Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thought while listening to Studio 360.

Suppose you can travel back in time, and the rule is that you can change things that don't have any effects that endure to the future time you came from. You can then meet someone to whom it seems you can do anything. That person would then have to confront the fact that in a concrete, measurable way, nothing they do really matters.

I suppose some sci fi story somewhere has dealt with this idea.

Friday, August 13, 2010

NYT on textbook prices.

The New York Times money blog has a post about saving money on textbooks. Mostly it just covers the standard advice on finding cheaper books, but it does contain a couple interesting statistics.

"College textbook prices rose about 6 percent, on average, every year — that’s twice the rate of inflation — from 1986 to 2004."


“We are finding that 75 percent of students still prefer print to digital,” Ms. Allen added."

For my students the number is around 95%. Our population is a little older, but more importantly, they are a lot poorer.
Thankfully, federal rules that went into effect in July may help ease the pain. Publishers can no longer bundle their textbooks with accompanying materials like workbooks without offering the items separately, and they must reveal their prices to professors when making a sales pitch. Colleges, meanwhile, are now required to provide students with a list of assigned textbooks during course registration, which allows for more time for shopping before classes begin.
I heard people at the AAPT talking about the regulations and what a pain they are, but we have nothing at our institution regarding this. I'm pretty sure I could get in compliance quickly if I needed to, though.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Loftis, J. Robert: "Breaking the Back of Perverse Incentives: Ending High Textbook Prices for Good with Free Online Textbooks"

I gave a talk at the AAPT arguing three connected theses:
  1. Textbook prices are an injustice
  2. Philosophy teachers have a professional duty to create and use free online textbooks
  3. This duty is best fulfilled using what I call the Open Office model
. The Open Office model simply means that you try to replicate functionality of the existing closed access product without innovating a lot. This contrasts with the Linux model, which tries to displace an expensive product by creating something that works better, but is unfamiliar and difficult for most users. Most existing free textbooks, I think, are written on the Linux model.

At the conference, a lot of people were talking up concept mapping software, xmind in particular. So the night before the talk I decided to give xmind a whirl by making a concept map for my talk. this is what I came up with. I think I made the whole thing too big. It is hard to figure out what the print area of these diagrams are.

This is the handout, which lists free textbooks and course materials databases along with little descriptions and recommendations.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Peter Bradley, John Basl, Rudy Garns "Social Networking Technology and Teaching Philosophy."

Peter Bradley, John Basl, Rudy Garns "Social Networking Technology and Teaching Philosophy."


Textbooks are like client-server systems; we need textbooks that work more like peer networks.

Why not make distributed textbooks? Every part of writing a textbook is social, so lets doing social media.

He actually has a free online critical thinking textbook, that comes with a printed version, and in use at 3 schools. USE THIS.

He is collecting critical thinking examples at, and wants start crowdsourcing the database of examples.

John (remotely using wimba classroom)


What can you get your students to do on Twitter? Write a haiku or a tweet summarizing the reading.

#PhilQ is the hashtag for philosophical questions

I am now following him on twitter.

Google Wave!


All his stuff is here

He uploaded his slides to Use this in the future.

Mostly familiar technologies. He puts his classes on for social bookmarking. Also netvibes.