Friday, February 26, 2010

Shrink-O-Matic: Another Free Tool

A couple of week ago, we introduced Shrink-O-Matic at a JCCC Ed Tech Center’s Web 2.0 Wednesday session. It’s an Adobe AIR application that easily resizes (shrinks) one or more images (such as JPGs, GIFs and PNGs). If you need to quickly reduce the size of images, you can simply drag and drop the images into Shrink-O-Matic and they'll be resized as you specify! The web 2.0 app offers options so you can choose the output sizes, names and formats of the graphic files. Check it out at It’s a very simple application to use.

Just be aware, this tool is supported by the online developer. If you get stuck, review the Shrink-O-Matic blog at

Innovation Corner: Will the 20 Pound Textbook Still EXist in 5 Years?

Some interesting developments are occurring in the eBook/publishing arena. The recent O'Reilly Tools of Change (TOC) Conference in New York (February 22-24, 2010) covered many topics including eBooks. As recorded on the Smashwords blog (Smashwords is an eBook publisher and distributor), Raymond Kurzweil, the man behind the new Blio ebook platform, spoke of “how most forward-thinking people consider technology progression as linear (steady predictable progress), when in fact some of the most important technical progressions are exponential (progress accelerates over time, catching everyone by surprise). Ebooks are likely an exponential phenomena. They're not a fad, and they may reshape the book market faster than any of us believe.”

The posting on Smashwords ( includes some interesting stats (see the section on “Stats, Stats, Stats”) such as “Ebook customers would be willing to pay more for ebooks if they come with social-media-enabled tools that help them discuss and share the books with others.”

The posting continues, “[What are the] most popular devices for reading ebooks: This is interesting. You might guess, as I did, the Amazon Kindle. Wrong. The most popular device for 47% of customers is their computer screen. Kindle comes in at a close and impressive second place at 32%, followed by 11% for the iPhone, 10% for iPod Touch (note this adds up to 22%, pre-iPad), 9% each for the Blackberry and netbooks, and 8% each for the Barnes & Noble nook and the Sony Reader.”

The most interesting section of the post (“The Future of Digital Textbooks”) states “Whenever publishers create content for which there is great demand (such as textbooks), yet they make that content prohibitively expensive and inaccessible (textbooks), it causes customers to seek out alternative content options (piracy, used textbooks, etc.), all of which provide the publisher no economic benefit.”

“Digital textbooks offer potential relief to students and their parents. The challenge for college textbook publishers is to make the transition to lower cost digital products without putting themselves out of business. I think Flat World (see is well-positioned for the future of textbook publishing….”

If you want to know more about Flat World Knowledge, which offers “remixable textbooks by expert authors” check out the site (above) or the blog posting at

Another potential eBook/textbook tool is Scribd (, “a place for writers to sell books they can't afford to publish and for people to discover others with similar reading interests” (see which has a new send-to-mobile-devices feature that enables readers to select books on the Scribd site and send them to the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s The Nook, the iPhone or a mobile device using the Android operating system (such as the Motorola Droid, Samsung Beam, Nexus One, and HTC Hero). Scribd currently hosts over 10 million documents (growing by 10% each month) and unlike Amazon and Barnes & Noble, their emphasis in on the small self-published author. What does that mean? College instructors can author textbooks or chapters or papers and distribute to the student’s existing mobile device via Scribd.

So when textbooks skyrocket in price, faculty members can author or remix digital versions, and ebook readers, mobile devices and the computer screen are common and popular ways to access content…what do you think is the future of the hardcover or softcover textbook?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Class Videos and Copyright

The University of California at Los Angeles has stopped allowing faculty members to post copyrighted videos on their course Web sites after the Association for Information and Media Equipment (AIME), a group that protects the copyrights of education media companies, charged the university with violating copyright laws by posting the videos to the password-protected course Web pages without the proper permissions. For additional details, check out the Inside Higher Ed article at (be sure to check the very intriquing comments to the article at ).

A follow-up article is also available at .

What does this mean? In overly simplistic terms:
  • Fair use only allows a portion of a work (video or otherwise) to be used by a not-for-profit educational institution in the classroom.
  • The TEACH Act extends the classroom to include any online, password protected course space with access only by currently enrolled students, and access enabled only for a time period appropriate to presentation and discussion of the work.
  • The use of the video must be related to specific course objectives (i.e., not just as a time filler).
  • As a "general rule", the TEACH Act would only authorize portions of, not entire works. The exception might include showing an entire film in a media studies program, but other criteria must also be met.
  • The work (including video) must be legally obtained (e.g., not a pirated copy).
  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal (even if fair use might otherwise apply) to bypass the encryption on digital media (e.g., CSS encryption codes on region-encoded DVDs) in order to create a streaming media version. For example, if you digitize and bypass the encryption on a DVD to create a streaming video clip, the issue of fair use is moot.
  • The TEACH Act does not extend fair use to works primarily produced or marketed for in-class use in the digital distance education market.
JCCC has licenses with several companies to provide video access for instructional purposes, including Ambrosia Video, Journal of Chemical Education (ACS) demonstrations, American History in Video (streaming video collection includes newsreels from 1929 through the 1960s plus hours of documentaries from the History Channel and more), Counseling and Therapy in Video, Dallas TeleLearning Digital Resource Repository, and the INTELECOM Online Resources Network.

Members of AIME, the group that has threatened UCLA with a copyright infringement suit) are listed online ( ).

As background for this increasingly important area of media usage, check out “Video Use and Higher Education: Options for the Future” at .

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Word Tip: Converting a Graphic to Free-Floating

Have you ever added a graphic to a paragraph in Microsoft Word 2007 and found it locked to a specific paragraph when you wanted it to be a "Free-Floating" graphic? To change it from locked to free-floating, simply click the graphic to select it. A new tab labeled Picture Tools appears above the right-most tab. Click the new tab and in the Arrange group, near the right-side of the ribbon, click the down-arrow next to the right of the Text Wrapping text. From the drop-down menu, choose "Through". This releases the graphic from its paragraph anchor, and you can drag the picture anywhere in the document. If you need to have extra vertical space to position the graphic, simply press the Enter key until enough space is reached, and drag the picture to the new location.

Thanks to John R. Nicholson for this tip.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Free eBook Reader Coming?

Everyone’s releasing eBooks, from Apple’s iPad to Amazon’s Kindle to the Sony eBook Reader to Barnes & Noble’s The Nook. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Ray Kurzweil, creator of Kurzweil Educational Systems (technology pioneer and developer of a range of assistive technology products) announced the February release of Blio, a free eBook reader. According to eSchool News (see ), “Perhaps the software’s most impressive feature is that it can support the original layout, font, and graphics of any book in full color, its creators say. It also can support embedded multimedia such as video and audio, and readers have the ability to highlight, annotate, and share information.”

“Blio isn’t yet available, but already it’s backed by Baker & Taylor, one of the world’s largest publishers, as well as Elsevier, Hachette, HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Wiley. Blio users will have access to more than 1 million books altogether, its makers say—including a large selection of current bestselling titles.”

If interested in Blio, go to their web site ( ) and signup for an email alert when the app is available. Also check out for a feature comparison chart (bottom of the page) with other eBook readers.

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