Sunday, May 15, 2011

MediaWeek (Vol 4, No 20): Ebooks in the Classroom, Writers Life, Libraries Matter, Bob Marley

Inside Higher Ed on the use of eBooks in the classroom (almost an ongoing series):

E-textbooks, meanwhile, have continued to lag. Only 5 percent of the survey respondents said they purchased access to an e-textbook this spring. Two percent bought e-textbooks for more than one class. The most common reason for going electronic? “My professor required me to.”

Tablet computers, and especially the iPad, have nonetheless seized the cash and imaginations of students. As far as cachet, the Apple device is not quite as “in” as beer — but it is neck-in-neck with coffee, according to the survey, which polls students on a broad range of media and "lifestyle" tastes. More relevantly, the iPad is just as “in” (Student Monitor did not qualify the term) as laptops, even though 87 percent of respondents owned a laptop while just 8 percent owned an iPad. Nearly half reported being “interested in purchasing a wireless reading device,” with 70 percent of those students saying they had their eye on an iPad.

In fact, various forms of technology nearly swept the top trends on college campuses, with “drinking beer” the only non-tech interruption in a top 5 dominated by Facebook, iPhones, text messaging, and laptops. (“Working” and “going to grad school” were considered less “in” — though to the extent that the term might be interpreted as an observation of what is cool and/or new, that might not come as a surprise.)

Unique approach to testing at the University of Southern Denmark (IHEd):

On the issue of plagiarism and cheating, Petersen said that while there would always be legitimate concerns, online assessment presented a novel solution to the problem. "One way of preventing cheating is by saying nothing is allowed and giving students a piece of paper and a pen," she said. "The other way is to say everything is allowed except plagiarism. So if you allow communication, discussions, searches and so on, you eliminate cheating because it’s not cheating anymore. That is the way we should think."

Southern Denmark currently uses a plagiarism-detection program called SafeAssign, which is produced by Blackboard. Papers are checked against databases of source material before being delivered to lecturers for marking.

Petersen said that another benefit of the new Web-based system was that a strict limit could be imposed on the length of work submitted by students. This would force them to rethink how they write and prevent them from copying and pasting from other sources, she said.

Aspiring to be a writer yet with no idea what that means (Intelligent Life):

Stunned by a survey that showed "writer" as the number one career goal of British youth—ahead of astronaut and footballer—Sarah O'Reilly at the British Museum saw the project as a way to put across the real challenges that come with the profession. Culled from hundreds of hours of archived interviews, the excerpts "provide a useful corrective to the idea that the writing life is a glamorous life," she says. Indeed, aspiring writers should anticipate inhabiting a "place of total and complete solitude," offers Linda Grant, a novelist included in the collection.

Yet these CDs are instructive, too, with authors weighing in on developing characters, finding ideas, researching context and figuring out how it all works together. The nitty-gritty of when, where and how—pencil, pen or computer? Morning or night? Each day or as the spirit calls?—are as varied as the writers. If there is a single bit of common advice, it is to (in the words of Penelope Lively): "read, read, read". About this, everyone agrees. "You learn how to structure a novel from looking at the great novels of the past," says Philip Hensher, a novelist. As Peter Porter, a late Australian poet asks, "If literature had no effect on you, why would you write it?"

Laura Miller in Salon writes about Why Libraries Still Matter (Salon):

Some would also say that it's a superfluous part. Public libraries across the nation and the globe now face drastic funding cuts from politicians and administrators who often claim that they're obsolete. For months, Britain has been rumbling with protests against plans to close as many as 400 local branches. Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he was cutting all state funding to California's libraries, leaving cities to pick up the slack. Defenders of such cutbacks typically ask why, in the age of Google and e-reader devices, anybody needs libraries.

Let's set aside the obvious rejoinder that many citizens can't afford e-readers and, furthermore, can only access Google via a library computer. The anniversary of the NYPL's main building is an occasion to talk about why the library needs to be a place as well as an ethereal mass of data residing somewhere in "the cloud." Not everything we need or want to know about the world can be transmitted via a screen, and not every experience can be digitized.

Related is my write up from a talk at NYPL a few weeks ago (PND) On Bob Marley and his death after thirty years (Slate):

Marley has had an astonishingly successful commercial afterlife—the booming sales of his catalog virtually created the world-beat music category, paving the way for countless Buena Vista Social Clubs and Gipsy Kings—but his artistic reputation may never recover from it. His musical legacy has been hijacked and simplified by his cheesier fans (all those trustafarians toking in his memory). In turn, the music cognoscenti and hipsters seem to hold his mainstream appeal and lame followers against him. The fact that Marley is known by his weaker recordings like Legend or Exodus (which Time magazine—bizarrely to anyone familiar with the Marley canon—named "album of the century") doesn't help his cause.

Bob Marley's golden period was the three albums he cut with the original Wailers and the brilliant, certifiably insane, Jamaican producer Lee "Scratch" Perry: Soul Rebels, African Herbsman, and Rasta Revolution. These records are more satisfyingly complex, both lyrically and instrumentally, than much of Marley's later work. The Perry recordings are steeped in R & B and soul harmonies, but also tough. (Marley's earliest British fans were punk rockers.) The albums' layered rhythms—trancelike and jolting, like reggae by gunfighters—anticipated dub music and later stars like King Tubby and Augustus Pablo. When the English producer Chris Blackwell took over in 1973, intent on making Marley a star, the music, despite a couple of great albums, notably Catch a Fire! and Natty Dread, became steadily more mellow and digestible.

The Economist asks why the Patent Office can't keep up (Economist):
INNOVATION and jobs have become a modern version of motherhood and apple pie in Washington, DC. Everyone in America’s capital wants lots more of both, or so they say. So how come Congress and the White House have decided not merely to underfund a crucial cog in American’s innovation machine but actually to take away revenue it earns? And that at a time when that cog, the Patent and Trademark Office, is already struggling to keep up with the growing demands upon it? The recent budget deal for fiscal 2011 (the year to September 30th) allows the Patent Office to spend only $2.1 billion. That is less than it expects to collect in fees from applicants—$100m or so will disappear instead into Treasury coffers—and far less than it needs to do its job properly.
From the twitter: The Original Chick-lit - Richard and Judy in WH Smith deal - News, Books - Elmore Leonard: 'To have a clear head in the morning was a new feeling for me' GO the Fuck to Sleep - How it all happened. EBSCO Publishing Extends Reach of Content with New iPhone App Audible Creates Audio Rights Exchange, Associated Press Report: Borders has possible bidder on some stores (Forbes)

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