By Stephen Downes
August 6, 2003

Edu_RSS MERLOT 2003 Continuing Coverage
The wireless access is a bit spotty but the MERLOT conference RSS service is working beautifully with pictures, session notes and more all aggregated into a single space. Take a look. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, August 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Intelligence and Its Artifacts
In your thought piece for the day, Steve Talbott raises the question of what happens when we lose touch with the "originating intelligence" in electronic communications. The mind creates ideas, the ideas are translated into words, and these - tokens of our thoughts, not the throughts themselves - are sent into the ether. But in this process, as the distance increases and the intermediating technologies become more complex, the token is confused for the idea itself. Talbott asks, "What might the opposite process -- a genuine re-ensouling of language -- look like? If in fact we are the ones who speak technology into existence, how could our speaking become more profound?" We need, I think, cues. Our writing needs to be more open, more passionate, more personal. Whether spoken or online, my words are effective only if, through them, you get to peer inside my soul. You may not always like what you see, but at least you know that it's me - and not my word processor - speaking. By Stephen L. Talbott, NetFuture, August 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

E-poll Findings Show Flexible Learning is Here to Stay!
Australia's Flexible Learning Framework has been conducting a poll to evaluate the impact of the approach, and according to the feedback received, flexible learning is, as the headline says, here to stay. "Flexible learning expands choices on what, when, where and how people learn. It supports different styles of learning, including e-learning. By applying flexible training programs, practitioners and providers are saying their prime concern is the skill needs and delivery requirements of clients and not the interests of trainers or providers. They are confirming that they want to give as much control as possible over what, when, where and how their clients learn and make use of the delivery methods most useful for clients, especially e-learning." By Various Authors, Australian Flexible Learning Framework, August 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Observing Quality in eLearning
Obviously we need some means of telling the difference between quality online learning content and that which is of, shall we say, lesser value. But is this the way to go about it? "The European Quality Observatory (EQO), a repository that will store information about diversity of quality approaches in the European educational community, promotes the idea of diversity, and enhances transfer into practice. The key is to encourage transparency of quality in ICT-based training, learning and education." I guess it depends on how this knowledge is applied, and whether the transparency of quality becomes visible at the user's end. By Riina Vuorikari, European Schoolnet News, August 6, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Richard Shim
In conversation yesterday I expressed the view that the use of patents these days has become more an exercise in restraining international competition than one of protecting the inventor and developer of a new technology. I suspect the developers at Research in Motion (RIM) feel the same way today as - from where I sit - their hard earned research and development is in the process of being stolen by a Virginia court judge. An appeal is expected, at at least RIM can be thankful no sanctions will be applied until that judgement comes down. But how long can it be before somebody with some clout makes the connection between "the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office" and "unfair restraint of trade." By Richard Shim , CNet News.com, August 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Meaning of Technology
Arun-Kumar Tripathi picked this iten to run today, and though it's several years old, it still captures a common sentiment. And while I think that Albert Borgmann is right when he calls on people to restrain the influence of technology, I don't agree with the value system he proposes to adjudicate that moderation (and therein lies the dilemma). "Family values are neither commodities nor disembodied fragrances that make for a pleasant atmosphere," he writes, describing "a society centered on focal things in the private realm and on communal celebrations in the public." Well maybe, but what I see when I see this sort of picture is a retreat into our collective enclaves, a vision of walled communities, male-dominated hierarchal structures controlled by dogma and bloodlines. Borgmann's unfortunate choice of a musical example (read between the lines) displays the darker side of this ethos, one which technology, thankfully, allows us to transcend. What Borgmann doesn't get is that the community that is created online is a means to slip free from the bonds of family and community, a doorway to a larger world, the light outside the cave, a reality where we see there are other possibilities, other ways of being. Borgmann would have us give that up, and return to the shadows. Unacceptable. By Albert Borgmann, The World and I, March, 1996 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why I Infringe
Copyright legislation may be dry and boring but the topic holds sway over a range of human emotions. This strongly worded article captures some of this. The author writes, "I think it's a scam. Rich guys who own everything trade stocks, and the rest of us, who own the vast majority of nothing, watch welfare wither away. If we make something beautiful and try to make a living by selling it, we can't own it. My beautiful thing will be the property of some company that has slapped a cover on it." By Annalee Newitz, AlterNet, July 30, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Providing eLearning Opportunities to Students and Adult Learners
I heard some talk about this project while I was in Portugal but it has been mostly below the radar. This article, though, is a nice summary of the Avicenna Virtual Campus, an e-learning bridge from Europe to the nations of North Africa. This article looks in detail at the centre for Malta, a country often overlooked in any talk of e-learning. "Named after Ibn Sina (981 1037 AD), the most famous philosopher, mathematician and astronomer of his time, the virtual campus project will create a network of eLearning centres around the Mediterranean." By Staff, The Malta Independent, July 31, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Google has launched a new, experimental service. NewsAlerts allows you to select keywords and receive news updates. Not sure how broad the coverage is (Google News only indexed traditional publications). By Various Authors, Google, August 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Uni Staff PCs scanned for MP3s
Staff computers at the Queensland University of Technology are being scanned for MP3 files as a consequence of legal action undertaken by the music industry. Several Australian universities were also taken to court earlier this year and forced to give investigators access to networks and back-up tapes. While they're at it, why don't they scan for subversive literature and shady real estate deals. Heck, why not allow investigators to do pre-emptive sweeps of people's homes and offices, just in case they're breaking the law. Just think of how much crime we could prevent if we simply dispensed with any pretense of civil liberties. As a postscript, an interesting analysis in today's Globe and Mail suggests that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to try the same approach in Canada. By Kate Mackenzie, The Australian, August 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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