Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
February 6, 2003

The One Standard, LOM and The Semantic Web So anyhow, I never did make it to Ottawa. The plane took off just fine, but could not land in the freezing rain, and that's how I found myself spending the night in Sydney, Nova Scotia. On the way back my flight from Halifax was cancelled, and so Rod and I made the drive back to Moncton, having spent more than 24 hours of travel to get back to where we started. Somewhere in all of that I sent a newsletter, a newsletter that has completely vanished from my website (even the read-only archive has disappeared). Anyhow, here is one link that was broken in yesterday's edition of mystery, Wilbert Kraan's discussion of my talk on metadata. I'm still searching for the other link. By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, January 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Beethoven’s Message In a famous demonstration, philosopher G.E. Moore demonstrated the reality of a chair to an audience of sceptics by kicking it across the stage. In a similar manner, this author refuts the nihilism of post-modernism by referring to Beethovin's Ninth Symphony and asserting that there is musical perfection. "This spiritual continuity—this unswerving faith in the universal power of beauty to relieve and transcend the earthly woes of mankind—is Beethoven’s message. Small wonder that its unabashed idealism should make postmodernists so uncomfortable. Disbelieving as they do in the possibility of truth and beauty, they have no choice but to seek to explain away a universal masterpiece like the Ninth Symphony, whose very existence definitively refutes the nihilism that informs their view of the world." Now I believe the Ninth is a masterful piece of work, but does it define beauty? I think not: I think of another Nine, this one by the Beatles, that is the antithesis of Beethovin, and in its own way, no less a masterpiece. I don't care whether this is properly post-modern or not, but the lesson that I take from this is not that there can be no perfection, but rather, that perfection can express itself in many ways, many forms, and thus that the existence of one does not refute the possibility of the others. By Terry Teachout, Commentary, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Embrace File-sharing, or Die As the summary reads: "A record executive and his son make a formal case for freely downloading music. The gist: 50 million Americans can't be wrong." What follows is an extended critique to the music industry's approach to copying (and by extension, the content industry as a whole). The logic of the piece is brutally honest. Rather than file sharing, they point out, "Price is a major reason for the decline in CD sales." Moreover, "There are five or six new and growing ways for people to spend their entertainment dollar." This article is plagued by Salon's annoying interstatial ads - when you hit one, all you can do if you want to keep reading is wait for the page to advance forward. By John Snyder and Ben Snyder, Salon, February 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Putting a Faculty Face on Distance Education Programs The Triad model resurfaces in this article from Syllabus devoted to defining and describing the role of the on-site facilitator, the third link in online learning (after student and subject expert). This article draws on the use of facilitators at the University of Florida, concluding that "the addition of the facilitator/mentor faculty has brought a new dimension to distance-based programs, one that has improved overall quality." By William H. Riffee, Syllabus, February 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New Breed of Bullies Torment Their Peers on the Internet Just what we didn't need: cyber-bullying. It's no real surprise that the schoolyard menace would go hi-tech. But this new incarnation of teasing and torment brings with it, like most things wired, a new set of problems, including the anonymity of the perpetrators, the ease with which slanderous messages may be sent, the pervasive nature of the bullying. By Julie Blair, Education Week, February 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Genesis Of An Anthill: Wireless Technology And Self-Organizing Systems This article, drawing on Hofstadter's description of the anthill as a self-organizing system, describes similar behaviour involving connected wireless devices. The article describes the physical conditions characteristic of such systems: a connection between small devices that is that is always on. But this is only a part (and not even the interesting part) of such a story. A pile of sand is a connected assembly of small parts, but its behaviour is no more interesting than, well, a pile of sand. What makes a connected network of small entities interesting is what these entities want to do. Grains of sand want to do nothing more interesting than obey the laws of gravity. Ants want to do somewhat more interesting things, like eat and procreate. But humans, even humans armed with dumb terminals, want to vastly more interesting things. The network that results, therefore, no more resembles an anthill than an anthill resembles a pile of sand. And when we try to elucidate this difference, the study of networks gets very interesting. By Espen Andersen, Ubiquity, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Lean-In Technology, Safety Nets and Psychology Online learning is a "lean in technology" according to this paper, meaning that the demand mouse clicks forces the student to 'lean in' to the computer to click the mouse and type responses. But how often, and on what basis, do we make students lean in? And of course the answer is that it varies depending on the learner. For example, "Instructional designers creating lean-in online course must be able to recognize learners who are aware of their own metacognitive processes." They require a different set of interactions from those who need to be taught to be self-reflective. In general, argues the article, designers should "allow for the road less travelled," but at the same time, it should "provide a safety net" for those who might lose their way. By Maureen Wakefield, ITForum, February 7, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Copyright and the Web This short paper is intended to stimukate discussion at a Commonweath of Learning online forum. The major message of the paper is that, "The education community in Canada is urging its federal government to consider an amendment to the Copyright Act to allow students and educators to make effective and legal use of publicly available Internet materials as part of a programme of learning." I don't think there should be an educational exemption. I think there should be a non-commercial exemption. Otherwise the right to copy freely simply becomes a tool used by established institutions to compete against new and innovative approaches to learning. By Robert Schad and Wanda Noel, Commonwealth of Learning, February, 2003 [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 © 2003 Stephen Downes
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.