Zen of Teaching: Interview with Stephen Downes

IN November 2022 I had an opportunity to interview Stephen Downes at Online Educa Berlin, where I was participating.

He was so kind to accept the interview and we soon found ourselves in the foyer of a stylish bar on the upper floor of the hotel, where I arranged my usually low-key equipment (my phone) and set to shoot in front of a magnificent Berliner view.

Before getting to the details of the interview I have to say it is being published quite some time after, given that on my way back home I was reached by sad news and a family loss, of which I’ll write later.

So, at the almost beginning of the new year, I want to say I’m sorry to Stephen for waiting so long without notice. Anyhow, it was an interesting and candid interview—and quite pleasant.

As widely known, Downes is a Canadian researcher in educational tech and pedagogy. He created with George Siemens the first MOOC (in 2008) and the very idea thereof.
(See The Rise of MOOCs Apr 23, 2012)

CCK08 First MOOC

CCK08 First MOOC

I was lucky enough to participate in said MOOC on Connectivist learning and it was an extraordinary experience which inspired me ever since in my teaching activity and tech use.

Stephen can be read at his blog Half An Hour  and his Oldaily “news and commentary about learning technology, new media, and related topic”.

So, it is in this spirit that I approached him one afternoon in Berlin, 24th November 2022. Here is the unabridged interview.

Note that there is some workers’ sound in the background: They were preparing the bar… the noise is fastidious but at that point was unavoidable and is perfectly in synch with the amateurish approach of these interviews in the #zenofteaching cycle.

We talked about AI, the metaverse vs the open Web, blockchain etc. In the case of robots vs student assistants I reckon I did not follow up with an observation: it is in interest of universities and students to have them practice as much as possible during their tenure. This would mean, in my opinion, that it would be always better to count on them as assistants than (cheaper, for sure) machines. Also, I’m not that convinced of his take on symbolic AI, but that’s on another post.

Here is the interview, then!

[Featured image: “Stephen Downes-3” by Stephen Downes is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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