Thursday, July 31. 2008
Randy Pausch, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, died July 25, 2008 of complications from his pancreatic cancer. He was 47. In addition to being recognized as a pioneer in virtual reality research, he became widely known because of his "Last Lecture" on YouTube which has been reviewed more than 6 millions times in its many forms, and as a bestselling book.
ORIGINALLY POSTED 11/19/07
In September, Randy Pausch, gave his last lecture and told his audience that he was dying of pancreatic cancer.
He is a Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon, where he is the co-director of CMU's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). He was a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator and a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow. He has done Sabbaticals at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) and Electronic Arts (EA), and has consulted with Disney on user interfaces for interactive theme park attractions and with Google on user interface design. Probably more importantly in his CV now are things like having had a chance to be in zero gravity.
About a week after he lecture, a friend sent me a link to a piece online from the Wall Street Journal about it which included a short video with clips from the lecture. Since that article, the lecture and Randy have gone beyond viral. The video was linked & emailed all around. It was translated into German, Mandarin and probably other languages. Pausch appeared on TV (Oprah, Good Morning America etc.) and bloggers started writing and linking to all of this.
If I summarize or excerpt things from the lecture, you might not watch it. He talks about some "brick walls" he hit along the way, but he believes that brick walls are there to stop those who don't want something bad enough. He believes that people ultimately will impress you if you wait long enough. He talks about writing math equations on his bedroom walls and how important it was that his parents let him do that.
Dr. Pausch is involved with many projects. One that I knew about earlier that I didn't connect with him until September was Alice. Alice is a very cool 3D programming environment that allows users to create an animation without knowing programming. It's a visual interface and good teaching tool for introductory computing. It uses 3D graphics and a drag-and-drop interface to allow for a positive first programming experience.
After his last lecture, Randy was supposed to just spend his remaining tme with his family. But he public and the media want more. There are reports that a bidding war is on for a book based on the last lecture (co-authored by Jeff Zaslow the author of the original WSJ piece) and the bidding has reached nearly $7 million. I don't know whether to feel bad that his time might be partially used in all this, or feel good that his family will be taken care of financially and his life will be remembered.
It would be a good "lecture prompt" for any of us who teach to consider what our own last lecture might contain. It's a good story to share with other educators and with students.
It's hard enough for me to approach all the other aspects of dying that I'm not sure I could write or deliver that last lecture for real.
Places to go:
Texas State Technical College (TSTC) announced that it believes it is the first institution of higher education to develop a complete online certificate or degree in a virtual world. Is this where online education is headed?
This fall TSTC will be offering a Digital Media certificate which focuses on virtual world technology and they will be using Second Life as the primary way to deliver the course content. They plan for this certificate program to lead into an associate degree (AAS) in Digital Media starting in spring 2009.
It's all new enough that when I went to the program website yesterday most of the links were not active. But, I was able to teleport to their virtual campus in Second Life and take a look around. It was very quiet and I didn't find any other visitors. I picked up a free t-shirt and visited a few buildings, and, of course, did a flyover.
During my flyover of the TSTC virtual campus
"The 3D environment, which makes the virtual world so real you can almost reach out and touch it, offers students the opportunity to participate in an online learning community, and fully immerses the learner in a stimulating online experience," said Chris Gibson, their associate VP of educational technology.
The program will include courses in computer applications, professional development, basic graphic design, digital imaging, digital publishing, computer illustration, and photography.The Texas State Technical College System consists of four technical colleges with 13,000 students.
If you want to take a bit of a tour of their campus without having to use Second Life, you can look at their YouTube video tour.
Wednesday, July 30. 2008
Blackboard has made several recent connections to the OS world. The most recent one I discovered is the creation of a non-profit organization called OSCELOT (Open Source Community for Educational Learning Objects and Tools) which came out of the Blackboard developer community. (* See clarification in comment#1 below) Their site is at EduGarage. It seems connected to their recent connections with Sakai and reportedly with Moodle. OSCELOT is supposed to work towards the development and sharing of OS plugins and extensions for "environments" (which includes Blackboard Building Blocks and Blackboard PowerLinks) so that users can customize and integrate their products using their open API.
There are a healthy number of projects on OSCELOTâ€™s site and also free or open-source plugins contributed by the community. Of course, they are intended to be used with Blackboard products, so the question for me really is what will be developed for institutions using multiple learning management systems (including open source or home grown) and ultimately what (if anything) will come out of this community that has no direct connection to Blackboard.
Tuesday, July 29. 2008
Okay, so I should never take a vacation...
I'm convinced that IT gremlins, like cockroaches, wait for the lights to be turned out and the workday (or month) to end before they come out and do their mischief. As soon as I settled into my working vacation (lots of different non-NJIT projects, all developed on remote servers), I opened Serendipity35's main page to catch up on Brother Ken's insights.
Bang! There it was: Unable to Connect to Database Server.
I could see the cockroaches scattering --all with pieces of my code in their hungry little jaws.
One of the basic rules of IT management is essential service distribution. In English, keep not all of thy information eggs in one hardware basket, and, because of that basic rule, I had designed the Serendipity35 web presence to run on one machine (devel2.njit.edu/serendipity), but have all of its stored data retrieved from another server --the db server that went down. That design allowed me to put up a Technical Difficulties page while I hunted for a happy solution to the database server's blues.
I'm about 60 miles away from that unhappy database server, but I managed to get some help from my friends at NJIT's UIS division who were able to reboot the server and allow me to regain remote access and Black Flag all of the scattering bugs. Props to NJIT's Kevin Byron for his help with the server. July and August in Collegetown, U.S.A, are not good times to have problems with anything. Everyone seems to be on vacation. While on the Higher Education Fishing Trip (HEFT) last Friday, I talked to Kevin (an avid fisherman), described the problem, and was able to get some quick action on the uncommunicative machine. It's not who you know, sometimes, but where you get a chance to meet them.
