By Stephen Downes
July 12, 2004

Corn Hill Nursery
Days like this I wonder whether I'm getting old and ossified. My Edu_RSS system stubbornly refuses to harvest beyond a certain point because of a database that keeps 'going away' for no apparent reason. Nobody to help me with this; I'm on my own. In the world of e-learning, meanwhile, the systems and protocols look more and more like jibberish each passing day as every possible requirement from every possible system - whether it makes sense or not - is piled into that tangle of 24-character variable names called Java (none of which will work at all unless you have exactly the right configuration, somewhat like my database). Again, maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that if you need an advanced degree to make this stuff work (and of course it have to be exactly the right kind of degree) then it's just not going to work. It won't, it can't. Because learning, above all, must be a populist enterprise. Now I'm not proposing that we go back to the world of stone tools and chalk. But the last time I looked people weren't using learning objects in any great number, either in the classroom or (even more so) to support home learning. Gosh, make sure you can float before building a battleship. Am I really just an old fuddy-duddy who doesn't get it? Maybe so. Maybe I should retire from this line of work and become a photographer. Then I can call my pictures any name I want and if you don't have exactly the same configuration as I do, don't worry, the pictures will still display just fine. Oh, and you can learn how to use a digital camera in an afternoon. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, July 12, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Most Effective Pedagogic Technique Ever or 21st Century Cannon Fodder Processor?
A tongue-in-cheeck rendition of the debate surrounding e-Portfolios that makes some good point. The affirmative gets the debate rolling by citing studies showing e-Portfolios have pedagogical value. "PDP maybe pedagogically effective," counters the opposition (nowhere in this summary is the term 'PDP' defined; follow the link to the materials), "but where's the killer app? From the point of view of a student, what purpose do ePortfolios have other than providing a slightly long-winded way of building a CV for job interviews?" But the lack of software is not an issue: "ePortfolio development is not just some UK-only concern at some point in the future, it is an EU wide requirement as of December." Maybe so, but "we live in the real world and it is time for a reality check." By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, July 11, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

IMS Question and Test Interoperability Gets Major Make-over
This specification "concerns itself with three distinct functions: the actual format of a question, the format of a bunch of questions in a test, and the format and processing of the answers that come back. In terms of substantial change, the new version only really concerns itself with the form of question items." As the author warns, this specification isn't ready for prime time yet. If you have been working with it - silly you, now you have to start over (well, maybe not from the beginning...). By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, July 12, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Using the Enterprise SDK to Create a Minimal IMS Enterprise Web Service
If you can't read computer code you don't have a chance with this one. Even if you do read computer code, you have to have some good background in order to make it fly. This is the minimal, simple set-up. Why oh why do I have this uneasy feeling? One phrase keeps running over and over in my mind: "house of cards." By Scott Wilson, CETIS, June 24, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Experiences from the Use of Skolelinux: Use of Open-Source Software at Four Norwegian Schools
A set of four case studies describing the deployment of a Norweigan version of Linux in four Norweigan schools. The upshot is that the software is well suited to use in a school environment, there being "no pedagogical reasons" not to use it. Some issues were encountered translating Microsoft documents and some websites were found to support Internet Explorer only, but workarounds could be found. The training of schoolteachers - exclusively in Windows applications - also posed a problem. But the schools were able to save money using Linux and reported that they would make the same decision again. PDF. By Jon Blaatid, Statskonsult, November, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Turn Your iPod Into a Wireless Jukebox With Pocketster Pro
I don't think that people have really caught on to the degree to which wireless communication will change file sharing. Previously, you needed to use the internet to share files (unless you were just swapping tapes), which meant that a central authority could monitor your activity. Wireless file sharing - this article described how to share files wirelessly from your iPod - circumvents that central control, as the signal travels directly from person to person. The only way to control sharing is to control the end-user device (as they have managed to do with mobile phones) and to make it illegal to break into your own computer. More on this from Alec Couros. By Various Authors, Simeda, July, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The History of Probability - Excel Version
I read Hacking's The Emergence of Probablility years ago and this modern redaction, an Excel spreadsheet, is at once a useful overview and at the same time a lesson in how not to do it. So I don't really recommend the spreadsheet, unless you want to cut and paste from it into a more useful format. The discussion on Metafilter is interesting, though. And I do recommend the book. By Stephen Boisvert, Metafilter, July 11, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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