By Stephen Downes
January 7, 2005

E-Learning and Sustainability
This paper "review(s) major trends in e-learning and attempt(s) to draw out their implications in terms of the sustainability of e-learning." The author "stresse(s) the interaction between the development and implementation of technology, the organization of education and educational institutions and the role of teachers and trainers." The whole sustainability angle doesn't do a lot for me (because this is usually a prelude to cutting support for something, or privatizing it), but as Scott Leslie points out, the paper "could well be considered a survey of most of the discussions I have seen unfolding both in ed tech blogs and other forums for the past 2 years." Certainly, the author goes beyond the traditional discussions of learning objects and online courses, exploring some of the new models and arguments found here and elsewhere. It's a long read, it could use an edit, but it's well worth the time. MS Word document. By Graham Attwell, University of Bremen, January, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

NOT the WebCT & Blackboard blog
James Farmer has been on a tear for the last week, launching a new section in his blog called Not the Blackboard or WebCT Blog... because "BB and WebCT just donít wanna go Ďa blogging." Kicking off with the observation that "WebCT and Blackboard were routinely criticized for skyrocketing prices, bugs, and ease-of-use problems,ď Farmer then links to Simon Welton, who asks "why VLEs cannot be more open and flexible to allow better creativity and construction of learning - the development and features seem to be wedded to a very old-fashioned view?" By James Farmer, Incorporated Subversion, January, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

OASIS Releases OpenDocument 1.0 Committee Draft Specification for Public Review
Something to keep an eye on. "This document defines an XML schema for office applications and its semantics. The schema is suitable for office documents, including text documents, spreadsheets, charts and graphical documents like drawings or presentations, but is not restricted to these kinds of documents. The schema provides for high-level information suitable for editing documents. It defines suitable XML structures for office documents and is friendly to transformations using XSLT or similar XML-based tools." Via Tim Bray. By Robin Cover, Cover Pages, January 4, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Mobile and Open: A Manifesto
One of the differences between mobile computing and the desktop kind is that mobile hardware is generally contained in a sealed package - you don't open up your mobile phone and reinstall the operating system, for example. Under such conditions, notes Howard Rheingold, "Only a cockeyed optimist would forecast an open, user-driven, entrepreneurial future for the mobile Internet." Still, "This should not prevent us from trying, however. Sometimes, envisioning the way things ought to be can inspire people to work at making it that way. That's what manifestos are for." Exactly. By Howard Rheingold, TheFeature, January 5, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Education Dept. Paid Commentator to Promote Law
The important question to ask, of course, is how much other coverage concerning education policy is bought and paid for, and what other issues have professional journalists been happy to take a few dollars in exchange for supporting. I am often critical of traditional media because I consider it less reliable than, say, blogs. This sort of item illustrates one reason why I hold such views. By Greg Toppo, USA Today, January 7, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

JavaScript Graphics Library
This is just beautiful. A set of Javascript DHTML functions you can download that allow you to draw lines sand shapes on a web page. The functions are fast and the effects compatible with almost every browser. Via NTK. By Walter Zorn, January, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Academia and Wikipedia
A back-and-forth debate, prompted by Larry Sanger's criticisms (carried here a few days ago), has erupted over the role of Wikipedia. In this article, a response to Clay Shirkey's response to Sanger, Dinah Boyd argues that "many librarians, teachers and academics fear Wikipedia (not dislike it) because it is not properly understood, not simply because it challenges their privilege." Moreover, Wikipedia should not be taken at face value, she argues, citing a weak entry on social network as an example. In his response to Boyd, Shirkey writes, "I feel like Iím being told that bi-planes fly better than F-16s because F-16ís are so heavy." Pointing out that Wikipedia is weaker in some areas doesn't mean it is weaker in all areas. "And of course, sometimes Wikipedia is better, since, as with the Indian Ocean tsunami example, Britannica simply has no offering." Wikipedia's authority will evolve over time, he writes in another post, and will not depend on some sort of declaration to do so. "Like trustworthiness, authority is a social fact, though authorities often want to obscure this." Responding, 'jake' questions Shirky's suppositions on the origin of trust. "Iím not sure there can be any meaningful authority that isnít based on authorship or brand." This may be true, in the sense that authority, by definition, must be attached to something. But does the authority derive from the thing it is attached to? I would say no. By Danah Boyd, Corante, janyary 4ff, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Jack Hulland Space Mission
I wish they had had this stuff when I was a kid. Heck, I want to experience this now! But I had to be satisfied with my scale model of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM). Anyhow, the reason I like things like this is that they're immersive - they're a whole-body experience that completely occupies the mind. Learning is experience, first and foremost. Via the Teacher's List. By Cam Good, Jack Hulland Elementary, January, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Taking Tsunami Coverage into Their Own Hands
The Tsumnami was a turning point for citizen journalism, writes Steve Outing. "What's amazing is how many of the people who experienced and survived the disaster -- spread across several countries and thousands of miles -- were able to share their heart-wrenching stories, photographs, and videos with the rest of the world." I think what was also different about the Tsunami coverage is that the citizen journalists changed the point of view from the 'high profile' statements and expert opinions to the human drama struggle with, and report on, the disaster. Dan Gillmor argues that the role of news media should be to aggregate the best content. But this, too, is one step behind - citizen aggregators, like citizen journalists, are already emerging. Like this. Also, here is another article on the same theme. By Steve Outing, Poynter Online, January 6, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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