August 2, 2006


Bill Fitzgerald[Edit][Delete]: Blackboard Granted Patent on Series of Tubes, August 2, 2006
[link: 2 Hits] Keeping up with the discussion on the Blackboard patent as Bill Fitzgerald gives us our headline of the day (via McToonish).

Alfred Essa reports that he has contacted EFF "to see if we can get the Blackboard Patent listed under the Patent Busting Project" and advises "if any readers have connections to the EFF, let's get this on their radar." He also cites Brad Fell on abolishing software patents.

Dave Cormier continues to try to pull together an online meeting on the issue (but his emails to Blackboard are bouncing) and meanwhile has posted the link to the proposed Canadian patent. But even if Blackboard representatives don't show, it might be a good idea to be in on the Sunday Ed Tech Talk meeting and to let your voice be heard.

The Wikipedia page of prior art, mentions Feldstein, is gaining steam. Get your contributions in. He also references James Farmer's patent information page in his eLibrary, but it was so slow as to be unreadable.

Trey Martindale offers a short remark and links to the Slashdot discussion. Not surprisingly, the Slashdotters are not amused. As guisar writes, "I hope that not only are these patents denied but that Blackboard and WebCT get tied up in litigation until they go Chapter 11. If any market should be supportive of Open Source, I think the on-line learning marketplace is a natural. Having Blackboard and WebCT dominate is not good for us." Now there's some publicity money just can't buy.

Scott Leslie, who was on holiday when the story broke (hey, at least you weren't in Bogota!) comments "If you can beat them, sue them, eh?" He lists some prior art and adds, "at Edutools we can actually show a continuous development of the feature set that we use to compare these products from 1996 until our current one."

Meanwhile, ATS Blog cites a Moodle discussion and comments, "It is sometimes disturbing to watch the trends in e-learning in the United States vs. Australia, Canada, or Europe."

On Desire2Blog Barry Dahl writes, "Earlier I said I was not a hater. Oops, turns out that I HATE Blackboard." Heh. Michael Feldstein (who showed up with comments in a locked-down Chronicle article today) links to Blackboard's new defensive FAQ and asks "is Blackboard feeling the heat already?" At least the Chronicle covered it - the rest of the education press - University Business, Insider Higher Ed, eSchool News, all of them, are missing in action.

There were also short posts from Rich Schweir, Robert Paterson, Will Richardson, George Siemens and Graham Attwell.

One competitor that appears to be relatively unscathed by the fray is the open source product ELGG. Joan Vinall-Cox writes, "I believe that this is the corporate system about to topple from its own weight. I teach using an Elgg Community blog and a course wiki. I used to use WebCT. I prefer the blog and wiki as teaching tools; they're simpler to use, much, much cheaper, and students learn how to use software they might encounter again in their futures." And Harold Jarche notes that ELGG does not contain any of the 44 features claimed in the Blackboard patent.

I have wonder whether it wasn't really the best time for NIIT to acquire Element K. Heh. [Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Jeremy Hiebert[Edit][Delete]: B.C. Grad Portfolios Scrapped, HeadsPaceJ [Edit][Delete] August 2, 2006
[link: 14 Hits] From the 'we told you' department: "The program was designed to showcase students' efforts in arts, sports, employment skills and health ‚x" to help them get jobs and enter post-secondary education. But Bond told CBC Radio that parents, teachers and students have been complaining about the time it takes to put the portfolio together." Jeremy Hiebert comments, wryly, "Well...ummm...yeah, these things do take time to put together properly. Perhaps that's why they should have allocated some time and guidance through Grade 11 and 12 to help kids do them right." [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Various authors[Edit][Delete]: Study: Multitasking Hinders Learning, ESchool News [Edit][Delete] August 2, 2006
[link: 12 Hits] It's a tiny study (14 students) using dubious measurments (brain imaging) and employing very artificial conditions (I mean, who tries to count high pitched tones while studying?) but that of course won't stop the headline from being splashed across the front page of the newspaper - or in this case, eSchool News. [Tags: ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

