Feds offer more guidance on eReader accessibility in college

Arizona State University was among the schools that violated federal rules for eReader use.

Federal rules for how eReaders can legally be used by colleges and universities were clarified by the U.S. Education Department (ED) May 26 after advocates for blind and low-vision students criticized eReader pilot programs on several campuses in 2010.

ED’s latest list of guidelines, published online in a “frequently asked questions” format, reiterate that students who are blind “must be afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students” when campus officials launch initiatives that put eReaders in students’ hands.

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The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 1

The iPad sparked an eReader price war as it threatened to shake up the eBook market.

With a large touch screen that can display electronic texts in color, Apple’s iPad was greeted with huge enthusiasm by many ed-tech advocates when it debuted earlier this year. The device also inspired a host of competitors and sparked an eReader price war as it threatened to shake up the eBook market.

“I think this changes the picture for eBooks considerably,” said Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium, after Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in January. “This has a lot of potential for higher education. … [Apple] has really seemed to think through the book experience.”

Johnson’s remarks were prophetic, as the iPad has had a huge impact on ed tech in just its first year of existence. Seton Hill University was among the many schools to give iPads to incoming students this fall, and Abilene Christian University made its students newspaper available for iPads. The device has even changed medical school, where first-year med students at Stanford University are finding several ways to use the iPad to help them learn.…Read More

Supporters of eBooks say they make readers less isolated, more social

Volumes have been written about technology’s ability to connect people. But burying one’s nose in a book has always been somewhat isolating, reports the Seattle Times—so what about a device that occupies the evolving intersection between? “Strangers constantly ask about it,” Michael Hughes, a communications associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said of his iPad, which he uses to read a mix of novels and non-fiction. “It’s almost like having a new baby.” An iPad owner for four months, Hughes said people were much more likely to approach him now than when he toted a book. With the price of e- readers coming down, sales of the flyweight devices are rising. Last month, Amazon reported that so far this year, Kindle sales had tripled over last year’s. When Amazon cut Kindle’s price in June to $189 from $259, over the next month Amazon sold 180 eBooks for every 100 hardcovers. Social mores surrounding the act of reading alone in public might be changing along with the increased popularity of eBooks. Suddenly, the lone, unapproachable reader at the corner table seems less alone. Given that some eReaders can display books while connecting online, there’s a chance the erstwhile bookworm is already plugged into a conversation somewhere, said Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University…

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Virtual Symposium examines worldwide growth of online access

The Virtual Symposium focused partly on keeping open source technologies free.
The Virtual Symposium focused partly on keeping open-source technologies free.

Online learning, open courseware, eBooks, wikis, and many other innovative technologies have forever affected education by connecting any topic in any discipline to any learner in any place. Even individuals in remote communities now can access unlimited information free of charge, if they have an internet connection. This also provides more possibilities for international collaboration, knowledge building, and sharing of best practices.

Drexel University’s School of Education capitalized on these possibilities during its second annual live and online Virtual Symposium, in conjunction with Wainhouse Research and the World Bank Institute’s Global Development Learning Network (GDLN). This year’s Virtual Symposium built upon the theme Education for Everyone: Expanding Access Through Technology.

The symposium highlighted education technology innovations, and it examined challenges to access—for example, among poor and rural communities—and possibilities for overcoming them. A major feature of the symposium was the ability for participants to share experiences among peers in both developing and developed countries.…Read More