Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
December 4, 2002

Anti-gravity Aircraft a Hit It is almost a truism in some educational circles that students need to be guided. But I can't imagine any pre-planned curriculum that would include building an anti-gravity aircraft as part of the program. But that's what students in this Dearborn, Michigen, class have done. Some have questioned why a such a craft was researched and assembled in a video class. "Everybody asks," said [teacher Russ] Gibb, a Dearborn educator for 45 years. "The old concept is that there's a science department, a math department, an English department," said Gibb. "But what you begin to get as we move into this new age is that they are all interrelated. There's music in a math problem." You can see video of the anti-grav aircraft here (requires Real Media). By Darren Jacobs, Detroit News, December 2, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Meta-Data Implementers: Time to Speak Up The good news is that IMS has created a discussion list area a couple of weeks ago where some of the background discussion and meeting notes - virtually inaccessible if you were not in with the community - can be posted. The bad news is that it appears to have been sued for about a week and then abandoned, while most of the threads are completely empty. Those of you from IMS are encouraged to use this forum for discussion. Let the rest of us in on what is being considered, what points are being argued. Who knows, we may even have something to contribute. By Various Authors, IMS Global Learning Consortium, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Final report from the National Learning Network (NLN) Evaluation Team This British report indicates a steady increase in the use, acceptance and comfort levels with instructional technology by teachers and students. It also suggests that while instructional technology improved student learning, it does so only if clearly connected to the curriculum. But, "We don’t yet have a pedagogy for e-learning – the educational, social, cultural and business practices of the sector have yet to be transformed by technology." By Jenny Scribbins,, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Art of Blogging - Part 1 George Siemens begins to capture the disruptive nature of the weblog with this introductory article. The content is mostly compiled from the observations of some of blogging's pioneers - Dave Winer, Meg Hourihan, and the like. But it's a good assemblage of points covering the different definitions of blogging, uses of blogging, benefits and implications. By George Siemens, eLearnSpace, December 1, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Is the Art of Social Philosophy Relevant to Cafe Society? Nice article addressing the question of the level of pubic discussion on serious topics. "The age of serious thinking appears to be over, at least in popular culture," posits the author. And yet... in alternative forums, such as philosophy cafés, run outside the university environment, participation and interest is strong. So what can we learn from this? "Significant change is upon us: The way in which people connect and learn has changed. The way in which communities function is shifting, and our sandstone institutions ignore these changes at their peril." And the author's conclusion - with which I strongly agree - "It comes down to trust. The formal institutions that lead this country need to trust the people—the people of this country are more than capable; of expressing philosophical views (in Cafés or elsewhere), of learning, of considered judgment, of reasoning, of exhibiting common sense. The days of erecting structures that constrain people to certain restricted roles within restricted processes are over. Participation—like information—needs to be free." By Mark Randell, Online Opinion, October 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Next Generation Infrastructure "Within ten years," promises this article, "multiple logons will be a thing of the past." This may be true, but it may take a wider view of integration than is presented here. Still, it's a good first step. The idea is that access to university systems will be user based, and not system based or service based. This in turn entails a system that begins with user authentication, rather than one that requires a login on an ad hoc basis. This, in turn, requires robust communication between different services; this communication is facilitated with middleware. But for this to really work, we need to remove authentication from the institutional environment entirely - otherwise the user still faces a flurry of logon screens. This is the motivation behind Microsoft's Passport system. But rather than having one centralized authentication system (that users don't really trust) we need to offer users a selection of services, any one of which will interact with university and other systems. PDF file. By Ed Lightfoot and Weldon Ihrig, ECAR Research Bulletin, January, 2001 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Marketing Your Continuing Ed Program Solid advice. This article points to the trend toward adult participation in continuing education and identifies it as a marketing opportunity for universities. It describes how the differing motivations of adult learners (explained via Maslow's hierarchy) can attract enquiries. It then describes some specific advertising strategies for continuing education programs. By Robert A. Sevier, University Business, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Mansion Madness: Mystery at Gyppeswyck Via the Teacher List comes this example of a short little exploration into the world of colour, composition, subject, and style in the world of art. Obviously designed for the lower grade ranges, it would be a great exercise to use in an art class. By Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Labatt's People in Action Program, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes