Building a better textbook

I think the biggest thing a publisher could do to reduce textbook costs to students would be to allow instructors to customize their textbooks and only pay for material they want.  Several publishers already do this but I think its an idea that has not reached its full potential yet.  No one wants to pay for something they don’t need.  One of the benefits of e-books should be the ability to modify books as the publisher does not need to build lead times into their production schedule for printing.  Alternatively, rather than charging for each textbook purchased, publishers could charge a single flat rate for access to materials to institutions rather than students.  That way universities would be able to better leverage their buying power by purchasing in bulk while publishers would have a steadier stream of revenue.

Personally, I’m okay with the idea of students using content from a text to create their own mashups and posting it online.   The way I see it, either students can either properly cite their references in order to give credibility to their content or they can post it as a “questionable” resource.  In either case, I’m counting on the credibility of the author having value as a respected expert in the field.  That being said, I’m okay with all of this provided the student’s intent is not of a commercial nature.  If the student is simply looking for a new way to present the information in a useful manner, rather than condemning the action, the publisher and author should review their delivery method to see if there are improvements they can make.  As indicated by several sources in the NPR article (http://www.npr.org/2012/02/19/147112456/e-books-flipping-the-page-on-publishing-standards?sc=ipad&f=1019), this is an opportunity to make the book smarter by taking advantage of community feedback.

The common theme in these two ideas is that its time for publishers to work towards creating smarter textbooks.  The days of printing massive textbooks intended to cover everything are gone.  People want smaller and more manageable pieces of data.  Bottom line, if the product were better, people would be willing to pay for it rather than stealing it.

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OERs and VoiceThread

For week 5, we were assigned to groups (Team Waseda!) and asked to look at OERs.  After looking at several OERs, we opted to look at the 20/20 Vision OER offered on OER Commons.  I’m fairly impressed by the material available at OER Commons in that the breadth of material and the general quality seemed to be pretty good.  Once again, the group opted to use Google Hangout to meet and discuss the project.

I have to say, I’m really liking Google Hangouts as I remember during my undergrad and grad days, we used to have to try to find times and places to meet to go over group work.  Being able to meet from anywhere has definitely simplified the process and being able to share data via Google docs and slides makes it just as easy as being in the same room.  The only thing that I wish was that I had a bigger monitor to see all the screens that I have open but maybe another day.

On another note, the group decided to experiment with VoiceThread (https://voicethread.com/) in order to produce our deliverables.  Overall, a fairly simple application to use but as I use more and more applications, I’ve started to realize a few things that are good and bad. For example, a good thing with VoiceThread was that I was able to add a voice over to each slide and the slide would automatically stay on as long as my voice over was.  On the flip side, I wasn’t able to advance the screen and provide a continuous voice over.  Obviously this might be a matter of preference but its something to consider.  Anyway, we’re 5 weeks in and despite the workload, I’m enjoying this class more then I expected.  Lets see what week 6 brings!

Online and naked…

Ok, so maybe not naked. However, there’s a definite feeling of being exposed when being online. Being a fairly private individual, one of the regular issues that I deal with as a smart phone user is how much information is being shared with the applications that I use.  As soon as you download an application, it seems that there are  series of questions that measure how much you’re willing to let the application intrude into your privacy.   “Is it okay to push notices to your phone?”  “Is it okay to turn on location services?”  Finally, there’s my favorite (with sarcasm) “Ok to post to Facebook?”

In reality, my first thought is No!  Do not send me more information.  If I want it, I’ll go and get it!  Please do not turn on my location services.  I know where I am and its none of your business.  Ok to post to Facebook?  Excuse me, I don’t even know if I want my friends to post things to my Facebook account and you think I want to let to let some stranger post comments to my wall?  That being said, it’s a slippery slope once you start installing these applications and letting them access your personal data.  Trying to find out traffic conditions before heading home?  There’s an app for that.  The one that I happen to use is called Waze.  Waze uses the location of its various users to track traffic speed and adds it to a map.  Sounds great but wait a second, so the app knows exactly where I’m going and how fast I’m going?  What other data does it capture?  Does it keep track of where I go frequently?  In all likelihood, anyone looking at my traffic patterns would be able to find my home and business addresses without much trouble at all.  Is that really what I want to do?

As with every application that I install, it’s a matter of weighing the pro’s and con’s.  Do I really want to know how much traffic is ahead or why I’m stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.  Unfortunately yes, I do want to know.  Most radio traffic updates are fairly useless but I’ll stop there before I digress too far.  Am I worried about how much information is being collected?  Yes, but the benefits of the data I receive for now outweigh the drawbacks.  I go through this before every application that I download.

Looking for coffee?  There’s an app for that too.  Starbucks has an app that will keep your membership, how much is on your gift cards, and conveniently tell you where the closest one is.  Sounds great right?  Nope, turns out that Starbucks had knowingly sacrificed data security in favor of ease of use.  Sounds like another app to delete.  Count me in on the many that have gone back and deleted the app.  So if you see me looking sleepy and lost, just point me in the direction of the closest Starbucks .  I might not tell you thanks right then but I’ll be thinking it as soon as I get a drink in my system.

Palladium…

Palladium

Week 3 is now officially in the books!  I’d like to thank James and Jonah (Team Palladium) for being great collaborators as we were able to get our project done.  While I’ve used Google hangouts to do some consultation with my staff at Maui College, I’ve never done a multi-person hangout before. It was surprisingly easy to do although I found it easier to work with a large monitor then my laptop screen.  I started “losing” things on my smaller laptop screen as everything started overlapping as I kept opening new windows up.  Still, a great app and it worked perfectly connecting the three of us despite the distance involved.

On a side note, I need to learn to trust that little voice in my head that tells me to double check things.  For some reason, I thought our meeting was at 9 am which seem strange considering the time difference between the group members.  I logged in dutifully at 9 am and sat around for a bit till I finally acknowledged that I had my times wrong.  Instead of 9 am, the meeting was set for 9 pm.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I need to do a better job of tracking my schedule in the future.

On to week 4!