CourseSmart On-Line eTextBooks

CourseSmart logoCourseSmart is a higher education content delivery system that delivers e-textbooks to over 2.5 million students and faculty members. Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart talks to Jeffrey and Andy about the system.

CourseSmart brings together content producers and content consumers, typically publishers, lecturers and students in over 7,000 universities and colleges. The organisation is owned by a group of publishers but it distributes content from a wider range of content producers. Over 30,000 original textbooks and other products are on-line at their website and the publications can be integrated into the college’s electronic learning environment.

As with most things digital it’s not possible to buy or sell e-textbooks secondhand and the book is really just rented. The CourseSmart books are typically 60% cheaper than a new paper book and naturally they’re always in stock. For today’s mobile student the books are delivered through multiple devices – web browser, web app, iPad, iPhone and Android apps.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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Learn to Play Guitar with Raw Talent Guitar

Todd Cochrane talked to Marc Quadagno and Shaun Fisher of RawTalentGuitar about their product at CES 2011.  The RawTalent Guitar program works with any guitar that you can plug in. It comes with a guitar to USB cable. Plug one end into the guitar and the other end into a PC. The program offers performance feed back in real time. As you play your notes are place on top of the the correct cords and notes. The music scrolls as you play so there is no need to turn pages.

The program includes a Amplitube X-gear an industry-leading amp and FX modeling tool, so you can get the effects you want, without having to pay thousands of dollars for the equipment. It can even teach you how to tune your guitar and there is a metronome to help you keep time. There are 15 license songs included in the program. They said one of the hardest things they had to do is trying to get licenses for the songs. Rawtalent Guitar is available now for $199.99 at this time it is Windows only, although they are working on a Mac version

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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Ectaco eBook Readers and Translators

Todd and Tom get together with Jerry Cimadomo and Greg Stetson of Ectaco to review their range of ebook readers and translators.

First up was is the Jetbook Mini (shown right) at $99, which runs off 4 AAA batteries giving 90 hours of continuous reading. It comes with free software which converts a wide range of ebook formats into a one suitable for the device.

Second was a new model that will be out in a couple of months. Aimed at the school market, it will come preloaded with a pile of educational material. It goes beyond being a simple ereader with features such as voice recognition so that language programs are able to give feedback on pronunciation. Around $250.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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Valet Wireless From Cisco – Surprisingly Easy?

An Oakland, California high school is receiving a gift of Cisco Valet Wireless routers and wireless adapters for its students.  The Valet Wireless Router, a new offering from Cisco intended for home use, purports to be one of the easiest to use and set up in the industry.

The purpose of the gift is to give students at the high-risk ARISE high school the access they need from their homes.  The ARISE program prepares low-income students to be the first in their families to attend college.  The graduating class of 2010 had a 100% college admission rate, which is phenomenal.  With the help that Cisco is now offering, it can only help to continue this high rate of transition to college.  Students with online access have a much better shot at success than those without, and Cisco hopes to breach this digital divide for the ARISE program.

What is unique about the Valet is how easy it really is.  As a person who has had to set up multiple home-based wired and wireless networks, I know what a pain it can be.  And after you’re gone, the client is left having to deal with the network and its complicated setup and potential issues.  No wonder many routers supplied by phone companies and other ISP’s have the SSID hard-set and the password printed on a sticker on the bottom of the device.  Really unsecure, but easier for the client to access and work with than some complicated setup a geek did for them.

Valet promises a 3-step setup process and an easy access system right from your computer to enable parental controls, open or close guest access, and add devices like the XBox to the setup.  Both the Valet and the Valet Plus devices offer four ethernet ports for expansion to non-wireless devices, as well.

The routers are a bit pricier than the Linksys model Cisco is known for, but still reasonable.  I paid not much less for my latest Netgear router, purchased because my six-year-old Linksys router box had finally failed.  I should have held out for the Valet.

Casio fx-CG10 Prizm Graphing Calculator

Tom and Andy interview Mike Reiners from Casio America, who’s brought along the Casio fx-CG10 aka Prizm graphing calculator. This calculator is a long way from the 9-digit, 8-segment LCD calculators I used in my school education as the Prizm comes with a hi-res LCD color display (216 x 384 with 65k colours) making it the “first” full colour graphing calculator. There’s no touchscreen but there’s a little joypad for navigation.

