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Mailing Number 40 - 26 August 2004

214 subscribers on publication date. 14129 page-views since publication.

This opt-in usually Fortnightly Mailing summarises resources and news I come across in the course of my work which I think will be of value to others with an interest in online learning and the internet. An always useful guide - Stephen Downes, Canada.   There is something for everyone in these mailings - Jane Knight's e-Learning Centre, UK.   Recommended reading - Caroline Kotlas - CIT Infobits, USA.

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E-guidance conference. Dave Cotton drew my attention to this interesting looking UKP 199 1-day conference on 16 September in London, with UK and US speakers. According to the publicity for the event the conference will be addressing practical and strategic issues surrounding e-guidance. "By the end of the conference, delegates will have a clearer idea of the wide applications and client groups that E-Guidance can be used for, as well as a greater awareness of the key E-Guidance skills, best practice and strategies for developing your own E-Guidance service provision". The stated booking deadline is 26 August, but the organisers tell me that if you book by 1 September you will almost certainly get a place.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Carol Twigg, who runs the influential Center for Academic Transformation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has written a sharp and convincing critique of Bill Massy's and Bob Zemsky's Thwarted Innovation: What Happened to e-learning and Why [1.8 MB PDF], which I featured in Fortnightly Mailing Number 39. Carol's article deserves widespread distribution.

Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an open-content encyclopedia in many languages. The English version started in January 2001, and contains over 0.3 million articles, created by its users. Here, via George Siemens, is an informative Slashdot interview with Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales. Some readers will definitely be interested in the comprehensive usage statistics which Wikipedia publishes, including graphs of Wikipedia's current traffic, updated every five minutes.

Blackboard goes public. Blackboard, which with WebCT is a dominant supplier of learning management systems, became a publicly listed company in June 2004. This article from the Washington Post discusses Blackboard's ownership structure, highlights the 50% rise in the share price since June, and comments on the way in which shares were traded shortly prior to Blackboard going public. For readers accessing this item well after its publication, here is a link to Blackboard's current share price.

Newham Council signs up for Microsoft after all. Last Autumn London's Newham Council looked set to start a large-scale deployment of OpenOffice, an Open Source alternative to Microsoft Office. However, earlier this month, Newham signed a 10-year agreement making Microsoft the council's software provider of choice. This article from The Register explains the background to the agreement, hinting that the original Open Source plan may have been used as a negotiating tool to get a better deal out of Microsoft.

Workflow learning - a new buzz word/term? Two related links concerning "workflow learning", claimed to be the next big thing in corporate e-learning, in which businesses which make use of "workflow optimisation" to give their staff access to dynamically generated, individualised, learning content exactly tailored to their (and their employers') needs. Hmmmmmm. Disruptive Technologies Spark Upheaval in Corporate Learning Technology. Workflow Learning Symposium 2004.

Resources [back to top]

Understanding metadata. Thanks to Jonathan Grove of Futurate for Understanding Metadata [160 kB PDF] from the US National Information Standards Organisation. Packed into its 16 pages are a comprehensive glossary, a large number URIs of relevant web sites, a brief overview of what metadata is and what it does, as well as clear outlines of relevant metadata schemes including Dublin Core and the IEEE's Learning Object Metadata standard. My main regret is that the document is available as a PDF rather than as HTML.

Synthesis of Sloan-C Effective Practices. Published in July 2004, this excellent link-rich summative report [280 kB PDF] by Janet C. Moore synthesizes effective practices in online learning submitted by Sloan-C members that have been reviewed and are currently listed in the Sloan-C Effective Practices online collection.

Discussion papers from Nesta Futurelab. Three new discussion papers from the UK:

Personalisation. Personalisation in presentation services - a report commissioned by JISC, and published in August 2004. I had a hand in this report, along with Nicky Ferguson and Neil Smith. It contains a literature review, a discussion of personalisation issues, conclusions, recommendations, bibliography, and various appendices. Available as HTML or as a downloadable 850 kB PDF.

Sending faxes, free, by email. Apologies to readers for whom this may be old hat, but if ever you need to send a fax by email then, provided the fax number you are sending to is a conventional one, you can do it as follows.

  1. Write the text of the fax, without a cover sheet, as an email.
  2. Address the email to . You can, if you wish, address the email to multiple fax numbers, or mix fax numbers with email addresses in successive "to" fields in your email programme.
  3. Substitute the name and organisation of the intended recipient separated by "/" for "recipient_name" in the email address. For example putting "George_Bush/The_White_House" will result in the fax's cover sheet saying
    Please deliver to:
    George Bush
    The White House
  4. Substitute the fax number(s) including the country code(s) as well as the area code(s) minus the first zero for "fax_number" in the email address(es).
  5. Send the email, which will arrive at the fax machine(s) whose number(s) you have given, within minutes rather than seconds.
  6. Helpfully you get a delivery confirmation emailed to you once the fax has been delivered.

The service appears to work in most parts of the world, and on delivery of the fax you will receive a confirmation email. For more information see the TPC Fax web site.

FCKeditor. Via Stephen Downes comes Frederico Caldeira Knabben's Open Source text editor for the web. FCKeditor is an HTML text editor which "brings to the web many of the powerful functionalities of known desktop editors like Word", and which is "lightweight and doesn't require any kind of installation in the client computer".

Oddments[back to top]

Infothela. A 2003 idea from Media Lab Asia, Infothela is a mobile unit meant for providing and exchanging information through fax, internet, telephony etc. "The idea of designing an infothela is to provide, exchange information at village level where fruits of modern technology have not reached yet. The factor of mobility is of utmost important here as the thela can move from place to place in a day and one or more cluster of villages which are situated 3-4 kms apart in general and thus the thela can provide its services to all those villagers."

UK lightning strikes. Should you feel like going on line during a thunderstorm you can obtain a regularly updated map showing where the thunderstorms in the UK are and how strong they are from the lightning strikes area of the metcheck web site. Much more interesting in stormy than in quiet weather....

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Last updated - 8/1/2005; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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