Gaming, Open Source, Ready to Learn, Gadgets, Skype, HTML5, Grants – Next Gen Learning, Humanities, Career Training

Please take note of the Next Generation Learning Challenges, a $20 million grant program from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that will feature best uses of technology to improve college readiness and completion. The application deadline is Nov. 19, 2010. See the link and read about the activities they would like to fund near the bottom of this e-mail — it is all about what you do in your eLearning programs!

Fellow ITC member Ryan Schrenk is asking for your help on research for his doctorate. Click on the link to go directly to the survey. The site will require you to create an account and you will need basic FTE and enrollment numbers for your distance education courses during the Fall 2009 semester. Please share this link with the person tasked with leading distance education operations at your institution. The survey closes on Nov. 5, 2010. Send any questions or comments to Ryan Schrenk (

ITC archives these e-mails at The site is restricted to ITC members. Please contact Danielle Perry at or 202/293-3132 if you do not already have a password set up. Chris

Gaming as Teaching Tool
by Steve Kolowich
Oct. 15, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“All work and no play makes a dull syllabus. That is what Sarah Smith-Robbins, director of emerging technologies at the Indiana University at Bloomington, told a somewhat wary audience here at the 2010 Educause conference on Thursday. “Games are absolutely the best way to learn,” she said. “They are superior to any other instructional model.” Smith-Robbins prefaced her remarks by reminding the audience that she was taking an intentionally strong position in order to stoke debate. But she nevertheless argued that games — as simple as tag or as complex as World of Warcraft — can accomplish an array of teaching goals that more traditional pedagogy says it wants to achieve, but often does not.” . . .

Open Source eLearning Tools : eLearning Technology
by Tony Karrer
Oct. 15, 2010, eLearning Technology

“I was just asked about trends in open source for eLearning and particularly open source eLearning tools. Probably one of the better sources on this is Jane Hart’s Instructional Tools Directory ( You can find a long list of tools broken into authoring tools, games/simulations, quiz/test tools, social media, delivery platforms, tracking and whether they support mobile. In addition, she indicates if they are free or cost money – which is not quite the same thing as open source. Beyond that, probably the best thing to do is to use eLearning Learning ( to go through it’s open source eLearning and open source eLearning Tools. Here’s some of what I pulled out. Of course, I’d recommend skimming through eLearning Learning to find the latest and greatest.” . . .

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Announces $27 Million for Three Ready-to-Learn Television Program Grants
Press Release
Oct. 14, 2010, Department of Education

“U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced three awards totaling $27 million for projects to improve educational opportunities for young learners through innovative technology. Grants will be used to develop and deliver high-quality, age-appropriate, educational content to increase the early literacy and mathematics skills of young children age two through eight years old. The current cycle of awards will provide early learning content through the well-planned and coordinated use of multiple media platforms, commonly known as transmedia storytelling. . . . The five-year grants were awarded to three public telecommunications entities [Window to the World Communications, Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting] that will offer services across the nation. In addition to programming content, the grantees will provide outreach materials and resources to families, child care providers, preschool and early elementary teachers and others whose work addresses early learning.” . . .

Americans and Their Gadgets
by Aaron Smith
Oct. 14, 2010, Internet & American Life Project

Cell phones – 85 percent of Americans now own a cell phone. Cell phone ownership rates among young adults illustrate the extent to which mobile phones have become a necessity of modern communications: fully 96 percent of 18-29 year olds own a cell phone of some kind.
Desktop and laptop computers – Three quarters (76 percent) of Americans own either a desktop or laptop computer. Since 2006, laptop ownership has grown dramatically (from 30 percent to 52 percent) while desktop ownership has declined slightly.
Mp3 players – Just under half of American adults (47 percent) own an mp3 player such as an iPod, a nearly five-fold increase from the 11 percent who owned this type of device in early 2005.
Game consoles – Console gaming devices like the Xbox and PlayStation are nearly as common as mp3 players, as 42 percent of Americans own a home gaming device. Parents (64 percent) are nearly twice as likely as non-parents (33 percent) to own a game console.
Tablet computers and e-book readers – Compared to the other devices in this list, e-book readers (such as the Kindle) and tablet computers (such as the iPad) are relatively new arrivals to the consumer technology scene and are owned by a relatively modest number of Americans. However, these devices are proving popular with traditional early adopter groups such as the affluent and highly educated–ownership rates for tablets and e-book readers among college graduates and those earning $75,000 or more per year are roughly double the national average.

Skype 5.0 for Windows Integrates Facebook, Adds Group Video Calls
by Rob Pegoraro
Oct. 15, 2010, The Washington Post

“There’s a new version of Skype out with a couple of interesting features — one of which actually seems worth your time. Skype 5.0 for Windows, released Thursday and documented in a blog post, addresses one user request by adding group video calling. This feature, debuted in test form back in May, lets up to five people see each other hold forth on camera. For now, it’s confined to this Windows release. (I’d report back on how it works, but I’ve yet to round up three people who have installed Skype 5.0 and are online at the same time.) But Skype says it’s coming to its Mac software later this year; if this Luxembourg firm then builds in support for Apple’s FaceTime video-conferencing, which Apple says it plans to make an open standard, things could get interesting.”

U.S. Teen Mobile Report: Calling Yesterday, Texting Today, Using Apps Tomorrow
Oct. 14, 2010, Nielsen Wire

“If it seems like American teens are texting all the time, it’s probably because on average they’re sending or receiving 3,339 texts a month. That’s more than six per every hour they’re awake — an 8 percent jump from last year. Using recent data from monthly cell phone bills of more than 60,000 mobile subscribers as well as survey data from over 3,000 teens, The Nielsen Company analyzed mobile usage data among teens in the United States for the second quarter of 2010 (April 2010-June 2010). No one texts more than teens (age 13-17), especially teen females, who send and receive an average of 4,050 texts per month. Teen males also outpace other male age groups, sending and receiving an average of 2,539 texts. Young adults (age 18-24) come in a distant second, exchanging 1,630 texts per month (a comparatively meager three texts per hour).”

Students Unprepared for Community College Entrance Tests
by Caralee Adams
Oct. 14, 2010, Education Week

“When a student does poorly on a community college assessment test, it can be the beginning of the end of his or her career in higher education. Too often, students take the test unprepared, end up in developmental education courses, become discouraged, and never finish their degrees. A report looking at student experiences with assessment and course placement in California Community Colleges highlights the lack of testing awareness and gaps in the transition process. Mike Kirst, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, was a chief consultant to the report, One Shot Deal, a two-year research study funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Walter S. Johnson Foundation.” . . .

“The solution rests, in part, with better communication with students about the rigor of college-level courses and testing earlier, says Thad Nodine, an independent researcher and one of the report’s authors. ‘K-12 educators and policymakers need to work with community colleges to provide these assessments in high school, during the junior year. That will be an eye-opener for students who are not prepared for college-level classes,’ says Nodine. ‘For students who need to catch up in math or English, high schools need to provide that coursework during the senior year.’ ”


Home Computers and Student Achievement
by Elisabeth Stock and Ray Fisman
Oct. 11, 2010, Education Week

“A spate of recent news stories with attention-grabbing headlines like ‘Home Computers Hurt Students’ Test Scores’ may have many readers reaching the conclusion that a home computer is about as useful an educational aid as a PlayStation. The media reports cite as evidence two research studies — one conducted in North Carolina by Duke University researchers Jacob L. Vigdor and Helen F. Ladd, and the other conducted in Romania by Ofer Malamud of the University of Chicago and Cristian Pop-Eleches of Columbia University. Each study indicates that home computers have a detrimental effect on student achievement, particularly among students from low-income households.” . . .

