Kindle Academic Publishing With Pronetos

The hype and opprobrium on Amazon’s Kindle is out. The verdict is in: usability AND content are king. Depending on who you read, the Kindle succeeds or fails on one or both counts.

As I type this out on my iPhone, I have to say: the Kindle must win on both usability and content to soar. But, Amazon’s strength is so heavily weighted to content, that is the place they should focus.

Enter Pronetos. Pronetos looks to be the iTunes of the academic coursepack. And if the iPod and Facebook/MySpace have proved anything, they have proved that kids alone can make a platform succeed if it has the content and/or connectivity they crave. They will even buy a second device if necessary.

Amazon: get academic publications on the Kindle now. Add the smart pen (ie, social networking) and the sky’s the limit.

I’ll integrate it all with my iPhone later ;)

Reporting = Aggregation

The funniest monkey and driving force behind DrupalEd, Bill Fitzgerald, just posted about a new feed aggregation demo via Drupal:

Bill’s post got me thinking about a problem I’ve been ruminating on from a related arena: the world of academic eportfolios. The issue: How to enable a high degree of independence for individuals in the stewardship of their eportfolios, but at the same time facilitate the use of material from those eportfolios for collective (aggregated) goals, such as academic course, career, program and/or institutional assessment?

Most systems that provide approaches to this issue err on the side of centralization. But one problem they face is scalability: How do you provide a good user interface to a centralized tool that reports on (aggregates) say, 25,000 user eportfolios? Another problem they face is standardization: The collectivity likes information in trees and boxes while the individual (and their learning pathways) often produce a much looser collection of stuff.

Bill’s demo started me thinking that the more elegant (only workable?) solution to this issue is a far looser coupling of the individual eportfolio and the central reporting (aggregating) function. Let the individual create willy-nilly, but when it matters, tag with care. Let the collectivity build more sophisticated aggregators of tagged user creations rather than trying to box and prune them from the outset.

The six hours Bill spent building his demo were enough to let me envision not so many hours more spent to extend his work to model a better solution to this eportfolio conundrum. A solution where the individual has their cake and the collectivity eats (aggregates) it too.

UC-Davis University CMS Survey

UC-Davis just published results from a well-designed survey on university web content management system usage.

Over 60% of respondents were using a web CMS and homegrown/open source systems were more common than proprietary systems.  Plone/Zope combined was the most common, followed closely by Homegrown, and then Drupal.

Today, the Requirements and Evaluation committee of the UC Davis Web CMS initiative posted results from an online survey of campuses completed last month.

The survey was conducted to collect comprehensive data about the adoption and use of Web content management systems among institutions of higher education, and to make this information available to communicators, webmasters, technologists and other key campus personnel. Our goal was to learn about the experiences – both positive and negative – of other universities in the adoption of Web CMS, and to share this information with those who may currently be considering the same.

Read the summary, and view and discuss the survey results at:

Educational Futures

I just attended the first meeting of a parent/teacher/student group at my daughter’s public, science/math/technology magnet school—Winterhaven. The group was formed to deal with a mandate from Portland Public Schools to grow the school’s student body, and then necessarily move, or renovate, because the school’s current building can only serve about 360 students.

Now that I have school-age kids, the whole question of public education is taking on a new relevance for me. My own educational background included being “home schooled” for grades 1-6 thanks to my parents’ realization that our local Colorado public schools were inadequate, and attending Open Living, a unique public alternative school in grades 7-12. Based on my own “alternative” experience, I’m a big believer in the necessity of quality, public education for all to support democracy and civil society.

A large part of the discussion started by PPS’s mandate to Winterhaven has been focused on that particular school, and/or what building it should be located in.

I find my thoughts moving away from these immediate concerns to what it will take to make public education in Portland (or elsewhere) sufficiently vibrant to continue to attract students like my daughters and at the same time serve the largest possible population.

So far, I find PPS’s focus on standardizing school profiles and sizes to be at odds with my knowledge that it is in fact options and alternatives that attract me to public education in Portland. I just don’t buy the idea that our desire for educational equity will be best served by making all schools the same. I believe that drive will lead all schools to the lowest common denominator, and soon drive the middle class away from public education even more dramatically than it already is.

Once the middle class gives up on public schools, I fear a downward spiral where fewer resources generate increasingly poor educational opportunities. I don’t think such a situation will be good for anyone, least of all the less advantaged in whose name school standardization is adopted.

A better path will be to support and celebrate diversity, not just in our public student body, but in the schools themselves. One school might make its mark as a vibrant neighborhood school; another might be an arts magnet. Each should have it’s own identity.

The job of  PPS Superintendent Phillips and the School Board should be to support school diversity, not standardize. If they don’t think there are enough resources to support school diversity now, wait until the middle class pulls out of public education entirely and see how many resources are left.

Given the worthy people around the table with me in this Winterhaven conversation, I have faith that we can produce good recommendations. And in an ideal world, PPS will have the vision and resources to make some of them happen.