Sunday, July 30, 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Inter-Institutional Academic Networks

Summary of a talk by Peter Stucki,University of Zurich, Switzerland,
Bogota, Colombia, July 26, 2006

Bounded conditions to talk:
- I assume the internet is a given
- I know that e-learning is a big challenge

Will report on two projects from central Europe and will show they have an impact on modern learning

Bologna Declaration - common approaches for online learning in Europe
Diagram: implementation of layered study structures in Europe

- implementation in progress, some European countries more advanced than others
- reduction of study length observed, more course offerings
- but testing and administration efforts needed

- teachers have an aversion to using 3rd party e-learning resources; solution: - new method - inter-institution networks
- also, smaller institutions have trouble offering specialized resources; solution: - again, use inter-institutional networks
- also: problem of maintaining high-quality 24/7 access; solution - you guessed it.

Example 1: Swiss Virtual Campus

General strategy:
Support change and not status-quo
Focus on need-to-have, not nice-to-have (eg Internet 2 is nice, not needed)
Conduct development and not research
Practice sustainability and not experimentation

Selection criteria:

- based on there being a network of 3 institutions
- pedagogically correct implementation for use as a substitution for in-class teaching
- clear concepts for quality
- 50% matching funds
- must comply with Bologna declaration

SVC's preferred approach:
- mostly blended learning
- tutor, etc., support

(Some course examples provided)


Assessing Course Implementation of 50 Projects, 200 programs
- the ones that used commercial platforms had much more time to focus on content, and developed better courses
- open source - they forgot to transfer knowledge on the content level
"Altogether these open source programs performed quite a bit less well..."

If you want to run e-learning modules, you have to have cross-institutiona compatibility - we came to the decision that we would like to establish a national e-learning platform of CMS based on WebCT Vista - this was based on
- modern architecture
- academic user model used
- institutional branding
- offers open APIs and standards
- multi-language user support

Example 2

The Bavarian University e-learning Network
- provides full e-learning courses (not blended)

They have institutionalized an e-learning brokerage service based in a city called Hof

The professor develops the course, the broker administers the course and signs students up; profs and students from 25 Bavarian institutions. They get access to tutors and to the professor.

The number of students is growing, new courses are being offered, and by 2002, there were 5000 students, expect 50,000 by 2008

The broker organizes an examination through the professor, the student travels to the institute and takes the exam.


- any academic teacher of a Bavarian university can apply to create a course
- currently 160 course offerings
- currently 10,000 students (more females than males)


- creation of e-learning awareness in Switzerland and Bavaria
- in education and learning, content is based on previous content
- refinement is an interdisciplinary and social process
- content development is not complete until is is disseminated
- not all e-learning resources stand gainst important criteria, eg. pedagogic shortcomings, copyright, etc.

Perception of E-Learning in Central Europe
- educators have difficulty moving away from the status quo
- the students are generally in favour of change, but oppose reductions in classroom offerings
- institutions have limited budget
- industry thinks of e-learning as an important qualification, all news, etc., is delivered via e-learning

Content, implementation, quality, reliability, availabilty: all are key. You need inter-institutional academic networks. Powerful tools support resource and learning development processes. And while there are many bottom-up initiatives, a go or no-go decision must be taken at the administrative level.

Internet 2: Educational Uses of Advanced Networks

Summary of a talk by videoconference by Christina Siroskey (USA),
Program Coordinator, International & Infrastructure Related Activities
Internet 2, Bogota, Colombia, July 26, 2006

I try to bring together collaborators from around the world.

Internet 2:
- 10 years old
- today more than 200 universities who are members of I2
- partner with 36 states with K12 networks connected
- 112 medical schools, etc

(Map of Internet 2)

- institutions connected to RENATA today can connect to Internet 2

Why Advanced Networking?
- to support virtual collaboration, learning experiences
- to access shared resources - eg. immersive experiences, digital libraries, scientific equipment
- optimize the network for research and teaching
- build communities of interest - common platform to develop new uses

Why Faculty Participate
- increasingly specialized information
- access to expertise at remote locations
- multiple learning modalities
- access to resources not otherwise available

Learning Through Experiences
- eg. K12 students exploring underwater at Monterey Bay
- live surgery
- international musical instruction

Sharing Learning Materials

Access to resources:
- United Nations - el ciberbus escolar (cyber schoolbus)
- MIT OpenCourseware

Research Channel
- Consortium of 30+ universities
- HDTV over IP experiments - 200 programs available on-demand
- access to remote electron microscopes

Data Transportation
- eg. Color MRI of a brain - 4.5 petabytes (Arthur Toga, UCLA)

High-Speed Connectivity in Spain and the World

Summary of a talk by Victor Castelo (Spain), Bogota, Colombia, July 26, 2006

I advise you to maintain your RENATA network (as contrasted with private networks)

Comparison between the oute maps of the colonizers and the rout map for connections to South America.

'Know the User' - power law graph of users:
type A - ADSL - limited needs, many users
type B - need vpn servces
Type C - need great bandwith, very few users - "Need very fat pipes"

GLIF (Global Lambda Intgrated Facility) - switching from extreme to extreme, of many to few, is very important - so we want to connect those high-bandwidth users to the genral grid --> regular IP for everybody, but allocates dark fibre for special experiments

e-Ciencia what Spain's evolution will be. (Ack! pfft. middleware)

You totally change your wa of researching - eg the possibility of having virtual centres, with resources distributed.

Supercomputers - one of the elements in a network that a network needs. Eg. MareNostrum en BSC. There are things we were not able to do (snazzy graphics pictures shown) that we are now able to do. Analyzing tapes that would take months to analyze.

- Auger Access - (Argentina?) - so that cosmic rays can be seen
- Also, Astrophysical virtual observatory - astronomer has no need to travel to see personally
- Virtual reality applications for immersion situations (eg. Tsunami relief, people who have phobias are surrounded by cats, chemical compositions)
- Virtual Room Videoconferencing System
- Access Grid (we have one in Moncton)
- IRIS - development of a distribution list - vs. spam
- Movilidad - eduroam - allows for mobility of teachers & students - allows them to access the wifi system - a series of networks based on mutual trust
- digital libraries - the content stays in the network - using P2P artichetures
- Gridlab
- Diligent - middleware to operate info in the network between different institutions - the reserach group creates its own digital library for public info, library info, our own software (??) - all this works in a dedicated fashion
- Tele-education - Isabel - - chat, presentation, video, etc
- ADA-Madrid -
- Ibertel - tries to distribute resources of a given volume using land and satellite routes
- Sakai - and
- Clio -
- remote opera classes - Proyecto Opera Oberta - need greater sound quality, so we use better systems

ICT in Education in Colombia

Summary of a talk by Javier Botero Alvarez, Vice-minister of Higher Education, Colombia
June 26, 2006, Bogota, Colombia

26 percent coverage in HE in Colombia (about midpoint in Latin America)

Revolucion Educativa
- 350,000 new seats in education (target
- time & effort required
- use of new technologies in HE
- goal was to contribute to develop competencies
- system for quality assurance

1. content
2. use & appropriation of technology
3. access and technological infrastructure

- production of quality content - bank of LOs - to be able to make them readily available, so they don't have to begin from scratch - the academic world have been developing these objects - good way to go by promotong the sharing of these learning objects. Last year, held a contest, over 300 were submitted, they're all in the object bank, which can be accessed through the portal
- upper education desktop & portal - developed in May 2004, 186,000 users registered; 125K visits per day
- promoting the use of IT in schools - national centre of education - state of the art distributed system, each institution has its own local administrative zone, and it collects all the information for statistics
- evaluation of objects: we could have put everything in the bank, but they are not assessed, but we prefer to load only objects that have been evaluated, so users can trust the object
- portal - Colombia aprende

- needs assessment
- tutor network (red de tutores)
- teacher training in the learning environment
- studies in the use of new technologies at the management level
- institutions should have a development policy to use the new IT
- it should become a clear fundamental axis for these institutions - so we have worked on a managers' network in the field of new technologies

- we need infrastructure, but it is not enough in itself
- we have to have it very clear what we are going to do, that is why we have to have the content
- high speed network - RENATA - Columbian high-speed network for education, 6 cities connected now
- launched videoconference service through the network
- the policy behind RENATA is that it has to be based on the regional and institutional initiatives
- research network - COLCIENCIAS
- expand access so there is access in all cities of Colombia - want 100 regional centers (so far have 65 centres already created) - these centres have the function of giving access to students, esp. for regions that are marginal


These IT process should be available in all training, and teachers and students must know how to access and take advantage of these new technologies. The interactivity and collaboration spaces are also great; they facilitate teamwork & the redefinition of the teaching process. It's a question of taking the content of a regular class and defining it so it can be downloaded into the network. But the tools are much more powerful now, everything has changed, the pedagogical means as well.

We commissioned a study to give us reliable information. 171 institutes of HE participated (63 percent of total, 40 of 74 universities, 52 of 90 higher ed institutes, etc). Public as well as private institutions. Classified into 4 groups, based on use of IT, increase in use, courses using e-learning or ICT, attitudes of the administration, etc, and the cooperation existing at the institutions & in business.
- vanguard
- cooperating
- self-sufficient
- sceptical

50 percent of institutions have IT policies - this is a serious problem, there must be an institutional policy so it becomes a sustainable strategy

82 percent of universities use tech at the organizational level; 90 percent of universities have or are building an intranet; 67-74% of universities report online; 65 percent of universities have registration online (only 19 percent of technical institutions). All these stats lower for the other types of institutions.

Access to PCs - practically all administrative personnel have access, teachers 96 percent in universities (numbers range 8% and up). Student access - 20 students per PC - about the same at every level. This is a high number compared to international standards. But middle and lower education, 0 to 1. So it's better.

Use in Education

55% of institutions in study do support teachers in use of IT, but 45 percent do not, and this support is very important. Technologies are used fo: online courses on the use of new technologies, teaching using e-learning (47 percent have active courses, 24 percent in development, for univrsities - lower for others). It is more a support function, not the main methodology of delivering a course. And sometimes there are no strategies for ensuring the quality of the course.


