Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blackboard's Acquisition of iStanford Development Company Begins to Pay Dividends

I understand from colleagues that the in-house Blackboard app for the iPhone is terrible. While their own development seems to be struggling, they have so much cash on-hand that they can make strategic purchases to gaps in their business. This purchase made sense at the time and seems to be reaping benefits.

Blackboard Adds BlackBerry App for Mobile Web Platform
Blackboard has added the Research in Motion BlackBerry to its list of supported devices for the new Blackboard Mobile platform. Mobile Central (formerly named MobilEdu) was initially optimized only for users of Apple iPhone and iPod Touch devices.

Originally developed by San Francisco-based Terriblyclever Design, a company acquired by Blackboard in July 2009, Mobile Central is branded for each institution and accessed by users who download their institution's application.

The application gives users the ability to search course catalogs and view campus maps, e-mail teachers and classmates, and receive real-time updates on course schedules, campus events, news, and sports. In addition, institutions can use Blackboard application programming interfaces to customize and personalize the interface and functionality of the program.

On the mobile front, Blackboard also offers a free application called Learn for iPhone, which specifically provides updates from a Blackboard course. The company said in an FAQ on its Web site that it will continue making that program available.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Google Wave and Journalism

I've been playing with Google Wave since the end of September. It's still very buggy and chaotic. In spite of these problems, I see tremendous potential for Wave as both a communication and collaboration platform. One colleague has suggested the Wave would be a great evaluation tool, my students are spending countless hours playing collaborative sudoku, while I haven't quite found my killer Wave application - yet. Here's a great blog post describing uses for Wave in journalism.

You might also be interested in some earlier posts on Wave:
How Google Wave is Changing the News
It’s not too often that legacy media learns a new mass communication tool along with its audience. But that’s exactly what’s going on now because of Google Wave. Although it’s still invitation only and in preview, the real-time wiki collaboration platform is being used by some media companies for community building, real-time discussion, crowdsourcing, collaboration both inside and outside the newsroom, and for cross publishing content. Google Wave may seem familiar to older users of the Internet, who have been using the parts that make up the whole of the platform for years. Wave, however, brings those pieces together cohesively to allow users to share photos, embed videos, and converge other Google applications such as Google Maps and Google Calendar to create customized blocks of user-editable content on the fly. Here are four ways that newsrooms are using Wave.
  • Using Waves to Foster Engagement
  • Using Waves As ‘Town Squares’
  • Wave as a Newsroom Content Planning Tool
  • Turning Blog Posts Into Public Waves

Muni-WiFi, the MPAA, and Illegal Downloads

Actually download - singular. There might be more to this story than meets the eye, but on the surface it's pretty scary. MPAA shuts down entire town's muni WiFi over a single download
The MPAA has successfully shut down an entire town's municipal WiFi because a single user was found to be downloading a copyrighted movie. Rather than being embarrassed by this gross example of collective punishment (a practice outlawed in the Geneva conventions) against Coshocton, OH, the MPAA's spokeslizard took the opportunity to cry poor (even though the studios are bringing in record box-office and aftermarket receipts).
Mike LaVigne, IT director, said the number of people who access the Internet using the connection varies widely, from perhaps a dozen people a day to 100 during busy times such as First Fridays and the Coshocton Canal Festival.


Because it's a single address used by many people, it's difficult to tell who made the illegal download, although the county plans to investigate the matter.

Joost Is Now Officially Dead

Wow, that happened fast. It wasn't too long ago that Joost was the new media darling.

Joost Is Now Officially Dead – Assets Acquired By Adconion Media Group
Adconion Media Group announced this morning that it has acquired certain key assets from Joost, the ill-fated online video service started by the infamous Kazaa and Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but it’s likely a firesale that isn’t bringing any returns to Joost’s investors.

Liberal Arts in Jeopardy?

Interesting that I just had this identical discussion with a couple of colleagues from the "other side" of the college - history and political science. The purpose of our meeting was to identify potential areas for new courses and programs. My colleagues were probably justified in thinking that we were being asked to examine market and economic trends in the hopes of figuring out which career programs and courses we could pursue. The key word being market, which leads to marketable courses and programs. My colleagues see this as a myopic reaction to a down economy. They make the point that in difficult economic times, all students - including liberal arts students - will be unable or unwilling to pay for a pricey four-year college education. Students will instead opt for completing their first two years at an affordable, quality community college. What do you think? Liberal Arts in Jeopardy?
As colleges across the country continue to cinch their belts, both administrators and students have been forced to decide which sorts of programs are good investments and which are now unaffordable luxuries. And with students sweating a cutthroat job market that favors specific skills, many in higher education have been left wonder how the recession stands to affect the liberal arts.

