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Mailing Number 46 - 12 December 2004

229 subscribers on publication date. 11527 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.   A useful source of market and academic information. Highly recommended. - Epic plc Email Newsletter, UK.

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iNames. Thanks to Dick Moore for sending me an article explaining iNames, described as a universal private address which cannot get spam. You can buy an iName from 2idi for USD 25. Currently the main purpose of an iName is to enable you to provide people with a means to contact you, and you with a means to release your "real" contact details only to people whom you choose. You could include your iName on a web page instead of your email address, thereby avoiding spam. For example, if my email address was not already easily found on the Web, then I could instead use this contact me link instead on this web site. In the longer term iNames are intended to enable you to store additional information about you (your interests, preferences, e-portfolio, say) and to share and link the personal data you want with other people, businesses, or organizations while "always maintaining strong security and privacy protection".

Penn State University (PSU) cautions against reliance on Internet Explorer. 9 December article from CNET reporting on PSU's advice to students on the insecurity of Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Finland's education system. 23 November article from the BBC contrasting, favourably, the Finnish school system with the UK's, with the OECD judging Finland's 15 year olds to have the highest standards in literacy and in science in the world. If Finnish readers of this Mailing have things to add, let me know. [13/12/2004 - Teemu Leinonen did. Here are the URLs for the OECD press release, the full Programme for International Student Assessment study, and the data tables [50 kB XLS].]

Union modernisation fund. Thanks to Mike Morris for this link to the Department for Trade and Industry's announcement of its 2 month consultation concerning the "£5-10 million" Union Modernisation Fund, which will be used to support innovative projects in areas such as:

  • training union representatives, in areas such as business and people management, to help promote the development of high performance workplaces;
  • reviewing internal union structures and organisation and to support more efficient management systems within unions;
  • enabling unions to broaden their dialogue with members by greater use of the internet and other new technologies;
  • making union systems more accessible to young people and other under-represented groups.

The closing date for responses to the consultation is 1 February 2005.

NHSU hits the buffers. Three articles about the Government's decision to scale down the "National Health Service University" and to merge it into a new NHS Institute for Learning, Skills and Innovation (Nilsi):

The NHSU Board, in an undated statement [23 kB DOC], welcomes the proposed changes.

Meanwhile NHSU has issued an interactive guide to selecting and implementing a VLE from which you can download a Guide to procuring a VLE [256 kB PDF].

Resources [back to top]


Innovate, an online Journal of Online Education. Innovate has gained just over 5000 subscribers in the first two months of publication. Innovate has an enormous (70+) largely but not exclusively US Editorial Board, plenty of whom are influential figures in online learning, including, for example Matthew Pittinsky, Chairman of Blackboard, Inc, and Gilly Salmon, recently appointed as Professor of e-Learning at the University of Leicester, and author of E-moderating: The key to Teaching and Learning Online. James L. Morrison is Editor in Chief, and there is a big overlap between Innovate's Editorial Board and that of the now defunct Technology Source. Possibly this explains Innovate's rapid gain in subscribers. Innovate is free, though you do have to create an account in order to access other than its home page. There are plenty of interesting articles in the current edition, for example:

One aspect of Innovate is the series of webcasts which it organises by the author(s) of published articles.

The use of computer and video games for learning - a review of the literature. This report by Alice Mitchell and Carol Savill-Smith stems from work done in the course of the EU funded Published by the Learning and Skills Development Agency it is available online [266 kB PDF], or free as an 84 page printed report from The 5 questions addressed in the review are:

  • what is the impact of the use of computer and video games on young people?
  • why use computer games for learning?
  • how have computer games been used for learning?
  • what are young people's experiences and preferences in using computer games for learning and for leisure?
  • what are the recommendations for the planning and design of educational computer games (or 'edugames')?

The review excluded any studies not written in English, and any undertaken before 1990. According to the report "many of the areas report contradictory findings, and so it is difficult to be definitive". Disappointingly, no attempt seems to have been made to examine critically the methodology of the studies reviewed. The overall conclusion of the report is that to "date there has been a lack of studies undertaken with young adults using computer and video games who may have literacy, numeracy or other basic skill needs and also little reporting of social and behavioural issues in this age range relating to education of young adults". The best thing that can be said for the report is that it shows that the claims of vociferous advocates of games-based learning should be treated with caution.

ePortfolios: a portal site. The ePortfolio Portal "serves as a resource to assist you in gaining knowledge around the concepts of eportfolios".

Working laterally: how innovation networks make an education epidemic. David Hargreaves, who chairs the Board of Becta argues in a pamphlet jointly published by DfES and Demos that the 'open source' movement provides a model for spreading knowledge about good teaching practice. Note that on 12/12/2004, the discussion area set up to enable comments to be posted about working laterally had been hacked.


The Promise of Accessible Textbooks: Increased Achievement for All Students. Thanks to Karen McCall for pointing out this November 2004 report by Skip Stahl on the US Cast web site. The report's conclusion gives a clear sense of the line taken.

Technological advances during the past fifty years have resulted in alternate format materials, providing those with disabilities new access to a world of information and ideas that traditionally has been restricted to printed text. Consistent Braille formatting, high-quality audio versions, synthetic speech, and electronic text are just some examples. Because it offers significantly increased flexibility and enables rapid transformations from one media type to another, electronic text in particular is emerging as the foundation of a revolutionary approach to the provision of alternate format materials. As that approach is realized, students with disabilities will be provided with a wide range of accessible and individualized learning materials; materials that have been extracted from a single digital source file. The efficiency of this approach is immediately apparent, and while there are numerous legal, commercial and technological issues to be overcome, everyone stands to gain from achieving a solution.


Time zone converter. If you need to fix a call with someone in a different time zone, you can use this time zone converter to quickly work out the time in the other time zone.

HTML tidy. HTML Tidy is a tool for checking and cleaning up HTML source files. Here is a superbly flexible online version.

Cool semantic web tools? The Knowledge Media Institute's Enrico Motta clearly thinks so. Some of them definitely are.

Oddments[back to top]


Saturn's moon Mimas

Beautiful photo from the Cassini probe of Saturn's moon Mimas against the planet's northern hemisphere, with the shadows cast by Saturn's rings. More pictures from the web site of the Cassini probe.

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Last updated - 7/5/2006; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

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