SecondLife over a Mil

Things have heated up so quickly in the SecondLife space in the last year … it just sort of blows my mind given how hard we tried to make something go with them several years ago. I guess the problem was that when I say “trying to get something going,” we were playing the higher education handshake game. You know palm extended, facing up? But through it all Bart Pursel, my Lead for Learning Solutions when I was at the Solutions Institute kept saying there is something here. Most of us looked at him funny.

Well good old SL went over a Million users and they seem to be in the middle of so much interesting stuff. At ETS we have a team exploring it all … the New Media Center has a campus, other Universities are there, and I keep hearing about others building there as well. So, did we miss the boat or is it still at the port? Should we push to get something going that could be viewedd as interesting? Is it worth the effort and would it pay educational dividends? Thoughts?

Hot Teams March On: iWriter Review and White Paper

I have promoted the use of small teams to investigate technologies that impact teaching and learning since I arrived at Education Technology Services close to a year ago. We have done five such investigations in that time … each one has brought teams of designers, technologists, subject matter experts, and others together to do a quick hitting review and investigation of a specific technology. The latest Hot Team investigated a very interesting little piece of software by Talking Panda called iWriter. On the surface it allows you to create interactive games for the iPod … our team discovered you could do quite a bit more with it.

Our Hot Team found that iWriter has the potential to enhance the educational experience in a great number of disciplines, from foreign language instruction to science and technology. iWriter provides the opportunity for educators to quickly and intuitively create rich instructional media where utilizing a mobile platform like the iPod might be beneficial. In an age where such mobile devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated, the simplicity of iWriter and the iPod interface is a refreshing combination that can be applied to many situations.

Download the PDF of the white paper and let us know what you think. I also have a sample iWriter project created by a member of the iWriter Hot Team for download — I warn you that it is a little big (13 MB).

The Hot Team … LionShare Style

When I came down from the IST Solutions Institute late last year I was interested in creating opportunities to explore technology as it relates to teaching and learning that could be connected with tangible outcomes. One thing I have been working towards is a systematic process that charges a small group with looking at a specific technology to help inform our internal teams as they work with members of our audiences to apply new solutions in and out of our classrooms. The notion of the Hot Team was one that came out of some thinking spurred by the Art of Innovation book put together by the folks at Ideo. The Hot Team concept is actually quite simple — ask people to explore/play/investigate something specific and write up the findings as a white paper.

A while back we did a Hot Team that looked at Pachyderm as an authoring environment, but have had a little trouble getting another one going. Two weeks ago we decided to put a team together to investigate LionShare. LionShare is an open source peer-to-peer tool developed here within Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State under the leadership of Mike Halm. It is a very interesting piece of technology that does so much more than help you securely exchange files. This is P2P in a whole new light. Mike and his team are close to releasing LionShare widely here on campus and we wanted to understand it better to help drive adoption for teaching, learning, and research purposes. The Hot Team will be finished up by June 15th and we’ll be sure to share the findings. How do you encourage/support/promote the notion of investigating and reporting on new uses of technology for teaching and learning purposes?

More FaceBook … My New Stump?

I feel like my attention my be swaying a bit towards social networking and the FaceBook in general … In my morning readings I stumbled across a wonderful post, “How University Administrators Should Approach the Facebook: Ten Rules.” Fred Stutzman, a graduate student at UNC Chapel Hill provides some great insight into the FB surge and why students do what they do there. This is less of a FB survival guide to higher education administration, but more of an eye opener. If you haven’t had the chance to stand in front of a class of students who are working at fever pitch on their FB profiles you have no idea what is happening.

One particular quote resonates so true to me as an administrator in a University-wide information technology organization and as an instructor:

7. Your campus IT department doesn’t offer anything like the Facebook. What’s more, the Facebook may be doing all sorts of stuff on your campus better than you do. The students message, create study groups, post to bulletin boards, and generally keep in touch inside this Facebook. The students don’t use the webspace you provide them (who wants to design a webpage in the era of push-button blogging), and it annoys them that they have to check school email to hear from their professors (when they have Gmail and Facebook messages). Numerous people have told me that Facebook announcements bring better results than flyering ever has. There are all sorts of examples like these.

