Highlights of this conversation to me were the conversation on the free tools Microsoft has rolled out for teachers. Things like AutoCollage, PhotoSynth, World Wide Telescope, Mouse Mischief, SongSmith, and more including the Microsoft Free Tools Guide. There are some really handy, stable offline alternatives that you can install on your computers at school where you have bandwidth issues or just like the stability of having a program installed on your machine.
We talked about what Skydrive really means for students (you no longer have to open up that MLA paper into a Google Doc or other tool and lose all your formatting but can use skydrive and open the file on any computer with Microsoft Word or in the free online Microsoft Word editing tool.) I've found that the only programs that can handle MLA papers are offline word processors so this is amazing news for teachers who have students write term papers! Skydrive also gives users 25 GB of storage with the free service. I've been using the predecessor Office Live for some time and we find it very useful for coordinating the global Flat Classroom projects, conference, and for editing our new book that will come out in January 2012 from Pearson.
Scalability and Reaching the "Next Classroom Over"
Anthony retells a riveting story from his keynote this morning about going into a school and being taken to a classroom where teachers are doing amazing things. He says as he travels the world, he has begun asking to see the classroom next door or the one down the hall and that the response most often is "you don't want to see that classroom there's nothing special going on there."
This is why Microsoft has been working with Harvard's Chris DeDe on Scalability models.
A Hidden Gem: Microsoft Academic Search
It is about reaching the next classroom over, and when he mentioned the work Chris DeDe has been working on with scalability and as I searched for it, I hit upon something from Microsoft that I didn't know was there. Microsoft Academic Search which seems to be in Beta. Now that is cool! (The Google engine actually turned this up, so no, it wasn't "rigged.")
|Microsoft Academic Search (Beta) for Chris DeDe|
See the screenshot - this handy tool shows how many citations, allows you to download the papers and also creates a graph on the amount of publishing he's done! There is an RSS feed for it so you can subscribe to new papers by your favorite academics in your RSS reader! (OK prof, time to get it!)
|Options for Generating Embed Code for Microsoft Academic Search|
The embed code is just phenomenal and you can extract articles and have them ranked by "importance" or the most recent first and up to 10,000 articles by one person! Wow!
Here is what it looks like embedded:
One caveat... what happens when people start searching for an academic and instead find a page like aggregated above. Spammers and engines could actually generate traffic off of an academic's content, particularly if that academic scholar has no web presence. (Search engines weight on traffic.) This is another wake up call to academics and everyone that they must protect their online identity by having a presence on the Internet.
As I was talking to Frank Schmit from Luxembourg, he mentioned that he had to join Facebook because his students had created a fan page for him on Facebook! Tongue in cheek it was called "the bestest English teacher on Facebook" and it was kind compliments of his abilities as a teacher. This just points out that many academics are joining these spaces for the imperative of having a presence.
Academics if you don't join a space, someone else will join it for you.
Again, as I summarize, I hope you'll listen to the conversation with Anthony above. Although the world has seemed to have a love affair with "free" and Open source -- honestly, there is really no such thing as free and I do find it refreshing to have tools that aren't tracking student data or requiring a sign of up any kind for my students to use!