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by Stephen Downes
August 6, 2007


We are now officially into the dog days of August. Yesterday I celebrated the season by cycling to Havelock (a town about 50 km west of Moncton) and back. Pictured above is the beautiful Canaan River, which flows about 10 km north of Havelock. Stephen Downes, Flickr August 6, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

First 35 Claims of Blackboard'S Patent Ruled Invalid
This is a huge win for Desire2Learn, as the court has ruled that Blackboard's first substantive claim, that of assigning access according to a role in a course, to be invalid. "Because that phrase is indefinite, all of Claim 1 is rendered invalid because of indefiniteness." Also, the court found for D2L's interpretation of terms in the remainder of the patent. See also Seb Schmoller and Desire2Learn's patent lawsuit blog. Michael Feldstein, e-Literate August 6, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , ] [Comment]

Like Cranky Talk Show Hosts
I think this is a very interesting observation: "The standards movement is not a national response to a grassroots outcry. It's a corporate business-initiated movement that has been sold to a fearful middle class worried about economic and social insecurity." Doug Noon is talking about 'educational standards', of course, but the same feeling permeates other standards movements, such as LOM and learning design. There is on the one hand the (quite legitimate) idea that standards ensure quality; there is on the other hand the corruption of that idea in the hands of marketers, politicians and others. Doug Noon, Borderland August 6, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Lessons From Blackboard?
Interesting look at Blackboard based on an analysis of the company's second quarter statements. Two major trends are cited - one, the trend to external hosting services, and the second, the trend toward 'sites' of applications, including such services as outcomes management, portfolios and plagiarism detection. Writes Farmer, "This strategy does not place Blackboard in direct competition with Moodle and Sakai learning systems, or publishers." One wonders. Jim Farmer, e-Literate August 6, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Jump Drive Learning .. or .. Wiki On a Stick
I don't think very many people call it a 'jump drive' (which, when you think of it, is a pretty silly name). Fewer call it a 'thumb drive' (although this, at least, is descriptive). I call it a 'memory stick' because that's what it is. Don't tell me somebody has trademarked the term; I don't want to hear it. Richard Hoeg, eContent August 6, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Basic Concepts: Reinforcement and Punishment
Basically the idea of providing feedback to achieve a desired state (as instanced by behaviour). When I talk about 'back propagation' I am talking about how these concepts operate at a network level. The important thing to remember about reward and punishment is that it is only one way of inducing a desired state (two others are simple association and personal reflection) which means that the simple adages involving reward and punishment you may hear are frequently contradicted by actual behaviour. Dave Munger, Cognitive Daily August 6, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Voice Matters. A Lot.
Christian Long proposes that to get an 'A' means to have changed the reader's way of thinking about a topic. "Want an A? Change the way I see and think. Demonstrate that you have changed as well. And expect me to come back by choice next time... Just like the blogosphere. Just like the real world." Interesting tat the grade should depend as much on the reader as on the writer - something that may get an 'A' from Long might, at my much more cynical and jaded hand, receive only a 'C'. Also, it makes choice of topic a lot more important. You are much more likely to engage your reader by sticking to the mainstream. But in general, I would ask - do we want people assesed in school the same way they are assessed in real life? Christian Long, think:lab August 6, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Validated Identity for Trust
I've known people who have looked straight into my eyes and lied to my face. So I don't think that knowing someone's identity confers trust. But not knowing someone's identity, for many people, raises doubt. Elliott Masie writes, "Without knowing who you are, it is impossible for me to contextualize your contribution. While I am convinced of the Wisdom of the Crowds, I am not sure that an unsourced Crowd is safe and wise." Fair enough - but what Masie needs is not identity, per se, but history. Knowing a person's name doesn't tell me anything; knowing that they work for some university or knowing that they are a public relations specialist tells me a lot more. But then, once you have the history, you don't need the identity any more. Elliott Masie, Learning Trends August 6, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

The Downside of Diversity
The proposal that diversity results in less civic engagement - reported here, from a (very biased) story (on a site that blocks access after four pages) - sounds dire, but should be discounted. The conclusion is obtained, not by actually measuring civic engagements in diverse cities (such as, say, Toronto) but rather by surveying people. So now we know that Americans think that diversity in their community would reduce civic engagement. But we knew that already. Here's a more interesting proposal: diversity in a community results in less of an emphasis on collaboration (a group phenomenon) and more of an emphasis on cooperation (a network phenomenon). So you might get, say, less voting and charity work, but more political activism and community networking. Charles Nelson, Explorations in Learning August 6, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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