“The research in North Carolina and in Romania explored whether the presence of home technology, by itself, makes a difference in students’ achievement. Both studies found that home computers did not produce better students (as measured by better test scores). Yet this conclusion is not surprising: We certainly don’t assume that distributing violins will produce violinists, nor do we expect footballs, by themselves, to produce varsity quarterbacks.” . . .

“The Texas Technology Immersion Pilot ( and the Computers for Youth ( program are promising case studies for using wraparound programming to fulfill the home’s potential in helping students learn.” . . .

Will Technology Kill the Academic Calendar?
by Marc Parry
Oct. 10, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Ed

“An adjunct faculty member at Kentucky’s Jefferson Community & Technical College, Mr. Smith teaches in an online program that lets students start class any day they want and finish at their own speed. One student, desperate to graduate, knocked off 113 quizzes and six writing assignments for a humanities course in 46 sleepless hours. But there is a downside to this convenience, and it’s deeper than bleary eyes. The open format of Jefferson’s program, called Learn Anytime, means students don’t move through classes in groups. None of Mr. Smith’s 400 online students will have a discussion or do a group project with classmates.”

“It’s a controversial approach to online education¬-one that is gaining traction at some colleges. Supporters see the self-paced model as a means to serve more students, since no one is turned away because of a full section, missed deadline, or canceled class. Others criticize go-it-alone learning as a second-rate system that leaves students in greater danger of dropping out.”

” ‘Educationally, it’s not defensible,’ says D. Randy Garrison, a veteran distance-education researcher who directs the Teaching & Learning Centre at the University of Calgary. ‘It doesn’t allow students to get a deep understanding of the content.’ Regardless of criticism like that, the model is spreading. Its former champion within Jefferson’s administration, Robert Johnson, plans to make open-entry courses the default for a new online program he leads at the Louisiana Community & Technical College system. At Arizona’s Rio Salado College, home to one of America’s largest online programs, self-paced classes start every Monday. Others that teach this way include StraighterLine, a company that provides online courses, and Athabasca University, a distance-education institution in Canada.” . . .

New Web Code Draws Concern Over Privacy Risks
by Tanzina Vega
Oct. 10, 2010, New York Times

“Worries over Internet privacy have spurred lawsuits, conspiracy theories and consumer anxiety as marketers and others invent new ways to track computer users on the Internet. But the alarmists have not seen anything yet. In the next few years, a powerful new suite of capabilities will become available to Web developers that could give marketers and advertisers access to many more details about computer users’ online activities. Nearly everyone who uses the Internet will face the privacy risks that come with those capabilities, which are an integral part of the Web language that will soon power the Internet: HTML 5.”

“The new Web code, the fifth version of Hypertext Markup Language used to create Web pages, is already in limited use, and it promises to usher in a new era of Internet browsing within the next few years. It will make it easier for users to view multimedia content without downloading extra software; check e-mail offline; or find a favorite restaurant or shop on a smartphone.” . . .

Grant Opportunities

Next Generation Learning Challenges: Best Uses of Technology to Improve College Readiness and Completion
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Proposal Deadline: Nov. 19, 2010

On October 11 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the Next Generation Learning Challenges, a collaborative, multi-year initiative, which aims to help dramatically improve college readiness and college completion in the United States through the use of technology. The program will provide grants to organizations and innovators to expand promising technology tools to more students, teachers, and schools. It is led by nonprofit EDUCAUSE, which works to advance higher education through the use of information technology.

Next Generation Learning Challenges released the first of a series of RFPs today to solicit funding proposals for technology applications that can improve postsecondary education. This round of funding will total up to $20 million, including grants that range from $250,000 to $750,000. Applicants with top-rated proposals will receive funds to expand their programs and demonstrate effectiveness in serving larger numbers of students. Proposals are due November 19, 2010; winners are expected to be announced by March 31, 2011.

Next Generation Learning Challenges invites proposals from technologists and institutions within the education community, but also innovators and entrepreneurs outside the traditional education arena that can show promising results. The initiative will fund RFPs approximately every six to 12 months. The RFP released today seeks proposals that address four specific challenges:

— Increasing the use of blended learning models, which combine face-to-face instruction with online learning activities.
— Deepening students’ learning and engagement through use of interactive applications, such as digital games, interactive video, immersive simulations, and social media.
— Supporting the availability of high-quality open courseware, particularly for high-enrollment introductory classes like math, science, and English, which often have low rates of student success.
— Helping institutions, instructors, and students benefit from learning analytics, which can monitor student progress in real-time and customize proven supports and interventions.

Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants
National Endowment for the Humanities
CFDA No. 45.169

Application Deadline: March 23, 2010 (for projects beginning September 2010)

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invites applications to the Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants program. This program is designed to encourage innovations in the digital humanities. By awarding relatively small grants to support the planning stages, NEH aims to encourage the development of innovative projects that promise to benefit the humanities. Proposals should be for the planning or initial stages of digital initiatives in any area of the humanities. Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants may involve

— Research that brings new approaches or documents best practices in the study of the digital humanities;
— Planning and developing prototypes of new digital tools for preserving, analyzing, and making accessible digital resources, including libraries’ and museums’ digital assets;
— Scholarship or studies that examine the philosophical or practical implications and impact of the use of emerging technologies in specific fields or disciplines of the humanities, or in interdisciplinary collaborations involving several fields or disciplines;
— Innovative uses of technology for public programming and education utilizing both traditional and new media; and
— New digital modes of publication that facilitate the dissemination of humanities scholarship in advanced academic as well as informal or formal educational settings at all academic levels.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program (TAACCCT)
CFDA # 17.282
Department of Labor Fact Sheet

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) amended the Trade Act to authorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT). The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act signed by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2010 included $2 billion over four years to fund this program. . . .

Over the next year, DOL will award approximately $500 million through this grant program. By statute, the program is designed to ensure that every state, through its eligible institutions of higher education, will receive at least $2.5 million in grant awards. . . . DOL anticipates opening the competition for these grant funds in Fall 2010. . . . This program is designed to meet industry needs while accelerating individual learning and improving college retention and achievement rates to increase industry recognized credential or degree completion rates of TAA for Workers program participants and other individuals. DOL is interested in projects that use online or technology driven learning to achieve these objectives. . . .

Gaming, Open Source, Ready to Learn, Gadgets, Skype, HTML5, Grants – Next Gen Learning, Humanities, Career Training

E-Rate Changes, CC Summit, Facebook, Class Size, Tegrity, Skills for America, Challenge Grants

E-Rate Revisions Seen as Good First Step: The New E-Rate: Changes and Implications
by Ian Quillen
Oct. 4, 2010, Education Week

“A Funding Upgrade: The annual funding cap of $2.25 billion for the E-rate program will be indexed to adjust for inflation.”
“Implications: While it’s difficult to say how much that change may affect individual districts, it will mark the first time that the fund has increased since its inception in 1997. Districts across the country applied for far more E-rate aid last year than was available, and others sometimes may not apply because they know the chance of receiving funding is minimal.”

“A Return to the ‘Dark’ Side: School districts and libraries will again be allowed to purchase online connections with E-rate funding via existing but unused, or “dark,” fiber-optic networks.”
“Implications: The ability to purchase a connection via an existing fiber-optic network could potentially save schools money while also allowing them to increase their connection speed. The reason is that increasing a fiber-optic network’s speed involves a one-time intervention, which could be less costly in the long term than a monthly charge to increase the speed of a cable or DSL connection. The Federal Communications Commission previously removed dark-fiber networks from the list of approved providers for E-rate-funded connections in 2003.”

“Schools Are the Spot: Schools and districts will be given the option of extending their Internet connections to the surrounding community during after-school hours, creating ‘school spots.’ ”
“Implications: That option could eliminate one obstacle for school districts that worry about the practicality of assigning online work in locales where many students don’t have the online capability at home to complete it. And it could also be used as an outreach tool in districts where teachers and administrators are looking for a vehicle to help foster a connection with community members.”

