By Stephen Downes
August 19, 2005

Essential Freeware for the PC User
Usually titles containing the word 'essential' are hyperbole, but thisw title is an accurate reflection of the contents. Many of the applications listed - Firefox, Audacity - wilol be familiar, but most everyone will find something new here. For me, it was Videolan's VLC Player, a multiformat and multiplatform audio and video player. Maybe I can rid my computer of the triple scourge (Real, Quicktime and Windows media player) at last. Clip this one and save it, and prepare to be downloading and trying out these applications for some time to come. Great stuff. By Sudeep Bansal, Brilliant Ignorance, August 17, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Future of SVG and the Web
The author begins with a discussion of scalable vector graphics (SVG), an XML-based image file format, but he doesn't end there, roaming instead into a sweeping discussion of the role of XML in redefining the web. Syndication, the editable web, ubiquitous personal content, domain experts - all of this is in the future, explained with clarity and earnestness and with some great turns of a phrase ("We spend billions of dollars making the web editable in proprietary ways... This has long struck me as being analogous to attempting to knit a sweater by telephoning in each stitch.") And although he doesn't invoke the jargon, this is all Web 2.0, all E-Learning 2.0. Don't miss this one. Related: Bryan Alexander on Schools, Web 2.0, and the specter of desire. By Kurt Cagle, Understanding XML, August 17, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Presentation - DIY eLearning systems
Presentation being given today by Rob Wall looking again at the 'small pieces loosely joined' approach to educational technology. Nice use of the S5 presentation, and even more interestingly, authored using Dave Winer's recent OPML Editor and converted to S5 using an OPML file exporter (if the text looks too grey, just click). By Rob Wall, StigmergicWeb, August 19, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Middle Ground?
Link to an article by Glenn Reynolds calling for an easing of legal restrictions on podcasters ('Lessig concludes: "The existing system is just workfare for lawyers.') and a short response from James DeLong. Following the links will lead you to a really good discussion of standards setting and intellectual property, also by DeLong. Now I don't agree with the stance taken by DeLong and the Progress Freedom Foundation (a too-obvious attempt to obfuscate the name of the Electronic Frontier Foundation); as Derek Slater comments, "They continuously beat the drum of market-based solutions." Slater suggests that 'music rights organizations' which offer blanket licenses or a form of voluntary collective licensing may provide that "elusive middle ground" that almost everyone is searching for. Maybe. But the music industry isn't just fighting file sharing; it is fighting an open marketplace, which will allow cheaper (and even free) competition. By Derek Slater, A Copyfighter's Musings, August 19, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Look, Ma, No Schoolbooks!
Article about a school that has replaced all its textbooks with Apple iBooks. The advantages are there to see - they're easier to carry, the content is more up-to-date, and they can access more resources. The control culture still lingers, with the school filtering downloadable material (not that I would expect anything else). And interestingly, there was a learning curve for the students - the whole 'document and file folder' approach is something new to gamers and web surfers. All of that said, this is a step in the right direction. Via IT Forum. By Associated Press, Wired News, August 18, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blogs & RSS as a School Communication Environment
Dave Warlick has caught aggregator fever. In this post (and yes, it's a continuation of the 'blogs as conversation' conversation) he offers several ways aggregators could be used in a school environment: lesson plans, lesson reflections, lesson blogs, dynamic categorization, announcements and policy, subscription analysis. "The aggregator is the linchpin of this arrangement. Teachers must be able to refine their settings and how their subscriptions are organized." Yes. That's what we're saying. But it's a bit more difficult that just waving your hands and saying 'make it so'. You can't simply 'require' that teachers use this stuff; it's a whole different environment, a whole different mindset. By Dave Warlick, 2 cents Worth, August 19, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Curriculum Leadership
The August 19 issue of Curriculum Leadership is online (here is another prime candidate for an RSS feed). One entry that caught my eye was 'Critical, analytical and reflective literacy assessment: reconstructing practice' by Heather Fehring, however, the link to the Australian Journal of Language and Literacy (AJLL) where the article should be takes me to a page that hasn't been updated since 2002. Another, to 'A Foucauldian analysis of a recent Victorian postcompulsory education policy initiative', by Annelies Kamp, also looked interesting, but while the website, Youth Studies Australia, is more current, a subscription barrier prevents a reading of the article. A link to the Phi Delta Kappan was more fruitful, but should have pointed to the specific article (Starting Confused: How Leaders Start When They Don't Know Where to Start, which was a good look at a common phenomenon), rather that to the main page (which will be out of date in a month). Another article from the same site, however, 'It's Time to Rethink Teacher Supervision and Evaluation', was not available. I really like Curriculum Leadership and I subscribe to the weekly email, but the number of broken links seriously undermines its value. Sadly, this is par for the course in our field. By Various Authors, Curriculum Leadership, August 19, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blackboard doesn't have a blog or an RSS feed or any of that other newfangled technology, at least, not that I know of, so I missed this announcement when it came out last week. Eventually it did circulate through University Business, and so, I pass to you the information that Blackboard has a new website. That said, there's a lot there, especially in the community and building blocks sites (though a good amount of it is behind a registration wall - and the 'News and Newsletters' link generates a 'file not found' error). The dynamics on the home page are interesting - academic suite on the left, commerce suite on the right. The future of learning, Blackboard style. By Various Authors, Blackboard, August 8, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

From Multimedia to Multisensory Education
It was nice to hear from Douglas Levin, who informs me that the people at Cable in the Classroom's Threshold magazine "have plans underway to address many of your criticisms." He also highlighted this article, which I did not mention in my post yesterday (why not? Well I read about five or six articles, sighed, and wrote my post - in this 24x7 would the utility of releasing a clump of articles all at once is more and more in doubt). Anyhow, I have read this article now, and while the first half is old ground, I liked the second half, which talks about data sonification ('what does a demographic shift sound like?') and embodied learning. By David J. Staley, Threshold, August, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2005 Stephen Downes
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