Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
January 10, 2003

Electronic Journals in the Field of Education Almost 100 online journals in the field of education. "To the best of our ability to discern, we have included only links to electronic journals that are scholarly, peer-reviewed, full text and accessible without cost. We have excluded professional magazines that are largely not refereed, and commercial journals that may only allow access to a very limited number of articles as an enticement to buy." With this list, it's hard to see how any school or library justifies spending any money on fee-based online publications in education. By Various Authors, American Educational Research Association, May 10, 2000 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Dismay as BBC Gets E-learning Go-ahead No bias in this headline! The BBC has won the right to provide free digital educational resources to schools, as it should. The thought of making it illegal for a government to provide resources to its own schools is ridiculous. Sure, industry calls it "anti-competitive," but by this logic any government service (into which industry decided it would like to offer its services) is anti-competitive. Sorry, it doesn't wash. Industry doesn't have the right to prevent a people, acting through their government, to provide for themselves. By Richard Agnew, NetImperative, January 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Assessing Learning Management Systems This article examines some key issues "critical to the function of any enterprise management system." They are: high availability, scalability, usability, interoperability, stability, and security. It's not a bad list, but it's not a great one. Take high availability: "The LMS must be robust enough to serve the diverse needs of thousands of learners, administrators, content builders and instructors simultaneously." Sounds good, but what it means is that the tool your instructors are using supports all the functions administrators and students need, functions that may never be used by an instructor. Is this good value for money? Scalability also sounds good: but the key question is whether it scales by making a big system bigger (bad) or by multiplying instances of simple services (good)? Interoperability: good if you want to interoperate, a useless pile of overhead otherwise. And some key issues are overlooked. Vendor lock-in, for example. Could you switch systems in a couple of years without losing everything or facing a major expense? And what if the LMS company goes out of business? Unless you have purchased an open source system that you can maintain yourself, you have been saddled with a huge, ugly and obsolete system throughout your enterprise. In summary, the list offered in this article is a vendors' list: it's what vendors want you to watch for. But you are much better off watching out for your own interests. By Anonymous, January 10, 2003 10:25 a.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Down and Out in the Magic Kindgom Cory Doctorow's book is available for free download at this site. And it has been downloaded a lot: 20,000 times. So what's it doing moving steadily up the Amazon sales rank chart? Proving that free does not mean commercial disaster. Quite the opposite. By Cory Doctorow, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Turning Schools Into Profit Centers This article highlights some of the dangers of the 'pay for performance' model being adopted in the U.S. education system. In a nutshell, "schools operating in such 'corporatized' environments have, in due course, adopted some of the tricks of the Enrons and WorldComs, fudging the numbers and hiding the losses to inflate their performance." The article is also critical of short-term indicators of success, such as high stakes exams, suggesting instead that schools should be perhaps evaluated on the number of graduates who go on to college. It's an interesting thought - by any test-based measure, my high school education would have been labelled a failure (this being a combination of my boycotts of English tests and general indifference). But was my education a failure? Really? By Peter Sacks, Education Week, January 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

MAGIC Bank MAGIC stands for "Media Activities and Good Ideas by, with and for Children." Created by UNICEF, it is a resource bank where you can find media about a variety of topics, including rights, democracy, citizenship, and more. Entries in the bank feature a summary of the initiative, a section on challenges and lessons learned, plus contact details. It unfortunately does not link to the media products listed themselves. To get to the listings, click on 'Bank' at the right side of the page. By Various Authors, UNICEF, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Investigation into the Part-time work of Pupils in Britain and Germany One of the reasons people tout online learning is the ability of flexible delivery to support students who have jobs. This survey looks at the types, impact and pay for working students in Britain and in Germany. More than half the students in both countries are working. The authors conclude, "pupils themselves and their parents had much the same attitude to part-time work in both countries - and this was overwhelmingly positive. The nature of the school day, however, and perhaps the more relaxed British shop laws pushed British pupils into working at less convenient times and for longer. There is some evidence that they are aware of the effect this may have on their school work." They also get, on average, 6 to 8 Euros per hour. I would have loved to earn that when I was in school! A note to the authors: if you go to all this work, at least put your name somewhere on the document! By Unknown, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Kanari Kanari is a peer-to-peer knowledge management and sharing tool designed for teachers and other knowledge workers. According to the website, it offers the "first total environment," integrating tools for knowledge reception, consultation, publication, storage and categorization. The tool is available in French only. There is a free download available (click on the télécharger link). By Various Authors, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Any bright ideas? Originality in The Arts is Hard to Find In An Ironic, Postmodernist Age You've probably read something like this before, an article that complains about how difficult it is to find (or create) an original work in the information age. True, genius does show in any age. But what about the rest of us? We must struggle along, change a word here, an idea there. Adapt this article, about original ideas in postmodern art, to a new field, original ideas in digital content. That's new, right? By Steven Winn, San Francisco Chronicle, January 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2003 Stephen Downes
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