Friday, August 31, 2007

Tech Rock Stars?

I've been to a lot of conferences where other technology educators bemoan the fact that we don't have "sexy" or exciting role models for technology careers. We don't have a tech superstar or rock star or even a hit TV show like CSI to get kids excited about careers in technology. This got me to thinking recently - who were our rock stars? The two people arguably most responsible for the desktop PC revolution are pictured below - were they our rock stars? Maybe we don't need rock stars. Photo from boingboing

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Did You Just Call Me a 12OF?

David Pogue of The New York Times has a great proposal for a new shorthand language to replace the LOLs, BRBs and TTYLs that our kids and students use. Some of my favorites:
  • IIOYT -- is it on YouTube?
  • CMOS -- call me on Skype
  • GGNUDP -- gotta go, no unlimited data plan
  • JUOC -- jacked up on caffeine
  • 12OF -- twelve-o'clock flasher (refers to someone less than competent with technology, to the extent that every appliance in the house flashes "12:00")
  • NBL -- no battery left
  • CTTC -- can't talk, teacher's coming
He's even got some shortcuts for those of us that are a bit older.
  • WIWYA -- when I was your age
  • YKT – you kids today
  • CRRE -- conversation required; remove earbuds
  • NIWYM -- no idea what you mean
  • NCK -- not a chance, kid
Read more here. What's that you're saying? Sorry - NIWYM!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

2007 Best Presentation Content

Earlier this year, sponsored a World's Best Presentation Contest - among the judges were two of my favorite presenters - Guy Kawasaki and Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen). Users of the site voted on the best presentations and the final selection was done by the panel of judges. Unfortunately, the contest was held before slideshare added the ability to create slidecasts (slides with audio - more here), but you can still see why these were chosen as the top three - great visuals and very engaging.



and the number 1 presentation is .....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Junk Sleep

If you have teenagers, you know the struggles of trying to get your kids to eat well and avoid junk food. Something new to add to the list - junk sleep. In a study of 1000 British teenagers The Sleep Council found that:
30 percent managed just 4 to 7 hours sleep as opposed to the recommended 8 or 9 hours

Almost a quarter said they fell asleep more than once a week while watching TV, listening to music or using other electronic gadgets.
Adds Dr Chris Idzikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre,

What we are seeing is the emergence of Junk Sleep - that is sleep that is of neither the length nor quality that it should be in order to feed the brain with the rest it needs to perform properly at school.

If you find that your students are having a hard time paying attention or seem unusually groggy, they may not be sleeping enough or may be suffering from junk sleep. Of course it could just be the boring lecture you're giving!

Read more here.

Dean Kamen and The Real Promise of Technology

Watch this really moving 5-minute TED video of Dean Kamen - serial inventor of the Segway, a mobile dialysis system, an insulin pump, and an all-terrain electric wheelchair. Here he describes the challenge of creating the next-generation prosthetic arm for the 1600 Iraq War veterans missing one arm and the nearly two dozen bi-lateral (both arms) amputees. The work Kamen is doing would replace technology - stick and hook - that hasn't changed much since Civil War.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Say it Ain't So ... Web 2.0 Tools for Back to School

Back in June, the Read/Write Web's Josh Catone posted a great list of back-to-school apps - called . Included in the detailed list are applications for:

  • Office Replacement
  • Notetaking
  • Mind Mapping
  • Studying
  • Bookmarking
  • Collaboration
  • Calendaring
  • Calculation
You'll find a lot of web apps we've talked here on this blog, but I think it's a great idea to package these together into a web-based toolkit. So whether you're going back to school after a summer off, going back to school after 20 summers off or going back to teach either of these groups, take a look at these tools - I think you'll definitely find something you can use this fall.

I'd love to hear your own implementations of Backpack 2.0 - email me at

Friday, August 24, 2007

Inbox Zero: Are You Having a Healthy Relationship with Your Email?

Are you living in your inbox? Are you overwhelmed by email? If so, you might benefit from this video of Merlin Mann speaking at one of Google's Tech Talks (7/23/07). Mann, creator of the 43 Folders blog, focused on personal productivity, life hacks, and simple ways to make your life a little better, details Inbox Zero his implementation of David Allen's Getting Things Done or GTD method.

Mann stresses the importance of getting your inbox to zero, and strategies for dealing with high volume email. The essence of the method is to make your email actiontionable - one of the five actions below and act immediately. Some of Merlin's key points:
  • people have an unhealthy relationship with their email
  • time and attention are finite - we need to treat it as such
  • map time and attention to what you claim is important
The video totals about 58 minutes, but the presentation itself is only thirty minutes, the remaining time devoted to Q and A.

If you like the style of the slides and Mann's presentation style, you can read his How I made my presentations a little better and view/download his slides from our friends at

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Project Management - for All - on the Cheap

Project management is a critical competency that we don't - unfortunately - teach to our students - not just engineers, but all students. Even in engineering education, not a great deal of time is spent teaching students project management. Most students will work as part of a senior design team, getting their first and only experience with project management. The "real" education comes after graduation - on the job. Recent graduates are thrown into a project and "forced" to learn project management working with and for more experienced engineers. Through a variety of projects, new engineers take on diverse roles and increasing levels of responsibility - eventually managing their own projects.

One of the barriers to teaching more students project management is the prohibitive cost of software, such as Microsoft Project. Other factors include the long learning curve and the lack of faculty experienced in project management. Clearly, the first step to a broader understanding and adoption of project management is to get the tools in their hands.

There are a number of free or inexpensive alternatives to Microsoft Project. OpenProj, and GanttProject are open source project management applications available for Linux, Mac and Windows. OpenProj (screenshot above) is a pretty full-featured application with the ability to open and save MS Project files. Another, alternative is to use Microsoft Excel to layout and manage a project schedule. David Seah - Manual Gantt Charting in Excel - provides an Excel template for doing just that. Unfortunately, this doesn't give you all the bells and whistles or intelligence of full-blown project management, but is simple to implement and forces students to organize their tasks into a PM context and to really think about and understand task dependencies. The template has even been converted to a Google Spreadsheet - further reducing the entry barrier and even enabling collaboration. Finally, Ismael Ghalimi's Office 2.0 Database lists 27 online or web 2.0 project applications including Zoho Project, DreamTeam, and ProjectPipe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

VMWare Update: David vs. Goliath

A quick update on last week's VMWare IPO. The stock has settled in the mid-60s - closing yesterday (8/21/2007) at $65 [UPDATE: $72 8/22 11:30 AM]. I firmly believe the market reception is due to the quality of VMWare's virtualization products. How does a company develop great products? They hire great people. Not just great, but the best people. In Silicon Valley, that puts you squarely against Internet giant Google. According to Bloomberg News VMware Chases Google in Race for Programming Talent:
VMware is paying $130,000 to $160,000, plus stock options -- compensation that only Google can match.
Wouldn't it be great if we had stock options and these sort of salaries to attract and keep talented people into the teaching profession?

Tom Friedman on Charlie Rose

Here's Tom Friedman on Charlie Rose from Thursday August 16th. The paperback of The World is Flat is out now with two-and-a-half new chapters that Tom discusses.

Best Quote:
The Iron Rule of Doing Business in the Flat World:
When the world is flat, whatever can be done will be done. The only question is will it be done by you or to you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Web 2.0: Office 2.0 Heats Up

It's cold today on the east coast - 60 degrees, but things are heating up online. Zoho today announced the integration of Google Gears into their Zoho Writer. This is the latest move by one of the three leaders (Zoho, Thinkfree and Google) in the battle for the online office suite - Office 2.0. Offline functionality is one of the three primary criterion we can use to evaluate these products; the others being: completeness or number of applications included, and formatting/translation issues. In spite of nearly ubiquitous connectivity, offline functionality remains important - I would say a near deal-breaker or deal-maker for most users. Thinkfree has an offline version ($49.95) that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux; Google has no offline functionality but has introduced the open source project Google Gears, which has the potential to eventually take their web apps offline. Ironically, Zoho has used Google's project to begin to offer offline functionality. I say begin, because this update only includes Zoho Writer and is limited to read-only access offline - at least for now. Both Thinkfree and Zoho have all of the core office apps (word, excel, powerpoint); Zoho adds a number of additional applications - too many to enumerate here, but include project management, and web-conferencing; Google is missing the presentation component, but is expected to announce a presentation application for their suite sometime later this month.

It's great to see so much competition in this space!

Here's a two-minute video that details the update to ZohoWriter.

Cell Phones - The Future of Education?

Here's a great interview Robert Scoble has recorded with Dr. Elliot Soloway. Who's he? Soloway teaches Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan - his most famous student is Google co-founder Larry Page. Most of the discussion focuses on the state of education and how to improve it. According to Soloway, the opportunities for transforming education are at the K-12 level not colleges - college faculty are unwilling to give up control in the classroom. The technology that he thinks will be most critical to re-shaping education and bridging the digital divide - not laptops or desktops, but the cell phone!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cloudprint -print anything, anywhere, anytime

The New York Times has a story detailing Hewlett-Packard's new Cloudprint application. Cloudprint is a free service that allows mobile phone users and business travelers to print documents on any printer almost anywhere in the world.

