By Stephen Downes
February 9, 2004

Content Delivery in the 'Blogosphere'
George Siemens comments of this item, "Short exploration of blogging as a content delivery tool in education: Content Delivery in the 'Blogosphere'. Personally, I think the article misses the point...blogging is less about content delivery, and more about expression, self-exploration (and in some cases, dialogue)." I agree with this assessment. Blogging isn't about content delivery, it's also about interaction and engagement. Like that fitness link I posted last Friday, blogging is a repeated act of self disclosure - even if utterly nobody responds, you engage with the possibility that someone may be reading. As such, it is as much about assessment, filtering, critiquing, and wrestling with content as it is about delivering content. It's too bad the authors didn't look very deeply into the subject (their reading list is shallow and idiosyncratic) and too bad the editors of T.H.E. Jorunal didn't demand more. By Richard E. Ferdig, Ph.D., and Kaye D. Trammell, T.H.E. Journal, February 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

We Learning: Social Software and E-Learning, Part II
The second part of this look at social software in e-learning (the first part is here) looks at the mechanics of it: wikis, social network analysis tools, proximity tools and virtual worlds. It's a good discussion, but my recent experiences with Orkut have left me feeling empty - just as content is pointless without conversation, conversation is pointless without context. If the social network gives you nothing to do, then it's about as educationally useful as a wine and cheese party. That should not detract from your enjoyment of this paper, which is as good a survey as your'll get in two thousand words or so. It's just to say that social software needs to become something more. Via Maish. By Eva Kaplan-Leiserson, Learning Circuits, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What Do Instructional Designers Design?
I haven't read this - it's a .pdf powerpoint note format in a zip file and I just don't have the patience which such a user-hostile format - but it is being quoted all over the blogsphere. So I'll just borrow George Siemen's description, which in turn borrows from Maish: "Good resource (except for the .pdf powerpoint note format) What do Instructional Designers Design? ...love this quote: "What do you get when you cross and Instructional Designer with a Mafioso? Someone who makes you an offer you can't understand." Maish offers some comments: "He touches many aspects of ID, like sequencing, that rarely get analyzed. Here's an anecdote from the article that I will be using often: Back in the 60s, French director, Jon-Luc Goddard was sitting on a panel of film luminaries at some or other film festival. A film critic on the panel felt obliged to defend traditional film narrative in the face of an onslaught by the French Nouvelle Vague, 'Surely, Mr. Goddard', opined the critic, 'A film needs a beginning, a middle and an end.'" By Don Morrision, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Who Forgot the Learner?
As Charles Churchman pointed out already decades ago, note the authors: "To conceive of knowledge as a collection of information seems to rob the concept of all of its life... Knowledge resides in the user and not in the collection. It is how the user reacts to a collection of information that matters." This forms the basis for this paper's sustained and intelligent criticism of the learning object paradigm as defined by SCOs and SCORM. Social interaction and learning context, they argue, are essential and should not be overlooked. While I would be the last to say that individual atoms of learning content in themselves constitute learning, I caution against supposing that the human element cannot exist unless it is defined. These can be, as I have argued elsewhere, emergent properties arising from the organization of learning materials and learner contributions, and need not be explicitly expressed in order to exist. Via Seb Schmoller, who also recommends the authors' Digital Learning Materials Do Not Possess Knowledge. Both papers are MS Word format. By Tomi Jaakkola and Lassi Nirhamo, University of Turku, January, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Towards a Unified e-learning Strategy
Seb Schmoller links to three responses to the British government's discussion paper on a unified e-learning strategy (from the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA), Association of Colleges (AoC), and Association for Learning Technology (ALT), and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), which comments, "JISC believes that the e-learning agenda must be led by student needs, not technological invention, and should be used to enhance the student experience." The responses are generally favorable, with authors expressing more caution about the impact and certainty of e-learning. Two of the papers noted that the development of e-learning technologies still involves risk, and that funding attangement ought to reflect that. A couple of documents also noted that the government proposal should place more emphasis on outreach and accessibility. Credit transfer and similar arrangements was touched on by the LSDA while the ALT took care to note - and encourage - the increasing use of open source software and open content in learning. The British process should be studied with care by Canadians as we, also, are embarking on a process of defining a national vision for e-learning. By Various Authors, Department for Education and Skills, January 30, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Of Human Accomplishment
Making the case that there are objective standards of human greatness requires answering the question, "What defines greatness in human achievement in the sciences or the arts?" The answer? Meaning. Charles Murray: "The sources of energy for accomplishment are a sense of (1) purpose and (2) personal autonomy. The sources for what he calls the content of accomplishment are (3) organizing structure and (4) transcendental goods." Via ArtsJournal. By Dennis Dutton, The New Criterion, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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