By Stephen Downes
January 21, 2004

The Learning Marketplace: Meaning, Metadata and Content Syndication in the Learning Object Economy
In September, 2001, just for fun I created a 'book generator' and, for posterity, 'authored' two books using it: Knowledge, Learning and Community (a.k.a. Book 1) and Democracy and Freedom (a.k.a. Book 2). Inexplicably, because I link to them utterly nowhere (and haven't for years) they still generate about a hundred downloads a month, give or take, as you can see in my stats. And more recently, I have noticed again a need for a consolidation of my work, especially that of the last three years. Hence, I have compiled Book 3, this time in nice MS Word format suitable for printing (or publishing, should anyone want to do that, or for giving me a PhD, should anyone feel I merit one). I have even added a short introduction and thematic introductions to the articles. Caution: after you get to the web page (which is a simple launcher for people who can't download through their email client), you are looking at a 2.1 megabyte download. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, January 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Reusability Myth of Learning Object Design
I fogot to run this when it first came out last week - good thing I check my notes. The author looks at my argument in Design, Standards and Reusability to the effect that learning design and reusability are incompatible. His response (and this summarizes the views of many) is that "I think our enthusiasm for the concept of 'reuse' in the learning object paradigm must be tempered with a more realistic appraisal of the environment in which we are currently operating." In essence, he writes, "My issue with the concept of reusability in learning objects is that it runs counter to instructional design best practices. I agree with Shaw (2002) who stated that in developing learning resources, one should begin with a genuine instructional problem and should strive to achieve outcomes which are not otherwise possible." As for the "common element" reusability, well, "Asking an instructional designer to create an LO based on the "common element" is like asking a local politician to develop municipal legislation with a provincial (state) and national level audience in mind." Well, maybe. But instead of thinking about legislation, think about bricks and trucks. Doesn't matter where they were designed, trucks can be used anywhere. And a truck is pretty complex. What makes reusability work is not the type of object, but rather, how you use it. And learning design is not how you use learning objects. By Ferdinand Krauss, IDEAS: Instructional Design for Elearning ApproacheS, January 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

One-click RSS Subscriptions, Continued: The Lesser of Two Evils?
Still in the pre-draft stage, the proposed 'feed' URI scheme may bridge the gap between web page and RSS reader by placing a feed:// link on a page. I'm not sure if that's the solution, but I know that having a separate API for each headline viewer isn't it either. If you're wondering, here is Part One. By Jon Udell, Jon's Radio, January 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What's it worth?
Definition is everything, and the proof is this example of a story that gets everything right but that misses the main point. What's right is the observation: employers are less frequently valuing a formal education, looking instead to an employee's demonstrated skills and attitude. Fair enough. But the article says that social mobility does not depend on education. That's just wrong: a person with a basic education, but no more, may get a job, but will not advance in their career or their life because they do not have the depth. The story, you see, defines "social mobility" as "getting a job". But of course, there is much more to social mobility. So there you have it: good data, bad definition, dumb conclusion. By Unknown, The Economist, January, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Creative Class War
I have made comments along these lines in the past, but this article by a Carnegie Mellon professor packs a punch. The message is simple: if creative talent decides to locate elsewhere, the American economy is in trouble. And there are signs, given the post 9-11 retrenchment, that creative talent is locating elsewhere. "The most advanced cell phones are being made in Salo, Finland, not Chicago. The world's leading airplanes are being designed and built in Toulouse and Hamburg, not Seattle." And Lord of the Rings was made in New Zealand. By Richard Florida, Washington Monthly, January, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Maine Idea
Among the more comprehensive coverage of the Maine laptop I have seen, this nine part article is unremittingly enthusiastic. "What happens when technology is accessible to all students all of the time? Continuous learning!" So enthuisiastic, in fact, that the content is more gloss than substance. But hey, backers of similar programs will find materials here to draw from. Videos and interviews punctuate the GLEF's nice new format (so much better than the old page design). By Unknown, George Lucas Educational Foundation, January, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Paving the Way
Leaving aside how awkward the PDF document is to read online, this new guide released by BECTA is an authoritative 'best prctices' list that looks at learning content developement. The authors endorse Gagne's nine steps, promote development partnerships, stress accessibility, define minimum system coinfiguration, recommend file formats, and more. See also the Press Release. By Various Authors, BECTA, January 21, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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