Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
August 14, 2002

18th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning Today's somewhat large newsletter is being brought to you live from sunny Madison, Wisconsin as I am here to give a seminar at this very large distance education conference. For those of you who missed me, here's the tally: cable installers who didn't show up (once), lost passport (twice), lost luggage (twice, and still lost), missed flights (once), unexpected visits to St. Louis (once), Gateway Arch views (none), broken computers (once), meals served on twelve-hour journey (none), availability of internet in hotel (none), availability of ethernet or wireless at conference (none), registrants for my seminar (four) and attendees at my seminar (zero). This business can be very humbling sometimes. By Various Culprits, August 14, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Hypermedia and the Semantic Web: A Research Agenda From the (well written) abstract: "This paper gives an overview of the state-of-the-art in Semantic Web technology, the key relationships with traditional hypermedia research, and a comprehensive reference list to various sets of literature (hypertext, Web and Semantic Web). A research agenda describes the open research issues in the development of the Semantic Web from the perspective of hypermedia research." By Jacco van Ossenbruggen, Lynda Hardman and Lloyd Rutledge, Journal of Digital Information, August, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Many Outputs Many Inputs: XML for Publishers and E-book Designers I think that the author has a good point. Part of the (putative) promise of XML has been that it would allow print, online and ebook publications to be generated from a single, XML, source. But this clearly isn't the case. "A text almost always belongs to a media-specific genre. Every genre has rules or norms telling the author how to organise subject matter, how to design an argument (or a narrative plot) and how to use words and a vocabulary in shaping the genre's common language style." The issue becomes even clearer when we think about embedding multimedia, dynamic data or discussion into etexts - things that can't be donbe with paper. By Terje Hillesund, Journal of Digital Information, August, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ieSpell - A Spell Checker for Internet Explorer Say, do you think I shuold use this? "It should come in particularly handy for users who do a lot of web-based text entry (e.g. web mails, forums, blogs, diaries)." By Various Authors, August, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Media Titans Still Don't Get It The best part of this article is on the third page (though the lambasting of traditional media through the first two pages is fun to read). The part that traditional media (and traditional content companies) didn't get is this: "once those people got online, they almost immediately started behaving in unpredictable ways. They didn't wait for a media corporation to tell them what to do; they began writing pages and posting comments and building sites and contributing reviews and arguing and inventing identities." My thinking is that if learners ever got the chance, they too would behave in unpredictable ways. "Most of what's on the Web is there because someone is interested in it." Same too for learning? I know most people disagree with me on this, but I think I'm going to look like such a genius in five years as learner defined learning online takes off (of course, by then it will have been 'discovered' by some academic who wrote it up in a journal article). By Scott Rosenberg, Salon, August 13, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

MP3s Not Source of Music Industry Woes: Study People selling educational content (such as learning objects) should watch this issue closely. The music industry, citing threats to its income, went after Napster even though sales increased while it was in operation. According to this study, though, online file sharing was not the cause of the music industry's woes - blame that on more competition from other sources of entertainment and on a general downturn. Indeed, there is a lot of money to be made selling music online, but this involves giving consumers rights - such as the right to select what they want and pay only for what they want to download - that the music industry thus far has not been willing to grant. By Jack Kapica, Globe and Mail, August 13, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Hollywood's Private War for Social Control I think this article (eventually) gets to the root of the conflict between copyright holders and file sharers. Yes, it's about money, but that's a side-issue. Rather: "The Information Age threatens to reverse this centralized control mechanism and profit stream, enabling anyone to publish and promote their content around the world..." and "If you control the means to disseminate content, you can subsequently control the public. If you can't afford - or are not willing - to play by the 'established' means of control, you are typically left to fend for yourself in local venues and audiences." Consequently, "The copyright debate isn't only about profit, it's also about who controls information, and ultimately, people and society." I think this is very much the case, and that applies even more so in the field of education. By Richard Forno, The Register, August 10, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The College Lecture, Long Derided, May Be Fading In 1931 Hamilton Holt described the college lecture as "that mysterious process by means of which the contents of the professor's notebooks are transferred by means of the fountain pen to the pages of the student's notebook without passing through the mind of either." Yet the lecture persisted... but now shows signs of fading. No real details in this article, but it's a great source of quotes. By William H. Honan, New York Times, August 14, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Free Tuition Program Pays Off, Report Says This should be a no-brainer, but the fact that it's news says everything. In a nutshell, "A new study of the state's free tuition initiative for low-income students found middle-schoolers who completed the program were four times more likely to go to an Indiana public four-year college than those not in the program. The Indiana Education Policy Center evaluated the 21st Century Scholars Program, created in 1990 to give low-income students academic support and tuition if they maintain a C average in high school -- and stay out of trouble with the law and drugs." The program cost the state $40 million, but will most likely save the state many times that in the long run. Policy makers: are you listening? By Barb Berggoetz, Indianapolis Star, August 13, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Student Gadfly Runs Afoul of American U. This item would be normal - just another student ejected for trying to tape a Tipper Gore lecture at American University. It is long established that you have to ask permission to tape someone, and that public speakers very often decline to give permission. On the other hand, the student - who runs a news website - was acting (at least in some sense) as a journalist (indeed, critics say that his website was the cause of his being singled out for harsh action). The article also contains undertones of a trend at American universities whereby "the school's actions are part of a trend of colleges using restrictive discipline to silence critics." As a one-time student journalist I can say that this trend is nothing new, but with online publishing there are now many more critics. It's a lot harder now, with so many voices, but I think that society in general and universities in particular (who are notoriously thin-skinned) need to learn to live with and abide by things like freedom of the press and freedom of speech. By Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post, July 22, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Moving Target: eLearning Vendors Take Aim in a Changing Environment Good article that tries to update some of the current trends in the e-learning vendor landscape. Provides a list of about three dozen major vendors with a link, quick product guide, and brief quote. Also provides a list of some of the latest e-learning acronyms and jargon. By Sharon Gray, Syllabus, August, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Knowledge Management Just-in-Time This nice item trolled by elearningpost would have fit today's Syndicated Learning seminar perfectly. It describes a process whereby real-time medical reports and articles are embedded into an online handbook. Syndicated just-in-time learning at its most useful: "Without the system, doctors would have no easy way to access others' knowledge in real time. Automated order entry addresses this need in several ways: It increases efficiency and safeguards against errors due to poorly written orders. Even more important, it allows physicians easy access to massive amounts of up-to-date medical knowledge while they go about their daily work." By Thomas H. Davenport and John Glaser, Working Knowledge, August 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blended Learning Models This paper describes three major models for blended learning: "skill-driven learning, which combines self-paced learning with instructor or facilitator support to develop specific knowledge and skills; attitude-driven learning, which mixes various events and delivery media to develop specific behaviors; and competency-driven learning, which blends performance support tools with knowledge management resources and mentoring to develop workplace competencies." Good overviews, including a nice set of grids matching specific practices with each of the models. By Purnima Valiathan, Learning Circuits, August, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes