By Stephen Downes
November 22, 2004

50 District Schools Will get a High-tech Leap into the Future
This is one of those stories where you really wish the commercial press would tell the whole story - or at least link to things. On the surface, it's a good news story: the Philadelphia school board plans to invest some $75 million in new technology in 50 of its 275 schools, with plans to support all of them at a cost of $1.5 million per school (you will only be able to click to this item once - it's one of those fake links that makes you register if you ever go back). I can't cover everything in this one short item, there's so much. Microsoft is involved; they launched a pilot project here, which is the basis for this new program. But Philadelphia is also where a private company called Edison Schools manages - with limited success - a number of schools, where the state directed funding to benefit these schools, where the University of Pennsylvania, which offers training to teachers in the Edison schools, brought in commercialized Napster over student objections. So what is this $75 million, really? A much-needed infusion of funds? Or something else entirely? I wouldn't be so cynical, but when you cover so much of this, you get that way. By Susan Snyder, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 18, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and 2004
From the report: more than 1.9 million students were studying online in the fall of 2003. Schools expect the number of online students to grow to more than 2.6 million by the fall of 2004. "Schools that offer online courses believe that their online students are at least as satisfied as those taking their face-to-face offerings." Detailed report, numerous statistics. 695K PDF. A summary is also available. Coverage from eSchool News. By I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, The Sloan Consortium, November, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open Software at the Hillside Club in Berkeley
Nothing deep, but it's interesting to see the short histories and snapshots of some of the leading figures in open source: he CEO of MySQL, a founder of Apache, the author of SendMail, the leader of BSD. By Jay Cross, Internet Time, November 21, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Google Puts New Slant on Scholarship
More coverage of scholar.google.com, this time from the Guardian. After a brief introduction and some observations on the debate about open access to scholarship, the author then tests the service with five vague topics. Of course, looking for 'the Battle of Hastings' or 'Life on Mars' isn't a typical use of an academic citation index, and so it's no surprise to see the results returned as general as the query. If you want to see the system fly, try a search on something like polyamine synthesis in eukaryotic cells. By Richard Wray, The Guardian, November 22, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

E-Learning in the Middle East - A Fast Growing Market
This brief item points to a trend observed here - the growing e-learning market in the Middle East. It would have been nice had the article noted some key trends, such as the move of companies like Microsoft to entrench themselves in the region. But this teaser article contents itself with pointing to the high spending and the market penetration of companies like WebCT. Some stats in this interview with Bassem Khafagi, Planning and Business Development Manager, Wasayet Inc. Egypt. By Beate Kleeßen, Global Learning FachNews, November 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why Work
I think this is a good question: "In order for capitalism to succeed, everyone had to believe that earning more money, even if he had no particular need for it, was a good thing. But why would anyone believe that?" The search for the answer to this question occupied the bulk of sociologist Max Weber's career. More on Max Weber. His major work, The Protestan Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. For myself, I don't believe it; earning more money has no particular appel to me, even when I do need it. Of course, I can say that, having my basic needs met. By Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, November 22, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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