By Stephen Downes
June 13, 2005

The Sharing Economy
I have been quite unhappy with our elected leaders ever since a certain Supreme Court decision here in Canada recently, one that portends the privatization of our health care system in spite our history of electing governments who promised over and over that they would protect public health care. Quite unhappy? Seething. So if you detect a certain edge in today's newsletter, it's because of yet another turning of the screw of cynicism and disillusionment. So it's appropriate that on the plane last week I read Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, which is about globalism, barbarian style, and John Ralston Saul's The Collapse of Globalism, which is about the same subject. Saul's point - and I agree - is that the depiction of everything in fundamentally amoral - and in some ways seriously distorted - economic terms is causing not just ruination and poverty but also the subversion of freedom and democracy. That there are alternatives, such as are sketched in the present article, seems not even to be recognized. And when I see people like Judy Breck write about online learning producing human capital, I want to shut off my computer in digust. And go home and hide in a forest. Or, maybe, start pushing back harder and louder - because if we lose the human, and replace it with capital in society we have lost it all, and there's no point going on, there's no point to anything, for we are all disposable. By Yochai Benkler, BusinessWeek, June 20, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Creation of a Learning Landscape: Weblogging and Social Networking in the Context of E-portfolios
Talks about e-portfolios, but more importantly, quotes Helen Barret: "I made the public statement this week, that high stakes assessment and accountability are killing portfolios as a reflective tool to support deep learning. Those mandated portfolios have lost their heart and soul: not creating meaning, but jumping through hoops!" And Misja Hoebe, who makes a similar point. Some very nice diagrams emphasizing the personal uses of e-portfolios (which I hope will become more widespread soon, before the bean-counters kill the concept). By Dave Tosh, ERADC, June 12, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Getting Real, Step 1: No Functional Spec
I agree witht he main point, which is that applications should be designed from the interface perspective, and not a functional specification. And I agree with that because I agree with the first of dozens of comments: "Functional specs are often appeasement documents. They’re about making people feel involved." Via Roland Tanglao. By Jason Fried, Signal vs Noise, February 9, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Intel Denies DRM In Pentium D
Well, this would be good news, if true: "Intel Corp has scuttled a report that its new dual-core Pentium D processor and accompanying 945 chipset is embedded with digital rights management, which would prevent unauthorized copying and distribution of online content." Via Infocult. By anonymous, Zeropaid, June 2, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Technology Ethics Lessons Shouldn't Begin at College
The first sentence gives you the point of view: "I am concerned about the lack of ethical behavior and the misuse of university resources by our students as they engage in peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted materials." I am concerned about the lack of ethical behaviour on the part of music (and other publishers) but I don't see any university administrators worried about that. The author argues, "Students need to learn computer ethics as part of their formal K-12 education." Would the virtue of rewriting existing laws to create new rights for publishers, all the while denying learning (and the benefits of learning, such as medicine), be part of that education? Maybe before we try teaching ethics we should become clear about them. And maybe the lessons should be drafted by people who have actually studied and taught ethics at a high level - like, say, me - instead of by the local information officer (or by Hollywood propagandists). Hm? By Diane Barbour, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, June 7, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Google Translator: The Universal Language
How close are we getting to usable automatic translation? Close enough that translation companies are getting worried." What does the Google Browser do when it encounters a Japanese page? It will show you an English version of it. You wouldn’t even notice it’s Japanese, except for text contained within graphics or Flash, and a little icon Google might show that indicates Auto-translation has been triggered. After a while, you might even forget about the Auto-translation. To you, the web would just be all-English. Your surfing behavior could drastically change because you’re now reading many Japanese sources, as well as the ones in all other languages." Finally - a way to understand Pokemon. Via Seb Schmoller. By Philipp Lenssen, Google Blogoscoped, May 22, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Evaluation of the Practitioner Trial of LAMS: Final Report
The JISC evaluation of LAMS which seeks to answer the question, "Does the use of a learning design tool such as LAMS support effective practice in designing for learning?" Seb Schmoller summarizes: "According to the report, only 21 practitioners reported back to the evaluation team during the evaluation, and of these, 8 were not part of the original 40. Of the 21 respondents, only 13 had actually run (or attempted to run) a LAMS learning sequence." Oh, and the answer to the question? Schmoller's verdict: "maybe". 42 page PDF (which is about 2 pages for each person who actually ran the software). I have run LAMS myself (on my laptop) and while it works OK it seems to require a lot of overhead for what it does (which means you probably shouldn't run it on a laptop). As a student I would feel frustrated because it's always telling me I must do this and I must not do that - it's a real stickler for sequence. On the other hand, it took me in the range of 30 seconds to set up a complete interactive online lesson. By Liz Masterman and Stuart D. Lee, JISC, June, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Ubuntu Linux Desktop Reviewed
Good comprehensive view of Ubuntu, a rising and increasingly popular Linux distribution. "This distribution goes beyond a free, open source operating system with a business service model. Ubuntu has attracted and cultivated a dynamic and robust community of people willing to make the world a better place." By Tom Adelstein, LXer, June 13, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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