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by Stephen Downes
June 9, 2014

Enclosing the public domain: The restriction of public domain books in a digital environment
Alex Clark, Brenda Chawner, First Monday, June 9, 2014

Picking up a longstanding discussion I've had with people about enclosure, here's a report from First Monday on how commercial publishers make you pay for resources even through they're free and in the public domain. "Using a sample of 100 pre–1890 New Zealand heritage books... of the 50 titles that had been digitized, only three were hosted by repositories that do not restrict any type of subsequent use. Furthermore, 48 percent (24) were subject to access restrictions." While legally readers may have the right to download and repost public domain works, terms of use make this difficult and risky, as policies are applied and penalties imposed without verification. "The widespread application of usage restrictions upon public domain books is characteristic of an online environment where user agreements and terms of service are ubiquitously imposed as a precondition to access content."

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MM4: Online Interviews for Active Online Learning with Janet Salmons
Janet Salmons, WizIQ / MM4, June 9, 2014

I attended this seminar over the weekend on the use of interviews to support learning and had two thoughts that to me are worth recording here:

  • first, it would be interesting to have an online class where the facilitator interviews the participants, rather than invited experts (which is usually the case)
  • second, it seems to me that all interviews, even (perhaps especially) those used in research, should have three participant: interviewer, interviewee, and a third 'audience' or 'observer' person, because it's really impossible to conduct the interview and remember objectively at the same time.

Janet Salmons not surprisingly disagreed with me on the second point, which is fair, and focused more on peer-to-peer interview practice for the former, which is also fair (but an activity which I really thinks a model or demonstration to follow).

[Link] [Comment]

Resignations threat over Taylor & Francis ‘censorship’
Paul Jump, Times Higher Education, June 9, 2014


Another article that suggests publishers aren't simply benign purveyors of academic research, but rather have an interest and engagement in the outcome. Hence this academic paper, which was held back for months, published only after threats of mass resignation, and even then, only published with a large disclaimer stating "the accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sources of information." The paper, drawing on an analogy with the music industry, points to excessively high profits taken by academic publishers, suggests that the ineffective Finch Report is mostly the result of industry lobbying, and recommends that academics take a lesson from the Grateful Dead and give their research away, an activity that would not only eliminate publisher profit but result in more, better and cheaper academic research. Here's the article (13 page PDF). Related: Metafilter thread.

[Link] [Comment]

The Learning Curve: Education and Skills for Life
Paul Kielstra, Pearson, June 9, 2014


This is a fairly basic-level report on some trends in education and skills development, focused mostly on lifelong learning. The full 28-page PDF is available here. While nothing in the report is particularly controversial, the language and emphasis is clearly slanted toward a particular perspective. For example, this reflects an emphasis on economic development and skills, as opposed to personal development and learning: "the OECD estimates that half of the economic growth in developed countries in the last decade came from better skills." Or, for example: "The average time spent in school by a country’s students and the labour productivity of its workers have been statistically linked." This is true when school is the only option, but it on the verge of being disrupted by open learning. So read the report with caution.

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German ‘NSA-proof’ private server raises $1mn crowdfunding in 89 minutes
Russia Today, June 9, 2014


This reflects the increasing trend toward personal privacy as well as suggests the possibility of people hosting internet services in their own homes (something that is not practical with ADSL and earlier internet services, or wireless devices, but becomes feasible with cable and especially fibre-optic connections). "The small team of 23 asked for 100,000 euros in funding ($135,830) to support its products, including a new model of a secure server for small companies, on the German crowdfunding site Seedmatch... In just 89 minutes, the startup raised 750,000 euros (over $1 million), breaking the world crowdfunding speed record registered at Kickstarter."

[Link] [Comment]

New Data Suggests the High Costs of Education is Hurting Families
Jonathan Champagne, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, June 9, 2014

According to this survey from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, "The high cost of tuition and housing is not only straining  students’ budgets, but it is also requiring major sacrifices on the part of families." This is consistent with a steady stream of reports on the impact of the cost of education. This in large part explains why there is such a demand for effective open online learning. Related: another initiative to crowdfund university projects and programs, in another crowdfunding silo.

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Emailed in Error, UVa Law School’s Student GPA Spreadsheet Spreads Fast
Lawrence Biemiller, The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog, June 7, 2014

This item is disturbing on a couple of levels. The first is the now-normal disclosure of student personal information and records. But even more disturbing is the information being collected and distributed to potential employers: grades, class rankings, political affiliation, work experience, recommenders, even information about where their girlfriends live! Why are they even collecting this information? What impact does sending it out (without the students' knowledge, obviously) to employers? Here's the original story on Above the Law (note there are three pages - look to the lower right for the small 'next page' link).

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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