By Stephen Downes
September 7, 2004

Reusable Media, Social Software and Openness in Education
PowerPoint slides and the full MP3 audio version of my keynote at ITI in Utah. The abstract: "In the three themes described in the title of this paper there is a common thread, a tension between the producers of media, both online and traditional, and between the consumers of this media. Greater connectivity and greater capacity for content creation have given the consumers the capacity to produce their own media, and this poses what is deemed to be unacceptable competition to the producers, who find that their traditional modes of production, business models and distribution channels are threatened. In every domain, it seems, we hear the call for a closed network, whether it be in the form of bundled libraries, proprietary social networking sites, digital rights and authentication, learning design, or media formats. The developers of processes and standards for these multiple domains, heeding the demands of the producers, are complying with development that have the effect, if not the intent, of preserving a one-way flow of communication. Slowly, however, the consumers who create are developing their own technologies, standards and communication channels. This is a development that ought to embraced, not ignored or impeded. When we in education cease to heed the demands of traditional producers, and open ourselves wholeheartedly to the idea that content is created, distributed and owned by the consumer, only then will the promises of the network age be realized, and the era of online learning truly begun." By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, September 7, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Logan, Utah
Photos from Logan, Utah, and mostly from my walk in the mountains the Sunday following the conference (I'm still not very good at conference photography, though I did get one nice picture of Grace Lin, who presented the OOPS Project along with Luc Chu. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, September 7, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Abandoning Taxonomy is the First Ingredient of Success
Discussion of a good article by Jon Udell on how metadata works in the real world. As Udell notes, the conventional wisdom is that people will not take the time to add metadata to content because it takes too much time. But sites like Flickr and Del.icio.us collect metadata without difficulty. How? Instead of telling you what to do - as a taxonomy does - the system tells you about what you did. "Feedback is immediate. As soon as you assign a tag to an item, you see the cluster of items carrying the same tag." By Michael Feldstein, E-Literate, September 6, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blackboard and MERLOT Broaden Learning Network
MERLOT is at it again, this time signing a deal with Blackboard. The good bit is this: "The first Blackboard Building Block to be released will be a portal module that uses RSS content syndication to aggregate news about and links to the learning resources most recently added to MERLOT." The less good (but not surprising) bit is this: "MERLOT will develop a Blackboard taxonomy within the MERLOT learning directory, making it easier for MERLOT users to identify Blackboard-specific training materials." Didn't we learn during the browser wars that vendor specific tags are a bad idea? Still, overall, what I am really liking is this bit: "Blackboard's announcement of a Learning Object Catalog feature recently made available in the Blackboard Content System(TM) (Release 2.0)." Now if someone from Blackboard could tell me that this is an open specification that can be used by other products or services, I'd be elated. While digging around Google looking for this item, I also found coverage of the release of the Blackboard enterprise repository system in late August. Of course, all this was covered in the Edu_RSS listings for Blackboard so if you were watching this page (or subscribed to the RSS feed) you would have known it even sooner. By PRNewswire, CNN Money, September 1, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Intranets Look Vainly to Knowledge Management
Fascinating, the vagueness you get when you attribute human qualities to non-human entities. By 'vainly' does the author mean 'with vanity' or 'in a futile fashion'? No matter. The author, responding to a recent Line56 column, advances the idea that knowledge cannot be captured. It's not an original criticism, but it's nicely put, if overstated. I love the irony of this statement: "But teaching and learning are not even inherently well-suited to digital media. At an individual level, this teaching and learning often happens best with the participants face-to-face or talking on the phone." What is a phone (at least, an IP phone), if not digital media? The criticism, I think, applies to the method, not the medium, an idea that is captured by this piece, an argument against the use of the words 'knowledge sharing' - if not the actual practice. Both items via elearningpost. By David Walker, Shorewalker, September 5, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

DC-Ed Element Proposal: Instructional Method
A Dublin Core working group is proposing a new 'educational' element be added to the Dublin Core specification. "This element describes ways of presenting instructional materials or conducting instructional activities, patterns of learner-to-learner and learner-to-instructor interactions, and mechanisms by which group and individual levels of learning are measured." The proposal is among a set of recommendations being released for discussion, others including an accessibility element and six proposals from the collections group (DCCD accrual method, DCCD accrual periodocity, DCCD accrual policy, accrual method, accrual periodocity and accrual policy). By Dublin Core Education Working Group, August 28, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

An Apple for the Computer
Interesting look at the use of computers to mark essays, including what might be called the 'chimpanzee test' (not what it sounds like. This seems right, so far: "What it seems to lack is the ability to see context and relevance. The software doesn't care whether you're a meticulous writer who uses only well-reasoned and well-known facts or a glib writer who pulls 'facts' from the air." Via University Business. By Faye Flam, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 30, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Go Fast. Go Cheap. And Let It Go Out of Control
Brian Lamb's presentation at the ITI conference in Utah in the form of a set of Wiki pages. There's a lot of content here surveying new technologies in learning, including blogs, wikis and RSS - hard to believe he got through most of it in his session. Many, many useful links. By Brian Lamb, September 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The best Online Homework Help
The Teacher List author Pete MacKay opens the new school year with this article he authored listing the best homework help sites. Useful list of annotated links. By Pete MacKay, Canadian Living, September, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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