications.

– On Hunterwalk I read more philosophical musings: Realtime Is A Trap & The Past Is Underrated. As he points out: “This isn’t a screed against multitasking, or social media, both of which I enjoy. It’s a question about a cognitive bias being exacerbated by our current product design.”

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The Augmentationist Weekly: Broken Education, Social Media and Emotions

augmentationist_logoThe Augmentationist with links about education, social media and – yes! – augmentation. You can read The Augmentationist here and subscribe at the right-hand side of this site.

Peak Education

Futurist Bryan Alexander wonders whether the United States is experiencing peak education. After two generations of growth, American higher education has reached its upper bound. The student population seems to decline and families are not increasing higher education spending. The number of tenure-track faculty conducting research could very well top off. Of course, it’s not clear at all whether this is a temporary situation or a more durable trend. Be sure to have a look at the interesting discussion in the comments section.

Innovation and private investment in education

Education expert George Siemens attended an Education Innovation Summit and gives his impressions in a long post. It’s all about broken education, start-up entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and corporations wanting to innovate radically. Strangely enough, while wanting to revolutionize education, they seem rather conservative in accepting standardized tests. While Siemens is pro business and innovation, he’s clearly worried about the learners and society and uneasy about gatherings where everyone agrees on anything.

Social media making kids smarter?

Twitter and social media in general could very well make children better writers and thinkers. It seems students nowadays write longer, more intellectually complex papers. Is there a causal relationship, Freakonomics wonders.

Social media making people angrier?

Which emotion tends to go most viral? As most participants or readers of comment sections and social media realize, it’s anger, not sadness, joy or disgust. James Vincent at The Independent reports about research coming to the same conclusion.

Social Media Issues

At Stanford University the Social Media Issues course, facilitated by Howard Rheingold, started. One can comment on the blogs and participate in the Fishbowl forum. I read an excellent post aboutblogging and learning in public, in which a new article by Clive Thompson, Thinking Out Loud,  was quoted:

“But focusing on the individual writers and thinkers misses the point. The fact that so many of us are writing — sharing our ideas, good and bad, for the world to see — has changed the way we think. Just as we now live in public, so do we think in public. And that is accelerating the creation of new ideas and the advancement of global knowledge.”

Google Glass and iOS7

Don’t worry: I won’t start product reviews here – but this week I not only installed iOS7, I also experienced Google Glass (for a full fifteen minutes). Glass is all about integrating the power of the internet and computers in the natural flow of your life – it almost integrates the internet in your body. While starting to use iOS7 and going back an forth between an Android device and an iPhone, I realized this is the big battlefield: which operating system and manufacturer will be the best to augment us? In the meantime, Google not only wants to augment us, but also to make us live longer and better. Behind all this I guess there must be some philosophy which is as worth studying as the thinking of the Renaissance intellectuals.

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A learning & facilitation challenge

A dear friend has an interesting question for me:

A group of about 30 adults want to explore various themes on the intersections between social care, web skills, various other professional occupations and social media. Possible topics are cyberbullying, safety on the web, collaboration practices. These people have various backgrounds, they are no academics, but they participate in the same course in “real world” – they meet on a weekly basis in a physical classroom. The course starts now and they’ll wrap it up at year-end. How can these people, working in groups of about 5 people, learn to put social themes on the agenda and engage in a collaboration to tackle these issues, using social media?

First thoughts I have about this challenge, based on my own learning at Rheingold U:

– Organize the physical classroom for group discussions (put the desks in such a way that the group members can interact in a natural way).

– For the facilitator: maybe it’s unavoidable to give a slide-presentation, but also try to use a mind map to present the project. The mindmap can be digital and online (I like using Mindjet and MindMeister) but one can use PostIts on the wall or blackboard as well (maybe even better, in a physical context). Make it physically interactive! The learners can use the mind mapping techniques later on for their own group discussions.

– Once the groups are formed and topics are decided, give every group member a role. Someone will be in charge of storing relevant links into a social bookmarking service such as Diigo (one can organize a closed or open group in Diigo, so all group members have access to a central place where they can find their stuff). There’s an instructive video on the Diigo homepage.

