Thursday, May 31, 2012

Microsoft to Enable Skype Stealth Install

Hey Microsoft - No strategy for Skype? Paid too much for Skype? No problem, let's pre-install as crapware!

Gavin Clarke … Microsoft hands out tools to sneak Skype onto new PCs:

Microsoft is eliminating the download experience from Skype for consumers by giving OEMs the tools to slip the VoIP client into PCs.

The company has released a Skype OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) for Windows 7, which you can find here.

The OPK is designed to give PC makers the tools they need to “silently install” Skype for customers, according to the OPK site.

On Tenterhooks

On tenterhooks - Grammarist:

To be on tenterhooks (not tenderhooks) is to be nervously waiting to find out what is going to happen in a tense or perilous situation. 

Literally, a tenter is a wooden frame used to hang newly woven woolen cloth in order to prevent it from shrinking as it dries. The tenterhooks, obviously, are the hooks on the tenter used to hold the cloth in place. The figurative sense, which developed in the late 18th or early 19th century, comes from the fact that cloth hung on tenterhooks is tense and stretched. Those adjectives might also describe the mental state of someone in anxious suspense over something.

"Why Windows 8 Scares Me"

Michael Mace on Fear and Loathing and Windows 8. Very detailed and thorough review of Windows 8.

I was very excited when I saw the first demos of Windows 8. After years of settling for mediocre incremental improvements in its core products, Microsoft finally was ready to make bold changes to Windows, something I thought it had to do to stay relevant in computing. What’s more, the changes looked really nice! Once I’d seen the clean, modern-looking videos of Windows 8, the old Windows looked cramped and a little embarrassing, kind of like finding a picture of the way you dressed when you were a senior in high school (link).

So when Microsoft announced that it was releasing a “consumer preview” of Windows 8, I couldn’t wait to play with it. So far I’ve installed Windows 8 on two computers, a middle of the road HP laptop and a mini tablet PC from Japan. I’ve browsed the web and used Office and even tested our new app, Zekira, on it. My conclusion is that Windows 8 in its current form is very different; attractive in some ways, and disturbing in others. It combines an interesting new interface with baffling changes to Windows compatibility, and amateur mistakes in customer messaging. Add up all the changes, and I am very worried that Microsoft may be about to shoot itself in the foot spectacularly. Even the plain colorful graphics in Windows 8 that looked so cool when I first saw them are starting to look ominous to me, like the hotel decor in The Shining.[Emphasis added – MQ]

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Verizon Rolling Out 300Mbps FiOS

Not gonna be cheap – guessing $400 per month!

From Stephen Lawson … Verizon Boosting FiOS Top Speed to 300Mbps:

Verizon Communications is putting the pedal to the metal on its FiOS service with a new 300Mbps option next month, offering a majority of its customers a wild Internet ride, though it hasn't said how much that ride will cost.

The company said Wednesday it will refresh its portfolio of services next month, introducing four new speed tiers. The most eye-catching will be the top plan, with 300Mbps (bits per second) downstream and 65Mbps upstream. With that grade of service, subscribers will be able to download a two-hour high-definition movie in 2.2 minutes and upload five minutes of HD home video in 31 seconds, according to Verizon. The fastest FiOS service now is 150Mbps downstream and 35Mbps upstream, with TV and voice, for $199.99 per month.

Bump – Easily Transfer Files

Clever! Transfer Files With Just a Bump:

Bump is a free app for Android and iOS devices that makes it very easy to transfer pictures and contacts between devices. Bump can also be used to transfer photos and contacts from your mobile device to your laptop or desktop computer.

(Via Richard Byrne)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Protect That Precious Pint of Ice Cream

I thought this was a joke at first, but you can actually buy this from Ben and Jerry's.


Pint Lock

PDFs and E-Books

I hate PDFs as e-books.

Chris Meadows agrees that the PDF format is [a] dead end for e-publishing:

I found an interesting article on the blog of “technology innovation company” DPCI about how PDF format is an e-publishing dead end. In an era when e-readers have so many different potential screen sizes and different text formatting and rewrapping abilities, the article notes, a format that was primarily developed to freeze a page into a form that would look the same no matter where it was printed is a dead end for screen reading.

PDF is a dead-end format. What I mean by this is that the nature of the format mimics what it was intended for: print. Once ink hits the page, the code behind it that created it becomes irrelevant because the content was not intended to move from the printed page to another system, print is the end product.

