June 30, 2008, 04:33 PM ET
Are universities too cozy with industry? In certain respects, they are not cozy enough, says Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s education product group. The software company is gearing up for a conference in Paris next week, sponsored along with Unesco, called the Education Leaders Forum. In an interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Gupta said that higher education could be doing a better job of preparing students for life, and work, in the coming century.
“Absolutely there should be a tighter relationship,” Mr. Gupta said, noting that universities could integrate certification in particular software packages into their curriculum. (He cited a few examples of such software, which had Redmond, Wash., as their home address.)
But it’s about much more than creating workers for Microsoft, he said. “It’s about digital literacy,” about equipping graduates with the tools...Read More
June 30, 2008, 01:30 PM ET
With a college textbook often costing more than $100, it’s no wonder that students are protesting, and Congress has discussed legislation to lower the price of textbooks.
But what if students rented books instead of buying them? That’s the business model behind a company called Chegg, which was started a year ago and bills itself as “the Netflix for college textbooks.” Students identify the books they want to rent and place their order online. Then, Chegg ships the books to students’ residences. After using the books for a semester, students mail the books back to Chegg with prepaid shipping labels that they download from the Chegg Web site.
Chegg literature says its rental model can save students 60 percent to 80 percent off the price of a book. —Andrea L. Foster
June 30, 2008, 09:31 AM ET
How do you know if what’s in Wikipedia is trustworthy? Researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz’s WikiLab have a created a color-coded system that they believe reliably answers that question. The system, called WikiTrust, colors suspect words orange. The deeper the orange the less trustworthy the author who added the words.
Researchers measure contributors’ reputations based on how long their entries last without being revised. Showing their faith in the wiki process the researchers have—you guessed it—created a wiki to describe WikiTrust. —Andrea L. Foster
June 27, 2008, 03:43 PM ET
Many professors who teach online complain that they have no way of seeing whether their far-away students are following the lectures — or whether the students have fallen asleep at their desks. But researchers at the University of California at San Diego say they have a solution. They recently tested a system that can detect facial expressions of online students and determine when they find the material difficult, so that cues could be sent to the professors telling them to slow down.
In the experiment, eight subjects were shown short video clips of lectures while a Web cam tracked the...Read More
June 27, 2008, 03:28 PM ET
Paul Dourish, an informatics professor at the University of California at Irvine, appears to be attracting a fan base among scholars, according to Liz Losh, a rhetorician at the university. In a blog post this week, she observes that Mr. Dourish, whose research centers on human-computer interaction, has inspired a “has a posse” sticker in his name and an “I Heart Paul Dourish” confession from a new-media scholar at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
“I’ve served on committees with Dourish and think [his book], Where the Action Is is a good read, but I probably couldn’t tell you his height, weight, or eye color,” Ms. Losh writes. “Have I missed something about my supposed heartthrob colleague?” —Andrea L. FosterRead More
June 27, 2008, 12:48 PM ET
Plagiarists beware. A group of 12 publishers have begun using CrossCheck, software that ferrets out plagiarized articles submitted for publication in scholarly journals. The software was created by CrossRef, a publishing industry association, and iParadigms, a company that sells Turnitin, software that checks student papers for plagiarized material. CrossCheck is targeted at scholars. It flags passages that a submitted journal article may have in common with published journal articles.
The publishers will contribute more than 29 million articles to the CrossCheck database, according to a statement released Monday by Elsevier. It and eight other publishers tested the service for six months.
“By creating a pooled database of...Read More
June 26, 2008, 12:06 PM ET
Researchers at the University of Maryland at College Park and the University of California at Berkeley have recently unveiled a prototype of a dual-display e-book reader. The reader features two detachable screens that can be viewed side by side like an open book, or with one screen folded behind the other like a paperback. The screens can also be flipped to simulate turning the pages of a book.
The big question, of course, is whether readers will prefer this device to the Kindle. —Andrea L. Foster
June 26, 2008, 11:45 AM ET
Researchers in Bournemouth University, in England, have literalized a retronym: They’ve created real snail mail.
In a project that combines technical prowess with art and whimsy, the researchers have designed a system for delivering messages by using actual snails. An e-mail is sent to a tank containing snails fitted with RFID chips. If and when a snail wanders by the e-mail collection site, its RFID chip will pick up the message. Then, if and when that snail wanders by the drop-off point in another area of the tank, the e-mail will be delivered (at that point, via the Internet, of course).
RealSnailMail’s creators apparently intended to comment on the role that speed and efficiency play in modern lives.
“Culturally, we seem obsessed with immediacy. Time is not to be taken but crammed to bursting point,” Paul Smith, an artist and RealSnailMail co-creator, told the BBC.
June 26, 2008, 11:10 AM ET
Some pornographic downloads by North Carolina Central University staff members have prompted the university to install monitoring software on faculty and staff members’ computers. It’s also prompted concern from the university professors that the institution is going to be spying upon them.
The Herald-Sun newspaper of Durham reported today that the North Carolina chapter of the American Association of University Professors has voiced worries, saying that faculty members doing research may visit Web sites that seem suspicious but are part of their work.
Or sometimes people just make mistakes. The classic one, for years, was when people trying to get to “whitehouse.gov” typed “whitehouse.com” instead. The latter was a porn site until 2004, when it went out of business.
Mistakes and legitimate explorations are ...Read More
June 25, 2008, 01:05 PM ET
The Chronicle recently profiled a Carnegie Mellon University researcher who advises on projects to adapt cell phones as assistive technologies for the blind and deaf.
One of her students’ projects—a gesture-recognition glove that translates American Sign Language into spoken words through a cell phone—has another, potentially more lucrative use: football training. The same sensor-embedded glove technology can help identify whether a ball is being handled, caught, and thrown properly. The students are also developing a “smart” football that would contain a tracking device. This would allow coaches to plot the path of each throw and referees to make more accurate calls. Priya Narasimhan, the professor advising the team, said that several nearby high schools will...Read More