By Stephen Downes
July 28, 2004

I have numerous comments about the material presented at this important conference, most of which I read last night, but the expression of these will have to wait until I can do them justice. In the meantime, this main link leads you to the IMS summary of the event. See also Raymond Yee's Wiki. Scott Leslie also provides numerous links. From the Alt-i-Lab Forum I would like to highlight especially Robby Robson's (unfortunately incomplete) discussion of digital rights as well as the White Paper Plenary Presentation. Finally, don't miss Trends and Issues in E-Learning Infrastructure Development, which contains a massive list of important projects and organizations. By Various Authors, mid-July, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Personalisation in Presentation Services
This study, commissioned by the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), concludes that "personalisation is effective and feasible in situations where data is controlled and where there is a clear rationale or business case." However, "It identifies several impediments to using personalisation with uncontrolled data, including immature technology and lack of metadata." The meat of the report is found in Section 6. A good hit in this paper is in the recognition of "adaptive personalisation based on data held elsewhere (APOD)" which is " is used to create a profile and thus a ready-to-use customised experience." Personalisation also implicates issues of authentication, authorization and personal privacy, also matters discussed here. By Nicky Ferguson, Seb Schmoller and Neil Smith, JISC, July 15, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Constructivism Versus Objectivism: Implications for Interaction, Course Design, and Evaluation in Distance Education.
Good overview and introduction to the debate between constructivism and objectivism. Drawing from the description in this paper allows me to draw the distance between my own thought and constructivism.

  1. Constructivist: "There is a real world that sets boundaries to what we can experience. However, reality is local and there are multiple realities." My position: there may be a real world, but my experience of it is personal and may be only partially commensurate with the experiences of others.
  2. Constructivists: "The structure of the world is created in the mind through interaction with the world and is based on interpretation. Symbols are products of culture and they are used to construct reality." My position: my understanding of the world is not so much a product of interpretation as it is a reflection; I do not 'interpret' experience, I filter it and recombine it.
  3. Constructivists: "The mind creates symbols by perceiving and interpreting the world." My position: symbols are the consequence of successive abstraction along one or more dimensions of experience; this abstraction is typically a passive process rather than an act of intention.
  4. Constructivists: "Human thought is imaginative and develops out of perception, sensory experiences, and social interaction." My position: social interaction is only a subset of sensory experience and not a different kind of experience; imagination is the reflection and recombination of (filtered) experiences.
  5. Constructivists: "Meaning is a result of an interpretive process and it depends on the knowers' experiences and understanding." My position: 'meaning' is the property assigned to observable communicative entities (such as words) and is exhibited (and understood) solely through one's use of such entities.
In summary, from my perspective, constructivism is a kind of homonculus theory; instead of talking with the person outside, it posits a little person inside the mind who performs all those incredible intellectual feats that objectivism ascribes to the whole person. But it is no less miraculous to say that a person's mind 'constructs reality' than to say that a person constructs reality, and no more explanatorily potent. The mind isn't a little computer with pre-designed routines designed to build internal (symbolic) representations. More on constructivism. By Charalambos Vrasidas, Summer, 2000 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Maine Classroom Classifieds
What gave me the most pleasure about this item was sending it to the Online News mailing list, where members have been vigorously defending their policy of more restrictive access to newspaper websites (by the way, for those of you who went to the Globe and Mail site and found it easily accessible, note that the Globe policy of registration triggers only when you've visited the site several times. See here). As TechLearn news reports, "Residents of Falmouth, Maine can use a new web site - classroomclassifieds.com - to advertise things they want to dispose of and help raise money for the schools as well. Working on the honor system, users who post ads agree to donate anything from 1% to 100% of the sale to the Falmouth Education Foundation." Now it's not clear to me that schools should be in the classified advertising business (and the glaring grammatical error in the site subtitle doesn't reassure me). But it's illustrative of how mobile markets have become in the internet age. By Various Authors, July, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

University of Phoenix to Pay up to $3.5M to Settle Suit
This is just the sort of thing e-learning sceptics were warning about: "The University of Phoenix has agreed to pay up to $3.5 million dollars to settle a complaint accusing the university of violating the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to the U.S. Department of Labor." Via University Business. By Unknown, HR.BLR.com, July 28, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How to Avoid the Pitfalls of LMS Implementations
The first and most important point to note about this article is that there are pitfalls to installing and deploying learning management systems (LMSs), and pretty serious ones too. If we look at the assessment of LMSs by people who have actually installed them, for example, the satisfaction rankings rate barely a pass (and a failure in some areas). The major pitfalls, note the author, include major customizations to the system, lengthy installation and deployment processes, and conflicting requirements. By Chris Howard, Learning Circuits, July, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Making Syndicated Resource Feeds Fit for Human Beings
There's a lot more that needs to be said along these lines, but let me say for now that Derek Morrison is on the right track when he talks about styling XML so it can be read in a browser. There is, it seems to me, a tension in e-learning between those who would like to see learning presented in proprietary formats, such as in Flash, PDF or PowerPoint, and those who are following the route of interoperability set out by the W3C. When you look at your own e-learning, let me ask, which route are you following? Why? By Derek Morrison, Auricle, July 28, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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