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“Top Ten Education Technology Trends of 2005”

March 17th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Joyce Kasman Valenza writes, The Top 10 Technology Trends Affecting Education in 2005, summing up some of last year’s biggest changes.

She begins: “Technology continues to enrich the educational landscape. To highlight the most important trends of 2005, I turned to ed tech consultant Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island, one of the hosts of the Ed Tech Talk Show webcasts (” (If this is connected to the Ed Tech email list I am on, then it is a great resource.)

My favorites from the list:

Is “Powerpoint” Generic Yet?

March 15th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

A brand name that is used too generically by too many people risks losing its legal trademark status. (Xerox and Kleenex have fought hard against this, while Aspirin and Band-Aid have lost their trademarks.)

According to BitLaw, “A valid trademark can become generic if the consuming public misuses the mark sufficiently for the mark to become the generic name for the product. The prime examples of former trademarks that became the generic name for a product are ASPIRIN and CELLOPHANE. Current trademarks that were once considered to be candidates for becoming generic are XEROX and KLEENEX. XEROX has spent a great deal of advertising money to prevent misuse of its mark. By doing so, XEROX has likely avoiding the loss of its trademark.”

The IP Counsel Blog calls this process “generocide”: “Generocide is the term coined to describe the loss of a trademark that no longer serves as an indicator of a source of goods because consumers came to regard the trademark as a generic term.”

Software is as susceptible as any other product (see this article about Google’s trademark peril). Though this seems like a real risk, I think we are about to see a different trademark loss occur.

The word is “powerpoint,” and it is used generically by millions of people to mean “presentation graphics” or a “slideshow presentation created on a computer.” Those terms don’t sound familiar to many people, because they’re awkward synonyms of the vernacular “powerpoint.” In my own office, our people say “powerpoint” all the time. They don’t mean “Microsoft PowerPoint.” They could mean anything from a self-running Flash presentation, to a word processing document, to a series of JPGs in a folder, to a web page! The only common thread is that they succinctly and beautifully (depending on the skill of the creator) summarize the sales pitch being made. And they almost always use “powerpoint” as a noun.

I think it’s time we formalize this situation. Why? To make it easier to talk about a “powerpoint” that I made using Impress or KPresenter or Corel Office. When your professor says, “Turn in your assignment powerpoints at the beginning of class,” she’s not trying to make you purchase a $500 software program (unless she’s a big shareholder of MSFT). You can use any of a dozen tools, many free, to generate your assignment, no different than when she asks you to turn in a web page. You can say to your prof, “Can I use OpenOffice Impress to make my powerpoint?” and she’ll say “Use what you want, I don’t care.” (That’s my idealized version, anyway.)

Returning to the IP Counsel Blog, to avoid generocide, the trademark should:

  1. be used as an adjective. Not “Xerox”, but “Xerox photocopier”;
  2. not be used as a noun of any type, singular, plural or possessive. not “put on a band-aid”, or “two band-aids”, or “band-aid’s adhesive quality”, but rather “put on a Band-Aid bandage”, or “the adhesive qualities of Band-Aid bandages”; and
  3. not be used as a verb (never “Xeroxed”, but rather, “photocopied”).

The first two conditions are rarely met when one talks about a powerpoint. Thus, the crux of my argument. Still not convinced? Look at definition two of “PowerPoint” on

So why am I writing this? I want to start a blogmeme and see if others pick up and pass this idea around the net. I think it would be fun and maybe subversive to raise this issue. It just might, with luck, enter the public consciousness and help solidify my premise that powerpoint is a generic term and should be recognized as such.

IBM Will Never Use MS Vista?

March 13th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

In an interesting report from LinuxForum in Copenhagen, an IBM presenter announces that his company will not ever adopt Microsoft Windows Vista.

“At the end of the presentation, Andreas Pleschek revealed that the laptop he used for the presentation was running a pre-release of their new platform, the Open Client. It is actually a Red Hat work station with IBM’s new Workplace Client, which is built in Java on top of Eclipse. Because of Eclipse, it runs on both Linux and Windows, and they have been able to reuse the C++ code in Lotus Notes for Windows to run it natively on Linux via Eclipse. Internally in IBM, for years, they have had a need to run Lotus Notes on Linux, and now they can. And they will offer it to their customers.

Workplace uses Lotus Notes for mail, calendar, etc. and Firefox as their browser. For an office suite, they use

Andreas Pleschek also told that IBM has cancelled their contract with Microsoft as of October this year. That means that IBM will not use Windows Vista for their desktops. Beginning from July, IBM employees will begin using IBM Workplace on their new, Red Hat-based platform. Not all at once – some will keep using their present Windows versions for a while. But none will upgrade to Vista.”

Sounds great, but a later rebuttal from IBM claims that they are not dumping Windows.

“The number of Linux users within the Armonk, N.Y., company is about 5 percent of IBM’s 329,000 employees, spokeswoman Nancy Kaplan said. The workers include software developers and designers, people configuring software and hardware bundles for customers and others who need to use Linux as part of their jobs.

