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Showing posts from June, 2011

Online Universities: An Opportunity for Valley Residents

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
June 27, 2011 Deadline
August 2011 Issue

Online Universities: An Opportunity for Valley Residents

Individuals with college and university degrees have a substantially lower unemployment rate than others in our community. Every political, business and educational leader I’ve met in the Central Valley has told me that education is essential to improving the quality of life in our region. Unfortunately, for many Valley residents the dream of a college degree remains merely a dream.

While I have a doctorate specializing in technology and literacy education, I remain skeptical when anyone starts talking about the potential promises of online education. My research identified many barriers to success online, from poor visual design of classes to teachers not interacting with students. Too many students do not finish college degrees they start, either online or in traditional classrooms. This leaves many people burdened with debts they cannot repay.

Online cour…

Word Counter

One of my favorite writing tools is Word Counter 2.1, from Supermagnus Software.

The price? Free. The value? To quote a popular credit card company, "Priceless."

If you're like most of my students, you're asking yourself, "Doesn't every word processor include a word count function? What's the big deal?"

Yes, most editing and word processing applications do count words, sentences, and paragraphs. However, I'm more interested in two features that are either incomplete or missing from word processors and layout applications: word frequency counts and readability analyses. Again, most applications provide at least the ability to create these reports, but none of them match the speed or ease of Word Counter.

There are several reason I use Word Counter:
Not every text editor I use provides real-time word counts;Word counts are curiously inaccurate within some applications;Macros for Word that provide freque…

Technology Speed Bumps

For the last few weeks I have been eagerly waiting to start preparing online course shells related to my new university post. Unfortunately, I still do not have access to the Blackboard servers used by the university. The delay, I am told, has something to do with the HR department. The odd part of that explanation is that I do have access to the other online services to which the university subscribes. As with many smaller colleges and universities, the information technology at this university is contracted out to specialists. I believe the Blackboard services are subscribed to directly via Blackboard, while email and website services are hosted by other companies. Currently, the university email and calendar system is on a Novell GroupWise hosted service, while website and intranet servers running Microsoft SharePoint involve yet another service provider. I don't know if HR and other departments farm out IT to yet more companies, but I wouldn't be surprised. When you create…

The Purdue Online Writing Lab

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University ( is one of the two websites I check when I have a writing related question. The other is the Tameri Guide, of course, since Susan and I tend to add content to Tameri based on our experiences writing and teaching. I am a bit envious of the great content on Purdue OWL, though. It is probably the best academic writing site on the Web.

Recently the OWL began adding slide shows, movies, and podcasts for students and teachers. The MLA and APA citation guides were already invaluable, but I've started to accept that students want content in digital form.

The podcasts' content focuses on rhetorical concepts. Because students struggle with ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos, any additional explanations are helpful. I'm for anything that helps students sort through the complicated textbook definitions of these concepts.

For a few years the OWL has been adding PowerPoint presentations on a range of …

ePubs and the Future

I have been working on various ebook projects and am frustrated by the amount of "hand coding" required to make an ePub book work well with several reader applications. When a book looks just right on one reader, it looks odd on another. Yet, we know the future is digital.

Most computer users are familiar with Adobe's ubiquitous Portable Document Format (PDF). The benefit of using PDF files is that a file includes all graphics, fonts, and layout information. A file appears nearly identical on every computer, tablet, handheld device, et cetera. A magazine in PDF looks like the designer intended — and design is the emphasis of the entire Adobe product line. Adobe's Creative Suite applications are for designers, not writers.

ePubs take a different approach, closer to the original intentions of HTML and similar document "markup" formats. Yes, you can put words in bold or change a few colors, but the intent of ePub is to allow the reader, the computer user, th…