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Mailing Number 56 - 24 July 2005

288 subscribers on publication date. 15405 page-views since publication.

This opt-in roughly 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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Full ALT Conference Programme published. The Association for Learning Technology, for which I work half-time, has published the full programme for ALT-C 2005, its 2005 conference, which will take place in Manchester between 5 and 8 Septembers 2005. ALT-C has enough depth and breadth for an astute delegate to be able to plot a varied, interesting, and rewarding course through it. The booking deadline is 12/8/2005.

Sheila McKechnie Foundation. Last week I was in Dollar Park in Falkirk, Scotland, for the unveiling of a bust of Sheila McKechnie, who died last year of cancer aged 56. During the mid-1970s I was involved with Sheila in setting up Hazards Bulletin, now published as Hazards Magazine. Sheila, who described herself as (and was!) a fully paid up member of the awkward squad, moved via the union ASTMS, to direct the housing charity Shelter, and then the Consumers' Association, where she had an immense impact on, for example, food safety and on pensions mis-selling. The Sheila McKechnie Foundation has been set up in Sheila's memory and will run an annual developmental awards scheme for campaigners. The Foundation is now taking in-kind offers of help, and cash donations.

Modernising with Purpose: a manifesto for a Digital Britain. Published on 14/7/2005 by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), and written by William Davis, who runs the IPPR's Digital Society and Media Programme, this 80 page report contains, as well as a "manifesto", an interesting and deep analysis of:

  • modernisation - the benefits of digital innovation;
  • checks and balances - legal and civic constructs which are required (e.g. to protect citizens against technical failure inducing personal information to be shared against their will);
  • the impact of digital innovation on the relationship between individuals, civic society, and democratic institutions.

Each of the report's three main chapters contains half a dozen or so "principles of intervention", each of which is justified in some detail. For example, those relating to legal and civic constructs are as follows.

  • Controls placed on innovation can themselves spawn innovation.
  • Support choice over a citizen's level of engagement with the digital age.
  • Trust is not always dependent on identification.
  • Decisions about how to handle data within government must ultimately reside with people, not ICT.
  • Effective privacy protection is often the best form of security.
  • Educate about the digital age, don't just train for the digital economy.

A web log was used during the research and consultation for the report, from where you can access a diverse range of relevant papers, and get a clear sense of the report's genesis. Of particular interest to some readers of Fortnightly Mailing will be what the report has to say on "federated identity", that is a system in which a trusted third party - the Cooperative Bank, say - holds a wide range of personal details, parts of which the data-subject makes available to different service providers, which are thus only allowed to know facts adequate to deliver their own services. Download page for the full report.

Divergence between Scotland and England in public-sector e-learning. It is interesting to compare these two stories. The first concerns the Scottish Funding Councils, which fund both Higher and Further Education, and has asked JISC to manage a 6 million R&D investment in e-learning across both sectors. The second is a 5/7/2005 Guardian report on the English Learning and Skills Council's decision to cut its funding to the JISC (reported in Fortnightly Mailing Number 55) thereby withdrawing, largely, from much of JISC's development work.

Mobile phones in economic development. Two articles in the 7/7/2005 Economist arguing, again, that when it comes to bridging the "digital divide", the mobile phone, not the personal computer, has the most potential.

See also the Economist's 10/3/2005 article the real digital divide.

Resources [back to top]

Usability and accessibility archive. System Concepts is a long-established UK firm providing consultancy, training and research into ergonomics, health and safety, human factors and usability. Their web site has an archive with a large number of relevant articles. The site contains some relevant examples of non-usability, of which this is one:

No keyboard present - press F1 to continue Explanation.

e-Portfolios. Educause has published An overview of e-Portfolios by George Lorenzo and John Ittelson, which "defines and categorizes e-portfolios, offers examples of higher education e-portfolio implementations, reviews e-portfolio technology, and addresses adoption issues".

Managing projects. I reported in Fortnightly Mailing Number 51 on JotSpot, a commercial wiki service to support collaborative working, which the TUC has used for its online course development and management manual. I recently heard a presentation about managing software development projects which extolled the virtues of Trac, developed by Edgewall Software Services in Sweden, and which has been "designed with one single goal, to simplify tracking and communication of software issues, enhancements and monitoring overall progress". My 1-page handout about project management in multi-partner development projects [60 kB PDF], from the same session, may also be of use.

Personalisation. Last year I worked with Nicky Ferguson and Neil Smith for JISC on a report called Personalisation in presentation services. Neil Smith has written a new powerpoint presentation based on the report [500 kB PPT] for an event earlier this month in Cambridge.

Oddments[back to top]

Stingray Nebula

Stingray Nebula sheds its atmosphere into spaceImage: M. Bobrowsky/Orbital Sciences/NASA

This recent Hubble telescope picture of the Stingray Nebula shedding its atmosphere into space is from a new New Scientist web site which is devoted entirely to Space.

War is never smooth and easy. A wide range of political postcards are available from Gathered Images, for example one showing the shrinking of Palestine between 1946 and 2004, or the one below. [23/8/2005 - temporarily unavailable.]

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Last updated - 3/11/2005; © Seb Schmoller, but licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

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