UPDATED, May 3, 5:05 p.m., to reflect “U.Va. Speaks” as one of two student-led projects receiving 2013 Jefferson Trust grants, and to correct the link to the UVA Today story on the 2013 Jefferson Trust grants.
The University is nothing if not a center for sharing ideas, information and knowledge.
Most often, this happens in classrooms. But there are other common forums for such exchanges: speeches and panel discussions, staples of academic life. (If you lump together enough speeches and panels, you can call it a “conference” or a “symposium.”) Even casual followers of UVA Today or the University calendar know that these things happen on Grounds pretty much on a daily basis. Even a person of independent means, with unlimited time, would have to clone him- or herself to be able to get to everything.
Typically, a professor or someone prominent in a field will come to town, share some wisdom for an hour or so, stimulate a lot of thought and discussion, and then … everyone leaves. Maybe someone took a few notes; maybe the speaker saved her text on her laptop; less often, someone may have audio- or videotaped the proceedings. But usually, the event is lost to the historical record.
The World Wide Web has been second nature for so long, it’s sort of like oxygen.
That’s why it was so startling this morning when a colleague of mine sent me a link to a Gizmodo story celebrating the Web’s 20th anniversary. Really? Could it only have been two decades?
Life before the Web is sort of hazy. How did people find information quickly? Phone books and libraries and newspapers … You pretty much had to go to a bookstore for a book and a record store for music. Well, you could order things from home, but that required a catalog and some patience. Video was accessed on TV or at movie theaters.
Think of the fortunes that have been made, and lost.
Heck, 20 years ago I was a newspaper reporter. The paper I worked for is now defunct, and I’m writing a blog post. It could be argued that the Web is the most disruptive technology invented since the printing press.
CNN has a more in-depth piece on today’s cyber-significance. The Web itself actually dates back to 1989, when it was founded as “a way for scientists at different universities and other institutes to share information,” the article says. Today is the 20th anniversary of the day when “The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN … released, for free, the technology and software needed to run a Web server.”
UVA Innovation’s “What’s Next?” blog has the story of a fantastic new app developed by U.Va. engineering students:
Have you ever promised to let a friend know when you arrive home and forgotten to do it? There’s an app for that, and it was developed by U.Va. engineering students!
The app, called “WalkBack,” ingeniously uses smart phones’ built-in GPS to notify members of a group when their friends have made it home. Also, “Colleges can also anonymously use the data collected from WalkBack to make informed decisions on student safety.”
There will be three visible-from-Earth passes of the International Space Station over Central Virginia this week, according to U.Va. astronomer Ed Murphy.
The first is this evening, April 23, from 9:45 to 9:48 p.m.
To view it, Murphy says to go outside at about 9:40 p.m. – “to let your eyes adapt to the dark” – and face northwest. “The ISS will look like a very bright star rising straight out of the northwestern horizon,” he says. “It will climb high in the northwestern sky and then disappear high overhead at 9:48:02 p.m. when it passes into the shadow of the Earth.”
There was one other event on Grounds that was notable in its own right, and probably would have been bigger news on many other days: Daphne Koller, the co-founder of Coursera, spoke at the Curry School about the online revolution in higher education. (In fact, U.Va. sometimes feels like Ground Zero for that revolution.)
Realizing that many of you could not sit at speeches all day, here’s the complete video of Koller’s talk.
I’ve often wondered how technology works on the MV Explorer, the ship that houses the Semester at Sea program (for which U.Va. is the academic sponsor, and a major contributor of both students and faculty).
Now I know the answer: A lot of it doesn’t work at all.
“While my initial impression of life sans texting, cell phone service, and the Internet conjured up frightening images from a more primitive age, I have come to appreciate the restricted communication outlets on Semester at Sea,” she writes.
I’ll let you read the rest. As my technology-driven work week careens toward another end, shipboard life sounds idyllic.
Inside Higher Ed has an interesting piece today highlighting the growing pains of online education. Apparently, one of the Coursera offerings had to be “temporarily suspended” one week into the course when the massive open online course’s infrastructure was overwhelmed by the 40,000 students enrolled.
The course? “Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application.”
The host institution? The Georgia Institute of Technology. (I’m not identifying Georgia Tech to make fun; it just shows that even highly esteemed universities are struggling with how to do online ed correctly, and that even those who feel qualified as experts are probably only a step or two ahead of the rest of the pack in this nascent field. There, but for the grace of God, go we …)
The winter issue of the University of Virginia Magazine is out and should be in mailboxes soon. The cover story focuses on the effort to restore the Rotunda roof, putting it into historical perspective. Apparently, the darned thing has always leaked, and this is just the latest attempt to fix it.
It’s often said in the newspaper world that “news is what happens in the editor’s backyard” — suggesting that whatever an editor is personally experiencing at any given time is likely to find it’s way into print soon thereafter.
Well, this editor has been hip-deep in alumni magazines lately, having volunteered to help judge an awards contest. (Helpful hint: Never volunteer to judge a magazine awards contest, unless you have hours upon hours to kill.)
So when I came across a note about the latest edition of Curry School of Education‘s alumni magazine, it did pique my interest a little bit.
Here’s why: Unlike the mags I have been poring over, it’s all online. Yes, untold numbers of trees are still alive because the school chose to render its feature stories, news briefs and even its alumni notes in pixels instead of print.
Check it out, and then let us know what you think. Are you more or less likely to read an alumni magazine online? How is the experience different?
Some days, we at UVA Today HQ can spend some time putting together a really thoughtful or entertaining blog post, and bring you, our dear readers, joy or enlightenment.
Today, alas, is not one of those days.
So I’m calling on my esteemed and much more productive colleague, Morgan Estabrook of U.Va. Innovation to bail me out. Her excellent “What’s Next” blog has a great post for faculty and other researchers who have an idea that they think just might have some potential for commercialization, but have no idea how to get started.
(You can click here to read her blog post about the new U.Va. Innovation Learning Center, or click here to skip the introduction and go directly to the center itself.)
The imperative: President Obama issued an executive order in 2009 mandating that action be taken to mitigate the impact of nutrient run-off on the Chesapeake Bay.
The question: Which of the existing best management practices had the most potential to achieve the objective?
The idea: The Computing for Sustainable Water Project, led by U.Va. environmental scientist Gerald Learmonth, which sought to evaluate the possible measures through a massive computer simulation.
The problem: How do you simulate and evaluate the effectiveness of so many possibilities over a huge watershed? Even using all of the computing resources currently available to him at U.Va., it would likely take 90 years to perform all of the calcuations.
The results: The World Community Grid began crunching the numbers on April 17. On Wednesday, exactly six months later, IBM announced that it had finished the calculations, having “processed over 24 million results which required nearly 4,200 years of computing power.”
Next steps: Now it is up to the grateful researchers (here’s their thank-you poston the World Community Grid blog) to pore over the mountains of data that were created and come up with their recommendations for real actions to save the Bay. “We will certainly share these results with you and the wider community as quickly as possible,” they pledged.
And once they’re done with that, they hope to apply their model to other watersheds around the world.