By Stephen Downes
December 5, 2003

Brazil Bets on Linux Cybercafes
It's not your online courses costing hundreds of dollars that offer hope for Brazil's unemployed, it's access to cybercafes using open source software. "More than saving money, which is important enough, the free system will allow us to create a network of knowledge in the field," said Americo Bernardes, director of the National Program for Informatics in Education (Pro-Info). That's about right. By Denize Bacoccina, BBC News, December 2, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Pirated Movies Flourish Despite Security Measures
So where are we headed: metal detectors and frisking before people enter the movie theatre? The MPAA has launched a campaign against what it calls video piracy complete with carefully scripted advertisements ("Alls I want to do is make movies," says the actor playing a set painter in a carefully scripted plea to protect the 'little guy' from piracy). This campaign is failing miserably. "Hollywood's all-out war against movie piracy is turning into a big-budget bomb, with illegal copies of virtually every new release — and even some films that have yet to debut in theaters — turning up on the Internet." Funny thing is - I would still pay my ten dollars to go see a movie in a theatre even were it available for free on a DVD. Movie publishers don't understand what it is they're selling. They're not selling content. They're selling the Saturday night date, the evening out with other people, the big screen experience. That's why I pay three dollars for twenty cents worth of popcorn while I'm there. Because I'm not buying popcorn, I am buying an experience. Movie producers must ask, what is the value proposition? Because if they lose that, they lose everything, and the piracy won't matter. By Lorenza Muñoz and Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times via Baltimore Sun, December 4, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Copywrong: Copyright Laws are Stifling Art, but the Public Domain Can Save Us
This longish article is a lucid and well written explanation of the dangers of excessive copyright regulation. The central premise, expressed in the first sentence, is that "artists steal." That is, subsequent work is built on prior culture. But this historical engine of development is being choked by copyright, forcing new forms (such as hip hop) underground, preventing certain work from being made. "Not only are we in danger of losing our history, we're in danger of it getting skewed. As certain people control it for longer and longer periods of time, we learn about it through one channel. So it's not that different from media consolidation--whoever controls the information controls the way it is perceived and viewed and delivered." By Fiona Morgan, The Independent, December 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Thinking XML: Learning Objects Metadata
Short but comprehensive overview of learning object metadata, intended mainly for technologists who are unfamiliar with the educational application of XML. Good list of resources at the conclusion. By Uche Ogbuji, IBM developerWorks, December 2, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

In Defense of Textbooks and Their "Imposed Patterns"
Mostly I disagree with what the author advances in this article, but it is what we call in the trade a 'great rant' and well worth reading. The author, who recently served on Prentice Hall's "Master Teacher Editorial Board," argues that textbooks are the students' best hope against poor or indifferent teaching. What I like about this article is its honesty. There is no doubt that the publishing gnomes think that they are the bast bastion of civilization, holding the fort against the great unwashed. It's a crock, of course. We do not need to depend on the decisions made by textbook editors. With access to a world of online resources, we can choose for ourselves. By John Ludy, Faculty Shack, December, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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