Commons Connect

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Favorites of the Week: The EdTech Edition

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Hello CUNYs and happy MLK day!  While most of you are enjoying some well deserved time off to relax and prepare for the upcoming semester, some of you have been quite busy on the Commons (which, of course, I love because it gives me something to write about!) OK, on to my favorites of the week… While major media outlets have been focusing on the vitriol of politics and “the man with the golden voice”, this week I’d like to focus on educational technology related postings, updates, and threads on the Commons.  

My first favorite of 2011 is the latest post from Alevtina Verovetskaya’s  Reading Log.  

Aptly titled January 6, this post highlights a terrific article from latest issue of Clarion (the newspaper of the PSC) entitled, “Meet the new academic superstars: Faculty librarians ideal guides for info age”. After seeing this post, I searched through my recently delivered mail to find the Jan. ’11 Issue. This highly informative article discusses (among other things) how academic librarians, like Jill Cirasella @cirasella from Brooklyn College, routinely assist faculty with scholarly work, noting:    

“Their expect knowledge of specialized databases, public documents, historical archives, online search stategies, and library resources at CUNY… can make them ideal partners for other faculty members’ research projects.”  

The article also highlights the impact of applied research at CUNY. For instance, Maura Smale and Mariana Regaldo are in the middle of a three year study on the scholarly habits of students at six CUNY campuses and, as a result of their initial findings, have already reconfigured the study areas at City Tech’s library to support additional privacy for students. What I really liked about this article was the overall theme of sharing and collaboration which, according to Cirasella, “are what  librarians are all about”.  

After coming to terms with the fact that newspapers do not have a long shelve life in my home (due to my compulsory nature to over-recycle), I had to figure out another way to keep this article handy for future reading and reflection. Lightbulb! I decided that this would be a great addition to the iBooks on my iPad. To save this document to my iPad, I navigated to Jan. ’11 issue of Clarion (http://www.psc-cuny.org/Clarion/ClarionJanuary2011.pdf), which opened as a PDF document, then selected “open in iBooks” on the upper-right side of the screen. Now I can access this issue anytime without having to be online. (*This works on any iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running the iBooks application.) 


While we’re on the topic of libarians, I wanted to share an update posted in the CUNY Games Network  by City Tech’s librarian Maura Smale @msmale.  

CUNY Games Network  

Hosted by Christopher Jason Smith and the CUNY Games Network Steering Committee, this full-day tabletop games event will be held at LaGuardia Community College on Friday, January 21st and is open to all CUNYs. While this very first tabletop game event will primarily feature mainstream games such as Battlestar Galactica, Magic the Gathering, and Diplomacy,  Maura notes that a few educational games are likely to be thrown into the mix. Those who attend will also be given a  short tour of the ”Games Library” created at LaGuardia to help CUNY faculty examine games for research purposes. If you’d like to stop by for a couple of hours or intend to particpate throughout the day, please try to email cunygamesadmin@googlegroups.com with your name to help the CUNY Games Steering Committee keep a headcount. 


Speaking of  committees, according to an update posted by Adam Wandt @awandt on the  Academic Technology Research and Development Group (a new subcommittee of the CUNY Committee on Academic Technology), Skunkworks will hold their first meeting on January 20th at 10am via Elluminate.  

skunkworks Established by CUNY faculty and staff, its mission is to research, test, and recommend new technologies from the perspective of classroom needs and pedagogical effectiveness. I signed up as a volunteer shortly after Chandra Hanke, Phil Pecorino, and Adam Wandt presented “CUNY CAT Academic Technology Research and Development Group: The ‘Skunkworks’” at the 9th annual CUNY IT Conference. I’m really excited about testing new technologies and sharing our results with the CUNY community and cannot wait to use Elluminate for the first time at our first meeting! 


 My next favorite this week stays with the theme of “collaboration”. Daniel Bachhuber @danielbachhuber posted an update that he is searching for other CUNYs to work on WordPress as a learning management system. 

 Most of you probably already know my thoughts on Blackboard, so I think it’s really important for CUNY to explore additional options for learning management systems. Since many CUNY students are already familiar with WordPress through course blogs or blogs that they’ve created on their own, it seems that WordPress would be a viable platform to consider as an LMS. If you’re interested in exploring the pros and cons of WordPress as an LMS, I’m sure Daniel would be happy to hear from you! 


 Speaking of WordPress, my last favorite this week is a forum thread from the WordPress HELP!!! group. 

After Giulia Guarnieri @giulia started the forum thread “Help with my new blog” asking general questions about how to configure the WP-Creativix 1.5.5 theme on her blog, Scott Voth @scottvoth gave some great instructions on how to use CSS to give Giulia the look and feel that she was going for. I thought it was really cool that Scott has a “sandbox” blog dedicated to testing out new themes and features on WordPress and have since done the same. (*This blog’s theme is Magatheme 1.0.4.)

Well that’s it for this week, but please keep those updates, posts, and forum threads coming!

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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