Microsoft Open Sources .NET, Saying It Will Run On Linux and Mac | WIRED

This is a sign of what appear to be some remarkable seismic shifts at Microsoft. To be fair, Microsoft has long been a contributor to open source initiatives but .NET was, until fairly recently, seen as one of the crown jewels only slightly less significant than Windows and Office, which makes me and the writer of this article wonder whether they might be heading towards open sourcing these at some point (Windows mobile version is already free, albeit with many provisos, terms and conditions, but that’s just common sense otherwise no one would use the substandard pile of pants at all).

Note that they are apparently only open-sourcing the core of .NET, which is not that wonderful without all the accompanying framework and goodies. The open source Mono project has provided this functionality for many years thanks to Microsoft’s wisely open approach to treating it and C# as a specification rather than a completely closed technology in the first place but, and it’s a big but, there are few Windows .NET apps that can run on Mono under Unix without some significant tweaking or acceptance of limitations and bugs, because so much relies on the premium libraries, controls and other proprietary closed tools that only paying Windows users can take advantage of. It’s much better than it used to be, but Mono is still a shim rather than a solution. I’m guessing there are few that would use it in preference to, say, Java unless their primary target were Windows machines or they were inveterate C# or VB fans.

This is probably not a sign of deeper openness, however. Microsoft, like most others in the industry, clearly see the future is in net-delivered cloud-based subscription services. Azure, Office365, Skype, Exchange Online etc etc are likely to be where most of the money comes from in the years ahead. .NET is nothing like as effective at locking people in than providing a service that handles all the data, communication and business processes of an individual or organization. Moreover, if more .NET developers can be sucked in to developing for other platforms, that means more that can be pulled in to Microsoft’s cloud systems though, to be fair, it does mean Microsoft has to actually compete on even ground to win, rather than solely relying on market dominance. But it does have a lot of cash to outspend many of its rivals, and raw computer power together with the money to support it plays a large role in achieving success in this area.

The cloud is a new (well, extremely old but now accepted and dominant) form of closed system in which the development technology really shouldn’t matter much any more. I worry a great deal about this though. In the past we were just locked in by data formats, closed licences and closed software (perniciously driven by upgrade cycles that rendered what we had purchased obsolete and unsupported), but at least the data were under our control. Now they are not. I know of no cloud-based services that have not at some point changed terms and conditions, often for the worse, few that I would trust with my data any further than I could throw them, and none at all that are impervious to bankrupcy, take-overs and mergers. When this happened in the past we always had a little lead time to look for an alternative solution and our systems kept running. Nowadays, a business can be destroyed in the seconds it takes to shut down or alter a system in the cloud.

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Agoraphobia and the modern learner

Abstract:Read/write social technologies enable rich pedagogies that centre on sharing and constructing content but have two notable weaknesses. Firstly, beyond the safe, nurturing environment of closed groups, students participating in more or less public network- or set-oriented communities may be insecure in their knowledge and skills, leading to resistance to disclosure. Secondly, it is hard to know who and what to trust in an open environment where others may be equally unskilled or, sometimes, malevolent. We present partial solutions to these problems through the use of collective intelligence, discretionary disclosure controls and mindful design.

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Professor forces students to buy his own $200 textbook

This article is actually purportedly about the very unsurprising discovery that students who can’t afford textbooks are downloading them illegally, even for ethics classes. Shocking! Not. However, the thing that really shocks me about this article is the example given of the professor demanding that his students purchase his own $200 etextbook. Piracy seems a pretty minor crime compared with this apparently outrageous, blatant, extortionate abuse of power. 


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Teaching Crowds: Learning and Social Media

The free PDF preview of the new book by me and Terry Anderson is now available from the AU Press website. It is a complete and unabridged version of the paper book. It’s excellent value!

The book is about both how to teach crowds and how crowds can teach us, particularly at a distance and especially with the aid of social software.

