Sunday, May 31, 2009

E-Books: Google Versus Amazon

Poised to Sell E-Books, Google Takes On Amazon
Google appears to be throwing down the gauntlet in the e-book market.

In discussions with publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York over the weekend, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program by that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google. The move would pit Google against, which is seeking to control the e-book market with the versions it sells for its Kindle reading device.

Early Google Wave Reviews has gotten their hands on Google Wave. Here's their early review. A little buggy (it is an alpha), not nearly as complicated to use as some as saying, very easy to add attachments to a conversation, and with fixes has potential to actually live up to the hype.

Testing Google Wave: This Thing is Tidal
Does Google Wave stand up to the hype?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

iPod Transforms the Classroom

Some intriguing results from a project integrating iPod Touches into the curriculum at a North Carolina HS.

iPod project transforming classrooms
I first became aware of the iPod Project at a school board meeting, when North Rowan High School Principal Rodney Bass gave an update on the project's timeline.


Simply put, the iPod transforms the classroom.

That guy who likes to be funny to distract you from his inability to read well? There's one in most every class. Well, now he's plugged in, listening to the book audibly. He pulls up a review, answers the questions, typing with his thumbs, and e-mails it to his teacher. He's good at typing with his thumbs. His handwriting might not be the best, but when he types, his work looks the same as everyone else's. The iPod allows him to enjoy novels he never could have completed before. And he understands them; the e-mailed answers were correct.

You know the girl who runs into class right after the tardy bell? You remember her — she lingers in the hall with her boyfriend to the last minute. Now she scoots in before the bell rings. If she's tardy, she has to share an iPod with someone else. If she gets her work done on time, she can practice that cool spelling game. She's almost got 1,000 points on it.

The good student who was oh, so bored with the easy assignments? Now he's totally tuned in to the movie of guys canoeing down the river, telling about water and erosion. Because he's using his ear buds and his own iPod, he can rewind and play as often as he wants to be sure he catches the parts that might be on a test.

Do You Trust Microsoft?

Many people don't, while others are not so cynical. Reading this story, I have to wonder what MS is thinking. This is scary stuff. You install a Windows security update and end up with a Firefox add-on that can only be removed by modifying the registry.
Security Fix - Microsoft Update Quietly Installs Firefox Extension
A routine security update for a Microsoft Windows component installed on tens of millions of computers has quietly installed an extra add-on for an untold number of users surfing the Web with Mozilla's Firefox Web browser.

Earlier this year, Microsoft shipped a bundle of updates known as a "service pack" for a programming platform called the Microsoft .NET Framework, which Microsoft and plenty of third-party developers use to run a variety of interactive programs on Windows.
which lists various aspects of Windows that are, well, annoying, says
"this update adds to Firefox one of the most dangerous vulnerabilities
present in all versions of Internet Explorer: the ability for Web sites
to easily and quietly install software on your PC." I'm not sure I'd
put things in quite such dire terms, but I'm fairly confident that a
decent number of Firefox for Windows users are rabidly anti-Internet
Explorer, and would take umbrage at the very notion of Redmond
monkeying with the browser in any way.

Big deal, you say? I can just uninstall the add-on via Firefox's
handy Add-ons interface, right? Not so fast. The trouble is, Microsoft
has disabled the "uninstall" button on the extension. What's more,
Microsoft tells us that the only way to get rid of this thing is to modify the Windows registry, an exercise that -- if done imprecisely -- can cause Windows systems to fail to boot up.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Fire Safety Lesson - Powerpoint is Boring

Creating an Online Division - Is It in Your DNA?

I think there's a misconception by many college administrators that online education is an inexpensive and easy alternative to traditional face-to-face offerings. Unfortunately, building a good online course or program is not as easy as it looks. It takes a significant investment in infrastructure, an LMS, faculty, instructional designers, online proctors, online administrators, and a long laundry list of unexpected expenses. It would be nice if we could just flip a switch and create an online division or a separate online college-within-the-college, but it's not that simple. These two examples below (Colorado State University and University of Illinois) should be cautionary tales to any schools that think they're going to squeeze out a little more revenue by creatign their own Global Campus. Online education and traditional classroom-based education are two very different domains. Success in one does not guarantee success in the other. Imagine, for example, The University of Phoenix deciding to build a bricks and motar campus - are bricks and motar in their DNA? I don't think so.
Rocky Start for Colorado State U.'s Online-Education Start-Up
Colorado State University’s new Global Campus online-education venture laid off more than 25 percent of its operation in recent months as the start-up failed to bring in money at the pace officials had expected, according to the program’s leader.

The reduction of staff and faculty members took place over three months ending in February, a period that followed the abrupt departure of Larry E. Penley, who was chancellor of the Colorado State system and president of the Fort Collins campus. Hunt Lambert, the new chief executive of the Global Campus since March, insists the effort is now on track.

But the rocky start has raised some eyebrows in Colorado higher-education circles. And it marks the latest in a series of struggles at public online-education programs around the country.

In contrast to the University of Illinois, which last week pulled the plug on its strategy for a similar venture, also named Global Campus, Colorado is soldiering on.

Is Google Wave the Future of Email?

Here is the full demo of Google Wave from the Google I/O conference. The video is long (1 hr 20 minutes), but worth it, because Wave is a pretty impressive product already. I've been reading on the web that this product demo has overshadowed Microsoft's announcement of their new search engine Bing and that many at the demo were comparing yesterday's Wave announcement to Apple's announcement of the first generation iPhone. Can't wait to get an account!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Google Wave

Google just announced/previewed Google Wave at their Google I/O developer conference today. While this new product is only available to developers now - public at the end of the year - it looks very promising. It appears to be a communication tool that brings together all the different technologies (email, IM, chat, blogs, wikis, video, etc) into one unified interface. It supports group and multiple conversations. This product seems to be targeted to the digital natives I have been talking about, supporting their ability to multitask their communications.

Google Riding 'Wave' To Redefine Collaboration
Wave encompasses more than e-mail. It matches or exceeds the functionality of several major application types, including instant messaging, discussion forum software, wikis, and blogs. Rather, it will eventually, as it moves toward commercial release later this year.

Google Wave is a product, a platform, and a protocol. It's a cross between conversation and document that allows users to do with one tool what they currently do with many. It works in a Web browser on the desktop or on mobile phones, like Apple's iPhone or Google Android devices.

Just as Ajax technology has blurred the identity of Web sites by allowing content to be embedded on any Web site, Wave blurs the distinctions between communications modes and between content creation applications.

Writing a Wave is a lot like typing text into Gmail, Google Docs, or a blog posting form in one's browser. To the left of the right-hand column featuring the discussion, there's an in-box with other Waves. And to the left of that, there's a navigation pane atop a list of contacts that looks very similar to Gmail's layout.
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Twitter for Job Search

Here's an interesting use of Twitter - post job openings.

A quick search on twitter found very few users with "job" in the name. Seems like this would be a no-brainer, if you ran an HR department or a job-placement service. Here's one example I found - can you find any more? In New Jersey, each county has a WIB or Workforce Investment Board. If I ran one of these WIBs, I would grab NJ-Jobs, MiddlesexNJ-Jobs, MonmouthNJ-Jobs, etc

Does Your College Offer a Social Networking Course?

Starting next Fall, Santa Barbara City College will begin offering just such a course. While any of our students probably know more about social networking than our faculty, it's probably time to develop a course in social media and networking. Unfortunately, as a discipline, social media/networking is not fully-formed and still a moving target. How do you create a credit course focused on such a rapidly-changing subject - especially given the glacial rate of change in academia? Reading about this course, it seems that the goals of the course are not well-defined, including to "to learn and have fun," and the content is described as new, innovative and
. As with any course,  I think it's important to define a clear outcome - what are we hoping to accomplish with social media? Do we hope to build a brand? Get a job? Build a learning network? Market ourselves? All of the above?

My take - create a very amorphous course, which is redefined each time it's taught through student-to-student and faculty-to-student and even web-to-student interactions. I think the outcome is also a personal outcome for each student, that evolves as the course progresses. Some students will be interested in marketing, some in building a business brand, and others in outcomes we haven't even thought of.

