Commons Connect

think globally, act locally

The CUNY Academic Commons Bug-Tracking System

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As Matt Gold highlighted back  in the summer of 2009, the CUNY Academic Commons  rolled out an issues website where the development team could keep track of bugs and issues that are causing problems on the Commons.

The site is an installation of Redmine, a robust open-access project management solution which allows the community and development teams to report and keep track of bugs, feature requests, and support tickets. What I really like about the site is that you only have to log in to report an issue, which means that our work on the Commons is completely transparent. Below is a snapshot of the main page where you can access the CUNY Academic Commons project: Overview, Activity; Roadmap; Issues; News; Documents; and Files.

CUNY Academic Commons Redmine Website

As a quick case in point of how this project management site is used, I wanted to share an experience from an issue that I recently reported…

After reading @brianfoote’s summary of changes for groups associated with the upgrade to version 1.1 on the Commons, I was excited to add the external blog posts feature to one of my groups. I was not as excited to learn that everyone in my group was sent an email notification for every single blog post associated with the external blog. I quickly reported this issue to the development team and Boone @boonebgorges just as quickly disabled the notifications associated with external blogs posts. Now, members will access the external blog posts directly through the group’s activity stream.

external blog posts

Speaking of reporting issues, after the development team  rolled out some recent upgrades to the site I noticed that issues are not only being reported by the community team, but also by members of the Commons. It’s great to see members participating in the back-end process that helps us maintain and enhance the CUNY Academic Commons, especially since we depend on individual feedback to improve the overall experience for all members. Have you come across something  odd while navigating the Commons? Please don’t hesitate to submit an issue associated with your account or the site. It’s quick and painless, just like the homepage states:

“We invite you to submit any bugs that you find as you’re using the site. To submit bugs and track their progress as we fix them, you’ll need to register for an account on the bug-tracking site (it’s quick and painless).”

You will just need to choose a login ID and password, fill out your first and last name, and email address.

register for an account

Whether you report a bug through Redmine or via email, we invite you to help us make the bugs go SPLAT!

Notes from the CUNY IT Conference – Day 2

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9th Annual CUNY IT Conference

I highly enjoyed day 2 of the CUNY IT conference and it wasn’t just because it was held on my home turf at the Graduate Center (although it was nice being able to leave my coat in my office!) What I enjoyed the most about these sessions was that that I knew a little about most of the topics presented and presenters themselves — in part because of the CUNY Academic Commons. A couple examples include the “CUNY Online Composition Pilot: A New Model of Collaborative Course Development” and “Get in the Game: Games to Support Teaching and Learning at CUNY”. It was also great helping new members create accounts and meeting some CUNYs face-to-face for the first time after interacting online via the Commons. What was super sweet was that I already knew a little about their work and academic interests through blog posts, profile details, forum posts, wiki edits, etc… (Try to fit all of that on a nametag!)

Unfortunately, registration filled up pretty quick for day 2 so not as many folks were able to come as would have liked to. While I wasn’t able to do what I really wanted to do – split myself into seven Morgano’s to attend each session – I did take some notes on the sessions that I was able to attend. There were also flurries of tweets about the conference marked with the hashtag #cunyit for your viewing pleasure.

After stopping for some much needed morning java, I headed over to Room C204 with fellow Common Community Team member Boone B. Gorges (@boonebgorges) for a dual presentation:

  • Education Faculty Perspectives towards Teaching Online, by Helen Mele Robinson (@profhmr); and
  • Honorable Technology: Towards a Digital Honors Code, by Joe Ugoretz (@jugoretz).

Helen’s presentation focused on Education faculty attitudes towards teaching online. Helen discussed the results from Sloan’s seventh annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education, highlighting that while the number of programs and courses taught online continued to grow, acceptance by faculty has not changed. She also noted the difference between asynchronous courses (wholly online) and hybrid courses (blend of online & face-to-face).

Helen went on to discuss the results from a survey that she conducted at the City University of New York and Indiana University. Using the Likert Scale, Survey Monkey was utilized to measure 109 Education faculty participants’ beliefs and attitudes about teaching online. While Helen will be sending the full results to interested CUNYs via email, I was able to note some general results — among which show motivators and barriers for teaching online. Faculty indicated that motivators include benefits to both  their students and their institution, and the flexibility of an online course. Barriers include lack of time for course design and lack of tech support. Additional effort seemed to be the biggest deterrent among surveyed faculty.

