Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fuel alternatives?

More reports today about scientists' efforts to create fuel from chicken fat:

Don't they get it? They're barking up the wrong tree! What we need is an invention to convert HUMAN fat into fuel. Then we wouldn't have to rely on foreign fuel imports at all! :-)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

So what is school really about? (football)

It's so encouraging to know what really drives our systems of higher education! This morning I got up bright and early to try and get some extra work done at school, and once I arrived on campus realized it was GAMEDAY. (If you don't read this blog often, I should mention I'm a new student at the University of Georgia, where they take their football, seriously).

So I did, miraculously, find some parking open near my building in between the tailgaters already set up for the game, but can I park on campus? No! I would need an athletic parking permit, priced at several hundred dollars, or pay a hefty fine. What if I wanted to just park there for a few hours? $20 for a single stall in the parking terrace.

But wait! Isn't this an institution of higher learning, not higher football playing? Isn't the point of these buildings existing so I can study and develop my intellect? Shouldn't a student trying to find a quiet cubicle to work take priority?

You would think so.

And Georgia officials wonder why their school does so poorly in academics and ranks high in partying. Is it any wonder?

(BTW, I am typing this post at home, where I will attempt to work with toddlers in the background. I love sports--and I love football--but I love education more, and it's sad to see which activity rules the roost at my new school.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Call for ideas: Systemic change and distance learning

I'm co-authoring a very short blurb for TechTrends on the possible impact systemic change theories could have on distance learning, or vice versa. Any ideas out there about this? I'd love to hear them as we're in the thinking stage of this right now.

Here are some thoughts I've had ...

- The impact of alternative degree-granting DL
institutions on change in higher education (and K-12
for that matter). It seems that whereas higher ed's
been resistance to change, the emergence of
competition from these alternative avenues for getting
a degree is forcing higher ed, to some degree, to
change. Maybe we could point this out, and talk about
how systemic change thinking is important in higher ed
because we can either thoughtfully design how we will
change or else change only as a necessary reaction to
the competition in order to stay marketable.

- It seems that DL is pushing change in many ways
besides just the fact that more courses are now
offered online. Because of the nature of DL learning,
it seems instruction is moving towards more
self-regulation,and project/problem-based activities,
etc. So DL can be a powerful tool for effectuating
change in teaching pedagogy and practice -- and do far
more than simply offering "anytime/anyplace learning"
which is what people think the main advantage of DL

- DL is changing the hierarchical structure of
instruction as well, flattening it out so that more
people have access to learning opportunities
regardless of their situation. This is especially true
in developing countries, I think, with many of the
initiatives to bring open learning there.

- There are many ways that DL is changing the
educational system besides just how people are taught.
For example, I have been reading an Educause report
about how the emergence of DL is forcing us to rethink
things like accreditation (how do you accreditate
completely online programs where you can't visit the
campus and "see it for yourself?), funding (should fed
government have different process for awarding
financial aid for DL courses?), and quality control
(what is "good" DL? How do we protect students from

I'm also wondering how to talk about systemic change and DL when DL is very unsystematic. Can it still contribute to systemic change in education?
wasting money on DL degrees that may not help them?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Some things shouldn't be done! (Star Wars musical)

Well, I haven't had the most productive day today, but it's comforting that whatever I've done will hopefully be more useful than this!

"The MIT Musical Theatre Group will be staging a musical version of the Star Wars Trilogy (Eps. IV through VI). There will be tap-dancing stormtroopers, singing Ewoks, etc."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Google's hypocrisy?

A friend of mine, Rich Culatta, just vented his frustrations over Google:

A year ago I thought Google was the answer to all of the world’s problems, today I’m changing my mind. I have two major frustrations with Google. The first is that they do not release any of their products for Mac users. I would pay to have a copy of Picasa for Mac if they would just port it over. Perhaps they think that because Mac users have iPhoto they don’t need Picasa (probably because they’ve never actually tried using iPhoto). Anyway, there is no similar excuse for not releasing Google Earth and Talk for Macintosh.

With Rich, I share more than the same first and middle names--I also share this growing annoyance with Google's product limitations! For a corporation that claims to value open/free access to products, information, etc. with its Google Print and other initiatives, why do they close the doors to a small, but significant share of the market when they don't port their products to Macintosh? Why shouldn't Picasa run on all platforms? Why would you claim Google Talk allows you to talk to anyone, "anywhere in the world" when it doesn't run on Mac? I know you can run Google Talk with the help of other clients, but that just seems silly--why not just use these other clients then?

And for goodness sake, why do you still need an invitation to sign up for Gmail? This closed-door approach is really annoying, and if Google's interfaces weren't so much more usable than any of their competitors, I'd be tempted to switch.