Technology Enabled Teaching May 4, 2005

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'What if' Pervasive Computing?

By By Steve Acker


In April, I attended the Apple Digital Leadership Institute hosted by the University of Missouri. Each of the 140 attendees who entered the large ballroom on the Columbia campus owned, or was given, a laptop that connected seamlessly to the wireless network that bathed the facility.

Two very large monitors flanked the presenters’ dais at the front of the ballroom and the audience was organized in round tables of eight. A group blog, a radical departure from the typical individual blog, gathered the impressions and streams-of-consciousness of those in attendance, and University of Missouri journalism students roved throughout the assembly gathering interviews for podcasting and vodcasting (video podcasting). We had come together to explore pervasive computing, and for at least two days we were living in that future--a universally trained learning community with universal access to the information milieu--an amalgam of live utterance, typed commentary, Google searches, and sharable digital libraries. It was fabulous--we were all always there, always on, and always connected. Yet our individual takeaways were gapped by our individual distribution of attention, for among the constantly clicking keystrokes, many an e-mail was answered and many an IM session was conducted.

Pervasive computing is a seductive idea and I am among its advocates. However, I believe the impacts of pervasive computing will be both positive and negative, and that we should research learning outcomes as pervasive computing grows. On the positive side, engaged audience members can take individual forays into the infosphere and bring back insights to extend a presenter’s talk. Further, the presenter might be more attentive to style and substance if the audience can flee to competitive venues on the Internet.

To test this second hypothesis, at my next public presentation in a pervasive computing environment, I will record my voice and use an ambient microphone to pickup a synchronized audio track from the audience. During playback, I will mute my voice and listen to the audience activity. When the waterfall of audience keystrokes reaches crescendo, I assume my presentation is plodding, pedantic, or uninspired. When the audience is soundless, these will be the points during which the presentation might be worthy of attention. In some sense, this experiment is the creation of a “wiki on the fly,” in which the presenter’s points move forward uncontested by audience “noise” or are drowned out by the collective clacking of indifference.

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News & Product Updates

What’s Needed for Quality eLearning

Ehlers Ulf-Daniel of the European Quality Observatory describes a four-stage cycle for building quality into e-learning curriculum in: "What Do You Need for Quality in e-Learning?"

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Looking into the Future of ePortfolio Technologies

Susan LeCour, senior vice president of solutions development at SunGard SCT, in the April/May 2005 issue of Innovate discusses educational benefits of portals and ePortfolio integration in "The Future of Integration, Personalization, and ePortfolio Technologies."

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In iPod World Reading Blogs Is So Old School

“Just reading blogs is so OLD SCHOOL” says Vincent Capone who describes how to convert blog content to MP3 audio for easy listening on his iPod

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Virus Fears Growing Along with IM Use

As IM continues to increase as a percentage of electronic communication so do viruses carried through this medium, Matt Hines, writes at ZDNet news in “IM threats rising sharply, reports confirm.”

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Case Study

Pervasive Computing in Journalism Education: The New Convergence Major at the University of Missouri

Mike McKean
University of Missouri School of Journalism

This fall the Missouri School of Journalism will offer students a new major, the first change of that magnitude in more than 50 years. The 1,000 or so undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the world’s first school of journalism can now specialize in convergence as well as the traditional disciplines of advertising, broadcast news, magazine, newspaper and photojournalism.

What d'es “convergence” mean in a journalistic context? Is it a new way to tell stories? A new way to market stories? A new business model for traditional media industries? A new way to bring the audience into the process of gathering and telling the news? The answer is “Yes” to all of the above.

MOJO (The Missouri School of Journalism) faculty embraced the notion of a separate convergence major in the fall of 2003 in the face of some decidedly bad news for the journalism profession. Daily newspaper readership has declined precipitously over the past 40 years. In the past decade, similar declines have occurred in TV news viewership (Crosby, Online Journalism Review, March 4, 2004). Significant percentages of Americans believe the news media are biased, uncaring, and even immoral (Pew Center for the People and the Press, January 2005). And the Net Generation is not developing the habit of consuming what journalists produce. As author Merrill Brown put it in a recent report from the Carnegie Corporation, “The future of the U.S. news industry is seriously threatened by the seemingly irrevocable move by young people away from traditional sources of news” (The Carnegie Reporter, April 2005).

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Tech Notes

How the Internet Changes Everything

“A decade of adoption: How the Internet has woven itself into American life” is a report from the Pew Internet and American life project. The Internet “has changed the way we inform ourselves, amuse ourselves, care for ourselves, educate ourselves, work, shop, bank, pray and stay in touch.”

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Reader Response

From the Reader Response Forum: 'Tinker before training'

" D'es the lack of training truly account for the disparity between pupils and instructors relative to the comprehension of technology? Of course not. That statement is absurdly illogical. I do not disagree that we need to train our faculty, but let's remember that these are the people that are supposed to be teaching our students to be lifelong learners. And yet, it's common knowledge that students understand technology better than faculty members do. Is it because the students are participating in data projector training outside of the campus? Do they attend SmartBoard conferences in their spare time?"

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