Another person will be a searcher, and look for relevant links (the facilitator can give tips about using Google or other engines for advanced search).

Yet another participant can look for central concepts and explain them in a document.

Maybe someone will be a mind map master (all participants can collaborate in drawing the map, and one person could make a ‘clean’ version of it later on), and ultimately someone could write a text/post about the session proceedings.

IMPORTANT: as there are a number of sessions, people should switch roles, so ideally everyone in the group would at least once have done the job of bookmarker, searcher, explainer, mind map master or blogger.

I’m not aware about the specific classroom conditions. Do they have wifi, does every participant has her own laptop? Maybe the facilitator will have to be very flexible…

– Where do these people meet outside the classroom? My friend suggested a Facebook group, and even though I’m in general more in favor of Google+, this might be a good idea because the participants are far more familiar with Facebook (also, in Diigo people can leave comments on links and react on those comments).

– How do the participants reach out to others? As they explore web resources, they can try to find interesting experts/authors on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ and ask them questions using those networks. They could use the Facebook-group to keep each other informed about these conversations.

– What is the objective? The objective could be to make a web document about their collaborative work. This could be a text about how to deal with cyberbullying, for instance. The text could be written in a collaborative way on Google Drive and share it (for certain others or publicly). Or it could be a video of course, posted on YouTube or Vimeo. Or it could be a series of pictures, posted with texts, sounds and videos on Tumblr. Or it could be a Pinterest collection.

– Will others react on those documents? Will they succeed in having an online conversation? That’ll be one of the challenges.

Anyway, these are first thoughts… maybe you, dear reader, have suggestions to make, and I’ll ask around in our Google+ Peeragogy in Action community…



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Weekend Reading: “news may be in decline, but insight is booming”

– On Fastcompany I read a story about Lara Setrakian and her site Syria Deeply. The site is ultra-focused and makes good use of infographics and video. It not only provides news but also context to make sense of it. They are working on new software to facilitate policy crowdsourcing. Technology could pay for the news, like a Bloomberg-terminal pays for the Bloomberg-journalism – such a terminal delivers not only well-structured news, but also services such as communication, secured mail, transaction, lots and lots of data – and is very expensive. As Setrakian says:

The news business may be down, but the insight industry is booming.

– On TechCrunch Gregory Ferenstein brings us Twitter Co-Founder Evan Williams Lays Out His Plan For The Future Of Media. A remarkable quote:

News in general doesn’t matter most of the time, and most people would be far better off if they spent their time consuming less news and more ideas that have more lasting import.

The post also refers to the research paper, “Does the Media Matter”, in which a team of economists found that getting a randomized group of citizens to read the Washington Post did nothing for “political knowledge, stated opinions, or turnout in post-election survey and voter data.” Medium tries to make publishing stuff easy, also for those who maybe have something very insipring to tell but don’t find the time nor have the inclination to devote lots of time for running their own blog and building an audience. Medium runs an intelligent algorithm that suggests stories, primarily based on how long users spend reading certain articles.

– Another way of applying technology to journalism is Google Glass. In July Sarah Hill explained in some detail on MediaShift how Glass will change the future of broadcast journalism. There are new tricks to be learned (how do you warn people you’re conducting an interview and not just chatting with someone during a conference), microphone issues but as she explains in Mediatwits it can be a kind of real time social backchannel. For Robert Scoble, on that same Mediatwits, it’s a new device category which will change media – he has been using Glass for several months now. Jeff Jarvis expects new eye-witness stuff being generated through Glass and similar devices. Robert Scoble also interviewed Mark Johnson, CEO of Zite and now a VP at CNN. As an information discovery specialist he wonders whether Glass/Google will be smart enough to give us really relevant information via Glass. It’s the future, but when will it happen?

Eric Scherer talks about Google Glass (and drones, and encryption) as a new tool for journalists and interviewed Tim Pool about how he uses Glass. Interesting is that Pool also uses a mini keyboard and the touch pad of a smartphone in combination with Glass.

