By Stephen Downes
April 24, 2003

A Weblog Learning Management System
This article (and Part Two) describes the concept of creating a learning management system (LMS) using weblogging technology. Citing Dave Davies, who he notes has also developed a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) using Manila, the author points to the capacity of a weblog system to empower student voices and create a genuine learning community. I think the diagram is a good first step, but we need to go further; community is only one aspect of learning, not the entire story. That said, this is absolutely the direction to look for in learning technology of the future. Think learning environments, not learning management, and you'll be on the right track. By James Farmer, James Farmer's Radio Weblog, April 23, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

In Defense of University Patent Licensing
This article defends the use of patents by colleges and universities to protect inventions created by their faculty. To its credit, it identifies the grounds for recent objections to the practice and meets them on those terms. In response to the charge that patents violate traditional academic openness, for example, the author responds that " Academic patents have nothing to do with preventing openness. By definition, a patent is an open document available to teach the world what its inventor has learned." The author also argues - with some force - that non-exclusive licensing means that no inventions are ever commercially developed. "For 30 years after World War II, the United States had precisely the policy of nonexclusive licensing... Under this system, no drug that the government owned rights to was ever developed and became available to the public." By Ashley J. Stevens, Technology Review, April 23, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Building a Metadata-Based Website
This article will be too technical for many readers, but is worth a quick scan in any case if only to develop an understanding of the way data will be managed and presented in websites (and other applications) of the future. The idea of a metadata based website is that content is represented semantically, using XML, so that the relational and representational structure of content may be analyzed by any semantic web application. This frees data from proprietary interfaces and establishes the basis for intelligent content management systems of the future. By Brett Lider and Anca Mosoiu, Boxes and Arrows, April 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Futurist Fears End of Innovation
Howard Rheingold warns listeners at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference that entrenched interests are beginning to try to put the brakes on innovation. "They would very much like to get us back to the days when there were three radio stations and one telephone company," he said. "We're going to have to fight to remain users and not be turned back into consumers." I think this is exactly right. There is a widespread retrograde action that spreads across the courts, through foundations, standards bodies, consortia and collaborations, and more, seeking to slow or even stop new business and technological models. I know, because I meet this action on almost a day-to-day basis. By Leander Kahney, Wired News, April 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Smarter, Simpler, Social
This article captures many of the underlying theses of the blogging and syndicated content movement. In a nutshell, argue the authors, social software should be

  • Smarter, using XML syndication, distributed, collaborative metadata, ontologies, adaptive design and context-awareness
  • Simpler, developed using modular software with common methods and properties, web services and shared protocols, simple design shared and open source code
  • Social, in the way it is conceived, built, functions, and works, involving stakeholder engagement, inclusive process, collaborative development, and partnerships
This article also describes many of the features I think shouls characterize educational software, and more importantly, where educational software is almost certainly headed in the next few years. By Lee Bryant, Headshift, April 19, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Grub, Google and the Sewmantic Web
So could we ever have a real-time web search index? That is, a search index that is refresehed every day, so that when we search, it's right up to date? We could - but the answer isn't a massive centralized service like Google, it's a massively distributed service like Grub. We have had distributed services on this scale before - SETI@home was about as large as Grub would need to be to update the index daily. So maybe there's something to it. By Tim Swanson, April 23, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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