By Stephen Downes
September 17, 2003

U.S. Spends The Most, But Gets 'F' In Education
I knew there were problems, but I can honestly say I didn't realize it was this bad south of the border. The number that will be played in U.S. papers - 19th among OECD coutries in education - doesn't mean much, as the competition includes highly developed countries such as Japan, Korea, Canada and Finland, among others, and these rankings would be much worse if they included performance in history and geography. But this frightens me: "70 percent of U.S. public high school students graduate, and 32 percent of all high school students leave qualified to attend four-year colleges." Having a 30 percent dropout rate creates a huge underclass, and a generation of social and political turmoil. The report is here; more coverage here and here. By Ben Feller, Detroit News, September 17, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Freeing Computers in Schools: Free Software in Education
Via EdTechPost, this link (and this one) points to the important role being played by free educational software worldwide. As Frederick Noronha (who is an imposing presence in the Indian software community; Google and see) writes, "Because Free Software evangelists are not motivated by money alone, chances are that they will work on areas which have the highest social need. Not just those that pay attention to the luxurious needs of the affluent. It's no coincidence that education is high on their agenda, both within India and abroad. Some of the best brains are here. That's a fact. The strong sense of 'community' makes it very easy to share software, ideas and solutions." By Frederick Noronha, OpenSector, September 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

March of the DVRs
Gosh, why would anyone not think people will skip through the commercials? Still, the video industry has a bit better a take on this: withness the numerous product placements in, say, Big Brother Four. Hey, maybe the placements will become valuable enough that they'll open up the online feeds and let me watch online again. By Jenny Levine, The Shifted Librarian, September 17, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Saving the Browser
I can only imagine what Ray Ozzie felt, restarting those decade-old copies of Windows and Lotus Notes. And doing it in an effort to save Microsoft - and the rest of us - from the ripple effects of (yet another) ridiculous patent lawsuit. By Ray Ozzie, Ray Ozzie's Weblog, September 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

UN Panel Set to Focus on Technology in Education and Development
The World Summit on the Information Society is something that - to me at least - seems like something far away, as though it's happening in another world. It's only happening in Geneva, of course, which for many readers is just down the road, and for me, no further away than Vancouver. But the nature of world government is that it is very hard to see the impact at the local level, and conversely, from the local level, very hard to reach. It's like the stratosphere: we know it's important, but what happens up there doesn't really change what's happening down here, and none of us down here are likely to get up there. How do we get things like the "working luncheon" into the lives of the millions of people who will be affected? My first thought was to say, it is time that we thought about an elected world government: and we should, but that doesn't address the problem of distance. No, we need to be engaged, directly, personally, if global governance is to have any relevance. Something for me to think about. By Press Release, United Nations, September 10, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

When Books Break the Bank
The prices for textbooks are high enough, and publishers have added the more recent practice of bundling texts with guides or CD-ROMs, and the net result is a cost to students far out of proportion to the value they receive. It won't be long before the internet becomes a genuine alternative, at which point we will hear a collecting wail from the publishing sector. It's a wail that should be ignored, because of the abuses happening today and documented in this article. We need alternatives - where is the online textbook sharing network? And where are the professors who would use it? By Tamar Lewin, New York Times, September 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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