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The Augmentationist: MOOCs, Stacks, Tech Intellectuals and a New Course

logoThe Augmentationist with links about MOOCs, the new class of Tech Intellectuals, the survival of RSS and a new course by Howard Rheingold. You can read The Augmentationist here and subscribe at the right-hand side of this site.

RSS not dead?

Emil Portalinski reports on The Next Web that Google has added back a feed delivery option to its Google Alerts service. You can once again receive alerts for Web search results via RSS, rather than just email. This is quite remarkable, as I thought the Big Stacks were slowly but systematically killing RSS.

Tech Intellectuals

A long, thought-provoking post by Henry Farrell in Democracy Journal about Tech Intellectuals.How do the famous tech/society pundits earn their living and reputation? What constraints does their position in society impose on their discourse and thinking? I don’t always agree (I’m far more positive about Jeff Jarvis for instance) but his analysis makes one think critically about this new professional class of tech opinion makers.

A YouTube For MOOCs

EdX, the online education nonprofit backed by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is teaming up with Google on a new website that will offer tools for educators and the public to create their own digital courses, Geoffrey A. Fowler reports on Digits (WSJ). Mooc.org goes live in the first half of 2014, you can contact them now.

This is how Stephen Downes looks at it: “Mostly, it’s a case of the big organizations staking their turf (and trampling. The danger for them is that MOOCs will be (a) something that don’t really resemble videos, and instead resemble RSS readers, and (b) something created by learners for each other, rather than by publishers to be sold as consumables. Imagine what YouTube would look like without any user-created videos. That’s what a YouTube of MOOCs will look like, unless something significant changes.”

How to Organize a MOOC (in 147 slides)

Stephen Downes again: a superb set of slides explaining the thinking behind connectivist MOOCs, old and new media practices etc. For audio and more, see http://www.downes.ca/presentation/278.

(hat tip to Susan Bainbridge who runs a great Connectivism Scoop.it)

Howard Rheingold Class At Stanford

You can join his Social Media Issues class, read the blogs, comment on the blogs, and participate in the Fishbowl Forum. Read the texts and follow along online! You can register an account for the forum a thttp://forum.socialmediaissues.net  and the entire syllabus, blogs can be found at

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The Augmentationist about Surveillance and Sousveillance

augmentationist_logoIn this edition of the weekly Augmentationist I gathered some interesting links about questions of surveillance and sousveillance. You can read The Augmentationist here and subscribe at the right-hand side of this site.

The internet as a surveillance platform

The Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica published new revelations about the US and UK spy angencies: how they unlock encryption used to protect emails, banking and medical records. They work covertly with tech companies. The information is deeply disturbing. The Obama administrationresponded by saying the information is not news but provides a road map to the adversaries.

In other news: a federal court in Dallas, Texas has imposed a gag order on the jailed activist-journalist Barrett Brown and his legal team that prevents them from talking to the media about his prosecution in which he faces up to 100 years in prison for alleged offences relating to his work exposing online surveillance (the Guardian).

As much as I applaud efforts to combat terrorism, it seems to me that the tactics used to stop journalists and bloggers from investigating intelligence activities and practices are very worrying. We shouldn’t sacrifice democracy in the attempt to defend it against its real adversaries.

Please read Slavoj Zizek in the Guardian about Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, and especially his reference to Immanuel Kant and his distinction between “public” and “private” use of reason. Also worth reading: Hacktivists as Gadflies by philosopher Peter Ludlow in The New York Times, discussing hacktivism and Socrates.

Historical Reading

It’s almost uncanny, but this article about Crypto Rebels in Wired Magazine by Steven Levy was written in 1993: “It’s the FBIs, NSAs, and Equifaxes of the world versus a swelling movement of Cypherpunks , civil libertarians, and millionaire hackers. At stake: Whether privacy will exist in the 21st century.” Of course, nowadays we realize the real question is whether humanity can afford privacy now technological progress makes small groups capable to use doomsday weapons?

Stuff recommended by Howard Rheingold

Howard posted in our G+ HRU Alumni community about cooperation and morality: “A set of cultural norms may encourage and enforce cooperation within a group, but the world consists of many groups, different cultures, and the deep problem is precisely the one that Joshua Greene is pursuing.” ReadDeep Pragmatism, A conversation with Joshua D. Greene.

