Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
July 15, 2002

Ten Dots to Connect Access to Affordable Education John Hibbs describes some themes related to his goal of using the internet to provide an affordable education. I agree with his goal, but I'm not sure I agree with all his points: his emphasis on audio, for example, or his dictum that we need to stop inventing (we are still a long way from a practical software environment for online learning).

This post is the first in a new area in my discussion list dedicated to the placement of articles of interest posted on various discussion lists. I am collecting them here to make them easily accessible and to place them in an environment where it is easy to comment on them. By John Hibbs, Stephen's Web, July 13, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Thai Tales: Taking Computers to Schools Article describing an ambitious project being promoted in Thailand, known as SchoolNet. This project has notched up some impressive figures (some 4300 schools connected to SchoolNet, with some 1500 having their own websites). "But that's only part of the story," writes the author. "How it worked its way to achieving its goal, including taking some bold steps like using the GNU/Linux Free Operating System to back up its plans, makes this project stand out from other ventures aimed at taking computers to schools." By Frederick Noronha, Stephen's Web, July 14, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Group Set to Unveil New Web ID Standard An alternative to Microsoft's Passport, the Liberty Alliance is a new identification standard proposed by a number of major players including Sun Microsystems, Sony, American Express, Mastercard and Bank of America. The critics, of course, are voicing privacy and security concerns, and I guess I don't blame them. Until there is clear acknowledgement that a web user owns his or her personal information, and must authorize any use of that information, there will be potential for (and actual cases of) abuse. By D. Ian Hopper, Nando Times, July 10, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

You May Not Have Received This Email I had an email to DEOS bounced this week for a very minor matter, the use of a simple three letter word in an innocent context. I don't use the word here because I want to make sure OLDaily gets. Tomorrow I will not be so careful; I cannot write OLDaily in order to conform with some sort of Disneyesque view of the world. The article highlights a growing problem, the use of censorware to filter email messages on he internet. As the author observes, while the use of broad and sweeping (not to mention inaccurate) controls at an institutional level results in a substantial impact on service. The worst of it is, neither the sender nor the receiver know that the filter is removing messages. In the long term, this could be very damaging. By David Strom , Web Informant, December 31, 200-31 8:33 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Shock Therapy for a Dysfunctional School System There are several ways to approach this story, the gist of which is to support the actions of several foundations that are exerting pressure on school boards in Pittsburgh by withdrawing millions of dollars worth of funding. On way is to ask why, in a modern industrial society, school boards are so dependent on private charities in order to offer what is an essential public service. Another way is to speculate as to why the foundations see it necessary to take a direct hand in the running of the school system through (obviously) conditional donations rather than to leave its management in the hands of parents and elected officials. It's easy to say that the school system is dysfunctional. But when it is starved for cash and twisted out of shape by private interests, one must ask, is the proposed 'cure' really the source of the problem in the first place? By Sally Kalson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 10, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Guide to Knowledge Management Standardization Knowledge management would be tricky enough were there a single, widely known and complete body of knowledge. But none of these is the case, and one of the biggest problems philosophers face when defining knowledge is identifying what counts as knowledge. For example: could a statement that is true be knowledge if nobody happens to believe it? This means that as much as possible any description of knowledge must be independent of any assumptions about what is, or is not, knowledge. It must allow for multiple and sometimes contradictory systems of knowledge. It must allow for multiple taxonomies where the same word may have different meanings. All these and more problems are faced in knowledge management. This page is a god guide to the efforts under way to resolve the problems inherent in talking about knowledge. Useful, but difficult reading. By Unknown, Diffuse, March, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

L is for Lawsuit Teachers have always been subject to external pressures: the concerns expressed over content from the PTA, the directives describing curricula from the schol board and politicians, and the ministrations by parents on behalf of their children's grades. Add to this mix another source of distration: the threat of lawsuits. This article describes the legal actions of vexed parents who, despite their children's non-compliance with the teachers' directives, nonetheless hold the teacher accountable for their children's failure. I would suggest that this is a trend that could only increase with the advent and diffusion of private education. By Janelle Brown, Salon, July 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Modeling Units of Study from a Pedagogical Perspective This is an important paper, one that should be read by everyone involved in the design of learning objects. The paper starts with the premise, roughly stated, that learning objects, while important, are not the key thing in effective learning process. Rather, what puts the 'learning' into online learning is the organization of the learning process. The model typically employed and described by, say, IEEE-LOM, is not sufficient to describe many learning processes. This paper proposes a language to describe learning processes, based on EML. The essential components of four major types of theories of learning (the pedagogical meta-model) are described in terms of this model. The end result is the implementation of the meta-model in an XML schema that could (and in my view should) be used to describe components of online learning. By Rob Koper, Open University of the Netherlands, June, 2001 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes