MacArthur Resources on Kindle

One of the documents I have personally found most influential is H. Jenkins “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture”.  The meaning of participatory (or Web 2.0, or the ReadWrite web) seems to be slipping away. I still think content creation is a great opportunity in education. The notion of a participatory culture implies we have the opportunity to both consume and create content. At best, we seem to be drifting toward a feeling that we have contributed something when we point at something someone else has created (my basic issue with those who focus on Twitter).

Anyway, my real intent here is to note that many of the resources funded by the MacArthur foundation are available at no cost through Amazon. The “Confronting the challenges .…” resource was already available as a free pdf, but I prefer resources formatted for the Kindle so that highlighting and note taking work easily. So, go to Amazon and search for Henry Jenkins and you would be able to download the Kindle version (for the Kindle or the Kindle app) as well as other MacArthur foundation resources.

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Indie Web

I have long been an advocate of maintaining a personal presence on the Internet. Expressing your own perspective is a great way to learn. I also harbor the idealistic view that our collective comments are a way to counter the influence of those able to pay for amplifiers of their own views by way of television and radio. The potential of this approach seems to be slipping a bit as the more traditional information sources are moving online.

The “indieweb” movement is an attempt to keep this idealistic perspective alive. It proposes that we all should have an online presence that we control. The hard core among them do not accept Facebook, Twitter, etc. as a way to do this and argue each of us should have control at the server level. You may believe this is taking things too far, but controlling your own area of the web is not that difficult and informative.

Here are some resources:
A recent podcast from TWIG (this week in Google) contains an extended discussion of the philosophy and implementation opportunities for the indie web.

The software featured in the TWIG podcast is called Known.

Known and the idie web is discussed on GigaOm

I can’t say I have explored Known. As interesting as I find these ideas I already have a 12 year investment in blogging from my own server space and even longer offering what I now now is considered serving indie content. However, if I was starting from scratch, this software would be an interesting option. If you are an educator, listen to the TWIG podcast to understand the role they see for education.

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Adding an Android podcast subscription

Wesley Fryer, writing on his Speed of Creativity blog, explains how he imports RSS feeds for podcasts  from iTunes into his preferred podcast player. This is necessary because he prefers a player other than iTunes.

My situation is similar. I have an android phone and want to use the phone to listen to podcasts during our frequent, long car trips. I recommend the Fryer tutorial, but I did find one change I had to make for my situation. I could not find the URL for the podcast I wanted as described by Fryer and I am not certain why. What I found worked was to use iTunes to locate the desired podcast and then I was able to locate the URL for one episode. This address worked as a way to subscribe in my podcast player.


So, to demonstrate, I decided to use the Fryer podcast “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” (same name as his blog). The address identified in iTunes was I sent this address to my phone in an email so I could copy the address to my player.

My podcast player of preference on my phone is Podcast Republic.

Podcast Republic asks that you search for the desired feed – in this case I am searching for an episode and not the collection of episodes, but this seems to work.



The specifics of the subscription are identified for verification.


The subscription has been added.


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Big business and edtech

It is back to school time and this seems to have generated a number of articles focused on school districts and large technology purchases. One to one initiatives are being launched and when such purchases involve a district wide decision a great deal of money is on the line.

A common decision now seems to be the commitment to iPads or Chromebooks.This is different and more difficult than deciding which option within a given category makes the most sense. In the comparison between a tablet and a chromebook, each has advantages and disadvantages. If you have the opportunity to use both, you probably use a different device for different activities. I consume content (mostly read) on the iPad and the iPad functions as my discovery tool. I go through Twitter and my RSS reader to discover the content I want to process further and I save and organize that content using Evernote or some other app. I write on a Chromebook. Spending hours writing on an iPad seems less practical. For me, switching devices to take advantages of strengths seems productive.

I wonder how decisions are made for students. The apps available for the iPad must be an advantage, but educators who see a focus on writing probably prefer the Chromebook. Both categories of device can perform most functions so I would assume a logical approach is to consider which device is most efficient or cost effective for predominant activities.

Back to the “news” on this topic. Most are probably aware of the LA plan to purchase a huge number of iPads and then the difficulties that were encountered with the implementation. There appears to be more to the story than I realized. It seems that administrators may have made decisions without buy-in from what probably should have been participants in the decision process although it seems the focus was on moving decisively rather than some other less positive motive. It also seems that this was more than just a focus on the iPad with the desire to use Pearson curriculum material.

In other locations, accounts describe a commitment made to the Chromebook in some and a commitment to the iPad in others. It may be useful to process the rationale given for the different decisions.