Many of the platforms that are used in digital publishing today are based on technologies like HTML in order to allow the maximum flexibility between different platforms. Storing content in such a universal way also gives the maximum flexibility for future platforms. As digital publishing is rapidly changing as is the nature of the digital space, locking content into a single dead-end format like PDF only restricts your business opportunities moving forward.

The piece also points out that many of the interactive elements Adobe has since incorporated into PDFs rely on Adobe applications and Flash to view them—which means that they don’t read as intended on mobile platforms like the iPad or Amazon tablets, and with even Adobe moving away from Flash it’s not clear how viable they’ll be into the future.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Verizon to Use New Alcatel-Lucent Router

Stephen Lawson – Verizon Looks to Alcatel’s New Core Router for Capacity, Efficiency

Verizon Communications on Tuesday became the first service provider to say it will use Alcatel-Lucent’s upcoming 7950 XRS core routing system, which will bring the French-American equipment vendor into the carrier core routing business for the first time in about a decade.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alcatel-Lucent Unveils a 16 Tera Bit Per Second Router

2.5 million HD video streams per second -wow!

David Goldman ... How Alcatel-Lucent just made the Internet 5 times faster

In a world where we’re constantly connected and video sucks up an ever-growing chunk of precious bandwidth, Internet service providers are getting desperate for ways to crank up their speed.

Networking challenger Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) is about to give them what they want.

The company announced Tuesday that it has developed the “7950 XRS,” a core Internet router that is capable of speeds up to five times faster than those of its nearest competitor. Just one 7950 XRS router can deliver 16 terabits of data per second. That’s about 2.5 million HD video streams every tick of the second hand.

It’s roughly five times faster than the CRS-3, networking giant Cisco’s latest and greatest core router, which debuted in 2010.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cius - Cisco's Tablet

I had forgotten about these - apparently so has everyone else.

Jim Duffy ... Cisco all but kills Cius tablet computer

Cisco is slowly killing off its Cius business tablet less than a year after it started shipping.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

4 Degrees With 0% Unemployment

0 unemployment 001

Annalyn Censky … 4 Degrees With 0% Unemployment

  • Actuarial Science
  • Astrophysics
  • Pharmacology
  • Geophysics

Bread Line Photo by The Library of Congress

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Android Malware Hijacking a Facebook Connection

University of Michigan researchers Zhiyun Qian and , Z. Morley Mao detail and demonstrate an Off-Path TCP Sequence Number Inference Attack

They also link to an Android app they've developed to:

find out if your network has deployed the sequence-number-checking firewall middlebox. It also helps us collect more data on which network providers are vulnerable so that we can report the issue to them.

What is off-path TCP sequence number inference attack?

Off-path sequence number inference attack is a new network attack that we discovered which can further enable TCP injection and hijacking attacks. One form of the attack is that an attacker on the Internet can collaborate with an on-device malware (unprivileged, such as a disguised third-party app) to hijack the facebook webpage (which is loaded by a separate app -- browser). Here's a picture of the threat model. In this particular threat model, the unprivileged malware collaborates with an Internet attacker to hijack the connection to the Facebook server. A more complete list of attacks possible is described in our paper.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

The Divided Brain

Really fascinating lecture on how the brain works. I learned quite a bit and a number of things I thought I knew about the brain are in fact not true. The RSAnimate version does wonders to make a topic engaging.

In this new RSAnimate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our 'divided brain' has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. Taken from a lecture given by Iain McGilchrist as part of the RSA's free public events programme.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Likable vs. Likeable

The Grammarist on Likable vs. likeable

For the adjective meaning pleasant or attractive, writers from outside North America generally use likeable. Likable—without the first e—is the preferred spelling in U.S. English. In Canadian news publications that publish online (which aren’t always reliable for gauging actual Canadian usage), both spellings appear about equally often.

Both appear throughout the English-speaking world, however. In current British news publications, likable appears about once for every six instances of likeable. In American publications, the word is spelled likeable about a third of the time.