We ask students about this stuff and they are using the FB for all these reasons — and several of them are why we spend lots of time, money, and energy on course management systems. There are other reasons for our CMS investments, but the FB just sort of captures their attention and gets the job done well.

In Washington D.C.

I got down to DC last evening to prepare for today’s “Expert Panel on Technology-Based Learning” that I was invited to be a part of. Let me first say that this is the first time I have taken part in anything remotely connected to the Government. This all day panel is hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor and its intent is to inform them on policy decisions related to technology in education. I am one of maybe a half dozen people here to join the conversation.

I talk at 1:00 PM (right after lunch) on the panel titled, “Emerging Technologies Now and in the Future.” My piece of the hour and a half panel is on what we are calling disruptive technologies — blogs, wikis, podcasting, RSS, and social bookmarking. I get 20 minutes to talk and then we are on the spot for 30 minutes of questions. Should be a lot of fun. I am really looking forward to hearing what goes on today. There are some good people here that will be making remarks in the morning so it should keep my attention. I will post a follow-up after I get home tonight.

.Mac up to a TB

I am not a Mac rumor guy … but this jumped out at me.  This is sort of old news, but as I was logging into my .Mac admin panel I noticed that I had a TB of data transfer … that was the other day, now when I log in I don’t see any mention of it … hmm?  It sorts of makes me think this is tied to the whole MacWorld thing coming up this month. I remember back in the day — you know maybe 13 months ago or so, Adam Curry was using a .Mac account to deliver his podcasts because they didn’t have a hard limit on bandwidth transfer. That changed. But, here we are creeping back up to a very respectable (even generous) level. This has me thinking that thre are potentially two things going on …

The first is a real podcasting application and distribution system built on the iLife tools with big hooks to .Mac … that would be a major deal for me. I podcast here and there — for both personal use and, with more frequency, for educational purposes. The process is relatively straightforward, but still not easy enough for my tasts. I want one click easy … you know, click once and record, click again to stop, encode, add meta data, and publish … ok, that’s two clicks, but you get the picture. For my dollar iLife is missing a simple publishing tool (read personal content management system) that supports RSS enclosures. .Mac would provide the perfect platform.  BTW, we are working on a simple classroom podcasting toolset at PSU … more on that later.

The second is some sort of media transfer capacity … this has been writen about before and as cool as it all sounds, doesn’t get me as excited as a podcasting/writing application does. Trust me, I have my eye on the whole Intel Mac Mini as DVR/Media Center thing rumor mill thing but at the end of the day I can live without it. I know it would be great for a lot of people, but my life isn’t driven by TV or video so I am not as jacked at these prospects.

Eiter way, that is my big rumor post for the new year … I am hoping for option 1, that’s for sure. Thoughts?

Adium … Gizmo Plugin

Almost all my friends here at PSU who are Mac users launch Adium every morning instead of iChat. What do I care, right? Well, the big thing about iChat is that it lets me have a good old fashioned vocie/video chat with them. Sometimes that is just easier when you really need to get things done. The conversation usually ends up with me saying, “why don’t you quit Adium and launch iChat so we can talk?”

This morning I came across a potential solution. I am sure most of you know about both Adium and the Gizmo Project. Adium is a multi-protocol chat program and Gizmo is a VoIP application a little like Skype. Well, here is the Gizmo plugin for Adium … it lets them use their fancy multi-account Adium and gives me a way to “call” them when I have the urge to talk.

The Gizmo Plugin

iTunes Podcasting Stuff

Here is a great little piece of info I just got … there is a protocol for subscribing to your podcasts via the iTunes Podcast Directory — how did I miss that one? All you do is drop your feed into a page (make a link) using the form, “itpc://feed.” Now that is cool. Here’s my feed running through the iTunes Podcast Directory. Now how nice is that … it is a hell of a lot easier than selecting the feed via the RSS or XML badge and using the Advanced>Subscribe to Podcast menu in iTunes … now in my syllabus I can just require iTunes (most of them are using it anyway) and put a big link to the podcasting channel on my class blog and simplify the whole thing. Makes me happy.