Sept 29 – Oct 5

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This week’s headline story: Business Supported MOOCs

empty_classroomMassively Open Online Courses or MOOCs have received a lot of attention, but questions remain as to the value that businesses place on students who receive education through MOOCs rather than through traditional colleges. That question is beginning to be resolved. Major corporations are beginning to invest in building MOOCs that meet their specific needs. Last week, MOOC provider Udacity announced the Open Education Alliance, which allows students to earn a free certificate based on a series of online courses developed with input from Google, AT&T and several other companies. Similarly, MIT and its MOOC partner edX are offering the XSeries – a series of courses based on input from a consortium of about 50 companies, including UPS, Procter & Gamble Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The XSeries will prepare students to take a test and earn a “verified certificate” in subjects like computer science and supply-chain management. Meanwhile, companies such as Yahoo Inc. have begun reimbursing employees who take certified courses from Coursera, another MOOC provider.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • Okay, you’re familiar with MOOCs, how about MOORs? The first Massively Open Online Research or MOOR course is being offered by a team from UC San Diego. In “Bioinformatics Algorithms – Part 1,” students will work in teams on specific research projects under the direction of prominent bioinformatics scientists from around the world.
    Is Massive Open Online Research the Next Frontier for Education? [UCSD News]
  • Scientists at Stanford University have built the first functioning computer based on carbon nanotube transistors. “This could be a revolutionary technological leap,” says Dan Olds, an analyst at The Gabriel Consulting Group. “It takes much less power to change the state of a carbon nanotube versus today’s transistors,” Olds said. “Nanotubes are much better at dissipating heat. You can pack more nanotube transistors onto a chip. We would see devices that can do a whole lot more useful work while using a whole lot less juice — and that’s a great combination.”
    Replacing silicon with nanotubes could revolutionize tech [Computerworld]
  • The creator of the world wide web and director of the web standards body W3C, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is backing measures to embed support for Digital Rights Managament in HTML5. The measures Berbers-Lee backs would add support for Encrypted Media Extensions to HTML 5 allowing media companies to publish DRM-protected music, movies, and other media to the web reducing worries that users will download and distribute the media illegally. Berners-Lee believes that supporting DRM on the Web is necessary in order to get media companies to utilize the Web for media distribution. Free software advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Free Software Foundation, have called the proposals “disastrous”. They argue it is an attempt to elevate the business interests of media companies over the greater good of an open web where information can be shared freely, and would place unacceptable restrictions on how individuals use computers.
    World wide web creator rules DRM support should be baked into web tech [ZDNet]
  • NASA is planning to send a 3d printer into space next year allowing astronauts to print tools and parts as needed.
    NASA To Launch 3-D Printer into Space [NewsFactor]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Microblogging service Twitter has filed for an initial public offering and should debut on the stock exchange in November. The firm aims to raise as much as $1 billion under the TWRT ticker symbol.
    Post-IPO, Twitter Co-Founder Moving to Billionaire Status [NewsFactor]
  • Apple has displaced Coca-Cola as the leading global brand in Interbrand’s 14th annual Best Global Brands report, ending the soda maker’s 13-year rule. Google took 2nd place pushing Coke down to 3rd.
    Apple, Google Stomp Coke in Global Brand Ratings [Ecommerce Times]
  • There is unrest amidst Microsoft’s Board of Directors. Several of the board members are pressuring Bill Gates to step down as chairman. They are looking to reboot the company with fresh ides from a new CEO and new Chairman of the Board.
    Mutiny at Microsoft Over Gates’ Future Role [Ecommerce Times]
  • Amazon is about to join Apple, Roku and others in the set-top box business. Amazon’s box will provide instant access to Amazon Videos, as well as Netflix and Hulu Plus.
    Amazon To Debut Set-Top Box For Holidays [NewsFactor]

and finally…

  • The new iOS7 recently released by Apple for iPhones and iPads has a new user interface where icons seem to float above the background, and apps zoom in an out as the user interacts with them. While most users think the new user interface is cool, a minority are complaining that the zoom animations are making them nauseous and giving them headaches.
    Does iOS 7 Make You Feel Sick? [NewsFactor]
    Twitter IPO Filing Shows It Ain’t No Facebook [Technology Review]

MIT Offers Certificates for Online Courses

Soon students who complete courses in MIT’s free OpenCourseWare program, will be able to claim credit for them on their resumes. MIT plans to offer certificates verifying the completion of some online courses. The new, interactive e-learning venture, tentatively called MITx, will provide online learning materials, interactive activities, and secure online exams that allow students to verify that they have mastered the course material. A “modest fee” will be required for the certificate. MIT is still ironing out the wrinkles. If successful the new initiative could serve as a serious disruptor to traditional model of higher education.

The Associated Press-mtvU Technology Poll Results

A recent poll of over 2,000 randomly chosen college students found that, while students are dependant on social media, they also recognize its hazards and limitations.

How does online social networking impact relationships? 85 percent of students surveyed believe that social networking sites make them feel more connected to people. 54 percent believe that technology assists in feeling closer to people, while 28 percent believe that technology makes it more difficult to get close to people.

Does social media reduce stress? Fifty seven percent of students surveyed said life without computers and cell phones would make them more stressed. However, a significant number — 25 percent — said it would be a relief. The majority of students polled feel “pressured to instantly answer texts or voice mails.” They get nervous if their friends don’t immediately reply to a message.

Social networks can be a source of embarrassment and abuse. Last month Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman, leaped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after others secretly webcast his sexual encounter with another man. Prior to killing himself he posted to Facebook: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

Social networks can also provide a platform for support. One in five students say that they’ve posted messages seeking emotional support. Two thirds have read public posts by friends pleading for assistance. Twenty percent say that they have had friends who discuss suicide online, with 13 percent having friends that followed through.

Laying your heart out online has its consequences. Students can feel regretful and overly exposed. While 8 in 10 students claim to live happy lives, 6 in 10 have felt too stressed to hang out with friends or too agitated for school work.

Despite the amount of time students spend online in social networks, a large majority of students believe that it’s better to resolve conflicts with people in person. They “prefer face-to-face conversations over networking sites or texting for seeking help with personal issues, supporting others with problems or telling friends they’re upset with them.”

Still, many students hide behind technology when it comes to confrontation. About 7 in 10 students have engaged in arguments using only text messages, and about half have used technology to avoid in-person confrontations. Social networks also provide insight into your whereabouts. Around 6 in 10 students frequently track someone by repeatedly checking their social networking site.

Technology: Can’t Live With It, Can’t Kill It [NewsFactor]

Back in the Saddle Again

Singing Cowboy
I’m back! With a new job and a fresh outlook on life. I have moved from teaching Computer Lit in the Computer Science Department to directing a new Program in Interdisciplinary Computing. The goal of the program is to discover common computer skills across various disciplines at the university, and develop courses to teach those skills. I will remain involved in computer literacy/fluency as an author and developer, but now my area of research will extend into discipline-specific skills – computer fluency for professionals.

This evolution towards interdisciplinary computing only makes sense. Computing, and computer programming are no longer activities only pursued by computer scientists and engineers. Professionals in every discipline are leveraging computers and technology in their daily activities. Apply computing skills to work in every discipline produces new innovations and leaders in the global marketplace. For college students to innovate and lead, they must gain a deeper understanding of computing and how to apply it in their field. It is up to colleges to see that students graduate knowing a LOT more than Microsoft Office.

Students are ready to be challenged in this area. Typical college intro computer courses do not challenge today’s students. While learning higher level computer skills and computer programming is hard work, new teaching methods that are goal-oriented, and collaborative in nature, can engage our students. I am looking forward to dedicating my work to discovering what needs to be taught and how to successfully teach it. Follow my weekly progress on this blog. Also check my Web sites (, for course descriptions and materials.