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The World According to Google

July 22, 2013 3 comments

From the New Zealand Herald

It is Monday morning, and 150 “Nooglers” are gathered in a large room on Google’s campus in Mountain View, California.

Jennifer, a woman in her early thirties wearing a pair of hi-tech “Google Glass” spectacles, bounces around the stage welcoming the new starters. She is a compelling mix of preppy California girl and science fiction-obsessed geek that is de rigueur in Silicon Valley.

“I’m a little bit nerd. I love Star Trek. But I also love reading,” she says. “This summer, in fact, I’m reading all of Shakespeare’s works in chronological order.”

Her presentation is interspersed with science fiction jokes and slides of the Starship Enterprise as she tells the assembled audience they are now part of a company with the ability to turn “super-cool” sci-fi ideas into reality.

In the past few months Google has launched Google Glass, which allows users to photograph whatever they can see, or pull up information in their peripheral vision. Then there is Project Loon, which will use giant balloons to connect a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa to broadband.

 

Outside, self-driving cars navigate the campus. In the next-door buildings engineers are hard at work improving Google’s voice-activated search and translation tools, so that soon even people who cannot read or write will be able to request information in any language and find exactly what they are looking for.

Over the next few days the new starters – or “Nooglers” (for “new Googlers”) – will be drilled in the company’s mission to “organise the world’s information”, its history, and how, as “part of the Google family”, they must keep everything they are working on a secret.

“You can’t even tell your mom,” says Jennifer. At the end of the course they will attend a staff meeting hosted by Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The glasses and the broadband balloons are examples of what Page, now chief executive, calls “moonshot” ideas, adding glamour and the promise of new growth opportunities to what is, at its heart, a hyper-efficient advertising business.

Google’s slick web search engine helped to pull in US$50.2 billion ($64.4 billion) in revenue last year, more than US$40 billion of which came from display advertising. Its profit stood at US$10.7 billion.

Its shares may have slipped from their May peak of US$920.60, but at US$887.88 they have still climbed more than 50 per cent in the past 12 months, making the entire company worth US$295 billion. More than one technology analyst has bet their reputation on Google stock topping US$1000 within the next year.

But as Google’s near neighbours, Facebook and Apple, can attest, investors grow nervous at the hint of a slowdown or absence of a new growth story, never mind that the main machine is going full throttle.

Last year Google investors took fright at a 20 per cent dip in profit and a decline in the revenue it receives each time a user clicks on one of its ads. The balloon project might be inspirational, but it is also there to do the basic job of stimulating demand and keeping the foot on Google’s gas.

Shareholders are also concerned about the company’s outgoings – not least the cost of its enormous appetite for Nooglers. Google had nearly 39,000 staff at the end of the last quarter, a figure which is steadily growing.

Much has been written about the free food and the zany decor of Google’s HQ – the slide in reception, the treadmill desks, the sleep pods and the colourful bikes on which employees get around campus. Less well documented are the free dry-cleaning services, the complimentary buses to work, the on-site doctors, dentists and hairdressers.

The pay is also considerable. According to the jobs website Glassdoor, the average Googler – the company’s favourite term for its staff – receives US$110,000 a year, before share awards or bonuses. Even Google interns reportedly receive the equivalent of US$69,000 a year. And if an employee dies, his or her partner can collect half their salary for the following decade.

Just like on a university campus, staff are invited to join groups that reflect their interests. There are the “Gayglers” for gay employees, and “Jewglers” for Jewish staff.

Google and its staff are almost relentlessly upbeat, which can make some people uneasy. As the first British journalist to be allowed into the Noogler session, I couldn’t help but recall Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

The company, as Jennifer tells the Nooglers, goes to some lengths to hire “the smartest people on the planet”.

Google’s prowess in search technology depends entirely on the quality of its engineers, many hired from Stanford University where Page and Brin met. The company’s entire campus is designed to make them want to stay.

