Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
June 4, 2002

Bunnie's Adventures Hacking the Xbox Interesting and often amusing description of how an MIT student hacked Microsoft's Xbox. This is purely a geek read but copyright policy people might want to have a look at the author's defense against (the inevitable) charges under the DCMA: "You are actually allowed by law to reverse engineer copyrighted code so long as it is necessary to discover the ideas or functional elements behind the code (still, I'm not allowed to post copyrighted code for free distribution). Hey, microsoft...what are the ideas and functional elements behind your BIOS ROM? ... hmm...patent search turns up nil on the Xbox...guess we'll just have to reverse engineer it." By Andrew Huang, June, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Some in Norfolk Hope to Ease School Daze I thought I had seen everything, but today I saw a seminar attendee at CAUCE who had to be nudged awake in order to ask her question. Well, no surprise considering that things got started at 8:00 a.m. this morning. And this poor attendee is not alone: early school hours are causing thousands of teens to walk in a zombie-like state from class to class (no, that's not their normal condition). What's the lesson here? Some people just aren't morning people. Oh for a system where learning can occur at any hour of the day! Now I'm off for a coffee... I'll be back when I'm less groggy. By Kristen King, Virginian-Pilot, June 4, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

McGraw Hill Wants $263,000 From State This item raises so many issues I just had to run it, even though it doesn't deal directly with online learning (saving grace: the article does contain the word 'website'). In brief: because so many students were failing a standard exam, one slated to become a graduation requirement, a court ordered McGraw Hill to release the questions. No problem. But after even more failures the State of Arizona went ahead and released even more questions (on its website - see, there's the magid word). Big problem: the questions weren't rizona's to release, and now McGraw Hill is suing. So many questions here: should exam questions ever be secret after the fact? Should the state not have the right to release the questions it is using in its own tests? Should a company that makes money offering online (and therefore supplemental) learning services be (secretly) testing (and failing) students at all? All this and copyrights too! By Pat Kossan, Arizona Republic, June 4, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Cherri M. Pancake on Usability Engineering With a name like Cherri M. Pancake you may be tempted to think of her as the Faith Popcorn of usability. You may grow even more sceptical when you read that her qualifications include six years studying the Mayan Indians at the Ixchel Ethnological Museum in Guatemala. But such preconceptions would be a mistake, at least to judge from this interview. Pancake approaches usability from an ethnographic point of view, meaning that she is able to get beyond the simplistic Nielsen approach to usability and to look at the way different cultures look at information representation. The ethnographic approach also entails a more observational approach to usability. "You do 'in situ' studies, observing how people live and work. You may ask questions to elicit information about what's happening, but you don't ask leading questions." In this interview she describes different approaches to source code design, which from my experience in the vield, establish her credentials. By Unknown, Ubiquity, June, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

MMS to Overtake SMS Messaging by 2005 - Ericsson Interesting item that predicts that multimedia messeging (MMS) will overtake simple text-based messaging (SMS) within the next three years. Though wireless multimedia email and website marketing has largely failed, multimedia messaging will be big because it satisfies a demand. "I think it's going to be a lot more successful than WAP, because MMS is about person-to-person communication," said Per Lindblad, head of Ericsson's MMS unit. "This is the key element, because push-based services are unlikely to achieve such a success." By Reuters, Excite, June 4, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What's Important in a Learning Content Management System The most fun part of this otherwise vague article on what to look for in a learning content management system (LCMS) is the list of bad ideas at the end of the article. Among the more useless features (according to the authors) offered by LCMS vendors: integration of PowerPoint slides ("why not just distribute the slides and be done with it?"), repurposing for print, and re-usable learning objects ("the SCORM standard that is supposed to make it possible really isn't up to handling re-usability well"). The wish list? Bug tracking, interactivity support and shared templates. Well... yeah. By Michael Feldstein, eLearn Magazine, June, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Canadian Studentsí Access to and Use of Information and Communication Technology Research on the responses of nearly 30,000 15-year old Canadian students showing that the vast majority of them (88%) have access to a computer at home. Some international comparisons are included in the report and the overall results suggest that universal access is nearly a reality. Nor surprisingly, people at the lower income demographic are less likely to be able to access a computer. Most surprising statistic? Only a third of the students report using the computer for learning. PDF format. By Bradley A. Corbett and Douglas Willms, 2002 Pan-Canadian Education Research Agenda Symposium, May 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes