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by Stephen Downes
September 14, 2007

The Chronicle Spots the Dark Side of Second Life Usage
Bryan Alexander picks up on some more 'fear and trembling' coverage from the Chronicle, this time describing Second Life. "You see someone really playing out the self that they want to explore," she says. "It's not always who they want to be. Sometimes they can be exploring a dark side of themselves." Meanwhile, I've been following the discussion on the Second Life for Educators mailing list on a longer - and very negative - report by Michael J. Bugega in the Chronicle's hidden pages on Second Life. Chris Collins writes, "I'd characterize it as a scare article, and not very well informed." Raven Phoenix writes, " The short bit I was able to read is definitely geared to scare readers about Second Life. *sigh*" She adds, "I am having enough of a problem getting the word out to faculty where I am, already, without little-informed or misinformed media chiming in." I tell you - if the Chronicle writers opened up their pages for general public criticism, they probably couldn't take the heat. Bryan Alexander, Infocult: Information, Culture, Policy, Education September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Successful Finding and Feeling
Tom Haskins continues with his PLE redux, concluding with this: "We make a thing of PLE's to do battle on the same turf as LMS/VLE things. We speak passionately about PLE's because they represent freedom from failure mode. But PLE's perpetuate unsuccessful finding and feeling until they are regarded as a process and no-thing. How is your finding and feeling going right now?" See also this description of PLEs as four processes in harmony. Tom Haskins, growing changing learning creating September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Fair Use Economy Represents One-Sixth of U.S. GDP
Numerous citations for this report, stating that fair use exceptions are worth trillions of dollars to the U.S. economy, many times more than copyright content. Coverage from Information week Press Release, Computer and Communications Industry Association September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Tablet PC Articles Available
I have always thought well of tablet computers, even though they've been overshadowed recently by things like Facebook, Second Life, and the iPhone. I still think they have a good future, and so I welcome this issue of the IEEE Computer magazine (this link, available only for a short time, is circulating inside Microsoft and HP, natch - if you don't get to it before they shut off the taps, send me an email). Anyhow, as the research here shows, tablets are being used for some useful applications - thinks like smart sketching, sharing digital ink in classrooms, and more. Alfred Thompson, Computer Science Teacher September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Worth a quick look - Learning Portal is offering YouTube style audio and video lessons for sale. "The company enables content publishers to distribute valuable training and eLearning products to a global community of interested learners." The intent here is to make it easy for content producers. Bill Hornbeck writes, "The key item here is that participation requires no upfront fees. We upload the selected offerings that are delivered to us on DVD. The content owner sets the price they wish to offer for the presentation." So far, target markets appear to be both families; pricing is all over the map. Various Authors, Website September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Advantage New Brunswick
The big news here in New Brunswick is the release of the government's new post-secondary education plan. I just finished reading it. It is in general unimaginative. This represents the problem with establishing policy by 'stakeholder' consultation. Some of the things I agree with. Some I don't:
- I don't disagree with the creation of Polytechs. I think they'll serve a useful function.
- I don't disagree with cutting the satellite campuses. NB has a tendency to spread things out too much.
- the ND PSE Commission is essentially a provincial accreditation board, and hence reasonable.
- I would have gone further and made the four remaining instances of NBCC separate institutions, which their own (self-chosen) names.
- I think there should be tuition cuts, but I support the conversion of loans to grants.
- I support spending an additional $50 million on the PSE system.
- I support requiring private institutions to satisfy quality requirements.
- I am disappointed that distance education merited only a couple of paragraphs, and online learning no mention at all (they didn't even spell 'Athabasca' correctly).
- I think NB would have been better off setting up an independent DE institution, because UM and UNB won't support distance education - this is evident even in the commission's remarks, that "care should be taken not to duplicate an educational opportunity that already exists in a cost-effective and accessible manner" which by definition for these institutions is all of them.
- We need to continue the emphasis on attracting international students, especially through online and distance learning.
Comission on Post Secondary Education in New Bruinswick, Government of New Brunswick September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Guidelines for the Creation of Institutional Repositories at Universities and Higher Education Institutions
This is quite a good report that deserves a wide readership, especially among its target audience in Latin American Universities. It outlines the process of creating institutional repositories, describing their purpose, typical contents and potential authors. It looks at content management, including metadata, copyright issues, software and quality control. I found the discussion to be well-informed and precise. For example, instead of simply stating that the repository would contain 'learning objects' the authors note that "The concept of learning objects is now evolving into more dynamic, granular and re-usable realities." This is quite true - and something you would learn not from product brochures but rather a depth of knowledge and experience in the area. Numerous details like that throughout the paper confirm for me the quality of the overall presentation. The paper was announced though the JISC list, where you can access versions in English, Spanish and Portugese. Atilio Bustos Gonzalez,, Alfa Network Babel Library September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , , , , ] [Comment]

72 Optical Illusions and Visual Phenomena
Another optical illusions page. I've been working through the examples over the last few days. What I really like about this site is than not only does it present the now familiar illusions, but that it also provides explanations for the phenomena and links to the scientific papers describing them. My favorite is this illusion - not so much the effect created by the occluders by rather the effect created by looking elsewhere on the page. Via Peter MacKay. Michael Bach, Website September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

The World Is Now Closed
There is a world of difference between the sentence "You have no friends" and "Your xBox says you have no friends." One is a statement of fact about the world. The other is a statement about the xBox's understanding of the world. Of the two, only the second is likely top be true. Social networking sites do not have some sort of special knowledge about the world, and according to the author, they shouldn't communicate as though they do. Attribution of statements will become increasingly important. Think, again, of the difference between "This post is a great read" and "According to Stephen, this post is a great read." As we seek to communicate more sophisticated (and more useful) statements, we will need to express them appropriately. Via email from Danny Ayers. Danbri, danbri's foaf stories September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

Facelifts for the Facebook Generation
Pretty soon, the cutting edge technologies we've been describing here will become routine on college campus websites. "In short, Web designers in higher education are starting to embrace the grab bag of technologies loosely referred to as 'Web 2.0,' a realm in which streaming media are readily available, people can share or remix content and communication is always a two-way street." Andy Guess, Inside Higher Ed September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Blackboard Releases New NCR Point-of-Sale Registers
This is a side of Blackboard we don't hear about a lot, being overshadowed by the LMS business. In addition to the cash registers, Blackboard sells "secure door access to buildings and residence halls, cashless payment on and off-campus, access to laundry services, parking and copy services." Via University Business. Press Release, CR80 News September 14, 2007 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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