Category Archives: Technology

MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) at UW – Madison

Classrooms have been changing over the past 20 years as new technologies become available, but they may come with consequences that affect students and faculty alike.

The University of Wisconsin is following the lead of top-tier schools like Berkeley, MIT and Stanford in offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) that any person with a computer and an Internet connection can access for free.

“Right now, we are treating the pilots like an experiment,” said Dr. John Hawks, a professor in social sciences who will be teaching a MOOC in January. “After the first round of courses is done, we will meet and decide whether they have met desired outcomes.”

Some of these desired outcomes include the number of students who follow through the class to completion, how the University is able to support it, and how professors feel about teaching them. Continue reading

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Computer Use in Lectures at UW – Madison

In the past few years, computers have become a necessity in college. A 2012 study by the Division of Information Technology found that 97% of student respondents use a laptop computer.

Some faculty members believe that this can become a distraction, especially when used to take notes in lecture.

“I want people to look at me when I give lectures,” said physics professor Sam Hokin. “In physics there’s really no reason to have a laptop open, like 50% of what I teach is equations.”

Hokin calls himself a ‘chalk-and-talk’ professor. He does not use PowerPoint presentations in his lectures, but provides his students with lecture notes so that they can become involved in the class.

“I’m a pretty unusual physics professor in that I have more rules. I want students to ask questions and answer questions.” Continue reading

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Competition between digital & analog worlds?

In Paul Virilio’s paper on the speed of information, he attempts to make sense of the transition from an analog world to a digital one. Although I think that many of the points he makes are valid, I would argue that digital reality is not at odds with what he considers to be the “real” world.

Firstly, I must define what digital reality and tangible reality are. The digital world is just that: it requires the existence of computers and technology to keep it running. The internet itself is merely the result of connections between computers. The digital world does not, however, ignore temporal boundaries. The digital world does not tell users what the future is (at least beyond a few days of weather predictions), but it does catalog some of what the past has taught us. In this way, the internet is like a book. The digital world is accessible to any person around the world with a working computer and an internet connection. It does not permeate everything everywhere, but where it does exist, it shortens the time and space between users.

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Expandable Memory in Mobile Computing

One popular argument that Droid smartphone owners use to justify purchasing it against another phone is that it has the potential for expandable memory. A device with expandable memory might have very little storage but has space for an SD card to upgrade the capacity by 16, 32 or 64 GB depending on the size of the SD card.

Some businesses, however, have not adopted this policy. Apple’s mobile computing devices like the iPhone and iPad do not have expandable memory, but models are available with a certain amount of storage. The iPad with Retina, for example, costs $499 for the 16 GB model. The 32 GB model is $599, 64 GB costs $699 and 128 GB is $799. These models cannot be upgraded: in other words, the only way to get 32 GB if you purchased a 16 GB model would be to do a return, or to sell the original and then purchase the larger option. Continue reading

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Present-Day Cyborgs and Body Modification

Changing technologies within the past 50 years have given rise to fears of the power of these new technologies. In the movie Blade Runner (based on the book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick) for example, robots in human form live among the general population and are only distinguishable by their inability to feel emotion. What happens when the line between android and human is blurred? This is where the concept of a cyborg comes into play. A cyborg is a human who has been altered with computer technology either for the purpose of replacing missing parts (think Luke Skywalker’s robotic arm) or make existing parts better (think Terminator, as pictured). Continue reading

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Instant Video Games and the Console Player

steamOver the past year, downloadable games like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies have become household names. Children are being introduced to mobile gaming platforms at a very young age through their parents’ smartphones and tablets, and free games become a gateway to hardcore gaming in the form of MMOs. How does this translate for the gamers who still prefer platforms and gaming on their televisions? Older platforms like Sony’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft’s XBox 360 have been adapted to access the internet, and gamers can pay for and download certain titles right from their living room. Continue reading

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Anonymous Threatens Zynga With Release of Games

Anonymous is a collective of unknown, unnamed people associated through the internet, and in this case the term refers to an organization of hackers who claim they safeguard the public good. Zynga is a video gaming company famous for its Facebook-based game Farmville.

Anonymous released a statement on detailing a wonderfully dramatic kind of blackmail that could save almost 800 jobs. I’m not a fan of small groups claiming to represent the greater majority, but this is suggestive of an epic battle along the lines of Clark Kent versus Lex Luthor. Anonymous has apparently hacked into Zynga’s servers and extracted games that normally cost money, threatening to release them to the public for free unless the company “will cease immediately the plan.”

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Interviewing in the Digital Age

After reading through Tompkins’s “Aim for the Heart” chapter 6, I thought about how technology influences the interview processes. He made a lot of good points, touching on a few that are probably familiar to most people already. The most interesting things that came to mind during this reading, however, were the changes in technologies over the past few years.

What is the best way to interview someone if that information is going to be filtered into written stories for publishing or alternative story forms? Continue reading

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The Greatest Blog Post Ever Sold

… but not really.

Courtesy of

This blog doesn’t get nearly enough views for me to put advertisements up, but if I did, I would be getting paid just because you’re reading this. This is part of the reason Facebook makes money- not a lot, granted, but Facebook is currently worth a few billion dollars.  For every page on which an ad is shown, the proprietor of a website will make a few cents. Given the number of ads on each page, and the number of viewers, this can add up fairly quickly.

So why don’t we use ads to pay for more? In a sense, we already do. Twitter shows ‘promoted’ feeds that pay for more views even though you might not subscribe to the sender. I once heard a great quote that went something like “If you do not pay for a product or service, you are the product being sold.” Essentially, this is true. Free services like most e-mail servers, website hosting (including, dear friends, my blog), social networking and other such web-based platforms are all fueled by advertisement revenue.

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