The other recommendation is about the “always-on lifestyle”. Howard: “I find many critiques of the always-on lifestyle to be shallow, but Rebecca Solnit’s is worth paying attention to. I’m assigning it to my Stanford students.” Read Diary in the London Review of Books.

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The Augmentationist Weekly | Building, Spaces, Learning

logoThe latest edition of the weekly Augmentationist. You can read it here and subscribe at the right-hand side of this site. In the collection of interesting links some great insights about spaces and sharing spaces, learning and Massive Open Online Courses, and about “building” and “coding”.

Friday, August 30, 2013

What this newsletter is about

A group of co-learners, inspired by Howard Rheingold, studies how information technology can augment human intellect. Our discussions are dispersed through various social media and closed online venues. In this newsletter I try to give an overview of the discussions in our network. I also include brief comments on related stuff elsewhere.

The historical proposal for the WWW, in 1989

Who says newsletters are about new news? Keeping an eye on Howard Rheingold’s bookmarks I found this gem: the proposal (HTMLized) by Tim Berners-Lee for the World Wide Web. As he explains: “an attempt to persuade CERN management that a global hypertext system was in CERN’s interests. Note that the only name I had for it at this time was “Mesh” — I decided on “World Wide Web” when writing the code in 1990.”

What Second Life Got Right

Mitch Wagner is an adorable journalist and blogger who also happens to be an expert in Second Life. While he believes that Second Life today is as retro as manual typewriters and vinyl records, he explains in internet evolution that what the people of Linden Lab (the company behind that user-generated virtual world)  got right is the sense of presence in a shared space and time. It’s absolutely true that at least in that regard Second Life offers a magical experience. As for videochat (Google Hangouts most notably): this comes very close, but as Wagner says, many people are reluctant to appear ‘on camera’. Read also a comment on the article by virtual worlds specialist Wagner James Au on New World Notes.   Or have a look at this article about the 3D dreams of Skype. 

Digital Humanities is about building things

Professor Stephen Ramsay about Digital Humanities: “But if you are not making anything, you are not — in my less-than-three-minute opinion — a digital humanist.” Knowing how to code is a big positive (but then again you can be part of a building team without coding skills). But what is “building”? Mind you, he said that in 2011 during a three-minute presentation. But he elaborated on the theme later on and explained: “All the technai of Digital Humanities — data mining, xml encoding, text analysis, gis, Web design, visualization, programming, tool design, database design, etc — involve building; only a few of them require programming, per se.”

So he’s casting a wider net: yes, learning how to code changes your view on the world – but we can say the same about learning how to speak Arabic or Mandarin Chinese and about all major learning projects. So it might be a very good idea to focus on  the shift from “reading” to “making” as changing your world view.

Hat tip to Bruce Sterling for mentioning the Digital Humanities talk on Beyond the Beyond.

Collaborative Exploration

Via our Peeragogy in Action community on G+ I learned about Collaborative Explorations: Creative Thinking for All — Fall 2013, offered in collaboration with the Creative and Critical Thinking Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. ‘Although massively online open courses (MOOCs) promise wide access to knowledge and new learning communities, there is still a need for more intimate, connective and deep inquiries. Collaborative Explorations or “moderate-sized open online collaborative learning” are a response to these learning desires.’ More on G+ (a recording of a first Hangout).

How MOOCs Will Evolve In The Physical World

Some interesting thoughts in Forbes by former theater producer Giovanni Rodriguez about spaces and Massive Open Online Courses, online and offline. ““Massive Online Offline Communities” seems more like it.  And unlike the online communities of the past, these communities are learning communities, driven by the new lifelong modality of transformative experience. Expect a land grab for branding and positioning.  The disruption in education is just beginning, and the players are just becoming visible.”


