Archive for February, 2011

From Ink and Paper to Glass and Metal. The Future of Textbooks (Week 6)


Textbooks

Textbooks are part and parcel of education. Every subject at every level of education has a number of related textbooks that are required of students to obtain to assist in the curriculum. However, the textbook is essentially a book, and books are part of the old media. The IT revolution has changed the way we process old media such as the television, radio and even books, why not the Textbook?

Untapped IT Potential
I feel that there is a lot of potential in IT that is still relatively untapped with regards to education. As of current, IT has made it easier for students to submit assignments and carry out administrative duties; saving time and money by increasing efficiency. However, I believe that the next step of the evolution in education is to have textbooks digitalized, as it can benefit a student in many aspects.

The iPad

Due to the text-based nature of textbooks, I feel that physical textbooks can be easily done without with the emergence of Tablet PCs. One such Tablet PC that is experiencing immense growth in popularity is the iPad. Thus, I will use it as an example to highlight the advantages that a Tablet PC has over the conventional textbook.

Advantages

Price
Although textbooks seem like a small part of the entire cost of education, studies have shown that an average undergrad can spend from $500 to even more than $1000 dollars a year on textbooks alone. An iPad costs from $700 to $1000, this is equivalent to just ONE year worth of textbooks. Furthermore, with an iPad you can save money on stationery and writing paper, as there are applications for the iPad that assist with note taking and journal planning. Additionally, with textbooks being digitalized, money can be saved on having a publisher for physical textbooks; further cutting costs.

Interactivity
With the audio/visual capabilities of an iPad, gone are the days where one has to stare blankly at static words and pictures. Pictures can be replaced by videos with voiceovers and audio effects. The touch screen feature also increases user-friendliness and efficiency. This will definitely help those who are not as IT savvy as the rest. Also, it will be more appealing to the younger generation by making lessons more interesting.

Convenience
The Internet capabilities of the iPad makes obtaining textbooks so much easier. Rather than standing in line at a bookstore, students can simply download textbooks into their iPads. Also, with the massive internal memory of the iPad (16 – 64gb), students can store and retrieve dozens of textbooks from one device. To add to the convenience, finding keywords and phrases, copying and pasting text and flipping through hundreds of pages can be done with great ease due to the interface of the iPad.

Physical Features.
Weighing in at 680 grams with a thickness of a mere 13.4 mm, it is a lot smaller and lighter than most University textbooks. A feature further enhanced when taking into consideration that literally hundreds of books can be stored into it’s harddisk.
Eco-Friendliness.
It is obvious that there is a large amount of paper being used to print textbooks and inevitably wasted when newer editions are released. The only paper that a student who has an iPad would be using, is the box it comes in.
It helps in saving the environment.


Conclusion

There are many glaring advantages and benefits that come with digitalizing textbooks and using iPads to view them. In fact, schools from all over the world are starting to adopt and experiment with the idea. Also, reading textbooks is just one of the many functions an iPad has to offer. There are also many other educational-related and useful applications that are available. The technology is already here, what better time than now to start using it?

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Here is a video of a report of how the iPad is used in the Nanyang Girl’s School. One of our very own local schools.

The Fundamentals of E-Marketing (Week 5)

E-Marketing

Ever since the dawn of modern civilization, marketing has been present in the evolution and flourishing of people. Like people, marketing has also evolved throughout the ages, taking many forms. From bartering to infomercials and now to one of it’s latest incarnations, E-Marketing.

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What is it?

In a nutshell, E-Marketing is when marketing is boosted by the advantages
Internet and Technology have to offer. It seemed like a simple idea, maybe not even that big a deal. We already had television and radio, how much more could this new media offer? Well, it was nothing short of a revolution.
Internet and technology changed marketing like how it changed almost every aspect of our lives. It improved it in ways and means that we could have never imagined possible, and in a very short period of time to boot. There were many reasons why this was so, but there are a few fundamental advantages of technology and the Internet that were vital in making it possible.

The Fundamental Advantages

Interactivity

The characteristic that immediately sets the Internet apart from old media like books and even television; is it’s interactivity. With the vast amount of interactivity the Internet has to offer, the possibilities that come with it are endless. Now we can customize, rate, review, sample, order, share and view products and services all in the comfort of our own homes. This is a big step from calling to place an order for the Abdomenizer after watching an episode of TV Innovations.

Ubiquity

The world has a population of about 6.8 billion people; and approximately a third of the world is connected to the Internet. That is a potential market that even the biggest corporations can’t fathom. Furthermore, due to the Internet’s omnipresence, a business can focus on almost any specific target audience. The Internet, the medium that commands the largest and most diverse audience ever in mankind’s history; is undoubtedly a marketing dream.

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Community

The Internet has been described as a network of networks, as it connects people from all over the world together; like a large community. This large-scale networking can only mean good news for businesses. A company can spend millions of dollars on advertising, but it still will not beat the selling power a “buzz” can generate. A “buzz” is when the word-of-mouth and discussions builds up a particular product, and it usually persuades and influences people more than multi-million dollar corporate advertising. Forums, blogs, chatrooms, social networking sites are just some of the various avenues available online where communities can create a “buzz”.

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Virtual Space

Space and location are definitely on the top of the list of priorities when it comes to setting up a business. These problems are almost negated on the Internet. With the appropriate servers to host your website and a catchy domain, the sky’s the limit. To put things into perspective, eBay.com, one of the biggest online shopping websites in the world, has approximately 168 million registered users over 33 countries and can process up to 4.4 million transactions daily. This means that one website can easily dwarf a cluster of the biggest shopping malls in the world based on transactions alone. The gist of it all is that the vastness of virtual space enhanced by the audio/visual capabilities of the Internet, websites can “contain” an immense amount of people, products and services, profusely more than any brick-and-motar mall on Earth.


Conclusion

Sure, there are many reasons why E-marketing is at a disadvantage, such as the lack of a human touch, intangibility, shipping and legal issues. However, it is evident that there are plenty of benefits that outweigh the disadvantages. Businesses are making billions just by using E-marketing alone. One would just need to keep in mind the fundamental advantages that E-marketing has to offer and utilize them to the fullest; doing that would definitely make any business a shining success.

FourSquare: The next Big Thing? (Week 4)

Technology is Everywhere

In this day and age, keeping up to date with the advancement of Information Technology is no feat. In fact, it would actually take more effort to shut oneself off from the incessant buzz that surrounds the IT world. Everyday, be it at work, school or play, we come into contact with the latest in technology. A major aspect of IT that fuels its omnipresence is Social Networking, and in turn, the Internet has enhanced the idea of Social Networking.

Social Networks

In a nutshell, a Social Network is just groups of individuals who have at least one thing in common. It could be mutual friends, interests, employers or hobbies. The Internet has made it easier for people with common factors to form these Social Networks. Perhaps my previous line could be an understatement; the Internet has literally revolutionized Social Networking. Social Networking on the Internet is a lucrative business, with the top Social Networking websites being worth billions of dollars. There are dozens of websites that provide social network services to hundreds of millions of members.

When it comes to Social Networking, I have to admit that I have jumped on the bandwagon. Besides being an active Facebook user, I also have a Twitter account. This is however, just the tip of the iceberg. Facebook and Twitter are pretty general social network sites. There are many others that are more specific in focus and purpose. One such site that caught my attention was FourSquare.

FourSquare

FourSquare is a website/application connects people by their geographical location.  The website provides an application that can be downloaded into most smartphones in the market. How it works is that anytime you reach a new location, whether it’s a shopping centre, school or even home, you can use your phone to “check in” there. Checking in to a location means that everyone who is checked in to that location would know see that you are there. This is FourSquare’s main feature.

Friend Lists

Furthermore, you can add other FourSquare users to a Friends List. By doing so, you would be updated every time a friend checks in to a new location; also whenever you check in somewhere, your friends would be on the top of the list of that location and you can even “shout” at them, which is actually just sending a message to all of your friends in that location.

Things to Do

Another interesting feature that FourSquare provides is the “Things-to-do” page. This page gives you a literally a list of things to do, provided by other Foursquare users, at the location you have checked in. For example, you have just checked in to a shopping centre for the first time and wondering what is interesting to do there. You would be able to use your Foursquare application to check out on places to eat, shop or play as recommended by other users. I would liken these functions to be like using Twitter for the specific locations.

 

The Business Edge

Now we ask the question, how can this application help businesses?
Think of it as the ultimate flyer distributor. Obscure restaurants and shops can send out messages to users telling them about their menu or products. Even established businesses can broadcast to users regarding special promotions or sales.

What edge does FourSquare have over regular advertising? Flyers can only be distributed at specific locations, while FourSquare has the reach of a radius of at least a few hundred meters from a particular landmark. Potential customers will already be of close proximity from the advertising establishment, so the task of traveling is immediately negated. Additionally, if the advertising establishment really does make its customers happy, the customers could write a review or recommendation of that establishment on the “Things-to-do” list.

Click on the picture to see some FourSquare statistics of 2010


Conclusion

FourSquare has just above 6 million registered users worldwide. That is a relatively small number of customers comparing to the bug social networking players. It could be because of the almost necessary requirement of a smartphone accompanied with the privacy issues (not everyone wants people to know where they are) that could be factors in its lack of popularity. However, with the ever growing number of smartphone users and maybe more elaborate setting customizations, I believe FourSquare could be the next big thing.

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Here’s a video on the benefits of using FourSquare and how it works.

Saying Yes to RSS. (Week 3)


Old Media

I remember a time when I would plan my activities around the Television schedule, when I would have to go to the Library if I wanted to read up on a particular subject, and when my fingers would get stained from the newsprint pages of The Straits Times. I do not do these things anymore, at least not remotely as often. It is not that I have given up on the things I have mentioned, but only because something big happened from the time then and now that changed everything, The Internet.

The Internet Explosion

In the past decade, the Internet explosion has revolutionized the way we play, study, shop and carry out various other activities. The Internet, among many other things, has made it easier to research and learn about any topic from the common to the obscure, keep up with current affairs on an International level and even discover new sources of entertainment in the forms of blogs and vlogs. As someone who embraces this phenomenon, I have subconsciously integrated various aspects of my life to my laptop and smartphone. By doing this, it almost eliminates the need of using older, more traditional media like books and newspapers.

RSS

One might think that the Internet has peaked in the art of retrieving information from websites with the many exhaustive search engines available. However, what if we already found the websites we were searching for, but want to continue receiving constants updates from that website? With RSS, commonly expanded as Really Simple Syndication, we now can.

How does RSS work?

Politics, medicine, technology are constantly changing and evolving. Artists strive to churn out new and groundbreaking content. People always have something new that they have to update others on. Thus, websites are rarely static. We find ourselves going back to our favourite websites to read their latest posts. These posts could be in the forms of news articles, product reviews or just what a friend studying abroad did at school. RSS makes it convenient for someone to read new posts from his or her favourite websites by consolidating the posts and consolidating them on a common platform in a standardized format. In other words, instead of visiting websites to read their latest posts, the posts now make their way to the reader.


Why RSS?

I have only recently picked up RSS. I did not see visiting my favourite websites one by one for updates as much of an issue. However, the prospect of having it all consolidated and in turn increasing efficiency and solving my problem of having too many tabs did seem tempting. Furthermore, this would ensure that I would not miss out on any of the websites I frequent.
To use the RSS function for websites, one would need to obtain an RSS reader to display all the RSS feeds that are subscribed to. 
I chose Google reader as it was reviewed to be the most popular and user friend RSS reader out there. Initially, it took a little getting used to; it seemed pretty disorganized and reading all the standardized posts from a feed felt different from reading them from their websites. After a while, I must admit that after customizing the settings to my liking, I understood the appeal of using the RSS reader. It was a lot more convenient. Furthermore, because long posts are summarized with the option to be expanded, I had the choice of skipping through articles that did not interest me. On top of that, I have even subscribed to new websites as Google reader recommends other websites that are similar to the existing ones a user has.

Conclusion

All this convenience, adding to the fact that all this information is mostly free with an Internet subscription means that more information on a wider range of topics is absorbed in a shorter period of time. One can even read RSS Feeds on a smartphone if he or she pleases. Like many other wonders the Internet has brought about in my life, RSS is definitely here to stay.

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Here are some of my favourite sites that I subscribe to:

Mr. Brown