Recently in Technology Tools Category


One U of M graduate student recently conducted a study in a secondary school examining the potential of using iPads in classrooms and found a few interesting findings. She visited a secondary school, which had purchased 300 iPads and allowed students to use them in classrooms for learning.

Empowered (but sometimes Distracted) Students
First, the student researcher found that by using iPads, students were empowered to learn on their own. Students could shift their role from passive receivers of knowledge to producers of knowledge. For example, students was encouraged to do a lot of independent inquiry and research using the iPad's web browser or applications. And by doing group project work and presentations, they could inform other classmates and teachers (i.e., project-based and cooperative learning). So the Information seemed to be regarded as permeable and not owned by the teacher. From teachers' perspective, it was necessary to employ both traditional (e.g., lecturing) and non-traditional (e.g., encouraging exploration by students) teaching methods.

While students were empowered, however, it was found that students were also easily distracted when searching through internet and using applications. Teachers should carefully design a way to prevent students from being distracted.

Barriers against effective use of technologies
It was not always easy to utilize the new technology in classrooms. Interestingly, the barriers against effective use of iPads in classrooms were not teachers but school policies and procedures. In a class project that involved designing the distribution and use of iPads in their own school, students could not access the iTunes store to view information, ratings, and pricing, which they needed to complete their project, due to the school policy. And this problem was solved by teachers' downloading the AppHits application for the students. Installing the application onto the classroom's cart of iPads took a few days but worked out great.

Furthering learning gap
A couple of unexpected findings emerged. First, one group of students explained how they had access to iPads at home so they could continue to study or explore information. But one student said that her family is too poor and she wished she had one at home. The school's iPad project does not address the issue. But the researcher hopes to get more insight to this issue from teachers during follow up interviews.

Second unexpected finding was that iPads could "further the achievement gap." The school Principal in the initial interview stated his belief that iPads are furthering the gap. In observing class discussions one teacher noted the increased learning gap between high performing students and low performing students and asked students what they thought about distributing the iPads to the lowest 75 students in each grade to help bridge the gap. Students did not like the idea. One student even said, "they'll just break them"

In sum, according to the ethnographic study, utilizing iPads can bring both benefits and pitfalls to classrooms. Since using iPads in classrooms is just at the beginning stage in schools, we should carefully observe and keep our eyes on those projects.

The result of U of M iPad Project


College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at U of M initiated an iPad pilot project in 2010 fall, providing iPad for the entire freshman class (about 450 undergraduate students) in the college. (If you want to know more about the project, read this previous blog posting)

Now the college published a Year One report explaining what they learned from the project.

In the report, they explain what they learned from using iPad in classrooms in six broad categories:

1. Reducing the digital divide: Instructors expressed optimism that the iPad could reduce the digital divide in the classroom. They emphasized finding apps that are free or very inexpensive for students.

2. Increased Media Production: Instructors frequently asked students to create media using their iPad, including development of individual photo journals, e-documents, speeches with image projections, short movies on a course theme, photomontages of images, and pictures or videos for class presentation.

3. Increased Personal Productivity: Instructors were positive about the convenience
and ease of accessing email and calendars on the iPad, and many used the iPad to schedule appointments or send email to students "on-the-spot" during class.

4. Increased information Literacy: Instructors and students agree that information access and consumption is one of the primary strengths of the iPad. And students used iPad to do many kinds of class preparation and research activities resulting in increased information literacy of students.

5. Sustainable classroom: To reduce the use and related cost of traditional course materials and to take advantage of the features of the iPad, some faculty, for example, used an e-version of required texts, encouraged students to access and annotate course readings via a reader app, and checked and sent assignments using their iPads.

6. Learning Beyond the classroom: Several faculty members developed curriculum that used the iPad to change the learning context. For example, in an introduction to psychology course students used the portability of the iPad and the college's online survey tool to collect data in the community related to their research questions.

For more information, read the executive summary of the report or the full report.

Video Ant: A video annotation tools

According to a recent article in the Chronicle of the Higher Education, it is found in a new study that many online instructors aren't taking advantage of interactive instructional tools like online video. Instead, the professors are relying on static (i.e., text based) course materials and assignments. These text-based course materials aren't likely to motivate students very much.

For instructors who are using or planning to use video in their courses, I would like to introduce the 'Video Ant (', an easy video annotation tools created by U of M.

video ant screen2.jpg

Using video ant, students can critique and annotate their idea about a video on Youtube or Media Mill.

You can find more information and video tutorials of Video Ant in Video Ant Blog.

As an example of utilizing the Video Ant, Tani Bialek, an instructor in OLPD let her online course students find a video on Youtube related to the course topic. And then, students are required to discuss, critique, and annotate it. The annotated videos are then posted on the Moodle site for all students in the course to view.

Read more about Bialek's story in another TEL blog entry.

2012 Horizon Report

The New Media Consortium's Horizon Report was released today. The Horizon Report is published every year and attempts to identify emerging technologies that will have an impact in teaching and learning. The report lists technologies in three time-to-adoption time frames.

For 2012, the Horizon Reports lists Mobile Apps and Tablet Computing as 1 year or less. Game-based Learning and Learning Analytics are 1 to 3 years out, and Gesture-Based Computing and the Internet of Things being 4 to 5 years out.

The "internet of things" concept stems from the work of Vint Cerf. He describes the "internet of things" as

"The Internet of things is on its way. The clear evidence of that, of course, is mobile to begin with, appliances that are now Internet-enabled, picture frames, refrigerators and things like that, office appliances, appliances at home. The smart grid is going to accelerate that process because more and more appliances will be part of the smart grid and its ensemble. They will be reporting their use. They will be accepting control saying, "Hey, don't run the air conditioner for the next 15 minutes, I'm in the middle of a peak load." We'll see many, many more devices on the Net than there are people [and] more sensor networks on the system, as well".

When I first heard of the Internet of Things, I thought of home appliances and consumer goods. The Horizon Report connects the concept with learning, and is well worth the read.

Beyond labs and museums, where do you see the Internet of Things impacting higher education?

How to share your content with public

Do you have good content you want to share with public? Or do you want to create a podcast?

University of Minnesota provides members of the University a good podcasting tool with which they can share their content with public. That is University of Minnesota Public iTunes U.

If you are interested, please download and read a manual explaining the required process.

If you have any question on the process, please fill out the technical support request form.

my Brainshark

I recently attended a workshop held by Center for Teaching and Learning. The workshop introduced several technologies that may be used in classrooms. I will try to share a few among them that I think useful.

my Brainshark


First one is my Brainshark ( This is a free web tool that enables you to create and share multi-media presentations.

A basic use of my Brainshark will be creating a narrated presentation. You just upload your powerpoint slides and record your narration for each page. If there are some animation actions in your slides, my Brainshark shows them, too.

Combination of media

A very nice thing about this is you can mix powerpoint slides (.ppt, .pptx, & .odp), video files (.wmv, .swf, & .flv), and documents (.doc, .docx, .pdf, .xls, .xsx, .odt, & .txt) in one single presentation. And you can add attachment files to the presentation that users can download.

Seeing is believing. Watch an example multimedia presentation by my Brainshark.

Possible usage in the classroom

In-class PowerPoint project presentations are used in many classes. However, they take a lot of class time and are often poorly delivered. As suggested in the workshop, instructors can ask students (or student teams) to create a multimedia presentation. And once uploaded, instructors and other students can view/review the presentations online at anytime.


  • Presentations uploaded in my Brainshark is available to the public. A paid version offers the ability to make presentations private.

  • Uploads of individual content files are limited to 200MB.

Online instructor shares best practices for teaching online

books-on-comp.jpegTeaching a hybrid or online course requires different teaching strategies, in part because instructional methods can feel limited to the technology tools available. Using the tools commonly available in a course management system, like discussion, glossary and wikis to engage students and achieve positive learning results can feel like a major challenge. Choosing the appropriate activities and relevant tools to meet specific learning objectives is especially important in learning environments where face-to-face contact is limited or non-existent.

To provide an example of an instructor's success in creating meaningful learning activities using the tools in Moodle, Digital Campus spoke to Tani Bialek, an online instructor of 6 years. Bialek teaches both online and hybrid courses and has experienced firsthand the benefits of using technology to increase engagement and participation. She shares some of her best practices as well as useful advice to instructors considering teaching online.

iWant, iHave, iCan

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The exciting adventure of iPads & Education & how the people in the college of Education & Human Development have and are experiencing the iPad. Austin Stair Calhoun explains how students and faculty in CEHD have moved from iHave (the iPad) to iCan because of its different features, tools & apps to consume, to create, to learn & to teach.

For more information about 20 by 20: An OIT Pecha Kucha Event, see That web page provides an overview of the event and links to the Google Site.

