By Stephen Downes
September 9, 2004

News From the Learning Innovations Forun
Seb sent me this newsletter (PDF) which I pass on to you. Worthy of note: a "PanCanadian ePortfolio project to promote and implement a seamless ePortfolio system for all Canadians is coming into focus." By Various Authors, July 27, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Northeast looks south for e-learning
Interesting item I wouldn't have guessed: according to this news article, the school system in Tamil Nadu is being used as a model for e-learning for schools in north-east India. By Staff, The Telegraph - Calcutta, September 8, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Charity Kicks off E-Learning Boost
Another way to look at e-learning: "the RSPCA has today kicked off a major new scheme that aims to help teachers across the country jazz up their lessons by bringing thought-provoking discussions on animal welfare into the classroom." When anyone can create e-learning, everyone does. But this results in issue-specific e-learning with a point of view. I've commented on the dangers of this when it comes from the corporate sector; consistency demands that I question it as well when it comes from the charity sector. Doesn't it? By Ben Pindar, The Scotsman, September 9, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Nova Test Prep Center Online LSAT Course
Ashok Varma writes to me, of this online LSAT preparation course, that "our latest US offering is probably, the first revenue sharing web based offering between a Indian and a US based company." If so, then it is an interesting development. The website is worth passing along on its own merits; some elegant HTML and Javascript coding along with a generous preview, clear writing and a lot of content. No Flash or Javascript, which means this course loads quickly and could (in theory) be written in pure XML. By Various Authors, MindAxis, September, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Maths Internet Guide
Pete Mckay passes along this link to a great list. "Over 100 top websites carefully chosen for their interactivity and grouped into five search categories." Now if only they were indexed in an RSS feed... By Boris Handal, September 10, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Eyetrack III
This is a great article and a must-read for anyone who designs web pages. The study is based on measurements of readers' eyes as they look at news websites. Some results we've seen before in other studies: pictures are 'lighter' on the web than in print (that is, they don't immediately attract the eyes); shorter paragraphs are read more; text ads work better than banners. The eye track was interesting. Readers start at the upper mid-left, move to the upper left, and then to the lower right. A surprise: headlines actually dissuade people from reading capsule descriptions, unless they are close to the capsule and in a similar sized font. If you don't have time for the whole study, at least read the summary. By Steve Outing and Laura Ruel, Poynter Institute, September, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ITI Keynote Online
D'Arcy Norman has create "a handy AudioBook AAC format for use in iTunes or an iPod. Itís about half the size of the .mp3, and supports bookmarking, in case you donít feel like sitting there for an hourÖ It also has an album coverÖ." Meanwhile, quite a few people have written in with their own suggestions - thanks! By D'Arcy Norman, D'Arcy Norman @ The Learning Commons, September 9, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

This is a pretty good essay. I haven't read it completely but I've read enough to know that it's worth passing along. An analysis of the use of internet technologies to support social networks, it looks at things like the importance of reputation, limits on the size of networks people can support, and some dangers of social networking such as isolationism and cronyism. Good, informed discussion, well worth taking the time to read. Sponsorships by Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers. By William Davies, The Work Foundation, September, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Review: Microsoft Print Reader Delivers
I have complained about user registration in the past. Well, here's the Microsoft way of addressing the problem. "Enter Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)'s new fingerprint-recognition technology for personal computers running its Windows XP operating system. The device promises to relieve the drudgery of keeping track of passwords and having to retype them again and again. Your fingerprints serve as a shortcut." Yeah, send your fingerprints to Microsoft. By Alex veiga, Excite News, September 9, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Bookmarklet Solution to the Password Problem
On the other hand, here's another solution to the password problem (one which won't get you indexed at Microsoft Central). This nifty script auto-generates a password based on a seed word and the name of the site you're trying to enter. And it seems to me that it wouldn't take a lot to completely automate this, so you basically don't see the password entry. Then, since they're bookmarks, people could save them or trade them, depending on whether they want to keep their account secret or share it with the world. My thinking is that userids and passwords work only if the user has an incentive to keep the password secret. But if the only purpose of registration is to facilitate data mining by advertisers, the incentive is not there. By Simon Willison, Simon Willison's Weblog, September 6, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Colleges Weigh New Prerequisite: A Laptop in Every Backpack
Laptops are becoming a fact of life at colleges, according to this article, but not everybody is enthused. As University Business summarizes it, "requiring a laptop in every backpack ignores economic realities and drives a wedge between rich and poor. And even if all students could afford a laptop, some professors say, it's likely to be used more for downloading music than deconstructing Dante." Still, despite the downside, the tenor of the article is that those colleges that require laptops would not reverse their policy. "Everybody in the community talks with each other more frequently," says David Brown, a professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. "Students run into trouble, they e-mail one another, e-mail the faculty. The whole culture changes." By Sara B. Miller, Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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