Monday, December 18, 2006

Regular Folks, Shooting/Changing History

"The rapid rise of digital technology... is changing the way the world witnesses history... Events that once were recorded only by human memory may now endure in full, pixelated detail, available in seconds around the globe.

The trend is driven by the proliferation of camera-equipped cellphones, introduced in Japan in 2000. Worldwide sales topped 460 million this year and will reach 1 billion by 2010, according to industry analysts."

-- excerpted from:

"Regular Folks, Shooting History
Digital Technology Makes 'Citizen Journalists' Out of Eyewitnesses Eager to Click and Post," By Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post Foreign Service, Monday, December 18, 2006; A01

GLASGOW, Scotland -- At 2:42 p.m. on Oct. 11, Dean Collins heard a thunderous explosion as he worked at his computer in his 30th-floor apartment in Manhattan.

Collins looked out his window and saw a small plane crashing into a building right in front of him -- the accident that killed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor. Instinctively, he recalled, he pulled his Fuji digital camera from a drawer and started shooting, thinking to himself, "This is going to be on the news."

Collins, a consultant for a software company, said he remembered reading about Scoopt, a year-old agency in Scotland that brokers photos for "citizen journalists." Within minutes, he had e-mailed his digital shots to Scoopt. Hours later, his picture of a smoking Manhattan high-rise was in three British newspapers, including a front-page splash in the Times of London. He earned $650 for his work.

The rapid rise of digital technology, which enables ordinary people almost anywhere to record images and post them quickly on the Internet, is changing the way the world witnesses history, not to mention the dependable misbehavior of celebrities. Events that once were recorded only by human memory may now endure in full, pixelated detail, available in seconds around the globe.

The trend is driven by the proliferation of camera-equipped cellphones, introduced in Japan in 2000. Worldwide sales topped 460 million this year and will reach 1 billion by 2010, according to industry analysts.

With the proliferation of images, prosecutors are increasingly relying on photos as evidence in cases against accused muggers, terrorists and other criminals. Insurance companies balance cellphone photos against recollection as they assess auto accidents.

And the presence of cellphone cameras in handbags and coat pockets means that for the famous, private space is shrinking fast. Scoopt has also sold cellphone photos of Michelle Rodriguez, star of the television show "Lost," drinking and partying wildly in a bar in New York, and shots of Paris Hilton dancing on a table in Las Vegas.

Celebrities everywhere have been stung by stealthy camera phones. Grainy photos of supermodel Kate Moss snorting what appeared to be cocaine, apparently shot with a camera phone, appeared in newspapers worldwide last year. Britain's Prince Harry was forced to apologize last year when a fellow reveler at a costume party used a camera phone to snap the prince wearing a Nazi uniform -- then sold the photos to tabloids for thousands of dollars.

Forty-three years ago, a single person with a home movie camera captured the only detailed images of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. If today's technology had existed then, dozens or even hundreds of people with cellphones and pocket-size digital cameras probably would have recorded the shooting from every possible angle.

"We might actually know if there was somebody on the grassy knoll," said Dan Gillmor, a California-based journalist and author who has written extensively about what he calls "grass-roots journalism."

Governments have always controlled information, from the Nazis to South American dictators hiding evidence of their "disappeared" enemies, said David Friend, an editor at Vanity Fair. "But now the photograph has suddenly changed the equation -- the power is in the hands of the average citizen," said Friend, whose 2006 book, "Watching the World Change," explores the rising power of images. "Whatever you do now, you will be held accountable. You will be seen."

Friend noted that camera-equipped cellphones were not common in the United States at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The historical record of events would have been richer if people in the twin towers or on the hijacked planes had been able to send out photos and video of their ordeal.

"We now have as close to an objective truth about an event as we've ever had in history," he said.

Newspapers and television networks actively urge readers and viewers to send in their pictures of newsworthy events to supplement the work of professional photographers. And Internet sites help distribute them widely -- sites such as YouTube and Flickr, where anyone can post their photos and video for public consumption, are wildly popular. After Michael Richards, a former star of the TV comedy show "Seinfeld," was recorded with a cellphone camera last month at a Los Angeles club insulting black hecklers with a tirade of racial slurs, more than 1.3 million people viewed the video on YouTube.

NowPublic, a year-old venture that calls itself a "participatory news network," posts news and images from its "citizen journalists" on its Web site; the site claims 31,000 reporters in 130 countries, tapping into what it calls "the wisdom of crowds." The Reuters news agency and Yahoo recently joined forces to start You Witness News, which showcases amateur photos and video on the Yahoo news Web site.
'So Much Better'

Kyle MacRae, who runs Scoopt out of a converted bedroom in his small Glasgow home, was giving his two young sons a bath when his phone rang minutes after the Manhattan crash. It was Collins calling from New York. There was a plane down. He had photos. MacRae told him to e-mail them immediately.

MacRae said reports out of New York were confusing. Was it another 9/11 unfolding, or just an accident?

Whatever it was, MacRae looked at the e-mailed images arriving on his computer and knew that Collins had photos he could sell.

