By Stephen Downes
November 16, 2004

Apropos of the rant I sent to WWWEDU and Online News yesterday, I read today that John Cleese has set up his own website "like a tiny tiny television studio" rather than work in film of TV. At $50 a year (you can see a bunch of previews for free, enough to get the idea) it's a bit pricey - but hey, once the model proves itself, the price points will move. Think of it this way - $50 is early adopter pricing. Anyhow, the site just launched, so you can be the first in your office to talk about it. :) By John Cleese, November 15, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Tapping the Wisdom of Crowds: An Integrated Model
To restate the principle (with which I am largely in agreement): "Many cognitive, coordination and cooperation problems are best solved by canvassing groups (the larger the better) of reasonably informed, unbiased, engaged people. The group's answer is almost invariably much better than any individual expert's answer, even better than the best answer of the experts in the group." But how to implement this? Dave Pollard proposes his answer here. By Dave Pollard, How To Save the World, November 15, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

European Commission Formalizes Concerns over ContentGuard's New Ownership Structure
Nothing we haven't noted in these pages before, but worth flagging all the same. "The European Union issued a formal and confidential Statement of Objections last Friday to Microsoft and Time Warner concerning their joint investment in ContentGuard." ContentGuard owns the XrML digital rights specification (which has become, respectively, an MPEG and ISO) and intends to license any use of a language to represent digital rights. By Todd Beals, DRM Watch, November 11, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

NSDL & Different kinds of Learning Resources
Norm Friesen writes, "The NSDL's vocabulary terms and definitions for learning resource types have been made available in draft form." He summarizes in this short article: "Examples of these different types include quizzes or assessments, illustrations, exercises, readings or teaching aids." The NSDL definitions clarifiy these terms and definitions with the objective of making implementation less confusing. By Norm Friesen, November 13, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blackboard Communities of Practice Forum Live Online
From the press release: "Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB - News) today announces the launch of its new Communities of Practice Initiative(SM) to encourage increased interaction among the ever-growing community of Blackboard users. The initiative centers around a new online forum. Members of the Blackboard community can access this central meeting ground anytime and from any location in order to share e-learning strategies and practices." I think I was the first one in the place - it had that empty-shell kind of feeling. It may develop into something, though. By Press Release, Blackboard, November 16, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

High School's New Face
The scale of this initiative is something else: "An estimated 1,500 new small schools have opened as part of the Gates Foundation initiative, and, thanks to additional private, federal, or local dollars, thousands more are springing up." The idea is to address weaknesses in the current system by moving away from large schools toward smaller, more specialized schools. "One of the guiding principles for all these schools is the notion that smaller is better, especially for students who have historically been left behind either because of race, class, or academic abilities. One of the chief benefits proponents identify is the ability of students and teachers to forge deep, meaningful relationships." This is by no means a solution in and of itself. Still, from my perspective, one of education's greatest challenges is inclusion - making sure everyone has a fair go. By Roberta Furger, Edutopia, November 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Muddle Machine: Confessions of a Texbook Editor
Overheard in a textbook publishing house: "The books are done and we still don't have an author! I must sign someone today!" Doesn't that just give you confidence? This article looks at the 'blanding' and streamlining of thextbook production - from the consolidation that resulted in many textbook publishing companies becoming four to the censorship and self-censorship practiced based on rumour and innuendo (and why Isaac Asimov was revoved from the reading list). Good read. By Tamim Ansary, Edutopia, November 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Comment Spam Blocker
I have installed a new spam blocker in my discussion area (the place you reach when you hit [Reflect]). Actually, I had several running, one which actually blocked all comments - a little less than useful. If you had a problem posting a comment recently, this should be fixed now. But I still have my main spam filter, a wonderful array of misdirects and hidden keywords designed to fool automated systems and yet let real people post comments anonymously. I'll email the code to anyone I know who asks and promises to keep it reasonably well hidden. It's in Perl only, but of someone wants to code a PHP bit it should work equally well for wikis (assuming it works reasonably well - I'm still testing, but so far it has worked beautifully). By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, November 16, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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