Movie stars as teachers? Plus other celebrity and tech news

Celebrities nowadays, they can’t keep their names out of tech news. Yesterday, we wrote about Justin Bieber, VC. Today: Matt Damon and Ryan Seacrest.

• First: Some would say Damon is handsome. But can he teach? And would the famous actor ever star in a MOOC? That’s the idea reportedly being kicked around at EdX, the massive online open course provider started by Harvard and MIT.  UC Berkeley is also involved in EdX. (To be clear, EdX CEO Anant Agarwal simply cited Damon as an example.)

The idea brings up all sorts of interesting issues and questions:

Celebrities already lend their star power to documentaries and other causes that educate. Some of them actually are credible and seemingly knowledgeable about the subjects they choose. But some professors are already wary of or are against MOOCs. Now there’s the addition of what they might see as further erosion of their teaching power, and intrusion in what some of them see as sacred.

Daphne Koller, co-founder of Mountain Views-based Coursera and also a professor at Stanford, said, according to Slate: “We believe that education is not a performance but fundamentally is about human interaction.”

Also, must everyone have celebrity-like good looks? Udacity, another MOOC provider mentioned in the article on Slate, apparently already uses “camera-friendly” staffers to appear in videos with professors. There have been reports that the rise of Internet video has helped make plastic surgeons even richer — because people want to look good when they Skype, of course.

• On to Seacrest, the media star extraordinaire who might be best known as the host of “American Idol.” Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is in talks with him about online content, according to AllThingsD, which points out that Mayer has also talked with news personality Katie Couric and snatched star personal-tech columnist David Pogue from the New York Times.

Other Yahoo moves that scream for attention or star worship include the company’s exclusive deal to run old “Saturday Night Live” shows online; newscast-style earnings reports; and even Mayer’s recent appearance in Vogue magazine.

Regardless of whether the Seacrest speculation pans out, that oft-repeated question about whether Yahoo is a tech or media company? Mayer seems to have answered “both.”


Photos: Matt Damon, left, and Ryan Seacrest. (Associated Press)


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