New standard makes whiteboard content more accessible

"CFF, and open source in general, is where the entire world is going," said Hedrick Ellis, senior project manager for RM Education.
"CFF, and open source in general, is where the entire world is going," said Hedrick Ellis, senior project manager for RM Education.

In what educators and vendors are calling a giant step forward in education technology, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) recently announced that all major interactive whiteboard vendors have agreed to make their educational content available in the U.K. in a common file format (CFF).

By making these educational resources more shareable and accessible, many say, BECTA is setting a powerful example for change that could go global. Now, some in the United States and Canada — where such software still is mostly proprietary and incompatible — want to know when these same vendors will adopt the common file format in North America.

In 2007, BECTA—which is leading a national drive in the U.K. to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology in learning—teamed up with the RM Group, one of Europe’s largest suppliers of technology-based curriculum products for education, to address the issue of multiple interactive whiteboard (IWB) solutions each having their own proprietary software.…Read More

Viral eMail roils higher education once again

OSU officials squashed a widespread internet rumors that Robinson would be fired.
OSU officials are trying to squash an internet rumor that basketball coach Craig Robinson's job was saved by stimulus funding.

Have you heard the one about shady White House dealings that saved a college basketball coach’s job? The eMail rumor about Oregon State University coach Craig Robinson—President Obama’s brother-in-law—was read by millions on the web in March, serving as the latest example of how viral internet gossip can catch university officials off guard.

An eMail message charging that the Obama administration had pledged $17 million in stimulus funds to Oregon State as long as the university retained Robinson spread to web sites, blogs, and in-boxes under the subject lines “Stimulus Does Work” or “Stimulus Money…One Job Saved.” The message claimed that Robinson’s job was in danger, so the White House dispatched a Department of Education official to arrange a special stimulus award as part of an unreported quid pro quo.

The viral message stirred up so many questions that Oregon State officials had to debunk the rumor with an official statement released March 23.…Read More

Social media is changing the peer-review process

The rising popularity of uncontrolled peer-to-peer networking is having an effect on the classic role of peer review for research validation, one of the core functions of academic publishing, reports the New York Times. But if some researchers are worried by the potential loss of rigor in the assessment process, others see it as liberating. “Having a paper peer-reviewed is not necessarily an indication that the paper is right,” said Subodh Patil, a post-doctoral physicist at the École Polytechnique in Paris. “We all peer-review, but it is no longer as significant as it was before.” ArXiv.org, which emerged in 1991 from Cornell University, was one of the earliest applications of academic social networking. An open-source internet platform, designed to be used by researchers as a communication tool, it revolutionized the way scientists shared findings before official publication in journals. ArXiv.org, updated daily, allows free worldwide access and response to almost 600,000 online research papers in physics, mathematics, computer science, and more, increasingly sidelining the role of traditional print journals. “Scientists used to mail each other ‘pre-prints’ of journals—which would rarely happen between a scientist from MIT and say, New Delhi,” said Patil. He added: “The scientific literature was always six months behind the current research. … [Journal articles now] are almost irrelevant, and many teachers don’t even bother writing them anymore.” In contrast to journal publication, which is the outcome of a lengthy assessment process, social media postings provide “a real-time snapshot of the front of the state of the art at that particular moment,” he said…

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Citing concerns, Yale delays switch to Gmail

The changeover to Google as Yale’s eMail provider has been put on hold as campus officials examine the implications of such a move, reports the Yale Daily News. The school’s Information Technology Services department has decided to postpone its move from the Horde Webmail service to Google Apps for Education, a suite of communication and collaboration tools for universities, pending a campus-wide review process to seek input from faculty and students. “There were enough concerns expressed by faculty that we felt more consultation and input from the community was necessary,” Deputy Provost for Science and Technology Steven Girvin said. Google stores every piece of data in three centers randomly chosen from the many it operates worldwide in order to guard the company’s ability to recover lost information—but that also makes the data subject to the vagaries of foreign laws and governments, Fischer said. And even if all data were kept on American soil, Google’s size and visibility as a company makes it more susceptible to attack, Fischer said. Under the proposed switch, Yale might lose control over its data or could seem to endorse Google corporate policy and the large carbon footprint left by the company’s massive data centers. In addition, Fischer said, Google has a “one size fits all” customer service policy for its Google Apps clients, and the creation of a Google “monoculture” among eMail users could cause severe problems when the company’s servers experience downtime or crashes…

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Schools turn to unified communications to save costs, boost productivity

Schools are increasingly considering unified communications solutions.
Schools are increasingly considering unified communications solutions.

More K-12 schools, colleges, and universities are turning to unified communications as a way to streamline campus communication and save much-needed money in unpredictable economic times, a new survey suggests.

Unified communications is the convergence of enterprise voice, video, and data services with software applications designed to achieve greater collaboration among individuals or groups and improve business processes. Component technologies include video, audio, and web conferencing; unified messaging; and more.

