Monday, April 30, 2007

Brookdale Website

If you remember my March 31st posting The Evolution of the Web - I discussed the internet wayback machine, and used it to demonstrate that our college webpage had not been updated substantially since June 2002.

Why is this important? - In 2007, the web is, for most - students, parents and the community-at-large - their first, if not only, point of contact with the institution. A strong web-presence that is informative, attractive, inviting, and easy to navigate is critical to remaining competitive in the increasing global and fractured educational landscape.

In response to criticism over poor navigation, and an overly cluttered appearance, the Brookdale college website is undergoing a long over-due re-design.

Like most at the college, I haven't been given an opportunity to see the proposed new website - until now. In the spirit of sharing and openness I give you a side-by-side comparison of OLD versus NEW. Click on either image to see a larger, more detailed view of each site.

Once you've given these a thorough review, there's a little poll at the bottom of this posting to capture user opinions of the sites. I've got my own opinion, but to avoid skewing the poll, I'll wait to share my thoughts in a later posting - I'll also let you know how much this redesign cost.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gapminder: Re-Thinking How We Visualize Data

From TED 2006, here is Hans Rosling, a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. This presentation is interesting for a number of reasons. First is Rosling's dynamic and enthusiastic presentation style. You can tell when someone loves what they teach - it's infectious. Second is the focus of his work - global health and poverty trends and common misconceptions regarding differences between developing countries and the so-called western world. The third reason to enjoy this 20-minute presentation is how the data is presented. Rosling makes his case using statistics drawn from United Nations data and illustrated by visualization software he developed through his nonprofit Gapminder. I marvel at how this software takes flat data and brings it to life. It's a great example of how technology - at it's best - can help to elucidate rather than obfuscate.

So whether you like to watch great presenters in action, are interested global issues, or just want to see new technologies for teaching and learning, give this video a watch - I think you'll be hooked!

The software from Gapmider is free and can be loaded with any data. To take it for a spin, visit Gapminder World 2006. You can vary the data for both the x and y axes and animate the results over time. Not surprisingly, Gapminder was purchased by Google in March 2007 - here's an excerpt from the announcement:
Gapminder and Google share an enthusiasm for technology that makes data easily accessible and understandable to the world. Gapminder’s Trendalyzer software unveils the beauty of statistics by converting boring numbers into enjoyable interactive animations. ... Google intends to improve and scale up Trendalyzer, and make it freely available to those who seek access to statistics.

The goal is to promote a fact-based worldview by bringing statistical story-telling to new levels.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Invasion of the Pod People

Anyone who spends any amount of time on a college campus wouldn't be surprised to hear that ipods are popular with college students. In fact, colleague Gordon Snyder and I both noticed - about two years ago - that these white earbuds

were ubiquitous on our respective college campuses - leading us to create our own podcast.

In a recent blog, Gordon details the announcement that Apple had sold their 100 millionth iPod - a staggering one iPod sold every 1.7 seconds since 2001 - 10 million in March 2007 alone. Likewise Apple's online music store iTunes has been wildly successful - according to Gordon's math - 19.8 tracks downloaded per second.

Well here's another interesting milestone from USA Today iPods knock over beer mugs

Ridgewood, N.J. research firm Student Monitor conducts a biannual Lifestyle & Media Study, surveying a representative group of 600 students to determine what's "in" on college campuses. According to the most recent survey (Spring 2006), not only are iPods "in" - iPods are more popular than beer. iPods topped the list leaving perennial #1 "Drinking beer" at #2. The last time this happened to beer was in 1997. The culprit? Another disruptive technology you might have heard of - the Internet.

Karl Kapp

Congratulations to friend and colleague Karl Kapp. He's had a good week!

Karl, a scholar, writer and expert on the convergence of learning, technology and business operations, holds a Doctorate of Education in Instructional Design at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a full professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA and Assistant Director of the University’s acclaimed Institute for Interactive Technologies (IIT). Visit his Web site at or his blog at

Now on to the news!
First came the announcement that Karl has been selected as one of 2007's Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals by TrainingIndustry, Inc. It's a pretty diverse group in the Top 20 - it's great to see Karl get this recognition as one of our thought leaders in teaching and learning.

One of the areas Karl has been very active in is advocating for gaming in learning, which leads to a second reason for Karl to smile this week - the release of his new book.

The just released, Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: Tools for Transferring Know-How from the Boomers to the Gamers describes the learning methods necessary to transfer knowledge from the boomer generation to the upcoming gamers using tools such as gadgets, games and gizmos. The book’s web site is

The premise of the book is that there is a huge population of baby boomers in the workforce with a lifetime's worth of knowledge and expertise. These boomers are getting ready to retire and take with them their knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately, we are faced with an incoming workforce - the gamers - who learn in ways that are dramatically different from any generation before them and the tools we have transferring knowledge are woefully inadequate.

Having read the book, I can tell you hat Karl makes a compelling case that:
a new generation of employees who grew up on video games are demanding to be trained differently than the boomers and we need some new ways to transfer the vast amounts of boomer knowledge to these gamers
Additionally, the book provides a number of simple and effective strategies for incorporating these new tools (gadgets, games and gizmos) into the classroom. The material is presented within a framework of sound pedagogy and well-established instructional design practices.

I think Karl has really hit upon something here and that this book will become an essential resource for classroom instructors, as we move further into the 21st century.

Congratulations Karl!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Google Search for the Masses? or Silly me ...

I thought Google was free.

Not quite Haiku - maybe more like Dr. Seuss - but not bad for an engineer!

Last week, I got an email from our marketing department, proclaiming the latest enhancement to our college website - a Google search box. Yes, search of the site was a big issue with users, but I was still confounded as to why this was such a big deal and why it took so long. Having built a number of webpages myself, I knew how easy it was to set up a Google search box and embed it in your webpage. Click here to create your own custom Google search engine. In fact, I've embedded a search box below that you can use to search the college website:

Google Custom Search

For comparison - here is a screenshot of the search box on the college webpage - sorry couldn't embed this one.
So you might be thinking - big deal, so it took them a little longer to get the code into the page; they've got it there now, so end of story.

Well, not quite. This is where it gets interesting and a little silly. If you type in a query in the college search bar - I typed our new course management system "angel," you get something like this:
Nothing you haven't seen before here - about 70 hits; with 37 results shown (Google search omits similar or identical results). But wait, there is something new - I recognize it, maybe you don't - it takes a trained eye or someone who teaches technology. Just above the search button is the word appliance - here's a closer look.
Usually the words above the search box indicate what type of search we performed - typically web, images, maps, etc. So we're searching for appliances? No not exactly, in fact we're searching an appliance:

These are the two appliances Google sells - you install these in a rack with your switches and routers. The low-end appliance (blue) starts at about $3000-$6000 and requires a yearly maintenance fee of about $1000. So who buys these? Enterprises - large businesses - that need to search 100s of thousands of documents.

For comparison, let's look at my search engine - about 60 hits; with 42 results shown

Here are the top five hits for the two search engines - compared side-by-side.

$3000-6000 + $1000/year


The results aren't exactly the same, but similar enoguh that we can call it a draw. Now to compare these approaches, we need some sort of metric - I'll define one here I call the Q-Factor - we take the quality of the results (about equal here) and divide by the cost.

Free is infinitely better!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What is a Mash-Up?

Gordon Snyder and I have given a number of presentations on Web 2.0, Social Networking and the vast array of web-based tools that are starting to impact teaching and learning. One of these tools - mash-ups - is probably the most difficult to explain and the most difficult for people to grasp. I've always loved Gordon's explanation, comparing a mash-up to one of the ice cream creations at Cold Stone Creamery - where they take a bunch of diverse ingredients and mash them together right in front of you. Here's the Boston Cream Pie (French Vanilla Ice Cream, Yellow Cake, Fudge and Whipped Topping) hmmm:

Here's a 5-minute video with a slightly more technical explanation of mash-ups.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...