Sometime with the next 2 months, I'll be moving all of Serendipity 35 to a new, faster hardware platform. If all goes well, there shouldn't be any gaps in Serendipity 35's online presence, but if there is, I'll have my bug-stomping boots laced up and ready.
Monday, July 28. 2008
The Medpedia Project is a project from to collect, organize and make understandable, the worldâ€™s best information about health, medicine and the body and make it freely available on the website Medpedia.com.
Physicians, health organizations, medical schools, hospitals, health professionals, and dedicated individuals are involved. Harvard Medical School, Stanford School of Medicine, Berkeley School of Public Health, University of Michigan Medical School and other leading global health organizations are part of the Medpedia community.
Medpedia hopes to serve as a catalog, database, and learning tool about health, medicine and the body for doctors, scientists, policymakers, students and citizens that will improve medical literacy worldwide.
Sunday, July 27. 2008
Back in January, I wrote about Knol, a project Google was working on to create an encyclopedia online that is like Wikipedia in that anyone can contribute, and unlike Wikipedia in that changes to a page only become live after they are approved by the page's author(s).
Last week, Google launched Knol.
I'm a big Google fan and user, but I have my doubts about this particular app. Partially because Wikipedia has such a serious head start, and partially because I'm not sure there's a market for a monitored wiki. Then again, I didn't think Google stock would be worth as much as it is today, so...
I did a few test searches there and they all came up empty. I can't recall what happened when I first searched for things on Wikipedia back in 2001, but the approval process will certainly slow down Knol's growth.
So, all of you who complained about the inaccuracies of Wikipedia and wanted the entries to be checked and edited, you got your site. You better get in there and start contributing!
Friday, July 25. 2008
PostYourTest.com is a site that invites students to post and view exams from their college classes or other classes iin order to, in their own words, "help you understand your course material or similar material, create study groups, and exchange other content with your classmates."
Sounds like a nightmare for teachers, but they also say on the site that it can be used by teachers "to post and view exams from your college classes or from classes around the world to see how other professors administer exams, and create class groups to facilitate organizing your events, content and classes."
So, you can use the site to cheat, and it can force teachers to change their exams and not reuse them. Probable bad, some possible good.
Recently, they made a policy change that eliminates the ability of professors to request that tests from their courses be banned from the site. Professors must now wait for content to be posted before requesting removal. Plus, they require that they have to submit a form stating that they actually own the copyright to the material and that their request meets requirements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Wow. "Require" and "faculty" don't usually go in the same sentence very comfortably. Monitor the site. Check if your exam is there.
Thursday, July 24. 2008
I first became aware of ED in 08 at a conference, and I wrote a post about the documentary they produced last December called Two Million Minutes.
That film compares education in the United States to that of India and China. The premise of that film is that that amount of time is the same for all (though the amount spent in school or studying varies) and will determine their economic prospects for the rest of their lives.
I was thinking about the film when I checked in on Thomas L. Friedman's blog. Friedman is headed in a new direction for his latest book, Hot Flat and Crowded. His "Geo-Greenism" is all about the Energy Technology revolution which he also sees as both transformative and disruptive. But many educators are still digesting and trying to make sense of the "flat classroom" and what it means.
The producers of that first documentary have produced several more programs since I last blogged about their work. Two Million Minutes in India is the second chapter, made one year later, and it looks at the students who have completed their freshman year of college, and brings together the two American students and the two Indian students for a roundtable discussion.
Chapter 3 is Two Million Minutes in China which follows the same format. Both of these latest films asks the students questions like:How well did high school prepare them? Do the wish they had done things differently? How do they see their peers in the other countries now? What has their first year of college been like? How different is the college experience between these two countries?In an interview with Dr. Lin, Headmaster of the Xiwai International School, he states that the school's mission is "to cultivate within each of its students a balance of Chinese wisdom and a global perspective." Xiwai International School is a public-private joint venture in education between Xiwai Investment Co. and Shanghai International Studies University. The former is a company specializing in education investment; it consists of shareholders and senior managers, including individuals from the international banking sector, such as Goldman Sachs, and from Chinese and overseas educational institutions. Shanghai International Studies University is one of China 's key universities, directly under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Ministry of Education.
Nations with the best schools attract many of the best jobs. As jobs move from America to other countries (see The World Is Flat and countless other books, articles and blogs), our economy and the economy of our children will suffer even more than today.
- Almost 70% of America's eighth-graders do not read at grade level.
- Our 15-year-olds rank 25th in math and 21st in science.
- America showed no improvement in its post-secondary graduation rate between 2000 and 2005.
Two Million Minutes: Lesson Plan is the last in this DVD series.
It is a Call to Action, with an Action Plan.
If you or your students think American education standards are higher than the Third World, take a shot at the online Third World Challenge. Find out now if you, your students or your own children are competitive on a test to enter 11th grade in rural India.
The Strong American Schools campaign of ED in 08 addresses some of these issues of crisis in our public schools.
From their site:
Flogging U.S. schools to perform - governments threaten principals and teachers with school takeovers and job loss, the media reports and reprimands, society invests more money each year, foundations pour in additional billions, yet the result remains the same - the decline continues.
I'm not much for politics, especially in this blog, but these issue can't help but touch on political issues too. To me, they are fundamentally educational issues, but all of in education know that it's hard to avoid the political (whether local or national) when you do talk about reform. I hope that the following information on their site is accurate: "Strong American Schools, a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, is a nonpartisan campaign supported by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation promoting sound education policies for all Americans. SAS does not support or oppose any candidate for public office and does not take positions on legislation."
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