“It’s the revenge of the nerds,” says one analyst who has followed Google since it started. “These were not the guys who were popular at high school. They don’t have a girlfriend waiting for them at home. They don’t have a life outside work. This is it. But life is so easy for them, they feel they have the last laugh.”

That stereotype may be a little extreme. There are certainly enough charismatic characters to balance the geeks. JOB CANDIDATES sit through four interviews with executives they may never work with, who are looking for four things. The individual’s skills are the least significant. The most important, says Lazlo Bock, Google’s senior vice-president of “people operations”, are the candidates’ cognitive ability; evidence of “at least a tiny, tiny bit of humility”; and their “Googliness”.

Humility is not a trait many people would associate with this company but Googliness is a word used often at the Mountain View campus. Some employees say they found it cringeworthy at first, but have now adopted it to describe a certain mindset. It means “comfort with ambiguity”, says Bock.

Sunil Chandra, who, as vice-president of “people technology” and operations, heads Google’s recruitment machine, defines it as people who are 100 per cent themselves at work. “They are people who are really inquisitive and want to do what’s right by others. You’ll find that they’re unbelievably down to earth,” he says.

Whatever it is, Page must be personally convinced that new recruits have it. He signs off on every single hire – upwards of 200 staff, week in, week out.

There is an argument to say that this focus on hiring people in a certain image can distance Google from public feeling, particularly over issues such as its tax bill in Britain or the privacy of its users.

But Chandra argues that the obsession with how staff “fit in” has been key to preserving its innovative start-up culture, even as it has developed into a multibillion-dollar machine.

Managing this evolution has been difficult. Page has made it a priority to slash the number of projects on which Google spends time and money. It has shut down – or “sunsetted” – at least a dozen operations in the past three years.

“We want more wood behind fewer arrows,” says Bock, borrowing his boss’ favoured metaphor. “Instead of launching 1000 arrows at our enemies, we launch one or two big ones.

“You used to very much have a system where anyone could work on anything on the technical side. You got a lot of creativity and innovation, but what you also got was a lot of pet projects which didn’t have a big impact on the world. Or, quite frankly, you got things where we were trying to do something and someone else was doing a better job.”

One of these was Knol, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia launched in 2007, six years after Wikipedia, a similar and superior service. Knol was shut down just over a year ago.

In recent weeks reports have emerged of a Google smartwatch and a Google videogame console. It also has plans to expand its Streetview project to include hiking and biking trails, as part of its ambition to create a detailed 3D map of the entire world. But all these are accessories to search, which remains its core.

Google already has an iron grip on the search market, but the way it views things, there is still huge change ahead.

“Google search is not done. It is far from done, in fact. I’d say it’s maybe 20 per cent, 25 per cent done,” says Jon Wiley, head of user experience for the search operation.

Users have become used to modifying their search criteria so they extract the best results from Google, he says. The company wants them to be able to ask questions using normal speech, to have discussions with Google’s technology and to use it to find answers to subjective issues.

If you asked an interior designer what colour to paint your bedroom, they would not shoot back “red” or “green”, Wiley explains. The first thing they would do is ask questions back, about the size of the room, its aspect, what colours the person happened to like.

“When we look at that class of problem, we say here is an opportunity for innovation for the types of problems we could try to solve. What kind of artificial intelligence could we create that could help people actually have a dialogue about what colour to paint their bedroom?”

Wiley also hints at how the new technology will help Google harness enormous new markets in the developing world. Voice-activated search, coupled with sub-Saharan broadband, could transform education and economic growth in those regions.

“People can ask a question, get a response, and ask again, and go back and forth and have a dialogue of information, in their native language,” he says. “I look at that as a goal, to be able to have that kind of experience.”

But Google is not relying on organic growth. Its appetite for acquisition has steadily increased over the past few years.

In 2011 Google paid US$12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility, to get its hands on valuable patents. Last month it signed a US$1.3 billion deal for Waze, a traffic-mapping tool set to transform Google’s maps service, widening its lead over Apple’s rival product.

