OLDaily

By Stephen Downes
February 25, 2005

Markdown
Sweet. A free and open source Perl script that translates ordinary text into correct HTML or XHTML. Works a lot like a wiki script, except that it can function as a plug-in for Moveable Type, Blosxom, or BBEdit (along with, presumably, your home grown Perl programs). I can't wait to play with it. There's also a PHP port by Michel Fortin. And an HTML to (Markdown style) text, by Aaron Schwartz. By John Gruber, Daring Fireball, December 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Report Faults Bush Initiative on Education
A report tabled yesterday by a bipartisan panel of legislators condemns the No Child Left Behind Act, calling it "a flawed, convoluted and unconstitutional education reform initiative that had usurped state and local control of public schools." This New York article also cites criticisms of the report by a representative from the Business Roundtable.

Perhaps some perspective, as offered by Will Richardson as he cites Ted Sizer from The Red Pencil: "The best predictor of a child's educational success always has been and still is the economic and social class of his family rather than the school that he or she happens to attend. The schools as they presently function appear, save at the well publicized margins, rarely to countervail the accidents of family, wealth and residence. 'Success,' as conventionally defined, and ultimately graduation thus depend largely on the chance of birth and income, embarrassing a democracy that pretends to offer equal educational opportunities for all." By Sam Dillon, New York Times, February 25, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Odeo Blog
Odeo is supposed to launch today at TED. It will make podcasting simpler. As I write, it hasn't launched yet, so all we have is this blog. But keep an eye out. By Evan Williams, February 25, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How Dr. Papadakis Runs a Drexel University Like a Company
I'm not going to say that everything Drexel University president Constantine Papadakis has done is wrong, because that would be in error. Nor will I hard on this Philadelphia University's poor rankings in national surveys, because I don't think these surveys are really accurate measures. There's a lot to like in Drexel's methodology, but there's also a lot to dislike. Running a school like a business sometimes means running it into the ground; in business, after all, failures are common. Schools don't have that luxury. And running it like a business means running it with more attention to the bottom line than to the product, which in the field of education is also a concern. Right now, I think, it's pretty easy to look at a traditional university and cherry-pick significant savings (though usually at the risk of outraging faculty). But being smart is not a synonym for being a business, and we should not fool ourselves into believing it is. By Bernard Wysocki Jr., Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 24, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Thar's Gold in Them Thar Voucher Schools!
"A private investment firm that owns the largest ice manufacturer in the United States, makes plus-sized clothes and oversees a leading cabinet company has been educating Florida's disabled students and doing it with taxpayer dollars." Kim Cavanaugh asks, "On how many levels is this wrong?" As he describes the policy, "Let's pull the money out of the public system, give it to entrepreneurs, and let the marketplace decide." I have to agree - it's really hard to see the company's primary motivation as being the welfare of its students. By Kim Cavanaugh, Brain Frieze, February 21, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Knowledge Management Systems
George Siemens links to this useful course outline linking to numerous useful works on knowledge management. He comments, "When an instructor puts a course like this online (as compared to a password-protected LMS), many people benefit (and the institution doesn't really lose anything by sharing)." Quite right. Now what would have been really great is a podcast consisting of the professors' lectures. But maybe that's asking too much. By Don Turnbull, School of Information, The University of Texas at Austin, Spring, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Little More on DRM
A recent paper from the Cato Institute has drawn the ire of copyright activists as it insists that while governments should continue to protect the "property rights" of copyright holders, market solutions should be allowed to define the integration of digital rights management (DRM) with peer to peer (P2P) file sharing technologies. But as Ed Felten points out, "the theory works, of course, only if the music business really is competitive. If the record companies act as a cartel, they can use the resulting monopoly power to dictate the design of DRM systems, regardless of consumer preferences." And he also argues that it's "not clear that we can rely on the DRM vendors to make their products interoperable -- they have little incentive to help their customers switch to competitors' products." Indeed, I would observe that the primary free market response has been to call on government for more restrictive legislation and harsher penalties while at the same time building technology that doesn't work and reducing the range and quality of commercial offerings. This business of pretending that some forms of government intervention are in reality forms of the free market while others are nothing more than communism - it's got to stop. By Derek Slater, A Copyfighter's Musings, February 21, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Global Digital Divide Narrowing
The global digital divide is rapidly closing, asserts the World Bank, which then uses this information to criticize a United Nations program to increase usage and access to technology in poorer nations. But the digital divide is still significant and so I don't see how evidence that these programs are successful could be an argument for terminating them - but then again, the World Bank has never really impressed me with its reasoning. By Unattributed, BBC News, February 24, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Revenge of the Blog People!
American Library Association president Michael Gorman has spoken again, this time asserting that "the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote." Gorman, recall, argued that "Massive databases of digitized whole books, especially scholarly books, are expensive exercises in futility..." He now writes that he is not against digitization, but "that I do not believe this particular project will give us anything that comes anywhere near access to the world's knowledge," mostly because Google does not deliver well ordered search results. What would be better? "If a fraction of the latter were devoted to buying books and providing librarians for the library-starved children of California, the effort would be of far more use to humanity and society." Yes, indeed, let's feed the starving Californians; that would be much better. Sheesh. By Michael Gorman, Library Journal, February 15, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Government 2.0 Slammed
I am supportive of the idea of decentralizing government, but not at the expense of placing governance into the hands of undemocratic institutions. I have often made the point that no society is democratic until its institutions are democratic. Its institutions include things like government agencies, corporations, NGOs and non-profits, schools and universities, and the like. Most of these are in no way democratic, and so by this definition we are a long way from democracy. And we would be even further away from democracy were we to put governance into the hands of these institutions, as suggested in William Eggers's Government 2.0. So I am sympathetic with the criticisms outlined in this link. By Ross Mayfield, Ross Mayfield's Weblog, February 24, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2005 Stephen Downes
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