Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
May 13, 2002

Referrals For those of you who got my, um, unscheduled newsletter distribution this morning, I can only say... sorry. Sometimes Internet Explorer decides a page needs to be loaded even though you didn't ask. Sometimes that page is the 'send newsletter' page.

That said, I was beside myself with excitement this morning. Last week, you may recall, I talked about linkbacks - a system where a web page automatically links back to a page that links to it. The system I described last week could only be used by people able to install their own server side includes. But over the weekend I developed a simple Javascript tool that makes linkbacks available for everybody. As I write, it is propogating itself through the blogsphere - a beautiful thing to watch, really.

Other people go fishing or camping or putter in the garden on the weekends... I write code.

I'm in Ottawa for the rest of this week for a government of Canada e-learning conference, so the newsletter may be a bit later than usual. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, May 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Creating Learning Objects With Macromedia Flash MX This white paper, the first in a series, outlines how Macromedia tools can be used to build learning objects. Next to be released, a second white paper extends the first by describing how to incorporate dynamic content into learning objects. Interesting look into the near future. By Tanya Heins and Francis Himes, Macromedia, April, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Profits Could Soar for Online Schools Oh this is so silly. On the one hand, what we have is something we have so long been waiting for - a way to substantially reduce the cost of providing quality education. And as we suspected, it comes to us via online learning. So where do those savings go? Into lower costs for parents and taxpayers? No, of course not. They go into providing 50 percent profit margins for private schools competing against building-bound traditional schools for the same education dollar. So in Ohio, where this is being played out, where is the battle? Is it an effort to get the public system to implement online learning. No, of course not. The effort instead is to prevent the charter schools from offering a lower cost education. Sheesh. By Doug Oplinger and Dennis J. Willard, Akron Beacon Journal, May 11, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Semantic Web Metadata for e-Learning - Some Architectural Guidelines Your word for the day is "reification." I'll explain. This useful essay looks at the practical implementation of metadata for learning objects. One of the myths it tackles is the idea that metadata must be objective, that is, known to be true of the object it describes (you hear this over and over: how can you know the metadata is quality metadata). The idea of reification is that you record not only what was said about the learning object but also who said it. Thus instead of saying "This object is excellent" the metadata says "This object is excellent according to the author" (and elsewhere, "This object is not so excellent according to Downes"). OK, that's just the first stage in developing a metadata ecosystem built upon layers of schemas (exactly what I propose as well). The new uses of metadata - certification, annotation, extension, reuse - are exactly what I have been describing in recent talks. Read this paper. Read this paper! By Mikael Nilsson, Matthias Palmér and Ambjörn Naeve, Proceedings of the 2nd European Web-Based Learning Environment Conference, October, 2001 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

NewzCrawler I'm just playing around with this in my office (instead of doing my work, as I'm supposed to). NewzCrawler is a desktop application that scans news sites and reports on new items of interest. Navigation is via a left hand topic based menu and by a pop-up news alert service. Of course, there is no reason why such an application should be restricted to news: wouldn't it make a great tool for scanning learning object repositories and retrieving new learning objects? Things like this application - as opposed to, say, big centralized learning management systems - is the future of education. By A D C Software, May 13, 2002 10:02 a.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability Jakob Nielsen is back again with a summary piece on home page usability. This is common sense advice, really. The most useful suggestion advises readers to place real site content - not just links - on the home page. By Jakob Nielsen, Alertbox, May 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Debt Sentence: Growing Loan Burden Puts College Students in Financial Bind I have a personal interest in this item. The increasing reliance on student loans to fund college and university classes is leaving students with ever large financial burdens when they graduate. "For the poorest one-fifth of students, not counting loans or grants, tuition would gobble 12 percent of family income for community college, 25 percent at a four-year public school and more than 110 percent for a four-year private school. That's double the family burden in 1980." By Mark Schwanhausser, San Jose Mercury News, May 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes