Colby Starts Podcasting

October 12, 2006

Colby has started podcasting from high atop Mayflower Hill. Currently there are three podcasts available, but that number will surely grow.

The first podcast to launch was InsideColby [RSS | iTunes], a student persepctive of life on campus. This bi-weekly (for the most part) show released its fifth episode today, with a feature story about the woodsmen’s team produced by Rose Long ’10, and a short story written and read by Shelley Payne ’09.

Additionally, the Goldfarb Center has begun making audio of some of its lectures available through the Goldfarb Center Lecture Series [RSS | iTunes] podcast, and president Adams is making his speeches available through his The President at the Podium [RSS | iTunes] podcast feed.

More: Colby Blog and Podcast Directory

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Ad-Supported Textbooks Saving Students Money

August 22, 2006

According to some studies, students spend about $900 per year on textbooks and textbook publishers are under intense scrutiny over prices that have risen at twice the rate of inflation since 1986. Minnesota-based Freeload Press is looking to fix that by offering free textbooks. The model: instead of trying to get money out of already cash-strapped college kids, get it from companies’ marketing and advertising budgets.

Students, or anyone else who fills out a five-minute survey, can download a PDF file of the book, which they can store on their hard drive and print.

Freeload will start this fall offering about 100 textbook titles, free of charge to the student. It sounds like a good idea, but will it catch on?

The model faces big obstacles. Freeload doesn’t yet have a stable of well-known textbook authors across a range of subjects, and it lacks the editorial and marketing muscle of the “Big 3” textbook publishers (Thomson, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill). Its textbooks don’t come with bells and whistles such as online study guides that bigger publishers have spent millions developing in order to lure professors _ who assign textbooks and are the industry’s real customers.

This Washington Post article is full of interesting textbook-related facts, like these:

A new Connecticut law requires that textbook sellers tell professors what their books will cost students, and other states are considering similar measures. Cost complaints come not just from students and parents but also teachers. A 2005 study by the National Association of College Stores Foundation found 65 percent of students don’t buy all the required course materials—which means many probably aren’t learning the material, either.

Freeload claims that they will have over 250,000 textbooks and study guides available by next year.

Read the Washington Post article: Ads Coming to Texbooks


Maine Birds: Biology Professor Herb Wilson’s Blog

August 14, 2006

Biology professor Herb Wilson, who writes a biweekly column called “For the Birds” for the Maine newspapers has a blog about Maine Birds called “Maine Birds.”

Read Herb’s blog: Maine Birds


“Magical” Professor Albert Mavrinac Dies

July 31, 2006

Albert Mavrinac, who was the chair of the government department at Colby from 1958 to 1982, died last Thursday at Thayer Hospital in Waterville.

“Of all the teachers I ever had, he was by far the best,” [Doris Kearns] Goodwin said in a phone interview last night. “He had this magical way of teaching that made us feel that if we could truly understand what he was saying — he was always a step beyond us — you would understand truth and justice.”

Read the Boston Globe article: Albert Mavrinac, 83; professor inspired students for 3 decades


Assistant Professor Adrian Blevins in Head-to-Head, Online, Poetry “Smack-Down”

July 27, 2006

If you like poetry, but feel that it would be more exciting as a competitive sport, then QuickMuse is the site for you.

The concept: take two accomplished poets, give them a random topic, give them 15 minutes to write an on-the-fly composition, then sit back and watch them “riff away,” as the site puts it. In a live write-off, the two poets compose their works directly into the Web site where observers can watch poems unfold, keystroke-by-keystroke, as the author ponders, writes, deletes, contemplates, rewrites, and moves on. Don’t worry if you can’t make the live performance, however. QuickMuse’s very cool “playback” feature allows you to replay the evolution of each poem.

“QuickMuse is a cutting contest, a linguistic jam session, a series of on-the-fly compositions in which some great poets riff away on a randomly picked subject. It’s an experiment, QuickMuse, to see if first thoughts are indeed the best ones. We’re not entirely sure about this, but we suspect QuickMuse will bring readers closer to the moment of composition than they have ever been before.”

On July 25, Colby College Assistant Professor Adrian Blevins was one of those poets. She was matched up against award-winning poet David Rivard. The topic: a poem from Bill Knott entitled, “Advice from the Experts.”

Read, playback, and discuss the resulting poems: Adrian Blevins v. David Rivard.

Read more about professor Blevins: Making Noise, an article from Colby magazine

[via Quickmuse]


Osaka University Professor “Robots In” to Class

July 24, 2006

Forget the high price of gas, rush hour traffic, and finding a parking space. Hiroshi Ishiguro, head of Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, can “robo-commute” to work. He has created a humanoid version of himself that he can control and speak through remotely.

“Everyone, thank you so much for coming today,” it says in polite but languid Japanese at an ATR demo Thursday, its lips moving to the sound. The voice is Ishiguro’s, broadcast through a speaker inside his android double.

Ishisguro also wants to see if the android can convey, through its complex micromovements and life-like appearance, a sense of human presence. In addition to being a technical experiment, the robot is also an experiment on human nature.

But why bother to build robots that look like humans? Ishiguro views machines as good vehicles to learn more about human nature. He combines engineering with cognitive science with the aim of making very humanlike robots, which can be used as test beds for theories about human perception, communication and cognition. He calls his approach “android science.”

Read the article: Meet the Remote-Control Self
[viaWired News]


Government Professor Sandy Maisel in the New York Times

July 17, 2006

For an article about new House majority leader John A. Boehner, the New York Times sought wisdom from Colby College professor and director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College, L. Sandy Maisel. The article focuses on Boehner’s progress (or lack thereof)  in bringing about ethics reform in the way Congress interacts with lobbyists.

“The Republican Party needed somebody to say they were a reform candidate, so he said it,” said L. Sandy Maisel, a professor of government and director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College. “But in reality, he’s carrying on in the tradition not just of DeLay, but past Democratic and Republican leaders alike.”

Read the Times article: New House Majority Leader Keeps Old Ties to Lobbyists – New York Times