The benefits that education technology stakeholders see in implementing unified communications are the same that executives in the government and business sectors see, according to the second annual Unified Communications Tracking Poll from CDW Government Inc. (CDW-G), which provides products and services to education and other sectors.…Read More

Mobs are born as word grows by text message

So-called “flash mobs” that form with the help of social technologies have become part bullying, part running of the bulls in Philadelphia as teenagers sprint through the streets, sometimes brawling and vandalizing, reports the New York Times. The flash-mob trend started innocently enough seven years ago as an act of performance art, where people linked through social-networking web sites and text messaging suddenly gathered on the streets for impromptu pillow fights in New York, group disco routines in London, and even a huge snowball fight in Washington. But these flash mobs have taken a more aggressive turn in Philly, where police on March 24 said they’ve had enough. They announced plans to step up enforcement of a curfew already on the books, as well as to hold parents legally responsible for their children’s actions. They are also considering making free transit passes for students invalid after 4 p.m., instead of 7 p.m., to limit teenagers’ ability to ride downtown. “This is bad decision making by a small group of young people who are doing silly but dangerous stuff,” Mayor Michael A. Nutter said. “We intend to do something about it immediately.” Flash mobs are not unique to Philadelphia, but they have been more frequent there than elsewhere. Philadelphia officials say they have begun getting help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to monitor social-media networks, and television and radio stations are helping to recruit hip-hop artists to make public service announcements imploring teenagers to end the practice…

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Hot campus web sites now about romance, not gossip

“I saw you … looking like a dork. But I don’t care how dorky you can be. I just want you to come be dorky with me, babe.” This is what happens when the romantic impulses of the college student meet the declarative instincts of the social media generation, USA Today reports. “My generation, we think about how we can broadcast our message to the world and share things with the world,” says Keone Hon, a junior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who last winter co-created the site I Saw You MIT, a knockoff of the popular missed connections site ISawYou.com. The MIT site is one of several college-based imitators that have emerged in the last few months to give students a way to anonymously express interest in a classmate. Harvard, Rutgers, and St. John’s University also have knockoffs. The sites at each campus are extremely popular, attracting dozens of posts—including idle observations, crude come-ons, and lengthy love poems—and thousands of visitors each day…

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Use multiple news channels to reach ‘on-the-go’ consumers

not sure what to put here
40 percent of 'on-the-go' news consumers are parents of young children.

School officials need to share information via a variety of media platforms in order to reach today’s “on-the-go” news consumers, a new study suggests.

According to the study from the Pew Internet and American Life project, while 99 percent of American adults access news daily, only 7 percent use just one media platform to do so. The majority—six in ten Americans—use a combination of online and offline sources.

This also means school communicators who haven’t expanded their efforts to include social media networks, micro sites, and other non-traditional methods probably are missing a significant swath of the population, particularly those under age 30.…Read More

Google criticizes Australia on internet filter plan

Internet giant Google on March 23 criticized Australia’s controversial plan to filter the internet, saying the plan goes too far and could set a dangerous precedent, AFP reports. Currently locked in a major dispute over censorship in China, the U.S. web giant said its primary concern with Australia’s proposal was “that the scope of content to be filtered is too wide.” Google said Australia went “well beyond” filters being considered in countries such as Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, which focus only on blocking material related to child sex abuse. Such a sweeping mandate risked damage to Australia’s reputation, Google said, adding that it could “confer legitimacy upon filtering by other governments.” Canberra in December announced an ambitious plan to block access to sites featuring material such as rape, drug use, bestiality, and child sex abuse with an internet-wide content filter administered by service providers. Google said such a “massive undertaking” would limit network speeds, and filtering material from popular sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter appeared “not [to] be technologically possible.” Filtering also could give a false sense of security to parents and easily could be circumvented, the company said…

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Are instructors obsessed by their rankings on RateMyProfessors.com?

It’s not just students who are obsessed with web sites such as RateMyProfessors.com, reports the New York Times: Many instructors are, too. Like many online services, the engrossing professor-ranking site seems at first to be a companion to offline life. Real-life students take real-life classes and hand down judgments of real-life professors in a virtual forum. The site invites reviewers—whose identities as students are never given or verified—to give numerical rankings, from 1 to 5, in four categories: easiness, helpfulness, clarity, and the reviewers’ interest in the subject matter before they took the class. You can also assign professors chili-pepper icons if you think they’re good-looking. Even the losers have a place: Professors can rebut bad reviews and upload protest videos under the rubric “Professors Strike Back.” Many students pore over these ratings when choosing courses and colleges. But the vulnerable professors themselves might be even more obsessed. They’re rattled by, but also beholden to, what Mark Edmundson of the University of Virginia once called the “attitude of calm-consumer expertise” in contemporary students, who regularly rate everything from purchases to people…

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