Collaborative writing

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Mitch Ogden discusses the differences between cooperative and collaborative writing. The 21st century marks the impulse to write collaboratively and the digital tools to turn that impulse into reality. Focusing on Wikis & Google documents, Ogden shares how we can use these tools to write collaboratively.

For more information about 20 by 20: An OIT Pecha Kucha Event, see That web page provides an overview of the event and links to the Google Site.

Twitter Revisited

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Jude & Colin share their thoughts on the degree to which social media sites such as Twitter have been successful as a pedagogy tool, communication and information network as well as the ways Twitter can be incorporated in the classroom.

The Myth of the Net Generation


Many of today's college students are serious multitaskers, which come as no surprise, since they are growing up in an era where technology permeates every corner and inch of our daily existence. They are constantly on Facebook, updating their status and reading their news feed, while at the same time streaming a Youtube video, surfing the web and instant-messaging their friends. On the rare occasion when they are not using the Internet on their laptops or cellphones, they are either texting or talking on their cellphones.

It is probably safe to assume that the addiction to technology does not just affect college-age students but anyone living in this technology-rich era, one where technology has become more than just a tool but instead is an extension of our selves. Honestly, when was the last time you made it through a meal without checking your cellphone? I for one cannot even remember a time when I felt at ease without some form of mobile technology by my side.

However, the effects of technology are probably even most pronounced in college-age students. As an article in The Chronicle puts it, students belonging to the Net Generation are "born digital," and "with this birthright comes not only great facility but also great love the new technologies." Or so it seems.

A group of researchers discovered that students (age 18 and up) today in fact have significant concerns about the role of the new technologies in their lives, as reported in the article, No cellphone? No Internet? So much less stress, in The Chronicle. Even though many students enjoy and appreciate the convenience and benefits of technologies in their lives, many also appear to be reflective and genuinely concerned about technology's pervasiveness in their lives, more so than they are generally given credit for. Through a series of methods such as talking with and informally surveying more than 300 students at six colleges as well as conducting focus groups, the researchers noticed the same themes in every setting:

• Students are aware of, and seemingly frustrated by, the amount of time they spend online. Some talked about spending too much time online, calling it a waste and even an addictive form of behavior. As one student commented: "I don't realize how much time is passing while on my phone and computer. I'm so preoccupied, I'm not paying attention to what else is going on around me."
• Many students feel pressure from those around them to be continually connected and responsive. They feel this pressure not only from peers but also from parents, faculty, employers, and even the technology companies whose marketing strategies make them feel they must have the most up-to-date gadgets and features. "I don't have a coping mechanism," one student said. "There are so many things: e-mail, high-school e-mail, personal e-mail, texting, news."
• Students regularly talk about their online contacts as being less "real" than face-to-face interactions. "Talking to all these people, making connections when it wasn't really a personal connection, didn't feel real," one student said.
• When forced to disconnect for longer stretches of time, some students discover that they enjoy the slower pace of life. Their first reaction might be anxiety or panic--over the loss of cellphone coverage while on vacation, for example. But once they made the adjustment, they were likely to find themselves more relaxed. Said one international student: "When I came to the States, I didn't bring my laptop. ... I have much more time. It's a great feeling."
• Students hold a range of opinions about the use of personal technologies in the classroom. Some say laptops and cellphones are sources of distraction and shouldn't be permitted; others think that people who use them should sit in the back of the classroom. Still others feel they have the right to turn to Facebook or YouTube if the instructor isn't sufficiently engaging.

The researchers' findings come at a time when people are starting to question not only the role of technology in our lives but also the additional or unnecessary stress it can cause us. Wortham writes in a New York Times article that social media has created a problem emblematic of the digital age. Through hundreds and thousands of status updates, Twitter messages, photographs, and posts, social media has allowed us to keep up with the daily activities and lives of friends. Even though we may feel more connected to our friends as a result, the constant photo and status updates may also induce feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and frustration brought on by comparing your life with theirs. Known as "fear of missing out," we may become afraid that we've made the wrong decision about how to spend our time, especially if your friend's life seems so much more productive, fulfilled and perfect than yours.

Cordell offers a simple solution to the above problem in another article in The Chronicle - limit your Facebook friends list to people you actually care about instead of distant acquaintances. After cutting his Facebook friends list by half, Cordell said he's been able to spend less time on Facebook and is surprised by how much mental space that has created. He advises, "As social networks proliferate, we will have to make choices about where to spend our time and where not to. I made the choice to separate Twitter and Facebook: one for professional contacts, and the other for genuinely personal contacts."

Perhaps, this is something the Net Generation and also all of us living in this hyper-connected age have to be okay with - it's not quantity but quality, of time spent and number of friends, that make our lives meaningful.

Capturing History a Tweet at a Time


It's often said that journalism is the first draft of history. Now many researchers are adding Twitter to that historical pile and want to ensure Twitter messages are also archived and preserved. The power of Twitter messages, or Tweets, has been linked recently to uprisings in Egypt and Iran.

It seems just as Twitter is becoming a force for political and social change company officials are making it more difficult for researchers to collect messages to analyze.

According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Twitter officials sent notices to several companies that archive Tweets. The notices informed the archive services that "redistributing large numbers of Tweets violated the company's terms of service." Twitter officials apparently have a problem with a third party using its content. Twitter archive companies, such as Twapper Keeper, were forced to basically shut down most service. Last week Twitter revised its rules slightly and at least one site has restored a portion of its archiving functions.

The issue of preserving Tweets and using them in research is confusing. In 2010 the founders of Twitter reached an agreement with the Library of Congress to create a digital archive of the billions of Tweets publicly posted on the site since its founding in 2006. The Library of Congress is testing a system that will give researchers access to public Tweets.

In an email interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, the director of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program at the Library of Congress, Martha Anderson, said, "We are planning for an introductory pilot that focuses working with researchers to get a better understanding of what we can be provided both technically and policy-wise according to our terms of agreement with the donor," she said. "Our agreement requires that we notify users that they cannot use the data for commercial purposes or redistribute it, in whole or in substantial portions."

Professors, graduate students, and researchers must now wait for some clarification before they can easily collect and use large numbers of Tweets in their work.

Are tablet devices really worth the hype?

Or the (hundreds of) thousands of dollars spent on purchasing tablet devices for entire cohorts of students? Many administrators of colleges, school boards of public schools and even kindergartens appear to believe so.

Many schools, programs, college departments across the United States are investing heavily in tablet devices such as the iPad. The Boston University's School of Management is providing iPads to all its M.B.A students after a successful trial of the device last fall, according to an article in U.S. News. Satisfied with the results of its student iPad initiative program that began last summer, California's Monterey College of Law has even expanded its program to include faculty members who are teaching core subjects, according to an article in Campus Technology. The president and dean of Monterey, Mitchell Winick, hopes that the iPad would enhance educational effectiveness and make faculty jobs easier.

Remember to Charge Your Eyeglasses


Bifocal eyeglasses may go the way of the 8-track tape player. New electronic spectacles about to be released have tiny batteries and microchips that enable people who wear bifocals to turn on the reading power when it is needed and turn it off when it's not.

The new electronic eyewear is called emPower and will be on the market this spring in Virginia and North Carolina. The glasses are made by PixelOptics in Virginia and are estimated to cost $1,000 to $1,200 for the frames, lenses, coatings and charger. That compares to an average of $300 to $500 for a pair for regular bifocals.

An article in the New York Times outlines how the electronic eyeglasses work. The glasses have "an unusual insert in the bottom part of the lenses; liquid crystals, cousins to the familiar ones in television displays. The crystals change how the lenses refract of bend light, just as varying levels of thickness do in traditional glasses," the Times reports.

The article explains, "To call up reading power in the new glasses, users touch the side of the frame. Batteries in the frame send along a current that changes the orientation of molecules in the crystals. Touch the side of the frame again, and the reading power disappears. Turn it off to hit a golf ball; turn it on to read the scorecard."

The electronic glasses require people to charge them. A PixelOptics executive said the charge should last two to three days.

Last year, some 20.6 million pairs of progressive lenses, and about 16.2 million pairs of bifocals, were sold in the United States, according to the New York Times.

Dr. Larry Wan, a managing partner at Family EyeCare Center in Campbell, Calif., tested the glasses with 10 of his patients, all in their 50s. He said they were a hit, for example, with people who had been bothered by blur as they walked down flights of stairs while wearing their glasses. "With these," he said, "you can turn the reading power off, so they are safer and you don't have that distortion," he told the New York Times.

Using Online Games for learning: Game for change

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According to the 2011 Horizon Report, one of the top 6 tech trends for higher ed is game-based learning.

(If you want to know more about the top 6 trends, read an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education )

Game-based learning is expected to see greater use within the next two to three years, the report says. And game-playing may help to develop decision-making and problem-solving abilities, as well as leadership skills. The report points to multiplayer role-playing games as offering particular promise for higher education.

Do you want to see some examples of games for learning?

Go visit Games for Change (

In this web-site, you can find various interesting games for learning. Many games are designed for students under K-12. But there are some games that are for 18 or older people such as 'Climate Challenge'

So why don't you consider and try to incorporate online games into your traditional or online courses? It can be another great tool to help students to learn better.

More Answers to Your Questions


If you have questions it seems some Internet start-up companies hope you'll turn to them for answers. Online sites like WikkiAnswers and Yahoo Answers have dominated the market and each attracted close to 50 million unique visitors in the United States in December, according to the analytics firm comScore.

Internet entrepreneurs say there's a need for new services to fill in the information gaps and provide users with access to experts. One of the founders of Stack Exchange, Joel Spolsky, recently spoke to the New York Times about his 2-year old company, its $6 million in capitol investment, and the site's 700,000 users.

"You can read the Wikipedia page about Egypt, but it might not answer an actual question someone has about what's going on there right now," Spolsky told the New York Times. "But an expert, a historian or someone with specific knowledge would be able to."

Stack Exchange is a network of web sites focused on questions in specific categories like programming, cooking and photography. It's expanded to 41 separate topic-specific sites. A site that's getting a lot of attention, Quora, lets people find and follow the activity of their friends. The site describes itself as "A continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it."

According to the New York Times, Facebook is hoping to cash in on the answer trend. The company has been introducing a feature on its site that allows users to pose and answer questions.

The Times spoke to an analyst at Forrester Research who said, "Targeting a consumer seeking a very specific type of answer could be very valuable to advertisers." One would suspect getting answers to questions is also very valuable to the average college student too.

Bookless in Seattle


A Washington State program to bring low-cost, college material online is facing some challenges. The Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges began the Open Course Library as a way to help the state's half a million students in two-year colleges save the estimated $1,000 for books each year.

The project received a $750,000 matching grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so Web designers from around the state could create ready-to-use digital course modules for the 81 highest-enrolled courses. The cost for the course materials is capped at $30.

According to the Open Course Library directive, material must be available to online and accessible to anyone. Other stipulations include, "Faculty designers, hired for their teaching experience and expertise in the subject, can use material from anywhere and anyone, as long as they abide by licensing agreements. Instructors can then use and revise the material as they see fit, dropping and adding components to customize the course for their own students."

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports the $30 cap is proving to be daunting. A lot of things that are open are old," said Melonie D. Rasmussen, who teaches at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, in Lakewood, Wash. "Or they are open and strange. She remembers a 1980s math book posted online that refers to VCR's. It would take more time to explain what a VCR was than the math itself, she joked.

The Chronicle spoke to a North Seattle Community College philosophy professor who is frustrated because the five books he wants his students to use would break the $30 bank. The professor reports he is "flummoxed."

A Bellevue College chemistry professor says she and her colleagues are concerned that the $30 cap may mean their students won't be able to get the needed supplemental materials to explain basic science concepts.

Cable Green, of the state community-college board, is quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education as saying, "The Open Course Library is very much a work in progress, and may always be. Indeed, its success depends upon the academic community to continually review, revise, and improve the courses, and then post them back online for others." (The idea of freely sharing information, he concedes, might just be the more challenging cultural shift.)

But "getting there" is not in question, Green told The Chronicle. He says he's been blunt with textbook publishers and has encouraged them to get on board if they can.

"You saw what happened with Craigslist and newspapers," he told The Chronicle, referring to the free classified advertising that has helped force some newspapers out of business and required others to reinvent themselves. "We are going to get there with or without you."

Big Pad on Campus

It appears iPads may be showing up in a kindergarten classroom near you. The New York Times reports a growing number of schools across the country are embracing the iPad as a new tool to enhance classroom learning.

The Times interviewed several New York area teachers who lauded the electronic tablet for its ease of use, light weight and ability to capture student interest. The iPads cost an average of $750 apiece and, according to the New York Times, may replace textbooks, allow students to communicate with teachers, and preserve a digital record of a student's portfolio.

Educators are still divided over whether initiatives to give every student a laptop have made any difference in academic performance. The Times said some parents and scholars are raising concerns that schools are rushing the investment in iPads before there is any hard research that shows the device improves student achievement.

"There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better using these machines," Stanford University professor emeritus Larry Cuban told the New York Times. He believes the money would be better spent recruiting, training and trying to retain teachers.

The New York City public schools have ordered more than 2,000 iPads, for $1.3 million and more than 200 Chicago public schools applied for 23 district-financed iPad grants totaling $450,000. The Virginia Department of Education is overseeing a $150,000 iPad initiative that has replaced history and Advanced Placement biology textbooks at 11 schools, according to the New York Times article.

Even kindergartners are getting their hands on iPads. Pinnacle Peak School in Scottsdale, Ariz., converted an empty classroom into a lab with 36 iPads -- named the iMaginarium -- that has become the centerpiece of the school because, as the principal told the New York Times, "of all the devices out there, the iPad has the most star power with kids."

Is E-Mail Lame?

Yes, if you happen to be under 25-years-old. With texting and online chats on the rise some Internet companies are revamping e-mail to try to deliver instant gratification to users. For example, Facebook is rolling out a messaging service that eliminates the subject line on messages after its research showed it was commonly left blank by younger users. Other companies are changing what is perceived to be the long process of signing into to an e-mail account.

The New York Times quotes Lena, a 17-year-old high school senior from California who said, "Texting was so quick that I sometimes have an answer before I even shut my phone." She added, "E-mail is so lame."

The Director of Engineering at Facebook, Andrew Bosworth, is quoted in the Times article as stating, "The future of messaging is more real time, more conversational and more casual. The medium isn't the message. The message is the message."

Some major e-mail sites, like Yahoo and Hotmail, are reporting a steady decline in the number of users. A study done by comScore finds the number of total unique visitors in the U.S. to major e-mail sites slide 6 percent since November 2009. It reports visits among 12-to-17 year-olds fell around 18 percent. Gmail is reported to be the only big gainer in the category and is up 10 percent from a year ago.

Unplugging and Liking it

facebook logo2.png
At first students at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology were not too happy with a school-imposed five day social technology blackout last September.

Three months later the students report they felt less stressed, better able to concentrate and forged a stronger connection with their professors during the blackout. The university conducted a survey and focus groups. This data reported many students found lectures more interesting and devoted more time to homework during the so-called blackout period.

Harrisburg's provost, Eric Darr, decided to experiment with the social media blackout this past fall after seeing this daughter simultaneously juggling several conversations on Facebook, her iPhone and an instant-messaging service.

The student's initial reaction to the blackout was that it was prompted by a spat Darr had with his daughter. Darr dismisses that story as an "urban myth" and says the tale gained momentum after it was (ironically) posted on Facebook.

The findings are reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The university's post-blackout survey also found 44 percent of students and 76 percent of professors reported the blackout had taught them something, such as the strengths and weakness of Facebook and the value of face-to-face communications.

Where Are My Notes?


First graders to doctoral students know it's important to take good notes in class. Notebooks and the pencils may soon be going the way of the abacus thanks to new technology.

It can be convenient for people to take notes on laptops, electronic tablets, digital pens or other devices. The inconvenience comes when you don't have access to your notes on that particular electronic device.

A recent New York Times article highlighted some new innovations that allow smartphones, tablets, laptops and other technology to synchronize with one another automatically.

To illustrate the issue the Times gave this scenario:

Say you're sitting on a plane with your laptop, jotting down some brilliant words for that speech you're giving next week. Back at the office, those notes will never find their way to the copy of the speech you've stored on your desktop, unless, for example, you e-mail them to yourself.

Now companies including Simperium and Evernote offer applications you can install on your various mobile and stationary devices. The companies' servers gather and coordinate those notepads, keeping all the entries up to date.

The article elaborated on the services provided by Simplenote from Simperium and Evernote. It said Simplenote's specialty was typed text notes. Evernote can handle notes sent by keyboard, digital pen, scanner or camera phone.

Evernote offers a both a free and premium service ($45 a year) that work across most devices and platforms.

Sixth Sense computing

Have you ever watched a video about "SixthSense" on
If not, watch it below. You will be amazed at the technology.

Here is description about the presentation from
' Sixsense' is "a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment. Imagine "Minority Report" and then some."

If the 'SixthSense' becomes a common device like laptop computers, what would happen in our classrooms? How can instructors and students utilize this device in their learning experience? Maybe you will be able to see instructors and students interact with each other using this device and their motion will lead to some collaborative work such as virtual art painting. That is just one imagination of mine. Nobody can't tell or imagine exactly what will happen. But one thing is for sure. Technology is surely going further and further.