There is a weakness in this respect; very few institutions use these to work in a network or collaborative manner, both in material production or design of new program. None is over 35 or 40 percent. International cooperation - the figure is very low, it is only 16 percept that offer international courses. The use of these tchnologies is low in cooperative work; we hope with the use of RENATA perhaps this will improve to some extent.


vanguard - 13 percent
cooperating - 13 percent
ss - 37 percent
sceptical - 37 percent (these are institutions that do not believe in this)

Characteristics of Vanguards
- they have an IT plan
- online registration for courses
- integrated in teaching significant number of courses related to basic and supplementary training
- they have their own allocation of resources for technology
- strategic cooperation with national institutions
- most are universities, and most are private
- 89 percent have an intranet

- 58 percent have an IT plan
- they have some digital servics, such as registration
- technologies are used less, but there is a positive attitude
- they are interested in cooperation with national agencies
- 30 percent would like to offer e-learning, etc

- 64 percent have formal plans
- ITC integrated in teaching
- limited number of e-learning
- positive attitude to ITC
- very littl strategic cooperation with institutions or abroad
- not so much use in teaching, more at the management level
- if these institutions open up, they will probably be vanguard

- limited number of virtual courses
- little cooperation with other institutions
- mostly small institutions, so they have staff and financial problems
- many of these are public institutions, this requires working with the sector
- 14 percent have IT plans
- few have an intranet, few provide access to staff and students
- no online registration, no e-learning
- 25 provide tech support to teachers

The use of IT in education is not something that should be voluntary. It is essential. Using these ICTs the students will become the actor in training; while there is a formal lecture the students may sit and daydream, but when students use ICTs the students will participate. Not to mention the self-discipline which is promoted, which is very useful in the later life.


1. Create a national bank, including institutional banks, with clear quality standards. So they will use these learning objects; they need to reach agreements and promote cooperation.

2. We have to keep teaching teachers, so we can have an education that is not only virtual but all the modes and means. And developing competencies in students, use of these tools as part of their professional development in other schools.

3. A permananent administrative approach, including a plan.

4. Access to infrastructure, including cosolidation of RENATA. We have to broaden access to RENATA within the institutions.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lets ask for peace in the Middle East!

Lets ask for peace in the Middle East!

Jocavc writes: "Its enough of war! Nobody understands that everlasting conflict! Lets all ask for peace!EDIT: I do not live in Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine or even in the USA! I am NEUTRAL! Just want peace. Dont perpetuate those conflicts!EDIT II - Send me a video response (or a pic) asking for peace or supporting peace and i will publish it!Just for fun you can also write the word "peace" in a part of your body and send it to me, i will publish those as well. No "erotic" or PORN stuff..."

Author: jocavc

This is my first test post using Flock. Seems like a good one.

Nirvana - Smells like Teen Spirit

The video by nirvana that started the grunge era. Just because.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Cause of the War

When people accuse Hezbollah of inciting the Lebanon war, consider this, from Chomsky:
Gaza, itself, the latest phase, began on June 24. It was when Israel abducted two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother. We don't know their names. You don’t know the names of victims. They were taken to Israel, presumably, and nobody knows their fate. The next day, something happened, which we do know about, a lot. Militants in Gaza, probably Islamic Jihad, abducted an Israeli soldier across the border.
This little bit of information, of course, is not reported anywhere. It's much easier to assume the terrorist Hezbollah started the war, because they always do. Or at least - we are always told they do.

p.s. Coverage of the Israeli kidnappings, in case you think Chomsky's making it up.

And while we're at it, from Fairness and Accuracy in Media:
In reality, however, since the pullout and before the recent escalation of violence, at least 144 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by Israeli forces, often by helicopter gunships, according to a list compiled by the Israeli human rights group B’tselem. Only 31 percent of the people killed were engaged in hostile actions at the time of their deaths, and 25 percent of all those killed were minors.
I am uncertain how killing children fails to count as a provocation, but that the Palestinian response does, but perhaps I'm just not reading the media closely enough.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Space Between the Notes

On reading Kathy Sierra...

We turn clay to make a vessel; but it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends. - Tao Te Ching

An old insight, often forgotten.

Listening to the recent talks from TED, all these speakers were roaring along at top speed, delivering a hundred words a minute. In my own talks, I speak more slowly (something I learned to do to facilitate simultaneous translation). Why would a professional speaker move so quickly, I wondered, when greater comprehension comes from more paced delivery?

Then I understood. A person who speaks quickly appears to be intelligent, appears to be worth listening to, appears, therefore, to be worth paying to speak. Every speech given by one of these speakers is an advertisement for the next.

It's the same with things, with objects. Greater accumulation conveys the greater appearance of worth. But the sheer mass of objects demonstrates that the only purpose of the one object is the obtaining of another.

In this way, the filling of space results in emptiness. When the purpose of obtaining the one is only for obtaining the next, then you can never have anything.

Monday, July 17, 2006


J. Peter Pham & Michael I. Krauss comment:
Word has gotten round to the anti-Israel coalition: the new talking point is "proportionality." ... The terms "proportionality" and its contrary adjectival "disproportionate" have precise meanings within the context of the classical law of war, meanings that won't get Israel's critics the result they wish, even if they engage in constant repetition.
I don't think any 'talking point' was needed; I think it was pretty much a common reaction to think of Israel's response to the kidnappings as excessive.

One certainly wondered how firing rockets into government buildings and kidnapping government officials in Gaza would help find a missing (and presumed kidnapped) Israeli.

When I lost my keys the other day I thought about getting a handgun and shooting up my neighbours house. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, and I found my keys the old fashioned way: by looking for them.

