By Stephen Downes
May 6, 2003

Public Policy, Research and Online Learning
Comparative studies miss the purpose and impact of e-learning. Policy that is guided via such studies will paint a misrepresentative picture of the field. "To the extent that we wish to improve society - and the very concept of public policy presupposes that we do - we must base our initiatives not on narrow and misleading studies conducted in artificial environments, but on modelling and analogy from similar cirucmstances in different domains and different environments. We need to form as clear a picture (or set of pictures) of society as a whole as we can, and to understand the inter-relationships between and across sectors, across disciplines, and to form policy on that basis, rather than on the now-illusory premise of a magical wand that will foster universal happiness." By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, May 6, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How the Mind Makes Meaning in E-Learning, Part I
This article has the right idea but should have been subjected to a critical review. Writes the author, "The human mind evolves by arranging perceptions by means of connections. Applied to learning, this means that it is important to understand how the mind makes connections, at different moments in time, and to develop tasks and learning experiences that complement the connection patterns and preferences." So far so good. But she then attributes this theory to Jerry Fodor, one of the most outspoken opponents of connectionism. Perhaps the author could arrange to read the books she cites. By Susan Smith Nash, Xplana, April 15, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Knowledge Management in Education: Defining the Landscape
Not what you think. This article describes the use of knowledge management approaches for educational administration. In one example, it proposes tracking disciplinary incidents according to student, class, race, time of day, and so on, in order to identify likely causes (in the example, a poorly trained teacher). According to one commentator, "Knowledge Management in Education supplies us with a framework for understanding how good assessment practice, in fact, depends on effective information management." Even ignoring the rampant disregard for privacy that such an approach entails, and even ignoring the liklihood that it will trace causes to observable surface characteristics (like race), such an approach will fail because it misrepresents the relation between knowledge and data. If you are tasked with enforcing discipline in an environment where some sort of knowledge management tool is required to understand (let alone identify) the cases where discipline is required, then you are faced with a structural dysfunctionality that no amount of data is going to correct. By Lisa A. Petrides and Thad R. Nodine, Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Big Picture, Wider-Fi, 802.everything, Manhattan WiFi, etc.
Forget the sceptics. Wireless is here to stay - and it won't be what you expect. "There was a long list of reasons ten years ago for why the Web would never turn into something serious -- certainly not into something that could be used for secure business transactions. The same list of shortcomings is being attributed to WiFi today – security, scalability, reliability, business model, etc. Just like the Web, WiFi is grass roots, standards based, and very decentralized. Just like with the Web, there is no stopping WiFi from becoming mainstream." Not what you expect? Well - consider this, for example: a peer-to-peer global wireless network that does not require the intervention of any sort of internet access provider or centralized support in order to function. Try filtering that! By John Patrick, PatrickWeb, April 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

School Board: Teacher’s Personal Web Site is Grounds For Dismissal
Let me see if I understand this. Crude humour and scatological references are broadcast on network televsion on programs such as South Park. But when the same brand of material is placed on a teacher's website, this is grounds for firing? It's not clear that this is the case - administrators allege that there are unnamed "other" grounds. But it looks suspiciously like the case. There has always been a certain degree of scrutiny regarding the morality of teachers. In an online envrionemnt, though, this reaches a deeper, more pervasive level. At some point we need to ask where a teacher's employment ends and his or her privacy begins. But we don't weem to be at the point where we are able to ask such questions. By Staff, eSchool News, April 29, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Program Lets P2P Users Roam Free
The only surprise here is that this development - predicted last week in these pages - took so long to emerge. This article describes the development of applications that allow peer-to-peer file traders to disguise their online transactions. This makes it significantly more difficult for people looking at their online access to detect the exchange of material the music industry doesn't like. The article explains, "Free software called PeerGuardian creates a personal firewall that blocks the IP addresses of snoops. They can see the names of files being traded, but they can't download the file to tell whether it's a copyrighted file." By Brad King, Wired News, May 6, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Web Search: How The Web Has Changed Information Retrieval
The author makes a good point. "Web pages make poor hosts for topical metadata. The cost and effort of adding topical metadata to an information structure is only recouped if that information structure persists in time with a predictable structure, identity and contents." But he then draws a terrible inference. "The legacy technical and social environments supporting IR in document databases are sketched above. It is possible to re-create this environment on the Web behind passwords in venues such as intranets, enterprise computing, and digital libraries." In other words, the way to make keyword search work on the web is to close the web. Eek! By Terrence A. Brooks , Information Research, April, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Cultural Globalization Is Not Americanization
We don't hear a lot about world free trade and education. It could be because, as some suggest, "The whole idea of Transnational Ed has a not-so-vaguely colonialist dimension to it. In the context of the WTO and GATS, there will be net exporters and net importers of Higher Education services. It is not difficult to guess which nations will line up on which side of that divide." On the other hand, we have people like the author of this article who argues that world free trade will not have as a result the globalization of American culture. I'm afraid I don't agree. For one thing, culture is broader than the arts and crafts depicted in the article. For another, even though culture may be produced globally, it is still evaluated and commercialized through western (not exclusively American) eyes and values. And finally, what results might not be the original culture but rather something which, like McDonalds McAfrica burger or Disney's Alladin, is a hollow sham of the original tradition. A culture survives through its education, and when its education is imported, something dies. By Philippe Legrain, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Teachers and Scholars and Their Fragile Digital Objects
Discussion of the preservation of New-Model scholarship, mentioned a few days ago in OLDaily. The author points out that the creator has a certain responsibility to posterity. "Yet we all [know] what it's like to stumble across these pages on the Internet, and not really be sure whose they are or where they came from. You can guess it is a document for a class, but it is not clearly labeled; sometimes not even the name of the author is clear, much less the date of the document, its purpose, its intended audience." Well, let's not go overboard. I give my items a title, an authorship, and a date. That should be enough, shouldn't it? By Laura Gibbs, Xplana, May 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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