August 1, 2006


Stephen Downes[Edit][Delete]: Will Richardson's Business Model, Half an Hour [Edit][Delete] August 1, 2006
[link: Hits] I am home from Bogota. Colombia is a fascinating country I will not soon forget, nor would I want to. Yes, there is poverty and crime, a lot, but the Colombia I saw is a whole lot more than that, as I will show you in the days ahead.

I talked with Diego a lot about this as we wandered through the back streets of the Candelaria (More). Appropriately, today seems to be about the corporate side of online learning. In this article, written this morning before following up on all the Blackboard kerfuffle, I wrote:

"The person who has cut into line ahead of you may appear to have gained something at your expense. My my belief is that a life led thusly is not one that profits. It is a life led solitary and alone. The essence of living in a community is to respect the interests, rights and desires of the other members. Those who disregard that essence soon find themselves excluded from the community, and from the benefits to be derived from the community."

This applies to people, it applies to corporations, and it applies to life. Blackboard's action tells us more about what sort of company Blackboard has become than anything else. Blackboard has turned its back on those who have built it up from scratch. It has embraced the corporate world and the corporate ethos. It's a sad and disgraceful day for learning.

Sorry about the typos. I'm jet-lagged, and I have mixed nuts in my keyboard, which is why my 8 key (among others) is stuck (the perils of travel on crowded airplanes). [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Unattributed[Edit][Delete]: OpenAcademic Goes Live!, August 1, 2006
[link: 1 Hits] A project dedicated to integrating Elgg, Drupal, Moodle, and Mediawiki, OpenAcademic, has launched. "All code developed under this project will be released back to the respective communities under an open source license, and it will be freely available to download and distribute." Via Dave Tosh. [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Reuters[Edit][Delete]: History Without Books Gets a Test in US Schools, August 1, 2006
[link: Hits] Reuters: "What began as a long-shot attempt last year by Pearson Plc to sell California educators digital materials to teach history and politics, collectively known in US schools as social studies, has become reality in what could be the first large-scale step to eliminate books from classrooms." But in order to ensure schools purchase content from commercial publishers, they must be required to use a learning platform that offers only commercial material. Like, say, a system like Blackboard, with which Pearson has a long partnership. Limit the choice of LMS, limit the choice of content. And what sort of history and politics would you suppose will be taught when companies like Pearson and Blackboard have a lock on it? Via Andrew Pass. [Tags: , , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Laura Blanken[Edit][Delete]: Corporations, Education, Blogging, What Does it all Mean, Geeky Mom [Edit][Delete] August 1, 2006
[link: 1 Hits] Barbara Ganley reports on the recent BlogHer conference and comments, "rumbling through the two days was, as Laura points out, a strong whiff of the almighty dollar. People were looking for hints on increasing traffic to their blogs, making money blogging, encouraging advertisers. In sessions I attended, and in the buzz around the pool, there was a whole lot of attention paid to getting people to your blogs. Fascinating."

Laura Blanken, in addition, points to a San Francisco Chroinicle article covering the conference and asks, "Should we try our best not to succumb to using their products or taking their money? I mean, we're wary of drug company funded research. Should we be wary of the effect using a particular company's product has on teaching, research and learning? Ask yourself if having only certain products available changes what you do in the classroom." [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Press Release[Edit][Delete]: Blackboard Awarded Patent on e-Learning Technology, Blackboard [Edit][Delete] August 1, 2006
[link: 1 Hits] Disclosure: I work with NRC IIT and am involved with the Synergic3 project described in this press release from Desire2Learn. I also support and have advcocated open source learning management systems.

As I commented earlier today, it was like poking a stick into an anthill. The Blackboard patent and subsequent action has prompted a furious reaction, one they must have anticipated (which is probably at least part of the reason for waiting from January 17, when the patent, to July 26, to make the announcement).

"In addition, patents corresponding with the U.S. patent have been issued in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and are pending in the European Union, China, Japan, Canada, India, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, Hong Kong and Brazil."

To say that the reaction was negative would be to understate the matter considerably. Donald Clark writes, "I'd start selling Blackboard stock NOW!" Leonard Low writes, "Blackboard's claim of patent is both outrageous and repugnant." Dave Cormier writes, "In the span of a couple of weeks the educational landscape we've all come to know and care about has taken an awful beating. It seems that DOPA is taking away our open ed-web and blackweb is taking away our walled gardens." John P. Mayer writes, "How can you access the 'full power of the Internet' [as Blackboard says] if you are dealing with litigation fears and limitations of choice as a result?" Wesley Fryer exclaims "Crazy!" and asks, "Were the people in the US Patent Office really thinking clearly when they have this supposed 'patent' to Blackboard?"

In an item titled "Life among the clueless: the Blackboard patent" (best title of the day, by the way), Jay Cross ponders, "Maybe it was too big a nightmare for SumTotal, Saba, Plateau, and their brethren to think about. I imagine they are all in line for extortion, a la Blackberry."

Further, it was reported on my website, and also at the Inquirer that Blackboard has filed suit against Canadian company Desire2Learn over the patent (text of the filing document here). The Enquirer states, "the firm's CEO Michael Chasen said his firm has been a 'thought leader' in the e-learning industry." I, for one, beg to differ. Blackboard has resisted innovation as long as I have known the company; I remember Greg Ritter at a conference once trying to confince the company to use RSS feed, and now I expect the company to claim to have invented them.

In an widely distributed email during the D2L Users Conference Desire2Learn head John Baker wrote, "We are disappointed that Blackboard turned to the court system before discussing its claims with us. We intend to defend the action vigorously, but because we just received notice two business days ago, we are unable to comment further at this time." The letter does not yet appear on the D2L website. Baker, reports Alberta Essa, was "visibly shaken", and Blackboard "truly evil."

As stated on the Academic Commons website, the move has raised concerns that action may also be taken against open source projects Moodle and Sakai. As Alfred Essa observes, "By filing a patent infringement lawsuit against Desire2Learn Blackboard has at the same time fired a shot across the bow of open source projects such as Moodle, Sakai, and .LRN, which are slowly emerging as disruptive innovations in the elearning space. In the long run Blackboard knows it can't win on product quality or innovation. Therefore, it will exploit patents as its WMD."

And he adds, in my view correctly, "What is Blackboard's diabolical strategy to crush open source? I don't believe they will directly go after the open source projects. They don't need to. Blackboard just needs to create enough FUD among lawyers, whose entire frame of reference is built around litigation avoidance, so that new institutions interested in adopting an open source solution just won't go there."

"I'm not worried," writes Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas on a Moodle forum (stupid login required). "I'm not worried as I think there is plenty of prior art." The open source communiy has already started fighting back. A Wikipedia article on the history of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) development has been started, essentially the same as the page at Moodle.

Martin Langhoff writes on a Moodle forum (stupid login required, sorry), "After a quick check on the ATutor forums, and seeing there was no discussion about the patents, I've gotten in touch with Greg Gay -- he says: "If you are looking for evidence of LMS type apps prior to 1999, here's a study we did early that year. We'll be in contact with the patent office in Canada, to make sure no patent is issued here. We're onboard on this too." and I think that study is good stuff and having them on board is great.

Some more prior art has been posted at Seb Schmoller talks about a Learning to Teach Online Course he and others developed in 1997 or 1998.

Some people see the positive in the move. Alex Reid ponders, "Perhaps Blackboard's patent is the evil impetus to move us away from a "course-based system" of 'online courses:' the bad idea that they want to claim as their fundamental intellectual property." As Scott Wilson suggests, "I hope we can use this as an opportunity...perhaps Tony Karrer is correct and that we are at the point of technology disruption, and we'll see the LMS displaced by simpler technologies with different non-functional characteristics (following the typical technology pattern)."

[Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Stephen Downes[Edit][Delete]: Web-Based Courses: The Assiniboine Model, Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration [Edit][Delete] August 1, 2006
[link: 32 Hits] OK, let's be clear now. I have one last thing to say about this Blackboard patent. Yeah, I know, half the educational community was working on the LMS in the 1990s. But for me, this Blackboard patent feels pretty personal. Here's why.

In the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume 2, Number 2, Summer, 1999, I published this paper based on a presentation I had originally made in 1997. It describes how to design and build a learning management system. It goes into a great deal of detail, including things like online registration, tests and exams, communications, personalized home pages, and much more. The paper, moreover, describes code I actually built at Assiniboine Community College and which was used to deliver a number of courses at the college.

