By Stephen Downes
September 4, 2003

Educational Leadership Learning Network (ELLnet)
Via Scott Leslie, this link takes you to the somewhat astonishing home page of the Educational Leadership Learning Network (ELLnet). Astonishing, yes, but frankly, I love it. From the website: " Ellnet is a collaborative e-learning initiative designed to promote leadership learning within the education sector. Partnering educational organizations and academic institutions will create micro-modules addressing specific areas of expertise and leadership competencies. Educational leaders from all facets of the education sector will access ELLnet for their professional growth and learning." Judging from the list of partners, it is directed mostly toward the schools sector, but should be of interest to the wider community. By Various Authors, September, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

iTunes Auction Treads Murky Legal Ground
Some tough questions are being raised by George Hotelling, who is selling a song purchased through the Apple iTunes service in an auction on eBay. The question is: does Hotelling have the right to resell something he has bought and paid for? It is a right that people have had historically for all manner of products, including the right to sell used cars, used homes, used books and used CDs. But what if the asset is digital? Vendors today simply assume that the rules of commerce are now going to change. But it will take more than a shrink-wrap license to change principles of ownership that have endured for 3000 years or more. And as much as the auction may offend content publishers, it resonates with consumers, who pushed the 99 cent song up to $15,000 in bidding as of Wednesday. It resonates because it appeals to basic principles of ownership and control: if someone buys a coffee for a dollar, they don't want to sign a contract, they don't want an ongoing "relationship" with the vendor, they don't want "terms of use" and they don't want to be prohibited from giving it - or selling it - to their friends. And the same goes for content. That content vendors - and DRM authors - cannot understand this basic principle is beyond me. By Alorie Gilbert, CNet News.com, September 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Tough Times, Tough Choices
Because I have talked of a 'budget simulator' on numerous occasions, this item - picked up on elearningpost and elsewhere - caught my eye. And showed me how a learning simulation ought not to work. The idea is that players can simulate the choices needed to balance a state budget. But the 'budget' displayed is appaling, containing only five line items, most of which are vague. Once your choices are made, you then attempt to get your budget 'passed' the the legislature - a legislature where all the pro-business pro-tax-cut people are pragmatic, and where all the pro-social spending people "oppose you on principle". That's as far as I got - my proposed budget (which cut business funding in half, eliminated 'tax breaks' and raised estate taxes to erase a $21 million deficit) would 'fail' in the house 27-3 -- and the simulation would not allow me to take my budget into defeat, despite the political cost that my 'opponents' would have to endure for opposing such reasonable measures. Distributed by AP, I must say that this is more of an exercise in propaganda than learning - but illustrative of some of the dangers inherent in setting up simulations such as this where the assumptions, far from being clear, may be embedded out of view in the simulation logic. By A. Baseden and J. Fields, AP, September, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Sizing the Opportunity
This interesting survey released by the Sloan Consortium indicates that more than a million and a half students in the U.S. are taking online courses and that, given the choice, students will enroll in online learning. Additionally, questions about the effectiveness of online learning are disapprearing: in the future, the questions will examine how online learning is (or can be) better than traditional learning. Leading the way in the adoption of online learning 9contrary to the dire warning of the Nobles and the Eskows of the world) are public non-profit institutions: private for-profit institutions are lagging (and therefore projected by the authors to represent the greatest potential for growth). The sole cloud in this otherwise sparkling image is faculty acceptance: while a slim majority have a positive attitude toward online learning, a strong minority stand unconvinced. Thanks, Mitch, for sending me this link. By I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, The Sloan Consortium, September, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

It's a Blackboard Jungle Out There
Just for fun, to welcome teachers back to the classroom. A sample: "I was just like that tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it; how could I know I was making a sound if no one else in my forest was making one back? Most of my students only talked to each other; several talked at length to themselves, and none of them ever stopped chewing gum. The few who did wish to explore a book's inner conflicts and moral dilemmas raised their hands quietly, accepted my nod and after saying two words were promptly drowned out by the noise of the others." By Ms Gonick, San Francisco Chronicle, September 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Fuss
This major website outlining the uses of RSS in education has moved. It looks a lot nicer, too. By Brian lamb, Alan Levine, and D'Arcy Norman, September, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Microsoft's Nifty DMCA Use: Lock Out Compatibility?
I've covered this before, but this short article is based on the Beta release of Office 2003, and it touches on a favorite complaint of mine: the use of digital rigths management to exclude software competition. As the author explains, in order to access Word documents using Microsoft's new digital rights system, it will be necessary to use Microsoft products. "The end result is that anyone who tries to reverse engineer Microsoft's IRM for use in competing products would be in violation of the DMCA in the US." By Ken , Ars Technica Newsdesk, September 2, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Coping With Complexity: How Do You Read Other Weblogs?
Beginning with the observation that blogs do not, after all, solve the information glut, the author asks the question: how do you read blogs? The author identifies "three main goals when reading other weblogs: staying updated, following a conversation and problem-solving." The bulk of the discussion relates to the first point, which leads me to question the second a little and the third a lot. Me, when I have a problem I turn to Google, not blogs. Go straight to the source. By Lilia Efimova, Mathemagenic, August 29, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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