MacRae, 43, a former journalist and author of a dozen books on technology, started Scoopt with his wife, Jill, after the July 2005 transit system bombings in London. Many of the most memorable images from the subway tunnels were made by commuters with camera phones.

In 15 months, Scoopt has registered almost 12,000 people in 97 countries. U.S.-based Cell Journalist and Spy Media and several other agencies that deal exclusively in celebrity photos are providing similar services.

Verifying photos' authenticity is always a concern. MacRae said he quizzes photographers about their shots to make sure they are what they seem to be. MacRae said he caught one faker who said he got a shot of Mary-Kate Olsen while hiding behind thick hedges -- on a busy Manhattan street. Pressed by MacRae, the person admitted he had lifted the photo from the Internet and tried to pass it off as his own.

Many news agencies are leery of unsolicited photos that could have been altered or staged. Gillmor said one famous hoax purported to show a tourist posing at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, with a jetliner in the background about to smash into the tower. He said he recently rejected a photo that purported to show Cuban leader Fidel Castro dead in a coffin.

When Collins's photos arrived in Glasgow, MacRae called him back. Collins said that he could see photographers scrambling across rooftops and on the ground trying to get a good angle but that none had his vantage point. Within minutes, MacRae put the photos out on Internet-based distribution services monitored by photo editors at all major British newspapers. Almost immediately, the Sun newspaper in London and the Herald in Glasgow called to buy a photo.

In their London newsroom, editors at the Times had just chosen an image from the Associated Press for the early editions of the paper when the Scoopt photo appeared on their computer screens.

"The images from the AP were good, but this one was just so much better," said Paul Sanders, picture editor at the Times.
Privacy Concerns

Sitting in the Scoopt office, surrounded by books and spare computer modems and cables, MacRae welcomed his boys home from grade school one recent afternoon while neighbors bantered loudly on the rainy street below. Snoop Dogg, the American rapper, stared back at MacRae from his computer screen.

At Heathrow Airport last April, members of Snoop Dogg's 30-member entourage got into a brawl with police, apparently triggered when British Airways barred from its first-class lounge some members of the rapper's party who were flying economy class.

Within a couple of hours of the dust-up, MacRae had received five cellphone photos of Snoop Dogg browsing through the duty-free shop just before fists started flying. Because police quickly sealed off the area where the brawl happened, they were the only photos of him from the scene. Ten minutes after the pictures came in, MacRae sent them out to his list of publications interested in celebrity news.

"The phones started ringing right away," he said, and the next day the images appeared in Newsday and the New York Daily News, and later in Rolling Stone and magazines and newspapers in Britain.

With so many camera phones making celebrity photos so easy to come by, MacRae said, he is trying to get the balance right between newsworthiness and privacy.

"We're stuck in the middle trying to find a sensible approach," he said. "But I do know that you can't turn this off. Sooner or later, every news story will be captured first by a citizen journalist."

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

iCampus - FridayLive! Dec 15, 2006 2pm Eastern

"Developing and Spreading Educational Uses of Technolgy - A Study of iCampus - the MIT-Microsoft Alliance" on FridayLive!
December 15, 2006; 2pm Eastern U.S. Time Zone
Interview with Featured Guest: Steve Ehrmann, Dir., The Flashlight Program, The TLT Group

In 1999-2006, the $25 million iCampus Program funded dozens of faculty- and student-led software development projects at MIT. Some of that software began having significant use and influence at MIT and at other institutions. In Dec. 2005, The TLT Group was asked to identify factors affecting the wider adoption of such software, and to make recommendations that would led to the wider use of such academic software.

We were asked to focus on five projects. They were, as you'll see, quite content-specific:
  1. iLabs – students can use web browsers to design experiments and collect data from distant laboratory equipment; several such labs were developed, along with a shared software architecture to make it easier to share such labs across institutions;
  2. iMOAT – the web is used to manage the process of large-scale assessment of student writing;
  3. TEAL – two terms of introductory physics have been redesigned around inquiry, discussion, experimentation, and visualization;
  4. XMAS – students can ‘quote’ video legally in their online discussions, presentations, and projects about films in courses such as Shakespeare
  5. xTutor is to be a tool kit for creating online courses; its strength is checking computer programming homework and providing feedback. Currently two free xTutor courses are available from MIT

We can answer questions about these projects, but what we'd most likely to discuss are our findings about factors affecting wide adoption of such innovations, and our recommendations for how to speed the spread of technology-enabled educational improvements.

We want to hear from you about how our findings and recommendations fit your institution and experience.

Question - please post your responses here!
"Most faculty in my institution continually search the world for ways to improve each of their courses."

  • True now?
  • If not, what changes inside or outside your institution might help that statement become true?

For a summary of our findings and recommendations, see the executive summary of our report: "Factors Affecting the Adoption of Faculty-Developed Academic Software: A Study of Five iCampus Projects"

For more on iCampus itself and other projects it funded at MIT 1999-2006, see

Monday, December 11, 2006

Laptop use + survival to middle age = Back pain? Movement cure?

Problem: Back pain is almost inevitable for people who work like you and me.

