By Stephen Downes
October 9, 2003

NMC Online Conference on Learning Objects
I've signed up for the NMC Online Conference on Learning Objects (even though it costs money) partially because it's interesting to me but mostly because part of it trakes places across the hall from my office. OK, I'm kidding (it's just I hate to admit to paying money for online content, even if the paying of money consisted in a request to Sophie). Anyhow. How do we get some wider value out of this conference, which features speakers online such as Wayne Hodgins, Peter Samis and Ellen Wagner? Edu_RSS topics, of course. A number of bloggers are presenting (and hence, presumably signed up (though probably for free)). Edu_RSS will capture blogs with the string 'NMC' somewhere in the first 600 characters. And readers can follow along the combined megablog through the Edu_RSS NMC feed (HTML, Javascript, RSS, Atom...). Just so you know, coming soon is a mechanism to create your own feeds like this, so I don't have to, as well as a general code release, so you don't need to depend on my feed selections. By Various Authors, October 14-17, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Stealing the Goose From the Common
This old poem is making the rounds again, and its worth passing on with a link to its many variant forms from Google - a list that also happens to be a Reader of arguments against the current land-grab taking place in cyberspace:

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.

By Anonymous, The Tickler Magazine, February 1, 1821 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Matrix of Some Uses of Blogs in Education
This is a pretty nice start - be sure to click on the link in this post to the diagram - of a documentation effort to track the uses of blogs in education. Send your comments and suggestions to Scott. By Scott Leslie, EdTechPost, October 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Analysis of the MediaMax CD3 Copy-Prevention System
This report explains how to disable a copy-prevention method applied to an album released by BMG by simply pressing the shift key. DRM Watch gets the analysis right: "this is a superb example of what DRM Watch believes is inherently wrong with the anticircumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Act allows technology that patently (pun intended) doesn't work - and SunnComm's MediaMax is hardly the only example - to be protected by the threat of criminal prosecution. Halderman's work is probably not criminally liable, because DMCA 1201 carves out circumvention for research purposes, but an ordinary consumer pressing Shift while inserting a CD into a drive may be breaking U.S. federal law. This is simply absurd. The law allows any technology marketed and sold as 'copy protection' to be shielded in this way." Now my own position, of course, is that unbreakable copy protection is overkill. But that position aside, making copy protection 'unbreakable' by law, not technology, is the short road to disaster. And for a laugh, this... By John A. Halderman, Princeton University, October 6, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Seventh-Graders Learn to Build Robots With Legos
This is the sort of hands-on activity that will over time come to typify online learning (why do people think online learning is merely reading a computer screen?). Lego supports this sort of activity with its Mindstorms program, and modding has become a major driver for Lego. ""It's hard to say, but I think it's led to increased sales," says Soren Lund, a director at Lego in Denmark. "It has kept the product vibrant and alive, even today." But many companies prohibit modding; Sony, for example, has required a customer to remove code from his website that allows his robotic Aibo dog to dance. But back to the main point - modding (by design or by invention) is a more likely future for online learning than reading texts and taking assignments. Assuming, that is, that modding is still legal in a few years. (This blog entry was built using Mark Oehlert's weblog archives, today's ENC Headline News, Google Search, Slashdot, Lego, CNN's Money Report.) By Sara Sleyster, Des Moines Register, October 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Click from Microsoft to Amazon
OK, leaving aside the implications this has with respect to large, overbearing software companies, open distribution systems, online commerce, and the like, let's focus on the strategy behind the deal which allows Microsoft to offer users of its software products access to Amazon's complete library through a feature in Office. This is the direction we're headed with online content, including learning content - rather than thinking of learning as something that is accessed and run separately from applications, we need to think of it as something that will run within an application. This works for learning objects, suitably construed, but not at all, really, for online courses. What bothers me is that with the five-year long emphasis on courses and LMSs, we have as an industry really squandered the chance to create anything like open access, and it will be a long uphill climb from here. By Greg Wiles, Seattle Post Intelligencer, October 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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