Posts by Jeff Young
July 16, 2010, 05:44 PM ET
Talk about "hot" mail. A Google feature that gives users the option of adding pictures of pinup girls or marijuana leaves to their home pages has caused one university to delay adopting the company's services on campus and led other campus administrators to question why such images are featured so prominently.
Hundreds of colleges have signed agreements with Google to make the company's free e-mail service and other Web tools standard on their campuses. LeTourneau University was testing out several of the services when an administrator noticed an option on the Google Start Page to allow users to customize their home page. The first batch of possible choices included a theme named "Vanessa," featuring a naked woman in profile (see below).
"We're not going to have a vice president with that on their screen—it's an issue of harrassment," said Matthew Henry, chief information officer at...Read More
July 14, 2010, 05:09 PM ET
It has been hard to get most professors excited about e-textbooks, but publishers continue to try new ways to sell them on the format. The latest strategy seems to make the e-textbooks even easier for professors to use, by integrating them more tightly into the course-management systems they are already familiar with.
Today Blackboard announced deals with a major textbook publisher— McGraw Hill—and two college bookstore chains—Barnes & Noble College Booksellers and Follett Higher Education Group—to sell textbooks through the tech company's course-management system and to tie online assignments from the e-texts directly into existing online gradebooks.
And earlier this week, CourseSmart, which distributes electronic editions of books by major textbook publishers, announced a new feature that better links its e-textbooks with the leading course-management systems.
CourseSmart calls...Read More
July 12, 2010, 01:02 PM ET
The crowd-science trend has reached Mars. Students and amateur scientists can now explore the Red Planet online, using software released today by Microsoft Resarch based on NASA images.
Though many of the images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are already available on the space agency's Web site, Microsoft has now loaded them into its WorldWide Telescope interface, which creates a way for users to easily pan around the images to see them in context, and presents them in higher resolution than previously available online.
"You can actually see rover tracks on the Martian surface," said Dan Fay, director of earth, energy, and environment for Microsoft Research, in an interview.
The WorldWide Telescope software is free but only runs on Microsoft's Windows operating system. A Web interface of the system is available, but the Mars images are not yet available there. The company's...Read More
July 7, 2010, 07:09 PM ET
Blackboard has a habit of acquiring an education-technology company every year, but this year it bought not one but two companies—both of which offer similar services for holding online courses and virtual office hours.
Today Blackboard Inc. announced plans to buy Elluminate, based in Alberta, Canada, and Wimba, based in New York, both of which sell products that support online learning and student collaboration through online videoconferencing and audioconferencing tools. The sales must first be approved by the boards of both rivals. Blackboard plans to pay a total of $116-million for the pair.
In a fact sheet about the purchases, Blackboard officials promised to continue to support both products, including their compatibility with rival course-management systems and open-source systems. "We’ll honor all existing contracts for Elluminate and Wimba clients," the company adds in the...Read More
May 25, 2010, 04:45 PM ET
Drawing a huge following on Twitter does not necessarily mean that your tweets will have much influence. It turns out that some noncelebrities with meager followings have the greatest ability to start discussions and spread ideas.
That was the conclusion of a team of researchers who analyzed some two billion public Twitter messages to see which users had the most influence, measured by the number of times the tweeters were mentioned by others or their messages were forwarded to others (or "retweeted," in the language of Twitter use). The scholars presented a paper on their findings Monday at a conference on "Weblogs and Social Media" organized by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.
"Having a million follows may not be everything in terms of influence," said Meeyoung Cha, of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, in the presentation, held at...Read More
May 11, 2010, 03:45 PM ET
A new supercomputer under construction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, called Blue Waters, is expected to set a new speed record and reign as the world's biggest and fastest computer. But at a conference at the university this week, some researchers expressed concern that software is not keeping pace, meaning that scholars may not be able to take full advantage of the mammoth machine when it opens for operation next year.
"These new machines are going to force parallel programming on folks who just are not quite ready," said Merle Giles, director of the private-sector program at the university's National Center for Supercomputing Applications. "Software codes are going to have to be accelerated in order to embrace the new hardware." The "software gap" between what today's researchers use to run simulations on supercomputers and what the new computers could do is a...Read More
April 29, 2010, 04:10 PM ET
If iPads and other new mobile computers catch on, libraries might not need to offer rooms full of computers for students to do their research, writing, and Facebooking. But if that happens, will students have any reason left to visit the library?
That's the provocative question posed by Brian Mathews, assistant university librarian at the University of California at Santa Barbara, on his blog this week.
The trend in the last few years was to add more computers to the library, creating spaces often called "information commons." And during that time, visits to the library have increased greatly. "I think the key to our current success has been the computers," Mr. Mathews says on his blog.
But now Mr. Mathews says he hears colleagues planning to remove desktops and trying programs to loan out iPads or netbooks to students who want to use a computer while in the library. "So the real...Read More
April 27, 2010, 10:52 AM ET
Our technology podcast is getting a new co-host and a new format. Starting in May, Jeffrey R. Young, a technology reporter for The Chronicle, will join Warren Arbogast, a technology consultant who works with colleges, on Tech Therapy.
The goal of the podcast, now entering its fourth year, is to help make sense of the latest developments in technology, with analyses of how new gadgets and buzzwords could change education. In each episode, we interview college leaders about the challenges they have faced and their efforts to overcome them.
More than ever, we want to hear from you. Call in to our new Tech Therapy hotline and ask a question, or tell us a quick story of a technology challenge on your campus, and we'll put it on the podcast and respond. The number is 805-CHE-TECH (805-243-8324).
Check out this week's episode for parting thoughts from Scott Carlson, the show's founding...Read More
April 21, 2010, 08:57 PM ET
Woodbury University's virtual campus in Second Life was torn down yesterday by Linden Lab, the company that operates the virtual world, and the accounts of several students and professors were blocked. The tale involves virtual superheroes, accusations of vandalism, and conflicting ideas of what a campus should look like in a virtual world.
"Linden Lab has decided to no longer support Woodbury University in Second Life," said an e-mail notice sent to Edward Clift, dean of the university's School of Media, Culture & Design. "We are making this decision based on historical and recent events that constitute a breach of the Second Life community standards and terms of service. We ask that you please respect the decision and do not take part in the Second Life platform in the future." No further details were provided.
This is the second time that Linden Lab has removed Woodbury's virtual...Read More
April 20, 2010, 02:00 PM ET
In November we reported that a project of the Warner Music Group called Choruss planned to start a pilot program on six campuses in January to try a blanket subscription service for popular music. But those pilots apparently ended abruptly, and the effort has unexpectedly changed its tune once again.
"Choruss pilot is changed," said Jim Griffin, leader of the project, in response to an e-mail message from The Chronicle asking for an update. "We are both making the company an independent company and canceling further testing in favor of a commercial launch. We learned a great deal from the students and the negotiations and are now focused on delivering them what they want: Music that feels free."
Mr. Griffin did not respond to follow-up questions, though he did say more in an interview last month with Knowledge@Wharton (free registration required). Apparently Warner will still be...Read More