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by Stephen Downes
December 16, 2007

The Emergence of Open-Source Software in North America
Good overview of the development of open source and open source projects in support of learning in North America (though I think there are many more projects than suggested by the table in the middle of the article). More articles from the current issue of IRRODL are now available online. Guohua Pan and Curtis J. Bonk, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

eLearning 07: an Exemplary Model of Elearning Practices
I wanted to make sure I didn't overlook this summary of the design of the eLearning 07 conference by Vivian Evans for TAFE NSW ICVET (Australia). The event is well-anticipated with a variety of online activities, and then the in-person conference breaks from the norm, using posters, panels and project demos. The online component at the conference was a bit less successful, with participants finding themselves a bit on the outside of the online activities involving people like Barbara Dieu, Alan Levine, Nancy White, Dave Pollard and others. The lesson here is that even if you're at a conference in person, you need to stay connected to the online world (and this puts an even greater onus on conference organizers to provide quality high-speed wireless). Vivian Evans, ICVET December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

In an Economy for Reusable Learning Objects, Who Pulls the Strings?
Interesting article that looks at the 'knapsack problem' as it relates to learning objects. "The problem is to decide if any subset of the RLOs can be found that will: have a total cost within maximum budget for the course but offer at least a certain amount of EV (educational value)." As it stands, the market is too complex (and making learning objects smaller makes it even more complex). And simplifying it either reduces educational value or puts selection decisions into the hands of external agencies. "It should be clear," writes the author, "that a global market provides no quick solution to defining quality from a purchaser's perspective." Tim Linsey and Christopher Tompsett, Journal of Educational Technology and Society December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Current Approaches to Network-Based Learning in Scandinavia
The term 'network learning' could today mean any of a number of things, from mobile phones to learning management systems. This issue of the Journal of Educational Technology&Society focuses on network learning from a Scandanavian perspective. Not surprisingly, socio-cultural factors loom large in this perspective, as we see in the DoCTA experience. And sharing - including an innovative round collaborative video editing interface - is also characteristic of the Scandanavian approach, as we see in Learning Through Networks. You can view the rest of the issue online. Marcelo Milrad and Per Flensburg, Journal of Educational Technology and Society December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

E-Learning Policy and the 'Transformation' of Schooling: a UK Case Study.
Pretty hard to argue with the conclusion from this one, a study of system-wide policy in the British school system over the last decade (neat diagram of major studies and initiatives): 'An analysis of the UK case provides clear evidence that top-down approaches to technological innovation in the field of education can lead to an enhancement of current practice in the classroom and making administration of existing school systems more efficient. However if 'transformation' is to remain the aim, then strategies to reward innovation, even failed innovation, need to be considered to supplant a system of direction and control." More articles are also available from the current issue of EURODL. Adrian Mee, European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Post-Secondary Education in Canada: Strategies for Success
The Canadian Council on Learning has published another report on post-secondary education. Though there is a lot to agree with, the authors are nonetheless intent on proving the adage, "you find what you're looking for." What they want to find, in particular, is a need for some oversight body to monitor the 'effectiveness' of the Canadian post-secondary system. What they also want to find is a need for more science and engineering students. Not surprisingly, they find that the Canadian system lacks both - well, if viewed from a certain perspective, it lacks both. But fishy comparisons with other nations do not support this contention. Nor do really transparent manipulations - calling students' concerns about funding and debts an "informational and motivational" barrier to learning, for example (p. 7). Unattributed, Canadian Council on Learning December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Are You Going To Be More Sharing And Caring?
Google Reader has added a feature that allows people to share content with a network of friends, where these friends are those found in Google Talk. This is an interesting development, as it creates a de facto social network based on content selections rather than picking friends. This creates a semantical dimension lacking from other social networks (which need to depend on apps to give their members something to do). But do people want to network the Google way? Will they succumb, and sign up for a Google Profile (it's like Microsoft's Passport revisited). The online companies are becoming more brazen - much more brazen. Sue Waters, Mobile Technology in TAFE December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment]

The sort of thing that threatens to become addicting: "Travian is a browser game with a world full of thousands of users who all begin as the leaders of small villages." The use of dependencies and resources is interesting, as well as the merchants and trade. But most interesting of all, I think, is the dynamics of forming agreements and alliances. The massively multi-player online game is browser-based and required no download and only an email registration. As has become typical for such games, you can pay real money to get in-game gold (which is too bad, really, because it distorts the outcome). Via Wesley Fryer.The game has been around since 2005 or so. Various Authors, Website December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

As described by Academic Commons, "HASTAC is a virtual university. It is a voluntary international network that spans disciplines, institutions, the boundary of higher education and K-12, libraries, museums and other civic and community institutions. It includes top research universities, underfunded community colleges, HBCU's and other minority-serving institutions, as well as supercomputing centers, grid computing centers and major scientific research labs in the U.S. and abroad. HASTAC is pronounced "haystack" and is an acronym for Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory." There is also a HASTAC Ning network. Various Authors, Website December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

T-Mobile and Twitter
T-Mobile is blocking Twitter. In their notification to clients the mobile phone serv ice provider writes, "Therefore, T-Mobile is not in violation of any agreement by not providing service to Twitter. T-Mobile regrets any inconvenience, however please note that if you remain under contract and choose to cancel service, you will be responsible for the $200 early termination fee that would be assessed to the account at cancellation." Mark Bernstein says, "T-Mobile's decision to block Twitter could just possibly be the end of the internet." Maybe that's a bit extreme. But, importantly, this is what happens when free content competes with commercial content. The free content is blocked by the service provider, which offers exactly the same thing for fifty cents a message. That's the basis of my objection to the cape Town Declaration. Via Tom Hoffman, who remarks, "I keep trying to warn you about this kind of thing." DeWitt Clinton, Unto.Net December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Yahoo! Shortcuts
This is the way I always thought RSS would embed content into learning management systems and learning resources. It turns out to be the embedding of photos and stock quotes in blog posts. Oh well. Still, happy to see it. Works only for WordPress and the moment, but I'm sure there's more coming. Via Raj. Unattributed, Yahoo! December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Rethinking Adolescence, Rethinking Schools
Audio, slides and links from a conference held in Winnipeg by the Canadian Education Association. Some good bits, including newspaper columnist Lindor Reynolds on how to think (MP3) and Sharon Friesen on designing a school (MP3). Via Clarence Fisher. Various Authors, Website December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

EduSpaces Shutting Down
Elgg (aka EduSpaces) is shutting down as of January 10. An email was just sent to all members. Users will be able to export their blogs in RSS or HTML. No explanation for the shutdown was given. There is no notice posted on the site yet (though I did check to see and the options to save all posts were there). Update (thanks to Tim): The notice is here. And we learn that "Elgg development is still continuing however, under a new community driven model. v0.9 is due to be released within a couple of weeks. You can see the latest at For K-12 community members looking for a new home are invited to join us over at". Unattributed, EduSpaces December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

XO and Others: Small, Cheap Laptops for Learning
If you need a short overview article covering the recent small cheap computers available for students (specifically, the OLPC XO, the Ausu, and the Classmate) this article will do the job for you. Tony Vincent, Learning in Hand December 16, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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