Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
October 2, 2002

Digital Promises Discussion of Hubert Dreyfus's article "As Educators Rush to Embrace, a Coterie of Skeptics Seeks to Be Heard." A cyber-sceptic, Dreyfus argues that "The risk-free anonymity of the Internet, he says, makes it a good medium for slander, innuendo, endless gossip, and ultimately, boredom. Without some way of telling the relevant from the irrelevant and the significant from the insignificant, everything becomes equally interesting and equally boring." I think this can be answered by pointing out that life online is as real in any meaningful sense as life offline (See my article Education and Embodiment). Tripathi responds, "if we spend most our time looking at a screen, without knowing why, but convinced that this is the new step in human evolution, then we clearly have missed the point of why we exist." But that presupposes that the meaning of existence lies in our bodies. It may lie in our minds and our ideas. It may be that the purpose of existence is to link together via computers to create collectively, perhaps, an Übermind. By Arun Kumar Tripathi, Ubiquity, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Apple Stands Firm Against Entertainment Cartel I passed over this article about three times today before the implications sunk in (sometimes I'm just slow). Apple Computers - noted for its "Rip, Mix, Burn" advertising campaign a while back - has found a market niche (perhaps) in refusing to build digital use controls (aka digital rights management) into its computers. This means that Apple computers - unlike those produced and equipped by Dell, AMD and Microsoft - will not restrict what owners can do with content on their own computers. How do I know Apple's on the right track? "The music and movie industries have been attacking Silicon Valley and the technology companies for some time. But they've reserved particular venom for Apple among the major computing-platform organizations, and have been witheringly contemptuous of Apple's 'Rip, Mix, Burn' advertising..." But here's the flip side. The publishers' plan works only if they convince *all* manufacturers to build copy protection into their systems, so that the consumer has no choice. If even one company - Apple, say - refuses, the strategy fails. For the first time in my life, I'm thinking that an Apple may be my next purchase. By Dan Gillmor, San Jose Mercury News, October 1, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Content at Your Fingertips: Better Ways to Classify & Tag This item, dredged from the ether by elearningpost, is a fascinating look at some of the complexities of metatagging. Everybody agrees that metatags will be most useful, helping narrow searches to clearly defined categories of content. But nobody wants to tag 10,000 resources by hand. This leads to the suggestion that automatic metatagging might work. The problem with automatic metatagging is that it produces errors (to see what I mean, use the OLDaily categories system, which automatically classifies learning resources (still - it's not bad code for an amateur, eh?)). OK, so humans it is, then, right? Well, wrong, because humans are almost as unreliable as machines. People categorize things differently. Systems like CanCore help, because they define what the different values mean - but what happens when people start tagging without reading the manual? I suspect that what we'll see in the long run is the rise of third-party metatagging for profit - authors and vendors will provide basic tags, but specialized companies will provide indices of learning objects (for a fee, most likely) to metadata repositories. Hey, you heard it here first. By Michael P. Voelker, Transform, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

SCORM Best Practices Guide for Content Developers The new SCORM best practices guide is out. But before rushing to the developer's chair, read the next item first... By Learning Systems Architecture Lab, Carnegie Mellon University, October 1, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Dan Rehak: "SCORM is not for everyone" There is a fascinating report about SCORM in today's CETIS. Though very short, it contains some items - tinderboxes, actually - that should give developers serious pause for thought. For example, though version 1.3 of SCORM is in draft and version 1.4 is coming down the pipe, SCORM 2.0, expected in 2004, will be "a complete rewrite of SCORM, and focus on task simulations and be highly adaptive. It will therefore have a new content model and new performance support." This means that all your nice new SCORM 1.x compliant applications and resources (on which you may have spent millions of dollars) will be obsolete some time in 2004. Pausing yet? But there's more. According to one of SCORM's main architects, Dan Rehak, "SCORM is essentially about a single-learner, self-paced and self-directed. It has a limited pedagogical model unsuited for some environments... SCORM has nothing in it about collaboration. This makes it inappropriate for use in HE (Higher Education) and K-12". Well. All this work, and it turns out that it will be useless for most of us too. But it makes me look like a prophet, I think, as I have been saying for some time now (despite considerable opposition) that the world will not standardize on SCORM. Convinced yet? By Wilbert Kraan and Scott Wilson, CETIS, October 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Organizational Development Portal Just launched, the Organizational Development Portal looks at issues related to human resources and staff development from a wider perspective. Defining "organizational development" as "the practice of changing organizations in order to grow," the site includes sections on e-learning and leadership. In the longer term, the site could also evolve into a useful repository of white papers. By David Richards, October 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes