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

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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!

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?

Destabilising Establishments

While the news in itself isn’t something that is new or unique, it certainly is one in line for establishing a trend that labels will have to rethink their strategy.

Prince Gives The Finger To The Labels—Again: “[…] So it’s fitting that LotusFlow3r.com, his latest project, aims to offer fans a smorgasbord of digital content with little to no label interference. […] Since die-hard fans will only be able to legitimately access this content through the site, it’s a nod to my colleague Rory’s suggestion that labels (but also artists) set up their own digital-distribution platforms instead of relying on third-parties like iTunes and Amazon.”

(Via paidContent.org.)

Music, somehow has always set an example for other content to follow. Will authors publish themselves? And while the Artist formerly called Prince probably has the wherewithal to set up a platform to distribute music, what of the individual author?