The Need for High DL Standards Will Raise Standards Across America

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

American Education is controlled by a strong belief that local control is essential. The legislative authority is vested in state and not federal governments. The federal government does not mandate that state and local communities have a school system. It simply mandates that if there is a school system all children must be free to attend that system.

After the Civil War, the Supreme Court allowed segregated school systems in the South. They were supposed to be separate but equal, but they were not. There were some schools for Afro-American students that were excellent, but the majority were poor with poorly qualified teachers and often either no or outdated textbooks. In 1954, the Supreme Court in Brown vs. the Board of Edcuation ruled against segregated schools. They did not say that a community or state had to have schools; they did, however, say that if they did, all children must be eligible to attend.

Collage. Top: May 17, 1954  Topeka State Journal, with  'School Segregation Banned' across the page - text description: Bottom: quotes from the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, available at .

There is a strong belief that local control is the most important aspect of American public schools. However, some communities have larger tax bases and therefore can afford better schools. To offset this inequality, states provide funds to equalize costs among local school districts. However, this does not completely equalize funding across states so the federal government provides compensatory funds. However, even this does not equalize costs. Some states have a significantly larger tax base and consequently a higher per pupil expenditure. Continue reading

Copyright and Disability: WIPO Consensus Document

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues
ETCJ Associate Administrator

The ongoing – June 15 to 24, 2011 –  22nd session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR/22) of the World International Property Organization (WIPO) is addressing, once again, the problem and removal of copyright barriers to accessing knowledge and information by people who are blind, sight-impaired or have other print disabilities.

In fact, copyright laws are national and — so far — international treaties and legal instruments have systematically aimed at globally reinforcing prohibitions, and rich countries, upholding the position of the content industry, have always opposed  globalization of copyright restrictions in favor of people with disabilities, alleging that if  they were officially globalized by WIPO, this would lead to further restrictions in favor of other groups.

A book about to fall into a rat hole, with rats watching

From David Hammerstein's “I just called to say I want to read” post about a former discussion of a WIPO Treaty for the Blind, Visually Impaired and People with Print Disabilities. Site of the IP Policy Committee of the The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD). Sept. 25, 2010.

Continue reading

Google Book Search Settlement Unfair to Non-US Authors

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues

Of Books and Vegetables

I first thought of calling this post “Of Books and Vegetables” because, when I half woke up the morning after I sent a letter of objection to the Google Book Search Settlement, I remembered Ms B. and the building site for a middle school in Cortona. The building activity had stopped just after the ground had been cleared, due to blocked funds. So for two years,  Ms B., who lived on the other side of the street, used it  to grow very tasty tomatoes and zucchini No one objected to this private exploitation of  the site: it would have been silly to waste its potential, and Ms B. generously shared her vegetables with friends and neighbours. When the funding issue was solved, the building started again and her vegetable patch was bulldozed.

I chose a more conservative title because the analogy with Google scanning out-of-print works in libraries is imperfect: if a big canning industry, instead of Ms B., had started to grow vegetables on the building site,  the borough of Cortona would probably have tried to levy a rental for this use. But the principle remains: it is silly, even immoral, to waste potential revenue – especially if its exploitation will serve the public.

Challenging or objecting?

So I did not object to the Google Book Search Settlement for the same proprietary reasons as the eminent cultural personalities who signed the Heidelberg Appeal (English textGerman text with signatures):

Comic where someone says: Well, I'll be cross-eyed, Billy Goat! Cattle rustlers! This explains th' strange noises in th' ghost town above --- No wonder it was called Whispering Walls

Actually, I did not mean to object: at first I only challenged the Settlement Registry’s classifying as  “not commercially available” the Google scan of  Theatre of Sleep, an anthology my late husband Guido Almansi and I had edited and published with Pan Books in 1986 – and for which, after his death in 2001, I was the remaining mentioned copyright holder.

The physical book has indeed been out of print for years, but it contains many excerpts from in-copyright and commercially available works, which we had obtained permission to use in – and only in – the Pan Book version. Even if the Settlement foresees the possibility for right holders on such excerpts to claim them and forbid Google to display them, some right holders might not know about the Settlement, or not remember exclusive permissions granted decades ago; besides, the search engine of the Settlement registry often does not find the authors of such excerpts. Under our initial transactions for Theatre of Sleep, I am answerable to these right holders – no pact between parties who had nothing to do with these transactions can change this.

