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Are virtual worlds the future of the classroom? | CNET

Are virtual worlds the future of the classroom? | CNET

In this good article from CNET, the concept of multiuser virtual environments, or MUVE, is discussed.

Below is a quote from the article:

MUVE is a genre of software games created to inspire children to learn about math and science, among other subjects. Unlike most game software and social networks, which elicit negative associations for some parents and teachers, MUVEs are structured environments with rules for behavior, yet no pat formula for action. Designed to provide problems to solve that don’t involve slaying monsters, MUVEs compel kids to figure out the issues to succeed in the environments or have time to socialize.

I’m really interested in this. In Denmark there’s a serious gap here. To the best of my knowledge nothing even closely similar to the Whyville virtual world, that is being discussed, exists.

Educational games should include some kind of social experience, and the possibility for the children to work together towards a common goal.

Projects like Whyville, that provides content from a number of private and public institutions looks like a good place to look for inspiration.

The Danish perspective

All this made me think of the situation in Denmark.

In Denmark the computer use is quite widespread, even in the classroom, but they’re mostly used to teach children skills like Microsoft Office. And if you observe that the children do when they’re sitting in front of a computer, well they’re mostly engaged in playing mindless games, using a MySpace like service called Arto or MSN Messenger.

To put this into perspective, this weeks edition of Harddisken, a Danish radio show that is also available online, visited a Danish school, Skovvangsskolen in the Copenhagen suburb of Allerød.

Skovvangsskolen is very proud of their integration of IT into the classroom, and the fact the school is participating in the so called “Pupils ICT License”, link to a PDF document in English. The school has also developed a lean version of the ICT License (ITC License pixi version – a pun on the cartoons for kids called pixi books).

So what’s wrong with that? Well nothing really, and the school is quite open about their programme. But when I look into the details I’m not too impressed. For one, the web-site is basically empty, nice navigational links but there’s no related content. The goals of the ICT License looks nice, especially the part about information searching and the evaluation of sources are really important.

But if you listen to the tasks that the children are focusing on, it’s things like downloading nice fonts for their PowerPoint presentations, and they were also quite proud that they knew about advanced features of Microsoft Word. And the teachers were saying that learning skills like the detailed workings of the Microsoft Office tools is very important for the children to learn. This really doesn’t fit too well with the intention to teach the children to pick the right tool for the right job, if you only introduce them to a few specific products, instead of teaching general skills.

The quality of the educational games that do exist, in Denmark at least, is, to the best of my knowledge, also generally quite low, focusing on very basic skills.

I think that we need a Danish Whyville.

Blogs Bookmarks Kim Blog (English) Open Source Technology

Format Wars: OpenXML Developer

OpenXML Developer

OpenXML Developer is a web-site dedicated to developers of OpenXML applications. The OpenXML format is Microsoft’s proposed open document format standard. OpenXML will become the default file-format for the next version of Microsoft Office, Office 12 or Office 2007.

OpenXML, or “Office 2003 reference schemas” is often seen as a strategic move by Microsoft to try to take attention away from another proposed document standard, the OpenDocument Format (ODF), that is backed by the ODFAlliance.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I really fail to see the need for more than one standard, and I really hope that Microsoft decide to support OpenDocument. For now Microsoft has said that they will leave implementation of ODF to 3rd parties.

One thing I find interesting is that OpenOffice.Org, most likely will have support for OpenXML, as well as ODF…Just another reason to switch.

Looking at the content of the OpenXML Developer site, I can see that sections dedicated to Linux and Mac OS developers has been added, but the samples that are present right now is limited to Java and .NET, and it looks like Microsoft will be adding special APIs to .NET that aims to simplify creation of binary content, e.g. attachments, and the source code for this will (I’m willing to take a wager), most likely, be closed.

Where OpenOffice.Org shines, is that it’s implementation of ODF is Open Source, and having an open reference implementation makes it relatively simple to write ODF applications that will remain compatible.

Microsoft is claiming that OpenXML will ensure backwards compatibility with the old DOC format(s), this sounds quite strange, Microsoft could have decided to build on ODF, and then make their own extensions.

So what is Microsoft’s motives. I believe that they have several:

  • Keep undocumented binary information in the documents that only Office 2007 will support.
  • New lock-in strategy, OpenXML will replace DOC as the default format, history shows that the users that have upgraded quite quickly will start sending documents in the new format, forcing the reciepients to upgrade.

It will be interesting to see that happens in the format wars. A good resource, somewhat biased towards ODF though, is the excellent Groklaw site.

For now ODF has a huge lead over OpenXML. Office 2007 has been delayed, and by the time it ships, it’s likely that ODF has been ratified by ISO. OpenXML is using the ECMA organisation to gain a fast track to ISO, and Microsoft has recently joined the ISO subcommittee that works with the ratification of document formats. It is estimated that OpenXML is at least 18 months behind ODF in the ratification process. According to C|NET, the ODFAlliance is optimistic that ODF can be certified as early as next month.

Personally I don’t think that Microsoft should be allowed to change the default format in Office, and remain a supplier of software to the Danish public sector.


iTunes 5002 error blues cured

October 27th-2008 Update: Celebrating the 3rd aniversary of this post with an advice from one of my readers, John: try to retype all of your iTunes account information, that worked for him.

September 11th-2008 Update: It seems that the iTunes 8 update has resulted in a number of people experiencing the 5002 error, related to updating of iPhone Apps.

Please check this thread on the Apple Forums for possible solutions: Topic : ITunes 8 Upgrade Results in 5002 unknown Error when trying to update Apps

Some of my users has been kind enough to provide possible fixes to the issue:

July 1st-2008 Update: A regular trick when you have strange errors on Mac OS X, is to perform a “Repair Disk Permissions” using the “Disk Utility” application. You should also try this if you encounter iTunes error 5002. Thanks to David from for making that suggestion.

May 15th-2008 Update: The most recent comments points to a problem with missing credit card security codes, so please review your iTunes account information.

April 2nd-2008 Update: It seems that a recent update to iTunes has made this error much more common, look to the bottom of the comment-stream to get the latest.

There’s no clear solution to the problem, but re-registering with iTunes Music Store, and/or contact iTunes can,sometimes, fix the problem.

April 4th-2008 Update: Concensus is building around something we’ve been focusing in on for a while, that is DON’T EVER USE saved shopping carts. Due to an error in iTunes, you’ll get the 5002 error, if a product you’ve added to the shopping cart, is removed from iTunes Music Store, before you go to check-up.

iTunes Music Store seems to revise their catalogue a lot, especially tail-coating a new product launch, this is why it seems to be related to new versions of iTunes.

This blog-post is, by far, the biggest driver of traffic to my website, and if you read the comment-stream, you’ll notice a lot of frustrations, Apple, PLEASE recognise this problem, and FIX it – I’ll teel it in words you MIGHT understand: YOU’RE LOOSING BUSINESS!

Kim Bach, April 2nd and 4th 2008
I recently made my first purchase on iTunes, but I kept getting an error 5002 when trying to authorise my PowerBook. After trying again and again I gave up on it, and sent an e-mail to Apple Support, and they promissed an answer in 72 hours. Two weeks later, still no answer, so I turned to the support pages in iTunes Music Store, and there’s no useful information on error 5002.