How it Works

First “print” or send your document to an HP server somewhere in the cloud. Cloudprint assigns a document code, and sends it to your cellphone as an SMS message. With the code and your mobile number, you can retrieve a PDF version of the document from the Cloudprint Web site and print it virtually anywhere.

According to the story:
The service will include a directory service that will show the location of publicly available printers on Google Maps. The system currently works with any Windows-connected printer. A Macintosh version is also planned.
To support Cloudprint, HP has partnered with a major retailer to establish hundreds of Internet-connected printing locations around the country.

See you in the cloud!

Wireless Power - Update

In a June 24 posting - Wireless Power - Time to Cut the Cord! I discussed a team at MIT developing wireless power - something they're calling WiTricity. A reader posted a link to WitricityNet a site with more information about the MIT project.

Here's a sampling of some video from the site.

First a great 14-minute video on the life and contributions of
Nikola Tesla. Although a bit over-dramatized, the video provides some great information on Tesla and would benefit students and faculty in electronics, communications and networking. His work provides the foundation upon which many modern technologies are built.

And finally two examples of wireless power in action.

There's more on the site. It's not quite ready for prime time, but the prospect of
eventually being able to cut the power cord is pretty exciting.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Don't Know Much About History ...

Unfortunately, that statement could be used to describe many of our students - particularly technology students. Although I teach technology, I love history, especially the history of technology and I am always looking for ways to teach history to my students. I think history enriches a student's understanding and helps to contextualize the content. While the benefits of teaching history are clear, it's a challenge to do so - mainly because our technology programs and courses are already so jammed with content there is very little room for anything new or different.

I've been successful at using audio and video to supplement what I do in the classroom, but I am always looking for new ways to bring history into the classroom. There's an interesting new tool called Xtimeline that could help. Xtimeline allows you and your students to create, share and explore interactive timelines. I think you'll enjoy exploring the timelines - here are a few examples - just click on the images below to open the interactive timeline.

The first is a history of the internet, from 1958 (Who was President kids?) to the present. There a number of events - at least according to me - missing. But what a great opportunity to have your students fill in the holes and fact check the timeline.
The second example is a history of video games. Looks pretty thorough, but admittedly not my area of expertise.
Finally, the last example is actually from Karl Kapp's blog - Karl, a professor of instructional technology and an expert in gaming, might be able to help us evaluate the completeness and accuracy of the Gaming timeline . There a couple different ways to create your own timelines. The first is to create an excel spreadsheet (or even better Goggle Docs spreadsheet) and upload to the Xtimeline site. The template - shown below - is pretty straight forward. Students could spend the whole semester gather new events - as they learn/discover them - and populate the spreadsheet. Imagine students working on this individually, in groups, as an entire class or even working collaboratively with other students/classes anywhere in the world - a sort of "The World is Flat" project! Another way to create a timeline is to use an RSS feed. That's how I made the Karl Kapp timeline.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Triple A 2.0

We're all familiar with the American Automobile Association or more commonly AAA or triple A. Over the last 25 years, I've been an on and off Triple A member; usually letting my memberships lapse and renewing when I had a dead battery, needed a tow or some other type of road-side assistance. The proliferation of online mapping and small inexpensive GPS devices has made AAA and their Trip-Tik flip books an anachronism. In fact, it's been quite a while since I've even thought about Triple A - until today.

RCR Wireless news has a great story AAA launches mobile app detailing Triple A's efforts to re-invent themselves, or what I'm calling Triple A 2.0. According to the story, AAA Mobile (available only from Sprint) is a downloadable mobile phone application that offers drivers access to:
  • audible turn-by-turn directions,
  • GPS location information,
  • AAA ratings (hotels, dining, etc), and
  • AAA points of interest.
It's still unclear how widely-available this application will be (members versus non-members and Sprint versus other carriers) and how much the service will cost - early indications are $10 per month. Pricing and availability will be critical factors in determining the success of this application, especially in an already crowded and competitive market (Google Maps, Garmin, TomTom, etc).

It's great to see Triple A attempt to re-define themselves and their market, but you gotta wonder - is it too little, too late?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


For the last year, I've been using the beta of VMWare Fusion on my Macbook. VMWare is also available for Windows XP and Vista and most versions of Linux. This is a great product - allowing me to run Windows XP and a wide-variety of Linux flavors on my Mac OS X machine. I use these "virtual machines" to teach and prepare for classes in networking, security and operating systems.

