By Stephen Downes
February 10, 2004

reBlogging: Push-button Republishing
Re-blogging is like reusing learning objects, except that it exists. Note the low-tech, distributed, grassroots (not emergent, that comes later) approach. Bonus post: research projects from Seb. Ah, but maybe he should have used Soople. Oh, and while I'm opening today's newsletter, let me be the second to congratulate David Carter-Tod on his new job. By Seb Paquet, Seb's Open Research, February 10, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

RDF and OWL Are W3C Recommendations
From the wires: "The World Wide Web Consortium today released the Resource Description Framework (RDF) and the OWL Web Ontology Language (OWL) as W3C Recommendations. RDF is used to represent information and to exchange knowledge in the Web. OWL is used to publish and share sets of terms called ontologies, supporting advanced Web search, software agents and knowledge management. Read the press release and testimonials and visit the Semantic Web home page." By Press Release, W3C, February 10, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Emergent Learning
I would normally simply pass on this item instead of hacking eLearn Magazine's URL to give you the bulk of the article (the first paragraph, a throwaway, is temporarily on the magazine's home page), but it was plugged on DEOS and is sufficiently misleading as to warrant a correction. The author writes, loosely, about social software, Howard Dean's campaign, and the concept of emergence, getting most of it wrong. For example, the concept of emergence, discussed throughout the article, is not the drawing of "power from the grassroots." Nor was the term 'emergence' (or 'emergant') coined by Steven Johnson in 2001; it has been around for decades. And though Johnson may say, “Dean is a system running for President," most of the discussion in the social software community lately has been to show that Dean was anything but. Asks Dave Winer, "But did Howard Dean know what a blog was? No. Does he know what one is today? No! Did he ever have a blog? He didn't." Winer sums it up nicely: " The Dean campaign taught us that you can't use the Internet to launch into a successful television campaign to win primaries." If you want to read a good analysis of the Dean campaign and social software, Clay Shirkey's is the best I've seen online. And should the author wish to do some serious research on emergence, this would be a good place to start. By Kathleen Gilroy, eLearn Magazine, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

IT in Schools
Very short article, via elearningpost, about the use of technology in schools in Japan. The problems are the same everywhere: "Firstly, the teachers have widely varying levels of IT skills. The second issue has to do with developing teaching methodologies that effectively incorporate IT. Thirdly, there is the issue of security." I wish I got more information from Japan and east Asia; if anyone knows of some good source, please let me know. By Unknown, Jijgaho, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

In the midst of a heated discussion on the cc-education mailing list Bryan Alexander posted this gem (links edited for accuracy): "LOLA is a learning objects aggregator, aimed at content from this sector. This link introduces the project, this link goes into more detail, and this link is a (PowerPoint) presentation. By Various Authors, Wesleyan University, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The portal for the European Schoolnet relaunched today, sporting a nice clean look and new features. I like the nice division of areas: 'Find', 'Meet', 'Share'. There's still some seeding of data to do though. Here's what I got: "You searched for: Colleagues and experts in English. Your search returned 0 results." Page titles could use some work too (naming a page 'Find' hardly distinguishes it). 'Share' is a nice area, containing resources contributed by teachers - but should say more on how to share your own resources. My criticisms are quibbles, though; the site as a whole is quite nice. Via education-india, which passed on the EUN news release (oddly, EUN never sent me one, even though I subscribe to their newsletter). By Various Authors, eSchoolnet, February 10, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

I have been agitating, in an informal way (I should cobble my scattered comments into an article), on Orkut and RSS-Dev (and here, a bit) about the idea of a distributed, semantically oriented XML based social network. The bits and pieces are coming together, slowly. One such piece is WordPress, which the site advertises is "a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability." Written in PHP and using MySQL, WordPress is, of course, free and open source (and I find it interesting that the commercial ventures into social networking always favour centralized, closed solutions, while the only open and distributed systems are being developed by the open source community. The same is true of content management - despite the eventual emergence of commercial ventures, RSS was lovingly nurtured for several years by the open source community before it became anything - the schism between open source and commercial isn't only about how software will be developed, it's (crucially) about what type of software will be developed). Anyhow, the new WordPress is in pre-release testing mode now, so get your changes in. By Matthew Mullenweg and Mike Little, WordPress, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Homework Causes Family Arguments
A debate is raging on the BBC website about the role of homework. As Mark Nelson wrote to me this morning, the more interesting content is in the comments. And he asks, does e-learning have a role here? Yes - but exactly the same comments that are made of e-learning could be said of homework. It's a question of accessibility. Homework favours those who have better access to educational materials, be they home computers, home libraries (as I had access to when I was young), a place to study in peace, time (for me, homework always came after two or three hours delivering newspapers) and motivation. After-school homework clubs redress that concern, but then, what happens to after-school drama, sports, or clubs? I think the best argument is this: "There would be big arguments if we tried to force adults into doing compulsory overtime - homework is the same." A child's life need not - should not - be completely occupied with education. Far better to reserve educational activities for the work day, and to make a wide range of recreational (and even educational) activities available, at their leisure, in the evening. They may not learn to become compliant 80-hour-a-week workers, but they will have a much more balanced and healthy lifestyle. By Unknown, BBC News, February 10, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

OECD Ministers Support Open Access for Publicly Funded Research Data
Reportage of the OECD declaration, covered here last week, to endorse open access to publicly funded research data. Via FOS News. The article raises some questions left open in the OECD declaration - such as what constitutes 'open access' - and notes that the organization will move ahead with implementation in the spring. Via FOS News. By Barbara Quint, Information Today, February 9, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Microsoft to Protect Disney films
Microsoft makes a major move into the entertainment industry with this agreement, while Disney cements it break-up with Apple, instigated by it's much publicized dust-up with Pixar last week. It is clear that Microsoft has sided with the content industry and its demand for punitive digital rights management, but what of Apple? Now that its creative hands are free, the road back from obscurity may lie in free content, especially if other hardware vendors opt to to the Microsoft and Disney line. Oh, and on this same topic today, Object Learning puts things in nice perspective. By Unknown, BBC News, February 9, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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