Social networking class offered in fall
beginning in Fall 2009, City College will be offering an online class to hone your social networking skills with "Social Media and Social Networking," taught by Library Director Kenley Neufeld. Steven W. DaVega, director of the School of Media Arts Mobile Media Institute, implemented the course.

"It's a chance to explore some new technologies and help develop the future," Neufeld said.

The class will integrate different social networking Web sites that apply not only to self-promotion, but also to media, business and marketing.

"It's really the most relevant thing you can do," DaVega said. He added that teaching a networking class in a multimedia program is new for colleges. DaVega said that while other colleges have offered a social networking class in library sciences or applied communication, this class will focus on applied media.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Young People's Web/TV Habits

Ewan McIntosh shares some really interesting research into young people's web/tv habits. If you teach or have kids or grandkids, these findings probably confirm what you've been observing. The question I've been trying to answer is how does or should this sort of data impact teaching and learning - specifically what we do in the classroom?
Andy Pipes at Channel 4 has published some of the results of in-depth research carried out for the Channel into how young people relate to the web, gaming, the telly and each other. It's got some insights that would dispel some of the myth mongering that will take place in this summer's education conference circuit. Prepare your bullshit bingo cards now...
  • 'They personally own 8 devices (including MP3 player, PC, TV, DVD player, mobile phone, stereo, games console, and digital camera)
  • They frequently conduct over 5 activities whilst watching TV
  • 25% of them agree that ‘I’d rather stay at home than go on a holiday with no internet or phone access’
  • A quarter of young people interviewed text or IM (instant message) friends they are physically with at the time
  • They have on average 123 friends on their social network spaces
  • And the first thing the majority of them do when they get home is turn on their PC
'Yet despite living such a ‘connected’ life, kids these days still find technology a means to an end - primarily meeting up with their friends, watching television and listening to music. Above all, youth’s obsession with technology is around communication. The average person surveyed was doing 5 simultaneous actions whilst they watched television these days; and the majority of those actions involved communicating at some level. One young teenage girl admitted ‘I talk to my friend and MSN (instant message) her at the same time.’ In fact, a full 34% of those asked said that they texted friends they were with at the time...'

'The TV is still young people’s most popular way to consume media, though in terms of time spent, TV time is pipped to the post by spending time on the internet.'

Teaching and Learning - The Digital Student

Here's a recent presentation I gave, Thursday May 14th, to kickoff one of our end of year faculty days. I wasn't able to record it live, so I've recorded it and posted it here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Problems With YouTube in the Classroom

You always run a risk sending students out to public sites on the Internet. I agree that teaching faculty how to embed YouTube content and how to exclude "related" videos is a great start. I think creating your own video sharing site with a tool such Fliggo is also a great idea and solves some of the issues with YouTube and other similar sites. Unfortunately, building a closed community such as this walls us off from the rich ecosystem of content available at YouTube.

YouTube increasingly less of an option in schools
Despite the countless videos of kids skateboarding, extraordinary amounts of educational content are there for the taking.


Unfortunately, it looks as though the junk is quickly on its way to overwhelming the good. Ars Technica is reporting on the so-called carpet-bombing effort to fill YouTube with pornography:

Today, May 20, has been deemed ‘Porn Day’ by denizens of 4chan and eBaum’s World, with an organized group of users from the sites uploading video clips of explicit, adult content en masse in an attempt to overwhelm the search results. In actuality, it appears that content was prematurely uploaded on the afternoon of the 19th. YouTube has already taken some steps to fight back, but it’s disturbingly easy to find stuff you really don’t want to see, and the uploaders are changing tactics.

What this means is that we need to train our teachers and provide them with easy tools to deliver appropriate content to their students. No more, ‘Hey kids, put together a PowerPoint presentation and feel free to search for some resources on YouTube.’ YouTube does make it incredibly easy to embed video on the web and now has tools for excluding those ‘related videos,’ which are all too often a source of said junk.