Even more to the point, the innocent civilians of Lebanon - the four visiting Canadian schoolchildren, for example, killed in an Israeli air raid - must be wondering about jus ad bellum themselves.

After all, the Lebanese people being slaughtered by Israeli air raids are not the people kidnapping Israeli citizens or firing missiles at Israeli cities.

Since when has it ever been justified in military law to punish the actions of one group by attacking somebody else?

That's a lot like the other time I lost my keys. I spent the afternoon looking for them on the driveway. Someone asked me why I didn't look in the bushes where my keys had fallen. "Well, it's a lot harder to look in there," I explained, "and if anybody moves them across the driveway, I'll be sure to see them here."

The fact is, kidnappings by outlaws or otherwise autonomous groups over which a government has no control, or minimal control, do not constitute good reasons for going to war against those governments.

The principle of agency applies in all applications of the law. If country A feels it has reason to attack country B because of event E, then either (a) B must have caused E, or B must have been able to prevent E.

The victims of Israels attacks over the last few days manifestly fail both conditions. Therefore, they are innocent victims. Therefore, Israel is attacking and killing innocent victims in order to pressure third parties.


See also: Tim Bray, who writes, "To those people, and to anyone who wants to write me to defend, at any level or for any reason, the actions of an aggressor, here’s my answer: Want to know the reason children are dying in the Middle East? Look in the mirror."

Hear, hear.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Merit Plan for Teachers

Warrick Wynne writes,
You can’t really have it both ways; that teachers are the critical linchipin of successful schools and should be paid accordingly AND they aren’t responsible at all if students aren’t achieving.
Sure you can; it's a phenomenon known as 'necessary but not sufficient conditions.'

For example, think about what a human needs in order to stay alive: food, water and air. Each of these is necessary. Without it we would die. But none of them alone is sufficient. We need all three to live.

Now imagine the quote, rewritten: ""You can’t really have it both ways; that food is the critical linchipin of survival and should be paid for accordingly AND that it isn't responsible at all if people aren't surviving."

In fact, if you have the best food in the world, and no air, you will not survive, and it is not at all the fault of the food.

The same is the case with teaching.

I've seen study after study that shows that the main predictor of educational achievement is socio-economic status. Children of richer parents do better in school.

We could speculate about why this is the case. I've seen some people argue that richer parents have greater expectations. Others argue that richer parents provide access to books and computers. Still others say that children of richer parents have more free time (they don't have to work) and have fewer disruptions in their home lives.

That said, it does not follow that teachers are irrelevant to their learning. Children of rich parents, if they are not taught, are much less likely to learn. As things are right now, a teacher is the major conduit of learning for a child, no matter what their socio-economic status. This is why teachers are (or ought to be) provided to all children.

What could be said here is that factors both outside the school and inside the school are necessary for aducational achievement. Take one or the other away and learning does not happen. But neither, by itself, is sufficient. A student needs both.

Hence, it can be true to say that teachers are important to shaping student achievement. Without them, students will not achieve. But it can also be true to say that teachers are not ultimately responsible for outcomes. Other factors are essential as well, and teachers can do nothing about them. A teacher cannot, for example, ensure that his or her students have rich parents.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bombing Lebanon

Andrew Pass asks,
"Mr. Prime Minister, if a terrorist organization from inside England continuously bombed France and took French soldiers prisoners and England did not stop it, what would you do?" Even the Labanese admit they do not control the southern part of their country. Should the Israelis simply let Hezbollah bomb away?"
I would think that if people in England were firing missiles at the French, bombing Parliament and Heathrow airport would be the last thing I'd want to do.

For one thing, the killing of innocent people in order to get what you want is wrong no matter who you are.

And for another, bombing a country is not a very good way of getting it to cooperate with you.

This is all the more the case if the people in Britain doing the bombing were originally from France, are there because of a French civil war, and aren't really liked by the British government.

France has outstanding counter-terrorist units (remember the 'Raid at Entebbe'?). I would address these kidnappings swiftly, silently and lethally, the way they can, instead of blindly strinking out against people I know must be innocent bystanders.

In this way, I not only get my people back, I avoid granting the kidnappers the widening of the conflict they are so obviously seeking.

The only reason I can see France would have for wanting to bomb Britain would be to use the spilled blood of innocent people to inflame passions on both sides, and therefore, to spread and prolong the conflict.

I would like very much to believe this is not France's intent. But I find it very difficult to reconcile with the civilian blood that is already on its hands.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


When I was in school, I got bullied. A lot. No need to go into the details; suffice to say that every day was an exercise in a new type of fear.

Ralph James was the most popular kid in the class. He will always be my hero. Part way through my high school years, without explanation, he taught me to box. I thought we were just playing, but we'd strap on our hockey helmets and go at it.

A little later I encountered one of the bullies on the street. I realized by now that I could fight, and decided to stand up for myself. We confronted each other. I took a swing at him.

BAM! The blow to my left forehead stunned me. I had not even landed a punch, and was staggering in the street. I lurched to the side, and went away as fast as I could.

Failure. I could not defend myself against the bullies.

But there was a difference after that. Perhaps a tacit recognition around the town that I would fight back, that I would not allow myself to be pushed around. That though I may be bullied again, there would always be a price to pay. And slowly, the bullying faded away.

My boxing lessons carry another lesson as well.

A while later, Ralph and I were messing around in the barn with Dean, just jumping around in the hayloft. For some reason, I decided to fight Dean, and was able to beat him. Dean and Ralph both asked me to stop, but I wouldn't.

I went around Ralph's place after that, but it was never the same. And I saw the other side of it. The hurt and resentment. And though again it took me a while to sort this out, I realized how wrong I had been. A different sort of failure.

The question of how to get into the Zone is like that, it seems to me. How do I defend myself? How do I learn to fight by not fighting? And there is no easy answer.

It was just last year or so I went to my high school reunion. There was no sign of the four years I spent in that place; it was as though I had been erased from its history.

And from my class, exactly one person attended the reunion. It was Dean.

Dean is a beef farmer now, living on a farm just outside Metcalfe, in a place very much the same as those early days. He greeted me warmly, with fond memories. He was happy to see me. Sometimes you just don't know.

I left my high school reunion with a sense of bitterness, with a sense of loss. How could I have been erased from history? But as time went by, I realized, that the one thing I had really needed from that reunion had been there. That my one real failure had been erased.

The mark you make on history doesn't matter. What other people do - and whether you can succeed or fail in relation to them - doesn't matter.

Your only real failures are failures of character. And even in these, the world can be surprisingly forgiving.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Nikon Ads In The Classroom (2)

Responding to Judy Breck, who writes:
But there are so many, many red herrings that keep public awareness away from the fabulous learning open content that abounds online — and that diminish the incentives of deep commercial pockets to create great learning stuff.
I don't see this as a red herring. I have argued consistently that commercial content and non-commercial content need to be equally accessible.

Promoters of commercial content try at every juncture to keep non-commercial content out of the marketplace. This is because for-profit content for profit cannot compete with free content.

You may say, the commercial content is free content. And it is true, the Nikon content is provided without charge to the students. But it is nonetheless for-profit. It is intended to sway students, at a minimum, toward brand loyalty, and more generally, toward purchasing cameras.

The 'Nikon sucks' example is probably an exaggeration, but again, a Nikon-sponsored site on photography would not be as attractive as an equally well-produced site which is not affiliated with any company. An independent review site produced by a government or a university, for example. Or by students.

Nikon - or agents operating along the same general principles as Nikon - will immediately seek to eliminate this site from the competition. "The government is wasting money duplicating resources," they would argue.

Or if it is student produced: "The students are not accountable," say the lobbyists. "They post inappropriate content. They leave the school open to lawsuits."

This is not a red herring. Look at Channel One, the commerial news service shown in classrooms. The presentation of the news (not to mention the advertisements) is not benign. It is a controlled voice, a controlled message.

Why, one asks, could the school students themselves not produce their own Channel One? What chance has this of happening in any school already subscribed to the service?

Let me be clear. I am not opposed to commercially sponsored educational content. Indeed, as has been correctly pointed out, I have spoken of this and endorsed this in the past. It is an excellent way of meeting educational needs.

But I am at the same time aware of the risks. When a student is suspended from school for wearing a Pepsi shirt on Coke day - as has actually happened - then the opportunities offered by free learning have turned into corporate control.

Yes, corporations may have less incentive to contribute under such conditions. They would like to co ntrol the message. Or at best, they don't care whether or not students and others have equal access. But they'll contribute nonetheless; there is incentive enough. Because their competition will be there.

Indeed, the smart corporations will turn this to their advantage. Once they give up the idea of controlling the message, they will learn to help schools help their students and others make their own message. Look at what Lego is doing that with its Mindstorms project, opening up the source and allowing students to hack the system. Contrast that with Microsoft, which responds to attempts to play non-compliant content on the Xbox with threats of lawsuits.

When we open the schools to corporate content, we need to ensure that we open the schools equally to other points of view, including those of the students. Freedom of speech is something with which schools have difficulty. They will need to learn to adapt.

p.s. My Coolpix 4300 has been with me since 2003. I haven't really treated it well, taking pictures in the rain, at -40 degrees, in the Australian desert, passed around in pubs... it has never broken down and still delivers very sharp high quality pictures, good enough to print and frame and post on my office wall. But yes, I see a D200 or some such in my future.

And All That Stuff

Responding to Jeff Jarvis, who writes:

To dislike a country as diverse as America is misanthropic: America, more than any other state, contains the full range of humanity…

Sounds reasonable, but…

“I’m Joe Smith, I live in Brooklyn, and I’m invading Iraq?”

Nope. It doesn’t work. The fact is, there is an entity called the United States, it does often act as a single entity, and it does things - like invading Iraq - than can be disliked or even hated.

To be sure, stereotyping and prejudice based on nationality or culture would be narrow-minded. I’m sure I need tell no American that!

But this does not render impossible criticisms of the nation as a whole. And when someone posts explicitly defending the nation as a whole, it seems to me, it leaves one open to just such a response.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Nikon Ads in the Classroom

Posted to Golden Swamp in response to this:
Should the NikonNet website here be off limits for students to use to learn photography?
Sure, this site is no problem - however, things get trickier when we start asking about sites that criticize the products. Should students be allowed access to a 'Nikon Sucks' page? Should they be allowed to create one and store it on the school server? How about anti-commercial advocacy sites, like AdBusters?

The problem is, without this balance, then the only messages students see are those posted by companies like Nikon, and this creates a commercial bias in their learning materials. And it is not clear that schools are willing to allow more open content posting - notice that sites like Blogger and MySpace are already banned by most schools. And think about the sorts of legal pressures large companies like Nikon can place on schools over the posting of critical comments, images, or even the name 'Nikon'.

So it's not quite so simple as opening the door. Opening the door is kind of like letting a bull elephant into the playground. Yes, kids love elephants. But there are risks.

p.s. Just for the record, I really like Nikon cameras, I own one now, and my next purchase will be a Nikon.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Stephen Hawking Asks...

How can the human race survive the next hundred years?

I cannot believe you will have the time to read more than 17,000 answers in order to get to this one, but I answer it nonetheless.


Because in posing the question, you have also pointed to the answer.

We know that in order to survive we must reduce our use of resources, we must refrain from global war, we must protect the environment, we must manage in the face of global plagues, and then, if we're lucky, we'll make it.

We are not going to succeed working against each other. We are not going to succeed when we in the west think of China and India as the 'competition' that we have to outperform in order to preserve our way of life.

We need to address the causes of conflict before they start. We need equitable distribution of resources, we need political and social systems that promote harmony, we need freedom and dignity for individuals.

So why do I think this question is important? Because 17,656 people - as of now, three days after the question was posted - have answered.

Because we're going to find (though perhaps only through automated extraction) a great deal of consensus and commonality in the responses.

Because it shows that we want to survive, even if we are not going to be here personally.

This gives me hope.

And that, I think, is where we need to begin. With the desire. With the belief. With the hope.

And then, as so many hundreds of people wrote, well muddle through. Somehow.

Thank you for asking this question, Dr. Hawking, and thank you for the unique opportunity of being able to answer.

Summary of The Metadata Enigma

This is a summary of The metadata enigma, by Ganesan Shankaranarayanan and Adir Even.

Metadata is thought of as a system's data dictionary, capturing definitions of data entities and the relationships among them. But it is much more than this. It is a complex description of data. Here are six types of metadata:
  • Infrastructure metadata, which the components of the system
  • Model metadata, or the data dictionary
  • Process metadata, describing on how the data is generated
  • Quality metadata, the assessment of the actual data
  • Interface metadata, describing how users consume the data
  • Administration metadata, which tracks data usage
It is worth contrast this description with the three types of metadata I describe in Resource Profiles:
First party metadata - production of the resource
- bibliographic metadata
- technical metadata
- rights metadata

Second party metadata - use of the resource
- sequencing and relational metadata
- interaction metadata

Third party metadata - about the resource
- classification metadata
- evaluative metadata
- educational metadata
Continuing with the summary:

When we think of how metadata is used, it is usually for things like search. As the author comments, "Metadata is likely to be useful in rational, data-driven, analytical decision-making scenarios." But what is not clear, he notes, is "whether it provides similar benefit in decision processes that are more intuitive or politically charged."

Various products exist to support metadata. But there are some industry-wide problems:
  • Process and quality metadata are not well supported
  • Little support for business metadata
  • The use of relational or complex proprietary structures
  • Metadata elements tightly coupled with one product or vendor
Design challenges that will become more significant in the future include:
  • Interchangeable metadata formats
  • Metadata exchange and integration - "The market, however, is still split between two competing metadata exchange standards: the Open Integration Model (OIM) and the Common Warehouse Model (CWM). The Metadata Coalition, led by Microsoft, proposed OIM in 1999. At about the same time, the Object Management Group, led by Oracle, promoted CWM."
  • Design paradigms - "An elementary choice is from among the top-down, bottom-up, and hybrid strategies"
  • Metadata quality
Is metadata worth the effort? The anser is not clear, because the benefits of metadata have not been clearnly established.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blog Evangelism

Oh sigh.

I don't have a whole lot of patience with evangelists, at least not with those preaching doctrine with which I disagree. And so I tend to try not to evangelize over-enthusiastically myself.

That said, there is a distinction between criticizing the method - the persistent preaching that grates on everyone's ears - and the message, in this case, that blogs are good and should be used to support teaching.

Now let me be clear. The blog is for me only the most recent incarnation of what may in some senses be styled as 'user-generated media' and in other senses as 'micromedia' - and let's not forget that John Hiler was writing Microcontent News long before blogging per se was a gleam in anyone's eye.

But I sigh when I sigh as I did at the beginning of this article because of the exasperated lament over the excesses of blog evangelism, a lament less restrained than the putative advocate against which the argument rails.

I see no reason why supporters of blogs in learning should roll over before the critics in an effort to be reasonable. Because the criticisms are not reasonable.

Dave Cormier has it all.

Blogging (in its wordpress type form) is probably a transitional technology.

At the moment blogging allows for only a pretty rudimentary interactivity. There is one (or several) central characters, and then peripheral characters. You might argue that in the case of a classroom blog, everybody is a member and primary contributor, but i would say that a learning landscape is better technology for that.

Well yes, of course it is transitional technology. Name me one thing launched on the internet over the last ten years that isn't transitional technology.

The thing to ask with transitional technology is whether it is moving in the right direction. This criticism and response suggests that it isn't. "Blogging allows for only a pretty rudimentary interactivity." Well yeah, but it allows for a whole lot more interactivity than, say, plain ordinary web pages (aka shovelware).

Could it be more interactive? Sure, and people are working hard to make that possible. People, I might add, in the blogging community - and not their critics.

