Monday, September 25, 2006


Martin points to a terrific education technology blog by Michael Feldstein, called e-Literate.

Feldstein seems to have written quite extensively on the Blackboard patent and has provided an excellent 'english translation' of the legalese in the patent claims. He mentions a promising bill making its way through Congress at the moment, that I wasn't aware of, called the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DO IT) Act.

"There is a bill in committee in both houses of the U.S. Congress right now. It’s called the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DO IT) Act. I just published an article with the details, but the gist is that it would take the estimated $20 billion in proceeds from the impending sale of analog television spectrum and put it into a trust for developing digital content and technologies for education. The annual interest on the trust is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $1 billion. That’s one billion dollars. Every year. Going toward creating educational content and educational technology.

But it gets better. The R&D roadmap for the Trust, developed by the Federation of American Scientists (an organization composed mostly of Nobel laureates), hits all of the hard stuff that we may never get right without proper funding--intelligent tutoring systems, immersive simulation authoring tools that are usable by faculty, robust integration standards--you name it.

Best of all, any technology funded by the grant is released to the public domain by default. (The Trust’s board can approve exceptions if necessary, but the policy is to release the software to the general public unless there is a strongly compelling reason to do otherwise.) Think of a billion dollars a year of prior art being created and documented as a wall against EduPatents. For that matter, think of a billion dollars a year of new digital content and teaching tools. This could fundamentally change the landscape for e-Learning."

Sounds amazing, if only it gets through the Congressional legislative minefield unscathed and then the money can be used with sufficient intelligence, energy and creativity. So far we've been doing a fair job, sometimes, in getting the technologies to compliment what we already do in education. But we haven't really even scratched the surface of the things the technology could help us do better, or tapped into the new environments these technologies are creating or could create if we applied sufficient imagination, even just to harness some the emergencing properties of these technological systems.

As Martin is fond of saying, the places where technology compliments or parallels what has gone before are interesting but even more interesting are the gaps - the places where our metaphors for the technology don't quite work. Where are the differences, the disontinuities, the latent ambiguities, the puzzles and opportunities and how can we exploit them for positive ends in the educational context.

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