Jane McGonigal at TED: Can Gaming Save the World?

This has to be one of my favorite TedTalks in a while. Great points and new ideas. Dr. McGonigal is behind a number of the most notable alternate reality games and works as director of game research & development for the Institute for the Future. Her current project, EVOKE, embodies the theory behind her talk by engaging participants in a “10-week crash course in changing the world.”

A summary of the Healthcare Bill

So the Healthcare bill has passed. I found this summary and thought I would share it.


  • Insurance companies will be barred from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated and annual limits are to be restricted.
  • Insurers will be barred from excluding children for coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
  • Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health plans until the age of 26. Many health plans currently drop dependents from coverage when they turn 19 or finish college.
  • Uninsured adults with a pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain health coverage through a new program that will expire once new insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014.
  • A temporary reinsurance program is created to help companies maintain health coverage for early retirees between the ages of 55 and 64. This also expires in 2014.
  • Medicare drug beneficiaries who fall into the “doughnut hole” coverage gap will get a $250 rebate. The bill eventually closes that gap which currently begins after $2,700 is spent on drugs. Coverage starts again after $6,154 is spent.
  • A tax credit becomes available for some small businesses to help provide coverage for workers.
  • A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps goes into effect on July 1. WHAT HAPPENS IN 2011
  • Medicare provides 10 percent bonus payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons.
  • Medicare beneficiaries will be able to get a free annual wellness visit and personalized prevention plan service. New health plans will be required to cover preventive services with little or no cost to patients.
  • A new program under the Medicaid plan for the poor goes into effect in October that allows states to offer home and community based care for the disabled that might otherwise require institutional care.
  • Payments to insurers offering Medicare Advantage services are frozen at 2010 levels. These payments are to be gradually reduced to bring them more in line with traditional Medicare.
  • Employers are required to disclose the value of health benefits on employees’ W-2 tax forms.
  • An annual fee is imposed on pharmaceutical companies according to market share. The fee does not apply to companies with sales of $5 million or less.


  • Physician payment reforms are implemented in Medicare to enhance primary care services and encourage doctors to form “accountable care organizations” to improve quality and efficiency of care.
  • An incentive program is established in Medicare for acute care hospitals to improve quality outcomes.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the government programs, begin tracking hospital readmission rates and puts in place financial incentives to reduce preventable readmissions. WHAT HAPPENS IN 2013
  • A national pilot program is established for Medicare on payment bundling to encourage doctors, hospitals and other care providers to better coordinate patient care.
  • The threshold for claiming medical expenses on itemized tax returns is raised to 10 percent from 7.5 percent of income. The threshold remains at 7.5 percent for the elderly through 2016.
  • The Medicare payroll tax is raised to 2.35 percent from 1.45 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and married couples with incomes over $250,000. The tax is imposed on some investment income for that income group.
  • A 2.9 percent excise tax in imposed on the sale of medical devices. Anything generally purchased at the retail level by the public is excluded from the tax.


  • State health insurance exchanges for small businesses and individuals open.
  • Most people will be required to obtain health insurance coverage or pay a fine if they don’t. Healthcare tax credits become available to help people with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty purchase coverage on the exchange.
  • Health plans no longer can exclude people from coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
  • Employers with 50 or more workers who do not offer coverage face a fine of $2,000 for each employee if any worker receives subsidized insurance on the exchange. The first 30 employees aren’t counted for the fine.
  • Health insurance companies begin paying a fee based on their market share.


  • Medicare creates a physician payment program aimed at rewarding quality of care rather than volume of services.


  • An excise tax on high cost employer-provided plans is imposed. The first $27,500 of a family plan and $10,200 for individual coverage is exempt from the tax. Higher levels are set for plans covering retirees and people in high risk professions.

(Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by David Alexander and Eric Beech)


Moodle + BigBlueButton = Awesome

Ask an you will receive. Two days ago I posted about discovering BigBlueButton and wondered if there was a way to integrate it into Moodle. Yep, there is. Thanks to Luc, Fred, and Denis who were kind enough to post in the comments where I could find one.

The eLearning company Dual Code makes a GPLed module that connects Moodle to your BigBlueButton server. Once it is installed things are simple. A teacher can add a BigBlueButton assignment that will create a room on the BigBlueButton server.

BigBlueButton Assignment. It's that easy.

Just fill out the information and you are good to go.

Once the teacher has created the room students will be able to enter it by clicking on the assignment under Moodle. The room will be closed until a moderator enters the room. This is great to make sure there is always someone there for the students and so students can’t accidently go in as a moderator.

Setting it up on your Moodle server.

