September 25, 2007

SL Voice Chat Rocks!

Tonight I joined Dr. Z's class in SecondLife. Kathy Schrock and Ferdi Serim were guest presenters. The voice chat in SL worked great! It's so much easier to communicate using voices than trying to keep up with text chats. I'm excited to see how this feature enhances the next Second Life Best Practices in Education Conference.

September 23, 2007

Why capture lectures?

Rick Nigol strikes again. I've really enjoyed several of his recent posts to the Breakthrough Briefing newsletter, though I wonder why there's not an RSS feed of it--sure seems more like a blog than a newsletter.

Anyway, his recent post was about the marketing of products to capture lecture presentations and stream them via a web browser. As he points out, the result is usually not very impressive. He also writes, and I quote:
"Most lectures are bad in person, but they are even worse when replayed later online. You cannot really see the lecturer (window very small), the sound quality is crappy, many of the graphics used are difficult to read, and you cannot interact with anyone or anything. Everything about it reinforces the impression that you are not there and not part of it.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of products such as Accordant and Echo 360 (a.k.a Apreso). They are expensive (about $8-12,000) and serve only one room. Thousands of dollars are invested in a special box for one room to record what is basically the weakest form of instruction, teacher-centered lecture. But lectures can be interactive, you say? A good presenter will engage his/her audience in a conversation or activity? Okay, so how do these systems deal with audio or video from anyone other than the presenter? I don't think they do. There is a fixed camera in the back of the room and sound coming from the presenter's microphone. Imagine watching a replay and being frustrated by what was actually a good presentation that included participation from the audience, only you couldn't hear or see that stuff!

Unfortunately, about the only justifications I can imagine for such systems are to "make-up" a missed class or to package existing lectures for delivery in a distance learning program. This is way too much money to spend on students who aren't in class (there are cheaper ways to get them the information and wiser ways to spend instructional technology dollars), and there are much more effective ways to teach in an online environment than simply recording traditional teacher-centered lectures and delivering them online (as Rick also points out in his post).

Quark lets students go commercial

This isn't late-breaking news. Apparently, it happened in July, but I just learned about Quark's decision to allow students who purchase the academic version of QuarkXPress to also use it commercially. That means, contrary to any other academic licensing agreement I know of, students who purchase QuarkXPress at the academic price (about $199 compared to the full price of $799) can legally use that software for educational as well as for-profit projects while they are a student. And after they graduate, former students may continue to use that same academic version for commercial purposes or they may upgrade that academic version to the latest commercial version at the commercial upgrade price--no need to purchase the full commercial version first.

That's big news for students and schools! Quark and Adobe have been slugging it out for years with competing products, QuarkXPress and InDesign (the successor to PageMaker). These are, without a doubt, the standards when it comes to professional page layout design. Any serious design school is going to be using one (or both) of these products, and there have been significant factors influencing purchasing decisions. For example, when Apple made the switch from OS9 to OSX, Quark was very slow (if not resistant) to the change. They took much too long to release an OSX native version of their product. Many users abandoned Quark for their apparent lack of support for the Macintosh. For a while, their academic pricing was much higher than Adobe's as well.

Will this bold licensing change from Quark encourage some InDesign users to switch back? Will Quark influence other other companies to follow their lead? (Are you listening Adobe?) That would be a huge selling point to academic programs. Faculty could tell students that not only are we going to help you develop the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in the industry--we're going to help you acquire the tools to do so and get the most bang for your buck.

September 22, 2007

Out and about

Out and about today with Lucy. She fits much better in her new car seat--looks cool too! Guess who's already 3 months old?

September 16, 2007

Higher Res Imagery Coming to Google Earth

Google's provider of satellite imagery, DigitalGlobe, is launching a new satellite Tuesday. The WorldView I spacecraft promises more up-to-date and higher-resolution images. Combined with their current satellite in service, a company spokesman told Reuters that they should soon be able to gather as much satellite imagery each day as they currently do each week (600,000 square kilometers). A planned 3rd satellite will increase that collection rate to more than 1 million square kilometers per day (at half-meter resolution). As one person commented on, now I'll be able to use Google Earth to look for my lost keys!

The launch of the WorldView I satellite will be broadcast live on the internet Tuesday, and replays are said to be available for 24 hrs following.

September 15, 2007

twittervision & micro-blogging

I've written about twittervision before. It's a mesmerizing mashup, combining data from Google Maps and Twitter, providing a real-time geographical view of tweets from all over the world (and in many languages). Now, twittervision has a new 3D view that displays tweets on a rotating globe (just click the "3D View" button). There are also controls for zooming and panning. Pretty cool!

Tweets are text messages that twitter users send to answer the basic question "what are you doing?"--using text messages and the web, people use Twitter to keep in touch with friends. Once you add someone as a "friend" on Twitter, then you'll instantly receive their updates (tweets) on your cell phone or, if you prefer, on the web or your desktop. It's just one form of micro-blogging.

But this micro-blogging phenomenon isn't just enabling individuals to keep in touch with friends. Imagine the many uses of a platform which empowers anyone to instantly disseminate text and pictures to a global audience via their cell phone! It's being used by organized protesters to coordinate efforts and instantly disseminate information to one another. Journalists (and other folks) are using it to update blogs with text and pictures of breaking news--here's an example from Sky News. TV shows and radio stations have used text messaging for years to engage their audience. Now, tools like Twitter enable anyone to use text messaging for almost any purpose they can imagine!

September 14, 2007

Unnecessary Jargon

Rick Nigol recently posted a great message about unnecessary and even exclusionary jargon which is usually counterproductive. It's at least annoying.

Now, I'm not saying we don't get caught up from time-to-time using terminology within a field. Students learning about the Internet and web design surely will encounter terms such as FTP, HTML, server, or CSS. Every field has its lingo, and it can be confusing. One of my colleagues, Dr. Zeitz, deals with this by having his students create a "jargon card", which they hold up if they don't understand a term in class. That way, the group can pause and define the term or use alternative language to clarify.

But when people intentionally use jargon to sell themselves, market a product, or intimidate others--well, that's just annoying, and they should be called on it. Unnecessary jargon excludes and belittles people. It may sell a product to ignorant customers (like negative attack ads in politics), but it doesn't add value to the field or marketplace.

September 13, 2007

Searching for Steve Fossett via the web

Richard Branson, Google, and Amazon recruit web users to help search for
Steve Fossett. Here's a short article about it.

I heard this story on NPR Wednesday morning--brilliant! Google acquired new satellite imagery showing any spot on the globe no more than a few days old (that's right). They passed along the imagery to Amazon who is now recruiting web users (anyone, anywhere in the world) to help in the search for Steve Fossett, missing in Nevada, by analyzing the images. Totally changes the notion of a search party!

September 8, 2007

UNI Fight, UNI Fight!

UNI beat Iowa State University 24-13 tonight! Way to go Panthers!

September 6, 2007

Thanks C&I

Magda and I have received so many thoughtful gifts and messages from our colleagues at UNI since Lucy was born. We're really lucky to be working with such kind people. Thank you, C&I! But be careful--if you keep lavishing us with gifts, we may just keep having babies!