By Stephen Downes
March 31, 2004

Situated Software
Situated software, according to this article, "is designed for use by a specific social group, rather than for a generic set of 'users'." It can be contrasted with "web software", which is intended to serve very large user groups. The advantage of situated software is that it is easier to create more and more varied applications. "We've been killing conversations about software with 'That won't scale' for so long we've forgotten that scaling problems aren't inherently fatal. The N-squared problem is only a problem if N is large." Good discussion, with some ointeresting examples, including the fun "Teachers on the Run" program. By Clay Shirky, Clay Shirky's Writings About the Internet, March 30, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

World's Largest E-Learning Programme set to Benefit English Schools
Will English students soon begin talking with a Scottish burr? One wonders following this announcement that the Heriot-Watt SCHOLAR programme, currently used in all 432 Scottish secondary schools, will be deployed south of Hadrian's wall as well. SCHOLAR, according to this press release, "includes an extensive range of learning services such as staff development, tutor support and the creation of learning communities." It is also reported to have strong acceptance by both students and teachers. The release notes that use is highest during the 7-9 prime time on television, but one suspects that this may be due to the quality of television or (mopre likely) the tendency of students to multitask. By Press Release, e-consultancy, March 30, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Defence Rolls Out E-learning Platform in Double Time
Deciding it couldn't wait, the Australian department of denfense converted its pilot program to a full fledged roll-out (albeit with some limitations in functionality). "The platform will deliver a range of courses such as occupational health and safety, security, fraud and ethics, Microsoft desktop and IT specialisations. The system went live on March 19 to 90,000 personnel." By Steven Deare, Computer World, March 31, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Innovations in Online Learning: Moving Beyond No Significant Difference
Via Spartacus today comes a link to this longish presentation encouraging readers to think beyond the old paradigm (when the telegraph was introduced the Pony Express reposed by getting faster horses) and toward what is enabled with online learning, beginning with personalization. "As long as we continue to replicate traditional approaches online—and continue to treat all students as if they were the same—we will once again find the "no significant difference" phenomenon vis-à-vis quality, and we will make only a negligible dent in the access problem rather than taking full advantage of the networked environment." This is pretty much my position as well. One thing I like about the paper is that it not only describes some key innovations in learning, it points to cases where these innovations are being practiced successfully. Recommended. By Carol A. Twigg, March, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Learning Marketplace
Thanks to some generous contributions, my book is now available in PDF, Zipped HTML format, Postscript, and PDB for the Palm OS. Still no audio version. ;) By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, March 31, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

No Cliché Left Behind: Why Education Policy is NOT Like the Movies
It's OK to criticize public policy, in my book. But when you say disparaging things about Star Trek, that's going too far! The supposed 'Star Trek' method is: "(1) set a goal; (2) tell subordinates—in this case, state and local education agencies—to “make it so”; (3) watch as they use powerful technologies to accomplish this goal; and (4) repeat as needed." Well, that would be a poor approach to educational planning, I agree. But that is not how Jean Luc Picard - who is quoted with the phrase "make it so" - operates. It seems to me important that, if you are going to use a move as an example, to watch the movie first. This talk is from 2002, it is more recently revised, and it was cited on WWWEDU today, which is why I linked to it. By Chris Dede, National Educational Technology Conference , June, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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