I currently use VMWare and Parallels and have used VirtualPC in the past. Briefly, you install VMWare, Parallels or VirtualPC on top of your primary or host operating system and then install virtual or guest operating systems that run inside or on top off the host OS. If you teach across multiple operating systems and haven't explored any of these applications, give them a try - they're really great tools for teaching and working with students.

If you have your doubts about the importance of virtualization, or it's impact on business take a look at the following graph.Yesterday (8/14) was the IPO or Initial Public Offering of VMWare stock - the largest technology IPO since 2004 (a little company named Google). The initial offering price (symbol VMW) was $29; the first day closing price was $51 (43% gain) and today's closing price $57.50 (13%). Wish I bought some! Read more here.

Esther Dyson on Charlie Rose 8/14/2007

Just available from Charlie Rose. The 8/14/2007 interview with Esther Dyson. The interview - A discussion about emerging technologies with Esther Dyson - covers a wide range of topics from the human genome and health care to Google and Facebook - even monetizing Charlie's site with PayPal. Great stuff - enjoy!

Esther Dyson and John Doerr on Charlie Rose

I was watching the Charlie Rose show last night (8/14/2007). He had a great interview with Esther Dyson, that covered a wide range of topics from the human genome and health care to Google and Facebook - even monetizing Charlie's site with PayPal. Unfortunately it's not available yet on his site, but I will post when it becomes available.

In the meantime, you can watch this January 2006 interview with John Doerr and Esther Dyson. I encourage you to have your colleagues and your students watch this 24-minute video - and let the discussion begin.

Classroom Blogging

In an interview Gordon Snyder and I did with Karl Kapp, we discussed the topic of blogging. Karl really hit the nail on the head, when he described the effect that blogging has had on him personally.
I love my blog, it really clarifies my thinking and is a great online "memory box" for me.
Karl's point begs the question - wouldn't students benefit from blogging? Does blogging have the potential to help students become better communicators, clarify their thinking, fine-tune their critical thinking skills and improve their memories?

A New Jersey K-8 Tech Teacher - Ann - is using Class Blogmeister to blog with her students. Blogmeister is well-suited for use in the class room because it, explicitly designed with teachers and students in mind, where
the teacher can evaluate, comment on, and finally publish
students' blog articles in a controlled environment.
The key there - at least for me - is the controlled environment, especially for K-12 students. Gordon, Karl and I all use Blogger, Google's blog-hosting service, but maybe a tool like this is more appropriate for students. The flowchart on the left describes the workflow in Class Blogmeister.

An example for college students is Mark Viquesney who teaches at the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona. For a hybrid class Mark's teaching this fall he's using Google docs for student writing assignments and peer review. Mark is also using Elluminate to hold virtual office hours and encourage greater student-to-student to interaction.

Both great ideas! Different audiences; different tools - what do these two ideas share? Collaboration! Collaboration is the killer application!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

UPDATE: Online Mindmapping

I received some great reader feedback on the Online Mindmapping post. Thanks everyone for the great comments - as always you can reach me at or post your comment directly to the blog.

Readers loved the Civil Rights Movement mindmap, which I picked because I found it an engaging mindmap both visually and topically. It is not one of my maps - I teach technology courses - you can get the map for free at the Mindjet Map Gallery - under education/faculty. Sorry for the confusion.

Another reader pointed me to comapping a pretty slick online mindmapping application.Comapping, which offers a free 30-day trial, costs about $2 per month. This web app has a fairly rich interface, lots of bells and whistles and allows real-time collaboration - like Mindmeister. It's great to see so many options available and so much activity in this online space.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Web 2.0: Online Mindmapping

In an earlier post on Search Mash-Ups, I provided a link to Wikimindmap, which takes a Wikipedia search query and builds a Mindmap from it.

Mindmapping is a really great way to visualize information, whether working individually, or as part of a group. I've been using Mindjet's Mindmanager for about four years. More popular in the K-12 sector is the significantly cheaper Inspiration, which I find to be a bit more simplistic and "cartoony." A recent trend is online or web-based mindmapping, such as MindMeister and Mindomo. Each offers a free basic version and a subscription-based paid or premium service. MindMeister's focus is on providing a collaboration platform for mindmapping, while Mindomo is about building a mindmapping community - a sort of YouTube for mindmapping.
For some interesting uses of MindMapping, you can read A Beginner's Guide to Mind Mapping Meetings on the Lifehacker blog.


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