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by Stephen Downes
August 17, 2007

Facebook As LMS?
Interesting idea. Christy Tucker writes, "I've seen a lot of research about the value of creating a learning community, and I think using social networking could help create that community." Well and good. But are you going to manage learning in such an environment? And the main benefit, to Tucker, is that learning in Facebook would be collaborative. "Heck, it's even an improvement if we make sure that all our discussion board assignments actually encourage discussion and/or debate and aren't just used as galleries or bulletin boards where everyone posts a variation on the same ideas and talks past each other." Is this the benefit Facebook offers? Would this improve learning? No, I think that the answers are more subtle than that. Related: RSS feeds on Facebook, and has Facebook abandoned privacy?, both from Steve O'Hear. Christy Tucker, Experiencing E-Learning August 17, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , ] [Comment]

XML-Based Office Document Standards
There has been a huge blow-up in the standards world recently (you should see the pile of documents I got through my Standards Council of Canada account) on the subject of open (XML) document standards. Microsoft used to basically own this field, as its proprietary (binary) Office format was the de facto standard. But industry pressure is forcing even Microsoft to open up. But the standards wars continue as Microsoft squares off against its rivals on exactly which sort of XML to use. The authors of this JISC report on open document standards write "There is an urgent need for co-ordinated, strategically informed action over the next five years, if the higher education community is to facilitate a cost effective approach to the switch to XML-based office document formats." I don't agree. What the use of an open standard allows is for people to use whatever documetn authoring software suits them the best - the idea is that you don't have to have a "co-ordinated, strategically informed action". This is the big economic advantage of open standards - decisions that used to carry considerable financial risk (VHS or beta, say, or HT or Blu-ray) now carry much less of a risk. All of that said, do read the report - the authors are right about the need to be informed. Walter Ditch, JISC August 17, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , ] [Comment]

CIA, FBI Computers Used for Wikipedia Edits
This has caused a bit of a stir. "People using CIA and FBI computers have edited entries in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia on topics including the Iraq war and the Guantanamo prison, according to a new tracing program." You'll probably find (ahem) some Government of Canada computers there too. Of course there are the critics. Sceptics like Gary Stager ask, "How will you explain this to your computer literacy students?" Simple? You tell them that governments, and especially unethical governments, have always manipulated the media, embedding their view of the world in everything from books to newspaper to films and television. The difference now, though, is that this propaganda can be counteracted by user edits at the source. Randall Mikkelsen, Yahoo News August 17, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

OpenID: Great Idea, Bewildering Consumer Experience
"It's way, way too hard to get started. All the sites supporting OpenID point curious users to the home page for the OpenID Foundation. From this site, it's actually stunningly difficult to find a link to a place where you can actually get an OpenID." Quite right. And don't even ask about the developer documentation. Things will get better, though. It's a very simple concept, at heart - one of these days I'll write an article giving my view on things, and maybe that will help. Jan Miksovsky, flow|state August 17, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Allows you to add voice narration to a slide show composed of photos. Various Authors, Website August 17, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

VeriSign's OpenID SeatBelt Plugin
This is a good idea. One danger with OpenID - as with any login system - is that some site might try to fool you into thinking you're signing in, when in fact you're sending your userid and password to thieves. They do this by 'phishing' with phoney email warnings, and online, by redirecting you to fake versions of your OpenID sites. This product, by verisign, helps protect you. It keeps track of whether or not you are logged in - if you are logged in, any request for your password is a phoney. If you are not logged in, it prompts you to log in, so you aren't accidentally tripped up by a spoof site. This, as I say, is a good idea - and it shows how something like OpenID is going to be a lot more reliable than the current system of multiple logins for multiple sites. Via Simon Willison. Unattributed, Verisign August 17, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Its My Privacy, or Is It? (and What It Means for Our Students)
Vicki Davis describes a service called Imtellus that sells detailed personal information, everything from phone and social security numbers to maps, criminal record checks, credit reports and more. "It relates in every sort of way. Stalking just got a whole lot easier as did predatory behavior. It means that our children's and our own names have become even more important!" What I think is important to remember is that this information has always been available, it has just become cheaper to access. Your children aren't suddenly in more danger and you are not suddenly at greatly increased risk of identity theft. And I don't think we can create secrets out of things like our names, our addresses and our phone numbers (much less things like criminal records). People always think that greater barriers will protect them - but in my experience, the societies with the most crime always seem to be the societies with the most - and the highest - walls. Vicki A. Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog August 17, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Teaching with Tech: Does It Work?
Another one of those articles saying that, since using technology to the exclusion of all else results in bad habits, technology use should be sharply limited or eliminated altogether. The focus is on Tom Oppenheimer, author of The Flickering Mind: Saving Education From the False Promise of Technology, another anti-tech book, the latest in a string of similar works. This one created a stir on the WWWEDU discussion list . I like Ted Nellen's response: "oh I am sorry [Tom] and others just don't see the beauty of three dimensional learning the technology gives us over two dimensional learning most of us suffered through." Adam Hunter, MSN August 17, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Why Does My Feedburner Subscriber Count Fluctuate?
People who think they need a service like Feedburner in order to know how many people are subscribing to their RSS feeds should be aware that RSS aggregator services these days are reporting, as part of their 'user agent' description, the number of subscribers to a given feed. This information is then placed into the server logs. See this item for a description. Darren Rowse, ProBlogger August 17, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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