Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
August 25, 2004

Cool School
Joe writes, "We (COOLSchool) post our courses on the web. The courses were created for grades 8 to 12 and some may be useful for first year college students as well. Have a look at the Chemistry 12 course." I had a browse through the system and while the display was sometimes a little off (it probably runs better on Explorer, and I don't think that the Java really helps) it was fast and worked as advertised - try the search. There's a lot of freely available content here. I like the model a lot - it's very easy to search for materials sorted by subject and grade level. Telus, Heritage Canada, Sun and WebCT are among the partners behind this initiative. By Various Authors, August 25, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Language Barriers
Corrected link from last week (readers ended up looking at Wikipedia on George Lakoff instead - sorry about that). By Unattributed, The Economist, August 19, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

EdNA Online Passes 1.6M Milestone
This is good stuff and I don't want to sell the accomplishment short. But. "EdNA Online has passed the 1.6 million milestone for quality assured educational materials and training resources by adding ABC Online, PictureAustralia and the Culture and Recreation Portal to its searchable repositories." Ever since MERLOT signed its deal with WebCT I have been a bit bothered. After I questioned the agreement, Tom wrote in to say, "Merlot, on the other hand is in competition with semantic web development and other vendors of search vehicles, including Google, all of whom are getting more universal." There is a truth to this, of course - we always explain the need for repositories by saying that you get x number of thousands of hits on Google. But this suggests a differentiation between MERLOT and EdNA and Google. What is it? Faceted search? Federated search? Quality assurance? I wouldn't bet the farm on out-Googling Google for any of these. Play with the EdNA interface for a bit - perhaps do a search on 'downes' as I did - and you'll see what I mean. So - and here I'm thinking aloud - maybe the empasis on search is the wrong thing. Maybe we should be thinking more in terms of a system or a network... or something. By Press Release, EdNA, August 25, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Europeans Investigate Microsoft's Intentions
The European Commission ""wants to make sure Microsoft can't use the Windows monopoly to establish and control the market for DRM" and so "it will extend an antitrust investigation of a move by Microsoft and Time Warner to take control of technology that could help the music and movie industries fight piracy." Too bad nobody in North America is willing to look at this - or, for that matter, organizations like MPEG or IEEE. By Byron Acohido, USA Today, August 25, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Interoperability: Why does it matter?
"Why can't we do it?" asks Evan Arthur to kick off this astonishing workshop on technical standards for learning education and training held last week in Melbourne. "Because it's just too damn hard." Kudos to the organizers for getting this up so quickly, while it's still fresh. In today's OLDaily I carry nine links from the workshop - yes, nine. That's a lot, and it makes for a pretty heavy edition, but this is the state of the art, this is where the industry is right now. By Evan Arthur, E-Learning Interoperability Seminar, August 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Frameworks and Technical Architectures
This presentation provides a really nice look at what may be called 'common services' - network services that are shared by providers and form the back-end support for user interfaces such as portals or learning management systems. Interesting is the diagram showing standards development in these areas - it's amazing how many common services really need to be defined. Though I notice that 'chat' and 'AV conferencing' are listed as areas where standards exist - this is news to me (beyond things like H.321). If anyone can point me to these standards, I'd appreciate it. By Kerry Blinco, E-Learning Interoperability Seminar, August 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

