Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
December 24, 2002

Uses and Abuses of Data This article looks at the abuses of data and in particular comments on the reliance on standardized test results. The main point is that the results from standardized tests should be interpreted as part of a larger picture and that detailed results - not the rank-ordering of schools published in the newspaper - should be used to suggest areas of improvement. "Give teachers the data they need! Very often I find that teachers don't even have access to the data that could help them the most. The summary test results that get posted on the web or published in the newspaper provide little guidance to teachers about what to do to improve instruction." By Nancy Love, ENC Focus, December, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

divine Library Services Financial Collapse Traps Library Subscription Budgets If you have an invoice from divine Library Services on your desk, don't pay it. According to this report the subscription service suffered a financial meltdown and has stopped processing orders. Also known as RoweCom or Faxon (its former names), devine also operated a number of web based services that nay be familiar to readers, including Northern Light, Open Market, Eprise, and Synchrony Communications. By Barbara Quint and Paula J. Hane, Information Today, December 20, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Designing Collaborative Reflection Supporting Tools in e-Project-Based Learning Environments "Those activities that modify learners’ own cognitive structures, or construct newly acquired knowledge throughout social interactions with peers are not as simple as expected. The activation of intellectual activity requires cognitive or metacognitive skills with which any error in the existing mental models can be rectified." With this in mind, and drawing largely on Kolb's learning cycle model, this essay surveys network-based reflection supporting tool systems and draws out a set of design guidelines for such systems. By Dongsik Kim and Seunghee Lee, Journal of Interactive Learning Research (JILR), December, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

High School Physics Instruction by Way of the World Wide Web: A Brazilian Case Study Skip through the first few sections of this essay as they trot out the usual "benefits of web instruction" rhetoric. More interesting is the description of the program involving web-based instruction and local physics labs. Even more interesting is the discussion near the end of the paper about the problem of long term sustainability of projects with uncertain outcomes. "Small-scale experiments based on the partial use of computer-supported, web-based distance learning environments in sub-optimal conditions can create “mini-change” scenarios with substantial transformative power in the key domain of formal education." By Dietrich Schiel, Joan Dassin, Mônica Giacomassi de Menezes de Magalhães, and Iria Müller Guerrini,, Journal of Interactive Learning Research (JILR), December, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

University Funding An engaging discussion among five of Britain's leaders in education funding policy. From the website: "Universities are struggling to cope with the expansion of higher education. Should students pay more for the benefits? Can you have excellence in a mass system? Does Britain really need world-class universities?" As is usual in these discussions, there's nobody at the table really pushing for universal access to education: the debate is more along the lines of where to cut back or raise fees, and how. By Various Authors, Prospect Magazine, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes