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by Stephen Downes
February 26, 2007

US Patent and Trade Office Grants Re-Examination Request to Desire2Learn
This is the second re-examination request the Patent office has considered; the previous was on behalf of the open source learning management systems. In the wacky world of U.S. patents, though, Desire2Learn could end up paying even if the patent is overturned, as the East Texas kangaroo court where the case is being held has refused to stay the proceedings pending the results of the re-examination. That's what happened to Research in Motion - they overturned the patents but still had to pay a settlement. See also Seb Schmoller, Michael; Feldstein. Alfred Essa, The Nose February 26, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Open Access Reshaping Rules of Research
Michael Geist rattles the cage a bit regarding open access to reserach in Canada. He writes, "Given the connection between research and economic prosperity, the time has come for the federal government, its funding agencies, and the Canadian research community to maximize the public's investment in research by prioritizing open access." There's not much to add to that. Every day, it seems, I urge someone inside all these government agencies to open up research. There's a lot of foot-dragging. Michael Geist, Weblog February 26, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Blackboard Announces New 'Institutional Effectiveness Platform'; Patents Pending
I guess it shouldn't surprise me that Blackboard's vision of the future of e-learning is exactly the opposite of my own. No loss; it leaves more room at the top for the successful companies. Thomson Learning, meanwhile, traditionally a close Blackboard partner, announces that it is adopting Sakai (though not cutting its connections with other LMS vendors). They write, in their press release, "In addition, Thomson Learning is glad to see one of its key business partners, Blackboard, Inc., making a move in the right direction to engage the open source community." Yeah. A move. One hopes Thomson is urging Blackboard to go further. Michael feldstein, e-Literate February 26, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

OpenID Makes Web Identities Real and Appealing
I got email over the weekend saying that and OpenID-enabled version of Explode! is in testing (just as I recommended :)). This is just the latest in a flurry of developments. People are catching on. This author summarizes the weekend reading: "If that pitch still hasn't infected you with OpenID fevor, I recommend watching Scott Kveton's quick pitch. Then digesting Simon Willison's talk on OpenID and his Six cool things you can build with OpenID. Then consider the fact that Firefox 3 will ship with native support for OpenID and that Microsoft is getting on board as well. Suddenly a future of OpenID everywhere starts looking mighty plausible." My own website will be OpenID-enabled shortly (and I am resisting the urge to Do It Now, even though I'm on a vacation). More OpenID links.

I do want to mention Tim Bray's objection to OpenID. In my view, it is this sort of thinking that has forced us to wait so long for anything like a single sign-on. "It seems obvious that if OpenID is ever going to be much use for real work in applications that matters, there are going to be whitelists of ID Providers." No. OpenID isn't about proving to your satisfaction that I am so-and-so, it's about proving it to my satisfaction as an identity-holder. That's why you don't need whitelists; whatever provider I use is by definition OK with me. David Hansson, Loud Thinking February 26, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Pipes and HyperCard: Interactive Vs Connected Media
Scott Wilson nails it (and in passing reminds us of Derrick de Kerckhove's book 'Connected Intelligence'). "We have entered an era of connected media. Connected media does not contain interaction; instead content items are nodes in a network of connections that are the focus of interaction. The content is inside-out. The hot content today is not interactive - Flickr/Photobucket, YouTube, iTunes, RSS feeds all feature non-interactive content, yet the content is highly connected via layers of interlinked metadata (, technorati, recommendations, hyperlinks, comments...)." Right. And - crucially - it's exactly the same with learning. Connected media does not contain 'learning'. Rather, the content items are nodes in a network that is the focus of learning. Scott Wilson, Scott's Workblog February 26, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

The Future of Learning Is DIY
It has taken me a while to put my finger on exactly what it is that bothers me about the 'School 2.0' movement that has developed in the States, but I think this item on the issues before us comes closest. "By locking into the concept of 'school' the proponents, while looking for all the world like they are embracing change, are in fact freezing the state of education into an archaic past, where the school is the centre and where everything else - including the students - revolve around that central concept." The reason why I think this way is because of the sort of thing summarized here by Harold Jarche (from Donald Clark) - "Could it be that powerful, everyday 'e-learning' has crept up on the world, separate from all the academic and institutional noise, and in a consumerist fashion?" Harold Jarche, Weblog February 26, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Net Heads
Interesting discussion of 'small worlds' networks as they operate in the human brain. "Fractal, small-world brain networks reverberate in an electrical limbo state that almost, but not quite, comes unglued... Especially at higher frequencies, these networks operate "on the edge of chaos," the researchers say. Bruce Bower, Science News Online February 26, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Principal Quiets Young Orator
I have in the past touted Mississauga as an example but I may have to rethink that following this report. "One of the prominent things we teach is respect for authority figures," says Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board spokesperson Bruce Campbell as he defends the censoring of a student's speech on being bored in class. This hits close to home, as I participated in public speaking myself, once speaking on how to create a dictatorship (I was also very successful, winning five times in eight years). Vicki Davis quite rightly says, "This is not a place we censure students for having opinions unlike ours! This is a place where we encourage opinions and free speech." Peel District high school teacher Elona Hartjes, who found the article, responds, "it's not my responsibility to entertain students." Maybe not. But it's your job to teach, and teaching fails if it's not entertaining. So... Craig MacBride, February 26, 2007 [Link] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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