Therefore, we need to train our teachers to place videos on their own websites or blogs or, better yet, use a site like Fliggo to really isolate useful video content from the rest of YouTube. How many of your teachers know how to embed a YouTube video in a blog? There’s no need to throw out the baby with the bath water in terms of online video, but there is a real need for increased vigilance and helping teachers find new ways to clearly direct instruction around useful video.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Screencasting and Podcasting

Here's a great case study of screencasting/podcasting at the Yale Medical Library. Not only is the content interesting and informative, but the slide designs are great visually. Although you won't understand everything without the presenter, I encourage you to go through all 63 slides - it's worth the time!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Online Learning is Here to Stay

Jefferson Community College Holds 45th Commencement:
Jefferson Community College will hold [held] its 45th annual commencement ceremony on Friday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the McVean Student Center Gymnasium.

Jefferson’s class of 2009 is comprised of 495 students who graduated in December 2008 or are candidates for graduation in May or August of 2009, pending satisfactory completion of coursework. Fourteen students will receive two degrees each, bringing the total number of degrees awarded to 509, of which 135 are A.A.S. degrees, 147 are A.A. degrees, 212 are A.S. degrees and 15 are certificates. The class of 2009 includes Jefferson’s first graduates of the Teaching Assistant Certificate program. The popularity of distance learning is evident in the class of 2009. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that 23 graduates completed their degree by taking strictly online courses and more than half (67%) of graduates took at least one online course from Jefferson.
emphasis added

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wearable Monitors

stretchable display4b_x220.jpg
This is very cool! Imagine a classroom where the curtain is your display - or a paper thin, flexible Kindle-like device.

Technology Review: Stretchable Displays:
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have moved a step closer to displays and simple computers that you can wear on your sleeve or wrap around your couch. And they have opened up the possibility of printing such devices, which would make them cheap.

Takao Someya, an electrical-engineering professor, and his colleagues make a stretchable display by connecting organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and organic transistors with a new rubbery conductor. The researchers can spread the display over a curved surface without affecting performance. The display can also be folded in half or crumpled up without incurring any damage.

Combined with printable transistors and OLEDs, this could pave the way for rolling out large, cheap, wearable displays and electronics.

Bendy, flexible electronics that can be rolled up like paper are already available. But rubber-like stretchable electronics offer the additional advantage that they can cover complex three-dimensional objects.
Photo credit: Takao Someya, the University of Tokyo

Friday, May 22, 2009

iJournalism or Mobile Journalism

Interesting things happening at the University of Missouri, which mirror, in many ways, discussions we're having on our own campus regarding creation of a new "Writing for the Internet" program. I think we're already at a point where a journalist can work as an individual with a camera (video and/or still), a digital voice recorder, and a web-connected smartphone. The tools are getting cheaper, easier to use and more ubiquitous. The iPhone makes perfect sense for mobile journalism - capture a picture, record some audio, use the web to do some quick fact-checking, type a brief story, and have it posted before you even leave the scene. [The rumored next generation iPhone could also include vidoe capture and editing]. Opens the door to all types of abuses, but also all sorts of opportunities. Kids are going to be already doing this, wether we teach them or not, so I think it's important that we embrace this new paradigm and teach kids the right way to do this, as well as ethics and integrity.

University Hopes To Teach Some iJournalism:
Now the nation's oldest journalism school is asking students to buy those or similar devices[iPods, iPhones]. Not to listen to shoe-gazing indie rock, or watch clips from 'The Daily Show,' but to download classroom lectures or confirm facts on the Web while reporting from the scene of a plane crash or town council meeting.

The new rule for incoming freshmen at the University of Missouri School of Journalism appears to mark the first time an American university is requiring specific portable electronic devices. The policy has spurred a debate about the limits and possibilities of technology as well as corporate influence in academia.
Among the uses envisioned by Brooks and other professors: students listening to lectures while at the gym or walking to class; using wireless Internet access to verify information while reporting stories; and watching instructional videos that otherwise would take up valuable classroom time.

Among the detractors is Clyde Bentley, who
... was one of nine journalism professors who voted against the new policy (with 40 in support) at a recent faculty meeting. His primary concern was saddling students with an additional expense. He also questioned whether students who rely on portable devices to listen to Vampire Weekend or watch "The Colbert Report" will embrace the journalism school's intended uses.

"I had a student say that he used his iPod to get away from me," Bentley said, recalling previous attempts to offer podcasts of his lectures.

On why the iPod/iPhone is required:
Brooks pointed out that by requiring portable electronic devices, the university can include those costs in financial aid packages. And the $229 student price of an iPod Touch is comparable to two or three textbooks, he said.

And finally, what do experts and futurists have to say?
Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California, calls the new Missouri requirement "not only reasonable but admirable." He likened the debate to discussions several years ago over whether colleges should ask incoming students to buy PCs or laptop computers -- by now a largely moot point.

"Schools are usually far behind their students in embracing new technology. And faculty are usually behind the schools," Cole said.

"It really shows how both journalism and education are changing in transformational ways," he added. "The biggest effect the Internet will have is not how we play or communicate, but how we learn."

Facebook and Grades

I'm glad to see these studies. The results are contradictory, which is actually what I would have expected. I've been using Facebook and promoting it's use in an educational setting for the last couple years. While I think that there are tremendous opportunities for learning in Facebook, I also see the potential for it to become an addictive, time sink for students.

Just this last semester (yes it's over) I had a student that was very active in Facebook - 90% of the activity was very frivolous, for example sending virtual items to friends or playing countless hours of "Mafia Wars." I suspect that this student's grade is probably a letter grade lower than his or her potential. I'm sure there are other reasons students get distracted and lose motivation, but I was able to simultaneously watch the ramp up in Facebook activity and the decline in classroom performance. No scientific correlation here -just my gut - but I've been teaching full-time for twelve years now, so you get pretty good at making these assessments.

All that said, I haven't given up on Facebook as a learning environment. Just like any other tool or environment, Facebook can be used poorly or incorrectly. As a counter example, consider the story of Ryerson University freshman Chris Avenir. Chris helped create and run an online chemistry study group in Facebook, which allowed 146 classmates to help each other with homework assignments. Really great use of Facebook - harness all of that activity in Facebook to a positive end. At least one professor and consequently the school didn't agree. Avenir had 147 charges of academic misconduct brought against him by the university - which had a possible consequence of expulsion. While Chris was not expelled from school - read the outcome here - the reaction has been pretty vocal for Chris and against the University:
Chris Avenir, a bright, honest, first-year engineering student at Ryerson University, has been in the news because he was accused of cheating by setting up an online study group on the Facebook Web site. Anyone can get an account on Facebook, a Web site designed for friends to keep in touch. In universities, it has become the modern version of a coffee shop and study group.

Cheating is a serious crime. One hundred forty-seven students used Facebook to discuss one of their engineering classes, and only Avenir was charged with cheating by one solitary professor. All Avenir did was set up a group which his classmates joined. He almost got expelled for it. In an unjust result, Avenir was given a failing grade for the homework portion of the class (lowering his overall grade in the class from A to B), was ordered to attend a workshop on academic integrity, and now has a disciplinary notice placed on his transcript.
That's what show trials do. Until the school apologizes to him, I hope Chris Avenir will appeal to the school senate. And if no one at Ryerson apologizes, Avenir should quit and go a school worthy of the title "university."

Jury out on Facebook's impact on grades:
Two contradictory studies about Facebook usage and grade-point average have higher education officials questioning if the social networking giant has any impact on students' classroom performance.

Just weeks after Ohio State University research suggested that college students who used Facebook every day had consistently lower grades than students who did not, a Northwestern University study released May 7 concluded there was no correlation between Facebook usage and bad grades.

Students who reported checking status updates, joining fan groups, and chatting with friends and relatives on Facebook several times a day had a GPA as much as a letter grade lower than their counterparts, according to the Ohio State study, which included 219 college students and was released in April. Sixty-five percent of Facebook members checked their accounts at least once a day, according to the research. Seventy-nine percent of students said Facebook did not have any effect on their academic performance, a finding that seemingly was contradicted by the data.