Another reason not to allow Google to display even the rest of the anthology under the Settlement’s conditions was the absolutely unacceptable digital restriction of what – paying – users would be able to print or copypaste from Google books. Such digital restriction measures just don’t work: in Copying from a Google Book, I show how easy it is to do so even with theoretically thus restricted works. And if users pay for an e-book, they should be able to do what they want with it for personal use. So I made an unprotected e-version of what was legally offerable in Theatre of Sleep, and uploaded it  in, an in-progress version because I will re-add in-copyright texts when I get permission again.

Foreign authors and the Settlement

I could have left things at that, without objecting to the Settlement. But Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive pointed out in an e-mail that many people who are hit by the Settlement and utterly dislike it do not object because it is too complex and they have no legal training. This is my situation too, so I included the excessive complexity of the Settlement in my objections.

Theatre of Sleep An anthology of literary dreams - Guido Almansi Claude BéguinThen there was another reason for objecting. Guido and I also did an adaptation of Theatre of Sleep for the Italian readership – Teatro del Sonno – which was published by Garzanti in 1988, is out of print, and has been scanned by Google. For that one we had ceded the copyright to Garzanti, mainly because we did not want to send the permission requests all over again and Garzanti could do that more easily.

But Garzanti has not yet claimed Teatro del Sonno under the Settlement. Its editorial director explained to me that Italian publishers have chosen to wait for the result of the Final Fairness Hearing about it, in case it results in its invalidation: due to the imprecision of the Registry’s search engine, checking what Google has and has not scanned is very time-consuming. Though they are very displeased with the Settlement, Italian publishers are not objecting either, apparently. Above all, they are not systematically informing their authors about the Settlement.

Considering what little info non-US media gave about the Settlement, we are left with the impression that it was a US-only affair. However, this lack of information puts non-US authors at risk. As Mary Minow explained in Google Book Settlement, orphan works, and foreign works (LibraryLaw Blog, April 21, 2009):

The largest group of non-active rights holders are likely to be foreign authors. In spite of Google’s efforts to publicize the settlement abroad, I suspect that most foreign rights owners of out-of-print books will fail to register with the Registry.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  For one, they may not know that their book is still protected by copyright in the US.  In addition, they may assume that international network of reproduction rights organizations would manage their royalties, and not understand the need to register separately. . . .

If there is an injustice being done in the settlement, it is with foreign authors.

Also, if foreign right-holders do not object to the Settlement, how is the US Court to know that they disapprove of it?

Letter of objections

Hence my letter of objections, below. Not because I think they are representative of non-US objections, but because I believe it is important that non-US right-holders object to the Settlement if they disapprove of it, even if their reasons are very different. The deadline for doing so is Sept. 4, 2009, and for the modalities, see 24. How can I object to the Settlement? in the Settlement’s FAQs.

Direct download links: PDFODT


I have gathered / am gathering some bookmarks about the Settlement in Several of those, in particular about its repercussions outside US, come from the very useful Google Settlement Information, Documents, News &  Links page in Michael W. Perry’s Inkling Books.


By order of appearance:

Meet the Endless Summer – A Review of ED-MEDIA 2009

Stefanie_Panke80By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

The 21st annual World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (ED-MEDIA) attracted 1200 participants from 65 countries. A diverse crowd, including K-12 teachers, university faculty members, researchers, software developers, instructional designers, administrators and multimedia authors, came together at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel from the 22nd to 26th of June with a common goal: to share the latest ideas on e-learning and e-teaching in various educational settings and at the same time enjoy the aloha spirit of tropical Oahu, Hawaii.

Organized by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), the annual conference takes place at varying locations in the US, Europe and Canada. Thanks to funding by the German Academic Exchange Agency, I was able to join my colleagues in Hawaii to present two current research projects on social tagging and blended learning and en passant absorb the international flair and information overflow that go together with a packed conference program.


The attendees experienced a full program. In addition to various invited lectures, 210 full papers and 235 brief papers were presented, complemented by numerous symposiums, round tables, workshops and an extensive poster session. The conference proves to be exceedingly competitive with an acceptance ratio for full paper submissions of 37%, and 56% for brief papers. Eleven submissions were honored with an outstanding paper award. My favorite was the work of Grace Lin and Curt Bonk on the community Wikibooks, which can be downloaded from their project page.

