The top higher-ed tech stories of 2009: No. 1

Amazon's Kindle has the power to transform education.

Does Amazon's Kindle have the power to transform education?

Schools’ use of digital textbooks began before 2009, but it was a watershed year for this emerging trend in higher education: Inspired by the introduction of a Kindle electronic reader designed specifically for textbooks, several colleges and universities announced pilot projects to see how well the technology meets students’ needs.

This fall, at least five colleges and universities began piloting Amazon’s Kindle DX electronic reading device, which is designed specifically for reading textbooks.

The Kindle DX, unveiled during a May 6 press conference at Pace University in New York, sports a 9.7-inch screen, compared to the 6-inch screen on the original Kindle. It also features a built-in QWERTY keyboard for note taking. The handheld reader will let users read magazines, newspapers, and textbooks complete with images and graphics. Users also can read PDF files on the Kindle DX–a selling point for faculty members whose courses regularly assign class readings on PDF files.

Officials at colleges and universities piloting the new device said they would carefully track how the Kindle DX affects learning for students accustomed to lugging heavy textbooks from building to building throughout their academic careers.

“Is this the watershed device of electronic text readers we’ve been waiting for?” asked Marty Ringle, chief technology officer at Reed College in Portland, Ore., which gave Kindles to students in three courses this fall. “Or is it a just another evolutionary step on the way to that revolutionary device? We’ll see if it’s a viable alternative to print media.”

Digital books might represent the future of textbooks, but Amazon and other e-reader companies still have a long way to go to make it happen–even for a technology-saturated generation that should be more receptive to the shift: Early responses from students at the campuses piloting the Kindle DX have been lukewarm so far.

Most said they liked the prospect of having anytime access to a semester’s worth of reading on the Kindle, which can wirelessly download books or get material by being plugged into a PC. But several students said they disliked taking notes on a keyboard with Tic-Tac-sized keys that sits under a 9.7-inch screen.

“I like the aspect of writing something down on paper and having it be so easy and just kind of writing whatever comes to my mind,” said Claire Becerra, a freshman at Arizona State University.

Becerra tried typing notes on the Kindle’s small keyboard, but when she went back to reread them she found they were laden with typos and didn’t make sense. After a month, she said she takes far fewer notes and relies on the Kindle’s highlighter tool instead.

Schools piloting the Kindle DX came under fire from advocates for the blind, who filed a lawsuit against Arizona State and other schools earlier this year, claiming the Kindle’s read-aloud feature was too hard to access. Amazon moved to quell these concerns in December, announcing that it will add features to its Kindle eBook reader to make the gadget more accessible to blind and visually impaired students and other users.

Despite Amazon’s concessions, students already have an increasing number of options for reading electronic books beyond just the company’s Kindle–and one commenter to a recent story at eCampus News wondered what all the hype about the DX was about.

“There are eBooks available for every major textbook through CourseSmart and VitalSource,” the reader observed. “They can be downloaded or accessed online to [a] desktop, laptop, netbook, [or] even an iPhone. There are lots of other eBook [options] out there that have better features than the Kindle.”

Related links:

Text-to-speech reversal kindles disappointment

New Kindle is textbook-friendly

Students are skeptical whether Kindle DX can replace textbooks

Kindle pilot is discriminatory, advocates charge

Phones, PCs put eBooks within easy reach

Florida college students get free online books

Kindle lightens textbook load, but flaws remain

Schools protest Kindle’s setup for the blind

Amazon’s Kindle to get audible menus, bigger font

Authors, publishers spar over digital rights to older books

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The top higher-ed tech stories of 2009: No. 1

Amazon's Kindle has the power to transform education.

Does Amazon's Kindle have the power to transform education?

Schools’ use of digital textbooks began before 2009, but it was a watershed year for this emerging trend in higher education: Inspired by the introduction of a Kindle electronic reader designed specifically for textbooks, several colleges and universities announced pilot projects to see how well the technology meets students’ needs.

This fall, at least five colleges and universities began piloting Amazon’s Kindle DX electronic reading device, which is designed specifically for reading textbooks.

