Beyond the Power(is a)Point

Here's an example of PowerPoint (or something like it) taken to the edge. At that edge they find humor, style and make a point. (Actually, I'd argue that it makes a number of points.)

It's called "Le Grand Content." It a fast-moving animated presentation with intersections, connections, graphs and diagrams that answers some of the "big questions." And it's funny. Smart funny.

There's teenage poetry, coffee, a heart full of regret, rejection, your mom, hobbits, beer, the pursuit of happiness, and hamster death.

It plays with many of the conventions of presentations including the standard shapes & animations of PowerPoint.

It's probably available on YouTube and other places now, but I'll send you to the source so can can read more about the background (plus the video quality is better). They list the very unusual blog INDEXED which is done on those wonderful 3X5 file cards as an inspiration. Check that out too.

These people are redesigning the box.


INDEXED by Jennifer Hagy is at

Going Public: iTunes U


I haven't been able to find an "official" or definitive list of schools that have partnered with Apple,Inc. to use iTunes U.

As soon as NJIT applied for the program last spring, I began to search for links to others schools using the service. At that point, the list was short - UC Berkeley, Duke, U Michigan & Stanford.

Since then, we have been trying to monitor new schools that offer a public face in iTunes U. We are, of course, all interested in seeing what the other schools are offering. The list here is not definitive, or official either. It is those I have found and bookmarked, but I will try to keep this post up to date until something official does appear.

If you know of a school that has a public presence on iTunes U, please add a link with a comment at the bottom of this entry (or check the podcasting category link for an updated entry on this) and I'll add it to the list. I won't be linking to schools that have podcasts available in the iTunes Music Store. Those can be found by searching within iTunes on topics like "higher education" or subjects. (Currently, that search will not produce results from any of the iTunes U sites.) Nor will I list any schools that only allow their own (authenticated by ID & password) students & faculty access. Most participating colleges (NJIT included) offer both public and private faces with the private used primarily for course materials. The schools listed here offer podcasts to the public.

There are two types of links here - one to the information page for a school on iTunes U which contains the access link, and another to directly open the school's "on iTunes U" area. Obviously, the free iTunes software is needed to use these sites.

Here are the first 20 we have found:

  1. New Jersey Institute of Technology NJIT on iTunes U information & launch page or open directly in iTunes
  2. Open Bowdoin College
  3. Penn State on iTunes U - Open Penn State
  4. Stanford on iTunes U
  5. About the Duke Digital Initiative - Open Duke University's Fuqua School of Business
  6. Open Harvard Extension School
  7. Open University of California at Berkeley
  8. Sacramento State - Open Sacramento State
  9. Open Arizona State University
  10. Open Texas A&M
  11. Open Ross School of Business at U of Michigan
  12. Santa Monica College on iTunes U
  13. University of California at Berkeley
  14. Queens University (Canada)
  15. Open Wellesley College
  16. Open Georgia College and State University
  17. Open Rollins College
  18. Radford College - open Radford
  19. Gordon College - open Gordon College
  20. Lafayette College

Is there a free CMS for K-12 schools?

The first time I came across the open source course management software Moodle, .LRN and Sakai, I thought, "This is what K-12 schools should be looking to use." I can't imagine widespread adoption of commercial software like Blackboard in our public schools.

We use Moodle at NJIT, as well as the commercial WebCT/Blackboard. And I know that the nearby private Montclair Kimberley Academy (preK-12) has all of its teachers in Moodle.

And .LRN is supposedly the "most widely adopted enterprise-class open source software for supporting e-learning and digital communities. It was originally developed at MIT, and claims to have a million users in higher education, government, non-profit, and K-12. I don't know what portion of that number is K-12, but I could only find the Los Angeles Unified School District as a North American K-12 user.

It's not just the cost, although that's a huge factor, that makes me think that commercial CMS products will not make deep inroads into K-12. It's also IT support, or rather the lack of it, in the majority of districts I have worked in or observed.

It's also that very few K-12 teachers or administrators I have talked with see online course management software as suited for their school. "We don't teach online courses," they have told me. I hear that from my own university teachers too. Since WebCT and the others were first used most heavily to support distance learning, CMS use still has that attachment to many people as being for DL, not for face-to-face teaching.

K-12 districts should be looking to use CMS to support and supplement F2F classes in the same way that colleges are using it there as well as in hybrid and fully online courses.

Still, Moodle & Sakai require IT support, probably more support than a commercial product which comes with at least some built-in/paid for support. Yes, there are now appearing companies that support open source CMS for schools. That scenario brings new misconceptions - "You mean we have to PAY to use that FREE software?" Yes, you do. It's probably a whole lot cheaper than the alternative where you pay big money for the software licensing AND for the support. If you don't pay some outside IT vendor, you'll need to devote/pay internal staff to support it.

One application I came across a few months ago is Digication, a new online learning site whose main product is Digication Campus which the creator describes as:

… a web-based classroom for teachers and students. You can post assignments. Share ideas. Talk. Listen. Learn collaboratively. Get and give help. Post articles. Record grades. Collaborate online. And digitally archive the entire educational experience.

More basic than Moodle, but their “simple by design” motto might make Digication a good thing for teachers & schools without IT staff that is less willing or able to install & maintain a CMS. The site is free for the first 1,000 users at any one school.

** I'm not talking here about the other CMS - content management systems - like Drupal of webEdition, that help schools maintain their websites and web resources.)

Popular Cameras: Another View

If you want to know what the most popular digital camera is currently, there are plenty of magazine reviews and lists online. Another interesting and pretty democratic Web 2.0 way to view the ratings is to use a service at the popular photo sharing site Flickr.

They offer a camera site where you can see what the most popular cameras are amongst Flickr photo sharers. How do they know? Because your smart camera is recording that information (along with things like the date, shutter speed, aperture etc.) each time you press the shutter button.

As of today, the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT is leading the camera race on Flickr and their Powershot SD400 is the most popular point and shoot model.

You can even see what people are photographing with a particular model. Looks like my fellow Nikon D80 users are taking a lot of artsy photos - and they uploaded almost 7000 of them yesterday!

Get a First Life

One of the topics I have been collecting a lot of information on the past few months is Second Life. SL is a an online virtual world with a virtual but real economy. Your real money turns into virtual money to buy virtual stuff like clothing, property and services which are sold in SL by real participants using their virtual characters and virtual stores. Confused?

I have gone in and wanderd about in SL but haven't really accomplished anything, spent any money or found anything of educational value. Others have found value. A search will turn up colleges and courses using virtual this virtual world.

It's like when I first got the game MYST back in 1993. I wandered around the beautiful and intricate island and buildings, but I didn't find many of the "clues" and got bored after a few days. But many others did not. They stuck it out and played for hours and hours and eventually found... something.

I really should explore SL as an educator, but right now I'm way too busy in THIS life. Which is why I was interested in Get A First Life. It's a parody site. Well, more like a parody page (though it does have a few working links to buy t-shirts and find out about the makers).

Virtual reality versus Reality. No contest.