Later this year, the much-debated .xxx top level domain will go live, but the domain name gold rush is already on. The .xxx domain is being presented as a sort of “red light district” for the internet. But before all that happens, individuals and organizations with a trademark are being given the opportunity to snap up .xxx domains to protect their brands. It turns out that one group taking advantage of this is higher education.
A recent article in The New York Times is a must read for any college student. No, it doesn't illustrate 101 different ways of serving up Ramen Noodles and other low-cost cuisine, but it does examine the idea of open-source textbooks, which could very well leave plenty of room in the budget for more robust meals (or bigger parties).
Spearheading the open-source textbook movement is Scott G. McNealy, co-founder and former chief executive of Sun Microsystems. Ever since Oracle acquired Sun earlier this year, McNealy has been focusing his attention on Curriki, an online portal for free textbooks and other course material.
"We are spending $8 billion to $15 billion per year on textbooks [in the U.S.], McNealy says. "It seems to me we could be put all that online for free."
Open-source textbooks, which are often written by retired teachers or groups of teachers, are starting to gain in popularity, according to The New York Times. But NYT says the movement has also been slow going.
Anthony Orsini is the principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in New Jersey, and he has some pretty strong feelings about middle school students using social networking. In a recent email to parents he said in no uncertain terms that parents should ban their children from using social networking sites like Facebook. "There is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None," said Orsini in the email.
Orsini's concern is the trend of so-called "cyber-bullying", which he feels has exacerbated problems in the school. The schools guidance counselor claims that about 75% of her day is spent dealing with issues connected to social networking. He goes on to suggest that parents install monitoring software on their computers and check their text messages regularly. Since you know, most parents can totally outsmart their tech savvy offspring.
The whole effort seems a bit confused by the assumption that everything on the internet is shady. At one point Orsini refers to Formspring as "one of the newest internet scourges, a site meant simply to post cruel things about people anonymously". That's news to us. Where do you come down? Should parents lock their kids out of Facebook and the like? Or is this just the new method of communication for that generation?
Carrying an armful of heavy textbooks to and from class may become a thing a past, that is if Marvell has anything to do with it. That's because Marvell this week announced a self-recognized "bold new education initiative" to deliver a sub-$100 mobile tablet called "Moby" that the company claims could eliminate the need for buy and carry bount textbooks.
"Education is the most pressing social and economic issue facing our country and our times. I believe the Marvell Moby tablet can ignite a life-long passion for learning in all students everywhere. Marvell's goal is to fundamentally improve the way students learn by giving them more efficient, relevant -- even fun tools to use. Marvell's Moby tablet recognizes that every student learns differently and so it delivers an array of media choices fo different learning styles," said Weili Dai, Marvell's co-founder, VP, and GM of Marvell Semiconductor's Consumer and Computing Business Unit.
Marvell goes on to list out several advantages over traditional textbooks, which the company says are rising in cost and are too heavy for students. But are schools -- and society -- ready to switch to tablets? We'll soon find out. Marvell said it will soon announce a pilot program in partnership with the District of Columbia Public School system (DCPS) where the company will donate a Moby tablet to every child in an at-risk school.
Amazon is betting the future of textbooks lies in e-ink, not paper, but even more evidence is mounting to suggest that they still have some work to do before the device is accepted universally. The Kindle DX which comes with a slightly larger screen than most eBook readers, along with a $489 price tag aims to reduce the burden of carrying dozens of books from class to class, but its shortcomings have some students ready to trade back down to the dead tree edition according to the Associated Press. "I like the aspect of writing something down on paper and having it be so easy and just kind of writing whatever comes to my mind," says Claire Becerra, a freshman at Arizona State University. Becerra further complained that notes made on the device often didn’t make sense because they were laced with typos and she relies more heavily on the highlighter tool as a result.
When asked how the device could be improved Madeline Kraizel, a freshman at Case Western Reserve University said a better system for managing bookmarks was needed, and a way that page numbers could remain consistent, so both teacher and student could reference material properly. Other students suggested that reading PDF files was often difficult, and if they weren’t formatted properly, zooming in to make the text readable didn’t always work.John Sherman, a first-year MBA student at the University of Virginia, claims that he still finds himself printing off case studies delivered in PDF format about half the time. "For the cases that require a lot of calculations, I find paper cases to be better," says Sherman, 31. "For me, it helps to scribble my thoughts in the margins."
It wasn’t all bad news for Amazon mind you. Students generally liked the concept behind the initiative, and many made use of some of the more unique features such as text to speech, allowing them to study more often. So, do you think the future of textbooks lies in e-Ink?
Although, earlier this year, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology mandated that the vaguely named “Green Dam Youth Escort” web filtering software be bundled with all new PCs, including the imported ones, it later postponed the July 1 deadline before eventually scrapping its edict last month.
However, it is still mandatory for those administrating public use computers to have Green Dam Youth Escort installed on such machines. But one unnamed Chinese high school is said to have flouted the government’s order by deleting the software from its computers. It is not often that China offers obeisance to outside pressure.