By Stephen Downes
October 3, 2003

Learning Objects and Learning Object Repositories
Slide presentations from the recent seminar on learning objects and their repositories hosted by the Commonwealth of Learning. Five slide shows, including a discussion of eduSource by Doug Macleod and uses of learning objects by Solvig Norman. By Various Authors, Commonwealth of Learning, October 2, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Perfect Brainstorm
This article has been making the rounds and offers some interesting comments on the use of brainstorms to generate ideas. What caught everyone's eye was the phrase, "The group is not God," heresy to some ears. But the author explains, "Group brainstorming, used day in and day out by countless business owners, really doesn't work that well... The problem is that the simple act of being in a group creates a set of distractions that is difficult to overcome... While in a group, individuals are forced to deal with subconscious urges to conform to what others are saying, anxieties about pleasing the boss, and their own social inhibitions. In the midst of all that, who can concentrate on having an idea?" By Alison Stein Wellner, Inc, October, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Should Online Course Design Meet Accessibility Standards?
The author argues that "Very few educationally-related websites (such as institutional homepages) meet even the minimum standards of priority one [accessibility standards] and much current online educational course content fails even more miserably. Legacy content that was designed in the past by any of the packaged proprietary platforms (such as WebCT, Cold Fusion, Dreaweaver, Front Page, Flash, Domino, Quick Place, Learning Space etc) does even not meet priority one." The author argues that the means to respond to this lack of accessibility is through the use of standards. "As consumers, we would not tolerate a different size and thickness CD for every recording label that required a physically different CD player to pay it, so why would we tolerate the equivalent in our courseware?" By Peter Paolucci, IFETS, October 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Who Controls Your Computer?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released a report on what has come to be called "trusted computing". In Microsoft's implementation, "trusted computing" cosnsists of four parts: memory curtaining, which prevents one program from looking at what another is doing; secure input and output, which prevents downloads from being read by non-authorized software; sealed storage, which allows only authorized software to read certain files; and remote attestation, which allows unauthorized changes to your computer software to be detected. The Foundation argues that "computer owners themselves, rather than the companies that provide software and data for use on the computer, should retain control over the security measures installed on their computers. Any other approach carries the risk of anticompetitive behavior by which software providers may enforce 'security measures' that prevent interoperability when using a competitor's software." By Seth Schoen, Electronic Frontier Foundation, October 2, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Information Quality, Liability, and Corrections
Interesting article on the role and nature of quality in online research reports. The author argues that the errors themselves are not the source of any misfortune arising; "problems start when it becomes difficult to discern the intended user of a piece of information, or when users expecting one quality level encounter information built to a different quality level." A primary research paper may contain errors, and so is not intended for the general public. Online publication, argues the author, has compounded this problem. "The primary literature now contains a larger proportion of material that has not been peer-reviewed at all," he writes, and "The quality audit provided by the secondary and tertiary services, which attempted to place the primary literature in its proper context, has largely been swept away." Well it may be true that textbooks, kept out of free circulation by publishers, are being bypassed by readers accessing free primary research reports. But it does not follow that the secondary literature has been "swept away" - and of course the author produces no evidence to show this. This blog (and the billion or so other blogs in circulation) are increasingly taking the role of secondary literature by studying, questioning and correcting primary literature. By Stephen Adams, Information Today, September / October, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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