By Stephen Downes
April 29, 2003

Open Education: Moving From Concept to Reality
Notes from an online seminar being conducted for members of the open-education.org project. This presentation outlines the history and concept of open content in education, summarizes the DLORN system used to distribute open content, and considers issues related to the management of open content initiatives. Related to this: my Distributed Learning Object Repository Network (DLORN) system - which aggregates RSS descriptions of learning object metadata into a searchable archive - is now available for public viewing. Please note that this is an extremely limited pre-alpha version - but comments are more than welcome. By George Siemens and Stephen Downes, elearnspace, April 29, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Interesting bit on weblogs transcribed from PBS's Online Newshour (audio and video feeds are also available). The core message is the use of weblogs to democratize journalism, with a subtext emphasizing their clout and impact, as demonstrated in the unseating of Trent Lott. The transcript also hints at the idea of the weblog universe as a global conversation. An unwelcome contribution from an MSNBC "weblog editor" touts the idea that posts should be screened before they are published - thereby showing that his organization, at least, has completely missed the point of weblogs. By Unknown, PBS, April 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Me and my Double Helixes
Scroll down just a bit to read this longish article looking at the impact of genetic manipulation on human nature and human freedom. The thesis addressed is the idea that if genetic manipulation is used to overcome human limitations, then the meaning we draw from those limitations will be lost. To quote McKibben, "We are snipping the very last weight holding us to the ground, and when it's gone we will float silently away into the vacuum of meaninglessness." The author, Steve Talbott, admits that there is something to McKibben's complaint. "That the worshippers of machinery, efficiency, and power are engaged today in a fateful assault upon the human being is beyond all doubt." But we are, he asserts, more than our machinery. "The bedrock principle of the organism... is that everything is connected to everything else -- and in ways we have scarcely begun to understand." By Steve Talbott, NetFuture, April 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

IMS ACCLIP is a Public Draft
The IMS Accessibility for the Learner Information Profile has entered the public draft stage. Of course, by this time it is basically done except for some minor tweaking, so as CETIS reports, "Barring some very unusual happenings, the document will provide the basis for a means of storing learner's preferences for how they want or need to access learning content." What's interesting about this specification - and the article does a nice job of drawing it out - is that while most accessibility creteria are under the learner's control, some, grouped in the 'accomodation' data, is under an administrator's control. By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, April 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Building on What We Know
David Carter-Tod hits on a problem that has occupied my mind for some time now: the difficulties inherent in building on what is already known in a field, in this case, instructional technology. The issue came out during my recent discussions with David Wiley, in which it transpired that I had only read about half of his work and he had read none of mine. We are, of course, each heavily involved in the field, so how could such a situation come about? Here is part of it: "too much academic thinking and conversation is locked away behind subscription firewalls - perhaps not in all disciplines, but certainly in instructional technology." The other part - and the part I was trying to tweak David into recognizing - is that a significant number of researchers look only at this subscription based material; if something is not there, it doesn't exist. Carter-Tod also points to this interesting commentary by the Invisible Adjunct that makes much the same point. By David Carter-Tod, Serious Instructional Technology, April 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Semantic Blogging Demonstrator
It may just be a demonstration, but the content of this semantic blog is pretty good. The idea here is that blog entries are not merely a written comment. Each entry is associated with a set of metadata; readers can view the metadata in N3 or RDF XML, or browse it in something called Brownsauce (which appears to be broken in my browser). The blogging tool also creates what the author calls bootstrap metadata, that is, automatically created metadata. By Steve Cayzer, HP Labs Bristol, April, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Take the Fat Out of Your Writing
Good article with some useful advice for people who wish to be understood when they write. Be clear. Be accurate. Be relevant. Write concisely and transparently. And be consistent. And that about sums it up. By Kathy Henning, HBS Working Knowledge, April 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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