For-Profit Colleges – Greater Scrutiny!

Dear Commons Community,

Over the past several weeks, there have been a number of articles commenting on the federal government’s scrutiny of the financial aid practices of for-profit colleges.   Enrolling approximately 1.8 million students and representing 10 percent of all enrollments, the for-profit sector has become a major player in American higher education.   The for-profit colleges and universities enroll many students who do not qualify for a variety of reasons in traditional public and private institutions.  Many of these students also tend to be poorer and minority students.  New federal guidelines appear to be long-overdue but some question whether they go far enough in insuring that students will not be used as pawns for accessing federal financial aid programs and leave them with burdensome debts.  The new federal guidelines will be addressing mostly the certificate and short term career programs more so than the four year colleges.  The federal government’s involvement is welcome and hopefully will help weed out unscrupulous operators.  For further information and commentary on this issue, see the URLs below.


IBM Announces New Mainframe Computer Series!

Dear Commons Community,

Given the current dominance of the Internet and small portable computing devices, I am sure that most of us who follow technology have not thought much about large mainframe computer systems which were the mainstay hardware technology from the 1950s through the 1980s.  However,  IBM, the leading manufacturer of mainframe computers, recently announced a new “Z” series of systems in response to a growing  demand for large mainframe computers.  Other mainframe manufacturers include Unisys, Bull, Fujitsu and Hitachi.  Just like in the “old days”, IBM is being investigated for monopolistic practices by the European Commission.  IBM was a common target of such investigations both in the USA and abroad when it was the undisputed world leader of computer technology.

For more information, see two NY Times articles:


More San Jose – Private Foundations!

Dear Commons Community,

As indicated in my previous post, I have been in San Jose attending  the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium.  I attended a plenary session yesterday where the speaker was Dr. Milton Chen, Senior Fellow, The George Lucas Educational Foundation.   His presentation entitled, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools, was based on his book with the same title.  Dr. Chen’s presentation was well-done with many significant comments directed mostly to K-12 educators.   What I kept thinking about during his presentation was the number of private foundations, mostly corporate affiliated, that were one way or another visible at this symposium.  As someone who has received grants from a number of entities both public and private, I kept thinking that the number of private foundations now interested in technology and education has grown significantly over the past dozen years.  I think this is good and opens up funding streams for work in this area especially important now that state and local funding are feeling severe fiscal constraints.  Naturally anyone applying for a grant from one of the private foundations has to buy into the grantor’s program which is the obligation we incur in developing the grant relationship.


The Future of Learning Management Systems!

Dear Commons Community,

I have been in San Jose since Tuesday attending  the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium.  There have been a number of fine presentations.  The one I enjoyed the most was a panel discussion on The Future of Learning Management Systems.  The panel included college faculty and representatives from industry (Blackboard, Desire2 Learn, BeehiveMind, and Moodle).  For the most part the panelists were supportive of the future of LMSs mainly because they all foresee significant growth in the use of online technology in teaching and learning.  One of the most provocative exchanges centered on whether open LMS software is really free and that the indirect/intangible costs can be quite significant.  Below are the URLs for two previous posts on this blog related to the Blackboard CMS.


E-Books Outselling Hardcover Books at!

Dear Commons Community,, announced yesterday that for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books. In that time, Amazon said, it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition.

This is part of a trend that started last year. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales have quadrupled this year through May.  The Association also indicated that  the hardcover book is far from extinct in that industry-wide sales are up 22 percent this year.

I think that all of this is good news and  indicative that people are reading books.

Last weekend before leaving for a conference in San Jose, my wife, Elaine, asked me what I wanted for my upcoming birthday.  I told her a Kindle.


A full article on the above is available at:

Blackboard Acquires Eluminate and Wimba!

Dear Commons Colleagues,

Last week on July 7, 2010, Blackboard Inc. entered into an agreement to acquire learning and collaboration technology providers Elluminate Inc. and Wimba Inc.  Elluminate and Wimba, which serve 2,600 educational institutions between them, were purchased for the combined price of $116 million in cash.  Technology from Elluminate and Wimba will be incorporated into a new standalone collaboration platform, Blackboard Collaborate, designed to facilitate greater collaboration and synchronization in the educational space.

I have posted on this blog about Blackboard, Inc. in the past, see:

We in the academic community need to be concerned that much of our online instructional content will be delivered and to a degree controlled by a single vendor.     While I do not fully support technological determinism – technology changes/controls us – I have serious concerns with the way Blackboard’s has moved to acquire just about any major company that provides CMS/LMS services.


Improving Student Achievement: Personal Laptops Not Enough!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times recently published an article  entitled:  Computers at Home:  Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality.  The article summarizes three studies by economists that examined the value of providing computers for personal home use to students in low-income areas.  Specifically, the studies concluded:

“Economists are trying to measure a home computer’s educational impact on schoolchildren in low-income households. Taking widely varying routes, they are arriving at similar conclusions: little or no educational benefit is found. Worse, computers seem to have further separated children in low-income households, whose test scores often decline after the machine arrives, from their more privileged counterparts.”

The article referenced three studies conducted in Romania, North Carolina and Texas, all of which had similar findings.


The full article is available at:

Life without the Web!

Dear Commons Community,

In a piece for Slate, James Sturm, cartoonist and director of the Center for Cartoon Studies, describes what it is like not being connected to the Internet. He is in the middle of a self-imposed four month hiatus from email, social networking, looking at the Mets boxscore, paying his bills online, etc. He originally thought it would drive him crazy but it hasn’t. Now he has to wait for the morning paper, write and mail letters, or take a trip to the library. He does admit that his wife has picked up some of the slack and now pays their bills online and reads and/or responds to the email that their children’s school sends them.

Here is a sample of his comments.

“I am reading more [books] since I’ve gone offline”

“I don’t constantly feel humiliated by my inability to refrain from compulsively checking my e-mail”

“I have been experiencing more and more moments of synchronicity—coincidental events that seem to be meaningfully related”

The full Slate article complete with a bevy of cartoon images is available at:


The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains – Book by Nicholas Carr!

Dear Commons Community,

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on this blog a reference to a book review of Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows”.

Myearlier blog post: The book review is available at:

I just finished reading the book (Full title:   The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, (Norton Press). It  is a good read and probably an important one for anyone following issues related to the impact of technology, media and especially the Internet on our social, cultural and educational lives.  He covers well issues related to technological determinism – the technology changes us – versus technological instrumentalism – we are always in control of the technology. There are also a lot of references to Marshall McLuhan.   Here is a sample of the shots that Carr takes..

“It is possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it it’s possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that is not the type of thinking that the technology rewards”  p. 116

“The Net is making us smarter.. if we define intelligence by the Net’s own standards.  If we take a broader and more traditional view of intelligence – we have to come to a different and considerably darker conclusion”.  p. 141

“There is no Sleepy Hollow on the Internet, no peaceful spot where contemplativeness can work..There is only the endless, mesmerizing buzz of the urban street…  It is not only deep thinking that requires a calm, attentive mind.  It’s also empathy and compassion.”  .p. 220