Archive for April, 2014

A bit more about open texts

Monday, April 28th, 2014

BCCampus recently held the Open Textbooks  Summit 2014 and came away with 5 lessons learned

1. “Librarians like to search for things. Real people like to FIND them.” – Librarians have a crucial role to play.
2. “It’s all about the students” – Students have more of an impact than they might think.
3. “The ideal textbook does not exist” – Open Textbooks means control is given back to instructors
4. “OER is like being given a puppy” – Taking control of educational content takes commitment.
5.  “Come on in, the water’s warm!” – We need a bigger developer community around the technology of open source publishing.

The recorded sessios will be visible here

Tony Bates looks at it from a potential authors perspective.

1. Open textbooks are gaining momentum.
2. There is a clear need for open textbooks.
3. The supply and the demand from students is coming – but where is the adoption by faculty?
4. Open textbooks have their own pedagogy.
5. The technology is still crude

Another attendee, Rajiv Jahangiani offers a faculty perspective about the up take of Open texts


  • Limited range
  • Suspicions about quality
  • Lack of the additional resources that are offered by publishers
  • Sometimes the choice of text is mandated


  • Adaptability of open text to meet specific curriculum can improve outcomes and retention
  • The issue of quality and suitability is not confined open texts but they can be remixed, adapted and modified unlike publishers texts.
  • Student like them.

From my perspective there seems to be a problem with ownership of the issue.  I believe the collation and promotion of Open textbooks logically falls into the purview of modern university libraries.   Operational issues shouldn’t be reliant on inspired individuals.

Weekend Funny – TL;DR Wikipedia

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

TL;DR Wikipedia

(Too Long Didn’t Read)

And because it is a wiki you can submit your own definition.

Weekend Funny – Teens are leaving Facebook. Where are they going?

Saturday, April 19th, 2014


Holiday fun – find a good book

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Here’s a good place to start – GoodReads Best Books of 2013

2013 Goodreads Choice Awards

The fiction winner this year is ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ by Khaled Hosseini

An unforgettable novel about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else.

Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.

You can also look at Amazon’s top 20 for 2013

Heartbleed info

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Heartbleed is a bug in OpenSSL.

“OpenSSL is what about two-thirds of the world’s websites use to make secure internet connections to browsers. It’s what you use to log in to your banking website, or Gmail, or your corporate virtual private network.

But what makes Heartbleed really bad is the way it completely obviates the web’s security. Thanks to the flaw, an attacker can trick any vulnerable SSL server into simply dumping about 64 thousand bytes of its memory. It’s a bit like going to the post office to pick up your mail and getting an extra 64 letters by mistake. You may get nothing useful. Or you may get something extremely valuable.”

Should you change your password?

The tech geekery explained

Heartbleed Explanation

Final advice

“Do not panic. Simply change the passwords of the services you consider more important (email, banking, shopping) and continue with your life. While doing so, follow good security practices: Don’t use the same password across services, select passwords with 10 or more characters and use at least upper and lower case letters, in addition to numbers.”

eTexts ready or not?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

“In a trend occurring in multiple colleges across the country, students are saying ‘no’ to eBooks, due poor ease-of-use, limited funds for eReaders, and lack of available resources.”

eTexts are not in the best interest of big publishers.  The hit they would take from digital piracy could be devastating.   As a result, their products aren’t as user friendly as they could be, the DRM hurdles are too high and there is no significant cost saving for the students.  Various studies have found cost and ease of use to be the main factors when students are given a choice of media.

As a consequence, in my opinion, any article commenting on eTexts and acceptance that only refers to products from big publishers can be discounted without further thought.

The real issue whether the inconvenience associated eTexts is still a significant barrier when the product is free and freely accessible, compared to publishers texts.  I suspect the answer is so obvious that people can’t get research approval to study it.

There is quite a bit of research around  showing that students often prefer cheap printed texts to free online versions, although I can’t find any mention of what the threshold price may be.  A free etext coupled with a cheap ‘print on demand’ deal from your university could be a win-win.

Also of interest is this research from Heather Ruetschlin Schugar, associate professor at West Chester University.

“Schugars reported the results of a study in which they asked middle school students to read either traditional printed books, or e-books on iPads. The students’ reading comprehension, the researchers found, was higher when they read conventional books. In a second study looking at students’ use of e-books created with Apple’s iBooks Author software, the Schugars discovered that the young readers often skipped over the text altogether, engaging instead with the books’ interactive visual features.”

This only refers to primary school kids and the products for this market tend to be more like click and reveal games rather than text based books.  The effect doesn’t seem to be as significant in Higher Ed but as we see wider adoption we may get more detail.

Undergrads and technology

Friday, April 11th, 2014

The results of EDUCAUSE’s annual students and technology survey are out.

You can watch a presentation of the results here

“The EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) conducts an annual study about undergraduates’ technology experiences and expectations in higher education. The results of this study provide a unique look at students’ perceptions about technology use, trends, challenges, and opportunities in higher education.”

And of course someone made an infographic.

5 Years

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Permit me a moment of self indulgence, this is the 5th anniversary of this blog.

I think that makes this the longest continuous blog on the Monash Blogs site.

The stats have increased from about 40 per month in 2009 to about 700 per month in 2014.

The top visitors are from Australia followed by the U.S, the U.K and Canada.

Total posts = 396

Comments = 4

Emoticons and faces – our brains can’t tell the difference.

Monday, April 7th, 2014

I’m not an emoticon user but perhaps I should be.   I’m a bit old school about the importance of writing clearly to convey a message, but I have been caught out with emails before.  While I don’t use them they do influence the way I interpret written messages and if they provide a short cut to clarity, why not use them.

According to a recent study published in the journal ” Social Neuroscience looking at faces crafted from colons and parentheses can trigger the same facial recognition response in the  occipitotemporal parts of brain that takes place when we gaze into meatspace visages of other humans.

“We don’t use emoticons to express our emotions.  Rather, they function as “contextualization cues”—”information about how an utterance is supposed to be interpreted.”

Weekend funny – All the jokes you wish you made while watching Mad Men

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Loose yourself in the marketing mindlessness of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s


Words fail me.