Now, the Blackboard patent was filed June 30, 2000. Here it is. Read both and judge for yourself. But let me say this: what Blackboard claims to have invented in 2000 is almost an exact clone of what I described in 1997 and published in 1999. Now Blackboard may be suing a company today - a Canadian company, naturally. But my response to Blackboard is this: where do you get off taking my invention, which I shared freely with the rest of the world, in order to advance learning, and claiming it as your own? Is this the model of learning to which you subscribe, to use the legal system to deny learning to people who cannot afford it?


[Tags: , , , , , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Browse through the thousands of links in my knowledge base sorted according to topic category, author and publication.

Browse through the thousands of links in my knowledge base sorted according to topic category, author and publication.

Stephen Downes

About Me
Bio, photos, and assorted odds and ends.

You know, the ones that appear in refereed journals of Outstanding Rank.

Lectures, seminars, and keynotes in a wide variety of formats - everything from streaming video to rough notes.

All my articles, somewhere around 400 items dating from 1995.

Audio recordings of my talks recorded in MP3 format. A podcast feed is also available.

What I'm doing, where I'm doing it, and when.

Newly updated! A collection of my photographs. Suitable for downloading as desktop wallpaper.

Stephen's Web
Since 1995

About this Site
Why this site exists, what it does, and how it works.

OLDaily RSS Feed OLDaily
Edu_RSS RSS Feed Edu_RSS
FOAF (Friend of a Friend) FOAF
Podcast Link
OLDaily Audio


About the Author

Stephen Downes

Copyright � 2006 Stephen Downes
National Research Council Canada


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License


I want and visualize and aspire toward a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through their avocations or lifestyle.

Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations - or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be.

This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence.

This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward. - Stephen Downes


[2 Cents Worth]
[A Difference]
[A List Apart]
[A poke with a sharp stick]
[Abel Newsletter]
[Abject Learning]
[Academic Commons -]
[ Event RSS Feed]
[ General News RSS Feed]
[adult and community e-learning: uk [ace:uk]]
[adult literacy meets technology (AL-T) - technology as literacy]
[Alan November Weblog]
[alt tags]
[Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth: The DDN Edition]
[Archer central]
[Around the Corner -]
[B.Mann Consulting - Technology Consulting in Vancouver]
[blog of proximal development]
[Blogging IT and EDucation]
[Blogscholar Syndication]
[BoardBuzz: NSBA's Daily Weblog]
[Brad Jensen's Posts]
[Bud the Teacher]
[Canadian Journalist]
[Central Ranges LLEN News]
[CETIS: Standards in Education Technology]
[Chris Correa]
[Christopher D. Sessums : Weblog]
[ - Today's News]
[Civilities - media structures research]
[Clay Shirky's Essays]
[ - Interviews]
[ - Education]
[Cognitive Daily]
[Cognitive Dissonance]
[Column Two]
[Connect Learning, with David Warlick]
[ - Technology In Academia -- Connect @ EDUCAUSE]
[Connectivism Blog]
[considering education]
[considering education]
[Cool Cat Teacher Blog]
[Couros Blog]
[Creative Commons Blog]
[Curb Cut Design]
[D'Arcy Norman dot net - Just a lowly edtech geek, blogging from the University of Calgary]
[Dan Atkins on CLEAR]
[Dan Gillmor's blog]
[Daring Fireball]
[Dave Tosh : Weblog]
[Dave's Educational Blog]
[David Davies' Weblog]
['s Daily News]
[DJ Alchemi]
[e-Clippings (a division of blogoehlert)]
[e-Learning Acupuncture]
[E-Learning Queen]
[E-Portfolios for Learning]
[Eamonn's Home]
[Ed-Tech Insider]
[EdBlogger Praxis]
[Edge Perspectives with John Hagel]
[editThisPage News]
[EdNA Home Page Headlines]
[EdTechTalk - Educational Technology That Talks... - Educational Techology That Talks]
[EduBlog Insights]
[Education/Technology - Tim Lauer]
[Educational Technology]
[Educational Weblogs]
[EDUCAUSE RSS | Recent Recent Library Submissions Listings]
[EduResources Weblog--Higher Education Resources Online]
[eLearning Technology]
[ new reviews]
[Elephant News]
[eSchool News Top Stories]
[Ferl Newsfeed]
[FLOSSE Posse]
[Fortnightly Mailing]
[Forum on Information Technology and Research Universities]
[foss4us blogs]
[Full Circle Online Interaction Blog]
[Golden Swamp]
[Graham Glass, etc.]
[Gurteen Knowledge-Log]
[Half an Hour]
[Harold Jarche]
[HeadspaceJ: Instructional Design and Technology Blog]
[Here at WCER]
[Higher Education Insight]
[How to Save the World]
[Human Productivity Lab]
[ICT in Education]
[Ideas and thoughts from an EdTech]
[IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee]
[incorporated subversion]
[incsub - online community projects and publications]
[Infocult: Information, Culture, Policy, Education]
[Informal Learning Blog]
[Inside Higher Ed]
[Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research blogs]
[International Education Webzine]
[Internet Time Blog]
[IT Forum]
[iterating toward openness]
[iterating toward openness]
[Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day]
[Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report]
[jg's ramblings]
[JISC e-Learning Focus]
[Joho the Blog]
[Joi Ito's Web]
[Jon's Radio]
[Just Learn News Review]
[Kairosnews - A Weblog for Discussing Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy]
[Keith's weblog]
[Lanny on Learning Technology]
[Latest Issue of SourceOECD Education & Skills]
[Latest News]
[Lawrence Lessig]
[Learning - Educational Technologies :: Robin Good's Latest News]
[Learning in Hand]
[Lessig Blog]
[little train]
[Lost Remote]
[Marc's Voice]
[Mark Berthelemy's Connections]
[McGee's Musings]
[Meir Navon's Blog]
[Michael Geist Law RSS Feed]
[Michelle's Online Learning Freakout Party Zone]
[MicroContent Musings (RSS 2.0)]
[Mike Klonsky's Small Talk]
[Multiple Intelligences]
[Musings about Social Computing and Ed. Tech.]
[News Forum]
[Nouvelles de la Télé-université]
[Online Journalism Review]
[Online Learning Update]
[Online Rights Canada]
[Open Mind]
[Open Social Forum]
[OSS Watch Announcements]
[OSS Watch Reports]
[OSS Watch Summary]
[OUseful Info]
[Portals and KM]
[Practical Theory]
[Random Walk in Learning]
[Recent Items]
[Reflective Ramblings About Teaching and Learning and Other Inconsequential things]
[Release1.0 - The Conversation Starts Here]
[Remote Access]
[Rick's Café Canadien]
[Rik Abel]
[Robert Paterson's Weblog]
[Ross Mayfield's Weblog]
[Sakai Project News]
[Sasan Salari's blog]
[Scott Sorley's Education Technology Guidebook]
[Scott Wilson's Workblog]
[Seb's Open Research]
[SEGA Tech]
[Simon Willison's Weblog]
[Smelly Knowledge - Exploring the depths of learning, identity, and community over technology.]
[Socrates Technological University]
[spokenwordmatters News]
[Stephen's Web ~ by Stephen Downes ~ OLDaily RSS 2.0]
[Sterling Silver Jewelry, Cubic Zirconia CZ Rings, Necklaces, Bracelets]
[Sterling Silver Jewelry, Cubic Zirconia CZ Rings, Necklaces, Bracelets&Pendants, Earrings, Fashion Watches&Jewelry Gifts For Men]
[Stievie's adventures in e-Learning]
[Student Self Directed Learning]
[Teach and Learn Online]
[Teach42 - Education and Technology, by Steve Dembo]
[Teachable Moment]
[Teaching and Developing Online.]
[Teaching Generation Z]
[The Business of Emotions]
[The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog]
[The Community Engine Blog]
[The Educational Mac]
[The Google Weblog]
[The Illuminated Dragon]
[The Intuitive Life Business Blog]
[The Learned Man!]
[The Learning Circuits Blog]
[The PLE Blog]
[The Shifted Librarian]
[The Wales-Wide Web]
[timbl's blog]
[TLN Teacher Voices]
[Trends in the Living Networks]
[Tuttle SVC]
[U.S. Department of Education]
[Virtual Canuck]
[ - Virtual Reality News and Resources edited by/for the VR Community]
[WeblogsInEducation News]
[What is the (Next) Message?]
[ - thinking]
[Will at Work Learning]
[Write Technology]