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Blackboard the Pirate Returns and Wins Bounty and Other News Today
Monday, February 25, 2008
Some quick news from today:
1. Blackboard awarded $3.1 million from Desire2Learn in its lawsuit ( I find this a ridiculous ruling which will initially have a negative impact on the learning of learners of this planet. But for the long-term, it will foster innovation to build something better. On the positive side of all this, at least now people will be searching for ways to push personalized learning environments (PLEs), ecological models of learning, and really effective and motivational learning tools, since Blackboard has shown no interest in that. They say nothing here about their interest in fostering thinking, reflection, debate, discussion, idea sharing, knowledge representation, critical thinking, juxtaposing ideas, etc. No, they take a patent out on the log-in process. I never saw any learning or creativity happen from log-in. Perhaps PLE-related research, books, conferences, and ideas will be more pervasive now!

Per the article:
“Mr. Small said Blackboard never claimed to have invented the course-management system. What the company did invent, he said, is "a course-management system where a single user with a single log-on could have multiple roles across multiple classes." For instance, a person who was a student in one course and a teaching assistant in another could log on once and access all of his course materials.

"It really was transformative for the industry," Mr. Small said. "We knew we were the first doing it at the time, and that's why we applied for the patent. People look at the technology now and say that's obvious, but at the time, we were the first, and we're very proud of it."

This is transformative? Really. Transformative? Must be an awfully boring place to work. Sure glad I no longer am a boring accountant/CPA. If I was, I might enjoy lunch with these guys. If this is the most transformative they can be, they will not be around for much longer. No creativity shown here. In fact, their lawsuit is a simple exhibition of their lack of creativity and imagination. When one has no new ideas, one sues on old stuff. Their work parties must be deadly!

Simply put, they are concerned with patenting boring stuff. They are patenting student or user log-in to a course management system. Are they crazy? Pretty soon they will try to patent logging into the Web since they spent a countless years developing that login bar and icon. Not. Anyway this is an interesting development.

Let's hope in the coming years that companies like Blackboard open up their products to learning, innovation, creativity, etc.! We, the humans of this planet, have freedom to learn. We have freedom to teach with whatever tools we want to seek out. We have freedom to picket our administrators who might choose your silly products. We have freedom to pick our vendors, especially, when they are free. The Moodle and Sakai people must be laughing hysterically at the outcome. This is not like Pepsi patenting the color of its soda or aspects of its production process. This is about the education of the citizens of this planet. People will remember this day, not for a week, not for a year, and not just for this decade, but for decades and decades to come. And creative educators (and, yes, there are many) will remember this day. Arrrr!!!!

2. USA Today Today Article #1: Two good articles in the USA Today. One on a creative teacher, Gregory Fisher, who uses PBL in teaching economics classes in a high school in California (the California Academy of Math and Science). Fisher displays a sense of humor, high expectations, embed recent news in his classes, does not dumb down content, mixes up his teaching, uses a wide array of projects, and never takes himself too seriously. He also embeds methods for student participation, uses project-based learning, takes risks, and simply tries new stuff out. Finally, he brings in experts, uses student-centered learning, creates tutoring and counseling programs for his students, and, to avoid stress, he jogs and plays basketball with his students. Very similar ideas to those in my R546 class this semester on alternative instructional strategies for critical and creative thinking, motivation, and cooperative learning (see and The title of the article is: “He puts His money on creative, practical work:” I bet Mr. Fisher never worries about patents from Blackboard limiting his creativity and nor should any of you. Way to go Mr. Fisher! 3. USA Today Today Article #2: The second article today in the USA Today is on a new book related to the big switch coming from computers being a box in front of us to being a switch like electricity. In fact, the book is called “Big Switch.” According to the author, Nicholas Carr, the Internet itself is becoming a giant computer. Soon it will exhibit artificially intelligent behaviors. Are you ready for the big switch? Humm. The article is titled “World Wide Computer is on horizon”:

4. Randy Pausch/Last Lectures from the Chronicle of Higher Education: There is also an article in the Wired or online Chronicle of Higher Education on Randy Pausch, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of its Entertainment Technology Center, who was given a few months to live 6 months back and has so far beaten the odds. He has done a lot in the meantime writing books, appearing in a Star Trek film, and helping persuade congress to pass legislation related to pancreatic cancer. This is great news. I blogged on his last lecture back in September (see Much media has surrounded him the past few months.

YouTube Survey Final Final Final Notice: As a final final final reminder, I am doing a survey on motivational and instructional design aspects of YouTube Videos. Since August or September, I have collected 994 respondents. When I get to my goal of 1,000, I will have a raffle for an iPod and iPhone. You could win one. This research project expires on Sunday March 2nd. The raffle will be Thursday or Friday or perhaps Saturday this week. If you have yet to participate, please do. If you already have participated, please share it with a friend. If you want to participate in this survey, go to:

Note also that I have a group in Facebook related to YouTube research with over 320 members called “Bonkian YouTubian Researchian”—you can join this at:

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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 2:19 PM  
  • At 4:45 PM, Blogger Marc Callan said…

    If I'm not mistaken, also offers course management software of a sort that permits users to be both administrators and students across multiple courses. Okay, so maybe not so many whistles and bells as Blackboard, but . . .

  • At 4:46 PM, Blogger Marc Callan said…


    I meant


  • At 5:34 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Yes, Marc, I have been using Nicenet for about 10 years or more. In fact, I think I showed you Nicenet 5-6 years ago, when you were in our inservice teacher technology training program. But, yes, fewer bells and whistles.

  • At 11:54 PM, Blogger MW (My Wish) said…

    I used Nicenet for one of my cross-cultural project. While I appreciated the fact that it is free of cost, the threaded function isn't that manageable compared to that of Blackboard. But that is an astonishing news with that amount of money.

  • At 5:43 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Ya, Lori, you can wait for your admin to review, buy, set up, and train you in Blackboard (which could take years. Or you could set up your class in Nicenet in 5 minutes. Humm...which would a normal person choose? You have a choice--you can pick the company that is explicitly greedy and sues people and yet has a terrible product or you can pick a nice and free and easy to use. A no-brainer!

  • At 12:58 PM, Blogger Mae said…

    I strongly agree with you, Dr. Bonk. I used Blackboard before and am a D2L user now. I really like D2L more for its innovative and easy-to-use features.

  • At 11:21 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Well Blacboard just lost a more major lawsuit in Federal Courts. All claimed patents were denied.

  • At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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  • At 1:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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