It can, very often, lack accountability

A very clear example of this is during the o’reilly debate some nefarious dude kept coming in and posting that o’reilly was a chaild mohlester. No name. no recourse. Also, people can start a blog on any number of blogging sites and remain anonymous and then slander people.

I find it so ironic (and perhaps intentionally so?) that Bill O'Reilly is used as an example here, yes, that Bill O'Reilly, the same man who pontificates with no apparent restraint on supposedly responsible (and accountable?) media. How many people has O'Reilly accused of being a child molester over the years?

It's pretty easy, and probably accurate, to say that blogs are not accountable. But the people who broadcast and write in traditional media are no more accountable, and they do a lot more damage when they abuse their trust.

It is not, by any means, a silver bullet

There are many situations where a blog won’t suit the needs of the given person.

Actually, it turns out that not even silver bullets are silver bullets. I mean, isn't this a statement that could be made of anything at all? Of course. Which leads me to ask: where is that pundit out there who is actually saying blogs will satisfy every need of every person?

No one (at least not me) is suggesting that blogging should replace good teaching

Blogging, in and of itself, will solve nothing. It will neither make a bad teacher good, nor will it save terrible curriculum. It is one, potentially important or central, but still one piece of the puzzle.

God forbid that we should ever replace good teaching! Why, the earth would open up and swallow us up in fire and brimstone!

I mean, seriously, it depends on what we're trying to do, doesn't it? If my bicycle were broken down, I would in a minute replace good teaching with a good wrench. If I am trying to play a movie, I would trade in the best teacher in the world for a projector. If I'm trying to distribute educational materials around half a world, then I'd rather use the internet.

Blogging, in and of itself, will solve lots of things. It has, for example, already given millions of teen-age girls a place to share their stories with each other. This is a good thing.

The question is whether it solves the same problems good teachers are intended to solve, and whether it does so better than good teachers. For example, blogging gives aspiring writers a worldwide audience. This addresses issues of motivation. Do good teachers address issues of motivation? Sure. Do they give aspiring writers a world-wide audience? Well, no, not typically. So for 'motivation by creating a world-wide audience' we would certainly want to replace a good teacher with blogging.

The question that is really begged here, of course, is whether blogging - or electronic media in general, since nobody actually claims this of blogging per se - can replace good teaching entirely. As though this would be a bad thing.

But think about it. Suppose we could, just by launching blogging software, eliminate the need for every good teacher in the world. This would not merely be a good thing, it would be a great thing! Not because I have anything against teachers. But because teachers are really expensive, and the need for education worldwide is dire. If I could educate all of the Sudan merely by launching well then I'd be coding that site in a minute.

The point is, we should be using highly skilled and individualized manual labour as sparingly as possible, in specific contexts, and only for applications that cannot be easily replaced by a machine, including machine artifacts such as blogs. And it puzzles me that anybody would be suggesting that any proponent of blogging would be proposing anything else.

But asking the question honestly would mean asking something like, will blogging replace bad teaching, or will blogging replace unnecessary teaching tasks? But nobody wants to ask those questions. No indeed.

There are still a number of very important social justice issues around blogging that stop it from being the IDEAL democracy tool.

One is access. Can’t get to a computer, you can’t blog. Don’t have time? can’t blog. The second is the requisite literacy set. If you can’t understand Mr. Rosen’s style of English, or don’t understand the western conventions of argumentation, you can’t play. No matter how much you want to.

OK, if we look at this then the ideal democracy tool is one that (a) creates universal access, and (b) ensures universal literacy. Looked at from this point of view we now need to ask, is anything an ideal democracy tool?

Of course not. Not even democracy ensures universal access and universal literacy, and democracy is a pretty good tool. Small wonder then that the blog would ensure these things. But of course, nobody is claiming that blogging solves these problems. Nor should they have to.

Why not? Because the claim is, "If everybody had access to a blog, we would have a more democratic society." Right? And the response is, "But not everybody has access to a blog." Well, sure. But that's not a problem with blogs, that's a problem with society. To simply deny the antecedent of a conditional like that is to in effect ignore the proposition actually being made.

I mean, consider this statement: "If everybody could vote, then we would have a more democratic society." True, right? But how would we react if someone said, "But not everybody can vote." Does that somehow show us that voting doesn't lead to democracy? Of course not.

Hammers are not designed to address the problem of what you do when you don't have a hammer. No tool should ever be required to satisfy the condition of not having the tool. The same goes for blogging.

Yes. Many of the most vocal bloggers will probably one day work for major media corps.

Actually, if you look at the blogosphere today, most vocal bloggers came from the major media corps.


There is blogging and there is blogging. Good blogging is bound into a community. A community where people aren’t anonymous and are rewarded (read) according to the quality of their work. This is good. Also, it does mean that we have a media that is not controlled in its voice sense, by money. Nasty comments can be moderated out. And blogging can give voices to many people. It can, in its own way, contribute to a more democratic world.

True, blogging isn't the same as broadcasting. A broadcaster can almost ignore the community, or even try to shape and define the community, as he or she sends a one-way message out there into the world. And blogging doesn't work this way.

But good blogging doesn't necessarily bind to a community either. True, it is more likely that members of a geographically dispersed community will find each other if the members blog. But people may well find themselves members of a community of one. This happens. That doesn't make their blogs bad. It simply means that nobody reads them.