Beginning with Hawaiian chants to welcome the participants at the official conference opening and the local adage that “the voice is the highest gift we can give to other people,” audio learning and sonic media formed a recurring topic. The keynote of Tara Brabazon challenged the widely held perception that “more media are always better media” and argued for carefully developed sonic material as a motivating learning format. She illustrated her point with examples and evaluation results from a course on methods of media research (see YouTube excerpt below). Case study reports from George Washington University and Chicago’s DePaul University on iTunesU raised questions about the integration into learning management systems, single-sign-on-procedures and access management.

Among the invited lectures, I was particularly interested in the contribution of New York Times reporter Alex Wright, who reflected upon the history of hypertext. The author’s web site offers further information on The Web that Wasn’t. Alan Levine, vice-president of the Austin based New Media Consortium, clearly was the darling of the audience. Unfortunately, his talk took place in parallel to my own presentation on social tagging, but Alan has created a web site with his slides and hyperlink collection that gives a vivid overview on “50+ Web 2.0 ways to tell a story.”

A leitmotif of several keynotes was the conflict between open constructivist learning environments on one side versus instructional design models and design principles derived from cognitive psychology on the other. Stephen Downes advocated the learning paradigm of connectivism and praised self-organized learning networks that provide, share, re-use and re-arrange content. For those interested in further information on connectivism, an open content class starts in August 2009. This radical turn to free flowing, egalitarian knowledge networks was not a palatable idea for everyone. As an antagonist to Downes, David Merrill presented his “Pebble in the Pond” instructional design model that — similar to “ADDIE” (analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation) — foresees clear steps and predictable learning outcomes. Tom Reeves, in turn, dedicated his keynote to a comprehensive criticism of multimedia principles derived from the cognitive load theory, picking up on an article by Kirschner, Sweller & Clark (2006), “Why Minimal Guidance Does Not Work . . . .” The audience, in particular the practitioners, reacted to this debate true to the Goethe verse “Prophet left, prophet right, the world child in the middle.” As Steve Swithenby, director of the Centre for Open Learning of Mathematics at Open University (UK) posted in the ED-MEDIA blog: “Well, actually, I want to do both and everything in between. I can’t see that either is the pattern for future learning – both are part of the ways in which learning will occur.”

With blog, twitter feed, flickr group and ning community, the conference was ringing with a many-voiced orchestra of social software tools. Gary Marks, member of the AACE international headquarters and initiator of the new ED-MEDIA community site, announced that he has planned several activities to foster interaction. So far, however, the few contributions are dedicated to potential leisure activities on Hawaii. The presentation “Who We Are” by Xavier Ochoa, Gonzalo Méndez, and Erik Duval offered a review on existing community ties of ED-MEDIA through a content analysis of paper submissions from the last 10 years. An interactive representation of the results is available online.

Twitter seems to have developed into a ubiquitous companion of conference talks. Whether the short messages add to the academic discourse and democratize ex cathedra lectures or divert the attention from the presenter, replacing substance with senseless character strings, is a controversial discussion. Accordingly, twitter received mixed responses among the conference attendees and presenters. In the end, 180 users joined the collective micro-blogging and produced approximately 2500 postings — an overview may be found at Twapper. As a follow-up to this year’s ED-MEDIA, participants were invited to take part in an online survey, designed by the Austrian/German twitter research duo Martin Ebner and Wolfgang Reinhardt. The results will hopefully further the understanding of the pros and cons of integrating microblogging in e-learning conference events.

The AACE used ED-MEDIA as an occasion to announce plans for future growth. Already responsible for three of the largest world-wide conferences on teaching and learning (ED-MEDIA, E-LEARN and SITE), the organization extends its catalog with two new formats. A virtual conference called GlobalTime will make its debut in February 2011. Additionally, the new face-to-face conference GlobalLearn targets the Asian and Pacific regions.

Is ED-MEDIA worth a visit? The sheer size of the event leads to a great breadth of topics, which often obstructs an in-depth discussion of specific issues. At the same time, there is no better way to gain an overview of multiple current trends in compact form. Another plus, all AACE conference contributions are accessible online through the Education and Information Technology Library. The next ED-MEDIA will take place in Toronto, Canada, from June 28 to July 2, 2010.