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Showing posts from May, 2011

My Ideal [Online] Degree Programs Would...

As I prepare to assume the role of coordinator of an online (and traditional) degree program, I have been thinking about my ideal educational model. My ideal system would include online and traditional instruction, so many of the ideas I express below apply to traditional classroom education and online. Online systems might provide flexibility not possible for some traditional schools, which is why I am a believer in hybrid educational systems.

So, my ideal degree program would…

Allow students to switch between online and traditional instruction if they find online doesn't meet their learning styles or needs.

Allow students to take and re-take any online tests and lab practicums two or three times until a set deadline, encouraging mastery over merely passing a test. A mix of questions or problems would prevent "memory gains" from repeated questions. Three exams does seem a reasonable cap, though.

Allow students to move faster or slower than the traditional quarter and semest…

Real Estate Websites: House Hunting Goes Virtual

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
May 26, 2011 Deadline
July 2011 Issue

Real Estate Websites: House Hunting Goes Virtual

Buying a house is one of the most stressful experiences I can imagine. Add in the stress of selling an existing home and trying to coordinate the move and the stress level increases exponentially.

My wife and I spent May and June house hunting and are now in the process of selling our current home. I believe nothing is better than working with a respected local real estate agent. Most local agents are Realtors, members of the National Association of Realtors. I encourage homebuyers and sellers to work with a professional. Professionally, I’ve met and worked with many great Realtors in Tulare County.

Unfortunately, we’re heading to the opposite coast. We considered renting, but there aren’t many apartments or homes for rent in our destination. I’ll write about where we are heading and why in an upcoming column; I believe the move could help Valley residents and many oth…

Scripting Better Writing

Most writers develop patterns in their prose. Experts can use these patterns to calculate the likelihood that a given text was written by a particular author. For example, my weaknesses include "unfortunately" and "just." President Obama overuses the phrase, "Let me be clear." Does the president need our permission to be clear? I doubt anyone tries to obstruct presidential clarity.

Since buying my first copy of WordPerfect for DOS, I've maintained macros to help locate and remove my personal textual demons. The idea is simple: automatically highlight the words and phrases I might want to revise before submitting the text to an editor. Four years ago, a student noticed the red words in an open Word document on my laptop. She asked if the highlighting was part of Word's grammar or spellcheck features. I explained to her that when I finish writing a document I run several macros to mark potential problems.

When the student asked for a copy of the …

The Classroom of the Future | Salman Khan | Big Think

This article explains how one man's YouTube tutoring lessons went viral. Students worldwide now benefit. What does this experience tell us about education?
The Classroom of the Future | Salman Khan | Big Think

One major point of this article is that learning can be individualized with technology, though we know that's not easy when a school or university enforces a time-based model for teaching. For example, I have to guide students through a course in either eight or 15 weeks. There is no choice regarding the end date.
I have never thought time-based education was the best model. Why should we move from one class to the next, one grade level to the next, as if all students are progressing that the same rate? Could online education force us to rethink this rather dated model of instruction?
Granted, I'm not free to do as I want, but I can certainly advocate for changes to online learning, especially at the university level.
Why shouldn't a student be allowed to work …

Kindle so-so for students, UW study concludes

Brier Dudley's Blog | Kindle so-so for students, UW study concludes | Seattle Times Newspaper
Seven months into the study, more than 60 percent of the students had stopped using their Kindle regularly for academic reading -- and these were computer science students, who are presumably more sympathetic to an electronic book.I'm not surprised that an eReader doesn't replace books. Taking notes and highlighting are part of the reading process that a Kindle or other eReader doesn't easily replicate.
I recall what a page looks like, from the graphics to the pattern of paragraphs. On an eReader, I can't always locate where a bit of information is. You can't say it is on "Page X" because the pagination changes with font size and other choices a user can change.

Many of us would like to imagine eReaders catching on with universities because textbooks are so expensive. The prices of textbooks are outrageous: my last course text was $100 for students and could n…

My Personal Tech Biases

The surest way to get into an argument might not be a discussion of religion or politics. No, the real heated debates, at least online, deal with those really important matters of bias:

Windows, Linux, or OS X?iOS (iPhone / iPad) or Android and Chrome (or maybe Windows Mobile)?XBox or PS3? (Sorry, Wii)FireFox, Chrome, IE, Safari, or other? PHP, Perl, JavaScript, or ASP / .Net?Objective-C, C#, or C++ with Qt?
You get the idea. If you really want to read arguments, read technology blogs. These are passionate people arguing vehemently over technologies that often come and go faster than an Italian national government. The lifespan of some fruit flies seems longer than the life of a cell phone generation.

My students have grown up with the same attachments to modern technologies that I have for fountain pens and mechanical pencils. (I love a good pen or pencil.) Getting a student to switch from Mac to Windows or from Windows to Mac can be nearly impossible. I've had one tell me she…

Technology Fanaticism (Who? Me?)

Me: Why are people so personally rude via e-mail and blog comments? I'm deleting more mail and posts than ever lately.

Friend: What are your blog topics?
Me: I maintain websites on economic theory, political rhetoric, technology, autism, creative writing, and philosophy. 
Friend: You do realize only creative writing and technology aren't likely to trigger hate mail.
Me: It seems Linux is a religion. 
Friend: Says the person with an Apple sticker on every vehicle. 
Sometimes, it is easy to forget a personal zealotry. I am having a strong reaction to the fact my future employer is an all-Windows campus. Yes, I use Windows sometimes — but I just uninstalled Boot Camp from my Mac and removed the last Windows software. 
Turns out, I am a fanatic, too.

Word Processing Essential Skills

For the last couple of days I have been reformatting and revising a Word document I created and then passed along to colleagues. Unfortunately the colleagues used "brute force" to alter the formatting of the document. This formatting method rendered the automatic table of contents, title page fields, and indices useless.

Brute force formatting is when you override the style of a paragraph or word to match another style's appearance. For example, instead of changing a "Normal" paragraph to "Heading 2" for a section, the editor of the document simply increased the size of the text and applied "bold-italic" font attributes. As a result, headings created this way did not appear in the table of contents.

Such formatting was applied throughout the document. In once case, a bullet list appeared in the table of contents because the style was "Heading 3" — with brute force formatting to make the text appear like the "List Paragraph&quo…

Reliving the Past: Retro Gaming and Vintage Computing

English: Apple IIe computer (enhanced version) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
May 1, 2011 Deadline
June 2011 Issue

Reliving the Past: Retro Gaming and Vintage Computing

The Commodore 64 is back. Known by its fans as the C64, this “keyboard is the computer” stands alongside the Atari 800 and Apple IIe as one of the most important computers of all time.

Technically, the new C64 is a licensed recreation, offered by a new company named Commodore USA. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, more than 30 million units of the original C64 were sold during the 1980s.

Commodore USA started accepting orders for the C64 in April. The first systems will arrive in June. According to several published interviews with Commodore USA founder Barry Altman, the C64 is going to be a genuine C64. When you turn on the new C64, you are asked if you want to run Microsoft Windows or Ubuntu Linux or the new Commodore OS. In “Commodore Mode” you can run software originally dev…