By Stephen Downes
June 18, 2004

UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning "Schoolnet Toolkit" Now Online
From the announcement: "The "Schoolnet Toolkit", a guidebook for the use of ICTs to improve the value and quality of education is now online. Prepared by UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning, it is targeted towards policy- and decision-makers in education, school managers, practitioners, teachers and principals in Southeast Asian Countries." It's hard to find the link on the press release page (it's the same colour as the text - tsk), but you'll find the Toolkit here or as a single PDF (2.75 mB) here. By Press Release, UNESCO, June 18, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How Microsoft Lost the API War
Two good think pieces on Microsoft. This first item is a little technical but a good read even if you don't follow it completely. Essentially, the author argues that, since Microsoft has changed its (mostly secret) application program interface (API) so frequently in various versions of Windows, developers have abandoned Windows as a software platform and are now programming for the world wide web. This is bad news for Microsoft, since it depends on programmers to write applications that make Windows worth buying. But why, asks the author, would a developer write software for Windows when the investment is likely to become valueless in a year or two? By Joel Spolsky, Joel on Software, June 13, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Microsoft Research DRM Talk
True story: while I was in Saskatoon, knowing that Air Canada shows movies only on flights longer than 3 and a half hours, and facing a three hour and 22 minute flight, I bought a copy of Gangs of New York and set it up to play on my computer. I test-played it for a couple of minutes, packed my computer, and caught my flight. After the take-off, I unpakced my computer and went to watch my movie. I put the DVD into the player, fired it up, and... it wouldn't play. The key (whatever that is) didn't match. Maybe I had to be online, maybe I was only allowed to play it once - who knows? The lesson for me is simple: don't buy DVDs.

This talk pretty much lays out the case for Microsoft (and anyone else who will listen). It is basically a sustained attack on the concept of digital rights management (that is, content encryption and security). DRM doesn't work, argues Doctorow, and in the process of not working it causes a lot of damage, not the least of which will be suffered by Microsoft itself. "There is no market demand for this 'feature.' None of your customers want you to make expensive modifications to your products that make backing up and restoring even harder." Heck, forget backing up. I just wanted to play my movie. By Cory Doctorow, June 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Challenges for the Semantic Web and Information Systems from Culture
An intelligent look at some of the complexities involved in building a semantic web, beginning with the observation that the computerization of knowledge has elided much of what we know about semantics in the process of transforming text to boolean constructs. "The focus on logic has had a more subtle consequence of assuming that the semantic web is/should be about a single logic, namely, the truth system with which we happen to use today. In the realms of science and business this is completely ‘logical’. When making transactions, we need assurances that our customers use the same rules as we do. [but] For culture, we need semantic models that cope with both systems: that allow us to trace how paradigm shifts and changes in world views change our understanding of entities. We need to develop the plural meaning of information systems." By Kim H. Veltman, SIG SEMIS, June, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Supporting Student Autonomy Online
David Wiley hits the mark with this set of notes for his forthcoming talk at Strathclyde, addressing autonomy and informal learning as key strategies. "As I pursue my own personal interest in open sustainable learning," he writes, "autonomy is a key issue." Quite so. But, "Content needs social interaction wrapped around it. And since there aren't enough teachers to go around in the world, supporting students' autonomy (alone and in groups) is our only shot at taking all the learning objects in the world and making something like an educational experience from them." By David Wiley, autounfocus, June 18, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2003 Stephen Downes
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