Entrevista Stephen Downes


Good afternoon Mr. Downes,
As we have explained in our first contact, we are attending a Master degree in eLearning Pedagogy at Universidade Aberta in Lisbon. In the curricular unit named Pedagogical Practices in eLearning, it was proposed an interview to a professor/trainer in the area. Regarding the work that you have developed and being one of the most referred authors during this master's programme. We thank you very much the opportunity thar you are giving us.
1 - How did you begin your professional path and what arouse your interest by online education area?
My academic education was Philosophy , which is quite unusual for a start. While I was studying philosophy, I took a job to distance teaching: teach in a master degree in another university by telephone, online, by remote access and online. And was that professional experience for several years that brought me to the area where I work now.

2- You say that "Web 2.0 is not a technological revolution, it is as social revolution, meaning Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology" What is the influence of Web 2.0 in eLearning? And which are the implications in the educational practices?
That is an interesting question. It was more an attitude than a technology, meaning that previously people accessed to the contents that someone produced and then it changed to a process/environment where who produces can access to the content that someone produces as well. The one who produces is the one who consumes as well. Consumer can also create. There was a social and educational impact. In technological terms it was only a mechanism that allowed creating networks from other leaning networks. The learners were their own teachers/tutors. They were able now to create study networks with videos, at youtube, share them, create a blog, create a supporting and learning base more adequate and accessible to themselves. It changed to a personal learning environment. The social impact was to start from what people could learn through someone to what people could learn by themselves.

3- You refer that the values which base the Personal Learning Environments are the same of Web 2.0, where can we see that those values help to improve learning?
We have to keep in mind that what we say or want to say improves the learning. Usually talk about learning is to remember mathematics, data, procedures and several abilities/skills. That way is easy to measure what you learn. However, we increasingly see that learning is a complex phenomenon. It is not only the acquisition of knowledge and abilities. It is a development process. It changes to the person who starts to know and develops itself and not the person who acquires the knowledge. By developing the learning in a network environment, specific or even real tasks are worked; it works with specialists in that area. The purpose is to become itself into an expert/specialist and not into a consumer of the specialists' knowledge. How to say? It is to learn all the competence/ability of several aspects related to a subject instead of studying only its core/centre.

4- What is the most correct word to designate a teacher in this area of teaching? Why?
That is an interesting question. The role of teaching changes. It is not a single role anymore. A single teacher, mentor, tutor, assistant. You have technicians, presenters, specialists available online. There is not a word to replace the word teacher, there is a lot depending on the point of view and the task that is expected from this interactivity, from the purposes that you have.

5- There are several activities developed in online context, which are the most commonly used and those you believe that have a better approval from tne students side? (approach the item motivation)
Which are the better tasks? What will most benefit the students will be the activity that they would choose. They will be committed with that choice. It is not the nature of the activity that determines the effectiveness but how the activity serves the concept of the users, what they need. I know you do not like this answer, you would prefer me that they usually lije questionnaires or essays but that would be inappropriate.

6- What is the importance level of the e-portfolios in the students' learning?
Creativity is important in learning. The E-Portfolio has a central role by showing your work in a public site and to a wider audience because it motivates people to showing their best. You need to be careful with the word e-portfolio because different institutions use it differently. It has to do with the purpose of that portfolio.

7- Whose aspects do you consider weaker in the modality of teaching?
Tests. But they are needed because people need to get any feedback. Lectures. Especially online they are not effective. Everything that is formal, automatic, inflexible.

8- How do you see the future of online learning? And what advice would you give to the future professionals in this area?
Work in this area will become even more specialized. Educators will have to be more comprehensive in the use of technologies, even outside educational area. For example computer games. How they work. In order to involve and attract more people to the online teachin/learning.

Thank you for your availability and cooperation!