TechBurst Competition 2011

Share what you know…


: ( noun ‘tek’berst ) a short, sharable video that explains a single topic or concept in a particularly entertaining and compelling way. The best TechBursts are viewed thousands of times.

TechBurst Competition 2011

:help to populate the TechBurst library and to recognize the most creative Yellow Jacket mentors. If you worked hard to understand a difficult concept and have a novel way of explaining it to your classmates, share what you know in the 2011 TechBurst Competition. Participants will produce their own videos and leave them behind for future Yellow Jackets. The best videos will be viral Internet hits. Winners will receive $5,000 in cash prizes and gifts.

The Rules of TechBursts

:there are only four rules of TechBursts

  1. They are short (no more than 10 minutes)
  2. They are creative (nobody will watch boring TechBursts)
  3. They are self-contained (your classmates will put them together in unpredictable ways)
  4. They are meant to be shared (you are leaving a legacy to make life a little better for those who follow

Where to Find Examples of TechBursts

:there are no TechBursts today. Soon there will be hundreds of them, and yours will be the examples that other students use. For examples of bursts that people in other parts of the world are creating, try visiting Kahn Academy ( or The RSA (

How to Create TechBursts

:you will probably invent your own approach to creating TechBursts. Technology is important, but you can get started with simple tools that are freely available on the web (see


:current Georgia Tech undergraduate or graduate students can enter individually or in teams. A student can be a part of as many individual or team submissions as he or she wants.

Expressing Interest, Intent to Compete & Registration

:individual students and student teams must complete one TechBurst Topic Registration Form per submission. These forms can be completed between October 1 and October 30, 2011.

Register here

How the Competition Works

:semi-finalists will be selected on the basis of creativity and clarity. Semifinalists will submit rough videos to a panel of judges who will select a group of finalists. Finalist videos will be uploaded to a TechBurst YouTube channel for the world to see. Winning videos will be determined by combining crowd sourced reviews and ratings with the reviews of an expert panel. Winners will be announced at the 2012 C21U Presidential Forum.

Production Assistance

:individuals and teams are free to use any technology at their disposal to produce their TechBurst video. In fact, the more creative, the better. Finalists will have access to the Georgia Tech’s Distance Learning and Professional Education studios and facilities. If you think you will need access to production assistance please indicate on the registration form. The Georgia Tech Library also has facilities that are open to all students that may be helpful.


  • $2,500 – First Place
  • $1,000 – Second Place
  • $500   – Third Place
  • $1,000 – People’s Choice Award for Innovation
  • * prizes divided up equally to members of ad hoc teams


In “Dancing with the Stars” I talked about what a classroom with 10,000 students might be like. The transformation of higher education has begun, and the pace of that change is accelerating.

Dick Lipton’s blog Godel’s Lost Letter has since attracted tens of thousands more.  It is a virtual seminar that, for example, coordinated a global effort to referee an important paper in the theory of algorithms.  At times, the number of viewers topped 100,000. Now Stanford’s Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun are offering an online course in artificial intelligence that will enroll 58,000 students.

On September 12, I will join with 60 or so colleagues to offer a MOOC for tens of thousands of students.  Georgia Tech  students will get credit, and others will get badges that could be convertible to credit if they ever enroll at Tech.  Other institutions will announce their approaches to certifying achievement in the course. A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course, a style of college-level teaching that was pioneered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. The first MOOC, offered in 2008 by George and Stephen was devoted to the subject of their research, a style of learning called connected connectivism. It attracted 10,000 students.

The 2011-12 MOOC is all about transforming university learning and the organizers hope it will attract a much wider global audience.  They are calling it the Mother of all MOOCS.

The course will also be a C21U experiment on self-certification, a concept I discussed in my book. Where will this all lead?  It’s far too soon to predict an outcome, but within the last year, the number of experiments in higher education has exploded.  If you believe like me that innovative change is just what traditional colleges and universities need, that’s a good thing. The way to innovate is to try out lots of ideas.

Even casual iTunes™ users know about iTunesU™, the increasingly rich video-taped course offerings from universities as great as Stanford and Oxford and as humble as the dozens of community colleges and adult education programs that make their curricula available for free downloading. I should have seen it coming in the spring of 2001 when Charles Vest – then president of MIT – paid me a visit at HP to tell me of his plans to make MIT’s entire course catalog available for download on the internet, but I was not thinking much about Higher Education as a market in those days.

Things changed in late 2002 when I started to draw a paycheck from a university and began to think hard about the fate of American colleges and universities in the 21st century.  What Chuck Vest predicted one afternoon in my Palo Alto office is now being played out in what I believe is the next economic bubble.  This is quite literally the collision of that half of the earth’s population that has in the last decade joined the free market economy with the inwardly focused world of  Americah higher education, which – unless there are some dramatic changes – is destined to be a marginalized bystander to events that it is ill-equipped to understand.  Here is the stark reality: enhanced technology means that the market for higher education now has many suppliers, and the  hundreds of millions of people who all of a sudden want a university education also find that they have abundant choices, often with lower cost and high quality.    In any market with abundant choices, the winners are inevitably those with compelling brands, price, or value.  There are about 3,500 accredited colleges and universities in the US, and, except for the handful (less than a hundred) who have global brands, most of them have not figured out how to deliver their value at an acceptable price.  In fact, an alarming large number of them cannot even articulate their value to the world that is rushing toward them.  That spells trouble. I will have much more to say about WWC and higher education in later posts.

I am working on a book on this topic so these problems are much on my mind these days, but an email message from a colleague prompted me write that there may be a series of smaller collisions rather than a single cataclysm.

There is a lot of criticism about the quality of iTunesU lectures and online courses.  Some criticism can be dismissed as an “innovator’s dilemma” confusion of the current state  — much of it admittedly primitive – of the technology with its disruptive power.  I find this criticism easy to dismiss because you can see quality of online instruction improving month by month.  Never underestimate the power of technology curves.  The more difficult question is how exactly the technology can replace a skilled human mentor who has ability to interact directly with her students.

Then two e-mails from my friend Dick Lipton showed up.  “Hit 7,000 page views today!” said the first one.  A few hours later: “We were number 20 on WordPress!”  That’s 20 out of roughly 3 million WordPress posts.  Dick is a world-class computational theorist, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and one of the best teachers I have ever known.  He is a star.  He has been blogging pure math for the last year at a website called “G̈ödel’s Lost Letter¨.  Not exactly the stuff you would expect to be in the top  .0007% of all of those posts about Michael Jackson, Death Panels, and the 2016 Olympics.  His latest series “Reasons for Believing P = NP” has been exceptionally popular, drawing hundreds of comments from experts, novices, interested amateurs, and a few cranks.  We have been collaborators for many years. Our offices used to share a common wall.  I know Dick’s voice when he is engaged with his students.  It has a distinctive rhythm and is louder when he is trying to extract a missing argument from a reluctant pupil.  It was the voice I heard when I read his blog, and as I thought about his 7,000 viewers it occurred to me that Dick’s seminar was no longer 10 or 15 graduate students crowded around a white board.  This is not an on-line lecture or an iTunes™ videos. I thought, “This is what the teacher-mentor relationship is like when the technology enables a classroom of 7,000 students.”  When there are abundant choices, students will choose this.