Monday, November 28, 2011

University of Phoenix student's online learning testimonial

I was at Publix bright and early this morning - 7:15AM - and got in line behind a pleasant, talkative woman - perhaps in her mid 30's - who tried to insist that I go ahead of her - but she'd already been helping the woman in front of her, so I figure it was my turn to wait a few minutes. She had already said that she was going home to do a final exam. I told her to stay ahead of me since all I had to do was go home and do some grading. I asked her about her final. She said she was a student at University of Phoenix and loved her online courses there. She'd been a business major, but when she wanted to switch to English with a minor in business, they informed her that the entire English program was online. She worried over whether or not she could be successful in that environment especially since she'd been out of school of a long time. She took the plunge and she says she loves it! She works full-time and having online asynchronous courses means she can come home and rest for a while and get into her course work when she's recovered. She says that she goes to the nearby University of Phoenix learning center a couple of days a week and uses her time there to concentrate on her course work. She was also busy telling the cashier that she couldn't go over $50 on her purchases. She joked that she'd bought a lot of "college student food" trying to keep her bills down so she could pay for her degree. In spite of the financial part she seemed happy with her educational experiences at University of Phoenix. Nice to hear someone with a positive view of her higher educational experience! I'm glad I didn't taken her offer to cut in front of her in line.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Save our scrollbars!

Save the Scrollbar! Why are Apple Google, and Facebook eradicating a linchpin of user interface design? asked Farhad Manjoo. I already commented that I totally agree with his concern about the loss of the visible scroll bar as an element of web page design. Also lost is the down arrow at the end of the right-side scroll bar on web pages - a nice clue that there was some reason to scroll down(!) Also lost: the scroll bar as a partition of spaces on the web page. Without the obvious visible cue, I find my eyes drifting all the way to the left side of the screen even though the text I'm trying to read is in the center of the page. (I had to switch over to using a theme for gmail so that the color would act as a divider between the left-side tools and the email messages in the center of the screen.) Just now I was trying to read blogs via Google Reader using Chrome. I'm finding it just about impossible to use my not-too-shabby Logitech mouse to read down through one article without finding myself having skipped down to the next article. I can go to the each blog itself and work it from there - but that negates the usefulness of Google Reader. I find myself working to overcome the navigational tools in my browsers rather than just get on with the tasks at hand. Some users say they like the invisible scroll bar. Isn't there some way to give users a choice? (The older version of Firefox still provides a view of the down arrow at the end of the scroll bar in Google Reader.) My recent frustrations with reading via the Web has made me grateful that Evernote has developed Clearly (like Readability for Evernote). I asked about the ability to move items from Readability directly to Evernote after I became aware of Readability, but the reply back then was that Evernote didn't work with other companies like that. However, time has passed and others must have put their request more eloquently and Clearly seems to be working very well - "one click for distraction-free online reading" (and clipping to Evernote.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Print books

I've been thinking about the physicality of "books" lately. Books have weight, mass, volume... whatever. James Wood writes about his father-in-law's library/ "The acquisition of a book signalled not just the potential acquisition of knowledge but also something like the property rights to a piece of ground: the knowledge became a visitable place." (My father-in-law's library. New Yorker. November 7, 2011. p. 41) Electronic books? Not so much! (I know that some have calculated how much the electrons in a digital book weigh, but come'on! That's not on the same physical plane as most of us.) At least some libraries are busy on re-organizing spaces that incorporate no physical books. They are losing out on the idea of print books as emblems of their contents, posters for their contents, eye-catching advertisements for their contents - and even acoustical aids. When others are happily considering books as an element in interior design, libraries seem bent on cutting down on the number of physical books they own. (I'll have to take some photos inside the USF Tampa Library where the only visible books on the main floor is a very small browsing collection next to the requisite Starbucks.) Now... I have to say that I'm pretty much over the idea of owning physical books. I used to own tons of books. Then somewhere along the line decided that I was never going to have a larger house and that most of the books I owned were not endangered species. I cut down on the number of physical books I own relying on library access and electronic access - free when I can figure out a place to get items for "free" and paying for e-books when other routes are not available. I was faced with a gift of some physical books recently and had to say that I was alarmed at their weight and volume. I was at someone's house not too long ago - and again, the size of books was alarming. BUT... I have a lot of empathy for those who still appreciate the physical book. Ben Mezrich said "I hate the idea of the Kindle, but I love my Kindle." So...there seems to be this acceptance/rejection of print books - something that has weight, odor...handling a print book invokes our senses. (The Tampa Library at University of South Florida is moldy. Many of the books smell slightly of mold.) A book e-reader has its tactile charms, but handling my Kindle doesn't seem quite as rich as hanlding print books. Lately therehave some visions of the future that imagine everything under glass, made of glass, glass-like... our future interface for knowledge, communication of many kinds, etc. Does this mean that everything we handle will feel the same? Will everything we touch have the same temperature? Will everything we touch feel slick? Nothing warm and fuzzy? Hmmm...that idea makes me feel a little more sentimental about "books." Some of the things that got me thinking about print books: Carr. Nicolas. People in glass futures should throw stones. (November 10, 2011) Mezrich, Ben. In depth: Ben Mezrich. Paulus, Michael. Defending my library. Curator. (October 21, 2011). Victor, Bret. A brief rant on the future of interaction design. (November 8, 2011). Wood, James. My father-in-law's library. James Wood. New Yorker. (November 7, 2011), p. 41

Friday, November 4, 2011

Kindle Owners Lending Library

Kindle Owners Lending Library: If you have Amazon Prime (which includes free shipping of products that Amazon ships - and access to thousands of streaming videos (movies/TV shows), choose from over 5,000 titles (including more than 100 current and former New York Times bestsellers) to read on your Kindle. This is works on all Kindles even those of us with last year's models. There's a 1 month free trial even for people who don't have Prime. It sounds like you can borrow 1 book a month with this program - or... it's 1 book at a time? Not quite sure! The newspapers are saying "1 book a month" from this lending service, but from the Kindle Lending library info on the Amazon page, it sounds like "1 book at a time" (?) How do we access those books from our Kindles? Use the Menu. Turn on Wireless. Then from the Menu, go to Shop in Kindle Store and click the button and then... look for "See all..." and click on that - and then you'll see Kindle Owners Lending Library. I just borrowed the second book of Hunger Games which I've yet to read (Save your battery life - Remember to turn off Wi Fi.) This does NOT work on Kindle apps - It's Kindle devices only. Here's one of the press releases "Amazon has launched a new feature called the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. The library gives Amazon Prime members that own Kindles the ability to borrow books for free. Participants can borrow a book a month for as long as they want. Books included in this lending library include: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Big Short and Liars’ Poker by Michael Lewis; The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins; Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen; Guns, Germs, and Steel; Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential; and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.This offering expands the free content that is available to Amazon Prime members. These members also have access to streaming a library of about 13,000 movies and TV shows." Reminder: Watch for Kindle Daily Deal Link which changes every night at midnight. As I'm writing this, Neve Maslakovic's Regarding Ducks and Universes is the daily deal for $1.99. A note "For Kindle Device Owners" indicates that this is one of the books that I could get for free through the new Lending Library. Keep an eye on which looks like a good place for more tips and info on free Kindle books, discounted books, and promo lists. Example: Kindleworld links to Monthy book deals What are the librarians going to say now? This will skim off some library Kindle-owning customers who would have come to library web sites to check on free offerings. What will Amazon offer via libraries? Non-best sellers? Or... will they seed the library holdings with some best sellers in order to entice readers to join Prime membership? Do libraries need customers?