John R. Savery[Edit][Delete]: Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions, Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning [Edit][Delete] August 2, 2006
[link: Hits] A brand new open access journal has launched, The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, has launched, and including this introductory article (as is typical in a volume 1 number 1) mapping out the terrain, vocabulary and range of the theory, solves that age-old problem: whether or not to use a hyphen in 'problem-based'. Overall, it's a pretty good article, covering the origins of problem-based learning (PBL) 30 years ago, characteristics of PBL, and contrasting it with project-based and case-based learning as well as inquiry-based learning. [Tags: , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Janelle Allison, Scott Gorringe and Justine Lacey[Edit][Delete]: Building Learning Communities: Partnerships, Social Capital and VET Performance, NCVER [Edit][Delete] August 2, 2006
[link: Hits] According to this post, "VET plays a critical role as the entry point to learning and builds considerable social and other forms of capital in regional communities" but "There is a need for a more holistic approach to training, giving consideration to the continuing learning pathway along which an individual may travel, as opposed to focusing on discrete packages and modules." Fine, but I am always wary of publications that refer to "human capital" as this reduces humans to their financial value, which is utterly ridiculous. [Tags: ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Maame Efua Moses[Edit][Delete]: E-Learning Ghana Launched, AllAfrica.Com [Edit][Delete] [Edit][Delete] August 2, 2006
[link: Hits] As the title suggests, 2Ti Solutions and BusyInternet have launched a site called e-Learning Ghana, featuring about 1,200 courses online. The courses are designed to be low-cost and are targeted toward Ghananian professionals. [Tags: ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Nicholas Negroponte[Edit][Delete]: TEDTalks: Nicholas Negroponte, TED [Edit][Delete] August 2, 2006
[link: Hits] Were you taught to walk? Were you taught to talk? Maybe a little, but you mostly learned this stuff - along with everything else, up to the age of six - without the aid of a teacher. But the internet is changing that, allowing us to interact with the world in new ways, and thus to learn on our own. That's the premise behind the $100 computer, described in this TED lecture by Nicholas Negroponte, just released online. "These kids, their very first word is 'Google', and they only know Skype, they've never heard of telephony."

I like the initiative but I think it could really be sold without the arrogance. Here's Negroponte again: "This is not something that you have to test, the days of pilot projects are over. When people say, 'Well we'd like to do three or four thousand in our country to see if it works,' screw you, go to the back of the line and someone else will do it and then when you figure out that this works then you can join as well." Laughter and applause from the audience at Monterey, California.

Screw you? Is this the face of online learning we want to present to less wealthy nations? That we know best (after all, we tested it in Maine) and it works perfectly? That you will take our belevolence and you will shut up about any doubts or hesitations? I would want to know what the hidden costs of the system are - what kind of broadband infrastructure do you need, what kind of learner supports do you need? And I would say, don't you tell me 'screw you', if that's your attitude it will cause more harm than good. As it has so many times in the past. [Tags: , , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Nigel Paine[Edit][Delete]: Podcasting, Wikis and Blogs: Learning at the BBC, AmbientPerformance [Edit][Delete] August 2, 2006
[link: Hits] Online video with slides presented by Nigel Paine, Head of BBC Learning and Development. After you gt through the introductory material on podcasting, wikis and blogs, you'll hear Paine talk about informal learning. The idea, he says, is to move learning from being something that requires specialized knowledge and specialized people to something we do all the time every day (something I've certainly endorsed in these pages). And I like the idea that BBC journalists can teach people interested in journalism by sharing what they do every day - this is very much the model of future learning. [Tags: , , , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Brett Bixler[Edit][Delete]: Indiana University Forms a Synthetic World Initiative, Penn State Virtual Worlds [Edit][Delete] August 2, 2006
[link: Hits] Edward Castronova writes in an email "to announce the formation of a Synthetic Worlds Initiative within the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University." What's ineresting is that they are mounting what is essentially an in-game expedition (don't forget that quinine!) to investigate virtual worlds. Follow their blog at the Synthetic World News. Or better still, read the blog and find out how to join the virtual expedition. [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Edit] [Delete] [Spam]

Browse through the thousands of links in my knowledge base sorted according to topic category, author and publication.

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Stephen Downes

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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


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