By Stephen Downes
May 21, 2004

PepsiCo UK Launches e-Learning in Key IT Skills
So I guess yesterday (Thursday) was 'Learning at Work Day' and so it is a natural that my website and email systems were down due to the most recent 'upgrade'. But it does let me finish the week with a double issue (and give the Daily readers some sense of how the Weekly readers feel on Fridays) and it lets me talk a little about this initiative. Using Thomson's Open Learning Solution, Pepsico will "provide employees throughout the UK with flexible e-Learning in desktop IT skills, including the European Computer Driving License (ECDL)." Now I have nothing against such a program, but I do have a big problem with the private appropriation of such common terms of "open learning" and "driving license" by a company to refer to products very different from what those terms connote. By Press Release, E-Learning Alliance Scotland, May 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Core Middleware programme Announcement
The 15 successful proposals for the JISC Core Middleware Technology Development Projects (in Britain) have been announced. I am inclined to agree with Rod Savoie on this - if technology requires middleware to operate with other technology, it's broken. But I'll leave that prejudice for another day. As Seb notes, "around half of the 15 funded projects refer directly to Shibboleth in their titles or summaries, and if you want to seem well informed when people around you start talking about Shibboleth, which they undoubtedly will, this 2 page overview of Shibboleth [33 kB PDF] will help." Via Seb Schmoller. By Various Authors, JISC, May, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Courtship of Atom
Atom is the name of the community driven alternative to RSS that developed in response to the endless conflicts over RSS. Adopted by Google's Blogger system and other major players, it is a viable candidate to replace RSS (eventually) for a number of reasons. As this article notes, however, the weakness of the community driven model is that there is no means of resolving disputes - this is, in fact, exactly what encumbered RSS. So the people behind Atom are talking with the people behind the World Wide Web Consortium about having the W3C take on Atom as a specification. This is a good idea, not because I like the W3C's process (I don't), but because the W3C's process is infinitely better than, say, IEEE or OASIS. And I think that Atom would be good for the W3C which is, as the author notes, far more interested in knowledge representation and logic programming than it is technologies people actually use. But - and this is a big but - there must be a means for Atom developers to become involved in the W3C process. There isn't really a good one now, since the W3C is oriented more toward organizations, and freezing out the original developers would in essence represent the end of Atom as a community driven initiative. By Kendall Grant Clark, XML.com, May 19, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Belief That More Education Will Create More Equal Opportunities has Been Proved Wrong
There's a bit of a false dilemma in this article, as the author suggests that the choice facing egalitarians is to accept inequality or prevent well-off parents from "reading to their children." It is by no means that simple, but I have seen numerous studies showing that the best indicator of educational success is social class. It may be the best indicator, but it isn't the cause. Educational success has its roots in the benefits of a wealthier upbringing, including proper nourishment, leisure time, community (or family) support, and access to resources. Merely providing 'more education' in the absence of these is like pumping gasoline into a car without an engine. To achieve parity of opportunity, it isn't necessary to take these away from children of well-off parents, but rather, to provide these (or their equivalent) to all children in society. It's not that hard to do, and we have the means to do it, but from where I sit the greatest stumbling block isn't the means but rather the resistance (as exemplified by this article) of those who are better off - after all, who wants to lose their advantage? How, for example, could anyone oppose providing proper nourishment for children? Yet - somehow - people do (these same people have from time to time the termerity to lecture me on ethics). Via ArtsJournal. By Richard Reeves, New Statesman, May 24, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Design Epiphany: Keep It Simple
This could be etched in stone above my desk. Keep it simple. "There is too much needless complexity in the world. Technology, which was supposed to make our lives easier, has taken a wrong turn. In 20 years we've gone from the simplicity of MacPaint to Photoshop." Via ArtsJournal. By Jessie Scanlon, New York Times, May 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Southern Miss may Change E-mail Policy
As the recent controversy over Google's use of email contents to filter advertising has shown, the (presumed) privacy of email is a sensitive issue. At Southern Miss this issue has become front and center. From the article: "I think there was some possible movement forward in regard to the e-mail policy," said Amy Young, an associate anthropology and sociology professor and president of the USM chapter of the American Association of University Professors. "Thames agreed that in the future any e-mail monitoring, and that includes hard drives and telephone monitoring, would have to be done with the approval of a judge or the attorney general." Via University Business. By Janet Braswell, Hattiesburg American, May 18, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Grads Return to Campuses to Stay
Like any business, universities, noticing the stagnation of their core enterprise, are branching out. More and more, universities will focus on selling 'quality of life' rather than 'content' or even 'degrees'. They have to; their monopoly on knowledge and even credentials is nearing an end. Via University Business. By Martha T. Moore, USA Today, May 19, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Archimede: A Canadian Software Solution for Institutional Repositories
Laval University Library has released the third part of its institutional repository, Archimede. "This component covers e-prints, pre-prints, post-prints and other research publications from faculty members and research communities." A demo is available. The other two components of the project are systems to handle theses and dissertations along with scholarly journals and monographs. The system, like so much work in this area, is open source. Via FOS News. By Press Release, Laval University Library, May, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Government's Response to the Recommendations of the Three Research Related Reviews
The Australian government has posted its response to three recent studies: Evaluation of Knowledge and Innovation Reforms Consultation Report; Review of Closer Collaboration Between Universities and Major Publicly Funded Research Agencies; and the Final Report for the National Research Infrastructure Taskforce. To a large degree accepting these reports, thegovernment will establish Research Quality and Accessibility Frameworks for Publicly Funded Research, though it remains uncommitted to typing this framework to funding (but what are the odds?). It also mentioned plans for a National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. Most of the comments, howveer, deal with promoting flexible funding arrangements and performance based assessment. Many of the rest of the comments were of the "government will take into account..." variety, which means they won't. Via FOS News. By Various Authors, Department of Education, Science and Training, May 7, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

MERLOT Virtual Speaker Bureau Brings Guest Experts Online
MERLOT comes up with its own version of an idea that is becoming increasingly popular: linking service providers (such as subject matter experts or instructors) with potential clients. In collaboration with the Colorado Community Colleges Online, MERLOT will "allow educators to find members of the MERLOT community willing to be online guest discussants, further enriching the learning experiences within online courses." (The press release was dated April 13 but the news reeached me by email only today.) By Press Release, CCC Online, April 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Videography for Educators
Pete MacKay of the Teacher List this week ran a nice series of links on videography for educators, reproduced here: Videography for Educators, from Apple; About.com's Desktop Video Basics; Atomic Learning's resources on iMovie 2 and Windows Movie Maker 2; and Bill Edwards's Streaming Media Test Grounds. By Pete MacKay, The Teachers List, May 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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