Friday, December 31, 2010

Episode 115 - To the Cloud

It’s Friday, December 31st, 2010 and welcome to episode 115 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. It’s the last day of the year and the last day of the first decade of the 21st Century. We have heard a lot about the 21st Century education over the past decade and now perhaps we can finally put to bed the rhetoric of what skills a 21st Century educator should possess.

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(16 minutes 22 seconds)

Looking back over the past ten years has proven to be just as exciting as the decade of the 1990’s when the public Internet was born. The 1990’s witnessed a blistering pace of innovation as the .com boom got into full swing. The 2000’s have enjoyed an equal dose of innovation and I am sure we will see similar growth and innovations over the coming decade.

Plain and simple, the number one skill a person needs to have in this day and age is the ability to adapt to change because change is guaranteed to happen. In order to adapt we need to know how to learn, un-learn and re-learn while holding onto our values and what we deem important so we educators still have a lot of work ahead of us.

The past ten years have witnessed a plethora of next generation Internet services known as Web 2.0 and many have become household names. Maybe you can recognize a few them from this list; Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, WordPress, and Delicious to name just a few. How many did you recognize? Every single one of these services did not exist at the beginning of this past decade. Today many of us take for granted iPods, iTunes, mobile phones with apps and Internet access, podcasts like this one, and many of the free Web 2.0 services that did not exist a decade ago.

Like many tech savvy educators I use Twitter and Delicious nearly every day as I find them very valuable to have as part of my professional toolkit and best of all both services are free. Twitter is growing and now has nearly 200 million users and is still going strong. Delicious on the other hand has a questionable future as Yahoo announced this month that Delicious was on the list of sites that the company was considering shutting down and/or selling.

The Twitter business model is still evolving but it is safe to say that Twitter like many other Web 2.0 companies need a revenue model to succeed in the long term, otherwise they too may find themselves in the predicament that Delicious now finds itself in. There is no such thing as a free lunch and many free Web 2.0 services have come and gone over the past decade. Many are supported by advertising dollars and some like Ning have moved to a paid model in order to survive.

Yahoo purchased Delicious in 2005 and I have been using this social bookmarking service since its inception. The fate of Delicious is still unclear at this time but many users of the service have begun the move to a similar social bookmarking service called Diigo. I have provided a link in the show notes to an article that describes the process of moving your bookmarks from Delicious to Diigo if you are a Delicious user and find yourself in this current state of uncertainty.

I love Delicious for its drop dead simplicity as well as the ability to subscribe to bookmark tags and share with others. I have already exported my bookmarks to my local computer and will be transferring them to Diigo in the coming days but I have not given up hope that Delicious may be reincarnated by another company that will buy Delicious and continue the service, hello Google are you listening?

Google is one of those companies that has flourished this past decade. Google began as a research project by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1996 while PhD students at Stanford University. While no one can doubt the success Google has enjoyed as the search engine of choice that most of the world uses the company has not been content to rest on its laurels. Here are just a few of the additions Google has made over the past decade.

Blogger – 2003
Gmail - 2004
Google Earth -2005
Google Docs - 2006
YouTube – 2006
Android Open Handset Alliance - 2007
Google Chrome Browser - 2008

Google Chrome OS – 2009

Google CR-48 Notebook - 2010

Not a bad decade of innovation for Google and they are poised to go head to head with Apple and the iDevices portfolio of products and services in the coming decade.

Speaking of Apple this decade has witnessed a revitalization of Apples product line and services and Apple has also racked up an impressive portfolio of innovations. Apple introduced the first generation of the iPod and OS X in 2001, created the iTunes service in 2003, introduced the iPhone in 2007, created the App Store in 2008, and introduced the iPad this year in 2010. Apple has relied upon a closed system approach that has proven very successful and has set the stage for the coming decade to witness many battles between the open model of Google versus the proprietary model of Apple.

Don’t forget there is another horse in this race to the future, Microsoft. Before you get to feeling too sorry for Microsoft remember that the older desktop/laptop model is still doing fine. Even with the recent recession the computer industry is set to sell one million PC’s each and every DAY this year and Microsoft still has a world-wide market share of over 90 percent.

Microsoft’s search engine Bing is also growing and while late to market Bing has a US market share of nearly 12 percent.

Microsoft also has a strong and burgeoning software as a service model that fits in nicely with cloud computing. This year Microsoft has bolstered their Office Web Apps product that provides a more attractive interface than their Google Apps competitor and has partnered with FaceBook and created the service with access to more than 500 million FaceBook users. Microsoft is also innovating with its new Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system and is taking a very different approach than Apples iPhone and Googles Android phones.

There is also a dark horse in this race that I think we educators need to take a closer look at for the upcoming decade, open source. Open source alternatives have the potential to save schools and universities millions of dollars. Google is basing a lot of their innovations on open source products like Android that is based upon an open source Linux kernel. Apple’s OSX is even based upon BSD Unix which is an open source operating system that Apple adapted for their own needs. If Google and Apple can adapt open source software for corporate use I think we educators can adapt many open source resources to benefit our needs at little to no cost. The coming decade will provide educators with just such an opportunity as many of the pieces are now in place to become more independent including open source software, broadband delivery networks, ebooks, audio and video podcasts, and creative commons resources and content that are constantly being developed for the common good.

As we head into this next decade ask yourself, what am I doing to contribute to society to make this world a better place? Never before have so many people had the opportunity to create and share their passions with the world. This model is very different from corporate America but the tools and infrastructure now exist for one person to change the world. The economies of scale are eliminating many business models and we are ending up with larger and larger companies as industries consolidate. But this consolidation has also opened opportunities for individuals and small groups to contribute to society in ways that were previously very difficult to scale. We are living in a time when bits and bytes are becoming the currency of consumption and broadband access will increasingly become more important to the quality of services offered. What is offered and consumed is up to us.

