Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
November 5, 2002

Indexing Federal Government Web Pages: Guidelines for the Development of an Indexing Policy The idea of syndicating government content into online courses came a large step closer today with the release of Canada's federal government guidelines for indexing govewrnment web pages, released by the Government OnLine (GOL) metadata working group. Though dated July, 2002, the document was approved only this week. By GOL Metadata Working Group , Treasury Board of Canada, July, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Text Messaging for the Blind Text messaging for the blind is now available with the release of a device that reads the messages aloud. Of course, this somewhat defeats the purpose of text messaging. What text messaging for the blind needs is some sort of serial version of braille, a morse-code throbber, perhaps, with a thumb press for keying replies (another million dollar idea, yours for free from OLDaily). By Unknown, BBC News, November 5, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

HP, MIT Delve Deep With Digital Library I don't want to sound too cynical, but it sounds to me like MIT has re-invented the Open Archives Initiative and slapped its own brand on it. "Called DSpace, the new system is essentially a centralized, electronic repository for the massive amounts of intellectual property created by research institutions." Not that I think they've done a bad thing - this is exactly the sort of project that should be encouraged (especially once we get them networked). But it would have been nice to see the years of effort at OAI get some credit. By Michael Kanellos, News.Com, November 4, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New PCs Likely to Cede Some Control to Outsiders Another warning (though I doubt the author intends it as such) about the shape of things to come: "To thwart hackers and foster on-line commerce, the next generation of computers will almost certainly cede some control to software firms, Hollywood and other outsiders. That could break a long-standing tenet of computing: that PC owners ultimately control data on their own machines. Microsoft calls its technology 'Palladium.' Intel dubs it 'LaGrande.' An industry group that includes these companies, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and 170 others terms it 'trusted computing'." One name missing from this list: Apple. Are you listening? Rip, mix and burn. By Associated Press, Globe and Mail, November 5, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Making Sense of E-learning in a Confused Market If you want some good discussion of the (confused) state of e-learning, read the first half of this article. If you are not familiar with the e-Learning Centre and Eclipse, read the second half. Staying with the first half, this article tours through some of the misguided assumptions of the early days, lingering on the now widespread observation that most learning is informal. It also observes that purchasers are now looking at e-learning solutions rather than specific courses, true in one sense, since e-learning is about more than courses, but worrisome in another,m since you shouldn't need to mortgage the house to implement e-learning. By Jane Knight, e-Learning Centre, November 5, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Tech's Newest Trend - Decentralization It has at times felt like a lonely campaign for me, but in various projects (and lately, on the elearning leader's list) I have been arguing for a decentralized learning object repository network. Not everybody agrees. So items like this make me feel warm inside. "Decentralization will be the critical challenge for the technology, media and telecommunications industries. Each has developed with the assumption that powerful central forces will manage development. Enterprise IT has 'big iron' servers and monolithic software applications; communications has carriers investing in huge infrastructure build-outs; and media has content owners controlling distributions channels. These approaches are under siege--and not because there's a New Economy, or because information deserves to be free, or because of any fluctuation in the stock market. Centralized systems are failing for two simple reasons: They can't scale, and they don't reflect the real world of people." Yes. I feel so warm and fuzzy now. By Kevin Werbach, ZD Net, October 24, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Collaborative Tools for e-Learning Good survey of the development of collaboration tools in e-learning. Bonk observes that while "collaborative e-learning tools are changing the way we work, learn and socialize," it is still the case that "e-learning needs to catch up to collaborative work environments already in place." Indeed, he asks, "Instead of managing learners, who is building e-learning tools to empower and motivate learners? Why are most e-learning systems individual when learning is a social phenomenon? Why do they typically teach discrete facts apart from the context in which they will be used?" By Curtis Bonk, Chief Learning Officer, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Faceted Classification of Information Good discussion of an obscure, but important, concept. The idea is that in a large and rapidly changing body of information it makes no sense to assign resources to pre-assigned categories. These change, hierarchies change, cross-categorization is a reality, not an idle concern. This is something I learned creating the knowledge base for OLDaily, which is why when you look at the list of categories on this site, it is never quite the same as it was last week. By Paul Murray, Knowledge Management Connection, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ELearnSpace Interview: Jay Cross Jay Cross joins one of e-learning's most exclusive clubs: people interviewed by George Siemens. Jay, just back from TechLearn ("M-I-C (See you real soon), K-E-Y (Why? Because we like you.), M-A-S-I-E."), is the only person I have seen say, while being interviewed, "Enough about me." And Jay calls it like it is: "The subject was creating a culture of learning. We had people with heavy technology background, and almost every issue we talk about was social. It came down to the people. Technology was always secondary." By George Siemens, elearnspace, October 27, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Scale the E-learning Curve/ Getting Savvy It's a sign of the times, I guess. Learning technology has become so expensive, and marketing promises so unreliable, that government purchasers are running systems through three day demonstrations before they buy. It was a lesson learned the hard way: "One federal department bought content from two different vendors, only to find the second vendor's content could not be shared across the agency's platform." By Gail Repsher Emery, Washington Technology, November 4, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Major Copyright Bill Affecting Distance Education Becomes Law The big news in the Unites States today (other than the election) is the signing of the TEACH Act governing copyright in education. While the act provides wider latitude for educational institutions, it imposes strict reporting conditions. By Carrie Russell, Distance-Educator.Com, November 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes