John Jones

The Ohio State University

New post: “Online Learning and Teaching Writing”

Online Learning Bus

My latest blog post at, “Online Learning and Teaching Writing”, is up.

… when teaching writing, neither an audience of teachers nor an audience of peers can be the solution to good writing. Rather, the solution is to teach students writing that is situated in real (or simulated) contexts with real audiences and feedback. The future of projects like Coursera, if they are to be successful educational alternatives to the traditional college classroom, is to harness the collective intelligence of the Web to connect students with these audiences. What the Internet has proven with resounding success is that it can connect writers with real audiences.

image via: James Bridle

“eBooks, Writing, and Ownership” at

I have a new post up at on Apple’s iBooks Author and the trend of web services—and now, design companies—placing heavy restrictions on the media that we create with their tools.

First, Apple’s actions are a major bummer. I’ve started playing with iBooks Author a little to get a feel for it, and it seems like an excellent tool. Well designed, easy to use, and with a lot of neat features for creating digital books. It’s just too bad that the company crippled the software by not allowing users to export books as .epub files and restricted sales to the iBookstore.

Second, what strikes me whenever Facebook changes their users’ privacy policies without warning or when Apple tries to lock down all of the books made with their software to their store is the predictable way in which these companies are following the guidelines of O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 manifesto: they want to own the network, whether that network is social media users or exclusive iBooks. As O’Reilly points out, if you own—or have exclusive access to—the most data, you gain a competitive advantage by having the best network. But it’s one thing to build a network on user-reviews, as Amazon does, and quite another to assert control over the complex and demanding work that goes into creating a book, as Apple is doing. The only benefit to this move is that as more and more of our digital work is siloed like this, the ethical implications will come increasingly to the forefront, and, hopefully, affect some positive change for users.

image credit: margot.trudell