August 7, 2006


George Siemens and Stephen Downes[Edit][Delete]: Discussion: Stephen Downes, Elearnspace [Edit][Delete]ELearnSpace [Edit][Delete] August 7, 2006
[link: Hits] George Siemens and I had a nice discussion this afternoon about the changing nature of knowledge. "We started by discussing the need for a new epistemology...explored artificial intelligence, democracy, wikipedia, new models of societal organization, knowledge as a product/process, the nature of learning today, neuroscientific view of cognition, and other light breezy subjects :)." 68 megabytes, but if you give me some time I'll have a lighter version here. Once I download the original. ;) [Tags: ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

StevenB[Edit][Delete]: Truth In Advertising - Lies We Tell Our Students And Faculty, ACRLog [Edit][Delete] August 7, 2006
[link: Hits] I reads this item as I was comtemplating a response to the next, and something about it bothered me. And it's this. The author tells us that librarians are misleading us when they say libraries can be like Google. "We will tell people it may take them longer than 60 seconds to find valuable information. We will tell them our library databases are not the same as Google..." And I want to know, why not? Why does it take so long to find stuff? Why isn't the stuff accessible through this collection? Why is it that what the library offers me is mostly a set of excuses and limitations, instead of what I really want, fast and easy and relevant access? This is a key question for librarians: what is the value-add that is being brought to the table? (And don't say 'metadata' - it's just not on the table). [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Various authors[Edit][Delete]: Work in Progress - Invitation to Comment, Jisc [Edit][Delete]JISC [Edit][Delete] August 7, 2006
[link: Hits] Page linking to a large collection of materials from the JISC Trust in Digital Repositories project, with an invitation to comment. Thus I spent my morning today.

Begin with The TrustDR Project: a plain-english description for project partners (all documents are in MS Word). It's a good overview with a nice set of references. See especially section 4. But readers should note some themes that permeate these discussions, themes that just don't ring right - the idea that computer scientists believe that "there is some 'magic bullet' type of solution to the task of running a repository," the assumption "that an institutional digital repository of learning objects is a form of digital library," and the idea that institutional top-down management is required to make repositories work. And it seems off that the athors would claim that "Google algorithms make extensive use of 'traditional' metadata to work their magic," which so far as I know is false (certainly the vast majority of web pages have no metadata).

Jump next to Geronimo's Cadillac: Lessons for Learning Object Repositories, a paper describing some of the lessons learned from the project. The idea is that DRM and associated technologies were just too early for institutions. "The current situation can be best described as high-level ambitions with poor implementation." We see the same points echoed, and more, "education is a social and political system, and the checks and balances that keep the system working may not be shifted by any technology." Is this true?

Next look at The Interactive Media Industry, Intellectual Property Rights, the Internet and Copyright: Some Lessons from the TrustDR Project, a paper that struggles between two alternatives - on the one hand, the damage caused by copyright and patents, including the "legalised piracy" practised by patent holders holding the rest of us to "ransom," and on the other hand, "the need to protect intellectual property and the rights of the producers."

Next, as a sample of the detailed work being undertaken, view Scoping Exercise for the Outputs of TrustDR in Terms of the Target Groups. Again the same themes as in the opening documents emerge, and "a theme to carry through the outputs of the project would be best described as 'explain and persuade'" - for example, of the importance of good metadata, or of the importance of digital rights management. Note the organizational model on page 15.

Finally, in the area of DRM policy projection, see Doing the Right Thing: sources of guidance for good practice with metadata and repositories. We get, for example, 'good practice in metadata'. "A classical example of this activity would be the classification system used in the study of plants." The system should be flexible, easy to create, permanent, and accurate. There is an overview of some metadata schemas (RSS is not mentioned) and then an outline of good practice in repositories. Then, "A repository can support the TrustDR framework by making it possible to describe the rights, express them, disseminate them and, and expose them."

I have taken a lot of time with this, and stepped the reader through a number of documents, in order to expose the unease I feel with the work to date. The assumptions made in the first document, despite being unsupportable, flow through the rest of the documentation. As a result of the view of repositories, and of institutions, taken by the authors a narrow perspective on the role and management of repositories emerges. Moreover, it doesn't seem as though the authors were motivated to look beyond their own domain, and they are clearly uncomfortable with the technical writing in the field.

These documents need to be reviewed. Back up and check those assumptions. Ask what is missing. Though I agree with a lot of the sentiment, the documents are just too technically loose, in some cases factually inaccurate, and in some cases simply wrong. [Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Christian Long[Edit][Delete]: A Lack of Transparency In the News Aggregator World, think:lab [Edit][Delete] August 7, 2006
[link: 9 Hits] Christian Long struggles with aggregation, and in particular the work of Jym Brittain. In a comment, Brittain writes, "If you object to your content being syndicated, turn off the syndication function of your blog." It's an issue that occupies many people with RSS feeds (and for that matter Creative Commons licenses). It's something that I addressed recently (and you should also see Tom Hoffman's more recent response to my comments). [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Charles Nelson[Edit][Delete]: Report: Public Schools Near Private Schools, Explorations in Learning [Edit][Delete] August 7, 2006
[link: Hits] In case we forgot, "the strongest predictor of academic underperformance is poverty." Whe the reminder? Because the denial is so strong. As in this post, where the very next line is "I wonder how poverty is linked to attitude" and where the author then quotes William Raspberry saying "the gap has less and less to do with racism and more and more to do with the habits and attitudes we inculcate among our children." Except that it doesn't. This sort of attitude suggests that poor children would learn better if only their parents were better parents. But if this were the case, then parenting - and not poverty - would be the strongest indicator of academic underperformance. In the same way, the improvement of children in military families is far more likly to have to do with the regular paycheque, not the military discipline (which doesn't even apply to the kids). Why the denial? Because it allows people to rationalize leaving children in poverty? [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Paul Reid[Edit][Delete]: Challenging Australian Education Podcasts, Digital Chalkie [Edit][Delete] August 7, 2006
[link: Hits] Links to podcasts and posters from a recent Australian conference titled: "So what's changed?" including talks by James Farmer and Gerry White. Links to a blog authored by Deane Bullen and Mike Seyfang covering the conference as a whole. James Farmer also writes about his experience at the conference. [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Waleed Al-Shobakky[Edit][Delete]: PCs for the Poor - As Good As Their Hype?, [Edit][Delete] August 7, 2006
[link: Hits] The debate surrounding the $100 computer continues, with this article pointing out that "six countries -- Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand -- have each pledged to buy one million units." [Tags: ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Dave Cormier and Jeff Lebow[Edit][Delete]: Community Forum on DOPA and the Blackboard Patent, Ed Tech Talk [Edit][Delete] August 7, 2006
[link: Hits] For continuing coverage of the Blackboard patent story, be sure to check this special page.

Yesterday's major activity was a Community Forum on DOPA and the Blackboard Patent held on Ed Tech Talk (view the chat transcript, listen to the MP3 audio, part 1). Also read a summary of the meeting by Sharon Peters.

"Part 1 of our Community forum includes an overview of these two critical issues, presentation of a message sent by BlackBoard CEO, Michael Chasen, reaction from Desire2Learn Director of Marketing, John McLeod, and commentary from Michael Feldstein and Stephen Downes. More audio, including our break out discussions and a chat with Moodle founder, Martin Dougiamas, will be uploading soon."

The Blackboard message in particular attracted a lot of attention as Chasen says "We [Blackboard] certainly did not invent e-learning or course management systems."

Chasen may say this but the words of the patent claims themselves paint a different picture. Afred Essa offers that picture in pictures as he describes the patent claims in detail, commenting finally that "Once we cut through the pseudo-technical mumbo jumbo it's apparent that there is no there there. If Blackboard gets away with this it will be one of the great hoaxes of this century."

He argues "the patent grant is breathtaking in its sweep and goes well beyond what we normally associate with course management systems or virtual learning environments. In addition to the core technologies associated with a VLE, the Blackboard patent potentially covers any infrastructure and integration elements when used in the context of course delivery."

Also yesterday came the first sign that the case may hit the mainstream press as the Times of India filed a report titled Blackboard patent may hit e-learning in India. The article notes, " The patent is already applicable in US, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. Its sweep spans every little bit of online education including processes like how courses are offered and managed. The patent is now pending in other countries including India."

Desire2Blog has posted a couple of items, including one with the PDF from the actual Kitchener Record newspaper (competing with an article on Sudoku toilet paper) and another highlighting a forthcoming interview with Desire2Learn CEO John Baker.

Michael Feldstein offers a couple lines of argument against the patent, including one showing that it stifles innovation, as in the case of the IMS common cartridge standard, and another from the Sloan-C listserv to the effect that learning management systems were consciously copied from more generic software performing the same functions.

Joseph Hart summarizes initiatives being taken to counter the Blackboard patent, including a new one by Gerd Kortemeyer, from the Sloan Consortium community, who announces, "I have started a document at A Literature and Systems Review of Prior Art to US Patent 6,988,138.

And to wrap up for today, don't miss Bucaneer Bonk and His Belated Blackboard the Pirate Top Ten List, who points out that Microsoft is a major Blackboard investor (and so Blackboard must wonder what Microsoft is doing in partnership with Moodle). Says Bonk, "Scurvy dogs! Either way, people like me will never promote them again (as if we ever have). The negative fallout of tis will be enormous. I do not think that the (dare I say 'idiots' for threat of a lawsuit when I post tis ter my blog) charmin people at Blackboard the Pirate realize it."

Which raises the question: is Blackboard so committed to this path it cannot back out? Is it condemned to be regarded in the same breath as companies like SCO and ContentGuard, viewed as a scavenger and a rogue? No - it can still back away, rescind its lawsuit, and renounce its claim (as Chasen has already done in his message) to all of e-learning. There is time, but for Blackboard, I feel that time is perilously short before the storm actually hits where it hurts.

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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.

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