Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
November 28, 2002

Technology, Democracy, and Academic Labor I spent most of the morning reading this outstanding special issue of Workplace. This is probably the best assessment of the impact of new technology (and new management techniques) on academic work that I have seen. In the end, the conclusion that is inescapable is that it is not technology that is threatening education, but rather a sustained attack on the role and importance of academics, from their gradual replacement in the classroom by marginalized 'information workers' to the subtle erosion of tenure to the doctrine of quality and accountability. This really is outstanding work; do take the time to read this one cover to cover. By Laura Bartlett and Marc Bousquet, eds, WorkPlace, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Chief Learning Officers Link Training and Business Goals Interesting. "Employers have begun looking at employees who could have a lifetime career with them and thinking, ‘How do we keep them performing and growing and developing as the years march on?’" Sosbe says. "Companies are thinking more about having long-term employees because it’s expensive to hire and fire employees." Not that I believe a word of this: when it comes to assets, employees seem to be the first thing discarded by a company when its stock price dips. Which means that the real strategy amounts to: how do you make it look like you're developing employees for long term careers while at the same time keeping training budgets to a minimum and ensuring short-term return on investment. Cynical? Yes. But I've read too much of the other sort of article, seen too many of the other sort of presentation, to be anything but. By Frank Jossi, WorkForce, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The TAO of Learning Objects: Part One - Nature Engaging discussion cenetered around an effort to capture the essence (or nature) of learning objects. Broad catch-all definitions (such as found in Wiley) are rejected because they do not convey the object's educational objective. In addition, an extended discussion of the object oriented approach to definition is also rejected as "marginal, at best, and absolutely counterproductive at worst" because while it captures the need for reusability, that's all it captures. Instead, they focus on the beginnings of a definition that relies more heavily on the purpose of a learning object rather than a description of its design (let's call this the 'deontological definition' as opposed to Wiley's (and IEEE's) 'digital definition' and my own 'functional definition' (which nobody ever refers to, but I've learned to live with that)). By Mike Sosteric and Susan Hesemeier, CanCore, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Web Site Lists Professors Who 'Indoctrinate' Students There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this initiative to identify professors who exhibit bias in their work. The tone of the article (as indicated by the scare quotes in the headline) and of the professors reviewed is that the students rating the professors simply don't understand the material. This condescending attitude won't help, particularly inasmuch as the students have a point: many professors carry their political beliefs into the classroom. But so what? Instead of denying the obvious, embrace it. Professors are not intended to be objective observers of society, they are expected to be interested participants. And as such, they should be encouraged to freely express their biases, and as part and parcel of that freedom, to be ready to take their criticisms like professionals, yes, even from students. By Thomas Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

It's All in What You Know: Internet Information and Expert Referral Services This article eventually gets to its main point: the next step in the evolution of computer capacities is the transfer of 'expert knowledge' to intelligent systems. According to the article, "A good 'vulture,' as the subjects call their agents, can pick your brain so thoroughly that you achieve a certain 'intellectual immortality,' your expertise permanently enshrined in lines of code and subroutines." Happily they are not strong on creativity and intuitive leaps, and are lousy beer-drinking partners, so I am safe for a while. By Reva Basch, EContent, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

W3Schools Though I found the font size far too small, this useful resource provides free tutorials on most of the essentials of today's World Wide Web, including lessons on XML, schemas, web services (SOAP and WSDL), scripting and web building. By Various Authors, Refsnes Data, Undated [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes