Crichton’s State of Fear

I saw and bought Michael Crichton’s newest book – “State of Fear.” The backdrop is global warming and eco-terrorism. It is long – nearly 570 pages in the paperback version available in India (Rs 250). Crichton is one author I like to read – have read all his last 6-7 books. But increasingly, I have been disappointed. “Timeline” and “Prey” were average. And so is “State of Fear.”

Crichton backs up his hypothesis with excellent and in-depth research and data. But somehow, I get the feeling that the book drags after some time. There are interesting twists, and a strong message about science. Overall, plenty to learn about the world’s weather and climate from the book. But a thriller. A mixed bag.

Learning Networks

From a talk by Stephen Downes:

I had this vision, you see, that the use of learning objects would, in effect, make learning content seamlessly and effortlessly available not only to all students, but to all people in the world who wished to learn, and that the portability and reusability of learning objects meant that we could develop an educational environment where students were not marched in lockstep through a predefined curriculum but instead could have the freedom and capacity to explore the world of learning according to their own interests and their own whims. Learning, genuinely free and accessible learning, could be produced and shared by all.

I may have been in synch with the rest of the world, but it would not last long. While I was thinking of what the educational system could become, the network of publishers and software developers and educational institutions that developed around the concept of learning objects had a very different idea.

Heres what it would be. Learning resources would be authored by instructors or (more likely) publishing companies, organized using sequencing or learning design, assigned digital rights and licenses, packaged, compressed, encrypted and stored in an institutional repository. They would be searched for, located, and retrieved through something called a federated search system, retrieved, and stored locally in something called a learning content management system. When needed, they would then be unpacked and displayed to the student, a student who, using a learning management system, would follow the directions set out by the learning designer, work his or her way through the material, maybe do a quiz, maybe participate in a course-based online discussion.