Sunday, August 05, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N32): Team GB, Big Data on Campus, Libraries and eBooks, Amazon Daily Delivery + More

First the important stuff:  TEAM GB!
From Andy Murray's gold to the men's lightweight four landing a dramatic silver, here are Britain's medal winners of the Games.
And this: Britain's medal winners are a portrait of the United Kingdom as a whole rather than of London and the south-east

Big data on Campus (NYTimes):
This is college life, quantified.
Data mining hinges on one reality about life on the Web: what you do there leaves behind a trail of digital breadcrumbs. Companies scoop those up to tailor services, like the matchmaking of eHarmony or the book recommendations of Amazon. Now colleges, eager to get students out the door more efficiently, are awakening to the opportunities of so-called Big Data.
The new breed of software can predict how well students will do before they even set foot in the classroom. It recommends courses, Netflix-style, based on students’ academic records.
Data diggers hope to improve an education system in which professors often fly blind. That’s a particular problem in introductory-level courses, says Carol A. Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation. “The typical class, the professor rattles on in front of the class,” she says. “They give a midterm exam. Half the kids fail. Half the kids drop out. And they have no idea what’s going on with their students.”
As more of this technology comes online, it raises new tensions. What role does a professor play when an algorithm recommends the next lesson? If colleges can predict failure, should they steer students away from challenges? When paths are so tailored, do campuses cease to be places of exploration?
An interesting discussion about the choices libraries must make when building an eBook collection from Andromeda Yelton writing in Library Journal:
The one thing I know for certain about the future of ebooks in libraries is that it’s about tradeoffs among deeply held values. Right now, we have lots of options which protect ebook access via established distribution chains and publisher agreements — but they also limit it through DRM, restricted format support, and outright refusal by some publishers to sell ebooks to libraries. Negotiating preservation can be complicated or impossible; privacy questions lurk; and checkout limits put sharing at risk.
The eleven emerging models profiled in the In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, referenced above, provide different tradeoffs.  (Disclosure: one is my employer,  They vary in who hosts the files, whether libraries are free to make copies, whether DRM is applied, and what legal terms govern the use of the ebooks. This gives each of them a unique set of values tradeoffs. In general, they offer libraries more options in terms  of sharing, preservation, and privacy.  However, right now, all emerging models are limited in terms of access.  Some are theoretical or in a prototype stage, so they don’t offer any content yet. Others require libraries to negotiate themselves for content access, rather than outsourcing this to a distributor. While this puts libraries in a better position to advocate for their values, it also means more work.
I believe it’s important for libraries to do this kind of work. We need to have passionate, engaged conversations, with our eyes open, about which values we most want to defend in the ebook fray — and which we’re willing to compromise on. We need to consider which of many imperfect models offer the best tradeoffs for enacting library values. And we need to do this, not just in service to the patrons of 2012, but to the patrons of 2020 as well. How do the choices we make today affect their options for private, shared, lasting, accessible ebooks?
Getting that bucket, fan, shaving cream or book today with little or no effort is about to get a whole lot easire as Amazon shoots for same day delivery (Slate):
Can Amazon pull it off? It’s sure spending a lot of money to try, and it has already come up with a few creative ways to speed up deliveries. In each of the deals it has signed with states, the company has promised to build at least one—and sometimes many—new local warehouses. Some of these facilities are very close to huge swaths of the population. Amazon is investing $130 million in new facilities in New Jersey that will bring it into the backyard of New York City; another $135 million to build two centers in Virginia that will allow it to service much of the mid-Atlantic; $200 million in Texas; and more than $150 million in Tennessee and $150 million in Indiana to serve the middle of the country. Its plans for California are the grandest of all. This year, Amazon will open two huge distribution centers near Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, and over the next three years it might open as many as 10 more in the state. In total, Amazon will spend $500 million and hire 10,000 people at its new California warehouses.

But Amazon isn’t simply opening up a lot of new shipping centers. It’s also investing in making those centers much more efficient. Earlier this year, it purchased Kiva Systems, a company that makes cute, amazingly productive “picking robots” that improve shipping times while reducing errors. Another effort will allow the company to get stuff to you even faster. In Seattle, New York, and the United Kingdom, the firm has set up automated “lockers” in drug stores and convenience stores. If you order something from Amazon and you work near one of these lockers, the company will offer to drop off your item there. On your way home from work, you can just stop by Rite Aid, punch in a security code, and get your stuff.
Will the flipped classroom lead to lower costs - A Provosts perspective. (Inside Higher Ed)
But the cost savings may be more imaginary than real depending on what you are looking for the education to accomplish.  The more you expect education to accomplish and the more personal the educational experience, the lower the actual savings (if any) will be. For example, if the faculty member involved in preparing the class material and the faculty member meeting with the class for questions, projects, analysis and discussion is one and the same and if the class size remains unchanged, there will be no savings in moving from in-person to blended. There are still variables that can result in savings: an adjunct faculty member in place of a full-time faculty member, or a larger class in place of a smaller class.  At the other cost extreme, you can have students take the free online courses now offered by a number of Ivy League schools  and couple that experience which would count as the lesson with a classroom experience that covers questions, analysis, greater depth, etc., taught by graduate students or adjuncts at a significantly reduced cost.  Smaller class size and greater use of full-time faculty will increase the cost of this experience.
Establishing standards in community college education - Not as easy as hitting a baseball (Inside Higher Ed):
Why baseball batting? Williams includes a chart showing that a baseball can pass through the strike zone in 77 different places. I have no trouble seeing a Ted Williams chart worth of pitches headed at me when I step up before these students each day.
I am not going to trivialize students by naming them  “Curve,” “Slider,” “Changeup,” “Forkball,” or “Sinker.”  Consider the variety of pitches?  Some students are high school graduates and some have GEDs.  A Somalian explained at the start of one semester that the challenges impairing her high school experience included dodging snipers on the way to school and frequent raids on the school, machine guns firing, by rebels kidnapping future child soldiers.
The first languages that any class might pitch to me include Arabic (Moroccan, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese dialects), Armenian, Russian, Portuguese – via Brazil and Angola -- Spanish from every South and Central American country.  Somali.  French.  Creole.  Swahili.
Hunger is a more frequent pitch.  These students may not have eaten that day.  Last spring, two students had bosses who thought nothing of scheduling 8 a.m.- 4 p.m., 4 p.m.- midnight, and midnight to 8 a.m. shifts all during one week.  One semester, I had a veteran who vanished (later found) after two more buddies from his unit committed suicide.  Once, a student was shot and murdered.  Last spring was the first semester in a while where no one in the class reported anyone shot in their family.
Shakespeare at the British Museum - The Economist:
Out of this miscellany emerges a larger story about the evolution of a British national identity, independent of the papacy, with its own history and imperial ambitions. It was a process in which history, geography, religion and myth were promiscuously pressed into service. Ancient Rome was as likely to turn up in a painting of Queen Elizabeth as an American Indian cherub (with ostrich) in an engraving of London. During Shakespeare’s life, it became possible for the first time to visualise Britain and its place in the world through maps. “He does smile his face into more lines than is in the new map with the augmentation of the Indies,” says Maria of Malvolio in “Twelfth Night”. Behind her words lies a world of travel and history—from the medal commemorating Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe to little playing cards printed with the counties of England.

From Twitter this week:

New Video in BBC #Archives Series Looks at “New Kinds of Metadata”

Germans blow off steam with swearing hotline Reminded me of classic Python:

Our dad, Joe Strummer, remembered

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