GI Bill Changes, App Skills, Open Texts, Communities, Wesch Robinson Videos, Invisible Labs, Grants

To: ITC Members
From: Christine Mullins
Date: Jan. 31, 2011

Changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill to Benefit Distance Learning Students
Department of Veterans Affairs

On Jan. 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, which makes a significant change to the Post-9/11 GI Bill which will help distance learning students. In addition to tuition and textbook assistance, “housing allowance is now payable to students (other than those on active duty) enrolled solely in distance learning. The housing allowance payable is equal to one-half the national average basic allowance for housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents. The full-time rate for an individual eligible at the 100 percent eligibility tier would be $673.50 for 2011.

Is The “New” Post-9/11 GI Bill Really A “Win” For Vets?
by Daniel Caldwell
Dec. 30, 2010, Vantage Point

. . . “The bill will also add BAH benefits for distance-learning (aka online) students; however the amount will only be half the national average. I was always under the impression (and I could be wrong) that the reason why the post-9/11 GI Bill didn’t have BAH benefits for distance-learning students was to discourage veterans from attending shady ( online for-profit universities. However, online programs are more flexible, especially for veterans with families and jobs and many state schools offer online degree programs that are cheaper than traditional programs. If anything, the VA should be encouraging certain veterans to enroll in online programs.” . . .

See the Benefits Estimator

For more background, see the article Elizabeth Redden wrote in the Jan. 23, 2009 issue of Inside Higher Ed, “Disincentive for Distance Learning.”

How’s Your HTML5? App Skills in Demand
by Joe Light
Jan. 31, 2011, The Wall Street Journal

“Times are good for Web- and mobile-application developers. The number of online listings containing the keywords ‘HTML5,’ ‘Mobile app,’ and ‘Android,’ have skyrocketed over the past year, making them the fastest growing keywords in jobs posted online, according to data tracked by jobs search engine The number of job listings requesting HTML5, the latest version of the language used to display Web pages, increased 13-fold between the first and fourth quarters of last year, according to Indeed. ‘Twitter’ and ‘jQuery,’ which is used in JavaScript programming, rounded out the top five fastest growing keywords.”

“Customers of, a job board for tech professionals, expect cloud computing — which enables users to access programs and data stored online — and mobile-application development to be two of the quickest growing in-demand skill sets this year, said Tom Silver, senior vice president of North America for Dice Holdings Inc. ‘Virtually all companies are figuring out how to make use of mobile apps and don’t know how to do it as well as they need to,’ he said.”

McGraw-Hill to Provide English Instruction and Test Prep Through Cellphones in India
by Josh Keller
Jan. 30, 2011, Chronicle of Higher Education

“McGraw-Hill is building a mobile-phone platform to teach English and college test preparation to people in India, which the publisher hopes will help it tap into rapidly expanding cellphone use in emerging markets. The platform, mConnect, comes as textbook publishers are jockeying to supply learning materials on digital devices. If the software is successful in India, McGraw-Hill plans to offer it in other developing countries in Asia and Africa. The service will initially teach subscribers through text messaging and automated voice response, said Bruce D. Marcus, McGraw-Hill’s executive vice president. For instance, automated software will give Indians feedback on their English-speaking abilities, and a text-message service will offer test-preparation questions and grade the responses.” . . .

The(se) Kids are All Right: Interview with SmartlyEdu Founders
by Keith Hampson
Jan. 30, 2011, Higher Education Management Group

“Alain Meyer, a 17 year-old high school student in Zurich (Switzerland) and Nick Howell, a college student in Indiana (USA), have built a learning management system that reflects the importance of good design. But, SmartlyEdu is about more than design. It also assumes the Net is, first and foremost, a social environment. And sharing of content is part of the system’s basic architecture.” . . .

“What do you see as the limitations of the current LMS model? The main issue is that current learning management systems are developed primarily by people who don’t use the software. They’ve designed their systems around the idea of having as many features as possible while still not getting the fundamentals right. Moodle, Blackboard and the other leaders in the space, focus on feature checklists rather than aiming for the features that people actually use. They just put in everything to accommodate everyone. Smartly may not be optimal for people who want very fine customization and setups, but for everyone else, it will be an unrivaled experience.” . . .

10 More Reasons Why Parents Should Not Send Their Kids to College
by James Altucher
Jan. 30, 2011, The Business Insider

1. People say: Kids learn to be socialized at college.
2. People say: Kids learn how to think in college.
3. Statistics say: College graduates make much more money than non-college graduates.
4. One person said: Not everything boils down to money.
5. My Experience.
6. Parents are scammed.
7. Alternatives. See my just-published post on alternatives to college

Education Without Limits: Why Open Textbooks Are the Way Forward
by David Wiley
Jan. 26, 2011,

There are 400 million openly licensed materials that can empower teachers to be better instructors through that openness. But there’s a big barrier: adoption. In this video, David Wiley talks about the opportunity and the challenges.

Networks, Neighbourhoods and Communities: A Reflection
by Stephen Downes
Jan. 30, 2011, Half an Hour

. . . “So much discussion in the field of education is based in loosely defined terminology and concepts. Take, for example, the advice to ‘form community’. There are many things this advice could be manifest as, including any of the three accounts of community given above, and a wide variety of other permutations.” . . .

“Typically, the advice to ‘form community’ is understood as advice to form solidary activities and sentiments – what I would in other works characterize as groups – but which here may be more precisely understood as actions undertaken in unison (‘collaboration’) and sentiments held in unison (‘commonality’). But of course such exhortations are only one way communities can organize, and not even the most effective ways. But there is always no shortage of people – Larry Sanger, Jaron Lanier, Sherry Turkle, to mention a few raised recently – ready to lament the ‘lost community’ or ‘techno-groupthink’ in technology-based education.”

“What do these criticisms mean? What is their validity? Rather than use prejudicial and imprecise vocabulary, we can examine what it is about technology-supported learning and its proponents that bothers these authors. Perhaps it’s all about a sentiment of community lost, as defined above. In such a case, we can respond to it meaningfully, with clarity and precision.”

“Or take the discussion of ‘interaction’ in online learning. While more interaction is typically lauded as better, we tend to be sharply limited to narrowly defined notions of interaction – perhaps Moore’s formulation of learner-content, learner-instructor or learner-learner interaction. Or maybe Anderson’s more sophisticated formulation of the same idea.”

“But if we can approach the concept of ‘interaction’ from the network perspective, allowing for the existence of many types or strands of interaction, many degrees or strengths of interaction, various interactive media, and more (as I tried to explain in this series). Again, the point is that we can use network terminology to explain much more clearly complex phenomena such as instruction, communities and interaction.”

“Wellman and Leighton’s paper was written in 1970. It is well-worth anyone’s while to look at more recent work to appreciate the depth and utility of network analysis.”

Egypt Cuts Off Most Internet and Cell Service
by Matt Richtel
Jan. 28, 2011, New York Times

“Autocratic governments often limit phone and Internet access in tense times. But the Internet has never faced anything like what happened in Egypt on Friday, when the government of a country with 80 million people and a modernizing economy cut off nearly all access to the network and shut down cellphone service. The shutdown caused a 90 percent drop in data traffic to and from Egypt, crippling an important communications tool used by antigovernment protesters and their supporters to organize and to spread their message.” . . .

Blackboard and McGraw-Hill Test New Course System in 20 Pilots
by Dian Schaffhauser
Jan. 27, 2011, Campus Technology

“A slew of schools are testing out a blend of course management functionality and textbook content that could make for a simpler transition for institutions to the use of more digital curriculum. Blackboard and McGraw-Hill Higher Education have put together an integrated digital course system that combines a single point of access, learning tools, and class content, along with multiple other features.”

“Currently, 20 colleges and universities are running pilots tests, and an additional 100 instructors are expected to participate. The offering combines the latest version of Blackboard Learn, a learning management system, with McGraw-Hill’s Connect and Create. Connect is an application to help faculty create digital course content and assignments and do automatic grading; Create lets faculty compile textbooks that use their own materials as well as content from the company’s publishing portfolio.”

“The joint offering, which has no name, features single sign-on to give users access to all of the programs with one log-in and does automatic grade synchronization between Connect assignments and the Blackboard Learn gradebook. Faculty can build their own textbooks by compiling chapters from the McGraw-Hill catalog and then selling them to students through a link on the course site. Other tools enable instructors to provide students with textual content and recorded lectures, also from within the course site. The product is expected to be widely available in summer 2011 and will run on Blackboard Learn version 9.1.” . . .

Video Uses Student Voices to Explore New Directions in Education
by Tushar Rae
Jan. 26, 2011, Chronicle of Higher Education

Michael Wesch, an associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, began “The Visions of Students Tomorrow” on January 18. It is a new video-collaboration project that he hopes will help generate a conversation about the “media-ated life” of many students. He wants not only to gain insights into how students interact with their dense and ever-changing media environment, but also to tackle the question of whether instructors have kept pace with it.

RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms
Sir Ken Robinson
Oct. 14, 2010

This animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award.
For more information on Sir Ken’s work visit:

The Invisible Computer Lab
by Steve Kolowich
Jan. 20, 2011, Inside Higher Ed

“In the future, campus computer labs will be invisible, personal computers will be shapeshifters, and colleges will have to spend much less to make sure students have access to the software they need for certain courses. This according to technology officials at several colleges that have recently deployed “virtual computing labs” — Web-based hubs where students can go to use sophisticated programs from their personal computers without having to buy and install expensive software, or slog to a campus lab and pray for a vacant workstation.”

“Essentially, the virtual “lab” is a protocol that takes programs running on college hardware and beams the images via the Web to any computer desktop, where students can create and save work as though the programs were running on their own hard drives. Since the performance of the software does not depend on the processing power of the computer — only on the strength of the Internet connection — even students with relatively clunky machines can use advanced software without difficulty, campus technologists say.” . . .

The Social Side of the Internet
by Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith
Jan 18, 2011, Pew Internet and American Life Project

“The internet is now deeply embedded in group and organizational life in America. A new national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has found that 75 percent of all American adults are active in some kind of voluntary group or organization and internet users are more likely than others to be active: 80 percent of internet users participate in groups, compared with 56 percent of non-internet users. And social media users are even more likely to be active: 82 percent of social network users and 85 percent of Twitter users are group participants.”

“In this survey, Pew Internet asked about 27 different kinds of groups and found great diversity in group membership and participation using traditional and new technologies. It becomes clear as people are asked about their activities that their use of the internet is having a wide-ranging impact on their engagement with civic, social, and religious groups. Asked to assess the overall impact of the internet on group activities:” . . .

Evaluating Online Tutorials for University Faculty, Staff, and Students: The Contribution of Just-in-Time Online Resources to Learning and Performance
Jennifer Brill and Yeonjeong Park
January 2011, International Journal on E-Learning

Abstract: The effective integration of current technologies in teaching and research is a high priority for today’s universities. To support the technology skills of university faculty, staff, and students, the subject university’s office for faculty training and support, provides free, 24/7 access to a collection of online technology tutorials leased from a professional vendor, PBJ (pseudonym). Despite significant financial investment, the effectiveness of these tutorials has never been evaluated. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of PBJ online technology training tutorials in supporting the technology skills development of faculty, staff, and students at a large university. A customized Web-based survey was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data from PBJ users. Findings revealed that PBJ users are largely satisfied with this online learning resource. However, users also recommended improvements: providing alternative formats/media for flexibility in learning; offering more practice opportunities to skill-build; providing content that is current, comprehensive, and targets high-need areas; and resolving usability issues such as cumbersome navigation. In sum, findings resulted in practical recommendations for improvement to this facet of the university’s technology support strategy as well as insights for other universities engaged in similar efforts. Implications for effective e-learning evaluation are offered.

Upcoming Grant Deadlines

Computing Education for the 21st Century (CE21)
National Science Foundation
Solicitation 10-619

Full Proposal Target Date: Feb. 22, 2011 (Planning proposals ONLY)
Full Proposal Deadline Date: April 27, 2011 (Type I and Type II proposals ONLY)
Full Proposal Target Date: July 28, 2011 (Planning proposals ONLY)

The Computing Education for the 21st Century (CE21) program seeks to reverse engage “larger numbers of students, teachers, and educators in computing education and learning at earlier stages in the education pipeline. While interventions in primary education are within scope, the CE21 program focuses special attention on activities targeted at the middle and high school levels (i.e., secondary education) and in early undergraduate education.”

“The goals of the CE21 program are to:
— Increase the number and diversity of K-14 students and teachers who develop and practice computational competencies in a variety of contexts; and
— Increase the number and diversity of early postsecondary students who are engaged and have the background in computing necessary to successfully pursue degrees in computing-related and computationally-intensive fields of study.”

“The program seeks to increase computational competencies for all students, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, disability status, or socioeconomic status, and regardless, too, of eventual career choices. By promoting and enhancing computing K-14 education, the CE21 program seeks to increase interest in computing as a field in its own right, and also to better prepare students for successful careers in other computing-intensive fields.” . . .

GI Bill Changes, App Skills, Open Texts, Communities, Wesch Robinson Videos, Invisible Labs, Grants

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