edX Workshop at University of Michigan

Digital Education and Innovation at University of Michigan put on a workshop about edX and MOOCs. I attended because I’m interested in the intersection of Information Age topics with Higher Education and the ways in which related socio-technical systems are changing. For example, we saw some ways in which the music industry and newspaper industries changed and I’ve been curious about how Higher Education might adapt or change in light of similar forces. At the core, any field or industry that bases its value on managing or providing information through physical distribution is in for some change.

From a panel of faculty and discussions at the workshop I saw these Information Age themes coming up, even when they weren’t described in the same words. There was talk about allowing learners to sample content before making a commitment (like purchasing). There was the idea of mass-customization, where a MOOC professor must reach thousands globally, but also be able to treat each learner as an individual in as personalized a manner as possible. Frequently, the idea that content, like lectures, should be divided down into smaller increments in a way that seems to echo the music industry’s deconstruction of the album as the unit of purchase down to the song as the unit of purchase.

From the presentations and conversations of the day, I left thinking about the following questions:

  • Why are demographics of those taking MOOCs so different from the demographics of those taking the same courses in person in the classroom?
  • What socio-technical factors limit the participation of “regular” people in MOOCs?
  • What value or opinion do students and employers place on MOOC based credentials (like certifications and credits)?
  • What definitions of success exist for each of the roles and actors related to MOOCs?

LinkedIn Social Network Visualization

LinkedIn Labs just posted a pretty neat mapping tool that shows you your network. As you can see I have a pretty big set of people (orange) at work and another set of people in Academia (blue) and then friends in between. This isn’t much of a surprise, but some of the stray connections between these worlds surprised me. Very quickly I was able to identify a handful of people who I never knew knew each other. It truly is a small world out there.


Sequencing Audio With a Command Line Interface

The folks over at Quotile have created an interesting way of sequencing audio. They made a 32 step sequencer, which at first glance looks like nothing special or new. But, the way you interact with it is through a command line.
I’m more of a visual, tactile, drag-and-drop, kind of guy when it comes to audio production, but this approach interested me. With it you can modify the sequence by scripts, which means that you can make pretty complex changes to the sequence very quickly. The video below shows it in action.

eReaders – I want a combination of Apple’s iBook and Google’s eBook

When Apple’s iBook came out a while ago I was pretty excited because the reader application looked great.  The library allows you to store PDFs as well as books.  While reading you can copy selected sections and look them up in a dictionary, highlight (in yellow) and even annotate the text you were reading.  The highlighting and annotating is wonderful for people like me who consider reading only useful when they have a pen or pencil in their hands.  The drag with Apple’s iBook, though, is that it’s stuck on the iPhone or iPad.  You can’t easily read your books on your computer.

Google’s new eBook, however, stores your books in the cloud, so it’s all about portability.  You can read from any device that supports a browser, Android marketplace, or Apple App Store.  But, the reader software is painfully limited to (gasp!) reading.

What I want is a combination of Apple’s iBook and Google’s eBook.  I want my content always available from any device I connect to the Internet, but I also want to be able to manipulate it how ever I want.  I’m pretty demanding that way.  It’s sort of perplexing that Google, with it’s TONS of catalogued information, didn’t integrate their other services with eBook.  I’m surprised that I can’t do a Google search based off of selected text in an eBook.  Seems pretty elementary.  Google also owns Blogger.  Why can’t I blog about my eBooks from the reader app? And the list could go on for quite some time.

Who will be the first to integrate Facebook and Twitter with eReaders?  Then we’ll know e and i Books have hit the mainstream.