December 14, 2005


Scott Leslie: Why Does 'Freesound' Succeed When so Many Learning Object Repositories fail?, Ed Tech Post December 14, 2005
So we got a foot of snow overnight in Moncton, which of course made it the perfect day to pack myself into the bus and ship myself off to Fredericton, where I'll be at meetings during the day tomorrow (of course I surf during the meetings; how do you thing the newsletter will get published?). Anyhow, the sort of thing I'll be talking about tomorrow is the sort of thing raised here by Scott Leslie as he asks why Freesound - a sound sampling service - is a success where learning objects are less so. It's not interface, it's not metadata - rather, it seems to be a combination of the license (which encourages reuse, natch) and the data format. Leslie asks, "what's the standardized format for 'learning content'? HTML? Flash? Powerpoint? PDF? Word? XML? IMS Content Packages?" Also, "the very fact that within a few seconds of hearing a sample you can often judge whether it will work or not gives them a huge advantage over 'learning content'." Related and relevant: L.M. Orchard on the goodness of sloppy XML and ignorant feed handling. The message: stop trying to tell people how to do it. Get simple objects out there that are easy (and legal) to use, some simple and standard players, and step back. Teachers and students really will create - if the software and instructional design industry out there lets them. P.S. Sorry about using 'metadata' as a verb. [Tags: Online Learning, Learning Objects, XML, Web Logs, IMS Project, Newsletters, Metadata] [Comment]

Jared M. Spool: Intranet Portals and Scent are Made for Each Other, Design Foundations Roadshow December 14, 2005
Everybody's looking for new metaphors to describe web search and navigation, so this account comparing the traces of information to be found on web pages with scent was to be expected. That doesn't make it a less interesting review, though. And it couldn't hurt to leave 'scents' in your portal or online resource (that's what these descriptions are - I have no idea what words will trigger a reaction, but it seems right that if I describe the post in natural languages, the chances of hitting that trigger are increased). Via elearningpost. [Tags: Online Learning, Usability, Portals, Navigation] [Comment]

Martin Jenkins, Tom Browne and Richard Walker: VLE Surveys, UCISA December 14, 2005
Stuart Yeates reports, "A new UCISA report has Moodle and Bodington each with 8% of the installed base, beaten soundly by Blackboard(43), WebCT(37) and in-house developed systems." That's a bit of a gloss on what is a very complex report, packed full of usage statistics. Most interesting to me is the freefall of FirstClass (from 29% to 8% in four years) and the increase of in-house systems (from 11% to 38% in the same time). I don't think Moodle and Bodington need to worry - after very recent development, they are now tied with or ahead of ahead of eleven commercial systems, and growing rapidly. Statistics are from the U.K. [Tags: Web Logs, Blackboard, EDUCAUSE] [Comment]

Liz Ditz: Schools, Blogs, Xanga, MySpace...What's it All About, Alfie?, I Speak of Dreams December 14, 2005
I've spent a lot of time browsing around sites like LiveJournal, MySpace, and others, not looking for anything in particular, just trying to get to know cyberspace (in most other jobs, this would be known as 'time wasted surfing the net' - I'm lucky that way). People should do this - there are so many interesting and wonderful people on the net! So I appreciate the work done by Liz Ditz (via Will Richardson and Josie Fraser) to bring to light just what the dangers are of these sites to students. And from my perspective, this seems right: "the risk (of a sexual predator) to an individual teen is vanishingly small... but the fear-mongering goes on." More to the point, students are much more likely to be harassed or even bullied by other students - but, "if you take away MySpace, kids are still going to be rude, ostracize some of their peers, and say hurtful things." The last two parts have not been completed, but read the first four and see if you disagree: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI. [Tags: Web Logs, Schools, Children and Child Learning] [Comment]

Jill R. Goodman: Students teach PowerPoint, Independent Newspapers, December 14, 2005
PowerPoint may not be the best medium for teachers to use to teach students. But it may be just the thing to have students use to teach teachers. Via Albert Ip. [Tags: Online Learning, Web Logs] [Comment]

Lesley Thoms and Mike Thelwall: Academic Home Pages: Reconstruction of the Self, First Monday December 14, 2005
This is a strong and disturbing conclusion: "A typology of homepages and hence identities of academics is proposed based on the Web sites examined, concluding that whether the homepage is constructed by the academic or by the university, the identities of the individual are ultimately lost to the governmentality of the university." In other words, "academics' identities are subordinated to the university" and "academics' personal pages tend to be 'professional' hiding their other selves." [Tags: Academics and Academia] [Comment]

Paul Genoni, Helen Merrick and Michele Willson: The Use of the Internet to Activate Latent Ties in Scholarly Communities, First Monday December 14, 2005
Latent contacts are those people you would contact, but for some reason, have not contacted. A natural example is the connection of podcast researchers in education; as people developed expertise in the subject the would reach out to other people in the same field, if they knew they existed. Eventually these latent contacts do make a connection, usually via blog or email. But of course, it didn't used to be that way (they would have to read each other's academic articles and connect by mail, telephone or at conferences). The point of this paper is to show that the internet has increased the connectivity of latent contacts. We would intuitively assume this to be so, but it's nice to have some research showing that it is so, and to tell us a bit about it, even if the sample size (246) is on the small side. [Tags: Web Logs, Research, Academics and Academia, Podcasting] [Comment]

Yaffa Aharoni, Ariel J. Frank and Snunith Shoham: Finding information on the free World Wide Web: A Specialty Meta-search Engine for the Academic Community, First Monday December 14, 2005
I'm not surprised to see the proposal outlined in this paper. For academics, Google searches result in many (sometimes millions) of irrelevant results. And it doesn't search the 'deep web' of archived academic papers. Academic searches, meanwhile, are typically restricted to a particular site, such as, say, CiteSeer or PubMed, and these searches are too narrow. So the authors propose AcadeME, a meta-search engine for academic resources. Not surprisingly, "The comparison between AcadeME and Google emphasizes AcadeME's contribution to the quality of the results from the point of view of the academic user." Good paper, lots of detail, and as an added bonus, AcadeME is written in Perl. [Tags: Google, Academics and Academia, Quality] [Comment]

Dan Carnevale: Michigan Considers Requiring High-School Students to Take at Least One Online Course, Chronicle of Higher Education December 14, 2005
According to this article, Michigan wants to make every high school student take an online course. Meanwhile, Ontario wants to make young drivers license applicants prove they are still in high school, to reduce dropouts. Why is our first reaction to make people do things, rather than to make high school, or online courses, good enough to attract students? Why do we insist on standardization? After I dropped out of high school (surprised? you shouldn't be) I picked up my diploma taking part-time and night classes. What would have worked for me? Access, course design, convenience - not meaningless rules and penalties I would have ignored in any event. More via Christopher D. Sessums. Or, on a similar topic, but with a twist, this: "I want an education, but all our zero-tolerance policies do is make me want to give up," said Raymond Collins, a 17-year-old student at Schurz High. [Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Web Logs, Schools] [Comment]

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I want and visualize and aspire toward a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through their avocations or lifestyle.

Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations - or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be.

This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence.

This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward. - Stephen Downes