Against this backdrop, Google’s “Googliness” can cause problems. The company has had to tread a fine line as it has expanded overseas, coming up against cultures which take a dim view of the amount of data it collects about users.

Users in Europe, in particular, have been riled by projects such as Streetview, Google’s mission to photograph and map every street in the world by driving down it with a camera, or Google Glass, which enables people to discreetly take photographs without James Bond-style hidden cameras.

Last month Google was one of nine technology giants accused of routinely handing information over to the US Government as part of the Prism surveillance project. Google claims it has done no such thing, and asked the authorities to be allowed to publish statistics about the number of information requests it has pushed back on.

But even with the categorical denial, the episode remains incendiary for staff as well as the public. Google employees demanded answers from Brin and Page at their routine meeting that week. In Britain, anger has also rumbled around the company’s tax contributions. Google paid just over £10 million in corporation tax to the Treasury in the past five years, on revenue of £11.5 billion.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, has argued that the company has a moral duty to shareholders to pay the tax that the laws of each country say it owes, and no one has accused it of breaking any laws.

Many would agree, but the row over Google’s financial contribution has tarnished its reputation. Last year Britons identified Google as the fifth most desirable brand in the world. In the same survey this year it had tumbled out of the top 20. Senior Google staff privately admit the episode has taken a toll on morale.

It remains in Google’s nature to constantly push the envelope. Its modus operandi is to experiment, get products out fast and fix any problems on the fly. “Launch and iterate” is a phrase used often.

Allied to Google’s fearless ambition, and its increasingly strategic approach to investment, is also the fleet-of-foot behaviour that will underpin its future growth. Google might shoot past the US$1000-a-share mark before the year is out.

– Daily Telegraph UK

By Katherine Rushton

Hey Microsoft – Google gets that FREE means FREE

Image representing Google Docs as depicted in ...

Schools Are Ready to Move to Cloud Computing

Many schools are at a point where they are ready and willing to make the move to cloud computing.  When it comes to choosing the best cloud-based productivity solution, the answer is not a simple one.

There are two main options: Microsoft or Google.  Microsoft has recently revamped and revamped its Live@Edu solution.  Now rebranded Office 365 for Education, at first glance, it may seem like the obvious choice for schools.  Most schools have been using some version of Microsoft’s popular Office Suite.  The move to the cloud-based version of these products may seem logical.

As is often the case with Microsoft, there is a catch.  Free is never really free.  There are various options, that most schools will want and/or need that will come at a cost to districts.  For schools to truly utilize all of the features that Microsoft has to offer, they will need to maintain multiple servers in-house.  At a demonstration of Office365 recently, the representative identified a need for at least four servers.  Providing, supporting and maintaining multiple in-house servers is exactly what most school districts are trying to avoid by going to a cloud solution.

To be fair, a district could in fact use Office 365 for Education exclusively via the web and would incur no charges and require no in-house servers.  In doing so, schools will be giving up significant  functionality.

Microsoft’s Bait and Switch

Most importantly, is the point that Stuart Ridout makes in his blog post Can You Afford Office356 for Education?, about Microsoft once again pulling a “bait and switch” on schools.  Hey Microsoft – free should mean free!  Schools all over the world are challenged to stretch diminishing  technology budgets while increasing the resources they are providing to students and faculty members.

Google Gets Education

Google Apps for Education is truly a free suite of applications that schools do not have to pay anything for and do not need to host any servers in-house, in order to fully utilize this suite of cloud-based computing productivity tools.  Google gets it.  Free means free.

When comparing Office365 and Google Apps often it is stated that Google’s productivity applications are not nearly as sophisticated  as Microsoft’s products.  This is accurate.  The reality is  that Google Apps provide all of the functionality that most users actually need and/or use.  The next argument made is that Google Docs (in particular) mess up the formatting of Word documents, which does happen.  If the documents are created using Google Docs in the first place, there are no formatting issues.

