ICDE International Conference on Distance Education, Conference Video Notes
With the growing and global presence of the Internet and
modern information and communication technology (ICT) distance
education plays an increasing role in creating worldwide and
learning networks. The importance of learning in an
information and knowledge economy was summarized in the speech by
Tom Therkildsen, State Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister of
One example of the close interaction between education and
socio-economic conditions in refugee camps in Uganda, Africa was
described by Twumasi
Sampson , Academic Dean of Bugema University, Kampala, Uganda
Video clips of the opening presentations are also available
Whereas traditional radio broadcast still plays a central role
in distance education in Africa, current developments focus on the
integration of text, image, and sound/video using the SMIL
standard for synchronizing different media. An example for an
tool, used to prepare lectures in medical school, was
presented by Mark
Zaidel, PennSate University (Video).
In the context of social learning conferences have always
played a central role in creating long-range "shortcuts" in the
Small World network of separated clusters of learners. For today's
mega conferences of thousands of participants and hundreds of
presentations, a conference itself turns into a complex,
self-organizing system. The organizers of ICDE 2001 did a great
job in creating a conference website with multiple listings of the
registered presentations that was already online weeks before the
conference. During the conference itself, that information network
collapsed: Although every morning there was a dedicated speaker's
coffee where session chair persons could get an update of which
presentations were actually to be delivered, that information was
not passed on nether to the organizers (or at least the
information desk) nor to the participants. Since based on the
updated schedules many session chairs decided to re-arrange the
talks, this well-intended, organizational support structure
actually back-fired and had the opposite effect of actually
reducing the chance for a participant to attend a talk that was
listed on the schedule. Just as we learned from other complex
system, this disturbance propagated to the detriment of other
important goals of the conference like the personal networking
among the participants (see the video
interview with conference organizer Ana
Perona Fjeldstad). It did not help either that there was no
e-mail address of the speakers included in the conference website.
Therefore one could see participants staring at each other's
name-tags to perhaps find by chance a colleague with whom to
exchange distance education experience face-to-face. A digital
picture of each participant posted on the conference website could
have done wonders in face-to-face networking among the
participants. A message board (with little paper notes) at the
registration desk just doesn't do that job for today's mega
The distance education aspect of the conference was expressed
in the fact that the organizers provided an Internet Area for the
participants; unfortunately it was only a stripped-down version of
the Internet that allowed web surfing and e-mail but neither
file-transfer (ftp) nor real-time video conferencing with
NetMeeting etc. That way it was basically impossible for anyone to
participate in the learning process from the conference without
actually being there in person. "Do what you preach" certainly did
not apply to the ICDE conference.
But there is always hope that even big organizations like ICDE
eventually learn and maybe things will be different at the next
ICDE conference in 2003 in Hongkong. Maybe then conference
participants can even go to the lectures without being forced to
inhale the cigarette smoke of their cancer-risk taking
Excerpts: By studying mice whose brains contain a
composite of neurons that produce normal and longer-than-normal
circadian rhythms, researchers are beginning to understand how
neurons synchronize their oscillatory behavior to control the
body's 24-hour, internal clock.. (…)
Auditing Classes At M.I.T., On The Web And Free, NYTimes
Excerpt: "Called OpenCourseWare, the initiative
found broad resonance among the faculty members (…)
"Selling content for profit, or trying in some ways to
commercialize one of the core intellectual activities of the
university," Professor Lerman said, "seemed less attractive to
people at a deep level than finding ways to disseminate it as
broadly as possible."
Universities have been flocking into "distance learning" -
offering courses online to off-campus paying students - and
commercial ventures have been investing tens of millions of
dollars in the idea."
DLB: A school can build a course around the comparable MIT
material with the local teacher in the role of mentor.
And I do think that local exam centers will be established,
perhaps out of existing libraries, that will certify course
completion. Some institutions might grant degrees based upon
evidence of exam results (ultimate outsourcing: courses from
somewhere, exams someplace else and degrees another place).
There may be a variety of delivery techniques from material
"produced" by MIT and other places.
Editor's note: The value that a prestigious institution adds is
individual tutoring and "quality control" through the process of
granting a degree in their name. Testing and assessment therefore
probably will be under the supervision of the degree granting
The scientists also say that the technique of producing
genetic composite, or "chimeric," mice offers a promising way to
study how cells in different regions of the brain work together to
produce specific behaviors.
Most biological clocks operate on a 24-hour, circadian
(Latin for "about a day") cycle that governs functions like
sleeping and waking, rest and activity, fluid balance, body
temperature, cardiac output, oxygen consumption and endocrine
gland secretion. In mammals, the main circadian clock components
reside in cells in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the brain.
Inside these cells, the molecular components of the clock are
"rewound" daily by the effects of light and other stimuli.
The mice were genetically engineered using a standard
technique for producing chimeric mice. The researchers combined
eight-cell embryos from wild-type mice with cells from embryos
that contained a mutant Clock gene, which produces a loss of
circadian rhythms and a period length of 27-29 hours in homozygous
animals (mice with two copies of the mutant gene).
The scientists measured the chimeric animals' circadian
behavior using standard analyses of the amount of time they spent
on running wheels in their cages. "One of the important facts
established in earlier research with rats and mice was that
individual SCN neurons could generate their own circadian
oscillations in vitro," said Takahashi. "Those experiments were
important because they showed that the circadian oscillator in
mammals is cell-autonomous or cell-intrinsic to SCN neurons."
A second important point learned from earlier studies, said
Takahashi, was that the Clock mutation reduced the amplitude and
lengthened the circadian rhythms of individual neurons in vitro.
Finally, he noted, researchers had found that rats and hamsters in
which the SCN had been lesioned lost circadian rhythm.
Transplantation of SCN tissue restored circadian rhythms in the
All of these earlier experiments suggested that studying
chimeric Clock mice might offer new insights into how SCN cells
work together to generate the animals' circadian rhythms, said
Takahashi. Studying the chimeras would have a considerable
advantage over studying tissue-transplanted animals because the
structure of the SCN would remain intact, he said.
According to Takahashi, however, one of the most interesting
findings was that some of the intermediate chimeric mice behaved
like genetically mutant animals that were heterozygous-that is,
each of their cells contained one Clock-mutant gene and one
wild-type gene. Both the intermediate chimeric animals and
heterozygous mutants showed intermediate 25-hour circadian
"This result argues strongly that cell-cell interactions and
integration of these periods must be occurring in these mice said
Takahashi. "And because the periods in such chimeras are coherent
and stable, the only way to get that is for all the cells to be
Comparative analyses of the chimeric animals by Low-Zeddies
and Takahashi revealed that the period of circadian oscillation
and the amplitude of an animal's activity did not always co-vary.
In contrast, in Clock-mutant animals, the lengthening in circadian
period is always accompanied by a lowering of the amplitude of a
mutant animal's activity.
"We don't believe that anyone has found that period and
amplitude can vary independently," said Takahashi. "Such findings
are so complex and fine-grained, it would not have been possible
without such a very large number and range of animals."
Additional studies will be needed to understand the details
of how SCN neurons coordinate circadian rhythm, said Takahashi.
However, he said, this new strategy represents an important future
direction for understanding the physiological organization of
circadian rhythms. (…)
"Chimera analysis has traditionally been applied to
developmental questions in mouse biology," he said. "But this
study shows that it can also be applied to study how brain
structure governs behavior, which has traditionally been thought
of as too complex a mechanism to study in this way."