By Stephen Downes
November 21, 2003

Learning With Technology
A new list server is being set up that will focus on the student perspective, and how technology affects students' learning and study strategies, as well as their performance of academic tasks. No web site yet, but send your email to listserv@listserv.uoguelph.ca with the following command in the body of your message: subscribe learning-with-technology yourfullname By Maryann Kope, November 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Rich Nations Flunk in Educating Poor
This item speaks for itself. "The contrast between rhetoric and reality is staggering," the report said. "Development groups and the United Nations estimated that $5.6 billion in additional aid is needed to ensure that children in poor countries get a basic education, equating it with just three days of global military spending." Or less than ten percent of the cost of a certain war that has been in the news lately. By Reuters, CNN, November 18, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

AT&T sues eBay over PayPal
Collecting money over the web? AT&T feels it owns the process, basing its claim on a patent filed before the web was invented. One wonders why AT&T would wait more than a decade to actually assert its supposed intellectual property, much less actually develop anything using it. eBay, for its part, argues that the suit is "without merit." By Rachel Konrad, Seattle Times, November 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Research-Based Web Design and Usability Guidelines
When a document identifies 187 "key rules" I become suspicious. This suspicion is not allayed when an author, contrary to fact, asserts that "none of [the previous studies] agreed, and ... none of them referenced research," he said. But when I find that a major document on web usability is released in PDF, I become righteous with indignation. The PDF document provided didn't work with my reader, but I can refer to a report from eSchool News that summarized 27 key principles. Some of them are pretty trite. For example, "Provide useful content." Well, I'm glad that was research based! But where was the research for this: "Use black text on plain, high-contrast backgrounds?" Well, yes, it's better than white text on black. But the previous research (which the author, remember, says doesn't exist) gives you many options, including blue on white and black on grey. And one wonders whether they studied the long-term effects of bright background on readers (yes, there is one, which is why I prefer to use less bright pastels or greys as backgrounds). Oh, no doubt, some of the guidelines are useful. But as always, take them with a grain of salt. By Various Authors, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, November 20, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Building the Information Society: a Global Challenge in the New Millennium
The laterst version of the Draft Declaration of Principles for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is now available, following discussions last week. It's a fascinating document; you can just see where the interests of certain groups jut into the thread and context of the document as a whole. Hence we see, for example, a resolution only to alleviate 'extreme' poverty, and, of course, the entrenchment of strong intellectual property rights, including 'authentication' (say "bye-bye privacy") into the core of the work. The authors assert that they are "the representatives of the peoples of the world," but I don't feel very represented. And it's not like this document, or any part of it, is ever going to come to a vote or anything. By Various Authors, World Summit on the Information Society, November 14, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

E-learning Grows in Workplace
This otherwise typical article about e-learning in the workplace contains one eye-popping statistic: "Currently, 13 per cent of all training in Canada is delivered through e-learning technologies, and that is expected to double by 2004." The source for this item is the Conference Board of Canada, which is in a good position to know. From 13 percent to 26 percent - this puts us on the steep part of the adoption curve. By Talbot Boggs, Toronto Star, November 20, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Repositioning eLearning
Some subversive writing from Jay Cross. "LCMS technology is still primitive. RLOs require a really sophisticated training organization. Usually they don't work. Having purchased and installed an LCMS it's authoring rules proved way too complex to ever support rapid instructional design and development." By Jay Cross, Internet Time Blog, November 20, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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