Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
March 31, 2003

Universities To Be Sued Over Music Downloads Though the reporting is no doubt factually correct, this article from Britain's Times Online is nonetheless a skewed and misleading piece (and shame on them for doing it). In the second paragraph we see an unsubstantiated, highly debatable, and yet unqualified assessment of losses suffered by the music industry. It suggests that "draconian measures" are being taken in the United States, when in fact most institutions are adopting the same posture as their British counterparts: "we would not support any university that told staff to start snooping on students. Staff have more important things to do, like teaching." Most of the article is devoted to quoting the recording industry's press release, itself a litany of fiction and fantasy. One wonders: what will the music industry do when it has alienated everybody? By Adam Sherwin, Times Online, March 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The IFLA Internet Manifesto The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has started circulating emails to various mailing lists asking for feedback on its Manifesto on Open Access to Scholarly Literature and Research Documentation. This manifesto states that "IFLA encourages all governments to support the unhindered flow of Internet accessible information via libraries and information services and to oppose any attempts to censor or inhibit access." The Manifesto refers to an earlier document, the Glasgow Declaration, in which similar principles are promoted. The email seeking feedback is more comprehensive, and since I couldn't find it on the IFLA site, I have mirrored a copy here to read for yourself. By Various Authors, IFLA, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

LIKE It is in PDF format, which makes it impossible to link to specific articles. Too bad. LIKE (Learning In a Knowledge Europe) is one of the better e-learning newsletters I've seen, well written, factual, and sensitive to industry trends. Check out this blunt assessment, from page 9: "Is there a future for e-learning? Is e-learning profitable? Such questions reveal an idea of e-learning as a solution, a product in itself. And they contain their own response: No - e-learning thus defined does not really have a future." By Various Authors, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Freedom in E-Learning Five posts from my participation in a recent IFETS discussion around a theory of e-learning. I focus on the suggestion that learning requires a curriculum and propose instead that e-learning allows us to introduce freedom to learning. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, March 31, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Homeschooling in the Digital Age Good set of resources listed, including facts and statistics, home-schooling models, internet support for home-schooling, major home-schooling websites, periodicals and other resources. By Graeme Daniel and Kevin Cox, Web Tools Newsletter, March 30, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Home Schoolers Get Out Of The House I personally don't see how people have time to home-school their children. But maybe that's just me. In any case, this article is about a welcome trend: getting home-schooled children out of the home and into the community. It begins with things like volleyball tournaments. In the long term, though, we could see children in the community again, back where they belong. Children need adults as role models; how odd, then, that at an early age we remove them and place them in schools, separated from scoiety. By Ashley Chapman, Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Coping With Digital Rights Management Slides from my presentation on digital rights at the eduSource Industry Forum last week in Toronto. In that presentation I went into an interesting digression on the nature of learning objects. Here was my argument in a nutshell (printed here because it doesn't exist like this elsewhere). Yes, the reference to a certain prop is real.

My main point is that there is no reason to restrict a priori what counts as a learning object. Yes, a paper tissue is an extreme example. But:

  • whether something counts as a learning object depends on whether it can be used to teach or learn, and this can only be determined by its use, not by its nature
  • people will want to use a wide variety of objects, including even (in at least one case) a used tissue, in order to teach or learn
  • no good will come, therefore, of limiting a priori what objects will count as learning objects and what objects will not.
By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, March 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Who Goes There? Authentication Through the Lens of Privacy This is about as awkwardly presented as an online publication can get, as each page is presented as a GIF image, but the content is compelling. In this report, the authors examine the concept of user identification - passwords, public keys and biometrics - from the standpoint of personal privacy and find current approaches sorely lacking. The result is a set of recommendations that will go part way toward alleviating distrust. Note that this is a pre-release version of the book and subject to further revisions. By National Academies Press, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board , March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Providers Have To Start Putting Excitement Into E-learning Why did the state of Victoria withdraw an ambitious online training program intended to teach 55,000 teachers about harassment and related issues? Administrators say it was due to be withdrawn at the end of 2002, but the author suggests that its withdrawal after reaching only 68 percent of its intended audience tells a different story. But what story? Mary Bluett, the Australian Education Union's branch president, argues that the program was unpopular because it was generic training. "None of the examples related to education." By Eric Wilson, The Age, March 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Quick Guide to EPrints This article is everything its title advertises it to be, a quick read and overall guide to self-published articles on the internet. One of its strengths is a list of links to existing eprints repositories. Readers will also find links to more comprehensive articles at the end of the page. In between are quick discussions of the motivations for forming eprint repositories and some of the copyright issues with publishers that may arise. By Michael Fraser, Oxford University Computing Services, February 18, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Standardization Progress: A Report from IEEE LTSC Meetings Update from the recent IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) meetings in Paris. Of interest is the committee's reactions to criticisms from CETIS and elsewhere about royalty-free access to learning object metadata standards: essentially, they have set up a committee to study the matter and the beta version of the standard remains available for access. Stay tuned. The IEEE is in the meantime looking at converting additional IMS specifications, such as competency definitions, into standards. By Norm Friesen, March 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Tablet PCs: Ready for Prime Time Good comprehensive overview of available Tablet PCs, the new system designed to allow people to take handwritten notes on a light, portable and connected computer. This article treads the cautious waters between hype and scepticism, providing reviews of about a dozen brands, while delving deeply into the platform's capacities and limitations. Read this article before spending any money. If you purchase a Tablet PC (and many of you will) check out this list of tips for customizing and using your new toy (though you'll find the fragmented presentation annoying to click through). By Cade Metz, PC Magazine, April 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Rights Clearning House This Canadian site advertises itself as "the easy way to license music online." It uses a wizard to help you search for the tracks you want to use, calculate cost based on number of copies, and pay online using your credit card. Some non-surprises: only twelve Shania Twain songs were available, and zero Jennifer Warnes. Some surprises: no fees are required to create fewer than twenty copies of a custom CD. How sane! There are still some coding and usability glitches, and so far as I could tell, you can't actually obtain the music from this site. And it is valid for licensing in Canada only. But hey, it's a start. By Various Authors, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What Were They Thinking? A nice little excursion into the question of why bad books get published that, like so many of its subjects, touches only the surface possibilities of the topic. By Sienna Powers, January Magazine, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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