Likeable is probably the older the form. It enters the language by 1700, and examples of its use in early 18th-century British publications are easily found through historical Google Books searches. Most instances of likable that Google finds from this period are actually improperly scanned words like remarkable and suitable. Genuine examples of likable become more common in mid-18th-century sources. The American preference for likable gains steam toward the end of that century and steadily becomes more pronounced up to the present.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Grading Your IT Department


Grading my college's IT department on these 5 criteria (on a 0 to 5 scale; with 0 = no expertise and 5 = well versed), I would rank as follows:

  • Project Management = 1
  • Security = 3-4 (it's getting better each semester; incremental improvement)
  • Virtualization/Cloud = 0-1 (just starting to look at this)
  • Network Administration = 4-5 (this is the oldest of the 5 domains, so as you would expect, IT is well versed in network admin)
  • Business Analysis = 0 (this is where there's a real disconnect; I think sometimes our IT department forgets that we are a college, that we deal with faculty and students and that we have the semester timeframes to work around. Also, we make no effort to use the IT data in our decision-making – for example what percentage of our traffic is from mobile devices? What percentage is from devices not owned by the college?)

From Kerry Doyle … Five Must-Have Skills for IT Departments

1. Project Management

2. Security ... A few of the valuable security skills include expertise in identity and access management, threat/vulnerability assessment, encryption, data loss prevention, incident analysis, governance, compliance and auditing, biometrics, and Web content filtering.

3. Virtualization/Cloud

4. Network Administration

5. Business Analysis – IT plays an extremely valuable role in business. As overall data levels rise, business intelligence and data warehousing skills that enable professionals to gather and effectively analyze increasing amounts of data from various streams are also in demand. Moreover, instead of just focusing on cost savings, companies are investing in technology that provides access to, and analysis of, real-time data, enabling better business decisions.

Alan Turing

Samuel on The Tragic Tale of Alan Turing:

An e-petition, calling for the pioneer of modern computing, Alan Turing, to be honored with a picture on the £10 note, now has over 10,000 signatures. Turing invented the machine that helped the allies crack the German navy’s Enigma code, hastening the end of World War II, but not long after his code-breaking, successes, in 1952, he woke up one morning to discover that a number of things around his house were missing. It looked kind of like a burglary. He was missing a shirt, some shoes, an old pair of pants, and other household stuff. So, what did he do? He called the police. The detectives come to his house and to speak with him, and as they listen to him, they decide, he’s kind of a curious chap. They let him talk, and they’re like “it’s such a shame that we have to arrest him.” Who? Turing?

Why in the world would they arrest Turing? Because he had implicated himself in a crime. Here’s what happened. The police ask him “who do you think robbed you?” and he suspected an acquaintance of his boyfriend. Yes, his boyfriend. At the time, there was a law in England that criminalized “acts of gross indecency between men in public or private.” Even in the 1950s, Turing was never ashamed of being gay and simply didn’t understand why the police were going to arrest him. There were other gay men in England, even many in government, and it’s lost to history whether the arresting officers knew they were incarcerating a war hero who singlehandedly shortened World War II by at least two years and one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Future of Higher Ed

Roughly attributed to Sebastian Thrun - former Stanford professor and creator of online learning startup Udacity:

there will only be 10 institutions of higher learning left in 50 years

If you work in higher ed and this doesn't scare you, you're living in a bubble. Thrun felt strongly enough about it that he left a tenured position at Stanford. There's so much disruption and innovation happening in this space, but it's hard to see from the inside. As institutions of higher learning, we need to stake out ground in this new space and we need to burn our boats to the past - it will be painful, but much less painful than the future Thrun predicts, especially if we're caught unprepared. - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Arthur C. Clarke Predicts the Future

From Andrew Liszewski … Watch Arthur C. Clarke Predict the Internet and Personal Computers… In 1974

Besides being one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, Arthur C. Clarke had a knack for foreseeing the future—at least in terms of technology. And in this clip from 1974, he predicts both personal computers and the internet.

The minute and a half clip is from Australia's ABC network, and in it Clarke not only predicts that by 2001 every home will have a compact computer console, but that they'll all be connected letting users do everything from remote banking, to buying theater tickets. He even predicts how computers will eventually let us telecommute


Monday, May 21, 2012

Flash in the Pan

Flash in the pan:

The pan in flash in the pan refers to the piece of a musket that holds gunpowder. When a musket is fired with gunpowder in the pan but no bullet, there is a flash and a loud noise, but nothing else happens.

Nooks or Books?

