What the Grokster decision might (or might not) mean to me

Jim Porter and Martine Courant Rife have a paper on the WIDE resource at Michigan State about the recent Supreme Court decision against Grokster and what it might mean for universities. It’s interesting reading. Three thoughts:

  • Sure, I downloaded some music (illegally) from sources like limewire and napster back in the day, but I gave up on it pretty quickly. I thought that the time it took to download illegal tunes and the poor quality of the dowloads just wasn’t worth it. I have been happy with what I can get from iTunes though. It’s not free, but it is reasonably priced, it’s clearly legal, and the sound quality is good. I dunno, maybe it’s because I’m middle-aged and (reasonably) well paid, but I am just not willing to put up with the hassle of free downloads.
  • During my recent travels (I think while I was in southern Minnesota), I heard this story on “On the Media,” an NPR news show about (duh) “the media.” In this report about the decision, the legal expert basically suggests that a) the Supreme Court’s decision was actually a “non-decision” in that what this decision really does is put off the question of “legitimate” file sharing for another day, and b) it boils down to the idea that Grokster (et al) were ruled against because they were kind of jerks. Here’s a quote from legal expert Michael Madison about that:

    “I have a lot of confidence that firms that are already in mature markets, say for example Google, which is a company that takes advantage of intellectual property rights in a number of complex ways, Google is likely going to be able to innovate without a lot of concern, in my opinion, from this Grokster ruling. What the court is really trying to do in a not particularly elegant way is distinguish good guys from bad guys.”

  • Personally, I’d like to see the Supreme Court rule on copyright and such for universities once and for all. Porter and Rife write in the summary of their paper:

    Clearly universities are not promoting copyright infringement by their students, as were Grokster and StreamCast – and universities could just as easily use the Court’s opinion in Grokster to defend its practices. However, the recording and film industries are likely to use the ruling as a basis for litigation holding universities responsible for copyright infringements by students – and such action could well have an unfortunate chilling effect on universities.

    I am no copyright attorney, that’s for sure, and I haven’t studied this stuff to the extent that other people (like these two) have. But I guess I’d still like to see a test case where some copyright holder goes after a university for promoting “fair use.” I have to think that the courts, even the conservative ones, would value the promotion of ideas at a university more than the film industry. And I guess I’d also like to see this ruling because, as far as I can tell, no one really understands what is or isn’t “fair use” of copyrighted materials. Maybe if there was a test case, some of this confusion could be cleared up.

The iPod experience at Duke

Here’s a couple of kind of fun and interesting links:

From Inside Higher Ed comes this article, “Duke Analyzes iPod Project.” And, for the whole sha-bang, there’s this, the “Duke iPod First Year Experience.” Personally, I think the whole iPod give-away thing is kind of a gimmick, and kind of a strange one for a place like Duke, if you ask me. “Sure, tuition is a gazillion dollars here at Duke, but hey, you get a free iPod!”

As reported in the Inside Higher Ed piece, there are some things that aren’t too surprising: for example, the greatest use of the iPod was in foreign language and music classes, and there were many “inherent limitations” for using the iPod in teaching, such as tools for mixing audio with images.

But I was surprised about the problem of some of the sound quality of iPod recordings not being good enough to use. I have one of these $50 recording devices for my iPod and it seems to work fine to me. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I for one am interested in doing some podcasting sorts of things for an online class I’m teaching in the Fall; maybe they didn’t have much need for that at Duke.

I also think that iPods are useful (and might be useful for our students at EMU) simply as a portable hard drive. I haven’t tried to hook it up to a PC yet, but all I have to do to use it on a Mac is to plug it into an USB port. Very handy, if you ask me.

Of course, also easy to lose and/or steal, but that’s another story.

"Emerging Writing Technologies" search

Funny what you find when you’re not really looking for it. While trying to find something else with the search phrase “emerging writing technologies,” I found this essay by Jim Porter, “Why Technology Matters to Writing: A Cyberwriter’s Tale.” I’m linking it here because it just might help me to solve a problem I’ve been having with figuring out how to replace the “invent your own technology” assignment in my 328 class. Anyway, this post might only make sense to me, but Jim’s essay in pretty interesting.

Preschoolers online

Via a site called eSchool News comes this article, “More preschoolers going online.” Here are the leading paragraphs:

Before they can even read, nearly one out of every four children in preschool is learning a skill that even some adults have yet to master: using the internet. Some 23 percent of children in nursery school–kids ages 3, 4, or 5–have gone online, according to an Education Department (ED) report. By kindergarten, 32 percent have used the internet, typically under adult supervision.

The numbers underscore a trend in which the largest group of new users of the internet are kids ages 2 to 5. These figures have important implications for school systems, which must adjust their methods of instruction to accommodate an increasingly tech-savvy generation of new students, experts say.

I have some first-hand experience with this with my son, who is now 7, and his school. It probably isn’t surprising around our house, but Will has been on the computer since he was quite tiny, either in my lap or in his mother’s.

And last year, I did some volunteer work in Will’s first grade class, where they had a little mini “computer lab” of five or so older machines in the corner. I came in once a week for an hour or so and, when they were working with the computers, I helped the kids play some little educational games. This experience spoke to the opening paragraphs of this article in good and bad ways.

On the one hand, I was surprised that just about all of the kids had some basic computer literacy: most of them could effectively use the mouse, they understood the concept of clicking on links or other things on screen, and some of them could handle the menus for things like MS Word. That might not sound like much, but these kids were 6, and these are skills that, 10 or so years ago, many many college students didn’t possess. And I’m not just talking about the “rich white kids;” Will’s school is quite diverse in terms of race and the income level of the students, and the students from less privileged backgrounds handled the computers well, too.

On the other hand, computers and instructional technology had a tiny tiny role in Will’s first grade, and I think the same is true for his second grade. The teachers don’t know how to use what they have effectively, they equipment they have is pretty old, and the “educational experience” with the classroom computers seemed to me to be limited to educational “games” where the object of the game, at least from the point of view of these kids, is to click on stuff as fast as you can. I did a review last year of Todd Oppenhemier’s The Flickering Mind, a book that I found to be “problematic” at best, but I do agree with him (sort of) that integrating technology into teaching shouldn’t be a priority in elementary schools. At least under the current circumstances.

As the technology gets better and teachers have a better idea about what to do with them, that will change. But just because kids are used to computers and can play games with them doesn’t mean they necessarily know how to really “use” them, and it doesn’t mean that they are using/engaging in technology in meaningful ways.

Apple to Intel: the beginning of the end?

Apple computers are making the transition to an Intel-based Mac.

Uh-oh.

Actually, I don’t know how much difference it will make for users like me, but the posts on the discussion on the Apple Insiders discussion of the article (see the above link) are kind of interesting. Not that the people commenting here really knows anything, but conceivably, it will be possible in the future (like 2007 or so) to run MS Windows on a Apple-manufactured computer.

It also seems, based on the discussion here, that it will not be possible to run the Apple OS on a Intel PC (like a Dell or something). Personally, I think that’s the wrong strategy. I think if Apple abandoned the manufacture of computer hardware entirely and just focused on producing the OS and support applications, Apple would probably get a lot more converts and sell a lot more software. Of course, Apple apparently makes a ton more money on their very nice (albeit overpriced) hardware.

Hmmm. I wonder how long it will take someone to write the hack that will allow you to run the Apple OS on any Intel-chipped computer?