By Stephen Downes
October 20, 2004

Informational Cascades in Online Learning
Good description of the cascade problem in informational networks and a less good recommendation regarding how to solve it. Readers may want to look at Duncan J. Watts on the same subject. By Michael Feldstein, eLearn Magazine, October, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Rip. Mix. Feed. Decentralization of Learning Resources: Syndicating Learning Objects Using RSS, Trackback, and Related Technologies
Absolutely outstanding presentation prepared by Brian Lamb and Alan Levine for EDUCAUSE (in the form of a wiki, so if you don't like it you can change it). The key message: "There's been too much focus on schemas and models for cataloging objects and precious little attention to building meaningful content. Thankfully, there are some signs of change." And the change is coming at the speed of a freight train, which will leave a lot of vendors in the dust if they're not careful. The article talks about using RSS to find objects, using track-back to record the context of use, ripping and mixing objects of various types, and what activity happening beyond objects. Read this presentation carefully, follow the links, and read them too. By Alan Levine and Brian Lamb, October 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

E-Books: Challenges and Opportunities
A look at the current state of e-books, with an in-depth examination of the use of Safari, an e-book service owned jointly by Pearson Education and O'Reilly that provides about 2000 titles. The author's overall observation is that the market is growing, though e-books remain hampered by licensing and ease-of-use problems. By John Cox, D-Lib Magazine, October, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why You'll Really Want WiMax
I read this item on the bus home from Fredericton last night touting, in Wired's usual restrained style, the next big thing in wireless access, WiMax, or the 802.16 wireless specification. Operating at below 11 Gigahertz, WiMax doesn't require line-of-site and can reach distances of 30 miles (50 kilometers) at 75 megabits per second (by contrast, the standard 802.11b wireless card runs at 11 megabits, and your ethernet local area network runs at 100). But don't throw away your landlines just yet; according to an article published by Reuters, WiMax is just hype - for now. "WiMAX enthusiasts sometimes claim that it will 'kill' Wi-Fi. Nothing could be further than the truth." Maybe not - there's nothing really broken with the 802.11 WiFi protocols. But for all the things that Wi-Fi won't do - like reach into your car - WiMax shows a world of potential. By Frank Rose, Wired, October, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Gotchas in Using Computer Simulations
Albert Ip reflects on an item posted here yesterday, Computer Simulations in Distance Education. In that article, the author identifies several "problems" with similuations; Ip prefers to think of these as "issues we should prepare for." Ip also notes that the "'constructivistic' paradigm does not equal to throwing the learners into the deep end of the pool and let them swim or die. Scaffolding is a common technique in providing help (and progressively take away support when the learners become more confident)." This is something you see in games a lot, where there will be easier levels, or even training areas, that allow the usewr to master the gameplay bit by bit. Also, while I'm on this item, yesterday's link to Patterns of User Behavior in University Online Forums in the same journal was gibbled; here it is. By Albert Ip, Random Walk in E-Learning, October 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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