By Stephen Downes
May 3, 2004

Patterns in Unstructured Data
The future, say some (well, me and William Gibson, at least), lies in pattern matching. This is a very nice twelve page article that gets into the details of how pattern matching is used to generate search results using latent semantic indexing. It's worth taking some time to read this, because this is the secret recipe behind such things as Google News. Though I should point out, this is very much the 101 treatment: there's a lot more to the field than what's in this article. No matter. If you know nothing about search engine algorithms, read this. Via Mark Oehlert. By Clara Yu, et.al., National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, May, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Scissors, Scotch Tape, Post-its, Magic Markers and Colorforms: "LO-Tec" Tools (and Toys) for Creating Learning Objects
Nifty little instructional article describing how to create a learning object with little more than household tools. It's not the whole story - "Our no-tech tools support the content side of the learning object creation process by providing flexibility in how they are used, by not dictating a particular work flow, and by hiding technical details not relevant to defining the learning side of the learning objects." - but it's probably the hardest part. Via Mark Oehlert, who ran it in this week's newsletter. By Daniel R. Rehak, Nina Pasini, and William H. Blackmon, Learning Systems Architecture Lab, May 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Album Gets Ringtone Only Release
There are two really interesting aspects to this story, which describes a German lable's plan to release an album only in the form of cell-phone ring-tones. The first is the bypassing of normal publishing channels: "We release songs within a few hours across Europe without interfaces to the traditional music industry." And the second is the use of a non-standard device, the telephone, something we'll see a lot more of as more devices become internet-aware. A lot more has changed here than just the price (which, by the way, is way below the norm). By Unknown, BBC News, April 30, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

File-swapping Gets Supercharged on Student Network
File sharing too dangerous - or too slow - on the internet? Then join the crowd at the next new file sharing venue: Internet2. "The i2hub network is based on a piece of open-source software called Direct Connect, which connects users and allows them to search each other's hard drives, using technology similar to the original Napster." By John Borland, CNet News.Com, April 29, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Microsoft Unveils Digital Rights Management Software
As discussed before in these pages, the Microsoft DRM system, named 'Janus', supports the 'rental' of multimedia software, including songs and movies, to be played on portable players, cellular phones and other devices. The technology is getting wide play in the media - but I suspect that consumers will find it less attractive. By Associated Press, Information Week, May 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How to End Grade Inflation
This author borrows from the worlds of figure skating and diving to incorporate 'degrees of difficulty' into assessments in order to counter grade inflation. It's an idea with some merit - though as a hockey fan my disdain for any judged sport is well known and legion, and I yearn for a system of academic assessment in which achievement, as in hockey, is measured only by whether you can put the puck into the net. By Michael Berube, New York Times, May 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Progress on e-Universities Restructuring
The Observatory, a subscription-only newsletter, is reporting that the end has come for the UK eUniversities Worldwide, a £62m intended "to do for e-learning what the OU did for distance learning." According to the report, "It is now clear that the company is unlikely to survive as an independent entity. Recruitment and marketing have ceased and negotiations are underway to transfer activities and assets to the UK higher education sector." Interestingly, while the eUniversities's own press release on the meeting paints a very different picture, speaking only of "restructuring," the overall story is the same, taking about the transfer of programs - and in particular, eChina and the e-Learning Research Centre - to other institutions. As VNU News and BBC News reported, only 900 students have signed up for the scheme. The whole eposide makes observers glad they didn't go corporate. By Press Release, HEFCE, April 23, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Learning Object Repositories, Digital Repositories, and the Reusable Life of Course Content
This article gets at some of the differences - and some of the similarities - between 'course management systems', 'content management systems', and 'repositories'. The gist of the message is this: "What do learners need? They should be able to draw on digital assets from any resource, or repository, that strikes them as useful—even if the rationale is serendipity—at the exact moment when the learning activity calls for it. Today they can’t do that." The article is a bit choppy but worth a look because of the resource lists, which are (from my perspective) a bit idiosyncratic. By Phillip D. Long, Syllabus, May 1, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Fat Cat Publishers Breaking the System
Written by the director of scholarly communication and publishing initiatives at the California Digital Library, University of California, this article begins with the assertion that commercial publishers are killing the system they are supposed to support and then moves through an account of the California system's efforts to pursue open publishing as an alternative. The headline, no doubt, is an artifact of the Syllabus editorial staff, and does not reflect the tone or content of the article. By Catherine Candee, Syllabus, May 1, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Advanced Placement Digital Library
More free learning resources. From Bonnie Bracey's email to WWWEDU: "APDL is a collection of multimedia Internet resources that have been selected on the basis of their educational merit and suitability for classroom use. Each resource contains a review by a master AP teacher or college faculty member and a hyperlink to the resource on the Internet." You need to register to browse the set, though samples are available. By Various Authors, Rice University, May, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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