Socially engaged reading: Making e-Reading communal

Have you ever had the experience of borrowing a book with copious marginalia from the library or a friend, and having those marginalia greatly improve your experience of the book? It happened to me once when I borrowed a copy of The Sun Also Rises from my hometown's public library. Someone who understood the themes and writing style of Hemingway with a level of sophistication I didn't have had made notes in the margins and underlines on specific phrases throughout the text. This person's notes greatly improved my understanding of the text, and I sometimes wished for their previously owned copies of other authors as I moved through my undergraduate English literature education.

Of course, none of us wants just anyone's comments displayed as we are reading - I've borrowed plenty of books with comments in the margins by others that I didn't appreciate seeing (One previous reader of a Jane Austen novel had decided to underline every reference to trees, I assume in an attempt to find a theme. Since I cared not a tiny bit about trees in Austen's text, I found the notes distracting and annoying).

All this makes me excited about a new mobile app, Social Books. Users can share their virtual bookshelf with friends and on Facebook and Twitter. Now when I read a book a friend greatly enjoyed, I can see his thoughts, and be a part of his experience with the book, as I read it. You could have friend groups organized around shared passions and share texts, comments, and links, extending your experience of the text through other readers' (who you find relevant) thoughts.

The uses for education are exciting. Imagine if you could see your classmates' comments in context on a shared text. It could make class discussions much more engaging. Your professor could share the text with the class, with a few notations in text that draw your attention to the areas she especially wants you to pay attention to.

The key to this idea is the social network. Already in the Kindle, readers can see what other readers of the text have highlighted. I almost always turn this off, because other readers don't highlight what I would have highlighted, and all other readers of a text are not relevant to me. But if I can read 20 Economic and Demographic Factors Driving Online and Blended Program Enrollments by Betts et al and see the comments of colleagues who are also involved in online higher education, the text is enhanced in a way that is relevant specifically to me.

I can't wait to get the app. I hope my friends and colleagues do as well.

If you cant beat them, join them.

tweeties_free_twitter_icons1.jpgThat is what some lecturers are saying about social media in the classroom. Lecturers these days face an uphill battle to get students to stay focused especially when laptops and mobile devices are considered not just communication tools but extensions of students' identity, without which students seemed entirely lost and helpless. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little here but most students these days are rarely seen without some sort of mobile devices and that can be a huge source of distraction for them as many lecturers have found. In an article in Inside Higher Ed, some lecturers favor outright obstruction such as banning laptops and mobile devices as well as attempting to shut off internet access. These lecturers belong to the school of thought that social media sites such as Twitter are just "attention-bankrupting" sites with little or no educational value. Others have gotten more creative and have joined students on the social media bandwagon in order to better engage them. Their efforts have paid off.

In a new study, reported in the article, it was discovered that using Twitter in the classroom might actually lead to greater engagement and more importantly, higher grades as long as Twitter is used for relevant educational activities. The study also discovered that Twitter was able to deepened relationships among students in the class. Through discussing course work, the students realized they shared similar values and interests and were thus able to build strong relationships across diverse groups.

Instructors such as Dr. Rankin and Professor David Parry who had used Twitter as an instructional tool in their previous courses have mostly sung praises of it. Both were pleasantly surprised at how successful Twitter had been in extending the conversation beyond the classroom and in promoting engagement. Dr. Rankin discovered that Twitter was able to increase participation in the classroom because students were able to overcome their shyness and fear of speaking in front of an audience when using Twitter. Professor David Parry has also discovered that Twitter, in providing a platform for students to continue their discussion after class period was over, was able to keep students interested and engaged for longer periods of time. They were therefore able to have richer discussions than hour-long class sessions would allow.

Want to learn how you can increase student participation and engagement through the use of social media tools? I recently wrote a blog post on the various ways instructors can and have use(d) social media in the classroom, which would probably be a great starting point if you want to explore the various ways you can use social media for educational purposes.

What the Heck is RockMelt?

A new web browser designed by some of the team that brought you Netscape is being released and promises to help integrate your web surfing and social networking.

RockMelt makes it easier to keep up with friends, get news updates and access your favorite web pages from any computer, according to the company's website.

"Although most people spend more time using their web browser than any other program on their computers, most browsers have not kept up with the evolution of the web into a social media hub," the principle financial backer of RockMelt, Marc Andreessen, said in the New York Times.

RockMelt is built on Chromium, the open source project behind Google's Chrome browser. Its launch comes 16 years after Netscape introduced the first commercial Internet browser. RockMelt is the first browser to be fully backed by the cloud, according to the company's website.

A "share" button on RockMelt makes it easy to post a Web page, a YouTube video or any other items, to Facebook, Twitter or other sites.

Here's an explanation from the RockMelt website:

Share or tweet links often? Yeah, us too. No more wading through each site's goofy share widget or copy-pasting URLs. We built sharing directly into the browser, right next to the URL bar. Like a site or story? Click "Share" and BAM - link shared. You can use it on any site to post to Facebook or tweet about it on Twitter. It's just one click away. That easy.

Wherever you go on the Internet, RockMelt makes the Web a personal experience. Because RockMelt is the first browser you log into, it unlocks your Web experience with your Facebook friends, your feeds, your favorite services, even your bookmarks and preferences.

Like other browsers RockMelt is free and it plans to make money by earning a share of the revenue from web searches conducted by its users.

RockMelt's backers acknowledge that getting people to use their browser is a big challenge. They hope their product will create some buzz and the recommendations to use it will be spread through word of mouth.

Generic Equals Boring

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Use specific, non-generic photos on your website. That's the result of a new study from web consultant and author Jakob Nielsen.

Nielsen's latest eye-tracking survey found "big feel-good images that are purely decorative" are mostly ignored online. He found users will engage with an image for extended periods of time when they know the photo of a person or object is non-generic and corresponds to the text.

The study compared a set of products on Pottery Barn's furniture web site and a page of televisions on The research found users largely ignored the televisions on the Amazon page because the images were generic and not inviting.

In contrast, when people looked at the photos on the Pottery Barn website they spent a longer time on the page and engaged with the detailed photos of the actual objects for sale.

"The way to excite customers is to offer an engaging experience, which means focusing on meeting their needs. This lesson holds equally for non-profit organizations and universities, even if they don't refer to their target audience as customers," Nielsen writes on his website.

Nielsen advises web page designers to invest in good photo shoots. "A great photographer can add a fortune to your web site's business value."

PS--Did you even glance at the photo of the generic pill at the top of this post?

The Whole World in Their Hands


Apparently laptops in the classroom are yesterday's news. A new study by Educause: Center for Applied Research (ECAR) finds that by the end of 2011 the sales of smartphones and other hand held devices will surpass the sales of computers. ECAR surveyed 30,616 students and found 51.2% owned an Internet capable handheld device. Of those students, 32.2% used these devices for non-course activities during the class. (I doubt this finding will surprise any college professor!)

The top Internet activities performed from a handheld device were; checking information such as news, weather, and sports (76.7%); using e-mail (75.1%) and utilizing social networking websites (62.5%). Almost 75% of respondents who currently own handheld devices expected their use to increase or greatly increase in the next three years.

The survey also found student desktop computer ownership has decreased from 71.0% to 44.0% in the past four years. Laptop ownership increased from 65.4% to 88.3% during the same time period.

For the first time, the ECAR 2009 student survey asked, "How should your institution first notify you of a campus emergency?" The results found 55.3% of students surveyed chose text-messaging. Far fewer survey participants chose e-mail, voice telephone or a public address system.

You can read the full study here.

Learn how to incorporate social media in the classroom

web 2.0 state of mind.jpegThe question to ask students these days is no longer "if" they are on social media sites but rather "which" ones. As web 2.0 become more commonplace and integral into the lives and daily activities of students, can instructors afford not to keep up with the trends in the social media world? Can they afford not to speak the "language" of web 2.0? In order to engage students in the classroom and enhance their learning, the answer is a flat "no."

Yet many instructors, who grew up in the non-web 2.0 era find it hard, if not intimidating, to effectively harness the power of web 2.0 in their teaching. Dian Schaffhauser, in Campus Technology, shares a list of foolproof and unintimidating methods for incorporating social media applications into the classroom from using Facebook and Twitter to blogs and remote videoconferencing. Methods that Schaffhauser claims are guaranteed to work for even the most squeamish instructor. What I found most useful about the guide is the list of free alternatives to otherwise expensive engagement tools like the clicker or other content management systems.

As listed in the article:
4 Itty-Bitty Content Tools
7 Lures to Hook Faculty into Training
5 Ploys for Going Viral
4 Simple Steps to Setting Up a Facebook Account for Teaching
5 Friendly Ways to Use Facebook in Your Teaching
6 Quick Responses-to-Faculty Questions<
1 FREE Alternative to Clickers
15 Twitter Tips

It is amazing how useful web 2.0 can be in increasing participation, collaboration, interaction and engagement. Instead of absorbing content passively, students can now share ideas and interact with one another. Though all the tips provided by Schaffhauser are useful depending, some sites and applications might work better than others depending on the instructor's goal and types of engagement. "6 quick responses-to-faculty questions" is incredibly useful for instructors who have a goal in mind but do not know which (free) sites to use.

