By Stephen Downes
February 17, 2005

Transparency and Education
So I'm in Vancouver after having spent a day flying across the country. I've been coding, taking photos, and generally thinking about power, community and progress. Maybe people will see this year as the beginning of a new (and smarter) approach to learning, the recognition that learning cannot be programmed for a group of individuals as though they were machines. "The hard, familiar reality is that learning is both idiosyncratic (you and I do not learn everything is quite the same way and pace) and messy. Most serious learning is not nicely sequential." But the thing is, this is not a new insight. So why do we keep getting pulled back from anything like real learner centered learning? From Will Richardson: "You have to read some Marx," my friend said. "Don't you know that those in power will let the masses convince themselves that are in control until they become a bit too powerful, at which point they'll step in and shut it down?" It doesn't take a course in dialectical materialism to see it being shut down. Today's theme? Take back the web. By Will Richardson, Weblogg-Ed, February 16, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How do we Learn the Things we Value Most?
I too have been reading some of Dave Pollard's recent work with interest (and it's long overdue for acompilation post) and I find myself not only nodding in agreement with Brian Alger's assessment but also wanting to say that this is the motivation that informs my own approach and style: "these models, ways of thinking, methods and processes are so completely devoid of any reference to authentic living that we delude ourselves in an ever increasing spiral of abstraction... we forget to talk about ourselves... where are the lives of real people in all of this intellectual scaffolding we hold on to?" The presumption always seems to be, if we somehow create a system, it will all be better. That never works. First, foremost, finally - we begin to move forward only when we understand the irreducible, the unique, valuable and frequently irreverent people who make up the system. Via Joseph Hart, who also cites Seb Fiedler on this. By Brian Alger, Experience Design Network, February 8, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

National Web Library Do-able, Affordable, Visionary
Michael Geist sent me a note today to let me know that his columns in the Toronto Star - sadly sitting behind a registration barrier - are also available without registration on his website. Among the items now open to view was this article, calling on the government "to greatly expand the National Library of Canada's digital efforts by becoming the first country in the world to create a comprehensive national digital library. The library, which would be fully accessible online, would contain a digitally scanned copy of every book, government report, and legal decision ever published in Canada." Let me add my own support for such an initiative; the cost would be a small fraction of what we have already invested in these documents, and democracy demands that they be accessible to all people in the nation - and the world. By Michael Geist, January 10, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Commonwealth Cooperation in Distance Education: Potential Benefits for Small States
Text of an address by Sir John Daniel, the President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning. The title on the web page (but not on the text) is: "Eliminating the Traffic Jams on the Road to Freedom". The encouraging bit is this: "In both these areas, Learning Management Systems and Learning Objects, COL will promote and facilitate the use of Free and Open Source Software, or FOSS for short. The extension of the concept of open source software to the arena of learning objects is one of the most hopeful developments in education in years, because it will make the sharing, adaptation and re-use of learning materials so much easier." The message is getting through. By Sir John Daniel, Commonwealth of Learning, February 11, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

From RSS To PDF: Acrobat 7 Does It
I personally cannot see any good use for RSS in PDF files. But others might - so here is the link. By Luigi Canali De Rossi, Robin Good, February 11, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

International Journal of Knowledge and Learning
Miltiadis D. Lytras announces "that the inaugural double issue of the International Journal of Knowledge and Learning, published by Inderscience, is available from our official web site." The issue starts off with a manifesto which is itself well worth a look, even if only for the useful diagrams mapping the field the journal intents to cover. No word on whether the journal will be open access. By Miltiadis D. Lytras, et. al., International Journal of Knowledge and Learning, February 15, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Deloitte Survey Finds Looming Talent Crisis Threatens Companies
The focus of this article is the impending talent shortage that will hit western economies in just a couple of years. It cites "retirements, a widening skills gap driven by declining educational standards, and outdated and ineffective approaches to talent management." Added to this should be as well the emergence of a young and talented work force in India, east Asia and China. And to this the declining capacity of the western economies to purchase or lure talent from overseas. Now I am nowhere near retirement, which means this advice resonates for me: "talent-savvy organizations build strategies around what matters most to their critical talent -- their personal growth or development, their need to be deployed in positions and assignments that engage their interests and curiosities, and their connection to others in ways that drive performance for the company as a whole." Learning is just part of the equation. Personal empowerment - that's the other part. By Anonymous, Deloitte Consulting/Deloitte Research, February 15, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Out Firefoxed
So Microsoft has announced that - after a long period of "frozen" browser development, it is going to upgrade Internet Explorer. Having just spent the last few weeks in a design project (more on this in a couple of days) I can only say: it's about time. Maybe IE will actually implement CSS as written, instead of doing things that are downright weird. And were the development not strictly and only in response to the challenge from the open source Firefox browser, I would be less cynical. But when you get right down to it, the appeal of Firefox isn't simply that it is a better browser. It's intent and my intent is captured in the simple slogan: Take back the web. Hat-tip to John Hibbs for relaying the link. By Christopher Locke, Chief Blogging Officer, February 16, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Computer on Every Desk
Saying it like it is: "Critics of classroom technology claim that the computer isn't an effective tool for education. This is nonsense. Imagine a one-to-five ratio of textbooks to kids; books would not be an effective educational tool in that scenario, either." It might be added as well that the cost of a computer is coming down to within the same price range as a couple dozen good textbooks. By Kosmo Kalliarekos, Edutopia, February 15, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Nokia and Microsoft Bridge OMA-WMA Gap for Mobile Devices
This announcement is, as the author suggests, a bombshell - on several fronts. One front is the obvious: the mobile device industry is no longer banding together to keep Microsoft out of its back yard. On another front, it gives Microsoft leverage against proprietary formats being offered by Apple and Sony. But of greatest significance to educators: The OMA DRM is based on the open (and royalty free) Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) (read more about this here). Readers of OLDaily will have seen this coming following the announcement in January that a license was drafted under MPEG LA to cover implementations of OMA DRM 1.0 for mobile devices and content services. So what does it mean for ODRL? Hard to say - but it's probably not good. By Bill Rosenblatt, DRM Watch, February 17, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2005 Stephen Downes
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