The Kindle DX, unveiled during a May 6 press conference at Pace University in New York, sports a 9.7-inch screen, compared to the 6-inch screen on the original Kindle. It also features a built-in QWERTY keyboard for note taking. The handheld reader will let users read magazines, newspapers, and textbooks complete with images and graphics. Users also can read PDF files on the Kindle DX–a selling point for faculty members whose courses regularly assign class readings on PDF files.

Officials at colleges and universities piloting the new device said they would carefully track how the Kindle DX affects learning for students accustomed to lugging heavy textbooks from building to building throughout their academic careers.

“Is this the watershed device of electronic text readers we’ve been waiting for?” asked Marty Ringle, chief technology officer at Reed College in Portland, Ore., which gave Kindles to students in three courses this fall. “Or is it a just another evolutionary step on the way to that revolutionary device? We’ll see if it’s a viable alternative to print media.”

Digital books might represent the future of textbooks, but Amazon and other e-reader companies still have a long way to go to make it happen–even for a technology-saturated generation that should be more receptive to the shift: Early responses from students at the campuses piloting the Kindle DX have been lukewarm so far.

Most said they liked the prospect of having anytime access to a semester’s worth of reading on the Kindle, which can wirelessly download books or get material by being plugged into a PC. But several students said they disliked taking notes on a keyboard with Tic-Tac-sized keys that sits under a 9.7-inch screen.

“I like the aspect of writing something down on paper and having it be so easy and just kind of writing whatever comes to my mind,” said Claire Becerra, a freshman at Arizona State University.

Becerra tried typing notes on the Kindle’s small keyboard, but when she went back to reread them she found they were laden with typos and didn’t make sense. After a month, she said she takes far fewer notes and relies on the Kindle’s highlighter tool instead.

Schools piloting the Kindle DX came under fire from advocates for the blind, who filed a lawsuit against Arizona State and other schools earlier this year, claiming the Kindle’s read-aloud feature was too hard to access. Amazon moved to quell these concerns in December, announcing that it will add features to its Kindle eBook reader to make the gadget more accessible to blind and visually impaired students and other users.

Despite Amazon’s concessions, students already have an increasing number of options for reading electronic books beyond just the company’s Kindle–and one commenter to a recent story at eCampus News wondered what all the hype about the DX was about.

“There are eBooks available for every major textbook through CourseSmart and VitalSource,” the reader observed. “They can be downloaded or accessed online to [a] desktop, laptop, netbook, [or] even an iPhone. There are lots of other eBook [options] out there that have better features than the Kindle.”

Related links:

Text-to-speech reversal kindles disappointment

New Kindle is textbook-friendly

Students are skeptical whether Kindle DX can replace textbooks

Kindle pilot is discriminatory, advocates charge

Phones, PCs put eBooks within easy reach

Florida college students get free online books

Kindle lightens textbook load, but flaws remain

Schools protest Kindle’s setup for the blind

Amazon’s Kindle to get audible menus, bigger font

Authors, publishers spar over digital rights to older books

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Have you Zeen what H.P. is up to?

Over the last few months, Hewlett-Packard has quietly been applying for some glitzy-sounding trademarks–the glitziest of which cover mobile computing devices and wireless lifestyles, the New York Times reports.  According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, H.P. has applied for a trademark on the Zeen moniker and described it as covering a “portable handheld device for receiving and displaying text and images and sound; computer software for use in transmitting and displaying text, images and sound; computer peripherals; computer hardware.” In addition, the company has signed up for the Airlife slogan and described that as covering “handheld computers; personal digital assistants; mobile telephones; computers; computer hardware; computer software; computer peripherals.”

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Have you Zeen what H.P. is up to?

Over the last few months, Hewlett-Packard has quietly been applying for some glitzy-sounding trademarks–the glitziest of which cover mobile computing devices and wireless lifestyles, the New York Times reports.  According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, H.P. has applied for a trademark on the Zeen moniker and described it as covering a “portable handheld device for receiving and displaying text and images and sound; computer software for use in transmitting and displaying text, images and sound; computer peripherals; computer hardware.” In addition, the company has signed up for the Airlife slogan and described that as covering “handheld computers; personal digital assistants; mobile telephones; computers; computer hardware; computer software; computer peripherals.”