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Google Slides

Google has released a Slides app for android and iOS. You can now create Google “slideshows” using a phone or tablet.



Given options, it would not be my preference to create presentations from a tablet, but students may be limited to this option.

One hint. I was baffled for a while when trying to do much more than add text to slides. I may have missed something in the instructions. The solution appeared to be creating a file and then exporting to PowerPoint before attempting to do things like insert images. Why this works and whether this is necessary is a little unclear to me, but this is what I had to do to access all features.

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Next Issue

Magazines have not been part of my content consumption effort for many years. Before the internet I used to subscribe to multiple computer magazines to keep up with tech trends. Internet content was sufficient to provide the info I needed and was less expensive.

A new service has caused me to reconsider my magazine decision. Next Issue is an app allowing “all you can eat” access to magazine content for $10 a month. Unlike the Amazon unlimited access book plan, the magazine options cover most of the magazines I am interested in reading. The opportunity to add multiple devices allows my wife and I to share an account.

One warning. The service is dependent on the formatting options allowed by the magazine. Some allow rotation of the page view or alteration of the text size and some do not. The pages look very attractive, but I have trouble with the small size font for some of my choices. The Kindle experience of altering text size to suit personal taste should not be expected. For example, I like the appearance of the content from the free MacWorld web site, but I have trouble reading the articles from the app. The free trial period is a good idea. I would recommend checking out the magazines you value and not being satisfied just knowing they are available.


So, this is not actual size, but you can see what I mean by an attractive page layout. The problem is that the pages from several of the magazines I want to read do not adjust themselves well to an expanded view and I need an expanded view to easily read the text.

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Rumor – Google may offer <13s a way to satisfy COPPA

Evidently 13 is a magic age when it comes to legal use of social media. After that age, what social services learn from your online behavior evidently can do no evil. We all know that children of younger ages have accounts often with the support of their parents, but this requires that someone, the child or parent, lie. It is rumored that Google will provide a way for young users to have accounts allowing access to gmail and YouTube. The approach will likely involve parental input and the opportunity to review activity.

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Another “solution” for higher ed

It seems that alternatives to the lecture class (and books) are popular. Here is another reported in the Atlantic. I am an ex-lecturer (now retired) and textbook author so my take on these alternatives tends to regard them as naive, uninformed, or unlikely to scale. My own research focused on similar techniques required of students outside of the class situation. It always seemed a waste to take presentation time and give it over to “study”. Technology-based systems encouraging responses, reflection, writing, and other opportunities for individual processing of ideas seems better served as activities that can be flexibly scheduled.

Rather than “arguments” in general news sources, I would rather see data reported in a more careful manner. Higher ed should always welcome experimentation and the evaluation of new ideas.

One more comment. Negative reactions to the large lecture are hardly new. Every individual who has carefully followed this issue likely has their own example. Mine comes from an article published in 1967 entitled “Goodbye teacher” (Fred Keller). The notion was that lectures are poorly suited to the needs of individual students. The solution was to focus more on books as individuals can adapt the processing of written content according to personal needs (the issue of motivation never came up). If the lecture approach is so flawed, one wonders why it has survived. I ask this question without assuming we should know better. I would have enjoyed working with 25 students instead of 200. A smaller group and more interaction would have been my preference. One perspective I would encourage is to move away from a given course/situation and attempt to take a broader perspective. How do we keep costs down? Do we increase class size in some situations so that we can offer smaller classes in other situations? What purposes do we assume higher education should serve and how are these various purposes to be funded? My point – do not assume this issue can be addressed without understanding the impact a given decision would have in other areas.

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Data on mobile web use

I collect data sources on technology use. Here is a recent source for mobile web activity broken down by user age. Much of the data of this type are collected by marketing companies and not all is available for general use. This is an exception.

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Those who teach coding

The ACM has been on a mission to promote coding in K-12. Their logic makes sense – coding is important to the 21st century economy. Who can argue? Among the limitations noted in the K-12 setting are the lack of graduation credits for CS courses (either math or science) and the lack of preparation for those who do teach existing programming courses.

A recent analysis from the ACM focuses specifically on teacher preparation.

Some states will accept teacher certifications in STEM-related fields like math, educational technology, and business for their CS teachers, while in other states educators who have only basic exposure to CS but are certified to teach business topics may teach computer science.

I wonder. I wonder what the faculty at my institution would think should the CS department be expected to prepare elementary teachers to teach programming. It is an interesting challenge.

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