The past decade has been a march to the cloud and has culminated with the CR-48 notebook that Google announced earlier this month as part of their vision for the future. The CR-48 notebook uses the new Google Chrome operating system which basically is a streamlined browser where you do all of your work on a low-cost laptop. Obviously you must be connected to the Internet to use the CR-48 notebook since you are using the browser to access your work. All your programs and files are accessed and stored in the cloud. If you have an always-on and reliable Internet access this model has a lot of promise, however at this moment connectivity is still the weak link for this model as coverage areas are still spotty and connectivity costs remain too high for widespread adoption bhy the masses… but it is a step in the right direction.

Google CR-48 Pilot Program

The current PC model is getting long in the tooth and the constant updates and patches require a lot of overhead and maintenance. This is true for both PCs and Macs as new updates occur on a weekly basis on both platforms. If you have iTunes loaded on your computer you know what I mean. As we move to having multiple devices per person such as a desktop PC, a laptop, a slate device, and a mobile phone managing and securing multiple devices will become even more onerous. That is why I think the CR-48 is a step in the right direction but it will also need to have a more robust offline capability for those times where Internet access is either slow or non-existent. But, as soon as you add the offline ability you are going back to the PC model and adding complexity to the operating system so there will be some growing pains as the CR-48 project evolves.

The computer industry has witnessed several paradigm changes as innovations have offered new possibilities. Computers began as mainframes in the 1940’s and 50’s requiring huge rooms to operate, next came mini-computers in the 1960’s, Personal Computers in the 1970’s, Servers and Local Area Networks in the 1980’s, the Internet in the 1990’s, and Web 2.0 in the 2000’s. The 2010’s are poised for the continuing the move to cloud computing as miniaturization continues. Increased processing power in smaller packages and broadband connectivity now make it possible for mobile devices to become full-fledged computers in their own right.

This all is not without risks as putting all your eggs in one basket has never been a good idea in computing. One reason the PC took off was that it gave users the freedom and independence to be off the mainframe computer, when the mainframe went down so too did all the work and productivity. We now appear to be heading back to a more mainframe type environment in the cloud. There will be problems and outages in the future so we need to prepare ourselves in the event of such outages. The Cardinal Rule of computing is to always have a backup of your data and in the brave new world of cloud computing you will also need to be prepared if something happens in the cloud, just as you are today if something happens to your PC. Having a Plan B is always required when it comes to technology. It remains to be seen if the wireless broadband infrastructure can become ubiquitous, reliable, secure, and affordable enough for ALL people to move to the cloud. The next decade is going to be interesting.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a new service from Google called Google ebooks. The competition for digital resources is fierce as Google is now taking on Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and other brick and mortar bookstores directly with their newly announced ebookstore. A link is available in the show notes to the Google ebookstore along with a short video segment introducing the new service.

Google ebookstore

It’s time to set your reading free (video)

You may remember that Google was a key player in Project Gutenberg as Google digitized millions of pages of older books that were out of copyright. Now Google is making deals with publishers as well as having access to over 3 million titles thanks to resources like Project Gutenberg. Believe it or not ebooks were invented in 1971 by Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg.

Project Gutenberg

About Project Gutenberg

Google is entering a crowded space and is facing major competition from some pretty big players that have a head start on Google.

Amazon is banking on their Kindle platform to deliver ebooks to consumers and is supporting a wide variety of devices including their own Kindle ebook reader device, Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac, Kindle for iPhone/iPad, Kindle for Android, Kindle for Blackberry, Kindle for Windows Phone 7, and Amazon recently announced the beta version of Kindle for the Web that frees you from having to have specific devices to read your ebooks. Amazon announced this month that the Kindle device has become the #1 best seller of all time for the company. Amazon also quietly announced that you can now lend ebooks to your friends for a period of up to two weeks. The people you lend to do not have to have a Kindle and the owner of the ebook does not have access to the ebook while it is on loan. A link is in the shownotes for more information about lending Kindle ebooks.

Kindle ebook Lending

Not to be out done by Amazon Barnes and Noble announced this week that their ebook reader “the Nook” became their best selling item in the company’s 40 year history. The Nook already featured a way to lend books to your friends so the Kindle is playing catch up in this area.

Apple is banking on the iTunes App Store and the iBooks model as their deployment platform of choice. You can read ebooks on your iPod, iPhone, and iPad with ebook apps and purchase books directly from the Apple iBookstore.

Apple iBookstore

There are many issues as we make this transition to ebooks. In researching the notes for todays show I ran across an article from 2005 from Library Issues that provides an overview of the then Google Digitization project and some of the issues libraries are facing in moving to ebooks. As you probably know copyrights remain a big sticking point with making copyrighted works available in an electronic format.

Google's Digitization Project — What Difference Will it Make?

The current state of ebooks is a microcosm of what the next decade will have in store for us. Goliath companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and others are in a gold rush for obtaining access and rights to content so that it may be digitized and monetized in the spirit of capitalism. The content, the devices, and the bits and bytes required for delivery all have monetary value and companies will make money in each of these three major areas.

Other smaller David-like organizations like Project Gutenberg rely upon volunteers and have in their mission to provide content to the masses in as free and low-cost manner as possible. The truth will most likely fall somewhere in the middle as these things sort themselves out over the coming decade. The good news for educators is that we have the opportunity to build and share this content and distribute it in the methods of our choosing and this is a good thing.

That wraps it up for episode 115 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at To leave a comment or suggestion, please send an email to or leave a comment on the Tech Talk for Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom. Have a Happy New Year and most of all keep on learning…