By Stephen Downes
June 25, 2003

Learning Objects 2003 Symposium: Lessons Learned, Questions Asked
Eight papers on the use of learning objects - unfortunately, some of the more interesting papers in this symposium appear not to be online. By Erik Duval, et.al., LO 2003 Symposium, June 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Technical Team Releases Beta Version of SCORM 1.3
Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) has released the long-awaited beta version of SCORM 1.3 - developers are encouraged to use and comment on the implementation until Plugfest 8, coming this fall, at which time SCORM 1.3 will be finalized and all eyes will turn on SCORM 2 (which promises to be a major revision). By Various Authors, ADL, June 18 or 20, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Intel's Education Odyssey
Now up to Day 300, Intel's Education Odyssey features stories of innovation in schools. For example, today's story - which caught the interest of the blogging community, describes the day a blog was first used in the classroom. It's a resource base almost overwhelming in its scope. The site also offers Javascript and RSS syndication, allowing schools to place it on their own sites. By Various Authors, Intel, June, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Developing a Cild-centred Dsign Pocess
"Edutainment," notes this article, "aims to make learning fun." It cautions, however, that "This design approach often limits the potential of children's experiences with interactive technologies because it dictates the way they learn by applying existing teaching techniques to content development, rather than acknowledging the great potential interactive technologies have to provide children with new ways of learning." We may not be seeing this trend in academic research, observes the author, but we are seeing it in commercial products. By Amy Branton, The Guardian, June 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Feature or a Bug; SCORM and Cross Domain Scripting
Survey article documenting an 'issue' in SCORM previously documented in these pages: its inability to support cross domain interaction. The article goes beyond previous discussion of the issue, though, with a look at (and critique of) several approaches: the HACP protocol, Internet Explorer back-doors, rewriting rules (which change the apparent URL of a website), or non-Javascript interaction. By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, June 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Microsoft, Google may go Head-to-head
I imagine that the good people at Google always knew that this day was coming. They solidified their brand. They established a positive cash flow. They have cultivated an image of "doing good." And they did not burn their reserves with a premature IPO. So now that it appears that Microsoft - not content with world software domination - will be invading their territory, Google is in a very strong position to hold onto its turf. Not that Microsoft is weaponless - with a deal signed with companies like eLibrary to embed lookups in (say) Word documents, and with its new MSNBot search engine, the Redmond carnivores company will pose a significant challenge to Google - one which may force Google to begin firing shots at some of Microsoft's weak areas: email, browsers, operating systems... By Jim Hu and Mike Ricciuti, CNet, June 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

'Rewiring the Brain' for Better Reading Skills
One day the term 'online learning' may refer to the state of the brain, not the state of the computer. Just kidding. But the trend toward "brain-based learning" is gaining momentum, and to a certain degree with good reason, because our understanding of neural processes can lead a long way toward an effective pedagogy. That said, the movement has already brought out the half-baked solutions and shady claims. For example, one program - which may well have merit in its own right - called 'rewire the brain' - consists esentially of palying computer games. Now again, I support the use of computer games in learning. This product may well be effective; I have no reason to believe otherwise. I do not support computer games that cost $224 per student, far more than even the most advanced commercially available computer game, simply because it is able to tap into a newish fad. I wish people would learn to avoid being fooled by such marketing hype. There's no excuse for it. By Connie Langland, Philadelphia Enquirer, June 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Calif. Principal Teaches Student Reporters a Lesson
One of the unanticipated consequences of the internet on education: students digging up past dirt on their teachers. This story describes the efforts of some students at Venice High School (California) to confirm long-standing rumours about one of their teacher's past. Online sources, including magazine articles and court records, led them to the story of the teacher's affair with an actor the year he was 17 and she 29. Adding to the mix: though the teacher is very much a public figure, quoted frequently in the press and campaigning through her website, the school principle vetoed publication of the article, citing its intrusion into the teacher's privacy. And so one wonders: is the collation of information from public sources, such as magazines, an intrusion into someone's privacy? Is it enough to warrant corrective action? This is a great story but one with, I fear, an unsatisfactory ending. By Daniel Hernandez, Baltimore Sun, June 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Inter-Organizational Communities of Practice
This detailed article is a good look at the use of communities of practice to facilitate knowledge management and sharing between organizations. Though a reasonable practice (since there may not be sufficient mass in a given discipline within a single organization), inter-organizational communities of practice carry with them particular difficulties. "Even when there was adoption of networked technologies to allow connectivity between the companies, the potential for knowledge exchange was highly dependent on the level of trust." But, communities of practice "also offer an informal mechanism for collaboration between organizations, particularly when learning is the prime motivation." By Christine van Winkelen, elearningeuropa, May 20, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Interactive Training for a Better Future: eLearning for the Socially Excluded
In the discussions of the effectiveness of e-learning we rarely hear about its use to extend access to those previously denied the opportunity to learn (the cynic in me thinks that this is because you rarely find the socially excluded working for corporations). But in my mind, this is one of the potentially most powerful impacts of the technology, reaching beyond the gainfully employed (or supported) and enfranchised. This article discussed a platform called HOPE, designed to serve one such group, prison inmates. By Laura Martin Aguado, elearningeuropa, May 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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