By Stephen Downes
June 24, 2003

UN University, Worldwide Partners Launch Online University
This press release announces that "the United Nations and its partners today opened the virtual 'doors' of a pioneering, online global university." The Global Virtual University (GVU), launched in Arendal, Norway, is intended to "promote an international network of equal-partner universities and institutions delivering e-learning courses and programmes with a global outreach focused on environment and development." By Press Release, Distance-Educator.Com, June 19, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Internet Sparks a Copyright Fire
Overview article of the copyright debate, included here only because the bias is so easy to demonstrate. The first paragraph reads, "Buying an album or watching a film used to mean going to the music store or the movies, renting a video, maybe checking out the Columbia House catalog." Now suppose itstead it had read (more accurately) as follows: "Listening to music or watching a movie used to mean tuning the radio or changing the TV station." The first version implies a history of paid content. But the second version more accurately represents a history of free content. I can accept that there is a debate about the copyright issue. What I cannot accept is the constant media manipulation of the debate, including a history as revisionist as any under a less than democratic dictator. By Robert MacMillan, Washington Post, June 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Flesh and Machines: The Mere Assertions of Rodney Brooks
Since the day Newton announced that matter and energy are governed by immutable physical laws, the suggestion that humans are nothing more than matter and energy has raised the question of how a 'mere machine' could possess free will or consciousness. Of course, the phrasing of 'mere machine' suggests a completely deterministic automaton, something that could not possibly be self-directing. But as our knowledge of machines increases, it becomes increasingly evident that machines can direct themselves, and these is less and less that can be explained only by appeal to some sort of mysterious consciousness (and most of what can't be explained isn't free will so much as the perception of free will). We do all of the things that we think we do: we have experiences, we make judgements, we take actions, we feel rage and love and listlessness - but all this is explained by the activities of our bodies and brains, the impact of our environment, and the tendency of natuaral systems to seek balance and equilibrium. Our consciousness is our perception of all of these activities, and more, a perception that is an emergent phenomenon of billions or microscopic events, and as a perception, is returned as input into the system, where, later, it is itself perceived as not merely reflective but also as active. By Steve Talbott, NetFuture, June 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Using Multiple Intelligence Theory in the Virtual Classroom
Given a list of Gardner's multiple intelligences (MI) that describe various learning styles, and given a fairly common sense understanding of the range and capacities of various learning technologies, it is fairly straightforward to construct the list in this article, matching technologies to intelligences. The real question, of course, is whether the result is worth the trouble; there remains some dispute in the field. Unfortunately, the article doesn't raise this issue. Still, it's a worthwhile read. By Margie Meacham, Learning Circuits, June, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Art of Turboing
Turboing "refers to the actions of a customer who goes around the normal technical support process by contacting a senior person in the chain of command." You wouldn't think it's something that would deserve an entire article, but it is a subtle art, full of mystery and nuance. By Rob Levandowski, MacWhiz Technologies, June, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Human-Computer Interaction: A Review of the Research on its Affective and Social Aspects
This paper surveys the rrsults from a couple dozen studies of human-computer interaction (HCI). The more I read such studies the less reliable I think they are, but that's a subject for aother day. What I found interesting in this paper was the way the discussion eventually wrapped around the question of "locus of control" and raises the question of whether it is (for example) reflective of a personality trait inherent in the subject or a property inherent in the interface. I think this is an interesting issue: we hear generalizations about various cultures, for example, which suggest that their students won't take the initiative, which if true has an impact on system design. But it could equally be that systems designed for such cultures, by assuming this generalization, ensure its truth. By Colette Deaudelin, Marc Dussault and Monique Brodeur, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, Winter, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Dubai School Wins ISO Certificate
It would be nice to know more about the school in question, described in the article as one which "focuses heavily on building state of the art infrastructure, integrating information technology in the classroom and facilitating innovations in curriculum transaction." How is it funded, for example, and how well? Does it serve the public at large or is it a private school? And most importantly: is there and correlation between meeting ISO 9001:2000 certification and students' academic achievement? By Sunita Menon, Gulf News, June 23, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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