For the sake of your health we do not recommend trying to read the whole thing in PDF format unless you have a very big and high resolution tablet or e-reader, or are unusually comfortable reading from a computer screen, but the PDF file is not a bad way to get a flavour of the thing, skip-read it, and/or to find or copy passages within it. You can also download individual chapters and sections if you wish. 

The paper and epub versions should be available for sale at the end of September, 2014, at a very reasonable price. 

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Book: Reusing Open Resources

Now in print, a new and interesting edited book by Allison Littlejohn and Chris Pegler on open educational resources, (disclaimer: includes a chapter by me and Terry Anderson).  Apart from us, Allison and Chris have gathered a great bunch of people together to explore issues from some distinctly learner-oriented perspectives, and across a broad range of contexts, including informal and non-formal learning as well as in formal education.

If you want to get a good flavour of the kind of chapters it contains, and in keeping with the subject matter, a few selected chapters (including ours) have been published openly at

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Journal of Interactive Media in Education – Open for Learning Special Issue

A special issue of JIME on open learning with 5 chapters (full disclaimer: including one by me and Terry Anderson) from a forthcoming book edited by Chris Pegler and Allison Littlejohn, ‘Reusing Open Resources: Learning in Open Networks for Work, Life and Education’.

I’ve skimmed through the pre-publication draft of the book from which these articles are taken and (not counting our own chapter, about which I may be a little biased) I’m impressed. It has some very important topics, some excellent authors, and a great pair of editors. Deserves to do well.

Terry and I were concerned when responding to the call for chapters about the irony of a book on openness appearing as a closed publication. It is therefore very pleasing that, at least for these five chapters, it is walking the talk. JIME is a fine journal and has been open since it was unfashionable to be so, so I am delighted to at last have an article appear there and congratulate Chris and Allison on a job very well done.

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Five myths about Moocs | Opinion | Times Higher Education

Diana Laurillard chipping in with a perceptive set of observations, most interestingly describing education as a personal client industry, in which tutor/student ratios are remarkably consistent at around 1:25, so it is no great surprise that it doesn’t scale up. Seems to me that she is quite rightly attacking a particular breed of EdX, Coursera, etc xMOOC but it doesn’t have to be this way, and she carefully avoids discussing *why* that ratio is really needed – her own writings and her variant on conversation theory suggest there might be alternative ways of looking at this.

Her critique that xMOOCs appear to succeed only for those that already know how to be self-guided learners is an old chestnut that hits home. She is right in saying that MOOCs (xMOOCs) are pretty poor educational vehicles if the only people who benefit are those that can already drive, and it supports her point about the need for actual teachers for most people *if* we continue to teach in a skeuomorphic manner, copying the form of traditional courses without thinking why we do what we do and how courses actually work.

For me this explains clearly once again that the way MOOCs are being implemented is wrong and that we have to get away from the ‘course’ part of the acronym, and start thinking about what learners really need, rather than what universities want to give them. 

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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a MOOC | The Seven Futures

Charming variant on a Wallace Stevens poem, replacing the blackbird with the MOOC. A little heavy on metaphor and simile here and there but makes a lot more sense than most scholarly articles I’ve read on the subject of MOOCs, and I’ve read really too many of them.

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IGI Global: Open Access

This is a very interesting development. I’ve not looked fully into the fine print but it looks on the face of it as though IGI, publishers of my first book and a number of chapters and articles I have written over the years, may have seen the light and is partially moving to an open publishing model, with free and open sharing and a creative commons licensing structure. This is big news as IGI is quite a significant player in the academic publication market.

Formerly, IGI’s draconian terms and conditions and shameless profiteering at the expense of hard-working academics have put me off working with them ever again but this looks like something that might well change my mind. At the moment it is in beta and looks like it is intended only for papers, but I applaud them for taking this initiative and hope that it will be extended into their book publishing business too.

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Killing stupid software patents is really easy, and you can help

I’ve very rarely come across a software patent that is not really stupid, that does not harm everyone apart from patent trolls and lawyers, and that is not predated by earlier examples of prior art.  This article explains how anyone can easily put a stop to them before they do any damage. Great stuff.

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