That was much on the minds of liberal arts leaders gathered here at the annual meeting of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences. How to maintain the appeal of ‘an education for wisdom and virtue’ as families and institutions fixate anxiously on their bottom lines was the question of the day.

‘We need to think about how it is that we preserve the things that are important,’ Dan Wakelee, associate dean of the faculty at California State University at Channel Islands, ‘so that when things stabilize, we’re in a position to accommodate students and continue to offer liberal arts programs that have made us distinctive in the past.’

Liberal arts institutions must take an active role in convincing students and parents that pursuing a liberal education will enrich them as people without compromising them as job-seekers, said Kristin Fossum, an associate dean at Pomona College.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Where Do You Sit in Class?

While this is true for students, it's also true for faculty attending meetings. For the record, I move around from "nearest exit" to "back row" and to "against the wall." My days of "front row" and "mid-centre" are long gone.

Cartoon by Jorge Cham

Via eLearning Blog.

Project Lead the Way Partners with Prometric for Assessment

PLTW must have been doing some sort of assessment prior to this? You don't train 12,000 teachers and counselors to "serve" 250,000 students without assessing the quality of the materials, the training, and the instruction? Right?

Project Lead the Way Embarks on 5-Year STEM Assessment Program
Project Lead the Way, a not-for-profit organization that promotes engineering and biomedical sciences through project-based learning, has launched an online assessment initiative to monitor the progress of 200,000 high school students per year for the next five years in order to help track their learning in STEM subjects from middle school to high school and beyond.

PLTW partnered with assessment vendor Prometric for the project. Online assessments will be administered in schools as an end of year test and will provide PLTW with information on the students' cognitive development, college readiness, core subject understanding, course schedule, and math and science grades.

Project Lead the Way programs are used in 3,000 classrooms across 50 states and the District of Columbia. PLTW has trained 7,000 teachers 5,000 counselors and currently serves 250,000 students.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Winston Churchill Life Lessons

Henrik Edberg at The Positivity Blog shares some great life lessons from Winston Churchill. I excerpted the key headings; click the link to read more Winston Churchill’s Short Guide to Life: 6 Essential Fundamentals
fundamentals from Churchill on how to improve your life.

1. Focus on what you are doing right now.

‘It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.’

‘It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.’
2. Be concerned about action.

‘I never worry about action, but only about inaction’
3. Be an optimist.

‘The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’

‘Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.’

‘I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.’
4. Be persistent. Don’t give up.

‘Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential’

‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’
5. Don’t lose the enthusiasm.

‘Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.’
6. Remember, most troubles never happen.

‘When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened’

Projector + Magic Wand = Smartboard?


A pretty standard product announcement - two new DLP projectors,

InFocus outs two new DLP projectors for classrooms
InFocus has released two new DLP projectors meant for the business and educational markets with the IN3902 and IN3904. The main difference between the two is the former's native 1024x768 resolution and the latter's 1280x800 resolution.
until you get to the description of the LiteBoard Wand
Shared between the two is compatibility with InFocus' LiteBoard technology, which allows users to interact with the projectors, annotating, appending and highlighting projected content with a wireless remote called the LiteBoard Wand.
If you have or find video of this in action, please share! The ability to present directly from a USB device is pretty cool too.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Very Moving Video from Veterans Day

Taken at Arlington National Cemetery. You can see the outlines of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama near the end - at about 5:09.

Via Swampland -

MS Disputes Copying Mac OS X

Microsoft is disputing the claim - by an employee - that the UI of Windows was copied from Mac OS X. I wonder if they are also disputing the claim - from the same employee - that Windows 7 is more stable than Mac OS X. As the post from Microsoft says, this employee's "comments were inaccurate and uninformed." Memo to Steve Balmer: You gotta get your people under control.

