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August, 2011:

Chronicle of Higher Ed: Students Assess Their Professors’ Technology Skills

The Chronicle of Higher Education interviewed four tech-savvy students to get their viewpoint on how professors use technology in the classroom. More information about the interview can be found here.

New Tools for Comparing Textbooks of All Formats

When it comes to buying textbooks, students currently have more options now than ever before. The choice is no longer just between your university’s new and used textbook selection, but also includes options such as digital books, book rental, and hard copies of books from various online stores. But with all of these options, how is a student supposed to know where the best deal is? After all, textbooks often cost students hundreds of dollars per quarter.

New online tools have emerged in order to answer this question. Students are now able to compare the prices of their textbooks around the web- similar to how they would compare airline tickets on travel sites. Wired Campus highlighted three of the most popular and successful tools students and universities are using:

  • The University Bookstore’s price comparison

    Amazon Student is a free app compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. To use it, the student takes a picture of the bar code found on the back of the textbook. Amazon will then search its store to find a better deal for the book–be it new, used, or digital. The search will also display the “sell back” price and allow students to sell back their items (which are not limited to books) in exchange for an Amazon gift card.

  • Many university bookstores have set up their own price comparison tools. The University of Washington has a tool for all of its campuses, and can be found on the University Bookstore’s website (after opening the link, click on your campus and choose the “Compare Prices” option). This tool brings up prices for your course’s books from sites like CourseSmart, Amazon, AbeBooks, Half, Barnes & Noble and Alibris. The student may then compare the prices to options the University Bookstore has to offer (these may include new, used, rental or digital, depending on availability). Although this may seem like something that may drive students away from their university’s bookstore, the article reports “that in about 80 percent of the cases, students chose to buy from the bookstore rather than from an online competitor”.
  • BookSavr.com is a textbook price comparison tool created by two students at Yale University. On the site, students can search for a textbook from both online sellers, and physical storefronts around Yale. The article reports that the site has been extremely successful and that 60% of site visitors end up making a purchase. Although it is currently only used for Yale students, the company is looking to expand to other colleges some time next year.

Amazon Releases Kindle Cloud Reader

Amazon has released a new web app that allows users to access their Kindle library directly from their web browser. The app is called the Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader and is currently only compatible with Google Chrome and Safari web browsers (desktop or iPad).

The HTML5 Web reader was created in response to Apple’s new policies for their App Store. Amazon, along with other companies such as Barnes and Noble and Kobo, are no longer allowed to include links to external purchasing sites, such as the Kindle or Nook bookstore.

If you currently use these apps on an Apple device and have updated them recently, you’ll notice that the links to their bookstores have been removed. However, you may still access your library and read your books through the app.

Google Presentation Archive from ISTE 2011

Last month the International Society for Technology in Education Conference was held in Philadelphia. During the conference, there were quite a few presentations focusing on Google Apps for Education– an archive of which is available here. There are some very interesting presentations made by Google employees, as well as certified teachers and trainers, about using different Google Apps tools. Some highlights of the archive include:

The presentations cover just about every aspect and tool in Google Apps. Many have notes which the speaker has written to guide the presentation. These notes can be accessed (if existing) in the lower left corner of any slideshow presentation under Actions > Show Speaker Notes.

All of these presentations are useful and interesting, no matter your amount of experience with Google Apps. A big thanks to Dave A. for leading us to these great resources.