Arrived in China

After a long but uneventful trip I’m in China with Melissa Zhuo from Clarement McKenna and Xingtang Wu from Indiana. More later on the content of our meetings but, as you’ll see, it’s a bit of a pain to blog from here.

I like to carry a magazine or two with me on an airplane. They are perfect for the indefinite amount of time between boarding and take-off. My typical favorites are The New Yorker, Harpers and Wired (a guilty pleasure, to be sure). I recently picked up a copy of The Atlantic Monthly, in which James Fallows’ recent article (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/chinese-firewall) describes China’s internet content filtering system in some detail. This piqued my interest, obviously.

I’m staying at a Western hotel chain (Sheraton Great Wall) and getting internet access was simple. It’s a bit slow, but no more so than at some hotels in North America. After sifting through my emails I checked in on my blog to correct an earlier error in a post I had made. I couldn’t get there as the connection timed out. This is one of the behaviors that Fallows’ describes as resulting from one filtering strategy. Essentially if your IP address is on a forbidden list, the Chinese system issues a reset command to both client and server. I can’t be sure that’s what’s happening, but Fallows does say Blogspot is on the IP blacklist. Perhaps WordPress, where I have my blog, is there too.

Next came PlanetSakai. I got there and was able to read most of the posts. But when I tried to go back later I definitely encountered a problem. Instead of friendly images of Sakaiger, Dr. Chuck and Ian Boston, I got redirected to some search page that has something to do with yahoo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mkorcuska/2297271568/

So how am I getting this post out? I’ve used remote desktop to connect to a machine in San Francisco. I could also have used VPN (although my current VPN setup doesn’t send general internet traffice through VPN so it didn’t actually work in this case), which is an obvious loophole in the system. Fallows article talks about the system being effective despite this. Getting VPN is inconvenient and expensive for your average Chinese citizen and, so, it is just easier to rely on content that is inside China instead of going outside.

So, my apologies if I decide it isn’t worth doing another post until I get to Spain.

Blackboard-Desire2Learn Verdict

As you probably have heard by now, Blackboard received a favorable verdict in its patent lawsuit against Desire2Learn. In addition to a financial judgment of approximately $3.1M, the verdict allows Blackboard to ask for an injunction preventing D2L from selling its product in the United Sates until D2L either negotiates a license from Blackboard or modifies its product to avoid infringement. To my knowledge, Blackboard has not yet asked for this injunction and it is unclear whether the court would grant the injunction. D2L could certainly appeal the verdict, which means this particular thread of activity will be going on for some time.

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Sakai 2.5.0 Nearly Ready

I’m very pleased to announce that we’re swiftly approaching the release of Sakai 2.5.0. Peter Knoop’s update describes the excellent progress that has been made over the last few weeks and months.

On behalf of the entire Sakai Community I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard in bringing this to fruition.  The Sakai community has addressed over 1200 bugs and completed over 300 enhancements. I especially want to highlight the efforts of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, who has been running the 2-5-x branch in production since December. This has allowed us to identify and eliminate a number of critical issues along the way. A special thanks also to those individuals who worked with UCT to quickly address their issues.

Speaking of South Africa, Anthony Whyte will be spending some time there visiting and helping several Sakai schools. Look for some updates on his activities there over the next couple of weeks.

I’m headed to Wuhan, China for the first Sakai Conference in China. On the way I’ll stop in Beijing and visit a few universities there. I’ll then be in Valencia (presenting at the CRUE conference there as well as visiting the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia) and Barcelona (where I’ll be visiting LaSalle University).

I’ll actually be circling the globe. Which sounds kind of cool until you look at the actual itinerary: San Francisco to Vancouver to Beijing to Wuhan to Beijing to Frankfurt to Barcelona to Valencia to Barcelona to London to San Francisco. Some of these are just airport stops (Vancouver, Frankfurt and London) but I think I’m going to be pretty tired of airplanes (and all of it in economy class, the foundation is a small non-profit, after all). And I know I’ll be wishing for internet connectivity on airplanes.

Harvard Open Access

Harvard University faculty of Arts and Sciences voted last week to approve an open access policy for scholarly research.  By default, research articles will be published on-line and available for free. The faculty member will retain copyright and can opt out of the system.  A couple of good summaries can by found at the NY Times, Bloomberg and in a Nature Publishing Group blog (be sure to read the updates at the bottom of the blog, as the author makes some clarifications).

I think the following quote summarizes the underlying intention nicely:

“In place of a closed, privileged and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn,” said Robert Darnton, director of the university library. “It will be a first step toward freeing scholarship from the stranglehold of commercial publishers by making it freely available on our own university repository.”

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eTech Ohio

I just returned from the eTech Ohio annual conference, where I was a featured (not keynote) speaker. My talk was fairly well attended given that it occurred during the lunch slot, although nothing compared to the overflow attendance of the morning’s keynote speaker, Ray Kurzweil, who I’ve admired since my days of studying artificial intelligence. The conference was extremely well run, the staff was very helpful and the exhibitor floor was large (maybe half the size of Educause). I saw Wimba on the floor and stopped by the Blackboard booth but nobody was there.

eTech Ohio is government agency that supports K-12 technology. In addition to running one of the largest educational technology conferences in the Midwest (over 6000 attendees and an exhibitor floor that looks about half the size of Educause, actually), they partner with their higher education counterpart, the Ohio Learning Network, which has helped a number of Ohio schools run Sakai pilots. The partnership between eTech and OLN has recently taken form in, among other things, the Open Learning Partnership Ohio. Check them out.

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Sakai UX Improvement Project gets rolling!

I’m extremely pleased to announce, after a extensive selection process, that Nathan Pearson has been selected as the lead for the Sakai UX improvement project. Nathan is an experienced UX designer with previous Course Management System and Sakai experience. Nathan is based in the Phoenix, Arizona region and has previously worked with both rSmart and Unicon. You can find out more about Nathan’s background at the UX Improvement Project wiki page.

Please join me in congratulating Nathan and welcoming him to the community…

Sakai Podcasts from Educause

At the 2007 Educause Conference in Seattle, several Sakai community members were interviewed as part of the Educause Podcast Series. Educause recently released a few more of these and they are worth checking out. I was interviewed and was quite impressed with the questions they had prepared. They even pronounced my name correctly.

In any case, here are the links for the podcasts that are tagged with “Sakai”: