Hot Dogs and iPads

April 15, 2010

I subscribed to the RSS feed for Elliott Masie this week.  According to his site he is: “. . . an internationally recognized futurist, analyst, researcher and organizer on the critical topics of workforce learning, business collaboration and emerging technologies.” According to Dr. Curtis Bonk he is an “elearning guru” and gets 8 mentions in his The World is Open book.

His learning center was just about the only place I found solid information on online learning when I started researching it in 2000 and 2001. It was someone from his center who very kindly answered an email I sent for advice on where does one go to learn about how to do online learning well. IU was in their top three list (the others were Boise State and Florida State). It’s what brought me to IU so they have a soft spot in my heart.

The first article to arrive on my iGoogle page RSS feed from Learning TRENDS was both entertaining and thought provoking, though very short. It came out of a conversation Masie had with a hot dog vendor near his home so I want to share it with you.

NYC Hot Dog Vendor iPad Ideas



This week in class we’ve been looking at RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, podcasts, and videopodcasts. I was motivated to hunt down some to add to my iGoogle page. I’m not much for randomly searching the Internet, so this is a nice way to stay connected to specific things I’m interested in.

I have RSS feeds either directly on my page or through iTunes now for:

Learning TRENDS from Elliot Masie

Thiagi Group

TED Talks

NPR’s This American Life radio show

NPR’s Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me

What I love about this is how organized things are getting. Finally, there are really simple (like “really simple syndication”) ways of organizing and using the infinite amount of information the Web has brought us.

Now, if only I had an iPhone or iPad I could be portable with it all.


Quote of the Day

April 9, 2010

“I think every publisher in the world should sit down once a day and pray to thank Steve Jobs that he is saving the publishing industry with that [the iPad].”

Mathias Dopfner, Chairman & CEO, Axel Springer (publisher of newspapers) on Charlie Rose.

We have a dual significance here. First, is the idea that publishers are finally finding more sustainable business models for making content available digitally which means more content available and accessible.

Second, Stephen Downes (who visited our class this week via video conference), would say this is yet another example of content control by big business who impede free access.


My mom, who has done amazing digital art pieces with the eight tools of Microsoft Paint for years, bought an iPad on Saturday.  Here are her top 10 reasons she is in love with it:

  1. Able to learn tools in seconds instead of months like other programs I’ve used
  2. You can paint pictures right on the screen
  3. You can prop it on a pillow on your lap without it getting hot
  4. It’s easy to carry around
  5. It has thousands of apps
  6. Just one app, Sketchbook Pro, has enough brushes to paint a masterpiece
  7. I can keep it until I die and never use all the apps
  8. You can order your book instantly and read it now
  9. Apple tools are waayy easier than Microsoft ones to use and understand
  10. Steve Jobs is right, “It’s magic!”

Usborne Book Revelation

This week we’ve studied ebooks in class which took me back to the first time I saw an Usborne book. These children’s educational books with an emphasis on reference material were a true innovation for the time. Theme based rather than organized in a linear fashion as most reference books are, they come to life with intense graphics, side bars, games, and activity ideas. A reader can turn to any page and read any block of text on that page and learn something without having to have first read an introduction or followed a linear path of knowledge chunks.

I’m sure some found them to be too chaotic for children and thought them distracting, but looking back at them today, it strikes me how much they are designed like a webpage. Little blocks of information that the reader chooses which ones to attend to and in what order.

Ebooks, Etexts, and iPad Launch

We had a lot of class discussion about the validity and usability of ebooks and ereaders such as the Kindle and just launched this week Apple iPad (which is much more than an ereader – think of it as a really big iPhone) as well as using etextbooks for students. All that made me wonder why we try to reproduce the old format with the new.

  • Why should an ebook be linear and have pages that “turn”?
  • Why can’t we take some of the advantages of technology and rethink what a textbook (or any book for that matter) is?
  • Why can’t there be little blocks of information?
  • Why can’t they be more like a wikipage with internal links to things of interest like a character study of major characters?
  • Why can’t there be sound files imbedded to help high school students learn new terms in their biology text or Shakespeare play?
  • Why not short video clips for reinforcement of material or to present an experiment or historic study?
  • Why can’t they be learner-focused instead of publisher convenient?

Elearning Effectiveness

All this reminded me of how when we homeschooled some families would set up a room with a teacher’s desk and student desks for their 2 or 3 kids; I was always baffled by why someone would want to physically replicate the very institution which they had essentially rejected. One mom of a single child once bought educational overheads and a projector! You don’t need a projector when you can sit next to the child and share a page of information. It was very much about having an understanding of what a “real” school was and did and thinking it needed simulated.

Likewise, many online learning classes in the early days (and sadly still today) only attain to imitate what can be done in a physical setting: lectures, orderly discussions, multiple-choice tests, and written research paper assignments. So much more is possible though! The online courses that take advantage of technology for resource sharing, collaboration, and learner choice are far more effective. In fact, a recent U.S. Department of Education systematic meta-analysis study of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. Considering this includes all those really badly done online courses is quite remarkable. Imagine if the courses that sought only to replicate the face-to-face environment were excluded out what the results might be!

Whether we’re talking about etextbooks, ebooks, or elearning, we need to think beyond replicating the past and create something better for the future.