  1. Download the plug-in from http://www.dualcode.com/bigbluebutton/
  2. Unzip the directory and you will find two folders: lang and mod
  3. In the mod folder you will find a folder called bigbluebutton. As an adminstrator put this folder into the mod directory of your Moodle server. It is at the top level of your Moodle directory. This provides the functionality of the module.
  4. In the lang folder you will find a folder called en_utf8. In that folder you will see a file called bigbluebutton.php. That file need to go to the same location on your Moodle server (yourmoodleinstall/lang/en_utf8/bigbluebutton.php). This provides the language files we need to make it work.
  5. In the lang folder you will find a folder called en_utf8. In that folder you will see another folder called help. Open it an you will see a folder called bigbluebutton. Copy the folder to the same location on your server (yourmoodleinstall/lang/en_utf8/help/bigbluebutton). This provide the help files when you click on a question mark in Moodle.
  6. Login as administrator and go to Notifications. Moodle will detect the module and take care of everything else.
  7. Go to Modules > Activities > Manage Activities. You can click the eye to give teachers access to BigBlueButton.
  8. Click Settings beside BigBlueButton. We need to tell Moodle a few things about our BigBlueButton server.
  9. Make sure you click the “I am hosting my own BigBlueButton Server”
  10. Input the IP address of your BigBlueButton server.
  11. Input the Security Salt from your BigBlueButton server. You can find this in a file called “bigblueutton.properties” on your BigBlueButton server. On my Ubuntu server I found it at /var/lib/tomcat6/webapps/bigbluebutton/WEB-INF/classes/bigbluebutton.properties. The security salt string you are looking for can be found after beans.dynamicConferenceService.securitySalt=your_number_here. Input that long string of numbers and letter to the field in Moodle.
  12. Put a star in the Meeting IDs field. That will allow an unlimited number of rooms be created. You can also put any number here to restrict how many rooms on your BigBlueButton server you want going at one time. This can be helpful for performance issues.
  13. You should now be able to start a room by choosing it as an assignment.

Have fun out there folks.

National Educational Technology Plan

The US Department of Education has released the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan. Download the PDF while it’s hot.

I will be working my way through it over the next couple of days. I certainly hope there are some good things in there. I have to admit to being a tad cynical about some of the assessment pieces even before seeing it. I will be an unhappy camper if I read the words standardized testing too much. Let’s hope I am pleasantly surprised.

Easy Open Source Web Conferencing: Big Blue Button

I love my PLN. I discover so many new things every day. Today’s find is via Richard Byrne’s Free Tech 4 Teachers blog.

Big Blue Button is a video conferencing platform similar to Adobe Connect, Elluminate, or dimdim. It does all the regulars like text chat, voice and video sharing, PDF and PowerPoint viewing, and even screen sharing. The interface  is very clean and easy to use. The big draw to Big Blue Button for me is it open source and free to download.

When I say you can download it, that means it isn’t a hosted solution. You need to install it one your computers/servers. The good news is it is easy to install. I was surprised at just how easy it was for such a complex piece of software. Usually something like this requires lots of configuring and tweeking before you can get started with it. The developers have done a great job of making it easy to get started.

I installed it on Ubuntu 9.04 that was running on VirtualBox and I followed the very clear instructions available on the website. It is as simple as 6 steps. Open the Terminal and type each command.

  1. wget http://archive.bigbluebutton.org/bigbluebutton.asc
  2. sudo apt-key add bigbluebutton.asc
  3. echo “deb http://archive.bigbluebutton.org/ bigbluebutton main” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/bigbluebutton.list
  4. sudo apt-get update
  5. sudo apt-get install bigbluebutton
  6. You will be prompted to add a password to MySQL

Total install time was just over 8 minutes. That is pretty impressive.

Big Blue Button - The crappy webcam is my fault.

That’s it. Open up a web browser and hit your computers IP address and you will see the home page. Just enter your name into the demo room and you should be good to go.

I want to spend a bit more time with it and see what it can do after a bit more configuring and customization. I would love to find a way to launch a room directly from Moodle. After about 5 minutes of play it is very intuitive and just works. Certainly easy enough for teachers looking for a way to present online. BBB has their own demo server if you want to see it in action. They also have some great tutorial videos to get you started. I will keep you updated on my results. Thanks again to Richard for the great find.

Google: Facts and Figures

Pingdom, the awesome web site monitoring company, has created a massive infographic on Google. The figure I find most interesting is that 50% of Google’s products were created in the famed 20% employee interest-based work time. It shows that investing in people’s interests pays off. I can’t help but equate the idea to the strengths movement or the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition where student interest and engagement is paramount.

Google facts and figures

Google facts and figures