While Microsoft does offer the ability to collaborate on documents, etc., it is not done directly within the application.  Instead, users need to add Sharepoint into the mix, in order to collaborate.  This solution requires a one collaborator to “check out” a document in order to make changes.  No other users can access (let alone change) the document while it is checked out.

Google on the other hand, offers real-time collaboration within the application.  You can actually see on your screen when other collaborators are working on the same document as you .

Game Changer

The real game changer may be the latest announcements from Google that its new Google Drive Cloud Storage solution and its popular Chrome browser are now both available for IOS devices.  As schools rapidly move to include iPad‘s in the arsenal of tech resources, the ability to effortlessly access documents from various location may really push Google out in front of Microsoft.  Yes, Microsoft files can be accessed on various devices, it is not as seamless as the Google solution.

From its inception, Google Apps for Education has been a feature packed solution.  The functionality continues to expand, with no signs of a price tag for schools.

 

Begin With the End in Mind: More than just a mantra when it comes to technology in education

February 20, 2012 1 comment
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

The Issue

Too often schools are in the position of having exciting new technology available and having to find the best way to implement and utilize it.  This approach is backwards,  Stephen Covey  penned the phrase “BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND” and these words are particularly useful when developing a plan of action for integrating technology in schools.

Instead of trying to find ways to utilize the latest technologies, schools should instead let the instructional goals define the technological tools that  should be implemented.  As rapid advances in technology unfold, schools are often in the position of buying into what is the latest and greatest and then trying to figure out how and where to use the new technology.

The iPad and now the iPad2 (and soon the iPad3) are perfect examples of this challenge.  Everyone can agree on the wow factor of these devices.  There is no doubt that mobile technology is going to be a big part of any future technology initiatives.  How this devices can effectively be used in instructional environments is still developing.

Many educational technologists are faced with the challenge of integrating these devices, with out a clear directive of why.  That is to say, what is the goal of rolling out these devices.  Often boards of education and administrators want the new technology, feel they need to be on the bleeding edge, but do not clearly articulate the intended goals and outcomes for using these devices.

Frequently, as in the case of the iPad, there are significant challenges that must be worked through when adding new technologies into an existing networked environment.  These challenges can be overcome, but without a clear understanding of the goals for use, developing a solid solution can be difficult.

Goals

Is there a more ambiguous statement than having children become “21st Century Learners”?  It sounds great and looks impressive when included in a technology plan, but what does it mean?  Does it mean every student should be able to use tools such as word processors and presentation software to effectively represent the ideas and information learned about a specific topic?  Does it mean students will be able to utilize social networking tools?  Does it mean children will know how to use Google or Bing to search for information on a topic and then go to the wikipedia link on that topic?  Or does it mean that children will learn the skills necessary to develop the ability to skillfully aggregate information and quickly discern what is meaningful and useful, while ignoring that which is not?  Or does it simply mean that children will learn how to find and download an app?

The point is that the instructional needs should dicate the technology and not the other way around.  The instructional team needs to identify its needs and then work to find technological tools and resources which meet those needs.  Sometimes the latest and greatest technological wonders are simply cool gadgets,with little or no instructional value.

There is a place for Technology in Schools

I do not believe this to be the case with iPads.  In fact, I believe very strongly that the iPad does bring a lot to the table.  Its portability, functionality and ease of use make it a terrific tool for schools.  Before rushing to place a large oder for these devices, schools should clearly identify why they are being purchased, how they are going to be used and what the goals and outcomes are for the use of these devices.

The Genius at Google is Uncovered

October 14, 2010 1 comment

 

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

 

Further proof about the genius of the folks at  Google was brought to light today by technology columnist, David Pogue, in his New York Times post, “Pogue’s Posts.”

It was announced today that Google’s GOOG-411 service will end on November 12, 2010.  While I have found this service to very useful on many occasions, that is not the part of Pogue’s Post that caught my attention.

What I found most insightful about Mr. Pogue’s post was his uncovering of the real reason Google established the free service in the first place.  Why (and how) Google would offer this service at no charge was always a mystery to me.  Outside of the tagline about calls being connected by bandwidth.com, the service was free of advertising and there was no clearly identified mechanism for Google to make money on this service.

Apparently, Google’s purpose for offering this service, according to Pogue’s Post, was as a “phoneme-harvesting operation for honing Google’s voice technologies.”  In other words, they collected voice samples from the service users for the further development of other voice services.

This is just another example of how brilliant the minds of those working at Google really are.  The last time I was this impressed by Google’s genius was when they came up with the brilliant marketing campaign to spread to the word about the release of their Chrome browser.  The idea was that the gift giver could prepare an interactive online greeting card, for friends, family members and colleagues, while simultaneously introducing Google Chrome.

Word comes out very frequently these days, that Google is spreading its wings.  It recently expanded into areas like Google TV and investing in the transmission of power generated by Wind Farms off the east coast of the United States.  It is likely just a matter of time before more of Google’s brilliance is unveiled.

By the way, I still swear the “beep, beep, beep” sounds heard while waiting on the GOOG-411 service, were human, not computerized tones.

E-textbooks are on the way, but not dominant in classrooms yet

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment
Behold the iPad in All Its Glory

Image via Wikipedia

Student’s today are likely still left carrying around heavy, disheveled, out-of-date books.  These texts may be loaded with inaccuracies, with no fast or easy way to update or correct them.  As reported in the Statesman, things may be changing, slowly.

Someday students won’t carry heavy textbooks with them, but that day isn’t quite here yet

The same digital revolution that upended the music industry and is transforming TV, movies and books is slowly working its way into classrooms.

In many schools, students are just as likely to carry a cell phone as a backpack. Schools and libraries are wired, outfitted with desktop, laptop and netbook computers with high-speed Internet access. Many of them are beginning to experiment with touch-screen computer tablets like the Apple iPad or increasingly powerful smart phones.

But when it comes to the holy grail of electronic education — the e-textbook — Texas schools haven’t quite arrived at the date when students can stop carrying printed textbooks around.

But they’re getting there. For this first time, school districts in Texas had the option for the 2010-2011 school year to decide what percentage of their textbooks were electronic or printed and could use textbook money to instead purchase things such as electronic devices or supplemental Web-based educational materials.

But school districts, lawmakers, educational software developers and officials in the Texas Education Agency say a lack of ubiquitous Internet and computer access for students, weak e-textbook content and costs to schools and publishers are major obstacles that have to be overcome before printed textbooks are gone for good.

What is an ‘e-textbook’?

Part of the problem with getting electronic textbooks into the hands of students in Texas has been that “e-textbooks” itself is a broad term that, for all its promise, doesn’t really mean anything.

“The term ‘e-textbooks’ has been thrown around pretty indiscriminately,” said state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston. “There’s been electronically produced textbooks since the mid-’90s.”

Hochberg, who co-authored legislation last year that allows the state to purchase electronic content and distribute it to students instead of, say, printed texts bundled with CD-ROMs, said the term covers a wide variety of formats and devices.

The most basic kind of e-textbook a direct reproduction of a printed text in an electronic PDF format. But, under state law changes, it can now also be Web-based educational material, including video, interactive quizzes and discussion forums.

Legislation that passed last year also opened up billions of dollars in textbook funds that also can be used for laptops, smart phones, e-book readers or other devices we haven’t even dreamt of yet that will access textbooks that are housed online.

Hochberg said he believes that the state and school districts will save money by distributing educational material through “open-source” licenses. The state would purchase electronic content from a publisher once and be given the ability to distribute it as many times as needed to students and teachers instead of paying for each textbook. If a print version were needed, it could be printed from the electronic version for about $25 for a single copy.

“We’d have as many copies as we needed,” Hochberg said, “We’d never again have to buy Shakespeare.”

Open-source, Web-based texts, he said, also allow the content to be accessible from any device, from an iPhone to a Kindle e-book reader to a desktop in a school’s computer lab.

It’s a large shift that puts the state in the position of managing large quantities of data and beginning to solicit new kinds of educational software and texts.