How we really designed the look and feel of Windows 7 - Windows 7 Team Blog
An inaccurate quote has been floating around the Internet today about the design origins of Windows 7 and whether its look and feel was ‘borrowed’ from Mac OS X.  Unfortunately this came from a Microsoft employee who was not involved in any aspect of designing Windows 7. I hate to say this about one of our own, but his comments were inaccurate and uninformed. If you’re interested in learning more about the design of Windows 7, I suggest reading this AP story with Julie Larson-Green as well as these WSJ (membership required) and Fast Company articles. And here is one of many blog posts on the E7 blog discussing the design process of Windows 7.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Twitter in Google Wave

Interesting idea a Google Wave extension that provides a single authenticated Twitter account, with access to post for everyone in the wave. Sort of an alternative to using using hashtags at a conference, although less open (have to be in the wave) and could raise some security concerns.
twitter in wave.png

iPhone as an Environmental Monitoring Tool

As more and more add-ons such as this get developed, educators, entrepreneurs - really anyone - will find great utility for an already useful device. Imagine a class of environmental science students in the field, collecting and recording pollution and GPS data.

NASA brings chemical sensor to iPhone:
If you are in need of finding out if there is ammonia, chlorine gas or methane in the air around you, there’s an iPhone app for that. A researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center has developed what NASA calls a proof of concept of new technology that would bring compact, low-cost, low-power, high-speed nanosensor-based chemical sensing capabilities to cell phones.

The device NASA researcher Jing Li developed is about the size of a postage stamp and fits in the iPhone to collect, process, and transmit sensor data, NASA said. The device senses chemicals in the air using a ‘sample jet’ and a multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip, which consists of 16 nanosensors, and sends detection data to another phone or a computer via telephone communication network or Wi-Fi.

Li along with researchers working under the Cell-All program in the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate developed the app.

Cell-All is designed to provide greater chemical detection capabilities in cell phones. Cell phone owners could use their phone’s GPS to provide sensor location information to emergency operation centers, NASA stated.

Blogger Banned From Campus

Thankfully it's not me ... Quick Takes: Ave Maria Bans Blogger From Campus
Ave Maria University has banned a blogger who has been critical of the university from the campus, The Naples News reported. University officials said that the blogger, Marielena Montesino de Stuart, has demonstrated 'an ongoing and open hostility' to the university, and that as a private institution, it has the right to restrict access to campus. Stuart responded by saying: ‘This is another way in which the university’s administration silences public opinion, which is a violation of our constitutional rights.'

Here Comes WiMax

A nice collection of WiMax-related photos from Flickr. I particularly like the coverage map for Portland.


Photo by hawken king -

Clear Coverage Map.jpg

Photo by Jason McArthur -

Wimax Connected!.jpg

Photo by Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten -


Photo by kawanet -


Photo by ヌンヌン -


Photo by kawanet -

UD01NA を USB で接続してみた.jpg

Photo by kawanet -

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Really Cool Video The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Cool Ad Watch -

Advertising BaseNation by JUL & MAT from JUL & MAT on Vimeo.

MS Claims Windows 7 More Stable Than Mac OS X?

Reader BertJ just left a comment on my post "Microsoft Copied Mac OS X?":

Wait. 7 has registry and it's more stable than FreeBSD with the mach kernel? What am I missing? I just rebooted my Mac Mini that had 21 days of uptime b/c I upgraded to 10.6.2.

I'm with you on this Bert.

Microsoft Copied Mac OS X?

At least that's what Microsoft is saying ...
Microsoft official admits Windows 7 design inspired by Mac OS X
When it looked to redesign its dominant operating system after the struggles of Windows Vista, Microsoft reportedly turned to Apple's Mac OS X for the 'look and feel' of Windows 7.

Simon Aldous, partner group manager with Microsoft, told PCR that the graphical style of Windows 7 -- which he calls 'Vista on steroids' -- was inspired by the look of Apple's Mac OS X. The new Windows operating system launched in October.

'One of the things that people say an awful lot about the Apple Mac is that the OS is fantastic, that it's very graphical and easy to use,' Aldous said. 'What we’ve tried to do with Windows 7 -- whether it's traditional format or in a touch format -- is create a Mac look and feel in terms of graphics. We've significantly improved the graphical user interface, but it's built on that very stable core Vista technology, which is far more stable than the current Mac platform, for instance.'

How Inductors Work

Great video explaining how inductors work.

How inductors work

Clay Shirky on The Social Media Revolution

Great interview with Clay Shirky!

The Social Media Revolution
Here is a great video interview with Clay Shirky (author of Here Comes Everybody) from GRIT TV on how Social Media is changing everything from news and media to business and communication as we know it (this is well worth the 24 minutes):

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Online Distance Learning

Here's a great episode of ATETV that discusses online learning. If you haven't looked at online courses recently, it may be time to reconsider teaching and learning online.

