Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
January 27, 2003

Creating a Culture of Ideas There's a lot just under the surface of this engaging article. "To build a nation of innovators," asserts the author, "we should focus on youth, diversity, and collaboration." Well to build a nation of anything you need youth; the more salient points lie in the direction of diversity and collaboration. Well, mostly diversity. It's a hard thing to get right, because people inherently fear that which is different. Hence, "our biggest challenge in stimulating a creative culture is finding ways to encourage multiple points of views." Well, yeah, but diversity means a lot more than traditional dances and colourful costumes. I would submit that diversity requires at a minimum linguistic differences, religious difference, and philosophical difference. Is the United States ready for that? Is Canada? "The ability to make big leaps of thought is a common denominator among the originators of breakthrough ideas. Usually this ability resides in people with very wide backgrounds, multidisciplinary minds, and a broad spectrum of experiences. Family influences, role models, travel, and living in diverse settings are obvious contributors, as are educational systems and the way cultures value youth and perspective. As a society, we can shape some of these. Some we canít. A key to ensuring a stream of big ideas is accepting these messy truths about the origin of ideas and continuing to reward innovation and celebrate emerging technologies." Read this article. By Nicholas Negroponte, Technology Review, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What Works This short article surveys the results of a study conducted of e-learning practices at six companies. It's an odd mix of major corporations and e-learning consulting companies (and therefore the results of this 'survey' are a little suspect). The point is to try to determine the sort of content most appropriate for e-learning as compared to that more appropriate for classroom learning. No surprises in the broad generalizations comprising the two lists. But what is disturbing is the lack of differentiation between types of e-learning and types of classroom. People have to stop making these broad sweeping generalizations about e-learning. By Ioulia Khitrykh and Eric Nelson, Learning Circuits, January 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Elearning in the Netherlands This brief document provides an overview of e-learning in the Netherlands. Because there is no specific national program, most funding goes directly to schools. The article lists a series of additional measures including the provision of broadband, the development of tools, the establishment of an "ICT op School" foundation, the establishment of eight ICT ddevelopment centres, content and development projects and more. By Peter Baak, European Schoolnet, January 10, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Economics and Business in the Virtual School As this article notes, "UK teacher John Birchall produces a weekly newsletter for the Economics and Business department of the Virtual School, packed full of useful information." The Economics & Business Newsletter is an excellent example of the changing face of learning as teachers move from thinking of content as something static and permanent to something dynamic and relevant. By John Birchall & Alexa Joyce, EUN News, January 15, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Norwegian Secondary Schools Move Microsoft Still think you can't move mountains? "Until recently Nynorsk, an official language in Norway, was ignored by the software giant, much to the dismay of many Norwegians. Secondary schools took matters into their own hands, and boycotted Microsoft products until a Nynorsk version was released." By Alexa Joyce, EUN News, January 6, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

6 Retailers Plan Venture to Sell Music on the Web This item - which describes plans by six major music store chains to offer in-store CD burning of music downloaded from the net - reminds me of the "publish on demand" schemes pushed on colleges and universities a few years ago? Remember those? I hope you weren't one of the poor ones who invested the bank to obtain data in proprietary format that could be used only for printing on the vendor's machine. The record companies' plan sounds forward thinking, but in an age where almost everyone has easy access to the internet, why force them to trudge to the mall to get some music? The content industry has not yet learned that their competition is not the internet, the competition is the customer. By Laura M. Holson, New York Times, January 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

PhdData Still being developed, PhdData intends to be an open and free global registry of doctoral dissertations in progress. By Daniel Vainstub, January 26, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Radical Rethink Ignoring the revisionist use of the word "radical," the proposal offered by the Economist to restrict copyright protection to 14 years might nonetheless be the only thing that saves copyright at all. because if copyright legislation is widely ffelt to be ridiculous and draconian by the general public (and the music industry's experience sugegest it is), then maintaining the status quo will result in the end of any protection for content, online or otherwise. This is something producers may want to think about as they grab for perpertual ownership. By Reuters, The economist, January 23, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Voila! Workspot Linux is Instant and Portable Magic I'm not going to spend $US 9.95 a month to try this out, having just spent $Cdn 80 to buy Mandrake Linux (a report is coming soon, never fear). But I think that a tenth of the price this would be a pretty good deal for schools who want to provide necessary experience without the cost of installing software. This product is not as unique as the article depicts, though. New Brunswick's LabMentors has provided similar online labs to gain hands-on experience in the study of Linux, Windows 2000, NT, Cisco, or Novell systems for a number of years now. By Tina Gasperson, The Register, January 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Voice Interfaces: Assessing the Potential According to Jakob Nielsen, speech will not replace screens as the medium of choice for most user interfaces. And it won't, if we think of voice interface as consisting of selecting tasks, finding commands, or selecting from lists (think about how much you hate those automated answering systems). But audio (not just voice) is already an important interface; I am listening to music as I compose this item. And while we will not want to vocalize our instructions in a crowded room, we will want to be able to sit down with our computer and chat for a while. Bat around some ideas. Maybe work collaboratively with the interface to write sofware or a scholarly article. To understand voice as interface, you have to redefine your understanding of the interface, and Nielsen hasn't done that. By jakob Nielsen, AlertBox, January 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2003 Stephen Downes
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