“It really puts Texas out front in the educational materials market,” he said. “There’s not a lot of states with enough students to get into the content development market.”

Digitizing the district

John Alawneh , executive director of technology for Austin Independent School District, said many students, including his own three children, would love to abandon their bulky school books. “They would love to access everything they need online rather than carry their textbooks with them,” he said. “They rely on Google to look up concepts they’re exposed to in class to get quick information. I think that’s what electronic textbooks will do.”

But Alawneh and Dave Sanders, director of educational technology for the Austin district, both said that although administrators, teachers and students are excited about the educational opportunities new technologies might provide, issues of access and a lack of truly interactive content is delaying the shift.

“I think the value and the benefit is very clear,” Alawneh said. “But I don’t think the challenges have been resolved. How do you take full advantage of the electronic book and why is the cost still the same?”

In many cases, Alawneh said, publishers won’t sell an electronic copy of a book without the purchase of a print edition as well. And frequently, that electronic copy is a PDF version of the text with no added interactive features or content.

Though the electronic texts are easy to print from and searchable, making it easy to find keywords, they’re not the future, they said.

“An electronic textbook should be a lot more than a PDF of what the hard copy is,” Sanders said. “It’s online, so that’s one step forward, but it should be a lot more.”

Sanders and Alawneh said that a bigger concern is that as school districts move to electronic textbooks it’s important that all students have access to them, whether they’re at school or at home.

“Going electronic with the books at the state level is going to cut down a lot of cost. But then you need these devices at the school level,” Alawneh said. Whether it’s a netbook, iPad, smart phone or e-reader, he said, “Equipping each kid with some kind of device is not cheap. Most likely the district is going to have to take on that responsibility if the state or the community does not find a solution to make sure all kids have the tools and digital resources to access (e-textbooks) from anywhere.”

Av fast Internet connection in homes is also an obstacle. Data from the state show that although 97 percent of homes in the state have access to broadband Internet, only 62 percent use it. The situation is more dire in Hispanic and black non-Hispanic homes. According to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data, only 39.7 percent of Hispanics and 45.9 percent of black non-Hispanics have high-speed Internet at home in the U.S., compared with 65.7 percent of white non-Hispanics and 67.3 percent of Asian non-Hispanics.

Nevertheless, AISD is optimistic that eventually costs will go down and that the growing world of educational mobile apps and video-rich Web content will be the future of classroom learning.

“We know we can’t go 100 percent digital at this moment in time,” Sanders said. “But we feel we’re headed that way.”

The devices they’ll use

What that educational future looks like has been the central preoccupation of Michael Mayrath, president of a small Austin company called GetYa Learn On. Mayrath has a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Texas and spent a year at Harvard University as a post-doctoral fellow studying educational testing.

Along the way, he’s been a tester of e-textbooks for the Texas Education Association (a position he’s leaving soon to focus on his company) and has developed an iPhone/iPad app, “Statistics 1,” that has sold about 5,000 copies.

From what he’s seen of e-textbook submissions and in his own education research, he believes the materials can improve substantially.

Big publishers aren’t using the advantage of the digital medium, he said. “If an e-textbook is Web-based, think of all you could do with online learning.”

Mayrath said that could include virtual worlds (like the online game “Second Life”), educational games, simulations and programs that cater to the student’s individual learning needs and interests.

In addition to multimedia, built-in quizzes and flash cards, e-textbooks could also offer more tools for teachers and continuous assessments that would give educators more insight into a student’s learning.

Those kinds of e-textbooks will need to be available for a wide variety of devices, but Mayrath and many teachers and software developers are impressed with the capabilities that apps for smart phones and for devices like the iPad are bringing to the table.

One app in particular, “The Elements: A Visual Exploration,” a visual representation of the Periodic Table, has been a hit in some classrooms and was mentioned several times by sources interviewed for this story as an example of the next generation of educational tools. In “Elements,” each element is represented as a 3-D object that can be rotated by touch.

Apple Inc. itself has been doing iPad pilot programs in Texas in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, in Beaumont and in White Oak Independent School District in East Texas.

Closer to home, Dell Inc. is bullish on the market for its devices as e-textbooks begin to take off. Mark Horan, vice president and general manager of the company’s educational business, said the company was an advocate of last year’s law changes based on demand from its customers.

“I think we played a big role in making that happen,” Horan said. “We believe the technology will engage students and help them a great deal.”

Horan said he believes school districts will opt for devices that do more than simply access textbooks from a website. “Offering up a multifunction device like a PC or a tablet allows you to collaborate online and prepare content and do more than one thing,” he said.

The company has an education lab at its Round Rock headquarters and is eyeing devices that could be used in schools. This month it released the Streak, a mini-tablet with a 5-inch screen that can also work as a smart phone. The company is also expected to release a larger tablet device soon.

“We’re definitely looking at all different possibilities,” Horan said. “It’s a great opportunity for Dell to work with publishers and content providers in the (education) industry.”

What’s available now

In April, Gov. Rick Perry predicted that electronic textbooks would be the only textbooks by 2014.

“I don’t see any reason in the world we need to have textbooks in Texas in the next four years,” he told a computer-gaming education conference at the time.

After the education laws were passed last year in the Texas Legislature, the state authorized the creation of a Texas Education Association Commissioner’s List of electronic versions of textbooks.

So far, about 15 texts are on that list, mostly in areas of literature and English. Anita Givens, association commissioner for standards and programs at the TEA, said the list is expanding to include science materials and resources for teachers. Though it takes about three years for textbooks to go through the State Board of Education’s selection process, e-textbooks bound for the commissioner’s list will only take one year.

Not everyone is thrilled with the TEA’s progress. In an editorial published in May, State Board of Education member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller worried about outdated electronics, the cost of books shifting to districts and a lack of standards for electronic texts that aren’t properly vetted.

“\u2026 If we don’t have quality content, the devices will simply be empty boxes,” she wrote.

Givens is optimistic that e-textbooks, especially ones that will offer more interactive features, will feed a growing demand.

“The main thing is our schools are hungry for these new types of instructional resources,” Givens said. “These are new and innovate ways of engaging students.”

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Google Chrome for the Mac

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Wow!  Finally!  It seems like I have been waiting a very long time for the release of the Google Chrome browser for the Mac.

Today I was notified about the beta release of this product and immediately downloaded and installed the new browser on 2 of my Macs.  Very exciting.

I was immediately impressed by the speed of the pages loading.  Far faster than the Firefox browser on either machine.  The sleek, clean, simple interface is also appealing.  Equally impressive is the ability to search and navigate all from the address bar.

Though I have only used it for a couple of hours, it looks very promising.  The web-based student information system used in my school district appears to work flawlessly (at least at first glance.)  This is a tremendous improvement.  Up until now users needed to use Safari as their browser in order to successfully access the SIS from a Mac.  Even Safari users encountered mixed results though.

Google continues to impress.

LI Tech Summit 2009

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Attending the Long Island Tech Summit.

Will Richardson just provided a very thought provoking keynote address.  Check out his blog at http://weblogg-ed.com/. Will introduced many of the attendees to Diingo.

David Warlick, the second keynote speaker at today’s event just showed a great site he only became aware of in the last 24 hours.  Check out Trendsmap, to keep up to date on what’s happening where on Twitter.

Later today, I am participating on a panel discussion on the use of Google Apps in schools.  It was interesting to see David effortlessly and without fanfare or attention, integrate a Google docs worksheet into his presentation this morning.  You can check out a very new (not yet fully developed) Google Site I created as a central point for the roll out of our Polyvision Eno, as an example of the free tools available to educators.

Both speakers were very informative, of course.  More importantly they left all audience members questioning their beliefs, methodologies and practices concerning technology in their schools.  Questioning what technology is made available to their staff and students, and how that technology is currently being used.

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