By Stephen Downes
April 7, 2004

Sugar Camp
Last Friday, after work, the e-learning group took a well deserved break for supper and a tour at the Trites Family sugar camp. For those of you not familiar with maple syrup production, the sap of maple trees, which runs for three weeks each spring, is collected in buckets or piped through (blue) hoses. To obtain maple syrup, the sap is boiled in a large vat. Then it is served on buckwheat pancakes or rolled in snow to create one of the best treats in the world. If you are wondering what you are missing if you are not vacationing in New Brunswick the first few weeks of spring, this is it. Full size versions of the photos are available, as usual, for your desktops. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, April 6, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Don't Let File-swappers Swamp Copyright Law
This unsigned comment on the recent Canadian court decision to the effect that file sharing technology is legal in Canada (though - I might add, advertising, promoting or selling copies of commercial content is not) may as well have been written by an unnamed recording industry executive. The author writes, "Parliament should revisit the Copyright Act. Sites that make copyright material widely available without permission should be included in the section on wrongly 'authorizing' copying... Parliament should also revisit Section 80 of the act, which lets anyone copy a musical work for 'private use'..." If Parliament revisits the Act - which it is planning to do - and if it considers signing the 1996 amendment to the WIPO treaty, which even the judge noted, would mean "placing of someone else's copyright song in a shared Internet directory would be explicitly recognized as an offence," then it should consider the wider implications of such legislation. What happen if, for example, sharing news reports becomes illegal? Don't think it could happen....? By Unsigned, Globe and Mail, April 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Reuters to go After Infringers
On the heels of a story circulating around the online journalism lists about Reuters withdrawing its online content from such syndication sites as Yahoo!, in order to create a subscription based single-site resource, comes this item suggesting that the news syndication agency will follow the RIAA and MPAA's leads and start tracking down people who trade news files illicitly. In a much more competitive environment, it's hard to see how Reuters could be even as successful as industries that enjoy virtual monopolies. My comment, offered to the Online News discussion list, was Reuters will soon learn that "out of sight (and out of blogs) means out of mind." While Reuters may enjoy a subscription based among the financial investment and commercial community, it will not gain widespread subscriptions among the general readership. But while agencies such as Reuters (and similar pubs, such as the Wall Street Journal) cater to a paying audience, their voice - and political point of view - may be filled by other agencies and (hence) other points of view. Via digital copyright digest. By Unknown, p2pnet.net News, March 24, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Thinking Skills in Primary Classrooms
This site leaves me with mixed feelings. It is, in a nutshell, a search system for critical thinking teaching resources available for British primary teachers. On the one hand, the concept and implementation are quite good (though I would want to see LOM metadata or RSS available for harvesting). But while teachers can search according to grade level, subject, and even philosophical approach, the resources - many of which cost money and many of which are paper based - cannot be filtered by price or format. Actually, I conducted numerous searches on the site, and every resource cost a certain number of pounds (or, in the case of Kidspiration, "one unit"). This is why listings of such resources should be aggregated. While these commercially available reources should be available, they should not be listed to the exclusion of the many useful and free resources available online. The site also allows users to comment on resources, which is an excellent way of offering a guide to quality. Via Spartacus. By The Standards Site, Department for Education and Skills, April, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

E-ffective Writing for E-Learning Environments
One of the architects of IMS's Learning Design specification, the University of Alberta's Katy Campbell is interviewed in this article examining "universal instructional design and user-centered design." Topics covered range from accessibility, cultural sensitivity, usability and planning. The title of the article is taken from the title of Campbell's new book, new book, E-ffective Writing for E-Learning Environments. By Idea Group, Enterprise Networks and Servers, April, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Surgeons Who Play Video Games Err Less
I think there's an interesting observation here: one of the reasons why learning in the form of computer games may be more effective is that our tools are also beginning to resemble computer games. Take this example, where doctors who used video game training made fewer errors in laparoscopic surgery, which uses a tiny camera and instruments controlled by joysticks outside the body. As one doctor says, "I use the same hand-eye coordination to play video games as I use for surgery." Via NewsScan Daily. By Verena Dobnik, Excite News, April 7, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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