By Stephen Downes
November 14, 2003

Is Tech Industry a Savior or Danger to Education?
This major three part report from CNet gets to the heart of the issue (eventually): "Companies give large donations to help out with technology purchases or build buildings and then try to use that as a leverage point to sell their products throughout a school district." As one commentator observes, " "Very seldom do you see companies give solely out of the goodness of their hearts. They put out grants to promote an agenda, prove a point, or encourage risk taking." Of course, there's more to the issue than that, and this series does a good job at looking at the various perspectives. By John Borland and Evan Hansen, CNet News.Com, November 11, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Electronic Portfolio White Paper
Everybody is talking about e-portfolios these days, and this paper talks about them a lot, 68 PDF pages worth. With contributors from Blackboard, eCollege, EDUCAUSE and a bunch of universities, among others, this paper also carries some clout. The paper aims to provide "a comprehensive review of electronic portfolios, from a conceptual understanding of applications to identifying technical and interoperability requirements (and) to provide a conceptual overview exploring potential opportunities and challenges to electronic portfolio adopters and developers." This it does, with a series of use cases and a good conceptual overview. Several architectures are proposed, but in the end, only the 'peer-to-peer' model is worth considering, since the others are tied to enterprise systems. Comprehensive references and resources. If you are interested in ePortfolios, I can't think of a better place to start than with this discussion. By Gary Greenberg, ed., ePort Consortium, November 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Jakob Nielsen is widely regarded as an authority on usability, but his website, most observers agree, is a disaster. This site offers the winners of a recent contest with a simple premise: while adhering to the standards of usability, redesign Nielsen's website to make it visually appealing. I prefer the second place winner, which I thing was unfairly dinged on 'visual appeal'. But any of the top ten sites would be a dramatic improvement over Nielsen's current design. By Various Authors, Built for the Future, November 14, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Metadata and Search
Nice summary of discussions and presentations from this workshop held a couple of months ago. The tough questions are not overlooked: participants looked at the return on metadata creation, subjective metadata, and more. Some solid advice in the 'conclusions' section. "User-centered approaches have revolutionized information retrieval, and continue to spur innovation (as in facet-based search/browse interfaces, for example). But the userís perspective is often lost in metadata debates. How are people actually using metadata? What capabilities does having extensive metadata afford?" By Abe Crystal and Paula Land, Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, September 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Five Truths About Tuition
Good discussion (though at times irritating) on the rising cost of tuition in American universities. The pattern is familiar: states cut the buget for universities (actually, they slow down the rate of increase), universities make up some of the shortfall through tuition. Tuition increases in turn create pressure on state grant and loan programs for lower income students, and it is these students who are increasingly unable to afford an education. The article ends, ominously, with the warning that dramatic change may be coming sooner rather than later. By Christopher Shea, New York Times, November 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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