OpenFiction [ Blog ]

September 3, 2009

tOFP on the move

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 12:53 pm

In part because I just don’t enjoy having to maintain and upgrade my own installation of WordPress, and also because I can’t get my installation to play nice with the WordPress iPhone app, I am moving tOFP [Blog] over to the hosted  WordPress service.  I hope you’ll follow me here.

August 19, 2009

Update on Daniel

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 9:12 pm

Just wanted to follow yesterday’s post with an update on Daniel.  His scans today were all clear, and there is no evidence of the return of the cancer. We are obviously relieved and thankful.   I appreciate all the kind messages and thanks to those of you who have made donations to our Jimmy Fund team.

We are deeply touched by the many notes from friends whose loved ones have suffered–and too many who have passed away–from cancer.  The SuperDans will keep all of them in our thoughts as we walk on September 13th.  Also, thanks to your generosity, I am approaching my goal of raising $500 individually.

As a team, though, we are still far short of our $10,000 overall goal, so if you are considering a donation, we still need your help.  Donations may be made on the team site ( and my individual site (

Again, thanks for all the notes of support, and thanks for helping us to support this cause.

August 18, 2009

Help us end cancer

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 11:28 pm

Tomorrow, Lori and I are taking Daniel to his next appointment at the Jimmy Fund Clinic to ensure he remains cancer free. Thankfully, the appointments are now every six months instead of every three, and now we go with a little less fear but still knowing that relapse for him is not entirely out of the question.  We are thankful he has remained free of cancer, but every visit to the Jimmy Fund Clinic is a reminder to us of the many children still battling this disease, the many families struggling to find their way back to a normal life with healthy, happy children.  As much as we would like to put the experience of Daniel’s illness behind us, we cannot forget their pain.

These children need better cures, and their caregivers need better funding.  For the third year, we will be walking in the Dana Farber/Jimmy Fund Boston Marathon Walk to ensure the care and cures will be available.  In each of the past two years, our team–the SuperDans–has raised over $10,000, and we’re aiming to do this again.  I have personally committed to raising $500, and I am asking you to help me reach that goal.  Please visit my page at ( and make a donation.  I appreciate any support you can provide.

August 12, 2009

OCW and Currnet Events

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 9:33 am

I’ve been kicking around for ways to illustrate the usefulness of OCW and OER content, and one simple approach I’ve come up with is to show how it can be used to better understand the context of current events. OCW is obviously not the place to get the news, but in today’s go-go media environment, it’s often not clear where to go for thoughtful analysis and context to background the events of the day. On the OCWC blog, I’ve started a series called Current Events in Context, with posts so far on the Iranian election dispute, H1N1, and Typhoon Morekot. Would love feedback on this approach.

August 10, 2009

A great piece of documentation

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 8:40 am

I’m really looking forward to reading this one.  This pulls together many of the early discussions around OER on the UNESCO forum, and is going to be a key reference for those wanting to understand how the field has developed.

As a side note, I ordered the print version, demonstrating how the economics of open publication can work (and also that I am still running Brain 1.0).

August 4, 2009

Can I quote you on that?

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 5:52 pm

I’m always concerned about being misquoted in articles about OCW, something that happens with some regularity.  I spoke at length with the reporter that filed this article and said at least two or three things that taken out of context might have been misleading, and I was relieved that the article did not contain them.

I was also amused to notice that some people have a problem with being quoted correctly. In discussing the possible advantages of open course publication at the community college level, an OU econ professor was quoted as saying:

A field whose methods haven’t changed much since Socrates taught could benefit from this strategy, Mr. Vedder says. “With the exception of—possible exception of—prostitution, I don’t know any other profession that’s had no productivity advance in 2,500 years,” he says. Online, he adds, “is a way to kind of offer a new approach. It’s applying technology to lower costs, rather than to add to costs.”

Ya see, the problem with prostitution—and most people just don’t recognize this—is the lack of productivity gains in the field… Nice.

August 3, 2009

Productivity tools

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 8:44 am

I’m a sucker for productivity tools.  On a good day, I’d say it’s because I deal with a pretty high volume of unstrutured tasks and information at work, on a bad day (and probably Lori would concur) I’d say it’s because I am time and task-management challanged.   Either way,  I am always on the lookout for a silver bullet, or as it ususally turns out, a few of them.

I’ve settled on a new set of tools that has been stable for the last six months or so (somewhat of a record, so I thought it worth noting).  Right now I’m using the following:

FreeMind:  Open source mind mapping software I use at the highest level to track all of the activities in my domain at work.  I probably refer to it about once a week, just to make sure I am not letting any ideas or initiatives fall by the wayside, and to recalibrate my focus in the coming week.

GanttProject:  Project management tool I use for anything that requires some level of planning.  I’m sure I don’t use half of its capabilities, but it’s perfect for the kind of lightweight use I make of it.

