By Stephen Downes
February 8, 2005

As Spam Approaches 95 Percent of All Email, What Do We Do?
Cut this out and paste it to your wall: it's easier to filter for what you do want than what you don't. That's why I agree with this: "Eventually, we'll need to move to use social networks to our advantage to include FOAF in an email solution that filters spam. Most current current filtering systems work on identifying spam and then let everything else through. We need the reverse: a method of authenticating/identifying good email and block everything else." By cel4145, Kairosnews, February 8, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Human Nature and Social Networks
I liked this paper a lot (thanks, Tom, for the link) though I admit to rolling my eyes at the Hobbes-Rousseau opening. Still, this is fundamentally right: humans have developed the ability to reduce what might be called the transaction costs of communication through effective internalization of social conventions, such as the use and recognition of language, behaviours and other forms of interaction. Historically, because of the difficulty of communication, this has limited our social sphere to about 150 people; beyond that, and instead of the informal mechanisms we employ to, say, build trust, a more formalized and usually hierarchal communications system is needed. The development of effective peer-to-peer technologies, however, has the effect of lowering the transaction costs of communication, essentially allowing us to increase our social sphere. Trust me. More reading from the same site. By John H. Clippinger, Command and Control Research Program, February, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

5th Grade Science Class Take Part In Distance Learning Program
I like this: "The participants become members of the volcano, hurricane, evacuation or communication team during the two-hour, electronic mission. Operation Montserrat engages each participant to work as a scientist in order to solve problems in real-life situations. The mission challenges participants to apply their mathematics and science knowledge to a real-life event." Via TechLearning News. By Unattributed, Marshall County Journal, February 2, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ODRL/DCMI Profile Working Group
The Open Digital Rights Initiative (ODRL) and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) have formed a working group to develop an ODRL/DCMI profile. As described in the announcement, "The profile will show how to make combined use of the rights-related DCMI metadata terms and the ODRL rights expression language. This will enable richer rights management information to be captured along with DCMI descriptive metadata and support wider interoperability with DRM and open content licensing systems." By Renato Iannella and Andy Powell, February 7, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Staff Online
Christian Spatzierer sent me an email yesterday inviting me to try his company's product, Staff Online, with an eye toward e-learning applications. The idea is that by clicking on a link on a web page you are put into a videoconference with a representative - which could be customer support, an instructor, a mentor, or a tutor. I tried the system, which is based on a Flash interface - this means I didn't install any software, didn't need to do anything, in fact. Using my headset (there is a text window if you're not connected for sound, and their video camera works even if yours doesn't) I chatted for a while with an Staff Online representative from the company's office in Montreal. The sound and video quality were great, though there was an echo when I spoke. The service also supports web touring, which means the representative can show me web pages while she speaks. Were I still tutoring for Athabasca University I would have traded in my telephone for a system like this in a minute (it would probably have been cheaper for the university too). The system is already being used by various community colleges in Quebec. Now it seems to me too that because web pages are used to host the connection, such pages should be thought of as learning objects, and made available through e-learning content syndication networks. By Various Authors, PLMedia, February, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New Partnership Supports Open Source Publishing Software Development
This is the sort of model that should be encouraged and developed for e-learning. "Open Journal Systems (OJS) provides online management for journal submissions, peer reviewing, editing, and online publishing and indexing. Open Conference Systems (OCS) manages conference registration, programming and paper submission and publication. The PKP Harvester (PKPH) is used to automatically create an online index of materials from a variety of online sites including journals and repositories." Via NextED. By Press Release, Simon Fraser University, January 20, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Top Scholar
Bill Williams forwards this item from last October, a item, he says, that may merit inclusion. I agree; it is a description of Scotland's Edinburgh's Interactive University (IU) which, over the past 18 months, "has attracted 75,000 students from more than 23 countries. In sharp contrast to the failure of its English counterpart, UkeU, which had signed up only 900 students when it was scrapped in June, the IU has seen a 75% increase in student numbers over the past year." The differences? The article highlights the personal contact between students and teachers, the ability of students to learn at their own pace, and IU's non-profit structure. By Andy Moore, The Guardian, October 19, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

edna-for-schools, 8 February
It's the start of another new school year in Australia and as teachers sit down to plan the new year they can't go wrong if they being with the EdNA newsletter, a fantastic resource that in the space of a few hundred words puts teachers in context, connects them to resources, and gives them something to think about. It's hard to find a better example of online learning than this. By Various Authors, EdNA, February 8, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Reading Program Didn't Boost Skills
When you spend $50 million on e-learning, you expect results. That's not what happened in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which purchased Pearson Education's Waterford Early Reading Program four years ago only to find after a study that the software didn't help, and sometimes hindered, student learning. But as a Pearson spokesperson says, "The findings confirmed what we already knew: you have to turn it on to have an impact." According to studies, teachers didn't have enough time for the computer program because they had to cover a reading curriculum introduced by the district a year before. By Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2005 Stephen Downes
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