Desired partial solution: Software/hardware that will let me set an interval (e.g., 20 minutes) after which my computer screen will go blank or display a reminder that I need to move around at least a little. I want the software to prevent me from using my computer for at least a minute!

[Above cartoon is from: "More Than 450 Diet, Fitness,Health and Medical Cartoons - A professional cartoon service" by Randy Glasbergen. See:
psychtoons/glasbergen/ergonomics.gif ]

In the last 3 months of 2006 I had both a computer crash and lower back pain bad enough to send me to a doctor and a physical therapist. I'm learning more about ergonomics than I ever wanted to know, but I wish that I had learned it several years ago. I really like the portability and power of laptop computers, but I now realize that they are not well-designed for most of us who must use them many hours per day. As far as I know there is no ergonomically advisable way a healthy adult human being can use a laptop computer daily for more than an hour per use. Of course, I'm not claiming any real expertise beyond what anyone might learn when highly motivated by frequent pain. Here are my conclusions:
  1. If you work in anything resembling an office environment, either you die young or you are VERY likely to have lower back trouble.
  2. It is a VERY good idea to separate the keyboard from the monitor/display, so that each can be positioned best for your body.
  3. BUT, there is no combination of furniture and posture that can prevent cumulative damage from frequent periods of intense concentration while being physically inactive for more than an hour.
So, move around. Learn some stretches or other exercises that work well for your body in between periods of intense computer use. But most important, get up and move at least a little at least twice every hour!

Oops. That's all I have time for now. My alarm clock is buzzing and I have to get up to turn it off ... and then walk around a little.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Web 2.0 - Identify Important Characteristics & Share Examples?

Help clarify and expand our table of factors and examples of Web 2.0!
What are your favorite educational applications of Web 2.0? What are their educational implications? Please answer briefly as a comment to
this posting. For a more general intro to our work on Web 2.0, see Also, see our Table of "Factors and Examples" which provides brief explanations of key factors and hot links to related examples. Complete table available within a Google Document at:


Variety of tools, resources available - growing accelerating, impermanent!; TMI/TMO [Too Much Info; Too Many Options]

Accessibility/Mobility/Ubiquity - access from many different locations, devices

Dynamic Content -Easy, frequent, changing of Web sites, info,

Multimedia - Combining sound, video, ...

Sharing info, resources, categories; Social/Group Collaborative Creation/Editing/Responding;

Public/Private Blurring - [voyeurism?]

Non-hierarchical authority: authenticating, cataloging, editing, publishing, modifying (software)

Folksonomy? vs. Authority controlled cataloging; Attaching and sharing labels to objects (Meta-tagging)

RSS and other "Feeds" enable new roles that blur the boundaries between "author," "publisher," and "reader."

Fluid Business Models; Changing role of advertisement?

Virtual Reality/Avatars; SecondLife...

New kinds of change? New ways of changing?

What else? What have we missed?

Thanks for your help in expanding and clarifying this list - and completing the related table.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Boudreaux's Dogs" - Training & Change? [Almost 2 minutes audio]

How do we know when to stop trying to teach someone something?

"Boudreaux's Dogs" another Boudreaux story is available.
[Almost 2 minutes Audio - Cajun Academic Humor]

For more Boudreaux stories - Cajun Academic Humor - go to:
I hope you enjoy them!

If you have not subscribed to TLT-SWG as a podcast yet, you may still hear this recording by clicking on the title of this posting - above. To subscribe to the podcast - and receive notices of new postings and copies of audio files automatically - click here:

Steve Gilbert
NOTE: David E. Boudreaux, native and resident of Thibodaux, La., is Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Nicholls State University. We appreciate the warmth, good nature, and underlying care for humanity that often emerge from his unique "Cajun Academic Humor." Boudreaux's stories provide welcome breaks in our ever-busier, ever more fragmented lives, and help us regain a broader, healthier perspective.

Monday, December 04, 2006

7 Principles & 3 Acronyms: POD, NISOD, NCSPOD

What do these 3 organizations have in common? How do they differ?
They all advocate and provide resources to support the improvement of teaching and learning through various combinations of faculty, leadership, organizational, and professional development. Each serves a different PRIMARY constituency. Each helps faculty and others implement the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.

POD Network
The Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education is " ... developing and supporting practitioners and leaders in higher education dedicated to enhancing learning and teaching... a network of nearly 1,600 members - faculty and teaching assistant developers, faculty, administrators, consultants, and others who perform roles that value teaching and learning in higher education."

" ... National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) is dedicated to serving, engaging, and inspiring teachers, reachers, and leaders.... the outreach vehicle and service arm to the Community College Leadership Program (CCLP) and the College of Education at The University of Texas Austin. "

"...National Council for Staff, Program and Organizational Development is an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and provides services ... to increase institutional vitality by providing professional growth opportunities for [institutional] members, enabling them to establish, enhance, and/or revitalize staff, program, and organizational development in their organizations.

Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education
"... the best known summary of what decades of educational research indicates are the kinds of teaching/learning activities most likely to improve learning [and teaching]..."