Monthly Archives: January 2012

20.366 – shameless self-promotion

CC-licensed photo by Frisno

I really think that yesterday’s announcement by Apple about iBooks Author and iTunes U are going to be game-changers — and a lot of it comes down to what should be the demise of the traditional textbook, which is definitely due for a makeover. And, hopefully, it means the end of middle school kids needing to use rolling backpacks to carry all their books.

Some things I said about the announcement were printed in a couple of articles that were published today. I’m usually very terrible at self-promotion, but here I go. Shameless self-promotion time, mostly so I don’t lose track of the articles:

What Apple’s Digital Textbooks Will (and Won’t) Do for Learning

Apple gets an A+

19.366 – we must create

I had an interesting day. I started it by sending the video above to my faculty and then ended up sending details of the one below to them. I get why you might not watch the second one, but please, please watch the first one. You might not want to watch something on iPads, but Clay Shirky brilliantly explains why we should care about SOPA and PIPA, even if they never pass the House. (And, he also mentions College Bakery, which I used to live above in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.)

Education is changing. We don’t consume information anymore; we create it. We have to make that shift. Chris Lehmann absolutely nails it in the Apple video by saying that we shouldn’t be teaching students with the same tools we did in 1950, preparing them for a world that has already past. 

But wait. We just got through spending a whole day worrying — and we’re not done worrying yet — about what happens when we create information and get threatened because of it. Like a breath of fresh air, we just got a bunch of *free* tools that make it easy to create and consume brand new content in a new and dynamic way. This is the perfect remedy.

Teachers need to create new experiences for their students, and get their students to create and share new knowledge. This is the time to do it, proving that content creation by folks other than big studios and publishers is a very big deal.

17.366 – GarageBand for e-books

If this article at ArsTechnica is right, Apple’s big education and publishing announcement this Thursday will not just be about consuming a better ebook, but about making it yourself.

Apple is slated to announce the fruits of its labor on improving the use of technology in education at its special media event on Thursday, January 19. While speculation has so far centered on digital textbooks, sources close to the matter have confirmed to Ars that Apple will announce tools to help create interactive e-books—the “GarageBand for e-books,” so to speak—and expand its current platform to distribute them to iPhone and iPad users.

If Steve Jobs really did think that textbook publishing was an “$8 billion a year industry ripe for digital destruction,” then we might be on the lookout for something really revolutionary on Thursday. Forget about Pages finally being able to save an ePub — this should go way beyond that. To me, it sounds a lot like the realization of what Push Pop Press announced when Mike Matas showed the “Our Choice” book/app at last year’s TED, an easy to use tool that will let others make dynamic etexts. I still blow into the microphone on my iPad to see the book’s windmill spin.

I hope this isn’t just geared towards big publishers and that the same tools are available for teachers and students to use. I’d love to see what “Rip. Mix. Burn.” looks like with a classroom of content creators and collaborators.

EDIT: The Wall Street Journal makes it sound like this is really publisher-focused, with at least McGraw-Hill being involved since June.

14.366 – touché


Just as New York Times public editor Arthur S. Brisbane is concerned whether his newspaper is printing lies or the truth, we here at V.F. are looking for reader input on whether and when Vanity Fair should spell “words” correctly in the stories we publish.

Hysterical piece in Vanity Fair that pokes fun at the piece in the Times from the other day. What’s frightening is that not all the commenters got the joke — just as a lot of readers don’t get that there might be less-than-facts sometimes printed in newspaper articles.

13.366 – truthiness in the media

CC-licensed photo by David Weinberger

Yesterday, the New York Times‘ public editor, Arthur Brisbane, asked:

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

Uh, what? They’re asking whether the news they report has to be factual? 


But wait… there’s an explanation:


Even if this is true, that the public editor is coming from a point of view outside of the Times‘ reporting and editing structure, there’s still a problem here. If he’s speaking from outside the structure, then that means that that structure isn’t concerned with asking the question — he’s an outsider. How does that even happen? What’s the role of the public editor and what is his/her power to inform the way news is reported for the good of the people, for the public?

I’m really confused as to how truthiness has become the norm, pushing aside a responsibility to tell the truth, full stop. But Jay Rosen explains it well:

Something happened in our press over the last 40 years or so that never got acknowledged and to this day would be denied by a majority of newsroom professionals. Somewhere along the way, truthtelling was surpassed by other priorities the mainstream press felt a stronger duty to. These include such things as “maintaining objectivity,” “not imposing a judgment,” “refusing to take sides” and sticking to what I have called the View from Nowhere

But wait a minute: how can telling the truth ever take a back seat in the serious business of reporting the news? That’s like saying medical doctors no longer put “saving lives” or “the health of the patient” ahead of securing payment from insurance companies. It puts the lie to the entire contraption. It devastates journalism as a public service and honorable profession.

This makes me really really sad when I think of my students’ view of media. We’re studying social media and the prevailing thinking in the class — even after looking at the disparity in the coverage of Occupy Wall Street in social vs. traditional media, even after looking at the role of social media in the Arab Spring — is that traditional media is unbiased and more trustworthy while more informal sources are full of bias and untrustworthy. There is very little middle ground in that discussion.

The fun of all of this is sussing out the truth while surrounded by biased sources — some have big names and some are just hashtags — but it’s a big mess. So it’s clear that I’ve still got some work to do, but (yowza!) so do a lot of other people.