Faculty and staff in the room universally agreed that an online course is more time consuming than a face-to-face course and concerns were raised about the impact that teaching online might have on tenure. I was saddened to hear that many faculty had to downplay their technical skills while going through the tenure process because they feared it would not be viewed favorably.

Helen wrapped up her session by offering some suggestions to help garner Education faculty support for online instruction. In addition to supplying robust technical support and lowering enrollment caps for online classes, Helen suggested that not teaching 100% online would be a way to break stigmas associated with online instruction.

The second part of the dual presentation was by Joe Ugoretz, Associate Dean of Teaching, Learning, and Technology at Macaulay Honors College. Joe discussed recent incidents with Macaulay students involving cyber bullying and wiki vandalism which prompted the creation of a “Digital Honors Code”. After a positive response from students who were sent information about the Digital Honors Code via email, Macaulay IT Fellows engaged with students, faculty, and advisors to make amendments to the honors code, create guidelines for online behavior, and generate case studies. To make the honors code more open and community-based, the materials were put online in Fall 2010.

Recognizing that there are different impulses and temptations online, Joe split the room up into teams and charged each team with reviewing a case study and offering suggestions on how to handle the situation. My team chose “The Difficult Prof” and suggested that the student reach out to the student ombudsman, their advisor, or the academic director of their program instead of tweeting about how terrible their teacher was. Someone brought up that the tweet could have also been picked up by CUNYFail, a twitter account dedicated to retweeting others tweets about “CUNY’s failures”. Incidentally, one of my earlier tweets from the session was retweeted by CUNYFail – doheth!

Joe ended his session by asking everyone in the room how they would get students to participate in the Digital Honor Code site and one of my favorite suggestions was to ask students to develop a collaborative honors code contract.

What I loved about these presentations was that both Helen and Joe really engaged everyone through discussions and activities. Most definitely not a CUNYFail!

Boone B. Gorges discusses key distinctions of open source during the “Building Communities on the CUNY Academic Commons” session.

After listening to a terrific keynote presentation by Virginia Heffernan (peppered with wonderful ethnographic metaphors), taking some pictures, and getting my lunch on, I attended the “Building Communities on the CUNY Academic Commons” roundtable session. Charlie Edwards (@cedwards) did a great job of showing how groups can create resources inside of the Commons (ie: blogs, wikis, forums) and connect them to resources outside of the Commons (ie: Twitter and Gowalla). Overall, it was great to hear similar perspectives from people with different roles on the Commons — which was echoed by George Otte (@gotte) when he wrapped up the session with the stimulating statement:Generativity doesn’t happen without openness.”

Following that energizing session I hung out with fellow Community Facilitators Brian Foote (@brianfoote) and Scott Voth (@scottvoth) at the CUNY Academic Commons sign-up tables, where we engaged in a lively discussion about ways to enhance the overall experience for members on the Commons (i.e. – highlighting our new Codex/Community Portal blog on the homepage).  On that note — If you have suggestions about features you would like to see on the Commons or want to learn more about an existing feature, please don’t hesitate to contact the Community Team.

Overall, I have a terrific experience with day 2 and I’m already looking forward to the 10th Annual CUNY IT Conference! Did you attend day 2?? Share your experience below by leaving a comment or better yet – write about it on your blog!

Maura A. Smale (@msmale) helps a fellow CUNY sign up for the Commons.

Favorites of the Week: Thanksgiving Edition

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Thanksgiving has come and gone and this year I am thankful for many things — including my favorites of the week!

The first favorite I am thankful for is an update from Donna Gruber (@dygruber), linking to Queen College’s Hybrid Bootcamp Winter 2011: Call for Participants page.

Queens College’s Center for Teaching and Learning is inviting faculty to participate in the second round of their mentoring program that focuses on the development of hybrid courses to be taught Fall 2011.  If you have any questions, please contact Michelle Fraboni (@mfraboni, michelle.fraboni@qc.cuny.edu, 718.997.5324). The deadline is Wednesday, December 15th so be sure to mark your calendar!


Speaking of of which, you should also mark your calendar for my next favorite posted on the CUNY Games Network — a demo of an Emergency Shelter Course in Second Life.

On Wednesday, December 15th Andrew Bowarsky from CUNY School of Professional Studies will co-present with Anders Gronstedt from the Grondtedt Group on NYC’s Emergency Management course, which utilizes the Second Life platform. Second Life is a 3D virtual world where multiple users can connect in real time. Attend the presentation either  in-person at the Graduate Center or participate online as an avatar in Second Life at 11a.m. on December 15th. Those interested, please contact @aboyarsky at aboyarsky@gc.cuny.edu.


My next favorite this week is from Maura Smale, who also posted on the CUNY Games Network

Maura started a forum thread about a recently launched Web site called Play the Past (http://www.playthepast.org). This collaboratively edited site is:

dedicated to thoughtfully exploring and discussing the intersection of cultural heritage (very broadly defined) and games/meaningful play (equally broadly defined).

Authors not only span many academic fields, but across the entire country — representing multiple perspectives on complex cultural and technological issues. Thanks for sharing @msmale!


Next up this week is a helpful post from Shawn M. on the WordPress HELP!! forum.

Soon after member @shirablum posted a question about problems she was experiencing installing the Google Calendar plug-in on her WordPress blog, Shawn and I worked together on the forum to trouble-shoot. Shawn posted some great instructions which laid out how to activate the plug-in as a sidebar widget and I explained how to display events on a specific page. If you’re interested in activating this plug-in on your blog, I would highly recommend reading this helpful forum thread. Many thanks @shawnm!


The last favorite activity that I am thankful for a wiki edit from Lee Hachadorian (@leehach) on the Educational Blogs wiki page.

Many thanks Lee for not only have a fantastically great profile picture, but for contributing some great links to the Education Blogs wiki!


And now for some Cherpumple Monster Pie – is your stomach turning too?!

Favorites of the Week: Episode 2

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Hello CUNYs and welcome to the second installment of “Favorites of the Week” (minus the video bonus). With so many great activities running rampant on the Commons I admit that it took some time to narrow my favorites down to five this week… so I decided to go with seven!

First up is an update posted by CUNY’s University Director on Academic Technology, George Otte.

George posts about the Agenda for Day 1 and the Agenda for Day 2 for the 9th Annual CUNY IT Conference. I’m certainly looking forward to presenting at John Jay on 12/3 and attending the 12/14 event at the Grad Center. Thanks for posting @gotte, hope to see you there!


Next up is an update from Donna Gruber, who posted an update about a Tech Tuesday presentation at Queens College on 11/9.

In her update, Donna links to a fantastic presentation from Rowena Lee @rowenali. Professor Lee’s presentation highlights social media’s role in reshaping instruction — from communication transformation to challenges facing both instructors and learners (and much more). Even though I was not able to attend the presentation at Queens College, I’m grateful that Donna posted this update so I could view this wonderful presentation. Thanks @dygruber!


My next favorite this week is an update posted by, well… me. I posted an update in which I mentioned @msmale, thus sending her a public message on the Commons.

I wrote to Maura about not being able to attend the Rip: Remix Manifesto film screening during Open Access Week 2010 and, because Maura is awesome, she replied to my update posting a link to the film that I missed. You’re a champion for the cause @msmale, thanks for sharing!


Next up is a forum post from CUNY Academic Commons Project Director Matt Gold to the group Creative Commons & Copyright: Resources for Teaching Faculty.

In this forum post Matt explains to the group members that their group is now the featured group on the Commons home page, thus bringing some well deserved attention to the wiki page: Creative Commons Copyright  Resources WIKI. This wiki page is a collaborative resource that was started by the LaGuardia Center for Teaching and Learning and the Library. Of course there’s always room for more resources on any wiki page, so feel free to add to this list!


My next favorite this week is a wiki edit from Charlie Edwards called Blogs to Follow.

I’m very grateful to have come across this page, which was created as part of the Digital Humanities Resource Guide. This wiki page includes a brief selection of assorted bloggers, blogs for Center/Institutions, and CUNY blogs. I’m definitely going to add some of these to my blogroll! Readers, please help build out this list, by discipline/area of focus.


The next favorite on my list is a blog post from Rob Laurich called Pat’s Papers – a unique scanning of today’s newspapers.

Rob posts about NY1′s Pat Kiernan bringing his In the Papers segment to the Web. The website Pat’s Papers delivers the best daily stories ranging from international news to domestic politics to science to gossip. Thanks for sharing @madlibrarian!


Wrapping up my favorites this week is a forum post by John Boy to the group Open Access Publishing Network at CUNY.

Posting the topic “A Free Culture chapter at the Grad Center?“, John reaches out to other Graduate Center students, academics and activists passionate about creating a participatory and innovative society. For more information, visit: http://opencuny.org/freeculture/2010/11/10/free-culture-chapter. If anyone is interested in getting involved, please send a message to @jboy or post a reply to the group.


Well that covers my seven favorite activities this week (but not necessarily from this week). So, why seven instead of five? In case you don’t remember my answer from the beginning of this post, I’ll let Jerry Seinfeld explain…

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Favorites of the Week: Episode 1

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One of the nifty features that @boonebgorges added to the CUNY Academic Commons towards the end of last semester is called My Favorites. This BuddyPress plug-in allows members to go through the activity stream of “My Commons” and the News page marking items of interest for further reading – thus extending their personal learning network.  

I like to take a few minutes each day to look through the news activity stream and bookmark group updates, wiki edits, forum threads, blog posts and mentions so I can look at them more closely when I have some free time. And, now that I have some free time, I wanted to share with you my favorites this week. Please feel free to watch the webisode, read the blog or both!

(click here to subscribe to the iTunes podcast)
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 First up is a forum post for the CUNY Games Network, posted by Kimon Keramidas. 

Cutting to the chase, Kimon posts some great resources about “gamification”. The article from the Chronical of Higher Education explains,  

“it’s hard to deny that structuring learning experiences around frustration/reward dynamics can lead to engaged learners”.  

The second article from Kotaku.com challenges the notion that gamers are typically lazy and unmotivated, indicating,  

  “The “gamer brain” is rather good at getting things done. We’re mentally trained to hang in until we accomplish our objectives.” 

Both of these articles discuss the benefits of “gamification”, which utilizes game design concepts to get people to participate and enjoy things that they normally wouldn’t. The second article, written by Leigh Alexander, highlights her fear about people not being able to exist spontaneously because they will become too dependant on these receiving positive feedback for everything. 

Great forum post, thanks for sharing @kkeramidas! 


My next favorite is a blog post written by our very own community facilitator Brian Foote entitled “Statement of Purpose“.   

In his ideological post, Brian states that “open source” is not a new idea, explaining: 

  “I don’t think it’s a stretch to think back to CUNY’s free days as something akin to analog open-source.” 

While CUNY is no longer “free” for New Yorkers, open-source has found a new expression at CUNY in the form of the CUNY Academic Commons. Brian also stresses the importance of feedback noting, 

“your feedback on the site tells us the directions to go in and what we can do to make things better.” 

  Well put @brianfoote


While we’re on the topic of open-source, my next favorite is a forum post by Rebecca Brown Cesarani from the group, Open Education at CUNY.Rebecca shares and summarizes the NYTimes article ”Why Innovation isn’t a Matter of Left of Right” written by Steven Johnson. The author subverts the conventional wisdom that market forces drive innovation. Johnson notes the importance of the “fourth quadrant”, which is: 

“the space of collaborative, nonproprietary innovation, exemplified in recent years by the Internet and the Web, two groundbreaking innovations not owned by anyone.”    

Johnson explains that while the incentives for innovation in the fourth quadrant are low so are the barriers – noting,  

“The Internet is the ultimate example of how fourth-quadrant innovation actually supports market developments: a platform built by a loosely affiliated group of public-sector and university visionaries that has become one of the most powerful engines of wealth creation in modern times.”    

Very insightful @rbcesarani


Next up is the activity of Scott Voth, who edited the wiki page “Privacy on the Commons“. 

 

This wiki page in the “Help“ category has a lot of great information for members about Wiki Privacy, Blog Privacy and Group Privacy. Now if I need to get information about privacy on the Commons I know just where to go, thanks @scottvoth


I’ll end my Favorites of the Week on a blog post written by Rob Laurich entitled “Will Newsweek Survive?”. 

 

In his post, Rob explains that the magazine Newsweek was recently sold for an entire dollar to 92 year old tycoon Sidney Harman. He also links to New York Magazine’s article ”Newsboy“, where author Steve Fishman explains the drama behind the deal and leaves us wondering about Newsweek’s uncertain future. 

Thanks for blogging about this @madlibrarian


 

In staying with the whole ”sharing is caring” theme of this blog, what are some of your Favorites?? Please feel free to share one by adding your comment below!

These are a few of MY FAVORITE(S) things…

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Well it’s officially November — do you know what that means? A new project of mine called MY FAVORITES of the Week — a series of posts and podcasts which will highlight my favorite things happening on the CUNY Academic Commons.

My Favorite things — a familiar term, not simply because you’ve memorized all the lyrics from The Sound of Music movie, but because MY FAVORITES is a feature on the CUNY Academic Commons! Watch the video below to learn more about this time-saving aggregating plug-in…

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Be sure to check back this weekend for my first MY FAVORITES of the Week post!

MY FAVORITES of the Week

Highlighting the News!

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With so much content available online 24/7 it can sometimes be overwhelming to get a good sense of what’s new in the world. At the Commons, we’ve tried to make it a little easier for members to get their news (without the fluff). Next time you log into the Commons please take some time to check out the News or “activity” tab, which allows you to see what’s new with your friends, your groups or across the entire community. If you are searching for something specific simply use the drop-down filter where you can narrow your search to:

  • updates;
  • blog posts;
  • blog comments;
  • new forum topics;
  • forum replies;
  • new groups;
  • new group memberships;
  • friendship connections;
  • new members or
  • wiki edits

…whew!

If you find yourself without an abundance of free time just scroll through the activity stream and select the “Favorite” tab under the items you want to bookmark for future reference. You can access these bookmarked items by selecting the “My Favorites” tab.

Don’t want to search through the activity stream, but want to find out what’s new? We’ve got you covered! On the right side of the News page you can view recent posts from the Academic Commons News blog, Academic Commons Development blog and Twitter feed.

5 Questions with… Adam Wandt

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Welcome to the first edition of ’5 Questions’!

With so many great things going on throughout the CUNY community, I thought that podcasts could be a great way to help facilitate conversations within (and outside) the Commons. My first interviewee is Adam Wandt, who was willing to meet me via skype for an hour long interview. The 5 questions below highlight some topics covered in the interview, but I invite you to listen to the full podcast either through iTunes or directly from my Podcast Revolution Feed List. The podcasts are available in mp3 or m4a format, depending on which device you use to download your podcasts.

With the topic of ‘process’ coming up a few times throughout my interview with Adam Wandt, I plan to write a short post going through my process of creating this podcast and uploading it to iTunes. And now, 5 questions…

Professor Adam Scott Wandt is the Deputy Chair for Instructional Technology of the Department of Public Management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and also serves as John Jay’s Provost Representative to CUNY’s Committee on Academic Technology (CAT), which is the group that was put together to start the Academic Commons. Professor Wandt started blogging about six years ago with the creation of his iDive Underwater Photography blog and started blogging on the Commons a few months ago with his Academic Technology: Research and Development blog .

1. What is your favorite aspect of the CUNY Academic Commons?

It’s the way people connect, without a doubt. If you look in social life how people use Facebook to connect to the outside, this is kind of like a professional version of that. It’s the connections that you make, the people you talk to that you ordinarily wouldn’t be talking to – that is kind of my favorite part.

2. Do you believe that blogs have some special type of social function?

They have several functions depending on why you’re blogging. Some people blog to report other people like myself in the academic technology blog, blog to start a conversation. I think there are many types of academic technology conversations that we either need to have or we’re in the middle of having and I think that the ones we need to have … certain blog entries of mine start to spark those conversations and the conversations that we’re currently having, hopefully I could add to those.

3. Have you ever stepped back and deleted something after posting?

I’ve added to a few things, I’ve posted some information and said maybe I should have provided additional information or hyperlinks so I’ve updated. I haven’t had the need or the want really to delete anything from my blogs yet, but I did do one video interview for one of my classes with a US Marine and after I conducted the interview with the US Marine, I was asked unofficially by some groups to take down the interview… After consulting about it and thinking about it for a while and actually even discussing it with some of our reference librarians at John Jay I decided not to take the interview down, but I understood the reasons why people did want it taken down.

4. Has Twitter changed anything about your blogging habits?

Every time I put an article up there I throw it out through Twitter and I’ll monitor the bit lead link to see how many people click on it… I use it to notify.

My use of Twitter itself is more as an academic technology research and development project to try to test out and develop Twitter to see if it can be used as an academic technology tool… It’s become a very quick way for me to throw things out to my students. In the past… if I had an article I would want them to read I would have to take a hyperlink , then I would have to go into an email program, then I would have to write out an email, then I would have to send it out. It’s not really so easy to do that if you have 60-80 students each semester and they’re constantly rotating. You have to keep a fairly signification email list if you want to be able to email things out directly from a laptop or from an iPad and not go through Blackboard. So one of the things Twitter has done for me is I hit a button, I type in a hashcode, maybe a line and then it’s uploaded to Twitter where my students – at their leisure – could check it and the whole process from my point of view takes less than 5 or 10 seconds.