For some instructors like Dr. Monica Rankin of the University of Texas at Dallas, who have been using Twitter in the classroom with much success, Schaffhauser's guide might come as old news. Dr. Rankin discovered that Twitter helped increase participation in the classroom because digital communication helps students overcome their shyness and fear of speaking in front of an audience. Other instructors who have incorporated Twitter in their teaching have also discovered that the benefits of Twitter go beyond the classroom. Prof David Parry at the University of Texas discovered that chatter during class spilled over into the students' free time outside of class. This means that Twitter, because it is a convenient platform (many can access it via their mobile phones), can help students remain engaged in the subject matter and conversation with fellow classmates well after class is no longer in session. For many instructors struggling to increase classroom participation and engagement beyond the classroom, Twitter might just be the answer.

Using e-textbooks in your class?

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E-books are increasingly getting popular these days. Many people use Kindle, iPad or some other e-book readers to read their e-books. E-books are usually cheaper than printed books. They are light-weighted (of course, except the weight of a hardware) so that you can carry hundreds of e-books in one device. You can buy (download) and read it in a few minute without waiting several days for shipping or going to a bookstore. Oh, don't forget that you can easily search a term or topics and that you can, in some e-book readers, take notes and print them.

What about e-textbooks, then? What are the benefits of e-textbooks in addition to general benefits of e-books mentioned above? One benefit of e-textbook would be that e-textbook is easier for customization.

According to a news report of The Chronicle of Higher Education, many textbook publishers provide "build-a-book" option, which allows instructors to mix and match chapters of books, articles, and case studies into a customized e-textbook for their class. And it is expected the price of the customized e-textbook would be cheaper than a printed book with the same customized content.

One reason publishers like customization according to the news report is that customized books are difficult for students to sell as used copies, unless they sell to other students taking the same course from the same professor.

However, students may rent a customized e-textbooks in future at low prices without having to buy one. For example, a press release from CourseSmart, the world's largest e-textbook provider, says that CourseSmart's e-textbook rental program has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for $1.1 Million. The e-textbook rental program, called STudent E-rent Pilot Project (STEPP), aims to improve low-cost access to higher education e-textbooks for all students, including those with print-related disabilities such as blindness or dyslexia.

So, in a few years, you may see that many students rent a e-textbook, which is customized just for the class. Will it really happen? I guess it depends. But for sure, technologies are changing education.

Students Still Prefer Paper in Digital Age

College students text, surf and download but in the digital age traditional paper textbooks still rule. A recent New York Times article looked into why students still prefer expensive, heavy textbooks.

The article quotes two recent studies--one by the National Association of College Stores and another by the Student Public Interest Research Groups, a national advocacy network. The studies found 75 percent of students surveyed still preferred traditional textbooks to a digital version. The surveys found many students are reluctant to give up the ability to quickly flip through paper books, write notes in the margins and use a highlighter to mark important passages.

The expense of college textbooks, according to the New York Times, is estimated to have risen four times the inflation rate in recent years.

According to the National Association of College Stores, digital books make up just under 3 percent of textbook sales. The association expects the number to grow as high as 15 percent by 2012.

Barnes and Noble College Booksellers is working hard to market its new software application, NOOKstudy. It allows students to navigate e-textbooks on Macs and PCs. The company's vice president said "The real hurdle is getting them (students) to try it."
The company is giving away "College Kick-Start Kits" to students who download NOOKstudy in the fall semester, with ramen noodle recipes and a dozen classic e-books like "The Canterbury Tales" and "The Scarlet Letter." CourseSmart, a consortium of major textbook publishers, is letting students try any e-textbook free for two weeks.

2 Many Msgs


The average teenager sends more than six text messages in every waking hour, according to Nielsen. The analysis appeared in a New York Times article. It goes on to report teenage girls averaged an incredible 4,050 text messages a month. That breaks down to eight text messages each waking hour.

Teenagers are making fewer voice calls according to Nielsen. Teenagers used fewer minutes than 18-to-54-year-olds.

"Teenagers growing up now don't even think the phone is primarily for voice. It's primarily for text," said Don Kellogg, a senior manager of research for Nielsen.

The end of the academic calendar or the end of learning?

laptop and pencil.jpg

There is a new online program in town that lets students start class any day they want and finish at their own speed, as reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The open-format program, Learn Anytime, allows students to race through quizzes and writing assignments to complete the course in the shortest time (humanly) possible. No time is wasted on group projects and discussions with classmates.

Video Chats: Not Just for the Jetsons Family


Almost 19% of U.S. Adults have tried video calling either online or via cell phones, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

The survey of 3,001 adults found that 74% of American adults use the Internet, and among those Internet users, 23% have participated in video calls, chats or teleconferences.

The Pew survey found younger Internet users are more likely to conduct video calls. About 29% of Internet users ages 18-29 surveyed report they have participated in video calls, chats or teleconferences. That compares with 15% of Internet users age 65 or older.

Men are more likely than women to participate in online video calls. The survey found 26% of men and 20% of women surveyed participated in online video calls.

On a "typical day" 4% of Internet users participate in video calls, chats or teleconferences, according to the Pew survey. That is an increase from the Pew's 2009 survey when 2% of Internet users reported participating in online video calls.

The survey also found that 85% of American adults have cell phones and 7% have used their cellphones for video calls, chats or teleconferences.

Pew researchers conducted the survey between Aug. 9 and Sept. 13. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Government "Friends" Users in Vietnam


Government leaders in Vietnam are launching their own Communist-friendly social networking site that is similar to Facebook.

The site,, is state-owned and is a change in strategy for Vietnam's government. Previously Hanoi's Politburo members have typically shut down parts of the Internet that did not comply with or support the government's one-party dictatorship. Authorities have tried to block access to Facebook and have jailed dissident bloggers.

The site requires users to submit their full names and government-issued identity numbers before they can access the site, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

The article quotes Vietnam's Minister for Information and Communication, Le Doan Hop, as predicting the site will sign up more than 40 million people--about half the country's 85 million people by 2015.

Hop went on to say the site includes English tests and several state-approved videogames. The offerings include a violent multiplayer contest featuring a band of militants on a mission to stop the spread of global capitalism.

The Vietnamese government heavily censors television and newspapers. According to the Wall Street Journal article, the government in Vietnam is nervous about the speed at which Internet use is growing because, so far, it is more difficult for the government to control content on the web. Vietnam recorded 26 million Internet users in August. That number is up 18% from the same month last year and is one of the fastest growth rates in the developing world, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook has more than a million users in Vietnam and the number has been growing steadily since Facebook added a Vietnamese language version of the site, according to an article in the UK news site The Independent.

Vietnam is, apparently, trying to increase control over blogging and social networks like its neighbor to the north--China. The People's Republic of China blocks websites at an Internet Service Provider (ISP) level. Vietnam blocks websites at the Domaine Name System (DNS).

An Internet expert quoted in the Global Post said the policy in Vietnam does not provide a strong block. He said you can just change the DNS. He explained that that the Vietnamese government tells service providers to redirect their servers away from sites as opposed to actually blocking the access as the Chinese government does. That means it is easier to circumnavigate Vietnam's firewall than it is in China. According to the Global Post an estimated 30,000 censors search for illicit content on the Internet in China.

Government officials in Vietnam have described their new social networking site as the country's biggest online investment to date. Officials will not say how much has been spent or how many people have logged in to the new network.

U of M iPad Pilot Project is Largest in the Nation


About 450 University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) students will get Apple iPads. The pilot project provides iPads for the entire freshman class in the college and is the largest program if its kind at a major research university. The cost of less than $216,000 is being funded entirely by private donations and will have no bearing on tuition, according to a U of M press release.

The CEHD freshmen will have access to digital textbooks via the iPads. U of M officials hope this will provide the students with significant cost savings. At the University of Minnesota, textbooks average about $1,000 per year for undergraduates, according to the U of M press release.

CEHD faculty, who study academic technologies and postsecondary education, will research how iPad use relates to student retention, engagement, and learning outcomes. A broad spectrum of first-year undergraduate courses in the Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning will incorporate the devices.

"We won't simply say, 'Here's an iPad,' and that's the end of it," said David Ernst, director of academic and information technology for CEHD in a Star Tribune article. "It will be part of a coordinated, focused research agenda."

Seton Hill University in New Jersey made headlines last spring when it announced that each full-time undergraduate would get an iPad and a Macbook laptop as part of a bigger technology project. "An iPad for Everyone," its website boasts.

"Mobile technology plays an increasing role in student life and student learning," CEHD Dean Jean Quam said in a U of M statement "CEHD faculty and students are eager to lead the way in exploring the potential of new technologies, like the iPad, in and outside of their classrooms. It's the kind of innovative research that is at the core of what we do in CEHD."

Students will receive their iPads in late October, giving them an opportunity to become familiar with the technology before using the devices regularly in spring semester classes, according to a U of M statement.

Social networking site keeps feelings of isolation at bay

lone girl with laptop on stairs.pngWhat is the image that comes to mind when you think of a researcher at a large University? A lone individual who spends countless hours tucked away in a quiet corner of the library or working tirelessly on an experiment in the lab located in the basement of the Science department? Though the image of the isolated researcher is largely a stereotype, there is unfortunately still some truth to it. With 23 campuses, The City University of New York can be a lonely place for faculty, staff and graduate students working independently on their research projects, detached from the larger university community. Ask any graduate student or faculty member and (s)he would tell you that research is usually a lonely endeavor but it does not always have to be this way, as seen in the example of CUNY. In an effort to foster camaraderie, academic discussion and connect the university's campuses, CUNY recently launched its new Academic Commons site, which is basically a social networking site.

As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, users can create and join groups, post messages, share files and collaborate on wikis. Instead of being a colossal waste of time, social networking in this case has helped many scholars connect with others who share similar research interests as well as connect with faculty members and fellow colleagues who they would have otherwise never met. As with any social networking site, groups that are created on Academic Commons are not always purely for academic or professional reasons. These groups range from open-source publishing to educational games and groups around favorite pizza joints and places to hang out. Though the CUNY network targets a decentralized academic audience and serves a different purpose from Facebook or LinkedIn, Academic Commons has definitely made researching at CUNY a lot less lonely.

mayo logo.jpg

The Mayo Clinic announced it's launching a global social media health network using tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to improve health care around the world.
"It will be a vehicle for us to share what we've learned about social media, including our training resources, and for others to join us in learning together and developing best practices," the medical director for the Mayo Clinic's Center for Social Media, Dr. Victor Montori, said in a statement on the center's website.

"Ultimately, we want to help health-related organizations of all sizes and types to harness these powerful communication tools to help patients and improve human health globally," Montori said.

Mayo, a non-profit research and hospital group, based in Rochester, Minnesota, created a social media center in July to train other hospitals to use social media tools. The new center will provide training, workshops, consulting services and hold conferences on how hospitals can better employ social media to achieve business goals, connect with patients and spread their message.

Mayo hopes to launch the website,, by the end of October.

Mayo started its social media presence in 2005 with its first podcast. It later joined Facebook, then YouTube. In 2008 it launched a Twitter feed. Since then, it has attracted more than 20,000 followers on its Facebook page and more than 60,000 followers on its Twitter feed, according to the Mayo website.

Faculty tech selector: how-to and why you should use it.

The Faculty Technology Selector is a tool that makes it easy for instructors to share online and digital resources with students in myU.

Lois Eaton, an instructor in the Kinesiology department shares her experiences with the tech selector. She uploaded videos onto the portal and students can view it at their leisure instead of having to check out the lecture video from the library. Instructors can easily associate websites, electronic media, wiki and class messages with each class they are teaching.

Completely sold on this idea but do not know how to use the technology selector? This video provides a step-by-step guide to use the selector.

Discover myU

Instead of having to click through several links just to pay tuition or have several programs running on your computer at the same time to help you keep track of emails, schedules, deadlines, myU is a one-stop website that helps you manage your busy life as a student.

You can manage all your classes, find exact locations on the map, keep abreast of latest events, search for opportunities to volunteer, keep track of your schedules/calendar, download transcripts, pay tuition fees and manage emails all on 1 website - myU.

myU learning platform also enables students to share information, exchange tips and advice, ask questions and get answers from fellow course mates.

Are we addicted to Facebook?

Ok, that is probably a rhetorical question but if we are, is there real cause for concern?

By now I'm sure most of you would have already heard about the brave attempt by The Harrisburg University of Science and Technology to block access to social networking sites from its campus wireless network for one week, as reported in Inside Higher Ed. The idea behind the one-week ban was not to torture students (though I'm sure many students felt that way) but to jolt students, staff and faculty into critically thinking about the role social media play in their daily lives. If this ban taught us anything, it is that students find it hard to wean themselves from Facebook. Some students reported going to great lengths to access Facebook such as walking several blocks to a nearby hotel lobby just to log into Facebook or hacking into the campus network just to get around the access block.

Why would universities care so much as to block access to social networking sites? After all, isn't Facebook just another mode of communication? Some psychologists would disagree, especially when time spent on Facebook is cutting into the hours that should be spent on class assignments or projects. Rob Bedi, a registered psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Victoria, said there's a difference between procrastination and addiction and some students' Facebook habits are cutting close to the latter. This has led Bedi to conclude that popular social networking site may be hazardous.

According to psychologists like Bedi, you might be a borderline Facebook addict if you exhibit some of the following behaviors - Are personal relationships taking a backseat to Facebook? Do you think about Facebook even when you're offline? Do you use Facebook to escape problems or homework? Do you stay on Facebook longer than intended? Have you ever concealed Facebook use? If you think might be an addict, help is never too far away because there are many websites that provide strategies on how to beat the addiction.

The above articles portray Facebook in a negative light but fail to ask one important question - why are we addicted to Facebook in the first place? Could it be that Facebook has now become an extension of ourselves? It is something we do as an integral part of our daily lives such as maintaining social ties and developing new ones. We are essentially doing the same social things but through a different channel, one with greater convenience, ease and efficiency. Updating your status on Facebook reduces the amount of time and effort needed to maintain real world friendships; organizing an event is so much easier when you can keep track of the number of people who will be attending it; sharing photos on Facebook means more friends can see them without you having to bring your photo album wherever you go. Facebook allows you to remain connected to friends and acquaintances with minimal effort while building stronger relationships with close friends and family.

Perhaps, some of us think of Facebook as an addiction because we are still getting used to the newer channels of communications and it is not unusual to feel nostalgic about the 'good old days' and 'good old ways'. That being said, it is always useful to reflect on the ways newer channels of relationship-building have changed the ways we maintain friendships and communication - Are the newer channels of relationship building (i.e. Facebook) any better or worse than traditional channels or are they just too different to compare?

What happens when students unplug

books.jpgWhat if you shut down your computer, turned off your cell phone, hid your TV remote - and just unplugged for a day? A week?

For most people - students in particular - the idea drums up a sense of panic, misery, impossibility, even.

But professors at the U and at colleges and universities around the country are assigning students to do just that, as a lesson in life before technology. One professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication asked students to unplug from all of the above, including Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, for five days - an assignment met with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success that you can read about in the Star Tribune.

Interestingly, a new study shows that students in these no-media experiments actually show withdrawal symptoms -- anxiety, misery, and being jittery - common in drug and alcohol addicts.

Does that mean we're overusing media? Or that our society can't - and shouldn't - go without it?

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) is offering free workshops in May and June to help instructors learn to effectively plan and create digital audio and video presentations that further course goals.

New technologies make it easier than ever to create and share digital audio, video and narrated slide shows. However, new opportunities create new challenges: instructors must develop skills and knowledge in to media selection for effective teaching and learning; learn best practices in recording, editing and publishing media; craft thoughtful media assignments for their students, and consider how to assess student media projects.

The lucky instructors who have secured spots in the Digital Teaching Workshop will work through the planning and development of a prototype project over the weeklong (half day) series. As of today, the sessions are full - but if you're interested, you can fill out the registration form to be added to the wait list.

Students Worry About iPhone Addiction

An interesting article from the Chronicle of Higher Education on iPhone use. The Chronicle, citing a Standford Univeristy study of 200 students who own iPhones, reported that 75% of the students who own the phones said they made them feel happier. According to Stanford instructor Tanya Luhrmann, "It was not so much with the object itself, but it had so much personal information that it became a kind of extension of the mind and a means to have a social life." The article also references an extended treatment of the study that appears in the San Jose Mercury News.

The Quality Fair and some email advice, from UMNews

Adam Overland has some great gleanings from the U's Quality Fair, held in February 2010. Overland features one poster from Arthur Hill, the John and Nancy Lindahl Professor for Excellence in Business Education at the Carlson School of Management, who presented "Personal Operations Management: Lean Principles for Getting Good Things Done." The article describes some of Dr. Hill's advice about managing email and time. The three items I found most helpful were:

  • Abide by the two-minute rule--if it takes less than two minutes, do it now.
  • Write short emails with very concise and meaningful subject lines and do not cc unless absolutely necessary--very often, the cc is not necessary and is a waste of many people's time.

  • Reduce the number of emails you write to reduce the number you receive. Do not write a "thank you" email every time you receive a correspondence.

I just read the article today, so no word on how much more efficient I will be after following some of these tips. I do find the cc's difficult at times to track - generally it is better to have too much information. At the same time, there are times I spend more time trying to figure out why I was cc'd on something than I should be. I also do abide by the two minute rule for tasks at home, but never thought of applying the rule to email at work.

What is your favorite productivity tip?

Web-based proctoring service keeps online classes fully online

In a regular online-only course, there's no such thing as a closed-notes test (unless it's on the honor system). While this might be a bonus for students, professors feel that some classes warrant a traditional test format.

Enter exam proctors. Some courses are taken entirely online -- except for a final (and maybe a midterm) exam, which students must take on campus or in another location with a proctor who will ensure that students are following the rules of the test. But finding a proctor, traveling to his or her location and shouldering that extra cost can be a big inconvenience for students.

Now enter e-proctoring services. One company, ProctorU -- an online test-proctoring company that uses webcams, microphones, and human beings to monitor test-taking online -- is currently affiliated with a handful of institutions in the U.S. and abroad and plans to proctor 20,000 to 30,000 exams this year.

Students seem to appreciate the convenience and price tag of about $30. Other major players in this emerging market are Kryterion Corporation, and Acxiom which focuses on electronic identity verification. The University of Minnesota Digital Campus group has been working with several units at the U of M to determine interest in these type of services.

I wonder how professors feel about this option and whether there are any downsides to this method. If e-proctoring seems to be successful, I wouldn't be surprised if institutions started their own online proctoring services in the near future.

Will the iPad revolutionize education?

Last week's announcement of the Apple iPad was met with excitement from people of all walks of life, from übergeeks to grandmas. But there's been a lot of talk about the impact the tablet may have on one group in particular: students.


Apple has already secured partnerships with some big names in textbook publishing. Being able to download a textbook nearly instantly, at a fraction of the price (and negative environmental impact) of its paper counterpart, could open up access to many more students.

Mobility. Lots of college students have computers, many laptops, but few carry them everywhere on campus. The iPad could change that. It's light, it's thin and it's got a world of information in a tiny package. And it's impossible to forget your book!

Multiple media. More and more, classes are being supplemented with videos, audio, Web reading and more. This pulls all of these sources together for a student and could make it easier for a teacher to embrace the use of different media forms in teaching about a topic.

Educators so far seem to like the iPad's price tag: starting at just $499. It's cheaper than a laptop, comparable in price to many eReaders and (almost) does the work of both. This may make providing tablets for students--or expecting students to have them--possible.

And of course not everyone's sure the iPad will have much impact on education at all.

What other game-changing potential does the iPad have in education?

How to Run a Meeting Like Google

I am not generally a Google cheerleader, but they do have an innovative culture that I think is useful to examine closely. Business Week interviewed Marissa Mayer, Google's vice-president of search products, who has on average 70 meetings a week. Most of her process would not work well in higher education, but some of the ideas would be worth trying.

For instance, at Google, a large countdown clock is displayed on the wall, ticking off the remaining minutes of each meeting. While I don't love the idea of a big clock in the room, it might help make everyone responsible to the time and agenda. Too often, a discussion on one topic will take up most of the meeting time, leaving too little time for the remaining agenda items. It is a problem I struggle to effectively address - some issues need more time. But sometimes, it is more about time management or lack of focus.

I also love the idea of office hours for managers in higher education. Mayer got the idea from her time as a professor, and it is familiar to all of us in higher ed. She uses the office hours at Google to have brief meetings, often about 7 minutes, to discuss timely but not large issues. She described the office hours as a way to reduce latency. Office hours for managers in higher education could be really useful; it would reduce the time decisions are delayed because the next meeting with a decision maker is two weeks out.

The entire article is worth reading.

5 Higher Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2010


Campus Technology

5 Higher Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2010

* By Bridget McCrea
* 12/09/09

There aren't too many corners of higher education that technology hasn't infiltrated. From admissions to financial aid to the classroom and everything in between, nearly all aspects of college are being handled in some way by the applications, hardware, and gadgets that help institutions work more efficiently.

Don't expect much of that to change in 2010 as more technology is developed and introduced to the higher education market. To make your trend-spotting activities easier, we spoke with some higher education technology experts and came up with these five top tech trends to watch in the new year.

1. More Interactive Classrooms
The days when professors lectured to a class of blank, unresponsive faces are long gone. Today, both students and educators are tapping technology to make the classroom environment more interactive and dynamic. Purdue University's Web-based Hotseat application, which allows students to use handheld devices to interact with professors in the classroom environment, is just a taste of what's to come.

"Anything that helps make the classroom more interactive, animated and engaging--be it multimedia, streaming video or some other innovation--will be in demand this year," said Gregory Phelan, chair of the department of chemistry and associate professor at SUNY College at Cortland in New York, which is upgrading its facilities to include streaming video that professors can access via the server while teaching (rather than "carrying" the content with them into class). "We'll be there soon."

2. More Information at Your Fingertips
In an era when information just can't be produced quickly enough, electronic book readers, smart phones, search engines, and other tools will continue to create an educational environment where both students and teachers have everything they need at their fingertips. "This faster access to information is going to change the classroom dynamic," Phelan predicted. "It will impact the way in which lessons are taught, and how students do their work."

Phelan pointed to the colleges that are "handing out" tablet PCs to all freshmen as the frontrunners in the race to equip students with all of the information they need to succeed in school. Whether other universities follow that lead remains to be seen. "I'd really like to see more schools making that move," said Phelan, "and even further integrate technology into the college classroom."

3. Mashed-Up Technologies
Technological equipment and software that serves a single purpose has gone the way of the 8-track tape and will continue to fade in 2010 as more users learn to "mash up" their technologies into more useful packages. "Students are using every communication vector that they can get their hands on right now," said Ron Hutchins, associate vice provost for research technology and CTO at Georgia Institute of Technology's Office of Information Technology. "It just makes sense that they would mash those technologies together and make them more specific and customizable."

Take online maps, for example. Once thought of as standalone applications that help the user get from Point A to Point B in the fastest, most efficient manner, online maps can now be integrated into other applications, such as location-based e-mail programs. "These types of customizable, specific mashups," said Hutchins, "will become even more prevalent in higher education this year."

4. Breaking Out of Technology Isolation
One of the coolest uses of technology that Hutchins has seen lately can be found in Rutgers University's English department, which is equipped with an entire wall of touch-enabled whiteboards. Using precision positioning technology, the wall-mounted boards allow for unprecedented participation and collaboration among students.

"Students walk up to the wall and use their hands to manipulate items," remarked Hutchins. "It's like putting your whole body into a design project." Hutchins said such innovations also go a long way in getting students up out of their seats and interacting with educators, other students and technology in a meaningful way. "Technology can be isolating," he said. "I love the notion of integrating the classroom and making it more social. This is just one way to make that happen."

5. Capabilities That Go Beyond 1:1
Last year saw college students using more devices and technology applications than ever before, and universities scrambling to keep up with those tech-savvy students. Expect the trend to pick up speed in 2010, said Shannon Buerk, education design strategist at Dallas-based consultancy Cambridge Strategic Services. Netbooks, online education, social networking, smart phones and podcasting will continue to play a role in the typical student's life, as will "4:1 computing" as a replacement for the more traditional 1:1 (one device to handle one task).

"The traditional 1:1, standardized computing is too rigid in today's educational environment, where students are tapping into multiple technologies and switching gears quickly between them," said Buerk, who said she sees the university landscape as being ripe for even more technological innovations in 2010. "When it comes to [technology], there are no boundaries in the learning environment."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at

Pranav Mistry presented a new way of merging the "real" world with the computer, data-driven world. Especially exciting for me was the demonstration at minute 10 of adding an image from a physical book, and a paragraph of text from another book, into a digital piece of paper. Except it isn't really a digital piece of paper.... You have to watch it to believe it.

Mistry's invention, which he calls SixthSense, uses a pocket projector, a mirror and camera. The user carries a mobile computing device in her pocket. The stream from the projector is captured and brought back into the device. He also applied sensors on his fingers that are read by the projects interface. The hardware for the prototype cost about $350.

Pranav Mistry is planning on releasing the source code for his device so other industries, NGOs, and developers can extend his invention further. Imagine what will come from the crowd-sourcing of this invention.

Educational Technology Workshop - Oct 13 - Nov 17

The Office of Information Technology, in partnership with the Libraries, is pleased to announce a new free opportunity for faculty, staff and graduate students: the Educational Technology Workshop (ETW). The focus of this year's ETW will be "Web 2.0" tools and pedagogies, including blogging, microblogging, syndication, podcasting, video sharing, online collaboration and social networking.

For those interested in creating effective technology rich learning environments, exciting new opportunities emerge on a nearly daily basis.
This rapidly expanding suite of tools challenges us to understand each new tool's potential for enhancing learning and determine how best to integrate a suite of such tools to create an effective learning environment. The ETW is designed to help participants meet these challenges head on. The goals for participants are:

* to develop a flexible method for exploring and evaluating the utility of new technologies to enhance teaching and learning environments; and
* to master an effective process for designing technology-rich learning activities that includes planning, engagement, and evaluation.

The ETW will meet each Tuesday morning from 9-11 a.m. over six weeks (October 13 - November 17). Each participant will work in a small team to help design and deliver one class session. Because the ETW is participant driven, an additional hour or two per week outside of class will be required to prepare for each session. Those who complete the workshop satisfactorily will receive a certificate of accomplishment.
For more details, and to register, go to

From Fast Company

Never heard of an Edupunk? Neither had I. The actual idea is not as cutting-edge as it sounds. The Fast Company article interviews several people in higher education who are looking outside higher ed for new solutions to old problems. Some of the solutions could be transformative, but higher ed as we know is not going away any time soon.

This quote from the article is key:

"The Internet disrupts any industry whose core product can be reduced to ones and zeros," says Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of education startup Knewton. Education, he says, "is the biggest virgin forest out there."

I'll bypass the poor rhetorical choice of "virgin forest" and move on to the point I believe Mr. Ferreira was trying to make. There are too many aspects of higher education that cannot be reduced to ones and zeros. Higher education is credentials, culture, methodology, relationships, connections, collaborations. It is a public good and a private good. It is an economic engine that operates somewhat outside the rules of the marketplace. It cannot be reduced to ones and zeros. I say this as someone who strongly believes technology should transform the way we learn, teach, collaborate, and research. I think the author and maybe some of the people interviewed lack an understanding of the complexity of higher education and its role in the larger society.

The idea I found most compelling came from David Wiley at BYU: "Why is it that my kid can't take robotics at Carnegie Mellon, linear algebra at MIT, law at Stanford? And why can't we put 130 of those together and make it a degree?" Why indeed? Well, there are many cultural reasons why not. Beyond culture, most universities have policies and procedures requiring students to take a certain number of credits from their institution in order for the student to be awarded a degree. Few universities would want to put their seal on a diploma of a student who took most of their credits somewhere else. But what if the credential, in this case a diploma, came from something other than a single university? What if accrediting bodies started awarding degrees?

One key tension this article illustrates is the disconnect between what we in higher education think is important and what pretty much everyone else thinks is important. The article highlighted skills, competition, choice, efficiency, and costs. We tend to talk a lot about rigor, scholarship, learning, mentoring, and research. I am not saying the University doesn't pay attention to efficiency and cost - we have to, especially now. But there is a disconnect, and for that, the article was revealing.

Summer Reading: Paperback, Audiobook, Kindle, or iPhone?

The author of this article finds that reading between these various formats enhances her experience of Dickens.

Reading Dickens Four Ways-The Chronicle of Higher Education

PhilPapers: Online research tool for philosophers

PhilPapers: Philosophy Online

PhilPapers is a new directory of philosophy articles and books that can be found online. The site allows users to monitor current research, browse categories or search, and contribute their own research to the site.

The site is an interesting addition to the trend of "flattening" access to scholarship and research. Projects like Google Books are part of that trend, in providing digital access to as many books as possible. Another part of the trend is opening up who can add to the conversations in scholarship. Before the internet, academic conversations ("discourse", if you prefer) occurred at conferences or in peer reviewed journals. Access to the conversations were limited, and adding to the conversation could be very difficult. PhilPapers, and other sites like it, will likely make it easier for scholars to add their voices to the larger conversations in their field.

There are consequences to flattening access to scholarship and research. It may be more difficult to assess the quality of scholarship and research on a site like PhilPapers. It will broaden the research and scholarship available for new scholars to build on, making exercises like literature reviews more difficult. I am generally a proponent of access and abundance of information and I don't believe the consequences are overwhelmingly negative. Like most innovations, the key will be how we respond to them.

Hat tip: Dan Cohen

Zotero: An Open Source, Web 2.0 Citation manager

Zotero | Home

Zotero 2.0 beta was recently released. I was using Zotero 1.0, and while it was handy, it was too difficult for me to manage my citations across the multiple computers I use. 2.0 fixes that problem with a handy sync feature that allows you to sync Zotero to multiple computers/browsers.

Zotero also allows scholars to open their research collections to others, including making them publicly available. I can follow people working in my field and have access to their source materials quickly and easily. I imagine this could enhance conversations and collaborations about ideas and research.

You can annotate your citations in Zotero. When searching common databases like JSTOR, Zotero will save the full text pdf of articles, making the full pdf searchable in the software interface.

According to a new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project: "Some 39% of Americans have positive and improving attitudes about their mobile communication devices, which in turn draws them further into engagement with digital resources - on both wireless and wireline platforms." At the same time, however "most Americans still connect to the internet mainly on wireline and rarely use a mobile device to access digital resources." Read the Pew press release. See the full study.

From Campus Technology magazine (3/23/09): MIT's faculty members last week decided on a new policy to make all of their scholarly articles available free to the public online. Articles will be disseminated using an open source platform called DSpace, which was developed by the MIT Libraries and HP. See the full article.

Linking Social Networks

A campus without textbooks

Future of school textbooks written in cyberspace

Northwest Missouri State University has provided e-readers to students with electronic versions of their textbooks. Students no longer have to carry heavy books around, and can use the e-reader to search text, take notes, and have all their class materials on one small device.

Not all students like the technology. One student quoted in the article said she worried the reader could malfunction the night before a big test, and that she misses being able to flip the pages back and forth.

The importance of net neutrality

Dueling Data -

President-elect Obama will need to address net neutrality at some point in the next four years. The importance of the issue is spelled out clearly by Paul Cesarini of Bowling Green State University. He argues that network neutrality legislation is needed to prevent the segmentation of the internet, like what we see now with phones. His examples reminded me of the early days of home web-access, when people tried to share channels and chat rooms with friends. AOL users didn't have access to the same channels users did. The web was segmented.

The power of the web is in the open access, free movement and sharing of idea, products, and files. We need to share in academia. Our research and work is weaker when it isn't shared, reviewed, commented on and built on.

Using Skype for study sessions

Wired Campus: Grad Students Who Live Far Apart Hold Study Sessions on�Skype -

As the first commenter at the blog post on the Chronicle noted, people have been using Skype to collaborate across distances for a while now. But it is still a good reminder that distance is coming to mean less and less in academia. We can work with anyone. We can learn from researchers in India, Antarctica, Brazil, Pequot Lakes even when our research has nothing to do with India, Antarctica, Brazil or Pequot Lakes. Imagine a world where a Public Health researcher can learn how colleagues all over the world are addressing the challenges obesity and use that knowledge to propose local solutions. Or a researcher on educational policy can get feedback on a policy draft from experts in China and India and Canada.

Our research questions, and importantly, our solutions, can pull from the best in the world, not just the best in the country. The changes happening now are remarkable.

Wikis in Plain English

| 1 Comment

YouTube - Wikis in Plain English

This has been going around for a long time. But it's a good video, and I'm going to show it in a training next week, so I dug it up again.

I like that the video points out the flaws in trying to collaborate in email; most of us have been doing our work this way for so long that the inefficiency is not always obvious.

Gartner: E-learning Market Pushing Toward Open Source

Campus Technology online reports on a Gartner study indicating that Open Source e-learning/course management systems such as Moodle and Sakai are gaining ground on commercial systems. Part of this is attributed to the uncertainty created by the Blackboard lawsuit against Desire2Learn.

The 2008 Horizon Report is released

The New Media Consortium released the 2008 Horizon report at the Educause Leadership Initiatives conference in San Antonio this week. The Horizon Project discusses emerging technologies that will strongly influence teaching and learning at colleges and universities. The emerging technologies the Horizon Report discusses for 2008 include:

  • Grassroots video
  • Collaboration webs
  • Mobile broadband
  • Data mashups
  • Collective intelligence
  • Social operating systems

Can you find it now?

Making the University's web search more relevant

A university as large as the University of Minnesota can be difficult to navigate. Recently, people from across the university have taken steps to ameliorate that problem. Called "tuning,�? the goal is to make the search results of the University's website more relevant and make University offices, departments and people easier to find.

Hundreds of common search phrases have been coded into the search engine with the most likely relevant results at the top. For example, if someone now searches for "bus pass,�? the top result leads to the Parking and Transportation website, where University faculty, staff and students can buy a transit pass. Before this process, the link to Parking and Transportation was tenth on the search results page.

Tuning cannot replace a good search application, but it can hopefully help visitors to the University's website find what they are looking for. If you have any suggestions about how to improve the search results, please submit them to

Give us your feedback

Is there a search query you think needs tuning? Have you noticed the search function is more relevant? Let us know what you think by sending an email to the Technology Enhanced Learning team at

How to spot tuned results


Links that have been manually added for specific search queries are listed at the top of the page, with "Keymatch�? to the right of the results.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Technology Tools category.

Teaching with technology is the previous category.

TEL @ UMN is the next category.

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