From ATETV Episode 8: Online Distance Learning Brings Education to Students Anywhere

Video of Lawrence Lessig at Educause

Earlier, I posted a quote from Lawrence Lessig's presentation at Educause 2009. Here's video from the presentation. As always, Lessig is impressive, not only in the content of the talk, but also in the presentation style and the visual quality of the slides.

via Cory Doctorow at boingboing

Goodbye Sage on the Stage: Interactive Teaching in Physics

I've been playing with Google Wave lately. A colleague in a "Educators Wave Directory" shared this video with the group/wave - not sure what a wave member should be called. How about surfers!

I've been trying to encourage faculty to move away from the traditional lecture style approach to teaching - the so-called sage on the stage - to an approach more rooted in asking questions, encouraging exploration, and letting the students shape their own learning. It's not easy to do. It's unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and often chaotic. BUT, when it's done well, the results are amazing to watch. Here's a great example of how to transform your teaching style from Physics Professor Eric Mazur. It's interesting that Mazur altered his approach, not because students were doing poorly, but because students were passing exams without understanding the fundamental concepts.

From Questions to Concepts: Interactive Teaching in Physics
How can you engage your students and be sure they are learning the conceptual foundations of a lecture course? In From Questions to Concepts, Harvard University Professor Eric Mazur introduces Peer Instruction and Just-in-Time teaching -- two innovative techniques for lectures that use in-class discussion and immediate feedback to improve student learning. Using these techniques in his innovative undergraduate physics course, Mazur demonstrates how lectures and active learning can be successfully combined.
Photo by mikebaird -

Monday, November 09, 2009

Don't Blame the Internet for Your Loneliness ...

... he typed, alone on his computer.

Americans Are Lonelier, but Don't Blame the Internet, Report Says
Americans tend to have fewer close confidants today than they did two decades ago -- but that isn't because they're all huddled over their computers playing World of Warcraft or reading the Volokh Conspiracy.

A report released Wednesday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that the Internet and other new communication technologies have, if anything, a modestly positive effect on the size and diversity of people's friendship networks.

The study found that using the Internet is associated with having more, not fewer, intimate friends. And Internet users are generally no less likely than nonusers to maintain face-to-face ties with their neighbors. Bloggers, for example, are 72 percent more likely than the general population to belong to a local voluntary organization.

So the common fear that old-fashioned kinds of social capital will evaporate as people spend more time online doesn't seem to be warranted.

But not all the news in the Pew report is sunny. The authors, who include three scholars at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication, found evidence that Americans' friendship networks have shrunk significantly in the last two decades. The Internet isn't to blame for that trend, the Pew authors say, but the trend seems to be real.

Lawrence Lessig at Educause 2009

'You Geeks Have to Become Radical Militant Activists'
The face of evil, projected 20 feet tall on a screen behind Lawrence Lessig, belonged to Britney Spears.

The face of good belonged to composer John Philip Sousa.

Mr. Lessig, the Harvard Law School professor, was giving a keynote address at Educause 2009. He argued that intellectual property in education had been taken over by an exclusive-rights model represented by Ms. Spears, the pop diva. That model has pushed out another one based on community collaboration—represented by the composer of 'Stars and Stripes Forever,' who longed for music created by neighborhood singalongs.

The 'ecology of education and science,' Mr. Lessig said, is inherently collaborative, and it is being strangled by copyright-law principles based on exclusivity.

It is time to fight back, he told his audience, adding: 'You geeks have to become radical militant activists.' Scientists and educators are busy creating, he continued, so it is up to chief information officers and other information-technology specialists to devise ways to make those creations both legal and widely accessible.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Genius at Work

Wow - this is amazing stuff. As one of the comments says "Absolutely nothing like a deadline to focus your efforts…" Clearly Wright had the entire site plan committed to memory and had worked out the plans in his head. Or maybe it just came to him in those 3 hours ...

Video: Ken Burn’s documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright
Ken Burn’s documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright shows Wright did the actual drawings for the famous Falling Water house in less than three hours!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Digital Forensics

Very cool example of digital forensics applied to a forty-year old iconic photograph.

Andy Plesser: Iconic Lee Harvey Oswald Photo is no Fake, Dartmouth Professor
The backyard photo of Lee Harvey Oswald, holding a rifle and Marxist newspaper, was called a fake by Oswald when he was interrogated by Dallas police after his arrest.

The image had fueled conspiracy theorists who said the image was faked, and pointed tot the unusual shadows.

Now, Dartmouth Professor, Hany Farid, a computer scientist and authority on forensic imaging, has determined definitively that the image is, indeed real.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Silicon Valley Versus Boston’s Route 128

Great piece on Silicon Valley versus Boston's Route 128. I'm particularly interested in how the openness of Silicon Valley spurred growth as the corporate-siloed Route 128 lagged behind. Consider your own professional learning network (PLN) and your interactions with colleagues. How easily do you and your colleagues share information? Does your network - formal or informal - foster openness and innovation or are you trapped in a silo?

The Valley of My Dreams: Why Silicon Valley Left Boston’s Route 128 In The Dust:
In the 1980’s the Silicon Valley and Route 128 looked very similar—a mix of large and small tech firms, world class universities, venture capital, and military funding. If you were betting on one you’d have been wise to bet on Route 128 because of its longer industrial history and proximity to a large number of high quality educational institutions (Harvard, Yale, Brown, MIT, Tufts, Amherst) and proximity to Bell Labs and other large corporate research centers. You remember Bell Labs, right? It’s where the transistor was invented. Now, aside from big biotech breakthroughs, Boston is a distant second nationally to Silicon Valley in technology entrepreneurship. So, what happened to Boston?

A young professor at UC-Berkeley, AnnaLee Saxenian, wrote a book in 1994 which answers this question. At a time when Boston still thought it was the powerhouse of the tech industry, Saxenian declared Boston the loser in the tech race and explained why it would only fall further behind. This book was titled Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128. It kicked off a firestorm of criticism from the Boston elite. Saxenian also alienated friends at her alma mater, MIT.

She noted that Silicon Valley had an amazing dynamism about it. There were extensive professional networks, job hopping was the norm, information was exchanged openly, and the culture encouraged risk taking. The Silicon Valley ecosystem supported entrepreneurial experimentation and collective learning. In other words, Silicon Valley was a very open network—a giant social networking site working in analog before the concept of such a thing even existed.
[emphasis added - MQ]

This organizational mechanism was in sharp contrast to that of Route 128. Dominated by large, vertically integrated, and secretive minicomputer producers such as DEC, Wang, Prime, and Data General. Technology, skill, and know-how were trapped within the boundaries of the large corporations.

More on DNA in Higher Ed

DNA Swab for Your Job
Many colleges now require criminal background checks of all new employees. But the University of Akron -- in what some experts believe is a first -- is not only requiring a criminal background check, but is stating that new employees must be willing to submit a DNA sample.

The requirement was added quietly and is now receiving attention -- and criticism -- because an adjunct faculty member at Akron quit this week, citing the new rules. 'It's not enough that the university doesn't pay us a living wage, or provide us with health insurance, but now they want to sacrifice the sanctity of our bodies. No,' said Matt Williams, who had been teaching four courses this semester in the communications and continuing education programs.

The new rules at Akron were adopted by the Board of Trustees in August, but most faculty members only learned of them in a recent e-mail list of announcements sent by the university to all employees. The rules state that background checks will be performed on all candidates selected for employment and that all offers will be 'contingent on successful completion' of the check. Further, they state that all applicants 'may be asked to submit a DNA sample.' The rules specifically state that all employees, including faculty members, are covered.

Laura Martinez Massie, spokeswoman for Akron, said that the university would not comment on the resignation of Williams. She also said that to date, the university has not collected DNA and has no plans to do so, but is 'merely reserving the right to do so.'

While some colleges have added background checks or tightened screening procedures in the wake of incidents involving their employees, Akron faculty leaders said that they knew of no recent event involving employees that would have suggested a need for such a policy. 'Any reasoning behind this is known to administrators only,' said Stephen H. Aby, a librarian and professor of bibliography at Akron. Aby is also a past president of the university's chapter of the American Association of University Professors (which represents full-time professors at the university) and has been investigating the issue for the AAUP there.

Many faculty members 'have been taken aback by the sweep and invasiveness' of the policy, Aby said. He added that the AAUP was not consulted in advance, and that some believe that imposing the rules now violates the union's contract. He said faculty members want to know why DNA would be collected, what would happen with the samples and how any information would be used -- and that the policy suggests complete discretion on all such matters would go to the administration.

While Aby said that he and his colleagues are bothered by the DNA requirement on principle, he also thinks it is a strategic mistake for the university.

'If a university adopts such an abhorrent policy, if you are competing for top faculty and these faculty members have options, I can't imagine this would be a good draw,' he said.


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