Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
December 5, 2002

Television Production: A Comprehensive On-line Cybertext in Studio and Field Production You may need a fully equipped broadcast studio to get the most of out this course, but the detailed descriptions and lavish illustration will fill in a lot of the gaps. Thanks, Trond, for the link. By Ron Whittaker, CyberCollege, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ADL Release New Implementation Guide, Conformance Test Suite [and] Almost Final Version 1.3 of SCORM SCORM developers must be pulling out their hair. Just before ALD's Plugfest 7, which concludes today, the organization released a new implementation guide of the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), as well as an updated conformance test suite for testing content and systems. Not that this guide matters much: these are designed for SCORM 1.2 while the release of SCORM 1.3 is expected shortly. ADL has also released a self-tutorial for e-learning through its Wisconsin "Academic ADL" - you can find it here but be prepared to go through an annoying login process. By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, December 3, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Z39.50 Search and Retrieve Turned Into Simpler Web Service The Z39.50 protocol, a mature and widely used protocol for retrieving data from remote databases, has been converted into a much simpler web service. As the article describes it, the new protocol, SRW, "doesn't have notions of connection, session or state. It simply makes use of the request - response model that practically all the web uses. Even better, queries can be sent out to databases encoded in plain URLs (hence the SRU bit), even if the response will be in SOAP." By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, November 27, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Howard Rheingold, Smart Mobs There are some really good bits in this online chat session with Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs. Rheingold was one of the first writers to recognize the potential of online communities and definitely the first to express what is now a truism: that online communities must be nurtured and grown, not built (if only educational designers had the same insight). In Smart Mobs, Rheingold taps into the way in which the internet empowers previously disaffected groups, creating 'smart mobs.' Rheingold writes, "It seems to me that the act of getting up out of your chair and reading a blog or two about something that interests you is, in itself, a small act of conscious rebellion." Yeah! By Howard Rheingold, Inkwell.Vue, November 21, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Harvard Mouse Can't be Patented In a decision I believe to be the correct one, the Canadian Supreme Court has rejected Harvard University's application to patent a life form - known as the Harvard Mouse - in Canada. By Kirk Makin and Darren Yourk, Globe and Mail, December 5, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Source This newsletter for users of the American Memeory collection of the Library of Congress relaunches with a nice new look and confusing navigation. You can't view the archives per se, but if you click on 'show all articles' you will get a partial list of articles depending on the section. There is no search, contents or about page. The articles, which are very short to begin with, are actually split into two (sometimes in mid-sentence), but clicking a second time will reveal the full article on a single page. By Various Authors, The Library of Congress, November 15, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Assessment Good general resource on student assessment, including discussions of the need for assessment, types of assessment, and assessment rubrics. As is typical with GLEF resources, there is a fair amount of streaming video embedded in some of the inner pages; though text is provided you will find that if you are on a slower connection the video will bog you down. You'll also encounter some PDF files in the deeper links. By Various Authors, George Lucal Educational Foundation, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

EM2: An Environment for Editing and Management of Educational Metadata Nice paper that describes convincingly the flaws in current options for creating and editing educational metadata and that describes the architecture of a tool that would do the job. The article contains a great list of existing XML and educational metadata editors and offers a chart (with many glaring white spaces) mapping the desired fiunctionality with the available tools. This is a great paper but it does not indicate wther the tool actually exists yet - I have written to them and will provide an update if there is anything available. By Demetrios Sampson, Vicky Papaioannou and Panayiota Karadimitriou, Educational Technology & Society, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

An Architecture for Web-based e-Learning Promoting Re-usable Adaptive Educational e-Content Anyone familiar with the IMS packaging specification will find this an easy read. Essentially, what the authors propose in an extension to the specification that enables the packaging of adaptive learning packages. It's a good idea and the final IMS specification will likely contain something like this. However, the authors go about it in the usual centralized IMS way, and their architecture illustrates the flaws of such an approach. Specialized KOD packages are, of course, different from IMS packages, and therefor require the use of a "KOD adapter" in order to be used (figure 7). Moreover, since the learning package includes physical files (figure 2), much greater storage and data processing capacity is needed. And the model of a KOD "factory" (figure 3) will send justifiable chills up the spine of many educators. But most of these flaws are inherent in IMS and the authors do a good job of working within these limitations. By Demetrios Sampson, Charalampos Karagiannidis, and Fabrizio Cardinali, Educational Technology & Society, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Student-Centered Teaching Meets New Media: Concept and Case Study I weighed this article for a while. It contains many common flaws: it makes generalizations based on a study of 29 people, it fudges on the definition of student-centered teaching (there are still obligatory lectures!), the surveys used seem a little suspect, and of course it ends with the obligatory comment that "more research is needed" (just once I'd like to see a study that concludes that further research would be futile). But the article does contain a good discussion of student centered teaching (and Rogers in particular) in the first part. And the comparison with constructivism is interesting. By Renate Motschnig-Pitrik and Andreas Holzinger, Educational Technology & Society, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Ivan Illich This is as good a manifesto as any: "A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known. Such a system would require the application of constitutional guarantees to education. Learners should not be forced to submit to an obligatory curriculum, or to discrimination based on whether they possess a certificate or a diploma. Nor should the public be forced to support, through a regressive taxation, a huge professional apparatus of educators and buildings which in fact restricts the public's chances for learning to the services the profession is willing to put on the market. It should use modern technology to make free speech, free assembly, and a free press truly universal and, therefore, fully educational." From Deschooling Society, by Ival Illich, who died Monday in Germany. By Unknown, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Market to Die For? A report from investment analyst Morgan Stanley is causing a ripple in the library community as it argues that due to the "inelasticity of demand" for academic journal articles, the trend favoring price increases and the centralization of publication sources (and specifically, Reed Elsevier). The inelasticity is caused primarily by the conservatism of content authors who tend to favour established journals over open publishing initiatives such as SPARC and OAI. How inelastic is the market? "Since 1986 the average price of a journal has risen by 215% while the number of journals purchased has fallen by only 5.1%." Proof, it seems, that university staff aren't as smart as everyone thinks. By Chris Beckett, Serials-eNews, November 21, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

INIST-CNRS/BioMed Central Ltd Partnership Agreement for Promotion of Scientific Information Still stung by the recent closure of PubScience, BioMed Central, which deposits its open access articles in PubMed Central, has announced that it will also deposit them in a repository hosted by the French Institut de l’Information Scientifique et Technique of the CNRS (INIST-CNRS). Americans should take note that the privatization of previously public scientific information has as a direct result the driving of that research overseas. By Press Release, INIST-CNRS, December 3, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Comparative Study on Current Trends in Distance Education in Canada and India A relatively short overview of distance and online learning in the two countries. From my perspective the information about Canada is accurate, which bodes well for the author's depiction of distance elearning in India. The author notes that in both countries distance education has expanded rapidly, but the needs and problems addressed by the two countries are different. Interesting is the author's observation about the "piranhas" that plague both systems: "small topic or domain specific niche players. These organizations will be more nimble and able to take small bites out of the education market and possibly leave little for traditional suppliers." By Manjulika Srivastava, Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes