Thursday, May 14, 2009

My wiki would rather play shuffleboard.

shuffleboard.gifASU has outgrown its current blog and wiki service, the one we started as a beta back in February 2006. That's close to age 65 in blog and wiki years.

Although many students and faculty members have used this service successfully over the past three years, we're finding it hard to keep up with superior external services like Blogger, Twitter and Google Sites.

These newer services offer improved editing tools, more intuitive interfaces, customizable templates, enhanced multimedia features, upgraded commenting and collaboration features, better group blogging controls, and the ability to post to your blog from your mobile device.

So rather than spend money while continuing to fall farther behind, we're considering retiring ASU's blog and wiki service due to the small number of users and the existence of good, free alternatives like the ones listed above.

I'd like to hear your thoughts and notions about this possibility.

Would it inconvenience you if ASU discontinued this particular service?

How important is it for you to preserve the contents of your existing ASU blog or wiki? Would you be willing to migrate the content yourself into a new blog or wiki if we could show you how, or would you want ASU to do it for you?

How important is it to you that ASU provide blog and wiki services directly or would external services like Blogger or Google Sites be sufficient for your uses?

Please email me with your comments at uto@asu.edu or post them below.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Please Welcome ASU's Newest Freshman to Campus: the Kindle

kindle.jpgFor most college students, it's almost a rite-of-passage to spend big bucks at the bookstore. But with advancements in online publishing, digital textbooks are no longer out of the question. Not only are they cost effective, they're convenient, searchable, environmentally friendly, and may even incorporate rich media, giving students the ability to both read about a subject and maybe watch a video about it too.

And yet, even with all their advantages, traditional paper-based books still rule at universities around the country. What gives? Well, in my view, it's a complicated interaction between publishers, faculty, and students all caught in a 20th century business model that's yet to give way.

But all that may be changing, and soon.

Beginning in Fall 2009, ASU is partnering with Amazon to try out the Kindle DX, Amazon's latest digital reading device, to replace traditional textbooks in the classroom. Selected classes  of students will begin using the Kindle instead of paper books, and we'll be comparing how they fare relative to their paper book wielding counterparts.

For example, thanks to a proposal from Dr. Ted Humphrey, President’s Professor in ASU's Barrett Honors College, a group of students enrolled in this fall's Human Event course will receive their textbooks not as bound books but on a brand new Kindle DX instead. The Human Event is a two-semester course required of all Barrett students that covers a wide range of material from about 50 different sources.

ASU is actively working with Amazon to find those courses of study for which the Kindle is a good alternative to traditional texts. In those areas, Kindle delivered e-books would provide students with a significant cost savings and provide them with an additional flexible learning tool. In addition to cutting textbook costs and reducing the weight in students' backpacks, digital textbooks are available for download wirelessly and reduce the amount of paper used to print and distribute textbooks.

Electronic texts provide the capabilities that today's students have come to expect--they're searchable, flexible, easy to annotate, and less expensive than traditional texts. I'm pumped to work with Amazon and to see how the Kindle can help the University accelerate the adoption of electronic textbooks into a variety of courses.

ASU is one of five universities participating with Amazon in the Kindle pilot. The others are Princeton University, Case Western Reserve University, Reed College, and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

As always, your thoughts, notions, questions and comments are welcome.

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