5. There are a lot of different projects going on in the CUNY community. When groups are public it’s a lot easier to see the process of start to finish and I guess with private groups it’s a lot harder. Would you have any suggestions as far as people doing projects on the Commons to help other people to understand the process of collaborating and sharing things with each other?

Most certainly, my first thing is being that we’re in academia, being that we’re researchers we always need to remember exactly what you just said – that people could always learn from the process of what we’re doing. In that, there are certain things like keeping blogs, project blogs, there’s making information available as it could become desensitized. There’s running a project with the expectation of different types of publications at the end – certain publications towards one group, certain publications towards another. I think that whenever we go and we run any sort of research we need to remember number one that we’re doing it to grow knowledge and that eventually the knowledge that we’re growing needs to be disseminated and shared. One of the interesting things about studying technology is that more often than not we’re studying how that information gets shared; we’re studying the process of how things actually get done… I think that whatever projects we’re doing, if we’re going to sensitize and if we’re going to shield what people see, we need to realize in doing so that  the information that is being shielded should eventually be desensitized – if appropriate…

The other thing too is that people need to learn from process. Allowing people as you just said to see how things are done are important, but it always needs to be up to that individual or researcher or blogger or person — they always need to have the decision to say private, not private or when to publish… If everything that we’re doing is always open to full scrutiny the question then comes to will we be able to focus in on anything?

6 Degrees of Open Access

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I have to admit that prior to my attendance of the Digital University Conference on April 21, 2010, my understanding of “open access” was essentially non-existent. After attending the afternoon panel, A Digital Future?, my grasp of open access and academic publishing started coming into clearer focus. As someone who has not (yet) published an academic article, I had no idea about the politics of knowledge access in addition to its relation to a faculty member’s tenure track.

Digital University Conference- photo courtesy of Andrea Vasquez

After searching for information about open access on the Commons, I came across Scott Voth’s (@scottvoth) Wiki Wrangler post about his creation of the new wiki page Open Access Publishing. Scott points out that, “As the cost of journals continues to skyrocket, OA needs to be on our minds.” This was certainly on the mind of Jill Cirasella (@cirasella), who created the public group: Open Access Publishing Network @ CUNY (OaPN @ CUNY) a couple of months ago after being inspired by Maura A. Smale (@msmale).

Maura was more than willing to contribute to the group she inspired Jill to create, replying to the forum topic Stephen Francoeur (@stephenfrancoeur) started: Library and info science journals that are OA. Scott used Maura’s comphrensive list of OA journals to create a new wiki page: OA Journals in Library and Information Science, which he tagged under Open Access (OA) and Library Science for easy access.

Most recently, George Otte (@gotte) posted a new blog entitled “An Immodest Proposal“ where he discusses the need to create an online journal, suggesting that those who are interested post to the Open Access group’s forum thread: Starting an online journal. With 5 comments on George’s blog post and 21 posts in the forum, the conversation of open access publishing at CUNY has begun. We also learned that Steve Brier (@sbrier) has plans to start an online, open source journal to publish the works of doctoral students in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy program. With many willing contributors and Scott Voth’s direction for logical platforms and various models, I am certainly looking forward to seeing how this new model of academic publishing unfolds at CUNY.

Want to add your thoughts to the conversation or offer assistance? Jump in here!

6 Degrees of the iPad

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Last week, the Commons bought a few iPads for the Community Team to experiment with and after spending some one-on-one time with an iPad and reading some great resources I wanted to write a review — 6 degrees style. *This is an overview of my experience thus far, incorporating information from member’s posts as well as outside resources and opinion. 

When it comes to the iPad everyone has an opinion. The last time I used an Apple product, I was a Media Arts student at USC so I am not that familiar with the iPhone and I’m new to the whole Apple App Store thing. Either way, I will try to present a review that is as objective as possible. My first thought as I held the iPad in my hands was this… 

image credits: http://gizmodo.com

Matt Gold (@admin) posted this flowchart on the Academic Commons Project Management Base Camp back in April as a visual resource for creating new help documents on the Commons. Luckily, I’ve been beating the odds of this flowchart, but I often think of it as I eagerly await the back-ordered case! 

Holy Credit Card Batman!

Why does Apple need my credit card information?? I use my Zune and Zune Pass to satisfy my music needs (in addition to Pandora), so I was a little disappointed that I had to download iTunes on my computer again in order to start the iPad. I had to create an account and give my credit card information… which I did … because I didn’t really have a choice. After forking over some personal information I was finally ready to see what this iPad thing was all about and why Obama wasn’t a fan

Apps

There are a lot of them. A lot of apps seem useless, as Obama suggested in his commencement speech at Hampton University. Obama claimed that with new technologies such as the iPad, “information becomes a distraction”.  This is how most headlines read, but what these commentators overlooked is that Obama said they can be used as “tool(s) of empowerment… the means of emancipation”. I’m going to give Obama the benefit of the doubt here about his understanding of technology, especially after @kdelorenzo said: 

“…during the inauguration Obama is reported to have greeted Aretha with “You’re on my iPod!” so maybe he was fibbing a bit. Or maybe his younger daughter programs and syncs it for him.” 

On this topic, I would have to agree with Bill Maher’s take that Obama is putting on a cutesy political act. Obama says he doesn’t know how to use an iPod because “Americans conflate out-of-touch with adorable”. Lest he forget the power of the Internet during his presidential campaign! OK, back to iPad apps… 

In addition to @omanreagan’s ipad posts from his blog about Apple technology, Michael has also written a blog post about “religion applications available for the iPad” from his blog about interdisciplinary studies in Religion. Talk about a ‘tools of empowerment’ – good stuff Michael, thanks for sharing! 

Other apps that I consider to be tools of empowerment include: 

  • Calendar (pre-installed) This is your basic calendar. I’m able to keep myself on a tight schedule with reminders and repeating events. It’s not as customizable as I was hoping for (no task organizer).
  • Mail (pre-installed) I’m able to sync multiple Gmail accounts as well as my CUNY email. Bonus.
  • Videos>Podcasts (pre-installed>downloaded via iTunes)  I’m currently learning how to fix redeye from the Photoshop//Power Tips & Tricks Podcast. I wish the iPad had the ability to go outside of iTunes… non-jailbreaking style.
  • Notes (pre-installed) I’m able to quickly take notes from a meeting. I can tag notes to find them quickly and email them to myself, but there’s no ability for bold, italic, color, underlining, etc…
  • Todo ($4.99)  While I was hoping this app was going to be free (or included within the Calendar app) I am glad I downloaded it! Todo helps me keep track of multiple projects both at home and at work and can send reminders via email. Highly recommended.
  • Pages ($9.99) Mac’s version of Microsoft Word. You can use templates and have greater control over the layout and font style than you can with Notes.
  • Keynote ($9.99) Syncs great with Mac Keynotes. I am able to edit presentations (with limited capabilities). 
  • iBooks (free) I was able to download a lot of free books by typing “free” into the search bar.
  • Free Books (free) The name says it all — good stuff!
  • Pandora (free) I can  listen to a custom generated mix (unfortunately not while doing anything else on the iPad… without jailbreaking it).
  • Pocket Pond (free) Watching goldfish swim and interacting with them is extremely calming after a long day at the office.
  • Disney Digital Books: Toy Story (free) I am able to multitask – I can some work done at home while providing interactive entertainment for my pre-schooler!
  • Siri (free) Possibly my favorite app thus far! (see video below). The speech recognition and overall intuitive nature of this app is incredible! My favorite part is when you say “remember,…” and it will send your speech to your email… or saying “tweet” and your twitter status update bar is brought up for you to do just that. This was originally created for the iPhone.

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Thanks to Adam S. Wandt’s post we also now know how to shop for our groceries in under two minutes using the Fresh Direct app!

In non-iPad app related news I also share @awandt’s feelings of disappointment that the iPad has no forward facing camera and wouldn’t be surprised if AT&T network-related concerns were at the root of this decision. This camera (or lack-there-of) news was also revealed in @jugoretz’s post: Early iPod Thoughts.

There are some great aspects of the iPad and the overall intuitive nature is very user-friendly. There are also many features that fall short of what a truly innovative tool the iPad should be.

Lastly, the question that everyone is asking … or perhaps just @brianfoote WILL IT BLEND???

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Yes, yes it will.

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