Twitter and Facebook: what’s the difference? Facebook introduced hashtags, Twitter makes it easier tofollow conversations by introducing threads and organizing those in a chronological order. Om Malik analyzes the motivations and what it means on GigaOM. And yes, it’s a big deal, not only for a Twitter IPO, but more general. Malik:  “What is going on? Well, how about the standardization of all social platforms around the concept of objects and comments, especially on mobile.”

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The Augmentationist Weekly: innovate or be left behind

logoThis week’s newsletter contains links to great articles and videos about education, journalism and the Commons. You can read it here and/or subscribe in the right-handside column of the site.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What this newsletter is about

A group of co-learners, inspired by Howard Rheingold, studies how information technology can augment human intellect. Our discussions are dispersed through various social media and closed online venues. In this newsletter I try to give an overview of the discussions in our network. I also include brief comments on related stuff elsewhere.

The importance of Ivan Illich

David Bollier analyzes the quiet realization of Ivan Illich’s ideas in the contemporary Commons movement. Howard Rheingold comments on Scoop.It:

“Elinor Ostrom won her economics Nobel Prize for her work on “governing the commons” — demonstrating that “tragedy” was not inevitable when groups of people are faced with managing common pool resources. She also pointed out that neither socialism-style State ownership nor unregulated privatization were necessarily the only or best routes to well-managed commons. David Bollier has done a service by making this argument, and for reminding us of the pioneering work of Ivan Illich, who was mentor to California governor Jerry Brown, Stewart Brand, and many others.”

A culture war about information and authority?

I’m not sure ‘culture war’ is the right label for the stream of events and articles about Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, but it sure is an interesting perspective. Quinn Norton discussesBradley Manning and the Two Americas on Medium.

Reminding me of the discussions we had during previous Rheingold courses about surveillance and sousveillance: on GigaOM Om Malik interviewed Phil Zimmermann, the man who invented Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), the email encryption software.

A MOOC about the Future of Storytelling

Berlin-based iversity organizes a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) about the Future of Storytelling. The course starts on October 25. They’ll focus on fiction formats and discuss stuff such as

– storytelling basics
– serial formats (on the TV, web and beyond)
– storytelling in role-playing games
– interactive storytelling in video games
– transmedia storytelling
– alternate-reality gaming
– augmented reality and location-based storytelling
– the role of tools, interfaces and information architectures in current storytelling.

Living on the edge in Italy

For those interested in peer2peer learning, and exploring new ways of doing things not only in education but also in society at large, this might be an interesting gathering: Living On The Edge(#LOTE) meets from October 29 through November 3 in a spectacular place in southern Italy. Maybe some people of our Peeragogy community will attend.

Creating an online learning environment

series of videos featuring Howard Rheingold and Jim Groom about using WordPress, MediaWiki and other open source stuff to build an online learning environment. Useful for teachers, students, and the learners of this century.

Connected learners

student-produced book: Connected Learners: A step-by-step guide to creating a global classroom.  They introduce each chapter with a video.

Innovate or be left behind

As a journalist I’m very interested in journalism education. Things are changing so very rapidly in my profession, and journalism education is struggling to keep up with the change, hence the need for peer2peer education.

Anyway, John Wihbey posted a great reading list about changes in journalism and journalism education. Even if you’re not into these professions, it’s at least an interesting case. Consider this quote: “Those who don’t innovate in the classroom will be left behind. Just like those who chose not to innovate in the newsroom.” (Poynter Institute’s Aug. 8 survey and report)

Twitter and IFTTT

For those using the web automation service If This Then That there is good news, The Next Web reports: you can use the service with Twitter again.

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The Augmentationist Weekly | New Ways of Writing and Publishing

augmentationist_logoWant to subscribe to the weekly newsletter? Use the form at the right-handside!

Of course you can also find the content on this site (for the very first edition, click here):

Rheingold about tech, power, innovation and the commons

The structure of the internet allows for decentralized collaboration and innovation, Howard Rheingold explains in this video-intrevie (April 2007, just published on YouTube). In fact, there are two videos with him, one about shifts in technology and power and the other about innovation and the commons.  Both videos were mentioned in the paper.li The #ThinkKnow Chronicle.

