Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
December 30, 2002

Paying for Learning Objects in a Distributed Repository Model One thing I like vacations is that I am able to get so much work done. A case in point is this long overdue description of how a payment system would work in a distributed learning object repository network. The article is a bit technical (but I've abstracted the worst of the squiggles). But I felt it important to provide as much detail as possible when describing the mechanism. I welcome your comments and criticisms: as always, please use the [Reflect] link to post your comments. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, December 28, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How to Ruin Society From the honesty in journalism department, I pass along this article I wrote for my other site, NewsTrolls. It has little to do with e-learning, but lists my responses to a wide range of issues (including education) raised by Ben Stein in a recent article in Forbes. By Stephen Downes, NewsTrolls, December 22, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Costs Negate E-learning ROI I've commented on the high cost of learning management systems before, but this article is the first real sign that the mainstream is feeling the pinch. Some coporate learning officers are quoted in this story as asserting that "vendors' insistence on applying per-seat licensing contracts to companies with large numbers of potential end users." I agree. But will vendors change their pricing practices? Don't bet on it. By Thomas Hoffman, ComputerWorld, December 23, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Mr. Chips or Microchips Ben wrote to me today to point to a BBC panel discussion (involving Sherry Turkle, David Reynolds, Josh Angrist and others) on the use of computers in education. As Ben pointed out, most of the discussion in the interview and the Slashdot discussion was the usual "the internet's only a tool" type of discussion. But Reynolds makes a good point in the panel discussion when he observes, "the difficulty has been that so far weve used information technology really as like a superannuated encyclopaedia. But what people have historically thought was that its possible to form new networked communities of learning that would use information technology, not just to acquire existing knowledge, as it were, from an encyclopaedia, but actually to generate new knowledge because the learners would interact with each other." I think that's quite true, but this important observation was for the most part overlooked in the subsequent discussion. By Frances Cairncross, BBC Radio 4, December 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

In-Room Chat as a Social Tool "My hovercraft is full of eels." Well, OK, some of the chat messages were a bit, um, out there. But this experiment in the use of an online chat as a means of facilitating communication in a classroom is otherwise a success. And it provides an answer to the inevitable question in the world of Wi-Fi: "Given that attendees will be using the network, would you rather have them talking to one another, or reading Slashdot?" This is a great article, well worth reading (and emulating). By Clay Shirky, Open P2P, December 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

When The Web Starts Thinking For Itself The point of this article is to sound a note of caution regarding the expected capabilities of the emerging "thinking" web. It gives an average background of the role of resource description formats (RDF) and ontologies in the storage and creation of online knowledge. Then it advocates "a need to construct boundaries, such as user-determined privacy settings, to safely contain such interactions." By David Green,, December 20, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Individual Researchers Gain Access to over 300,000 IEEE Technical Articles The headline sounds great - access to 300,000 technical articles! But read on and you see that your $US 35 per month allows you to read only 25 of those articles. This is ridiculous. What serious researcher reads only 25 articles in a month? The IEEE has its priorities seriously skewed. It should be pushing for free and open access to these papers, especially those that deal with technical standards. By Press Release, Business Wire, December 27, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Copyright Concerns Lead the Year's Big Fusses and Flaps Survey article describing the copyright wars of the last year, a war that is mostly an exercise in futility as " those who steal creativity for a living continued their trade largely unchecked." The author holds out hope that "some faceless, amorphous multinational conglomerate compete with piracy on the one ground where it can win - not technology, politics or law, but economics." Why does it have to be some multinational conglomorate? By Rob Pegoraro, Washington Post, December 29, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Know a friend who might enjoy this newsletter?

Feel free to forward OLDaily to your colleagues. If you received this issue from a friend and would like a free subscription of your own, you can join our mailing list at

[ About This NewsLetter] [ OLDaily Archives] [ Send me your comments]

Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes