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ID discusses the finer points of engaging students with Professor…

New iPods are here!

For those of you who couldn’t fit your entire music library on the paltry 80 gigabyte iPod now you have the option to purchase the 160 gigabyte version. The iPhone has come down in price by $200 and now you can get your iPod with the iPhone’s snazzy interface, but it only has a 16 GB drive (huh?). The Nano now has video  …I could write about this stuff all day, but here is a link to the site instead: http://www.apple.com/itunes/

Kaplan Test Prep + iPod = Higher SAT scores?

I guess it was just a matter of time before the connection was made between the iPod and drill and practice for standardized tests. Kaplan has thrown its proverbial hat in the ring with 3 test prep “games” covering reading, writing, and math. It makes a lot of sense. Everyone (myself included) has their nose buried in their iPod …when waiting in line at the store, while attending a painfully boring class lecture, or while navigating rush-hour traffic. Hmm, do I sense a possible niche market for iPod ready driver’s education simulations?

New Screen Capture tool by Techsmith (the Camtasia folks)

Camtasia is awesome. It allows you to record audio and video from your computer screen and upload it to a server for others to view …but you need a server. Now Techsmith has taken a cue from YouTube and Flicker and has come up with a beta that includes hosting (you can save the files to your hard drive as well). Enter the Jing Project. For now it is free, so give it a shot. All they ask is that you give them some feedback. It has a really cool interface and seems to work pretty well. Here is a masterful demo that I put together and uploaded in about 4 seconds.

The intersection of convenience and security

Well, I just downloaded RealPlayer BETA. It is most cool. Now you can save any streamed video to your hard drive. Technically speaking, this is great, but one of the key advantages of using streaming technology is the degree of control maintained over material (i.e. it couldn’t be downloaded). I wonder what effect this will have on those using copyrighted material under the Fair Use umbrella?

Big Brother is watching (you take your online exam)

In our program we use proctored exams extensively. While it does add an extra layer of security to online testing, it can be very inconvenient to students who have to find a proctor, show up to take the exam, and often-times pay for the service. A new $125 system is being implemented by Troy University. This locks down the student’s computer, requires a fingerprint for authentication, and features a microphone and a camera capable of seeing 360 degrees. The software offers some pretty neat features as well. Check out CNN’s story on it at: http://www.cnn.com/2007/EDUCATION/06/19/online.testing.camera.ap/index.html

Here is a link to Software Secure’s website:

Spring Widgets: RSS made easy

A week or so ago, I was looking at my webpage. It was the most basic, boring string of code on the internet. I am an instructional designer by trade, so one might think I would have a really cool website. But then again, most mechanics out there drive jalopies – always time to work on someone else’s, never time for your own.

I decided it was high time to simplify my life. I often found myself exhausted from typing in individual URL’s for the USDLA, CNN, Global MBA Blog, EduGeek Journal, and all of the other sites I check regularly. All of this work, just to find nothing had been updated since I last checked (of course this is rarely the case with EduGeek Journal). Enter SpringWidgets http://www.springwidgets.com/ . This is an RSS Aggregator that can be downloaded to your desktop, used in a website, on MySpace, and many other places. The interface is simple, appealing, and functional. I currently have 10 feeds on my personal website: http://darrencrone.com/rssfeeds.htm From an educational perspective, students can easily keep up to date with multiple research journals, newspapers, or anything else with the magical letters RSS stamped on it, by simply glancing at their course homepage.

Microsoft Surface

My mouse clicking finger hurts and Microsoft is doing something to help. I always knew they would come through for me. The company is introducing a technology that just might make the keyboard and mouse obsolete. Soon the sound of banging on a keyboard will be nothing more than a fond memory. Do you remember the interface the pre-crazy Tom Cruise used in Minority Report? Check out the real-life iteration:


Go to MIT for free? WOO HOO!!!

Massachusetts Institute of Technology has launched MIT OpenCourseWare, “a free and open educational resource (OER) for educators, students, and self-learners around the world”” (MIT website). That’s right, anyone with an internet connection can access materials from MIT courses. I’m not talking about just a couple of canned PowerPoint presentations either, these are robust courses that have a syllabus, assignments, video and audio lectures, and study materials. Though you can’t get credit for taking these courses, and you don’t have access to the instructors, you can experience teachings from some of the greatest minds in the world. At last count 1,550 courses have been published. The plan is to have just about all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate courses online by 2008.

What are the implications of this? In my opinion, this may be the single greatest initiative online education has witnessed. Granted, I am an idealist who truly believes that everything should be open source …including education. A world class education is no longer just for the privileged.

Not everyone shares my enthusiasm. I recently listened to a professor’s concerns about the effect this could have on her intellectual property. She feels that this may reduce the value of materials she develops. I understand her point, but I feel this is a bit shortsighted. If all course materials from all colleges are made freely available, think of the advances that could be made with this collective knowledge. Students, professors, and the general public would be able to sample new ideas and theories from leading minds at the click of a mouse. Synergies would be formed, debates would ensue, and discoveries would be made. Some may feel this has the potential to change the landscape of higher education. Would that be such a bad thing?

As a society, I feel there is far too much emphasis put on “checking the box” of getting a degree. There are a lot of people out there with a college degree who barely lifted a finger for the seven years of their undergraduate career. This initiative helps shift the focus from students attaining the tangible end result of receiving a diploma to students gaining knowledge. I wonder if this is the beginning of something big.