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Why using only Google may not be such a good idea… July 30, 2007

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Research Tools, Searching.
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As a follow-up to our discussion about the role of Google at the last Information Services meeting, you may find this report by the folks at Dogpile interesting:



“Only 3.6 percent of the #1 ranked non-sponsored search results were the same across all search engines [Google, Yahoo Search, Live Search, Ask] for a given query…”


Did you know 2.0 – youtube video July 30, 2007

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Marketing, Video, Web 2.0 Tools.
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A thought-provoking and entertaining 8 minute video on technological change and its educational implications. Thanks to Carlie Hoffman for discovering it and sharing.




Mackinac Center Policy Brief: Michigan Higher Education July 30, 2007

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Higher Education, Michigan.
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Here’s an 8-page policy brief on the state of Higher Ed revenues in Michigan. Given the recent fiscal situation, perhaps this may appear too rosy?


YouTube for PowerPoint? November 18, 2006

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Presentation Tools.
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Shame on me for not paying attention. I’d seen mention of slideshare several times recently, but didn’t really get the significance. Slideshare is like one big conference website, with presentations on all kinds of topics. Great for learning, for posting presentations from your event, or submitting class projects. It’s like a “YouTube for PowerPoint.” Check it out.

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Overheard on the elevator November 12, 2006

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Gadgets.
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How do people learn about new technology? The Web? User manuals? Third party books? Well, in many cases, they talk to their friends and acquaintances about it.

Three people on the elevator, admiring a new mini MP3 player:

Q1: “Can you recharge it through your computer?”

A: “No it just takes batteries.”

Q2: “How many songs does it hold?”

A: “About 50 to 55, I think.”

Q3: “How do you turn it off?”

Elevator door opens and the group leaves. Informal learning is very important, and even tech-savvy millennials have trouble with technology usability.

It’s Easy! Just Hit the Button! October 24, 2006

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Gadgets, Usability.
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I was helping a friend today by taking her picture with her digital camera. By all accounts, this is a VERY easy camera to use–when you know how, that is. As our gadgets grow greater in number, smaller in size and increasingly more complex, even the most tech-savvy people are prone to occasional fumbling of the George Jetson variety (“Jane, how do you stop this crazy thing!?!”). Many more controls are crammed into smaller spaces or have numerous “Transformer”-like functions. Labels, if they exist at all, employ tiny print and cryptic symbols. On top of all this, no two brands, makes or models operate in the same way. If cars were like this, we’d all crash (at least moreso than we do already).

We have often berated computer manufacturers and software designers for their lack of attention to usability. Perhaps it’s time to shift some of the heat onto the makers of cameras, phones, music players and TV remotes. Hello, hello? Is this thing on?

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Gmail.edu??? October 13, 2006

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Email.

Google is offering to provide student email services to colleges for free. While this may create a loss of control for campus IT departments and contribute to overall Google world domination, it might offer the superior mail services of Gmail to an eager student base. I, for one, can’t wait. [From Chronicle of Higher Education’s The Wired Campus]

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Why are you talking to me? I’m on the phone! October 12, 2006

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Cell/Mobile.
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From New Strategist Publications‘ American Consumers Newsletter:

Interestingly, while 82 percent of the public has been annoyed by someone else’s cell phone use, only 8 percent of cell phone users say they have annoyed others with their calls. They must have been too busy talking to notice.

For more interesting demographic information, check out their blog at http://www.demomemo.blogspot.com

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Textbooks, a bite at a time? October 11, 2006

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Publishing, Textbooks.
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At the beginning of the semester, I saw a flyer in the parking garage elevator for iChapters.com (http://www.ichapters.com).  This sounded to me like a new way to tackle the textbook cost hurdle, so I checked into it.  iChapters.com is an endeavor of Thomson Publishing.  It offers traditional print textbooks for sale, as well as ebooks and individual chapters of textbooks.  I used a book I bought for Criminal Justice as an example.  The book, Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology, Fourth Edition, by Michael G. Maxfield & Earl Babbie, cost me $106.35 (plus $16.48 shipping and handling) from Amazon.com in September of 2005.  It included a “Free” Research Writer CD-ROM and 4 months access to InfoTrac College Edition.  Today, iChapters.com offers the printed book for $85.49, the ebook for $45.49, and the chapters for $6.49 each (the table of contents and chapter 1 are free with registration, so buying chapter-by-chapter would cost $77.88).

What’s going on here?  First of all, electronic materials are delivered as PDFs with DRM enabled, requiring the user to download a special reader to a single computer (files are portable, but the must be “checked in” and “checked out” in order to be moved to another computer.  The DRM generally allows access to the material for 180 days, so there is no “sell-back” value.  Also, the “Free” add-ons appear to be stripped out, and available for purchase separately.  Since many students don’t use these anyway, this could be a real savings.  This service is available for MS Windows only at this time.  One (and only one) print copy is permitted of each page.

For students with access to a personal computer (I don’t think this would work well with lab computers due to the DRM), iChapters may be an affordable and attractive alternative method for purchasing their textbooks.  In addition, courses in which only certain chapters in a book are assigned may be good candidates for the chapter-purchase method.  The iChapters concept could also be a good alternative for the student who has already purchased the book, but doesn’t have it in his/her hot little hands when a required reading is due for tonight’s class period.


Is Email Obsolete for Millennials? October 10, 2006

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Email, Instant Messaging, SMS, Social Networking.
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An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “E-Mail is for Old People,” points out that college students rarely, if ever, check their campus email accounts. Students, often preferring contact through IM or their MySpace or Facebook accounts, eschew email as “too confusing” or for “old people”. They often treat email from their institutions as spam.

While email is not the only way to communicate electronically, it is still to be considered a serious tool. While IM is great for chatting with friends interactively, much serious work requires some forethought and composition of the message (including attachments). Email communication is, first and foremost, asynchronous. It allows communication at the time and choosing of the recipient. This choice permits the recipient to prioritize his/her time more easily than the tyranny of the ringing phone (land line or mobile) or popup message. And unlike some social networking sites, email communication is essentially non-public, which also lends itself to serious uses.

So why all the emphasis on the serious? Because much of the communication that today’s students will encounter in the “real world” will need to share the characteristics of email: asynchronous, non-public, and at least somewhat thought through. Other technologies will probably embrace some of these characteristics, but email isn’t going anywhere soon, so students might as well get comfortable with it.