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Showing posts from December, 2011

Drupal Site for Military Writers Society of America

For the last few months I have been working on a new website for the Military Writers Society of America. The goal was to create a collaborative writing site, where the members of MWSA could share ideas and work together to create the online version of their magazine Dispatches. In many ways, the goal was the same as when I create an online classroom for university students: the technology should assist collaboration and never hinder participation.

If you are curious, the new MWSA website is at:

What I've learned during this process will influence my approach to designing other online spaces, including courses. Allow me to detail the lessons, some of which were frustrating.

1. Drupal was a good choice.

I experimented with several other content management systems, such as Joomla, Mambo, Moodle, XOOPS, and the classic PHP-Nuke. It was Drupal or Joomla, and Drupal won. For all the choices out there, I settled on Drupal because it is so ubiquitous and r…

Ask Slashdot: Is E-Learning a Viable Option? - Slashdot

Over on Slashdot, the following question has 165 comments in under ten hours:
Ask Slashdot: Is E-Learning a Viable Option? - Slashdot

Once again, we should remind ourselves that technology and other materials depend on the teacher's ability to use those tools wisely. Technology alone is never a panacea. Also, technology does come with its issues.
Students working online, either at home or in class, can and do get distracted. We all do. It's hard for me not to skip over to check the latest headlines or skim science news RSS feeds. Do you really expect students to be disciplined?
Technology, used wisely, offers amazing new potentials. But, I've seen what happens when a teacher doesn't realize Twitter and Facebook have become the favorite topics of the class period.
Ideally, we teach students to focus. That might be with a book or with an iPad, but focus matters.

The Desktop Computer is Dead. Long Live the Desktop!

hardware case miditower (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
December 5, 2011 Deadline
January 2012 Issue

The Desktop Computer is Dead. Long Live the Desktop!

Prognosticators keep telling us the “Dark Tower” personal computer is dead. The experts have predicted the year of the handheld, netbook, tablet, all-in-one and media computer. Each of these smaller devices was supposed to mark the end of the tall tower or hulking desktop computer.

Yes, for many people the huge tower is dead. If you want to type and surf the Web, you can use almost any new computing device. But for many of us the desktop computer not only lives, it is essential to our work (and play).

Most of my students are content with inexpensive notebook or netbook computers. Some of my colleagues at the university use iPads with portable keyboards. The average computer user does not need a huge tower next to his or her desk. For most people, a $2500 computer is an unnecessary expense.

But, I know some pe…