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by Stephen Downes
April 2, 2008

The Microsoft-ISO Debacle
So ISO has approved the Microsoft Office Open XML format. I also consider this to be a debacle. As the Washington Post reports, "claims of foul play in the voting process may come back to haunt the software giant when the European Commission concludes its latest antitrust investigation of Microsoft's business practices." And "One ISO official from Norway has already spoken of 'serious irregularities' in the voting process in his country." I will say, this all certainly underscores my current opinion of the ISO process. Daniel Lemire, Weblog, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Rewiring Your Brain by Paying Attention
We know that repeated experience creates new connections in the brain, even in adults. But what counts as a repetition? Not necessarily physical experience - otherwise we could never remember seminal events that happen exactly once. Like scoring that goal in the play-offs. Reviewing it in our mind, then, counts as a repetition. Thinking about it counts as a repetition. Which is why discussion and community are so important to learning - talking about the experience brings it to mind, which is how we create new connections. But does just any thought about an experience count? What if we're only paying partial attention, as when we're multitasking? Steve Borsch, summarizing Norman Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself, says "permanently imprinting and creating brain maps (i.e., permanent behavior changes, knowledge permanence, automatic responses and deep, intuitive understandings) only happens when a human or animal is focused and paying close attention." Of course, in a sense, that just dodges the question: what counts as 'focused' or 'paying close attention'? Can I listen to the radio? Drive? Eat? Steve Borsch, Connecting the Dots, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Experimental Use of Blog-Based Peer Review Gives Mixed Results
One of the things about pilot studies is that you create highly artificial circumstances. For example, if you pilot a blog-based peer review of one book, everybody looks at that book. This is very different from what would happen if every book were reviewed on a blog. Also, if you review one book, you have nothing like a network, community and infrastructure that builds up around the initiative. It just happens in isolation, without context. And indeed, one wonders whether you want things called 'books' and 'peer review' in an electronic publishing work at all. All of that said - having read the article I still don't see why the Chronicle labled an experiment in a failure ("it will not replace traditional blind peer review anytime soon," writes the author). The blog generated more comments, and sharper comments (despite the allegation that the reviewers, as 'self-selected', were kinder than anonymous reviewers would be. Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Welcome to the Blogosphere Twitter!
Technorati is now aggregating Twitter posts. Not sure whether that will help them or hurt them. I do know that Technorati has become a lot less useful to me recently. Of course, that's because Technorati aggregates some guy who reposts all of my content, which makes it impossible to find legitimate referrers (you'd think some line of code at Technorati would say, "two blogs, identical content? hmmm.....). It would help if companies like Google helped clean up blog spam. Via Miguel Guhlin. Anne Helmond, Blog Herald, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Blackboard Vows To Press On
Longish interview with Blackboard Chief Legal Officer Matthew Small, who doesn't pull any punches. "I think what's happening is there are some people in the e-learning community who quite frankly don't understand patent law," he says. And also: "If the patent were to be invalidated in a reexamination, I think the court ruling would stand. It is done. Those damages still have to be paid." This is in fact what happened to Research in Motion, so he may be right about this. David Nagel, Campus Technology, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , , ] [Comment]

Online File Storage Research
It's a service that has had quiet but sustained growth: providing online storage space for media files. Helen Barrett begins research into this area, looking at services such as, Omnidrive, MediaMax, esnips and Adrive. Helen Barrett, E-Portfolios for Learning, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Edna Creating and Supporting Communities
Article summarizing EdNA's history of supporting online communities, with some stats. "What we have noticed particularly in the last three years is that the education and training community is now embracing the potential of these communities to support their own learning and professional development, as well as to support their teaching practice." If educators can do it, any profession can do it. Jen Millea, EdNA, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Tragedy of Books
I live in New Brunswick - a pretty nice place but not the haven for book shoppers that New York i - and with Terry Anderson lament. "The tables were set with (arguably) the best thinking and research results in education research, all in one place. Unfortunately, that one place was 5,000 kms from my home." In my case, about 1,000 kilometers away. But still."We have a moral obligation to free this information from its paper confines and make it available to all. That after all is what scholarship was supposed to be all about and one of the main rationale for its call on the public purse." AERA, are you listening? Terry Anderson, Virtual Canuck, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

For those of us who do not get British television, it is totally worth spending some time to check you the Derren Brown videos demonstrating various way to trick people mentally. I found these through this article on PilotED summarizing some of the recent stuff I and others have been looking at on influence and control. A slot of this stuff supports - and in some instances had led to - my own views on associationism. But we have to be careful: the field is filled with shysters and charlatans claiming to do more than simple mental tricks. And another cautionary note: the purpose of covering this stuff isn't to introduce readers to neat tricks they can use on their students. Rather, it should be seen as an exercise in clearing our own minds. It should be impossible to look at this stuff and go away convinced that you somehow have access to The Real Truth about the world. We should be asking ourselves, how much of what we think we know is the result of campaigns of deception? If we can seriously ask ourselves this, we can begin to learn - and to know - for ourselves. Mitchell Weisburgh, PilotED, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

The Virtual Classroom Project
Konrad Glogowski writes about the launch of the virtual classroom project in Jo Kay's Jokadia Second Life island. "Over the next three months, I will invite individual educators to design and build their ideal learning space for use as either a virtual classroom in Second Life or as a prototype for a real-life classroom." I think limiting it to a 'classroom' is a bit of a lack of imagination; maybe the educators will stretch the boundaries. Leigh Blackall has joined the initiative. "Real life needs so much work, "he writes, "it is so wanting of good ideas implemented, and almost impossible to get new ideas tested!" Konrad Glogowski, blog of proximal development, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

The Subversive View of Copyright
I don't think there's anything particularly 'subversive' about the attitude described here. In short: YouTube's Terms of Service prohibit downloading videos for future use; what do you tell your students? Doug Johnson writes, "I say go ahead and download YouTube videos regardless of what the 'terms' say." Quite right, in my view. Terms of Service are not law. We have certain rights (fair use among them) and we ought to be exercising them more. But more to the point, "We should stop wasting our time fussing about this petty ante stuff." It's just not a big deal, but educators are being brainwashed into thinking that it is. See also iTunes and the Social Contract of Fair Use, from E-Commerce Times, which takes a similar stance. Doug Johnson, The Blue Skunk Blog, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Future Scenarios for University ICT TAL Strategies
Summary of a paper that applies future studies methodologies to the study of virtual schools. Looking at examples from the African Virtual University (AVU), the Arab Open University (AOU) and the Syrian Virtual University (SVU), the authors identify four scenarios: professional school, AI campus, easy University, and Google University. It reminds me of the four OECD scenarios for schools. Tony Hirst, OUseful Info, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

School Districts Serve Up Lessons in Linux
Discussion of a school board's use of Linux in the classroom, especially on the Asus EEE notebook computers. The article focuses on Kamloops Thompson School District, in British Columbia, Canada. Support is a key issue. "We get better support with open source software: online wiki's, forums, mailing lists etc are much faster and better to get support than phoning up Microsoft and listening to someone read off answers from flash cards." Via schoolforge-discuss. Andrew Hendry, Computerworld, April 2, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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