Great presentation from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

IPv6 and Small Businesses

Trevor Pott thinks IPv6 is Bad news for small biz

nobody worried about the little guy. There are a lot more of us small and medium enterprises than big heavies. With IPv4 allocations gone we're facing having to adopt a protocol with some significant flaws [PDF]. Well, flaws for normal people; they're pretty much irrelevant if you have a big enough budget.

The elephant in the room is renumbering. In the IPv4 world, you have one internet addressable IP address and the rest of your network lives in a non-routable space. Your internal network is on the other end of a NAT firewall, subnetted and organized into something that makes sense for the local sysadmins. 
If you need to change your internet service provider for any reason, that's perfectly okay. Your external address changes, a few firewall rules are changed and life moves on. If you need to reorganize your address space internally, no problem! You execute the change, and the outside world is none the wiser. Simple, easy and convenient.

In an IPv6 world, this is a no-no. There is no NAT; it was deemed heretical by the priestly caste of network engineers running the holy church of the IETF. Blasphemers are chastened and belittled. So what are our options?

The official answer is a combo deal. You must accept that renumbering is the new order. If you change ISPs and your assigned block changes then you must have every single computer, switch, router, printer, and network-attached doodad change with it.

No more static addresses, not even for servers. Everything should be configured by DHCP or stateless autoconfiguration. Whereas in an IPv4 world you created firewall rules for servers (and the applications they ran) by IP, in an IPv6 world your firewall will still work because all your systems should have proper fully qualified domain names.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Buckyballs – Structure That Incorporates Crumpling as a Design Element


From Tim Barribeau ... The First Structure to Incorporate Crumpling as a Design Element … not sure this is the first, consider that way the hood of a car is designed to crumple in a collision.

Generally, something that buckles under strain is regarded as a bad idea, but the newly devised buckliball is designed to do just that. Crafted by a team of MIT and Harvard engineers, it marks the first morphable structure to incorporate buckling as a desirable engineering design element.

Named from its visual similarity to the buckyball, the buckliball is a hollow, soft shape, with no moving parts but 24 dimples. When the air is sucked out of the middle, the structure simultaneously collapses from all sides, creating a stable form around half the size of the original.

What use is that (apart from obviously awesome toys)? If this technique can be ported to a number of different shapes and sizes, you have a wide variety of objects that can switch between two sizes readily. It could even be used as a mechanical joint, with hinge-points decided by the pattern of dimples in the rubber. What about other uses? Collapsible roofs or walls, tiny drug-delivery capsules or soft movable joints requiring no mechanical pieces.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

An Innovative 3D Printer

– for chocolate! My daughter's dream machine!

From Andrew Liszewski … 3D Chocolate Printer Sadly Arrives Too Late To Churn Out Easter Bunnies

The creators of what will be one of the first commercially available 3D chocolate printers had hoped their device would hit the market well before Easter, letting consumers print their own cheap bunnies and eggs at home.

But sadly the British-based Choc Edge won’t get its printer into the hands of the chocaholic masses until sometime near the end of the month. Meaning Easter treats are out of the question, but giving people plenty of time to prepare a mountain of sweets for Christmas.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Ouchless Edible Bandages

Accessible Band aids

From Kevin Lee … Penn State Cooks Up Ouchless Bandages Made of Edible Starch:

The general rule for pulling off a bandage is to rip it right off in one instant. But what if it the adhesive melted all over the place or it was applied it to an extremely hairy leg? Ouchies always seem to ensue.

Penn State food researchers Lingyan Kong and Greg Ziegler want to get past the whole sticky ordeal of plastic-based bandages and make ones out of starch. A starch-based bandage could simply melt over time into nutritious glucose that’s absorbed though your skin.

Photo by m.gifford -

Thursday, May 17, 2012

3Gbps Wireless Demoed in Japan

Megan Geuss reporting … Terahertz frequencies bring Japanese researchers 3Gbps in a WiFi prototype


The terahertz wireless radio is small enough to fit in portable devices.

A team of researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have transmitted data on the terahertz range of spectrum using a wireless radio no bigger than a 10-yen coin (roughly the size of a penny). The tiny contraption can access spectrum between 300GHz and 3Tbps (otherwise known as T-Rays for terahertz), and was able to transfer data at a speed of 3Gbps. But this was only a test run—researchers suspect that using terahertz spectrum could get data transfer up to rates of 100 Gbps.

