Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
September 26, 2002

Auntie, The School Bully The Guardian wouldn't have a stake in the outcome of this debate, would it? Hard to tell from the headline. This article is a recap of the long running dispute between the government, which would like to offer educational materials for free on the internet, and publishers, who argue the move would cause massive damage to their industry. "A broad alliance of publishers, software companies and media groups already in the business of selling educational products claim that they could lose up to 400m if the corporation is allowed to spend 150m of licence fee-payers' money on building a service that is similar to their own but is free of charge." Well, of course, it is not in any way similar to their own, for otherwise there would be no need for the government initiative. Moreoever, these publishers ought to consider the fact that new media may damage their earnings no matter what. Finally, I think it's a bit much for commercial enterprises to be saying that the government should not be providing education. A bit much indeed. By John Cassy, The Guardian, September 25, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Copy Protection Robs The Future Quick: how many of you can still listen to music on your eight-track tape? How about reach dsata from a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk? Of course not - and this fact raises a new question about the use of copy protection on CDs and other technology: it could doom some music or some data to oblivion. This article makes the interesting argument that, throughout history, works of art and literatire have been preserved and carried on by people - almost always someone other than the author - making copies. But if making copies is impossible and illegal, how will today's cultural legacy be passed on to the future? By Dan Bricklin, Dan Bricklin's Web Site, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Eduventures Releases Study on Fully Online Distance Learning For those of you who like to have stats to back your case for distance or online learning (or simply to counter the 'blended learning' crowd), a report being release (free) by EduVentures tomorrow may fit the bill. From the press release: "Currently, more than 350,000 unique students are enrolled in fully online degree granting programs, generating $1.75 billion in tuition revenues for institutions in 2001/2002. The distance learning market for fully online degree programs is growing at a rate of 40 percent annually." By Press Release, EduVentures, September 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

10 Mobile Technologies to Watch A quick look at some of the wireless innovations coming down the pipe. Number three looks like a killer: "software [that] allows users to create a personal wireless network, to, say, take a laptop equipped with 802.11b and reach out and grab other 802.11b users who want to connect." A million applications spring to mind. Here's one: proximite based voice or text peer-to-peer instant messaging (let's just call it PPM). Can you imagine short-duration conversation circles springing up between motorists waiting at a stop light? Some of the ideas are less great. number four, for instance, evokes memories of the late, unlamented and very bad CueCat - people are not going to phone numbers posted on billboards to receive advertising. Anyhow, this article has eight more items to evoke your imagination. By Jon Fortt, San Jose Mercury News, September 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Developing a Community of Learners: Potentials and Possibilities in Web Mediated Discourse I first experienced computer conferencing as a support to traditional classroom instruction as a part of John Baker's Philosophy of Mind class in 1986. It was clear to me then the benefits reported in this article: "a nurturing of self-learning ability as they acquire not just explicit, formal knowledge, but also the ability to behave as community members. Learning in this community-based setting draws attention away from the abstractness of ideas presented in the absence of context and negotiation and focuses on communities in which knowledge takes on authentic meaning for its members." My very first publication, a little article titled "Why Equi Fails," emerged from that discussion - as did my longstanding belief that context is critical to any evaluation of meaning or truth. Expect to see a lot more dialogue about the use of computer conferencing in classroom settings - the benefits are too great to ignore. By Rose M. Pringle, CITE Journal, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

EduTools WCET, the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications, and C2T2, the Centre for Curriculum, Transfer & Technology, have announced the launch of EduTools, an open resource for the higher education community. The site provides the reviews and analyses of course management software tools. It is based on a predecessor site, Landonline, that may be familiar to readers. This is also the first use of the .info domain I've seen. By Press Release, WCET, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Undoing of a Star Scientist The defenders of traditional journals - esteemed publications such as Science and Nature - argue that online publications are not able to provide such rigorous screening. The widely publicized case of a scientist sending numerous - and fudged - articles to these journals undermines that claim. True, the journal editors argue, reviewers cannot be expected to spot every flaw. But reviewers should be able to pick up on identical data submitted for separate results, unrealsitically precise data, or data that violates the laws of physics. Shouldn't they? The thing is, these articles wouldn't have lasted ten minutes on the web before someone spotted the annomalies - and saved scientists (and readers) two years of wasted work. By Michelle Delio, Wired News, September 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

University Bans Illegal Links The legalities are a little hazy because a student organization is in a certain sense sanctioned by the university. But UCSD raised hackles this week when it ordered called the Che Cafe Collective, that linking to a site supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)would not be permitted. According to the university, the link violated a law that bans "providing material support to support terrorists" - the link, in this case, qualifying as "communications equipment." This is not the first such action for UCSD - the article lists several others. But in my view it is a significant misapplication of the law. Linking in no way provides material support. Otherwise, I would be rich. By Declan McCullagh, ZD Net, September 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

No URL Left Behind? Web Scrub Raises Concerns A controversy is brewing over plans by the United States Department of Education to clean up its web site. According to this article, the administration intends to remove thousands of files "and ensure that material on the site meshes with the Bush administration's political philosophy." One area of particular concern is the suggestion that archived ERIC digital digests may be removed. Beyond partisan politics (which appear to influence this article), the central issue here is this: "Just what responsibility do political officials have to preserve the products of those who came before, particularly if their predecessors saw the issues in a different light?" This is an issue that every organization faces, not just the U.S. government. I can understand the need for an administration web site to be current and in line with current political objectives. But the old data should be preserved, preferably on a specifically designed archive website (as opposed to a CD-ROM, which isn't accessible online). By Michelle R. Davis, Education Week, September 18, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Recombo Launches Tool to Convert PowerPoint Files to eLearning Need to be able to create SCORM compliant content? Learn PowerPoint (I have been looking at a number of tools recently that help PowerPoint do everything but cook dinner... might be worth an article at some point). By Press Release, Recombo, September 24, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes