The 90 mile trip over the mountains to University Park was well worth it to attend the Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium 2008 yesterday. Because of the concurrent sessions, I had to pick and choose what I wanted to see.
At the session on reference managers I learned about some new options. Zotero is an add-on for the Firefox browser. It sits on the bottom of the screen ready to capture reference information and store it in a folder. It is supposedly good for web resources including images. I plant to install it soon. One issue that came out in the questions is that it has to be installed in a browser, which makes it hard to use in the labs. There is apparently a way to run Firefox from a USB drive independent of the computer configuration.
Refworks is currently in a trial phase at the Penn State library. You can sign up for it with a Penn State account. It will work in any browser with no add-ins. A decision will be made this summer as to whether or not to keep it, although it sounded positive.
The Cadillac of reference managers is still Endnote. It has the best synchronization with MS Word. However, it is the most expensive, and the publisher upgrades almost every year. So Endnote is pretty well limited to faculty and graduate students.
ANGEL 7.2 will be rolled out this summer. The format won’t change much. The biggest change to me was the consolidation of the mail utility. All a user’s courses sections and groups can be reached in the same place. Another point brought up in response to aquestion, is that it’s best to think of ANGEL mail as an intra-program utility. It’s not really meant for outside users.
Another development is an in-line html or rich text editor everywhere text can be entered. The pop-up editor is going away for good. The editor will also sport a better equation editor and be available for students. In my own classes I have nearly stopped using the ANGEL editor in favor of Google docs or other alternatives. Maybe I will reconsider?
A big theme of the day is the increased use of the Digital Commons by students to create short videos for class. This has really given a voice to students who don’t stand out otherwise. The Chancellor of Greater Allegheny campus is even offering a $1,000 scholarship to the student who creates the best video on why they like Penn State Greater Allegheny! Students are also taking advantage of videos for oral history projects and to practice speeches for communications courses.
There was an information table encouraging people to use TWITTER during the conference. TWITTER is a mini-blog or instantaneous blog community where people write one or two lines to update what they are doing throughout the day. I’m not sure that I want to stay that connected!
The keynote speaker, Lawrence Lessig, delivered a fascinating talk. He has been working on the issue of copyrights in the digital age for a long time. He has developed the Creative Commons project as an alternative to the all rights reserved copyright. He said that we are now in the “remix” culture where users want to take existing items (pictures, video, music) and recombine them into something new. This runs right into the large media companies who demand ironclad copyrights. If this situation isn’t remedied we will stifle creativity and worse, criminalize a whole generation. There was a lot to think about here.
One way to judge a meeting is how good was the swag. The tote bag and notebook were impressive. For me, the cloth name tag with storage pouches and pen holder was that best I’ve seen in a long time!