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by Stephen Downes
January 2, 2008

Last Year's eLearn Magazine Predictions
Everybody's looking forward to the future. I look to the past - last year's predictions of the future. Stephen Downes, Half an Hour January 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

FeedForward Project: M1 Release Imminent
I'm very much looking forward to this and hope to be able to play with one of the first ones off the rack. "Its attempting to build a tool to support a rapid scanning, collecting and publishing workflow - it was originally inspired by a prototype by Stephen Downes called RSSWritr, which captures the concept of wanting to scan your information environment, select things you want to work on, and then publish out your commentary." (Their funding for this project may be scant but it's more than I got). Scott Wilson, Website January 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

The Best Links 2007
Jason Kottke has a good, if voluminous and sometimes fluffy, blog, and his top links of 2007 is among the best of the best - I've spent the last hour on the page and decided I'd better link to it or I'll never finish today's newsletter. Jason Kottke, Weblog January 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Connecting the Dots
This is core to my own thinking: "The idea that creativity is vital to success is not widely accepted, yet it is built on a simple and wonderful truth, that all people have the capacity to be creative... when people are encouraged to be creative, they often find out what they are really good at, and it is when people find out what they are good at that they become better at everything they try." Related: my thoughts on art as conversation. Mark Dziersk, Fast Company January 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

A Lifesaving Checklist
Things that seem really obvious aren't always so. And though it comes from the field of medicine, this debate over the use of checklists is illustrative. The story, in brief, is that a hospital decided to try using checklists to ensure proper procedures are followed, and were following up by evaluating the results to see whether it worked. More detail here. And although it appeared to work, the program was halted, because it violated ethics regulations. Specifically, you can't experiment on people without their knowledge or consent. OK, fair enough, but what about when something is obviously successful, like checklists? Surely the regulations weren't intended to stop that!

But they were. The problem is, they're not "obviously" successful until after the experiment. And also, the definition of "obviously successful" varies. We here in the Maritimes remember well the Swissair crash off Peggy's Cove in 1998. The efficient air crew followed the checklist to the letter, including taking an extra loop around the airport to dump fuel in the ocean. That's what did them in - that extra few minutes in the air, during which their electronics burned to a crisp.

Checklists do work, which is why airliners still use them. But there is a lot to learn about how they should be used. The air crew had no way to know what would happen. But, if following the checklist caused a patient to die, and if the doctor knew full well this would happen, do you continue the experiment? Not without the patient's consent you don't - and by that implication, the research program must be shut down. Atul Gawande, New York Times January 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Wikipedia Death Watch?
The attack on Wikipedia (and make no mistake, it is an attack) is coming from two directions: first, from the inside, as "those who want it to be Very Serious Citable Work" leap from article to article tagging them as unreliable, or worse, Not Serious; and second, from the outside, from entities such as Google's 'knols' - "anyone who thinks Google's initiative is about anything other than the fact that Wikipedia has no Google ads is barking up the wrong tree." Richard Ackerman, Science Librry Pad January 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Seeing Flowers Reproduce On Genome Island in Second Life
This is a neat idea - replicating genome-based reproduction on Second Life, at a scale where people can see the mechanisms at work. Perhaps when they can see evolution at work on this scale it won't be so mysterious to people. No links or slurl with the blog post (tsk tsk), but you can see the demonstration here and read more about it here. Tom Werner, Brandon Hall Research January 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Why 2008 Will Be a Bad Year for Microsoft'S Ed Tech Market Share
The low cost (and ease of use) of open source software, combined with low funding for education ("about 9% of spending on defense and the war on terror") means that commercial software giants like Microsoft will see a continually declining share of the educational technology market. Via Tom Hoffman. Christopher Dawson, ZD Net January 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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