Scraping for everybody

In fact, the book is titled Scraping for Journalists by Paul Bradshaw, but then again, I think many others might benefit from this highly instructive ebook which learns you how to grab data from hundreds of sources and put those data “in a form you can interrogate”. It’s a leanpub-publication and one of the nice features is that the text gets updated. There is a minimum price and a suggested price.

In other news: the Knight Center started this week a MOOC about Data-Driven Journalism.

Learn Do Share

Learn Do Share is a pdf book series that captures storytelling experiments at diy days. It’s a narrative exploration into ethos, socio-economic context and open collaboration. The results are rather unusual look-do-and-think-books that explore the methods we used, pitfalls we encountered and lessons we learned when we try all kinds of games and methods to trigger social innovation.

The diy days take place in various cities around the world – also in Ghent here in Belgium.

(via Peeragogy in action at G+).

GitHub for Writers

GitHub is a platform for collaboration, code review and code management for open source and private projects. But, as J.J. Merelo explains at Medium, writers (so not just coders) can use the platform too fortext-based collaboration. He explains how in Writers: start using GitHub now and has interesting things to say about open sourcing novels.

Publishers pushing toward the annotated web

Caroline O’Donovan at Niemanlab discusses a number of experiments by start-ups and legacy media to promote and use the annotated web as a 21st century way to organize discussion by the people formerly known as “the readers”.

I often think publishers are rather condescending toward the ‘readers’ – seemingly not realizing that chances are that members of their audience probably are far more knowledgeable about certain topics than the staff journalists or bloggers. But if you organize the discussions on media sites in a bad way, you get bad results – which is a pity, as I’m convinced media should be more like Massive Open Online Courses – not in the top-down version, but in the distributed, learner-centric version of connectivist courses.

Agile Learning Centers

The Peeragogy-community at Google+ is about to reach 500 members. One of the new members works with a team of educators, entrepreneurs, and social change agents to develop Agile Learning Centers — ‘a 21st Century model of education.’ They launched a Indiegogo campaign: http://igg.me/at/AgileLearning.

Just like GitHub can be used for other groups than coders, the Agile methods can be applied outside the world of software development. Of course, it became famous in the programming world because Agile “empowers teams and individuals to respond directly to user needs in quick, iterative sprints”, but here Agile practices (such a standup meetings, Kanban boards) are used in the context of a learner-centric education.

Feedly will support Dynamic OPML

Feedly is one of the main alternatives for Google Reader, the beloved RSS-reader which passed away far too soon. Dave Winer on Scripting News reports that Feedly will support dynamic OPML in version 18 or 19. “This is very good news for Feedly users, of course, and for people and organizations with domain expertise (curators) and app developers. ”

OPML allows you to hook up other RSS-tools to the service or to export your feeds – for your own convenience or for others. ‘Dynamic’ means that changes in the feeds selection can propagate immediately (correct me if I’m wrong) while static OPML would make it necessary to export the file all over again.

Graphic blog posts

This is new for me: comics-posts. In this case about Doug Engelbart and the importance of experiences and serendipitous encounters, by Jeff Branzburg.

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Digital Game Based Learning MOOCs: Join in September!

So nice. We already had the connectivist Massive Open Online Courses – based on learner-centric, distributed activities using a syndication engine to connect the various events. Then came the xMOOCs – more top-down like massive courses, experimenting with auto-grading systems. Now I learned about gMOOCs – game-based MOOCs.


Have a look at this very rich presentation by Sherry Jones and Kate Caruso (great videos!):

A MOOC with a trailer:

rgMOOC 2 will run between September 2, 2013 to November 10, 2013. In fact, this is already a second round, and the course will explore the rhetoric of first person games and the immersive sandbox game Minecraft. You can find the registration form here.

Interesting: they’ll explore Minecraft as sandbox game. Second Life is still quite huge, but sooo unfashionable, even among academics, so it seems. Or is it too wild and libertarian for educational use (unless you invest heavily in some closed island) – and what about OpenSim?

I think I’ll participate or at least lurk in this rgMOOC. So many themes are relevant for all content creators, not only game-producers: I’m sure journalists and bloggers will learn a lot during this course.

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