The big difference between blogging and broadcasting is that this doesn't matter. What makes a blog is not its audience, is not its market share, is not the nature or size of its community. What makes the blog is its relation to the author. The blog needs to be an authentic, open and honest representation of the person who writes it. That's what makes a good blog.

A lot of stuff follows from that. because authentic voices, speaking freely, can engage each other in a democratic society. They can advance social causes such as education and literacy. They can minimize the self-serving agendas of corporate broadcasters, big money, and big power.

They can do all of these things - but doing these things is not why we blog. We blog because what we want is a free and authentic voice. Because we want, at last, the freedom to be ourselves.

After we established these premises, we had a very productive conversation, and I might have convinced him of a situation in which blogging would be of use in his classroom. To some people telling them they need to do something like blogging, is tantamount to saying they aren’t currently doing enough. We are all salespeople in the new media revolution. We need to be realistic about what we say the technology can do so we can keep encouraging those middle adopters to join the party.

Well, again, I don't really see myself as an evangelist. Now I can say why.

It is because I see something like blogging as being no different, really, from having a free and authentic voice. And what I've come to believe over the years is that you can't convince somebody of the need for this through argument. You don't get people to embrace freedom by forcing them to concede.

But, of course, it has always been that way. You cannot incite a revolution. You have to be the revolution. There is no other way.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Graham's Learning Network

In response to Graham Wegner's request for feedback from his learning network:

What I have found over the years is that online writing, including blogging, can't be something special you set aside time to to, but instead, must be something you do as part of your everyday activities.

What that means, in practical terms, is that whenever I am reading - and I do the bulk of my reading online - I have a blog window open, ready for a quick comment of summary.

I find this is especially important for the type of blogging I do. The bulk of my posts are short item summaries and commentary. This is because my blog is also my resource library - if you look at my resources page you can find about 10,000 items I have posted over the years.

But for a summary to be accurate or a comment insightful, I need to remember, in fair detail, the item I just read. This means that the best time to blog about it is as I read it, or at the very least, as soon as I have finished reading it.

Over time, my reading and blogging time has fit into the routines of my life. For example, when I get up I like to watch the news and read my email while I have breakfast. This is done with a couple of blog windows open, one for my news blog and one for my regular blog.

Another big part of my method is that I do my other work online. For example, I write various research reports, essays and other articles as part of my day-to-day work. I post almost all of these online, and they become part of my blog. Or I'll post links I dig up doing the research, and they become part of the blog.

When I was learning Ruby on Rails, for example, instead of documenting my experience in a private or internal paper, I blogged it, turning my efforts into a four part article. This way I could describe my work, inform others curious about Ruby, and best of all, provide valuable feedback to the Ruby development community (some of whom were dismissive, but the majority of whom were appreciative).

Some of my most popular articles have evolved this way. When I was writing a background paper on RSS for a group of university and commercial partners working on the eduSource project, for example, I took my article and posted it on my site. An Introduction to RSS for Educational Designers.

Blogging isn't just about blogging. It isn't just about writing some stuff online. Blogging becomes most effective when it becomes a way of doing other things, when you take some of the hobbies or work you would normally do in the privacy of your home or office and share the writing - yes, in its raw, natural state - with the world.

It becomes, in this way, not an extra thing that I do, but rather, the way I do the things that I do.

This comment, for example, began as a comment, but is now a blog post. Why? Because I was reading my RSS feed after my evening walk and just before getting ready to listen to the ball game, Graham's post caught my eye, I found I had something to say, I took a few minutes to type it up, and now I have something to share.

It might be a little nothing. But then again, it might be just that something that inspires another article, a day's work, or a career.

Who knows? It has certainly happened to me.

(Oh, and in the best tradition of blogging, this post may be used for any purpose whatsoever - readers are encouraged to reprint, rewrite, repurpose, fold, spindle, mutilate and pass forward this bit of writing.)

Stop Corruption, Sure, But...

Re: When 'The Law' Means 'Corruption'

This was an interesting article, well written, and with far fewer flaws than TCS's usual fare.

It makes some points most people would accept - that there is corruption in the developing world, for example, and that there shouldn't be.

But it's quite a leap from this to the assertion that foreign aid should be terminated and that the United Nations should be shipped to Geneva.

Even if it is true that the U.S. has spent "trillions" on foreign aid, it has not been shown that this money was all wasted on corruption. Indeed, it is arguable that the vast bulk of it was actually spent as intended!

Moreover, the author hasn't shown that the bulk of the payments to corrupt officials originate from foreign aid or U.N. programs.

And in fact, the bulk of corruption comes from the very class least discussed in the article: the network of business, including U.S. based businesses, paying bribes to officials to ensure a friendly political and economic environment.

If there is any source of corruption equal to that conducted by the business community, it is that conducted by the U.S. government itself, which offers its client governments in other countries military support and secret bank accounts with which they may maintain their hold on power.

The author has a lot to say about corruption in the Philippines and Indonesia, but doesn't mention that these countries lived under dictatorships supported largely through American kickbacks and payments.

The author writes, "most American government and business officials hate corruption and would be delighted to expose the miscreants if there was a safe way to do it."

This would be nice were it true. But there's no evidence to support this contention, and with examples like Enron and Haliburton leading the way, plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Saturday, July 01, 2006