Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
February 4, 2003

The One Standard, LOM and the Semantic Web This is a lucid and insightful summary of my presentation, "One Standard For All: Why We Donít Want It, Why We Donít Need It" capturing my main points with clarity and accuracy. It also links to an "unedited PDF" version (which is really nothing but the slides). Kraan's summary is probably better than my original presentation, for which I am grateful. And his criticisms are dead on. By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, February 4, 2003 4:49 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

IEEE to Lift SCORM, IMS Content Packaging to Standard Status, Clarifies LOM Future There's a lot packed into this story, the lead of which is that the IEEE is going to adopt a number of current initiatives, including SCORM and the IMS content packaging specification, to standards. But there's more, as competency definitions and digital rights expression language groups are nearly finished their own projects. Riding above all this is an ongoing copyright issue (previously flagged here in OLDaily): "the LTSC appears increasingly aware of the unease in the community about the pretty strict copyright terms that attach to IEEE standards. LOM, for example, will cost $77.00 as a PDF for a non member, and it is unclear whether derivative works (IMS Meta-Data, CanCore) are permitted, and if so, in what form." By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, February 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ISO SC36 'Metadata for Learning Resources' Working Group Approved The first paragraph says it all: "Following a ballot of its national members, the ISO JTC1 SC36 educational standards body will set up a working group for "Metadata for Learning Resources". But hang on, didn't we already have IEEE's LOM as a standard for data about learning objects? We do, and how IEEE's LOM and ISO's LRM will relate is going to be interesting." By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, February 4, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Metrics for Knowledge Management and Content Management As online learning merges with content management and knowledge management, the metrics for evaluating online learning will evolve. This article is a good guide to the metrics currently in use by the knowledge management community. It also describes a number of measurement techniques, including my favorite, "double jacking" (where one person listens in while another handles a sales call or customer enquiry). In a nutshell: "Determine tangible business goals for the project, identify key business metrics that are directly related to these goals, identify supporting implementation, customer service and cultural metrics, and use best practice approaches, such as measuring a baseline, or using a control group, to ensure that the metrics are effective." By James Robertson, Step Two Designs, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

No Silver Bullet For Web Content People who put out regular content depend on their tools. The only reason I can publish OLDaily every day is that I have written a content management tool that automatically creates and mails the newsletter. But would this newsletter - or any newsletter - be the same if I simply gave the tool to someone else and told them to start writing? Of course not (cynics would say it would be a lot better!). "The difference between poor quality and high quality content is not in the software that serves it, but in the people that write and organize it. Content is critical. Increasingly, it is the lifeblood that runs through the veins of the information economy. You'd better get good at it." By Gerry McGovern, New Thinking, February 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

More Adventures With the Penguin I haven't had time to document my great Linux experiment the way I'd like, but the project has started. I went to the Office Depot to pick up a copy of Mandrake Linux (recommended from several sources), and after digging around the back shelves (they had none on display) they managed to scrounge a copy of 9.0 (which, as I recall, is the current distribution). After reading the documentation (unusual for me), I installed it on my spare computer, a three year old IBM Aptiva. On the first attempt, the screen (an ancient Datatrain monitor) scrambled, but on the second attempt I selected 'lovga' and it worked just fine. After that the install proceeded smoothly: Mandrake recognized and correctly configured everything, including my printer and scanner. It did not, however, recognize my wireless PCI card, which means my spare computer has no internet access. So, the adventure continues. Meanwhile, this article is about Jack Kapica's adventures installing Red Hat Linux; like me, he ran into difficulties with internet access. For those of us in the wired north, Linux needs to support more than just dial-up access. If anyone could point me to a resource on this, I'd be happy to pass it along. By Jack Kapica, Globe and Mail, January 31, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Seating Made Simple It's a parody, but it's a pretty good one. Imagine chairs were soft like software or online content. It gives the concept of a "seat license" a whole new meaning (and in so doing, illustrates the absurdity of it all). Oh, and don't forget to click on the "sight license" link at the bottom of the page. By Steve Mann, Walker Art Center, February, 2001 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Democracy in the Dark: Public Access Restrictions from Westlaw and LexisNexis As Peter Suber summarizes in FOS News, "While nearly all U.S. states provide these primary sources of law free on state-run web sites, most do not include cases prior to 1995 or so. Moreover, West Publishing (owned by Thomson) and LexisNexis (owned by Reed Elsevier), the two companies that dominate the market for electronic access to primary sources of law, will not sell accounts to public libraries." And as the author of this article notes, "Democracies die behind closed doors.... When government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation." This is yet another instance of a private concern acquiring ownership of what should be common property. I agree with this: "the courts and the court's words belong to us. In more ways than one, the American people have already paid for the case law produced by our courts. Commercial vendors must not be allowed to highjack our law or dictate who may have access to it." By Melissa Barr, Searcher, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

