The Norman Prize, 2013

Tony Bates, on acknowledging being the recipient of the 2013 Downes Prize, suggests that someone needs to bestow a similar honour on Stephen. I concur. So, the inaugural Norman Prize is hereby awarded to Stephen Downes.

I’ve been lucky enough to know Stephen for over a decade – first meeting him as part of the Edusource national learning object repository project back in 2001(?!). Even back then, Stephen had ideas that were years ahead of where everyone else was. We all looked at him like he was crazy, but he persisted. And eventually we realized he was right.

One of my most important, and scary, professional experiences was co-keynoting the BCEdOnline conference back in 2006, along with Stephen and Brian Lamb. It was important (to me) because it was a professional risk – an unkeynote presentation, flipped presentation, Phil Donahue style. The audience was the presentation. We took a huge risk – having no presentation, and having an anonymous chat back channel projected onto the main screen. We had no idea if it would work, and we paced in front of maybe 300? 500? (Felt like 10,000) people. At first, it didn’t work. At all. Scariest moment of my professional career. And then it did. And we had an interesting discussion with the entire conference rather than just blabbing at them. Years ahead.

That’s kind of the history of knowing Stephen. First, you think he’s crazy. Then, he persists, clarifies, elaborates, and keeps true to his vision. And, eventually, the rest of us realize that he was right all along, and that he was (and is) years ahead of us. And also right there playing with us.

What makes Stephen’s work so remarkable and important isn’t that he’s been the source of many foundational ideas, but that he has the energy and persistence to keep pushing the boundaries and to work to bring the rest of us with him.

So, thank you Stephen. Keep on OLDailying!

Noam Chomsky on progressive changes

From a Rawstory article about Chomsky’s interview on NPR:

“If you take a look at the progressive changes that have taken place in the country, say, just in the last 50 years – the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, opposition to aggression, the women’s movement, the environmental movement and so on – they’re not led by any debate in the media,” Chomsky said. “No, they were led by popular organizations, by activists on the ground.”

Sounds consistent with what we see in education and edtech – progressive changes are made in the trenches. The media (and other parasitic corporate organizations) does not lead the changes – they follow (usually with a poor level of fidelity, and with co-option of ideals through monetization, financialization and other greedmongering urges).

It might be interesting if we recognize the power of in-the-trenches progressive changes led by activists (i.e., us), and use that influence to harness the corporate lapdogs rather than limply ranting against them…