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Preview: autounfocus


Nonperiodic oscillation between learning objects, informal online communities, self-organization, peer learning, instructional technology, open source culture, and intellectual property law.

Published: 2004-07-15T11:25:31-07:00


RSS Feed Has Moved


The new RSS feed for my blog is available at:

Last Entry


I’ve finished moving my personal page over to Plone, and have moved my blog over as well (so long, comment spam!). All the permalinks to old entries here on will remain live indefinitely; however, I will only be making new blog entries over at Hope to see you there.

Conference Announcement Online


The call for papers for the 16th annual Instructional Technology Institute is now available online at This year’s program is titled “Reusable media, social software, and openness in education.” Keynote speakers include Larry Lessig, Stephen Downes, and Paul Kirscher. If you’re faculty or a government employee, registration is only $135 for the three day conference, which includes meals! Please spread the word and I hope to see you at the conference in September!

Supporting Student Autonomy Online


I’m linking to a paper (half-paper, really, since I’ll be leading a discussion using it as springboard) including notes I will use to lead a discussion at the “Supporting student autonomy: students’ creation and reuse of learning objects” event at the University of Strathclyde later today. The focus is on social interaction around open content, from self-organizing and game theoretic perspectives. Thoughts welcome and appreciated.

More problems


Ok. I feel really awful interrupting everyone’s service with my personal problems. This guilt for blog-down-time, added to Movable Type licensing stupidity, has led me to an unpleasant decision — shutting down the blog service on

I feel really bad… I’ve loved providing this little service to several of my close friends. Anyway, if you have a blog on, please look into alternate hosting. I’ll wait to actually “pull the plug” until everyone confirms that they have found another home. I’ll be finding another home for autounfocus as well. If you need help migrating your data, let me know. So long movable type.

JIME on the Semantic Web in Ed


The JIME special issue on the Semantic Web in Education is out. Congrats to Terry and Denise on what appears to be one of the more useful contributions to the instructional technology conversation in recent memory!

Meeting David Carter-Tod


So I finally got out to meet David Carter-Tod. Absolutely smashing time. Exceedingly excellent guy. Very excited to hook up with him again sometime soon. Here are some pictures from the VCCS outing to Maymont to substantiate my claim that we actually met:

Me and DCT

Bridge in Maymont’s Japanese Garden

MT Affronts, Offends, Loses


Well, for all of their existence the blogs have been powered by Movable Type. But not for much longer, I guess. This morning 6A announced their new licensing plans. The free version of MT is now severely crippled: “No more than one author and three weblogs.” This certainly puts over the limit, with 12 authors hosting 15 blogs here.

OLS Software Updated


The OSLO Engineering Team today released a new version of the OLS software. The update includes a number of new features based on user feedback and requests:

  • Link to MIT/OCW Materials: Forums now contain a convienent link to the MIT/OCW materials, making it easier for you to reference the materials while participating in the forums.

  • RSS Feeds: RSS feeds are now available for OLS News and Forums to help keep people up to date on the latest postings. See the FAQ for more details about this new option.

  • OLS User Highlight: Particular OLS user profiles can now be highlighted on the front page (Thanks Jamie)

  • Source Code in the Body of Posts: It is now possible to include programming / source code in the body of a post and preserve the layout by using an HTML

  • Total Number of Posts: Total number of posts are now reported on the right of every page to give a better indication of how the community is growing.

  • Vote For Course List Update: The course list in the Vote for new courses section has been updated to include the latest releases by MIT’s OCW team.

  • MIT Course Numbers: Course numbers have been added to the title of forums, making it easier to identify particular courses.

IMS/SSP Comes So Close...


A few years ago I gave a conference presentation about adding collaboration functionality to SCORM. Not many people seemed particularly interested in human-to-human interaction in SCORM (or IMS, etc.), and so I presented a model where such functionality might be “hacked in” via a common roll-up area where arbitrary data (“comments”, “questions”, “answers”, “documents”, etc.) could be stored on a per SCO basis (almost exactly the way our OLS software works with MIT/OCW or Connexions content). Several of “the right people” heard that talk, and I’ve had high hopes since that someone with more time would ammend SCORM to allow social interaction.

So I was extremely happy to hear about the new IMS Shareable State Persistence work. But imagine my disaapointment when I read from the SCORM Application Profile:

Data bucket access is defined to be per learner, with no defined interoperable facility for multi-learner buckets. The LMS must ensure that SCOs requesting access to data buckets only gain access to the appropriate learner’s data bucket.

And then from the Best Practice Document:

This is runtime storage of data not data for reporting or long-term storage.

If this were long-term storage, at least we could hack it to support learner annotations or something that starts to feel social (dialogue with one’s self?). When will we get social interaction in IMS/SCORM? It’s not that hard; or at least it seems obvious to me. Anyone interested in collaborating to create a draft specification?

OLS -- it works!


So today I was stumbling around the OLS site and found the following exchange.
This is it… this is what Open Learning Support is about. autounfocus readers may find this boring or even lame, but I’m just so excited to see an instance of OLS facilitating the kind of interaction we intended that I just had to make a post…

OLS Pilot Goes Live


Our Open Learning Support pilot project went live this morning. There are now seven MIT OpenCourseWare “courses” pointing to OLS communities:

Linear Algebra
Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving
Introduction to Algorithms
Introduction to Optimization
Electricity and Magnetism
Intermediate Applied Microeconomics
Real Estate Finance and Investment

You can also visit the OLS homepage at We’re really excited for today to finally come, and we’re hoping that OLS will have a huge impact on learning around the globe.

But no rest for the weary; even as we bring up OLS and our MIT collaborations, we’re hoping to make an announcement about our next content collection partner before the end of the week.

Scalability and Sociability in Online Learning Environments


This is a draft of a book chapter explaining the theoretical foundations (at a high level) of our Open Learning Support project. Attempts to explain the why and how of informal self-organinzing learning communities in under 4000 words.

Blogs work again


After about a week’s downtime, blogs are now functioning again (yes, everyone, you can now login again!). Many things happening at once here; just back from a super AERA; I’m hoping to make an OLS related announcement next week. Also finished some writing this last week which I hope to post soon… Hijacked!


A kindly phone call alerted me late today that is now running porn links. “Great,” I thought, “we’ve been compromised.” If only that were the truth. The truth is much more painful. Somehow ownership of the domain has mysteriously changed hands. And not only did the thieves steal the domain, they are still running the EduCommons logo at the top and have maintained some of the language from the original site. Effect - to the casual user is still “And oh, what’s this!?! David has porn links on his sites now?!?”

Please remove all links to until further notice. As all WHOIS information for the “new owner” is bogus, any tips or help would be appreciated.