Binary Humor

Binary humor

Photo by Ludie Cochrane -

Binary in Everyday Life

Is there a message hidden in this window spacing?


Photo by just.Luc -

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Problem with Analog Thinking in a Digital World

Binary blanket

Seth Godin thinks Digital analogs are no longer sufficient. This anecdote highlights the need to re-think systems when moving from digital to analog – what works well as an analog solution may not work well as a digital system and may not take full advantage of the digital.

The parking meter was rebooting. I guess we're supposed to walk to the other end of the garage and find one that's working.

We're seeing digital awareness coming to just about everything. In this case, it was the parking meter near the library. Of course, it's not really a parking meter, it's a centralized fee collection system that saves the town a lot of money. It's easier to collect from, certainly, it doesn't waste the time of meter readers (who get alerted as to what spaces aren't paid for, as opposed to checking them all) plus it doesn't let a new parker enjoy a few minutes of the last person's payment.


The problem, of course, is that it's not as better as it could be. Just about every traditional non-digital solution is bounded by the limits of mechanics. Once we start connecting (and the connection revolution won't rest until it's all connected) then the problem can be reset--we can find the best solution, not a better way to solve it the old way.

Why do I have to guess how long I'm going to be parking? Why pay a penalty if I underguess, or waste community resources on patrolling for compliance?

Photo by quimby -

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Re-Thinking Millennials

What a bright young woman. Really gives me hope. From Matt Silverman – Are Millennials the Most Distracted or Engaged Generation?:

Plenty has been penned on the time teenagers and young adults “waste” on the Internet. Facebook is often vilified on this account.

And while Internet addiction, bullying and diminishing attention spans are certainly of concern, the empowerment these new channels offer may outweigh the drivel. So argues Adora Svitak, the 14-year-old author, educator and speaker who recently discussed millennials and social media on stage at Mashable Connect in Orlando, Fla.

Svitak made a compelling case for social empowerment among “the generation of eye-rollers,” drawing from recent trends, studies and anecdotes from her own life growing up in the thick of a changing social landscape. Only problem is, adults can have a hard time understanding just how beneficial that engagement can be.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Slackers: Should My(Our) Students Work Harder?


Yes, but this is taking it a bit too far – Chinese students use IV drips while test cramming:

Disturbing pictures have emerged of a classroom full of Chinese high school students hooked up to IV drips so they stay alert as they cram for the annual "gaokao" -- college entrance exam. 

Some 9.5 milion students will take the two-day exam in June to compete for some 6.5 places in Chinese colleges. The competition is most intense for the elite universities like Beijing's Peking University and Tsinghua University.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Future of Paper Books

Michael Agresta wonders What Will Become of the Paper Book? Spoiler – he does see a future for print.

The change has come more slowly to books than it came to music or to business correspondence, but by now it feels inevitable. The digital era is upon us. The Twilights and Freedoms of 2025 will be consumed primarily as e-books. In many ways, this is good news. Books will become cheaper and more easily accessible. Hypertext, embedded video, and other undreamt-of technologies will give rise to new poetic, rhetorical, and narrative possibilities. But a literary culture that has defined itself through paper books for centuries will surely feel the loss as they pass away.

Luddites can take comfort in the persistence of vinyl records, postcards, and photographic film. The paper book will likewise survive, but its place in the culture will change significantly. As it loses its traditional value as an efficient vessel for text, the paper book’s other qualities—from its role in literary history to its inimitable design possibilities to its potential for physical beauty—will take on more importance. The future is yet to be written, but a few possibilities for the fate of the paper book are already on display on bookshelves near you.

Photo by Paul Lowry -

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Anti-Wi-Fi Wallpaper


Very cool!

Evan Ackerman … Anti-Wi-Fi wallpaper is the ultimate in network security:

Trust me, all of your neighbors have already figured out that the password to your Wi-Fi network is the name of your cat, and they're busy pirating movies and software and when the MPAA breaks down the door you're the one who's going to a labor camp in Siberia. Don't let this happen to you, install wallpaper that keeps your Wi-Fi contained.

This wallpaper contains special patterns of silver crystals that have been arranged to block certain wireless frequencies, specifically, the frequencies that your Wi-Fi router operates in. When the wallpaper goes on sale in 2013, it'll cost about the same as mid-range traditional wallpaper, and if you don't like the snowflake pattern, you can cover it up with paint or whatever. This particular version doesn't block phone signals, but by altering the silver pattern, it can be tuned to screen out whatever frequencies annoy you most.

via Gizmodo

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Why the Nation Needs More Female Engineers


Stephanie Hill, president of Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions-Civil division explains Why the nation needs more female engineers:

“Are you sure you want to be a software engineer? You are such a people person. Won’t you be stuck working alone, staring at a computer for hours on end?”

Those were the questions that my sister asked as I declared my intent to pursue a software engineering degree at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). She was right – I am a people person. In fact, in high school I intended to pursue a career in psychiatry. But a college elective course – in COBOL programming – peaked my interest like nothing before. And with wonderful mentors who provided me a glimpse into various career opportunities, I shifted gears, full speed ahead into the world of engineering.  I have not looked back since.  

As an African-American, female engineer, I’m certainly in the minority. New statistics released this month by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee note that while women now comprise a growing share of the college-educated workforce, only 14 percent of engineers are women, as are just 27 percent of individuals working in computer science and math positions.  There is a similar under-representation of Hispanic and black non-Hispanic workers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering math) workforce. Each of these groups accounts for only 6 percent of STEM workers. Overall, the share of bachelor’s degrees awarded in STEM fields peaked at 24 percent in 1985; by 2009, the share had fallen to 18 percent.

At the same time we are producing fewer engineers, the need for this profession has never been greater.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Data Speeds for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon

From Mark Sullivan … 3G/4G Performance Map: Data Speeds for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon:

Click the map for our neighborhood-by-neighborhood speed test results, as well as Web page and video load times, at each of our 127 testing locations in 13 cities.

How to Use the Map: We tested wireless service in 13 cities, and in each city we tested in ten locations. The map below displays our test results for each location.

To zoom in on a city, use the navigation controls at the upper left of the map, or click repeatedly on or near the group of map pins.

Click the blue pins to display the results. You'll find download and upload speeds (in megabits per second), network latency (in milliseconds), and Web page download and video stream times (in seconds) for both the 3G and 4G services of the four national wireless carriers.

View 3G/4G Wireless Tests in a larger map

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Gamification of Learning and Instruction


Let me preface this review by sharing a bit of my background and how that colors my review of this book. I am not an instructional designer; I have not had any course work in instructional design or in education theory. I am a Mechanical Engineer by training, with all my degrees in Mechanical Engineering. I teach in a diverse department (Engineering and Technology) at a community college. As such, my load is five courses a semester and I often teach 6 or 7 different courses each semester, ranging from Physics and Engineering to CAD, Networking and Electronics. Many of the courses I teach are in very dynamic disciplines that change virtually every time the course is taught – meaning that I'm happy most semesters to keep my head above water.

That said, in the 15 years I have been teaching, I have seen an erosion in the quality of my students. That's not to say that I still don't have the high achievers, motived either by grades (extrinsic) or by the desire to learn and improve themselves (intrinsic), but in the aggregate, I've seen a decline in my students. This includes an almost pathologic aversion to reading, a strong resistance to researching topics on their own and a expectation that they should be spoon-fed the material each week. As they struggle with their motivation to read, participate, study, even attend class, I struggle with how to fight their inertia and shift the pendulum back in the other direction. In his new book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, Karl Kapp provides a framework for doing just that.

Kapp begins by describing an experiment in behavior modification called "Piano Stairs," detailed in the video below:

As a bonus, here's another example encouraging people to use the waste bins for garbage:

Using the "piano stairs" as a vivid illustration of how a system re-design can change behavior, Kapp then provides a number of examples of how games and gamification can improve productivity, safety, and student engagement. At this point, I was sold! Sign me up, I'm ready to "gamify" all of my courses.

The remainder of the book is split into two distinct sections. The first provides the theoretical and research-based underpinnings of Kapp's exploration of gamification. As an instructional design professional, Kapp provides a formal definition for gamification as well as the various elements that comprise a game. He then delves into the scholarly research, summarizing various theories of gamification and providing an extensive survey of the research into the effectiveness of gaming. He even references Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi'sFlow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience to explain the intense engagement gamers experience and the goal of building experiences that require a high challenge level combined with a high skill level.

Challenge vs skill

He also indirectly references the concept of disciplined practice from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and Daniel Pink's description of Motivation 3.0 in his book Drive – provide students with autonomy, the ability to master a topic, and a purpose.