MyInternet: K-12 View
Looks at technology adoption from the perspective of K-12 schools. Good analysis, with a valuable diagram showing that most schools purchase smallish systems that 'nobody got fired for buying' - a reflection of a relatively slow uptake, small technology budgets and limited time for implementation (and consequent dependence on providers to support technological needs). Tasmania is cited as the exception that proves this rule - I wish I had more details on that. The author concludes with a warning: "Avoid the largest players defining [what services to use] (what if every school decided to use Microsoft Class server.. It could happen)." By Daniel Ingvarson, E-Learning Interoperability Seminar, August 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Repository Management and Implementation
Overview presentation looking at the nature and role of content repositiories in education. Though the presentation consists mostly of (useful) questions, it seems to me that the core is in this observation: "Historically, educational resources have existed within an owner centered culture with professional groups or individuals administering key tasks of ownership, acquisition, management and access control. Digital assets are situated within a more user centered culture where ownership, management and access control may be distributed across institutional roles and communities." By Neil McLean, E-Learning Interoperability Seminar, August 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Managing Repositories - Response to DEST / JISC-CETIS White Paper
The best bit of this presentation comes after the conclusion, so don't simply shut the viewer when you hit the 'Questions?' slide. Good overall look at content repositiories and shared content, with an extended discussion of why peer-to-peer approaches cause more problems than they solve. "OAI Harvesting," writes the author. "Now that s common sense!" I agree. And I would extend OAI to include RSS. And I would lump federated systems (especially those exemplified by standard LCMS systems) in with the criticisms of peer to peer. By John Townsend, E-Learning Interoperability Seminar, August 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Digital Rights Expression and Management
Good overview presentation of digital rights management in learning with an emphasis on issues. The centrepiece of the presentation is the digital rights management ecosystem diagram produced by Geoff Collier, Harry Picariello, and Robby Robson for the Alt-i-Lab conference last month in San Francisco. As you study this diagram, note the unary role students play as consumers of content and the necessary intervention of teachers as distributors of content. What happens when students access content directly, and what happens when students become producers of content? By Jon Mason, E-Learning Interoperability Seminar, August 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Intellectual property rights management within The Le@rning Federation Initiative
These slides are unfortunately sketchy, but nonetheless provide a useful overview of the approach to digital rights management being taken by The Le@rning Federation. Within the context of seven characteristics of the Australian educational system (a long chain of use, a low understanding of rights by users, immature technology and standards) a system of upfront licensing (rather than an offer - acceptance model) with an emphasis on expression (rather than enforcement) is described. PDF, slides. By Nigel Ward and Nicky Pitkanen, -Learning Interoperability Seminar, August 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Learning Activity Sequences, Content Design and Development
Overview presentation (PDF, slides) of the role of learning design and an introduction to LAMS - the Learning Activity Management System, developed at Macquarie University. I like the use of the recipe analogy to explain learning design: learning objects are like the ingredients in a recipe, but a recipe must also consists of a series of procedures for assembling them into a meal. Embedded in the presentation is a link to a much more detailed slide show describing LAMS in detail with many screen shots. For those wanting more, follow the link in the slide presentation to this article describing the implementation of LAMS. By James Dalziel, E-Learning Interoperability Seminar, August 7, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ADL Update - SCORM 2004 and CORDRA
This update on ADL's SCORM process is a must-view (even though it's a very large PDF of a slide presentation - get yourself a coffee while it's downloading). The thrust is that SCORM is mostly finished and widely accepted (38 LMS's have been certified SCORM compliant; Oracle and Microsoft have about a million tagged objects, Cisco 1.4 million). What is needed next is a system to search for and loacte these resources. ADL's next major initiative, therefore, is CORDRA - "Content Object Repository Discovery and Registration/Resolution Architecture". By Dan Rehak, E-Learning Interoperability Seminar, August 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Liberation Theology for the Lands of Diversity? Free Software in Asia
This resource is from last year, but is nonetheless an indispensible resource for people interested in the development of free and open source software in Asia. After an overview the author provides us with a detailed country by country survey. Did you know there are open source initiatives in Laos? Mongolia? Great stuff, drawn from first-hand knowledge. Via Courous Blog. By Frederick Noronha, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

RSS Usability Guidelines
With RSS feeds being viewed directly in services such as Bloglines it becomes increasingly important to attend to RSS feed usability. This article offers a few quick tips, mostly common sense, to make your RSS feed more user-friendly. Via Soulsoup. By Helge Fahrnberger,, July 21, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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