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More attacks expected on Facebook, Twitter in 2010

CNet reports that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can expect more attention from cybercriminals in 2010, according to a new report (PDF) released by McAfee Labs. Also at risk are users of Adobe Systems products including Acrobat Reader and Flash. And move over Microsoft; the security firm predicts that Google’s Chrome OS will “create another opportunity for malware writers to prey on users.” The company also anticipates smarter and more dangerous Trojans that “follow the money,” as well as a “significant trend toward a more distributed and resilient botnet infrastructure that relies much more on peer-to-peer technologies.” In a recorded interview, David Marcus, McAfee Labs’ director of security research and communications, said that he expects “an explosion of Facebook and other services targeted by cybercriminals.” In addition to malware like Koobface that spreads among Facebook users’ friends list, Marcus expects an increase in rogue Facebook applications.

Click here for the full story

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More attacks expected on Facebook, Twitter in 2010

CNet reports that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can expect more attention from cybercriminals in 2010, according to a new report (PDF) released by McAfee Labs. Also at risk are users of Adobe Systems products including Acrobat Reader and Flash. And move over Microsoft; the security firm predicts that Google’s Chrome OS will “create another opportunity for malware writers to prey on users.” The company also anticipates smarter and more dangerous Trojans that “follow the money,” as well as a “significant trend toward a more distributed and resilient botnet infrastructure that relies much more on peer-to-peer technologies.” In a recorded interview, David Marcus, McAfee Labs’ director of security research and communications, said that he expects “an explosion of Facebook and other services targeted by cybercriminals.” In addition to malware like Koobface that spreads among Facebook users’ friends list, Marcus expects an increase in rogue Facebook applications.

Click here for the full story

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Is Google’s Nexus One phone landing next week?

The New York Times reports that Google just invited reporters to an “Android press gathering” on Jan. 5. Google representatives declined to provide any further details about the event, but by all appearances this will be the unveiling of the Nexus One, the Google-designed phone that the company plans to market directly to consumers. News about the Nexus One began surfacing earlier this month after Google handed out the slick, touch-screen devices to employees who then started gushing about them on Twitter. Google tried to get in front of the rumors with a cryptic blog post, where it said that the devices were intended to test new mobile technologies. “We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe,” Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management wrote on Dec. 12.

Click here for the full story

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Is Google’s Nexus One phone landing next week?

The New York Times reports that Google just invited reporters to an “Android press gathering” on Jan. 5. Google representatives declined to provide any further details about the event, but by all appearances this will be the unveiling of the Nexus One, the Google-designed phone that the company plans to market directly to consumers. News about the Nexus One began surfacing earlier this month after Google handed out the slick, touch-screen devices to employees who then started gushing about them on Twitter. Google tried to get in front of the rumors with a cryptic blog post, where it said that the devices were intended to test new mobile technologies. “We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe,” Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management wrote on Dec. 12.

Click here for the full story

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Do we need more male teachers?

Ronald Maggiano is somewhat unusual in the teaching profession, the Washington Post reports. That is because he is male. Maggiano is an award-winning teacher in the Social Studies Department at West Springfield High School in Virginia. He has taught in public and private schools for 25 years. In a piece on his blog called “The Classroom Post,” he calls for more males to enter the profession. Here’s why: Men Teach, a non-profit organization that encourages men to enter teaching, reports that in 2008, 18.8 percent of all elementary and middle school teachers were men. At the high school level during the same year, men comprised 44 percent of the work force. Why are there so few men in teaching? Men Teach cites low pay and lack of prestige, as well as a perception in our culture that teaching is for women. As a result, there is no organized effort across the country to recruit men into the teaching profession.

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Do we need more male teachers?

Ronald Maggiano is somewhat unusual in the teaching profession, the Washington Post reports. That is because he is male. Maggiano is an award-winning teacher in the Social Studies Department at West Springfield High School in Virginia. He has taught in public and private schools for 25 years. In a piece on his blog called “The Classroom Post,” he calls for more males to enter the profession. Here’s why: Men Teach, a non-profit organization that encourages men to enter teaching, reports that in 2008, 18.8 percent of all elementary and middle school teachers were men. At the high school level during the same year, men comprised 44 percent of the work force. Why are there so few men in teaching? Men Teach cites low pay and lack of prestige, as well as a perception in our culture that teaching is for women. As a result, there is no organized effort across the country to recruit men into the teaching profession.

Click here for the full story

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