By Stephen Downes
December 2, 2004

Pierre Berton
When I was young my father and I split a membership in the Book of the Month Club. I read quite a lot about the Second World War (Shirer, Churchill, Speer) and read the complete Sherlock Holmes, among other things. But the books I remember most of all had titles like 'The National Dream' and 'Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush'. I may have studied Canadian history in school, but it was Pierre Berton who made it come alive for me. Berton didn't just tell stories with names and dates; he defined for me in a way few others could what it means to be a Canadian. I will miss Pierre Berton, who made me smile even a few weeks ago. Good on you, Pierre!

Stand Fast, Craigellachie

By Staff, December 1, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Learning Without Lessons: Supporting Learning in Small Businesses
While the authors suggest that "a clear distinction between formal and informal learning is difficult to define and unhelpful" they also suggest, while defining it a few pages down, that it is "related to business, rather than personal objectives." They should have heeded their early advice. As it is, this perspective flavours this generally useful report focusing on the training needs of small and medium size enterprises. Some advice that should be heeded: "A key issue in small companies is getting access to useful and relevant information. Often this can be done quite simply through trade journals and other traditional media." Also: "Members of the expert group cautioned against formalising what is essentially an informal process of learning in small companies." Read this report, but be aware that it comes from a particular point of view. PDF. Via e-Learning Centre News. By Lisa Dolye and Maria Hughes, Learning and Skills Development Agency, December, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Thunderbird RC1
Once we've got you all switched from Internet Explorer to Firefox, there's another treat for you. Thunderbird, the open source email client made by the people who make Firebird, is just a hiccup away from its formal release; the RC (release candidate) is the final version before the official release, expected in mid-December. I have been using Thunderbird for about a year now and vastly prefer it over Outlook. Looking further down the road, watch out for Sunbird, the open source cal;endar application that links with the browser and the email client. By Various Authors, MozillaZine, December 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

SPARC Open Access Newsletter
In this, the 80th issue of the newsletter, two major developments in open access are highlighted. In what author Peter Suber calls "the largest single step toward free online access in the history of the OA movement," the National Institutes of Health (NIH) plan to support open access was endorsed by the U.S. Congress. But on the other side of the pond, in response to what must have been heavy industry lobbying, the British government decided that it is "not aware of any evidence of a significant problem in meeting the public's needs in respect of access to journals through public libraries." Ian Gibson, chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, remarks, "This isn't evidence-based policy, it's policy-based evidence." By Peter Suber, December 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Middle East eLearning Forum
Jay Cross gives us a feel (but only a feel) for the Middle East e-learning market with this summary from the Middle Eastern Forum at Online Educa Berlin. The major bit: "Most Arab countries have joint-ventured with Western companies. In fact, Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, WebCT, and others each appear to own the relationship with a particular country." It seems pretty clear that the way to work in the Middle East is from the top down. More coverage from Educa in Cross's Internet Time blog. By Jay Cross, Internet Time, December 1, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

MSN Spaces
Microsoft's entry into the world of blogs, MSN Spaces, launches. It's easy enough to create a blog, but not to create a personal profile on the blog - you have to have a Passport ID for that. Updating the blog was a bit tricky, and the photo that I added with my post ended up in a separate photos list. Couldn't add music because it requires a playlist from Windows Media Player. The site was slow. This is a typical Microsoft entry into a new field: nowhere near as good as the market leaders, painfully imitative, but leveraging Microsoft's market position to try to achieve lock-in and push the competition out. I don't think it will work this time: people are more loyal to their blogs than they are to their browsers. My test blog is here (nothing to see, really). By Various Authors, December 1, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Evolving Literacy Crafting Messages for Senses, Sensibilities, and Sense-making
Literacy is not just about reading: we also expect a literate person to write. But how many people make their own movies? Obviously, the tools aren't there yet. But we can expect that when they arrive, literacy will take a step forward. As the author notes, when Photoshop arrived on the desktop, it put into the hands of the people in general questions about photo manipulation that used to be the preserve of professional photographers. I think that the same effect with respect to video would be good. By Carol Strohecker, Receiver, June, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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