By Stephen Downes
April 9, 2004

The Rise of Learning Objects
The March issue of the International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning is now available online, a little late, I am told, because of ISP issues. This first article is my own introduction (I am an Editor at Large for the Journal) and is a fairly light treatment of the idea that we are in a transitional phase in the adoption of learning objects. The next four links are also from the Journal. By Stephen Downes, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, March,2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

EduSource: Canada’s Learning Object Repository Network
Fairly detailed overview of the eduSource project, Canada's contribution to the world of learning object repositories. The article will still leave the reader dissatisfied, but only because they want to see and use the network being described. It won't be cong now, as the code is undergoing its final shakedown before public release. By Rory McGreal, et.al., International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, April 9, 2004 4:41 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Feasibility of Course Development Based on Learning Objects
"This paper presents three case studies that seek to maximize the use of freely available and reusable learning objects in their course design," write the authors. "The three case studies originated in different university-level disciplines – Nursing, Business and English writing." An excellent discussion of some issues involved in the use of learning objects follows, with the cases providing solid foundation for criticism. For example, "The issue of context emerged as an insurmountable barrier for the business team. As a result of their dismay with the 'patchwork result' derived from the learning object approach, the team decided to incorporate a preformatted interactive textbook. The value of context raises a multitude of pedagogical issues and debates." By Jo-An Christiansen and Terry Anderson, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning , March, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Design Issues Involved in Using Learning Objects
The authors write, "This article describes an approach to a content creation and delivery mechanism for a Java programming course. This approach is based on the concept of creating a large repository of Java learning objects, each of which consists of the core material, code examples, supplementary notes, and review questions." The text that follows goes into quite a bit of detail, some of it seen in many places before (such as the discussion of metadata), but some unique to this paper (such as the nifty disgram of a Java learning object structure). By Jinan Fiaidhi and Sabah Mohammed, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, March, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Research Insights into Interactivity
Survey artivle that looks at recent research into interaction, including Palloff and Pratt on student expectations, Garrison and Anderson on social presence, and Burge on effective interaction. "Student-teacher interaction is a multidimensional relationship that contains several variables such as the teacher’s level of social presence, quality of feedback and intellectual depth of dialog." By Brent Muirhead, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning , March, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Software Beats All CD Copy Protection
My first radio had the ultimate in copy protection: it had no recording device whatsoever. My first copying system, therefore, consisted of putting a tape recorder near the radio speaker and pressing 'record'. Later, I discovered I could patch the earphone output into the microphone input and improve the quality of the sound. I was exploiting what may be called the 'analog gap' and it is the existence of this gap that ensures that no copy protection will ever be successful. At some point, the content must be heard or seen by humans, and at that point, it is vulnerable. This is the same vulnerability exploited by the unCDcopy program described in this article, which uses the analog output of a CD player to create a new digital file. Via NewsScan Daily. By Will Knight, New Scientist, April 4, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Time Warner Takes Stake in ContentGuard
Time Warner has purchased a major stake in ContentGuard, owner of the XrML (now MPEG REL) DRM specification that was just approved by ISO. It gains two seats on the board and obtains enterprise licenses to ContentGuard's IP. Reaction from industry watchers is generally positive, since as this article notes, with with DRM intellectual property in the hands of a few companies, content producers generally shied away and the industry atrophied. This acquisition allows a major player access to the DRM it feels it needs. But I'm not sure this helps. Sure, Microsoft and Time Warner - who have been close buddies ever since the Netscape lawsuit was settled - now have the means to create a nice, private, closed content network. But what about the rest of us? We know how Microsoft acts against competing technology - what happens when this philosophy is applied as well to competing content? By Bill Rosenblatt, DRM Watch, April 8, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Collaborating With Universities to Create a Continuous Learning Culture
I like this article because it looks beyond the idea of workplace learning as 'job training' and takes seriously the benefit to the learner (which provides motivation) as well as to the company. For example, a learning organization should demonstrate "Commitment to expanding skills and knowledge beyond job-related or technical skills," writes the author. "Investments are made to develop well-rounded, versatile employees through tuition assistance programs, customized on-site training and personal development options." Quite right. That said, as George Siemens comments, "this article just skims an idea that needs to be explored deeply - the future link between educational institutions and corporations. The authors, unfortunately, assume that the services universities will provide to corporations will be similar to courses - but with a corporate-focused slant. The last two paragraphs begin to address the real value of this type of partnership - informal learning and recognition of prior learning." Via elearnspace. By Pamela Tate and Becky Klein-Collins, Chief Learning Officer, April, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Seven Principles of Sustainable Leadership
Leadership articles are usually very bad, fostering as they do what seems to me to be an ethos of manipulation and even deceit. This article - which should use the work 'properties' rather than 'principles' is not that sort of article, as it is more interested in describing the practices that have been successful, rather than advising some go-getter on how to get ahead. There is not one of the principles I would not endorse. But I wish the article had spent some time on the 'how' - after all, in a restricted environment such as a school system, many forces act against the socially just, idealistic and activist leader. By Andy Hargreaves and Dean Fink, Educational Leadership, April, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Speaking of Music Piracy...
You have to wonder whether the people who invested $400 or so for music players featuring legitimate 99 cent song downloads are feeling a little used now that music publishers have started pushing the prices back up again. It's classic marketing, of course: lower prices, achieve lock-in, raise prices. By Associated Press, Wired News, April 8, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The New Amateur Journalists Weigh In
Some good discussion on TRDEV over the last few days on blogging. Rather than look simply at blogging in eduation, discussants are looking at the wider picture, which is good. This link is one that came up in the discussion and is one of the more balanced discussions of blogging from the point of view of the traditional press. Rather than focus on the foibles of millions of amateur journalists, the article looks at what makes blogging work. ""I think it's because they have something to say. In a media world that's otherwise leached of opinions and life, there's so much life in them."I think it's because they have something to say. In a media world that's otherwise leached of opinions and life, there's so much life in them." By Matt Welch, Columbia Journalism Review, May, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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