By Stephen Downes
September 1, 2003

Learning Communities Catalyst
Australia's Learning Communities Catalyst launches today, offering an impressive array of case studies, research reports, tools and more directed toward the concept of building a learning community. By Various Authors, September 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

User Experience and Human Learning
This article has almost nothing to do with user experience; it is instead a progression from the idea that learning occurs through interaction through to the constructionism of Seymour Papert of the Future of Learning Group at MIT Media Lab. Though in broad strokes the author is on target, their is a great detail to be disputed in the details, ranging from the account offered of interaction, the characterization of instructionalism, and the eventual account of human learning. Still, there are some good links. By Peter J. Bogaards, BogieLand, September 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Interactive Visual Explainers — A Simple Classification
Nice article looking at the trend toward interactive journalism and the increasing role of the press as "news explainers" rather than (mere) reporters. The classic example is the baggage screener simulation, which gives the reader a much more concrete idea of the role of the screener. The intent of this article is to classify these "visual explainers" into four major classes (and the classification is probably of wider value): narratives, exploratives, instructives and simulatives. Examples of each are provided. By Maish Nichani and Venkat Rajamanickam, elearningpost, September 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Learning in the Information Age School: Opportunities, Outcomes and Options
According to the author, reasonably, "Learning outcomes, as the transforming effects of the teacher-librarians' pedagogical (and collaborative) intervention, are the raison d'être for school libraries." Supporting this objective is evidence based practice, where "day-by-day professional work is directed towards demonstrating the tangible impact and outcomes of sound decision making and implementation of organizational goals and objectives." Librarians need to show where learning occurs, especially as a result of what Hein would call constructed meaning. Good paper. By Ross Todd, International Association of School Librarianship, July 7, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Hard Lessons From The Big E-learning Experiment
Another article reporting what we all know by now: that the e-learning boom has not turned out to be anything like it was predicted to be, with the early successes of IT training not transferring well into the soft skills, and with employees not enjoying the idea of working by themselves, at their desks, on learning in and around their other duties. By Nic Paton, The Guardian, August 30, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Teaching and Developing Online
Darren Cannell writes, "The WebCT High School E-newsletter has gone through a few changes in its second month. The first major change is that University of British Columbia has offered to host the Blog (e-newsletter). This has happened due to the efforts of Michelle Lamberson with assistance from Brian Lamb, many thanks to them for making this happen. This will add some stability to the future of this blog. The other change is that the blog (e-newsletter) has a new name. It is now called Teaching and Developing Online. We have grown to a group of about 40 people and would like to expand." By Darren Cannell, August 30, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

BBC News Site Facing Extinction?
The BBC website is once again a target as a British politician has once more questioned its value. But whatever its fate, the site is a useful benchmark for the value of online content. Read this summary from Seb Schmoller carefully: "the site gets nearly 700 million page impressions per month, has nearly 10 million UK users, and another 30 million users worldwide, and costs only around £10m/year to run." Now do the math: the cost works out to about 25 pence (about 50 cents Canadian) per user per year, or 0.1 pence (about 0.2 cents) per page view. Numbers like this support my long-held contention that online access should reduce the cost of content by a two-times order of magnitude. People who intend to charge money for content should take a long, hard look at this and adjust their business plans accordingly. Oh, and as for the BBC website: until the commercial media are prepared to offer content at these prices, we need the BBC, if only to show them that it can be done. By Kieren McCarthy, The Register, August 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Networking From the Rooftop
Interesting article about the development of a wireless "mesh" network at MIT. The idea of such a network is to provide internet access over a wider area without wires. "'We want to understand how a whole bunch of computers with short-range radios can self-configure a network, forming order out of chaos,' says computer science professor Robert Morris, who coordinates the project. The network has now more than 30 nodes in a 4-square kilometer area surrounding the MIT campus. 'We hope to reach a hundred nodes within a few months,' he says." By Erico Guizzo, Technology Review, August 29, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Tipping Hollywood The Black Spot
Discussion from the Economist around the movie industry's failure to plan effectively for the inevitable sharing of movies, television programs and other video content. Holloywood's sole saving grave so far has been the size of movie files, which makes them impractical to share. But as bandwidth and computer power increase, the fate of the music industry (which has seen sales decline 25 percent) looms closer and closer. Hollywood's response, what the article calls "an Orwellian project to 're-educate' the young", will not convince anyone. "The campaign is unlikely to have much effect, industry-watchers say, as everyone knows how many millions the latest blockbuster grossed and how much the star got." The article has it right: lower prices, better distribution, and a little honesty. Probably too much to expect, though. By Unknown, The Economist, August 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Microsoft Seeks Cash From IM Client Makers
A week or so ago described Microsoft's plan to boock third party access to its instant messaging system because of, um, "security issues". My cynicism was well rewarded Friday when the company proposed to Trilian and other companies that provide access to multiple instant messaging systems that they pay a license fee to access the Microsoft product. Now remember, Microsoft did not even invent instant messaging - that honour belongs to ICQ, now owned by AOL. And for Microsoft to deliberately create an incompatible product, then charge a fee to make it work - well, that takes a lot of gall. By Joris Evers, IDG News Service, August 29, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2003 Stephen Downes
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