“Pilot Plan for Wireless Takeoff: A handful of schools may win funding for after-school wireless-learning programs using a range of devices, including mobile devices, under a pilot program.”
“Implications: Currently, most districts that issue wireless devices for students to use after school do so without E-rate funding, because mobile devices bought with such funds are required to remain on campus. Schools winning funding in the pilot would be free of that requirement, potentially making wireless or mobile learning more affordable and practical for some districts that are considering it.”

Also see this blog posting by Gina Spade from the FCC

Community Colleges’ Day in the Sun
by David Moltz
Oct. 6, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“The long-awaited White House Summit on Community Colleges came and went Tuesday without any monumental legislative or policy announcements, though observers did not expect any. Mostly, the event’s attendees relished the high-profile publicity two-year institutions continue to receive from the Obama administration. In addition, they discussed in groups how to dramatically boost community colleges’ often poor graduation rates, improve their remedial education efforts, and bolster their sometimes neglected job-training role — all in an effort to help a slumping national economy.” . . .

“Reiterating a challenge he made to educators last year, President Obama, who spoke briefly during the summit’s opening session, stressed the importance of community colleges. ‘In just a decade, we’ve fallen from first to ninth in the proportion of young people with college degrees,” Obama said. “That not only represents a huge waste of potential in the global marketplace, it represents a threat to our position as the world’s leading economy. As far as I’m concerned, America does not play for second place, and we certainly don’t play for ninth. So I’ve set a goal: By 2020, America will once again lead the world in producing college graduates. And I believe community colleges will play a huge part in meeting this goal, by producing an additional 5 million degrees and certificates in the next 10 years.’ ” . . .

White House Community College Summit –
“At the White House, Praise and New Challenges for Education’s ‘Unsung Heroes’. “ by Jennifer Gonzalez, Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 5, 2010,

Mixing Work and Play on Facebook
by Steve Kolowich
Oct. 6, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“Learning management is frequently thought of as a top-down activity, with professors setting the agenda and presiding over e-learning environments like they do a traditional classroom. Facebook, meanwhile, has been thought of more as a distraction from schoolwork than a place where students engage with it. Now, a technology team at Purdue University has created a new application that seeks to upend both of those assumptions. The application, called Mixable, is positioned as an e-learning environment that empowers students, and can be used as a little study room and course library inside Facebook.”

“Drawing on course registration data, Mixable invites students in virtual rooms with classmates in each of their courses. Once there, it lets them post and start comment threads about links, files, and other materials that might be relevant to the course — or not. The point is, there is no administrative authority determining what should (or must) be posted or discussed, and students are free to abstain from participating — just like on Facebook. Professors can join in, but they don’t run the show. And students can choose to make posts viewable by some classmates and not others. “In essence, the conversation is owned by the student,” says Kyle Bowen, the director of informatics at Purdue.” . . .

When Less Is More
by Scott Jaschik
Oct. 6, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“The results in analyzing student evaluations showed a clear (negative) impact of increasing class size. “[T]he larger the section size, the lower the self-reported amount learned, the instructor rating, the course rating,” the paper by Monks and Schmidt says. The same is true, to a slightly lesser degree, for instructors who teach more students overall (across all of their sections).”

“Delving further into the evaluations of student experience, the authors find that increasing course size or number of students taught overall ‘has a negative and statistically significant impact on the amount of critical and analytical thinking required in the course, the clarity of presentations, the effectiveness of teaching methods, the daily preparedness of the instructor for class’ and many other factors.”

“The authors write that the study raises important issues for administrators trying to find ways to improve the student experience. Reducing class size will help, they write. But doing so only by hiring many adjuncts who have to teach so many sections that their overall student load is high may be counterproductive, they warn. Hiring adjuncts or anyone to teach too many sections ‘ignores the role that total student responsibility plays in how faculty actually teach these courses,’ the authors write.”


Gut Reactions to McGraw-Hill Acquiring Tegrity
by Joshua Kim
Oct. 4, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“Smart move: The big publishers, (McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Reed Elsevier), all realize that unless they change they will suffer a similar fate as the music publishers. Textbooks will be disaggregated. Content has gone from scarce to abundant. The open education movement, combined with cheap but powerful authoring tools, will insure that quality learning materials are available and discoverable. E-books and tablets offer opportunities for new sales and new markets, but are also a major threat as non-incumbents may offer superior solutions unhampered by legacy business models and high fixed costs. Publishers need to transition from offering a product (the textbook and associated content) to an experience. Lecture capture platforms will be one source in which faculty (and later student!) created content can be seamlessly folded into professionally produced (publisher) content.”

“The Publishers: Will these moves of the big publishers to buy into the LMS and lecture capture market be enough to save them from the fate of the big music publishers? Probably not. The big publishers need to change their mindset faster than they change their product mix. They need to take costs out of their systems now. They need to quickly unbundle and disaggregate their own products. They need to try lots of new business models, and worry less about possibly devaluing their current core businesses. They need to offer alternatives to their own products today, or someone else will do that tomorrow. The Tegrity purchase is a good first step.” . . .

President Obama to Announce Launch of Skills for America’s Future: Program will Create Job Training Partnerships in all 50 States

“Today at a meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB), President Obama will announce the launch of Skills for America’s Future, a new, industry-led initiative to dramatically improve industry partnerships with community colleges and build a nation-wide network to maximize workforce development strategies, job training programs, and job placement.”

“President Obama said, ‘We want to make it easier to join students looking for jobs with businesses looking to hire. We want to put community colleges and employers together to create programs that match curricula in the classroom with the needs of the boardroom. Skills for America’s Future would help connect more employers, schools, and other job training providers, and help them share knowledge about what practices work best. The goal is to ensure there are strong partnerships between growing industries and community college or training programs in every state in the country.’ ” . . .

Foundation Launches $35 million Program to Help Boost Community College Graduation Rates
Press Release
Oct. 4, 2010, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“Melinda Gates today announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is investing $34.8 million over five years to help dramatically increase the graduation rates of today’s community college students. The Completion by Design program will award competitive grants to groups of community colleges to devise and implement new approaches to make the college experience more responsive to today’s student.” . . .

“Completion by Design will build on proven, existing practices already underway at a number of forward-thinking community colleges. The Request for Applications (RFA) announced today seek submissions from groups of community colleges in nine target states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. Up to five multi-campus groups of community colleges will be selected in early 2011 through a competitive evaluation process.” . . .

“Each Completion by Design application must address the needs of low-income students by focusing on innovative approaches to financial aid counseling, course scheduling, and advising. For example, some community colleges have gotten better results by scheduling core classes at times when working students can take them. Plans should identify ways to use technology to more efficiently serve and assess students, and colleges are asked to create strategies for intervening at critical points along a student’s college career.” . . .

Challenge Grants for Two-year Colleges
National Endowment for the Humanities
CFDA No. 45.130

Application Deadline: Feb. 2, 2011

The National Endowment for the Humanities invites two-year colleges to apply in a special Challenge Grant competition to strengthen their long-term humanities programs and resources. Two-year colleges are major educational assets that have too often been overlooked, even though over half of students in post-secondary education attend two-year institutions. The humanities can and should play a vital role in community colleges. The perspectives of history, philosophy, and literature can enrich the educational experience of students attending two-year colleges, deepening their understanding of questions related to differences among cultures, as manifested in diverse understandings of citizenship, politics, and ethics. NEH seeks to encourage two-year colleges to develop models of excellence that enhance the role of the humanities on their campuses.

The goals of this initiative are
— to enable two-year colleges to strengthen programs in the humanities, especially the study of the world’s many cultures and civilizations;
— to support model humanities curricula at two-year colleges that may be replicated at other institutions; and
— to encourage two-year colleges to broaden the base of financial support for the humanities.

E-Rate Changes, CC Summit, Facebook, Class Size, Tegrity, Skills for America, Challenge Grants