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February 15, 2002

Learning Objects Albert Ip yesterday on elearningleaders writes, with respect to learning objects, "As I continue to work with the learning technologist hat on, I am getting more and more ... (I am lost in word, English is not my first language!)." From reading the three papers on this website, I suspect the word Ip is searching for is "frustrated" (or perhaps "confused"). Ip, who specializes in role-playing simulations, finds very little that is reusable in learning objects, and in one paper suggests that the term "learning objects" should even be used at all. I am sympathetic, but I think what we have here is a case of using new technology do do old things. Are learning objects per se useful in role-playing simulations? Maybe not. By Albert Ip, et.al., Digital Learning Systems P/L, 2001.[Refer]

Wireless Attendance Recording: The FTL patent explained See, this is the sort of thing that can just kill innovation. A company called Frontline Technology Limited (FTL) has obtained patents for "the transfer of student data by radio." Now the company's information page says, "I am using IEEE 802 wireless/ I am using GPRS to collect student data by radio. Should this be licensed by the patent? Yes." Thus, if you use your 802.11 wideless network to transfer an Excel speadsheet over your LAN, you should pay FTL royalties for this "innovation." This is not just some idle threat, either: FTP has taken Tasc Software Solutions Limited of Wolverhampton and others to court for infringement of its patent relating to the transfer of pupil data in education by radio ? patent number EP 0664061. Now I ask, just what is it in this case that "the budding entrepreneur" has spent "years finding a solution to a problem which perhaps others have given up on?" It seems to me that FTL's main activity was to collect patents (they have an impressive array). Did they create 802.11? No, IEEE did that, and companies like Intel developed wireless 802.11 hubs and networks. Did they create Excel? No, that was Microsoft. So what, exactly, did they develop? And why does the law say we should give them money? Stupid. Just stupid. By Press Release, Frontline Technologies Limited, January 8, 2002.[Refer]

Students Take to the Streets for Cause - and Extra Credit I am going to include this link because it touches at the heart of so much of the debate about online learning, even if it is not about online learning. The story, in a nutshell, is that students at a Catholic school received extra course credit for taking part in an anti-abortion demonstration outside an abortion clinic. Now before you respond with joy or outrage - I have seen students recieve credit for working for such causes as international development (indeed, I recieved credit for that, many years ago), the promotion of multiculturalism, raising money for Oxfam, and more. Now part of what is good about online learning is that it gets students out of the classroom and in the community. But online learning is being used to encourage a proliferation of specialist schools - charter schools in Massachusetts, for example, or privatized schooling in Philadelphia. Well, OK, but... when you have a lot of different schools, you have a lot of different social, cultural and political agendas... and the simple idea of getting students into the community becomes the complex idea of using students to advance these causes... and even that is fine, if it's the student's choice: but more and more, it becomes the parent's choice, or the school's choice, because the students are on the bad side of a power imbalance. Something to think about. By Matthew P. Blanchard, Philadelphia Enquirer, February 15, 2002.[Refer]

XML at the Heart of Texas A&M Student Services You've read a lot on this list about XML and a few days ago a whole slew of items about middleware... now Texas A&M puts it all together to provide a comprehensive student services solution. "To facilitate the use of XML, the university deployed EntireX Broker, middleware from Software AG that acts as a gateway, allowing developers to work with code from a variety of sources. EntireX accepts XML and translates it for the legacy systems, and vice versa. The middleware also lets Texas A&M programmers reuse existing code to speed development time and reduce errors--all in a Web-based framework." By Karen D. Schwartz, ZD Net , February 12, 2001.[Refer]


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