NewsScan OLDaily has, like NewsScan, also experienced difficulties with software filters. You probably know by now that I'll brave most anything to get an issue out, no matter how truncated. So if your OLDaily doesn't show up, look first to your filtering system. That said, I feel for NewsScan, a useful publication that rubbed the filters the wrong way yesterday with a quote from Henry James. I won't restate the quote here, but I will echo these sentiments: "It's deliciously ironic that the 'unacceptable' language in NewsScan Daily was quoted from one of the most respected intellectual publications in the world, Commentary magazine -- and was an observation about the inarticulate and uneducated young people who show up in today's institutions of higher learning. Well, what can we say, other that we are shocked, shocked, at what has happened. Something, we realize, has changed in the nature of civilized discourse in America. And yet we will continue calling attention to Henry James any time we feel like it -- and software filters be d*mned!" By John Gehl and Suzanne Douglas, NewsScan, February 4, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Bulletproof Model for the Design of Blended Learning This is a good document, outlining the major steps required to plan the development of a blended, distance or online learning course. It also illustrates, in passing, how time consuming and labour-intensive the instructional design process can be, especially if the course is being designed for a specific audience or application. By Frank J. Troha, The CEO Refresher, December, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Enabling Pillars This report a studies of policies for information and communication technologies (ICT) in education and training in Australian education systems and agencies. This page links to an executive summary, from which a PDF version of the full report may be accessed. The report notes that "Achieving the full potential of ICT in education and in society, so as to transform the way people learn in the digital era, is likely to require policies that stimulate cultural change in education institutions, and in the communities they serve, in building a culture that supports enterprise, learning, innovation, and creativity." The key issue, notes the document, is "whether a more comprehensive and systemic approach is required." I understand the motivation, but caution is in order. Innovation requires diversity, and diversity is difficult to obtain in a centrally coordinated system (though the document is dated from May of last year, this is the first I've seen of it. Via the Australian Flexible Learning Framework). By Peter Kearns and John Grant, Department of Education, Science and Training, May, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Proposed Directive on Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights: Frequently Asked Questions This useful document highlights significant differences between the European Union directive, which it describes, and copyright legislation in the United States. As IDG's Joris Evers summarizes, "The European Commission on Thursday presented a draft directive that punishes copyright infringement for commercial purposes, but leaves the home music downloader untouched, infuriating the entertainment industry." As you read through the FAQ what you'll notice is the clear and sensible division the European directive makes between commercial and non-commercial use. It also seeks to strike (to use a phrase repeated throughout the document) a "fair balance" between the rights of producers and consumers. By Press Release, European Union, January 30, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Roman Forum Virtually Recreated in California As you read through this item, which depicts the creation of a vitual version of the Roman Forum in 400 AD, think of it this way: within a few years, students will be able to have the same experience in their own classroom, and a few years after that, people will be able to experience it in their living room. I don't think people understand yet what new visual technology will bring. But imagine your favorite episode of Star Trek in 360 degree surround vision, an visual treat that allows you to walk among the figures to view the action from different angles. This exhibit in California is just the tip of a very large and interesting iceberg. By Mike O'Sullivan, Voice of America, January 30, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

On the Web, It's Easy to Earn Straight A's This is yet another article bemoaning the proliferation of fake credentials over the internet. Like most such phenomena, the transgression isn't new - people have been faking credentials since credentials were invented. The internet just makes it easier. Though this article talks of enforcement and copy protection, it is missing any suggestion that universities verify credentials via web services or some similar authentication process. Forget about trying to tamper-proof paper documents; that's so 20th century. By Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 7, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2003 Stephen Downes
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