June 2009


The move to digital textbooks is under way.

Two of the biggest textbook buying states have initiated funding plans that encourage schools to use digital editions of textbooks instead of paper.

Texas:
http://openeducationnews.org/2009/06/26/texas-encourages-electronic-textbooks/

California:
http://money.cnn.com/2009/06/26/technology/california_elearning_textbooks.fortune/index.htm?section=money_latest

I personally wish Massachusetts had been in the forefront of this move, but Massachusetts doesn’t buy enough textbooks to dent the market.

What technology will work best with this trend?

      How open will this move be?

      KDE Interactive Geometry Program (KIG) is a great tool for teaching math. Here is a good set of directions on how to do it.

      http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/teaching-math-kde-interactive-geometry-program

      If that article interests you, but you don’t use Linux, check out GeoGebra which is a program written in Java so it should run on any operating system that supports  Java Runtime 1.4.2 or later. You can even do a launch of the program from the Web.

      http://www.geogebra.org/

      [Geogebra link updated May 15, 2011]

      Sugar on a Stick is the software originally available on the One Laptop Per Child project. Now it is separate. Walter Bender formed Sugar Labs to develop the Sugar educational interface and activity programs separated from the hardware development.

      The big idea here is that SoaS makes one-to-one computing more viable. It does not need a fancy computer, just one that boots from USB (or can boot from CD with the extra ISO boot CD). The older computers being sidelined in schools can have longer life. The hard drive isn’t involved at all. Each student can have a complete learning system on a thumb drive. Prices locally (Boston, MA) for generic 8GB thumb drives have recently been around $8.00. That’s in single quantity. That’s affordable.

      SoaS version 1 is now available. If you have not looked at it before because you didn’t have an OLPC, go through the steps to download the ISO image. At the very least, try it out on a regular PC by burning that image to CD. You can test the interface and find out about it. Then take the steps to make the USB thumb drive (minimum 1GB) which will let you go to any computer with a USB port and have a directory on the thumb drive to store your work.

      http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick/Linux

      If you track open source projects, you are probably familiar with the Sourceforge site. It is a location on the Web which is designed to give developers space and an organizational structure to support the effort of building not only the software itself, but a community of users, supporters and team members.

      It is currently time to vote for projects hosted there to give your opinion about which projects you find most useful or are the best in their category.

      http://sourceforge.net/community/cca09/

      Your input gives the projects emotional support and good press. Go ahead. Check out the nominees and vote.

      If you are following the ebook reader story, you may want to check this video that is a demo of the Plastic Logic product which is expected to be on the market in 2010.

      http://kara.allthingsd.com/20090623/plastic-logic-the-full-d7-demo/

      This ereader would fit right inside the flip-open notebook I carry. I could stick it to the inside with a bit of hook-and-loop (Velcro).

      Here I was thinking that Open Access was a relatively simple thing in support of the broad education community. An increasing number of scholarly articles and their data are being published in an Open Access way. Free is good.

      However, the term “free” is not a clear enough term. It is the imprecise, multiple-meaning problem of English. There is “free of cost” which has also been expressed as “free-as-in-beer” and more recently the more international term “gratis”. There is also the very different “free-as-in-freedom” which is “free of conditions for use” and the more international term “libre”.

      Some good posts to explain the issues of Open Access vocabulary:

      http://www.arl.org/sparc/publications/articles/gratisandlibre.shtml

      and a pair of others.

      http://wwmm.ch.cam.ac.uk/blogs/murrayrust/?p=2131

      http://wwmm.ch.cam.ac.uk/blogs/murrayrust/?p=2133

      Know your rights. Learn the vocabulary of Open Access.

      Can Twitter Count?

      I recently signed up for Twitter, already was on Identi.ca. Both are micro-blogging sites/tools.Micro-blogging is a recent addition to the arsenal of social networking. Both services have educational potential. They are a great way to do small messages to students and parents without needing a big blog (though I recommend them, too) or a Web site (Yes, I recommend you do one of those, too). Micro-blogging takes little time. You cannot write more than the 140 character limit. That keeps your effort brief, a good thing. It also makes you be concise, another good thing. Students and parents can read your daily post in almost no time, yet another good thing.

      Twitter is the more popular one, but I suspect it has issues that need to be resolved before I can give it my full support. Twitter has a public timeline page, too, like the main identi.ca page. If you check the links, you can see they are pretty much alike.

      • After I signed up for Twitter, I did a search for two people who recommended I try it. I couldn’t find them by last name. I couldn’t find them by user name.
      • Today I got a follower notice by email from Twitter. I went to check the profile. The follower had only one post from two days ago, but already had 189 followers and was herself following 1253 other people. Because URL links are compressed automatically to save space, one cannot quickly judge the real address. It isn’t wise to visit a site blindly unless you trust the person who has done the post. As I didn’t know Lucy Khong [lucyhong], I decided against following the link on her lonely post. Then I noticed her avatar image. It had significant cleavage, and though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it made me even more certain that this was Twitter-SPAM. I made the decision to block Lucy from following me. Update: June 19, I am more convinced that Lucy Khong is spam. Yesterday and today the blog was visited after searches for her name. I hope my comments have been helpful to anyone who visited.
      • When I went to my own Twitter profile, it said I had two followers, one of them is the guy who convinced me to sign up. There was no number two.

      I reiterate the title: Can Twitter Count?

      And even more serious, can we count on Twitter?

      Another factor for me is that Identi.ca is run on open source software from Laconi.ca. I am a fan and advocate of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) which I hope you guessed when you came to this MOSSSIG site.

      Are you doing micro-blogging?
      Is micro-blogging a tool in your communications with parents and students?

      Do your homework. Check out the possibilities.

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