You might be thinking that a colour display will munch through the batteries but Casio’s new Blanview LCD is extremely frugal and 4 alkaline AAAs will give 140 hours of typical use. Which is great because you really don’t want to run out of juice in the middle of an exam.

The video also demonstrates the use of a Flipbook, a series of photographic images which demonstrate an effect, such as acceleration or simple harmonic motion. The Prizm can then help the student understand the nature of the effect.

The Prizm won Design & Engineering Showcase Honors at CES in 2011. Congratulations, Casio.

Children today just won’t know the joy of putting in 5376606 and turning the calculator upside down.

Available now for $129.99 in Best Buy and on-line.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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NEC Dual Screen Android Tablet

Jeffrey takes a look at NEC‘s cool dual screen Android tablet. Each touch screen is 7″ and while there are many uses, one target market is education. One screen can be used to show video or diagrams with the accompanying text on the other. It’s powered by a 1 GHz ARM Cortex CPU rather than the more usual Atom processors. The video shows that the tablet comes with plenty of features such as SD card slots and USB ports in convenient places.

Available in Japan in 2011 and later worldwide.

Interview by Jeffery Powers from

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CourseSmart Online Text Books

Andy McCaskey talks to Heather Shelstad, Director of Marketing for CourseSmart. Anyone in education will know that textbooks are expensive and CourseSmart offers a cheaper and more convenient alternative.  CourseSmart is the world’s largest provider of on-line textbooks with around 90% of the current curriculum available at about 60% of the cost. CourseSmart has relationships with many of the major publishers, so new textbooks are available on-line simultaneously with the paper editions.

Heather shows off the iPad’s virtual bookshelf client that takes advantage of the iPad’s touch screen to provide real-world functionality such as sticky notes and annotations. The on-line world can provide a richer experience than a traditional book, with links to other resources across the Internet but a new feature coming soon will be the ability to download and store chapters or whole books for reference off-line.

Any web browser can be used to read etexts at CourseSmart but there are specific clients for iPads, iPhones and Android devices.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Tablets, E-book Readers and Paper

Imagine a school that passes out Amazon Kindles instead of printed textbooks. No books at all, zilch, zero, nada – everything electronic. Printing costs could be completely eliminated, along with a myriad of associated problems – replacement books, textbook obsolescence, and book disposal to mention but a few. A single high-battery-life device such as a Kindle would suffice for replacing all books.

Let’s take this electronic book thought experiment a bit farther. The next logical step would be for the teachers to pass out tests and other traditional paper handouts electronically, eliminating paper altogether. At that point, the Kindle or other reader or tablet would have to be able to allow student interaction, say on a multiple-choice test.

The stickiest problem with this scenario would revolve around having an easy-to-use input system on these devices that allowed students to write phrases, paragraphs, papers, and draw images or diagrams to send back to the teacher.

All of this technology already exists in various forms. Perhaps the iPad comes close to meeting many of these requirements, but some form of the dreaded pressure stylus input would still be needed. Also, two separate devices would be needed – a reading screen, and an input screen on which to write, type and/or draw.

Are we there yet? Not quite, but we are getting close. With the success of the Kindle, iPad, smartphones and maturing touch screen technology in general, the day of eliminating the need for tons of paper is finally becoming a practical, desirable reality.

Andy McCaskey, Jeffrey Powers Interview Steve Wozniak at HP Technology Forum 2010

Andy and Steve

Andy and Steve

Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine had a rare honor as we got to interview Steve Wozniak – now Chief Scientist over at Fusion IO – a company that works with NAND  memory for high speed / High Capacity storage.

There are two parts to the interview. The first one, Jeffrey talks about Fusion IO, Steve’s role and a how the Segway Polo is going. After switching seats with Andy, something amazing happened. The two just started talking. I couldn’t get the video queued fast enough and they didn’t see the queue in. So, I just hit the button and they continued on.

But what we did get was an amazing conversation about education, the future of technology and Steve Wozniak’s new role.

Part I

Podcast: Play in new windowDownload (38.1MB)

Audio Only Version

Part II

Podcast: Play in new windowDownload (68.7MB)

Audio Only Version

GNC-2009-08-21 #504 Battle Rhythm

Texas is the state with the most listeners to the Geek News Central Podcast congrats to our Visa Gift Card Winner! New promotion starting next show, tune in to win. I talk a little about the state of podcasting and give you all a little information about a new website that we will be building full details shortly. We will need the communities help! Next show will be live from Silicon Valley, looking for a good meetup location for dinner suggestions?

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