By Stephen Downes
July 25, 2003

Stories of Adult Learning
I enjoyed this article, which isn't really a set of stories so much as an extended account of why it is that you have to have some idea of what you're going to do with a technology before actually installing it in a learning environment. It's the old story: new technology plus old practice equals old practice plus a pile of useless junk. The article takes the time and effort necessary to clearly illustrate some useful and novel uses of technology and to how how they are improving practice. By Jamie McKenzie, From Now On, July, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

This article describes some of the technologies - and recent innovations - behind applications that translate documents or data from one format to another. In XML, this feat is accomplished using an XSLT documenent, a mapping of how the fields in one XML document ought to be converted in a translation to the new format. XSLT gives you a lot of power, but as the author notes, it isn't magic. By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, July 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Course Identifier Standardisation Work Started
In a nutshell, "Some means needs to be found of making sure that only those who are enrolled in a course can see the material. One part of that puzzle is authenticating students properly and then authorizing them. A lot of this is already taken of in systems like Shibboleth - the Internet2 standard for authentication and authorisation. But Shibboleth - or other systems like the UK's Angel or Athens - need to know about courses before it can automatically authenticate Jane Doe to access some confidential statistics from the Home Office for her Immigration Law course." And, "For that reason, the Middleware Architecture Committee for Education (MACE) of US academic institutions that partcipate in Internet2 have started developing a schema that will make the identifiers interoperable." By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, July 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

National Culture and Philosophies of Learning
Nice article that looks at some of the early failures of e-learning and attributes them to the ways different cultures approach knowledge and learning. "It makes perfect sense that a culture, like the US, that is highly individualistic, has a short-term orientation and relatively masculine views of gender roles (from Hofstede’s data) should embrace behaviourism so completely, and be so reluctant to let it go. Take Sweden as a contrast: more collective than the US and with very low masculinity scores, it would make little sense to adopt behaviourist approaches to learning." By Patrick Dunn, Viral-learning.net , July 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Son of Napster: One Possible Future for a Music Business That Must Inevitably Change
This is a devious, underhanded plan that would skewer the music industry and which is, probably, currently legal. At the core of the plan is this line of reasoning: individuals have the right to copy CDs that they own for backup purposes. So, to allow many people to copy the same CD, share the ownership of the CD. This is it; the rest is all implementation. I like the five cent per song pricing proposed: this is pricing that is much closer to realistic prices for digital content (it should, eventually, drop to one cent per song, aligning it with my two times order of magnitude metric. By Robert X. Cringely , I, Cringely, July 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Adobe's Robert McDaniels Responds (Again) to Nielsen Criticisms of PDF
The author responds point by point but I'm afraid the responses are not convincing. McDaniels writes, for example, "your second article that has mentioned excessive crashing, with no link to a study or evidence to support it." Though I have not actually counted the times it has happened to me, I can personally attest to the number of crashes. My favorite is the Adobe 'update' alert box, which inexplicably shows up behind the Reader when it is launched from a web browser. The alert box, of course, locks up both the browser and the reader, but there is no way to get at it to click "No, I don't want to update, please go away." McDaniels also talks a lot about how "PDF's can be displayed Full-screen in a browser to hide the Adobe reader interface." Quite right. But none of the browser's controls work on a PDF file, and now the only controls that do work (however cumbersome) are all hidden. That the Reader uses tiny fonts, writes McDaniels, is the author's fault, since the author sets the font size, and anyway, "Acrobat has the ability to zoom into areas of a document for easier readin." But have you used this feature? The document is now many times wider than the screen, which means constant left-to-right scrolling (using the little hand, because the scroll bars don't work properly, and because the mouse wheel is, of course, now useless). And while McDaniels argues that the size of a PDF file "is determined by the author," he completely glosses over the fact that the exact same text creates a PDF file a gazillion times larger than the corresponding HTML. I am totally behind Nielsen on this one. Totally. By Robert McDaniels, Planet PDF, July 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Extending RSS 2.0 With Namespaces
This is a very nice description of what a namespace is and why they are necessary. The idea of a namespace is that it allows you to extend the vocabulary of an XML file. So, for example, if you are not satisfied with the choices an RSS feed or a learning object metadata (LOM) gives you, add some of your own. This is exactly what I did with RSS-LOM, which is what allowed me to merge the functionality of RSS with the expressiveness of LOM. By Morbus Iff (aka Kevin Hemenway), September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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