“The Linux plan is for people who have a need for Linux, as part of their jobs, will use it,” Kaplan said. “We have not made Linux available to the general employee population and there are no plans to do that.”

“As to whether IBM would upgrade to Vista, the company was in the process of evaluating the OS and had not made a decision, Kaplan said.”

The upside seems to be that desktop Linux is treated as a peer of Windows and gets equal opportunity and support from the company. Plus, it seems that IBM Workplace will be replacing Microsoft Office on both platforms the company runs. And that’s a pretty big win.

Moodle Bests Blackboard!

March 9th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Most excellent, this study compares Moodle to Blackboard in a real world teaching environment, and students who used both systems show a strong preference for Moodle (almost two-to-one).

Blackboard vs. Moodle

From the conclusion:

“Moodle advantages over Blackboard:

* Easier to maneuver (fewer “clicks”!)
* Less area monopolized for navigation
* Easier to incorporate multimedia elements
* More tools available (glossary, poll, lesson, journal)
* Track student activity to see which parts of the course are preferred
* Quiz tool scores correctly and provides details on the student’s use
* Can be customized to add desired features
* Features are robust
* Survey allows as few as two choices”

OpenOffice 2.0’s Charting Wizard

March 8th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Solveig writes Finding hidden treasures in OpenOffice 2.0’s Charting Wizard for

It doesn’t seem like the best endorsement of the program’s user interface, but at least what you need to do can be done, with the proper knowledge (gleaned from this article):

“The chart features in OpenOffice are like a mystery-lover’s dream vacation: a huge, mysterious old house with lots of long halls, secret bookcases, dark closets and creaky doors that, when you peer behind them, reveal wonderful secrets.

Now, I realize that all this mystery can be annoying if you don’t have three months of summer to explore the charting features and you just want your darn scatterplot out in a few minutes. Fortunately, even though much of the power of OpenOffice charts is hidden, once you know it’s available and where to find it, you can get to it much more easily.

So, here’s your tour of the powerful, hidden charting jewels in OpenOffice 2.0.”

As we expect from Solveig, it’s a good, clear article with many helpful pictures and screenshots to guide us along.

MS Office 2007 is an Opportunity for OpenOffice

March 6th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Microsoft’s decision to radically alter the user interface for its next revision of MS Office, 2007, is an opportunity for OpenOffice to capture more marketshare.

If it really is true that training users to deal with minor UI changes is such a big deal (as criticisms over the move from MS Office to OpenOffice generally claim), then we are soon approaching a point where the swich from MS Office pre-2007 to 2 will be smaller and less disruptive than a switch from MS Office pre-2007 to MS Office 2007. In addition, it will cost nothing to pilot OOo, whereas even getting a few copies of MS Office 2007 to test in a workplace will cost big bucks.

eWeek covers this issue in Office 2007: Users Wary of Changes.

A strategy becoming more common is to provide OOo to users who will be content with it, and only use MS Office in the few places where its cost can be justified: “An increasing number of enterprises are also looking at who on their staff actually needs suites like Office 2007 and who could be well-served by alternatives such as Sun Microsystems’ branded StarOffice and the Project’s free distribution, according to Kyle McNabb, an analyst with Forrester Research.”

Similarly, The Times (UK) reports on the growing trend for home users to run FOSS applications.

“Once the preserve of geeks, open source has gone public in the past year, to the extent that programs such as Firefox have become household names. When a minor update for this browser was released last December, it was immediately downloaded 10m times, helping to double its annual market share to 10%, the researcher Net Applications reports.

And Firefox is no one-off phenomenon: 40m people have downloaded OpenOffice, an open-source alternative to Microsoft Office. “I use OpenOffice at home, and I’ve found that it reads almost all Microsoft Word documents,” says Wayne Lee. “I’ve had no problems at all, and neither have my kids.”

ODF Alliance Formed

March 3rd, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Groklaw reports on the creation of the ODF Alliance, “an international group of industry partners, associations, NGOs and academic/research institutions… to build global support for the use of ODF.”

The list of founding members is long, and others are welcome to join at any time. Corel, IBM, Sun, Novell, Red Hat, Oracle, Opera, and a number of technology councils, universities and others are already proud to have their names attached to this initiative.

PJ summarizes, “What does it mean? To me, it means that there will be no future Peter Quinns left to take the heat all by himself. So, if you are a CIO for a governmental agency, and you are very much not wanting to experience what he did, this announcement means that you will have the support you need to make a successful transition, if that is the direction chosen. And if there are hostile hearings scheduled, such as we blatantly witnessed happen in Massachusetts, there will be people ready and qualified to speak up, with white papers and studies and success stories at the ready to unFUD the FUD.”

OpenOffice Newsletter – February 2006

March 1st, 2006 Benjamin Horst

The February edition of the Newsletter is now available.

Big news includes: