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Blackboard has received a patent for, well…everything to do with LMS’.

Scott Leslie comments
Stephen Downes posts extensively…including his own work which pre-dates Blackboard
Others have also commented here and slashdot.
Dave Cromier announces a weekend edtechtalk on the subject.
Technorati is a great place to follow the running conversation.
In related news, Jay Cross is threatening to patent learning.

I think it’s a break with end-user confidence. Knowledge as an entity has changed. Some organizations don’t seem to understand that, and continue to function as if they can bully competitors and end users (even Microsoft has seen the light and made changes). On the one hand we have 25 provosts supporting open access…on the other, Blackboard attempting to lay claim to a concept as diverse as a learning management system. (why do patents always arise once a concept is deeply ingrained in the actions of many?). I’m not against the notion of patents. I personally would like to hear from Blackboard on why they took the approach they did (beyond “we invested heavily, so we want to protect ourselves). I’ve been critical of LMS’ in the past…but I can’t imagine that Blackboard took this step without being aware of the consequences. In the end, my question is – has Bb decided that those who use their tools will be okay with the patents, and those who advocate for open source or other tools don’t matter (i.e. their not our customers now, so let those who feel entitled to open spaces whine)? The internet has given us community. Blackboard is part of our educational technology community. Their actions do cause ripples for all of us. Our industry is too young for infighting…we have much growing to do. I don’t want to jump on the Bb is evil bandwagon – I would love to hear their rationale.

What’s the impact? I can’t say I’m really worried. I have moved away from LMS’ to a certain degree. In a perfect world, I would get a chunk of funding and create a tool that is much less like an LMS…and much more like a social network/portfolio/blog/wiki /tagging/user-generated/search tool (some call them personal learning environments). What we really need are new tools that do new things. Not tools that duplicate the classroom experience. Blackboard is, before this patent was awarded, not the future (at least based on its current tool-offerings). Bb (well, any LMS that structures content in “courses”) sees knowledge as a product, not process. We need tools that enable us to navigate a river of knowledge…not a reservoir.