The second half of the book focuses on implementation details, as well as additional examples of gamification in the real world and a very insightful first-person look at gaming from the perspective of an actual gamer – Karl's son Nathan. Additional contributors provide valuable content rooted in real-world experiences. This includes a chapter on reward structures from a game designer, implementation details from a large government entity, and the potential for augmented reality applications to take learning outside of the classroom.

Some reflections from my reading of the book:

  • my courses have not been designed by an instructional designer and do not follow any instructional design or education theory models
  • any course would benefit from the "gamification" approach Kapp describes, because it would force one to take a critical look at the design of their course
  • it's not surprising that my courses do not follow instructional design or educational theory conventions, as I have no training in these areas and as a college we have one instructional designer for over 200 faculty
  • there's a great opportunity for textbook publishers to re-consider the instructional materials bundled with a textbook – rather than Powerpoint slides and a test bank, what about including small learning objects for each chapter that are built on gaming concepts

Much of the book causes me to contrast active versus passive learning. Traditional classroom instruction - even e-learning modules are typically passive. Well-constructed gaming is instead active. Consider the following brain scan of a student:

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From: A Wearable Sensor for Unobtrusive, Long-Term Assessment of Electrodermal Activity Poh, Swenson, Picard: IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING, VOL. 57, NO. 5, MAY 2010

Although this is by no means a scientific study – one student for one week, it is indeed instructive. If we zoom in on a couple portions of the scan:


we see that during passive activities (watching TV and class), there is very little activity/engagement. Contrast that with engagement derived from other activities such as lab, exam, and study. I would expect even more engagement when a student is immersed in a gaming environment.

With so many classes and no dedicated instructional designer, I can't apply gamification to an entire course, but this summer will be a great opportunity to build and implement small discrete elements of gamification into my courses. I'm excited to try this and looking forward to increased student engagement!

Great job Karl! 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Dripping Water Turned into Standing Waves

Very cool!

From Michael Colombo … Dripping Water Turned into Standing Waves:

Facebook user Brusspup performed a simple, but interesting, experiment. Passing a tube of water across the front of a loudspeaker yields a standing wave when tuned to a 24 hz sound wave. Then when switched to 23 hz, it appears that the water droplets are actually traveling backwards through the tube they just came out of. A camera recording at a standard 24 fps is playing tricks with the eye when the frequency of the sine wave is very similar.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Digital Games in the Classroom

Teacher Attitudes about Digital Games in the Classroom

Some interesting finding from a national survey of 500 teachers using digital games in their K-8 classrooms. The survey is part of the Games and Learning Publishing Council initiative at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. The work includes video case studies and in-depth examples of teacher practice.






Friday, May 04, 2012

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Kindle Fire Takes a Nosedive

From Eric Slivka … Apple's Share of Tablet Market Surges to 68% as Kindle Fire Shipments Plummet:

IDC today released its data on worldwide tablet shipments for the first quarter of 2012, revealing that despite a quarterly drop in iPad shipments of over 20%, Apple's share of the tablet market rose to 68% from last quarter's 54.7%. Apple's boost came at the expense of Android-based tablets, most notably Amazon's Kindle Fire which appears to have seen its shipments collapse from 4.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011 to less than 750,000 units last quarter.

Where Does Your Trash Go?

Where Does Your Trash Go?:

(Via The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

LinkedIn – Turn Relationships Into Opportunities

Students » Step 5: Turn Relationships Into Opportunities - LinkedIn Learning Center:

Can networking really help you get a job?

More than 70% of jobs are found through networking. LinkedIn can help you:

  • Find jobs through postings on LinkedIn and tap your network to get a leg up
  • Reach out to your existing network to find unlisted opportunities
  • Find your way “in” by using company pages, groups, and search

Search LinkedIn jobs now.

LinkedIn – Grow Your Professional Network

Students » Step 4: Grow Your Professional Network - LinkedIn Learning Center:

What if you don’t know any “real” professionals?

You already have a professional network if you look in the right places:

  • Start by connecting to friends and family, then move on to alumni connections
  • Join LinkedIn groups for your alumni and the industry you’d like to work in
  • Request introductions from your connections to grow your network, gain advice, and open doors to new opportunities
Join a LinkedIn Group now.


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