Evernote:  After bitching about the license and using another digital notes program, I’ve decided the benefits offered by Evernote outweight any concerns I have (and I think they may have either clarified or modified the license somewhat).  Either way, Evernote is incredible and had helped me to really keep my e-mail inbox uncluttered (since I used to park e-mails with important information in my inbox).

Toodledo:  My work to-do list.  It’s the least favorite of my current tools, mostly becasue it doesn’t have a local client for my laptop.  I am still offline or in situations with spotty connectivity (such as on the MBTA’s service commuting home) that having to maniputlate the list online is a problem.  If I can find a list that has a nice local client and syncs with the iPhone (oh yeah, and is free) I’ll likely switch.

So I try not to lose track of things in FreeMind, plan what needs planned in GanttProject, take notes in Evernote, and draw together to-dos from Gantt and Evernote in Toodledo.  And for my home to-do’s with Lori, we use Zenbe lists.

July 13, 2009

OK, a little press-releasy for this blog, but…

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 11:31 am

…still pretty darn cool:

AASL names MIT’s Highlights for High School to top web site list

Highlights recognized as valuable free resource for secondary educators and students

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., July 12 - MIT’s Highlights for High School site ( has been recognized as a Landmark Website for Teaching and Learning by the American Association of School Librarians.  An outgrowth of MIT’s renown OpenCourseWare program, Highlights for High School features more than 2,600 video and audio clips, animations, lecture notes and assignments taken from actual MIT courses, and categorizes them to match the Advanced Placement physics, biology and calculus curricula. Demonstrations, simulations, and animations give educators engaging ways to present STEM concepts, while videos illustrate MIT’s hands-on approach to the teaching of these subjects.

MIT President Susan Hockfield described the Institute’s motivation for the program at its November 2007 launch. “Strength in K-12 math and science will be increasingly important for America if the nation is to continue to lead in today’s innovation economy,” said MIT President Hockfield. “Highlights for High School will provide students and teachers with innovative tools to supplement their math and science studies.  We hope it will inspire students to reach beyond their required classwork to explore more advanced material and might also encourage them to pursue careers in science and engineering.”

The AASL’s Best Websites for Teaching and Learning program honors websites, tools, and resources of exceptional value to inquiry-based teaching and learning as embodied in the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.  The Landmark Websites are honored due to their exemplary histories of authoritative, dynamic content and curricular relevance. They are free, web-based sites that are user-friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover and provide a foundation to support 21st-century teaching and learning. Read more at

Since its launch, the Highlights for High School site has received more than 700,000 visits.  Surveys indicate that visitors include high school educators (34%), high school students (15.5%),  and parents of high schoolers (13%).  In using the site, educators most often integrate Highlights for High School into classroom instruction, increase their knowledge of a specific subject matter, and learn new methods of teaching. Students use the site to help them study for tests and to learn for personal knowledge.

MIT has a long history of support for secondary and elementary education, with successful prior national efforts.  For example, the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) formed in 1956 by a group of university physics professors and high school physics teachers, and led by MIT’s Jerrold Zacharias and Francis Friedman developed new pedagogies for the teaching of introductory courses in physics. MIT also has over 40 successful current K-12 programs and initiatives addressing science and engineering preparation at a local and national level.

The MIT OpenCourseWare site (, from which Highlights for High School draws content, contains the core academic materials for more than 1,900 of MIT’s courses, voluntarily provided by MIT faculty under an open license that allows site users to download and modify the materials for noncommercial use. The site contains notes from more than 1,500 lectures, 9,000 assignments, and 900 exams. Many courses include enhanced multimedia content, including 32 that contain complete video recordings of course lectures.

June 16, 2009

Is after-the-fact open posting cheating?

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 9:50 am

This is an interesing incident that is relevant to OCW publication.  The argument of the professor is that students posting assignment answers after the due date are somehow facilitating cheating.  The assumption is that the instructor was going to recycle the assignment in a later semester, and this would allow students in subsequent classes to cheat.

This strikes me as being somewhat naieve on the part of the instructor.  The fraternities at MIT are widely known to keep assembled bibles of answers to problem sets and other assignemnts (see “Don’t work from scratch” here), and I’d wager the same goes on at most other univerisites.  In some ways, open posting like this is more democratic, leveing the playing field.

It also shows why teachers really do need to change up assignments regularly. I had a geology prof at West Virginia University who would distribute his multiple choice tests ahead of time and would tell us that these are the questions we would receive, except with a word or two changed in each, which woud change the correct answer.  A very effective method, as it forced you to understnad the concepts.

May 29, 2009

Media goodness for OCW

Filed under: — Stephen Carson @ 2:27 pm

The Boston Globe Magazine highlights courses from around the Consortium.

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