Friday, February 23, 2007

Is this the perfect student note-taking device?

This is a device that is extremely intriguing. "Solidtek DigiMemo L2 Digital Notepad is a stand-alone device with storage capability that digitally captures and stores everything you write or draw with ink on ordinary paper, without the use of computer and special paper. Then you can easily view, edit, organize and share your handwritten notes in Windows. When connected to a PC, the DigiMemo L2 offers an on-line writing function which can instantly synchronize your writing on the paper with the digital page in its software in Windows. It also is a USB tablet device in Windows. "

So my question is could this be a student entry tablet for use independently as well as in class, with products like DyKnow Vision, Classroom Presenter, Ubiquitious Presenter, MS Windows Journal, One Note and more? Does anyone know? Have you tried it? Let me know.

Econometrics and Teaching Economics

While we look at the whiz bang of various devices and softwares we forget that econometrics is the technology that we use the most to learn and teach economics. A raging controversy which is fun to read and now a year old is on Donald Lushkin's blog -- Is Econometrics a Science.

Wikipedia and Writing about Economics

William Polley just posted a commentary on wikipedia that is worth reading. This is the time my students are heavily invested in writing and researching and the temptation of web spaces like wikipedia is seductive. As Polley points out there is both the good and the bad, but before you cite wikipedia read his commentary. His commentary starts: "Is Wikipedia an acceptable source for college papers? Of course not. Is Wikipedia a useful research tool for college students? Absolutely." Go read...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Learning and Learning Style Preferences

The December 2006 issue of CHEER has an article by Naser-Nick Manochehr, The Influence of Learning Styles on Learners in E-Learning Environments... who shows that students who have learning styles that learn best through lecture, papers, analogies, labortories, field work and observations did better in web based learning. Those who like to learn through simulations, case study, brainstorming and logs did better in instructor based learning.

I have wondered about this ever since learning about learning style preferences in a seminar with Neil Fleming about his VARK quiz to reveal learning style preferences of Visual, Aural, Read/Write and Kinestetic. I have used VARK as a pre-assessment in my online courses to help the students at a distance learn techniques of learning that might help them.

Someday maybe I will correlate all those VARK scores with student performance, maybe someone else will and will comment here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Recording Lectures for Later Playback

Campus Technology reports that "Lecture Recording System Draws Devotees at Temple." Caputuring handwriting is addressed in this story and I think that is essential. I have been playing with a free trial download of ZD Soft Screen Recorder (Free for 5 minute recordings and $39 for the unrestricted version). This allows for the recording of everything that shows on my screen including handriting and allows a simultaneous audio recording. Sizes of the files are very small and can then be sent to a streaming server or made available from download.

There are lots of available options for codecs including their own format ZD Soft Screen Video, "which is designed for generic screen recording purpose. ZD Soft Screen Video provides lossless image quality in extremely small file size. This package is used to make those videos playable in various kinds of media players, such as Windows Media Player, Real Player and etc. The FOURCC code of ZD Soft Screen Video is 'ZDSV'.... Download it here. (from the zdsoft website)."

More later ...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Comparison of Digital Ink Products

This was requested on the WIPTE discussion list -- a comparison of digital ink software such as Journal, One Note, DyKnow, Classroom Presenter and more. I have started a chart online to make those comparisons. Email me your comments, corrections and additions to

Go here for the link.

-- Steve

Friday, February 09, 2007

Virtual Worlds and the Teaching of Economics -- It's Real!

(updated February 11, 2007)
Click on the image to the right and read about Digital Game-Based Learning, and read on...

One game is Second Life is a virtual reality game that all can access and partake in. My wife and I have explored only the surface as we gain an avatar and customize it and begin to walk around this environment. Our University is discussing how we can bring gaming to the classroom for education and there are some examples out there. One of these is in the Athens News (1/29/2007) - "Virtual-reality software creates parallel campus, enhances education" and talks about a class held by Paul Shovlin inside Second Life. Read it it is pretty interesting with even a duplicate Ohio University inside Second Life. While Paul's class is in writing and other course are planned, a few notable persons in the lead are economists.

The number three most downloaded paper in the Social Science Research Library is "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier" by Economist Edward Castronova, Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Telecommunications with 37,653 copies being downloaded ranking him as 15th among all authors. Clearly there is something here. He has 13 papers on virtual worlds and synthetic economies on his author page. No one is quite in the lead on discussions of the economies of virtual economies like he is. He even has his own wikipepia article. His blog TERRA NOVA is about virtual worlds and their implications. It has been in existance since September 2003. I highly recommend that you look around his Synthetic Worlds Institute at Indiana University (where he is director) and especially note their current project ARDEN: The World of William Shakespeare.

Jeff Sarbaum teaches a course in introductory economics in a on-line virtual world at UNC Greesboro. While he does not use second life he does use a virtual world. See "Aliens Teach University Economics Class" (by Nell Boyce, NPR) for some pictures and a description. Here is an article from the Duke Instructional Technology Showcase on Sarbaum's game: "Serious Games: Digital Game-Based Learning in Higher Education." An article in Campus Technology also reviews the game.

Windows Vista Secrets for Tablet PC

This morning I learned that our University's LEAP authentication, which is required to access the secure wireless network, does not work with the new Windows operating system Vista. Personal computers running Vista will not be able to access the UA wireless network. Other applications that have problems working with Vista, including WebCT, MathXL, McAfee and SMS. Testing continues. What gives?

This is disappointing since the link above is to the Microsoft Tablet PC Team Blog that shows the Windows Vista secrets for Tablet PCs. I hope they get it all worked out soon.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Synchronous Digital Ink in MSN Messenger

It's always nice to be cited and Birgit Loch and Christine McDonald have done so in "Synchronous Chat and Electronic Ink for Distance Support in Mathematics," Innovate, Feb/March 2007. They cite my 2004 work on Virtual Office Hours for students at a distance which pointed out that economists, statistician and mathematicians can't effectively communicate at a distance with the normal tools of a computer, with type and the mouse. They show the use of digital ink in MSN Messenger and show examples of mouse drawings. I would like to see this used with Tablet PCs where the precision of writing could improve with the use a pen. I am going to have to install MSN and give it a try. The advantage of this over Adobe Connect? It's free!

Students want professors to use technology, but only if it is used well

In the current edition of Educational Quarterly, v 30, n 1 is "Think Small! A Beginner's Guide to Using Technology to Promote Learning" by Beverly King, UNC Pembrook. While not an economist, she writes some good advice for economists wanting to introduce technology and explains why and how it should be introduced. I enjoyed the article and learned a few things and the section on assessment points to an ECAR report pointing out the title of this entry. I intend to read this fully later, but the observations of 18000 students across 65 institutions seems to be well reported. "... use technology, but only if is used well!" How critical is that? How many of you have suffered through a presentation where the speaker is clueless about the technology? It is painful and distracting.

"A major finding of the 2005 ECAR study is that students with the highest IT skill levels acquired many of them as a result of course (or program) requirements (p.19)." Our responsibility as faculty is to use technology well and to integrate it into the curriculum if it is important for the students to learn it for their future performance. (Our ITL Research group here has surveyed our students, might be interesting to compare results.)

R. B. Kvavik and J. B. Caruso, Study of Students and Information Technology: Convenience, Connection, Control, and Learning (Boulder, Colo.: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, Research Study, Vol. 6, 2005)