The Northwestern University study included more than 1,000 undergraduates from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a 'nationally representative cross-sectional sample' of students between the ages of 14 and 22. The Northwestern researchers said students who logged onto Facebook several times a day were not more likely to get bad grades than students who abstained from the social networking site.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

101 Free Learning Tools

Here's a great Slideshare presentation detailing 101 free learning tools. The presentation covers a wide variety of topics. Well worth the time - I found a few tools I hadn't heard of and re-discovered a few I had been planning to look at in more depth.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again

We were a WebCT school three years ago, when Blackboard bought their smaller competitor. At the time we looked at a variety of potential replacement LMSs, including staying with WebCT until the two products merged or moving straight to Blackboard. In the end, we moved to smaller LMS Angel. Some of the advantages we identified included a smaller, more agile and responsive company, an interface that would be more appealing and inviting to students and faculty, and the fact that Angel seemed to have a shorter learning curve than many others we looked at.

As the title to this post indicates, it feels like we're back in time - to three years ago - faced with having to make decisions about our LMS. There are some positive signs; Blackboard has admitted making mistakes with their WebCT acquisition, they've said Angel product development will continue for another three years (until the two products become one), and that Angel's excellent customer support will remain in place. Another promising sign - Blackboard has appointed senior Angel executive, Ray Henderson, to serve as head of product development for both Blackboard and Angel.

Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis must be celebrating - $23 million for a $135,000 investment. What about the professor who developed Angel? Read more below.

An Indiana Institution Wins Big in Blackboard's Purchase of Angel Learning:
Angel’s software was born as a research project at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. The university held about a 25-percent stake in Angel Learning when Blackboard acquired the company this month for $95-million. University officials confirmed that the university received about $23-million from the sale, an ample return on its initial investment of about $135,000 and the use of some professors’ time.

What became of the professor?
The professor who led the software’s development, Ali Jafari, also held a stake in the company at the time of the sale, and now describes himself as “a multimillionaire.”

“I received a huge check that I don’t know what to do with,” said the professor, who would not disclose the exact amount he received.

Mr. Jafari is on leave from the university, where he is a professor of computer and information technology. Since creating Angel, he has built another course-management program, which the university has also spun off into a company. That product is called Epsilen, whose largest shareholder is The New York Times Company. Mr. Jafari is working full-time for Epsilen this year as its “chief architect officer.”

Bermuda Jobs


I would love to take a job in Bermuda!
We are currently seeking an experienced Network Infrastructure and Security Consultant to join our client, a premier provider of professional I.T. services.

This role requires a strong Microsoft infrastructure background with complementary skills in Cisco (routing & switching) and network security (firewalls). Applicants should have prior consulting experience including design, implementation, documentation and support of IT projects.

photo by StormyDog

The Evolution of the English Language

Here are some great observations on the English language:
the English language, which currently stands at about 999,500 words, will pass the 'million word' mark on or about June 10, according to the Global Language Monitor (GLM). The latest words under consideration: defollow, defriend, greenwashing, chiconomics and noob.

In William Shakespeare's day, according to GLM president and chief word analyst Paul JJ Payack, there were only 2 million speakers of English and fewer than 100,000 words. Shakespeare himself coined some 1,700 words.

Thomas Jefferson invented about 200 words, and former President George W. Bush created a handful, the most prominent 'misunderestimate.' President Obama's surname passed into wordhood last year with the rise of 'obamamania.'

There are three momentous trends occurring in the English language today,' says Mr. Payak. 'First, this is an explosion in word creation -- English words are being added to the language at the rate of some 14.7 words a day. The last time words were being added to the language at this rate was during Shakespeare's time.

'Second, a geographic explosion has taken place where some 1.53 billion people now speak English around the globe as a primary, auxiliary or business language. And, three, English has become, in fact, the first truly global language. Never before has a single language had the extent and influence as that of English.'

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How is the Stimulus Distributed?

Here's a quick little video I recorded of an interactive map from the Associated Press. You can interact with the map yourself here.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Addition with Fingers

Great tactile use of the multi-touch Smart Table!

SMART Table in my Classroom - Addition with Fingers | Space for me to explore
Ignore the shapes on the background which I mistakenly added - this Addition Application activity is about answering the addition and subtraction sums appearing in the centre. Children need to add the correct number of fingers onto the table to answer the question.


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