By Stephen Downes
December 3, 2004

Open Affordances Panel
Please note that my website will be down from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm Friday for scheduled construction work.

I will be participating in this online event next week. "How much margin do we, as common users, have in exploiting a technology's affordances? In other words, how far can we change a tool before the tool inevitably changes us, before we run up against a wall of impossibility and learn to operate within the boundaries established by the technology, while continuing to believe that we are the tool's masters?" By Various Authors, December 10, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Google Scholar and OpenURL Firefox Extension
I have mixed feelings about this one. What we have is a nifty Firefox extension that works hand in hand with Google Scholar by checking to see whether your institution has a subscription to the Jorunal in question and giving you immediate access to the article. Neat. But do we really want to be helping entrench the subscription based model of publishing like this? Like I said: mixed feelings. Where I will end up: supporting an open marketplace. By Scott Leslie, EdTech Post, December 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ADL Releases Updates to SCORM Documentation and Software
A mixture of new requirements, examples, implementations and XSLT transformations that will keep developers happy all weekend. By Various Authors, Advanced Distributed Learning, December 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why Stephen Downes Hates "Webfeed"
Discussion between myself and Amy Gahran of Contentious Weblog on what RSS feeds should be called. About a year ago, she came to the conclusion that 'RSS' is too geeky for the average person, held a naming contest, and eventually settled on 'webfeed' - a term that grates on me every time I hear it. By Stephen Downes and Amy Gahran, Contentious, December 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Batch Identifier Infrastructure
An open source tool for generating unique persistent digital object names and other identifiers has been released. Called "noid" (nice opaque identifier), it can be used as an identifier strategy no matter which naming scheme you choose (for example, ARK, DOI, Handle, LSID, PURL, or URN). Technical documentation is available, as well as a software release and a paper describing the motivation for persistent identifiers. By John A. Kunze, November 30, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Multicultural Communications
Interesting interview with Lauren Supraner, president of CAL Culture and Language, on the topic of multicultural communication in e-learning. The interview is spiced with referenced to traits in various "foreign" cultures such as Japan or the Middle East. I found the references to American culture interesting, because that, to me, is the "foreign" culture I deal with most often (and you may have guessed by now, one thing that troubles me is the use of the context-specific and vaguely troubling word "foreign"). By Mitchell Weisburgh, Pilot Online Learning, December 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Tangled Internet: Is It Time For a New One?
"The soul of the Internet is up for grabs," says the author, and I have to agree. The wide open free internet has become a haven for spam artists and other low-life. But blocking the spam may result in a closed, proprietary 'secure' and 'trusted' internet that stifles free expression and open content as much as it does spam and viruses. We need to find a happy medium - and that's what's up for grabs. By Gregory M. Lamb, Christian Science Monitor, December 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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