NYC tech takes on the classroom | Crain’s New York Business

New boost for interactive content:

Partly spurred by its concentration of intellectual talent, New York is also becoming a hotbed of innovation in educational technology. Venture capital investment in education-related startups in the metro area totaled $95 million in 2011—an 84% spike over the prior year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers/National Venture Capital Association. The number of startups receiving investment money rose to 14, up from eight in 2010.In the long run, newfangled interactive textbooks like the ones Apple and its publishing partners previewed last Thursday are likely to be a minor aspect of education’s digital revolution. But Apple’s entry is certainly helping the revolution along.

All doesn’t seem to be well, however:

In the fourth quarter, VC financing in the New York area plunged 40%, compared with the prior quarter, to $545.1 million.

But experts say the tech-education industry is just getting started. The U.S. business for e-learning products and services in the pre-K to 12-and-higher education markets will grow to $11 billion in 2015, from $7.6 billion in 2011, according to research firm Ambient Insight.

(Via NYC tech takes on the classroom | Crain’s New York Business)

Hat Tip: Samudra Sen

Digital is Different

“The most important thing is not to optimise what you do, but to find out and decide what you should be doing… find out where you should really be and to make sure that you are climbing the tallest peak, not just a false summit…If you get stuck on a small mountain, you get to the top and look around and you find you’re on the wrong mountain. A mile away is a mountain that’s twice as tall…Learn how to search the landscape very widely, and to make sure we find the tallest mountain to climb – that we find the right thing to do. And having done that, if we find ourselves on top of a false summit…In other words we’ve got to get down the mountain, and cross that desert, and come up on the tallest peak. And that’s called letting go, killing a product at its peak.”

(Via Brave New World: Rethinking the Future: The Digital Divide)

This might sound quite abstract by itself — as a ‘thing to do’, but when you read the full article, you will know that it makes perfect sense. Martyn Daniels asks why the publishing industry is still stuck on the print model of the product and tries and retrofit this model in the digital world.

Digital is different and needs to be approached differently — not just as a medium but the social context of what digital is, how it is consumed, and how it is produced. There are no more ‘passive consumers’, and the more we treat them as such, the more we are alienating them from consuming our products. While Martyn makes a specific case in publishing, I suspect it is true across industries; education being no exception.

Hat Tip: Eoin Purcell

Content, Thou art Eternal!

George Siemens makes an interesting note about the state of content around the world – and how it is still alive and kicking, more so because of globalisation.

Education is in the process of being globalized, as is evident through integration of various service provided by big companies (content, LMS, synchronous classrooms, testing/evaluation). While we’re tinkering away with “web 2.0″ and social media, power within education is increasingly being consolidated and models for content roll out and delivery are being scaled up – streamlining production and scaling systems to gain economic advantage reflect the global aspirations of education companies.

via elearnspace › That whole “content is dead thing” isn’t true. Globalization reigns.

To my mind, what’s becoming interesting that all providers of platforms, tools and technology have realised that the trinkets alone can do far less than what they first imagined.Whether it is Blackboard and McGraw Hill or Moodle and Cambridge, what’s really happening is that the content and container are coming together, in a way that makes best sense for consumers of content in this age.

As far as the death of content is concerned, it’s inherent nature is that of being eternal. While it has changed forms and modes of delivery over centuries, it cannot “die” in the true sense of the word. What dies (or rather, slowly fades into oblivion) is the platform from where it is consumed.


No Next Button – Some Examples | MinuteBio

Having seen my share of eLearning courses, built a few, and reviewed quite a few, this link was interesting to read.

No Next Button – Some Examples | MinuteBio

The Back/Next navigation, which relegates interaction outside the content has been done to death, almost like PowerPoint. The learner is a passive consumer of the content – the said interaction is no interaction, but a chore to push the passive state of content from one screen to another. There is no excitement in the “interaction” and the said “interaction” is in a frame that contains the interaction.

Instructionally, this imposes a way of navigating on the learner, that leaves no scope for discovery or exploration. More often than not, moving media (animations, video clips) embedded in the content is often passed for interactive content. This is, at best, active content.

Not all samples in this link are the best in terms of instructional design, but they definitely make a case for breaking away from frame-based navigational interaction.

Hat Tip: Stephen Downes

The Teacher as an Editor

An interesting read today about the new dynamic nature of textbooks.

“Macmillan, one of the largest textbook publishers in the world, is introducing a new software for instructors that will allow them to change the online versions of textbooks that their students use.

According to the New York Times, with DynamicBooks, ‘Professors will be able to reorganize or delete chapters; upload course syllabuses, notes, videos, pictures and graphs; and perhaps most notably, rewrite or delete individual paragraphs, equations or illustrations.'”

(Via Macmillan to allow professors to change textbooks online, on the fly: )

Yet another “path-breaking” initiative from Macmillan (I am referring to the Publishers’ Manifesto [Summary | Full PDF Download] that they came up with a while ago)

This is truly an interesting take on text books by Macmillan. However, as the article rightly suggests, it has it’s dangers about how the textbook may be used by a teacher; and the potential for misuse.

So, does a dynamic textbook have its place in education? I think it does. Only, however, if the delete action is restricted. It is one thing to allow creating context to the content; yet another to allow editing that can change meaning.

Also, I think it is better to leave the “editing” of a textbook to the publishers, who have been doing it well for years. How many teachers would really be qualified to “edit” content? The deletion part – then – is quite scary.

Finally, I wish it was clear how students would use these books. Would they also be allowed to make their own notes and pictures in the text book?

Talk of prosumer content!

An Asynchronous Evolution

This is an issue that has bothered me for long.

Language in the Digital Age: “Text messaging, blogging, emailing, twittering, etc. in many cases force us to use less words. What does this do to the way we interpret what is being said?
Since a desired intent can not come across because of word limitations, the meaning is therefore altered. I think many problems arise from this which are probably more substantial than what is recognized. Entire thought patterns are disrupted by misinterpretations. Our processing of other information has drastically changed. Our intake of information from the vastness of the World Wide Web differs greatly from the way in which we obtain information by reading a book.”(Via Hanna Wiszniewska.)

After you read this article, make it a point to read the source – an article in NY Times. In this article, Anand Giridharadas, wonders

Blogs, though they seek to bring out the writer in us, are notable for how little stress they put on the actual writing. How many literary greats has the rise of the blogosphere produced?


E-mail, meanwhile, has become a linguistic wasteland — even among language lovers. Cellphone keypads make us promise to “call u back after the mtg.” Twitter coaxes us to misspell to meet the 140-character maximum.

There is one argument against the argument that favours the use of good language — evolution. (and this point is well presented in the NY times article) However, the true problem of the decline of language is not so much in the cultural and social implications of the decline as much as in the technical problem that it presents – the loss of meaning due to the absence of context. Meaning has always been bound to context in some form or the other. Context has enriched meaning and provided a basis to build on. It diminishes vocabulary, forcing a loss of nuances, that a rich vocabulary otherwise provides.

We have somehow been forced to multi-task, even with the tasks that we do not really need to do. We are forced to follow everything in this world, although this may not be really relevant to what we need to know. Attention spans decrease, available time is limited, and entire conversations are the proverbial “bullet-riddled PowerPoint presentation”, Giridharadas mentions in the article.

He concludes the article with:

Language may suffer in the coming age simply because we have so many people, near and far, to address, so little time in which to do so, and diminishing patience for rules that slow the headlong rush into linguistic limbo.

However, the dreaded limbo is a factor, to my mind, of the lack of synchronisation of the evolution of language and the human mind.

Open-source or Open-ness?

Michael Feldstein analyses a Blackbord response to the pilot study by the University of North Carolina for Sakai, which will lead to a further investigation of Sakai as a replacement for Blackboard. While it’s a long post (and it should be, for it is an excellent analysis), one thing that caught my attention was about Support Risks (quoted below)

Blackboard’s Response to Open Source: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt: “If Blackboard can’t help you fix your problems, you’re out of luck, because nobody else understands their code or has the right to look at it. If your Moodle vendor can’t help you, you can go to another vendor, or find another adopting school that knows how to fix the problem. You can also fix it yourself. You don’t have to, but unlike with Blackboard, you can. Likewise, if Blackboard were to go out of business (ask WebCT or ANGEL customers if this sort of thing ever happens), you would’t be able to find somebody else to support and continue to develop your platform. Not true with open source support vendors.”

(Via e-Literate.)

This is a very interesting situation to be in, for almost all product companies, in a way, against their open-source alternatives. And I keep coming back to the iTunes App Store model for the iPhone (and therefore the proposed Google Wave/Android App Store). So, it may still work if the product company retains the core platform (Apple in this case), but does open up the platform — to an extent — to allow extensions to the core platform.

I suppose it’s really the confidence of the customer that is at play and at risk here than anything else. It is not necessarily open-source and the cost of free that is in play, but the experience of being locked to an obscure roadmap that’s making more folks consider open-source.

Your take?