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Archive for the ‘commentary’ Category

heavy hitters

Posted by Miranda on November 15, 2009

Let’s hear it for the heavy hitters! You know who you are…The harder you hit it the better it will act folks, the ones with the lead foot on the mouse button.

I turned into the corner at the end of the stacks of bookshelves at the library yesterday to see a long-time client of mine already at the big maple table with his laptop. I settled in kitty corner to him and after we exchanged greetings and related pleasantries we both settled in to our respective tasks.
The room was quiet. Charlie was watching “how to’ videos from the Experimental Aircraft Association. He builds planes in his garage up in Vershire and is a member of the Replica Fighters Association. (These guys build WWII fighter aircraft and then fly them around – these are ¾ or full size planes I’m talking about! I mean these guys are crazy.) He comes to the library to watch the videos as he is also on a last mile.

And then it began.

Like a dripping tap it became more and more noticeable with repetition.

Click. Click! CLICK! CLICK!

Charlie was pounding that mouse button, putting his whole body into it. You could see him gather himself as his eyes approached a clickable link, his back arching, his forefinger slowly rising and……. CLICK!

I see a lot of people do this, students included. It seems to have nothing to do with the digital native thing. Some people are just prone to it.
It makes no difference how hard you click that mouse button, it may be actively counter productive in fact. Yet people will put their whole backs into pounding on that left click. Why?

Even I do this when I’m really frustrated. I confess, here, publicly, that I am a mouse abuser and a keyboard pounder when a computer is doing what I said instead of what I meant.

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Living on the last mile

Posted by Miranda on November 14, 2009

last-mile

The Last Mile


I’m writing this at the Latham Library/, no, I cannot tell a lie, I’m writing this at home to post later at the library.
Our phone line has been getting noisy lately and yesterday it finally became unusable.

We have dial-up.

Most of the time we connect at a fairly good clip for dial-up, anywhere from 49000 to 52000 kbps and before you tell me to eat cake that’s all we can get at the moment.
I live in a little hollow in the hills in Thetford, VT. There is no cable. There is no DSL I can’t get satellite reliably enough to justify the expense because the hill at our back – to the Southwest – blocks that most of the time. We get satellite TV when the leaves are off the trees. The TV starts to go in May and comes back in, well we started testing in late September and I believe in was mid-October when we finally got the Daily Show back. (Tangentially, I really think that works out perfectly. It’s like a higher power is telling us to get outside and enjoy in the spring when we lose TV.)

I live on the last mile and brother let me tell you it isn’t pretty out here. Our local town consortium, ECFiber is out there plugging away trying to get a loan to put a fiber network out here and to 26 other towns but it’s been an uphill slog to do that. It will be two years at the least I’d guess before it gets down Picknell Road.
There is a possibility, just a bit of a one, that I could now get wireless access. WaveComm has put up a tower on a large pine tree at the Gove Hill Retreat, a Baptist camp on top of Gove Hill. We aren’t really line of sight to it but we hear that a house halfway down our road is, if they put a repeater on their house we might be able to get that. I’ve been meaning to call WaveComm for the last couple of weeks to see if I could set that in motion.

But I haven’t and this morning it is taking me five to ten minutes to send a plain text email.

Our dial-up connection generally runs around 49000 to 52000 kbps. My son and I have an older Apple Airport that has a modem in it, we use this to share our connection and although we can’t both download anything at the same time it serves well enough for email and most things. (Airports with modems aren’t manufactured anymore. We had to buy this one on EBay after the original one died) But this morning there is so much noise on the phone line we are connecting at 18000 to 24000 and at that rate Outlook Web Access just times out. I use a plain text email client from Dartmouth – Blitzmail – and even that is now almost impossible.
FairPoint, the little phone company that bought all the lines here after Verizon decided it couldn’t make a big enough profit here, is in bankruptcy court. I wonder how responsive the support line will be today…..

nb: when I called them from the bank parking lot, using my son’s Tracfone they were actually quite responsive, or at least understanding

So spare a thought for those of us living on the last mile. When you send us photos, remember that 100 dpi (dots per inch) resolution is plenty unless we want to print them out and frame them. Don’t send us links to cool videos; it only makes us feel left out. When you create your website, go easy on the Flash, puhleeze!

AutoZone are you listening?

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Should we teach web publishing?

Posted by Miranda on November 3, 2009

We do not teach web 2.0 tools or online communication mores at the school where I work.
I think this is very unfortunate.

We now have two platforms for web publishing here on campus, a media server, KUtube, and a WordPressMU installation.

The faculty who have set up blogs on our WordPress install have needed help to do so, they do not instinctively know how to use the tool even in a technical sense. Why would we assume students would? It is obvious, looking at one of the few student owned blogs, one for ModelUN, that this student had no idea how to use the platform – he commented on the example post from Mr. WordPress and then abandoned the blog entirely.

Yet when they go out into the world, our students will need to know how to create web content and how to join in the online conversation as a citizen of the world.

Even the Chairman of the Republican party has a blog, though I’m awfully disappointed that he changed the title from “What Up”.
I am not saying that students need to learn how to negotiate blogs in particular, the method is not so important I think. What’s important is that they learn the etiquette, the mores of web publishing.
I read in the Baltimore Sun that

In Anne Arundel County, an online course that began last month is required for staff members who want to create a wiki, said Val Emrich, the instructional technology manager. It includes an Internet safety component, along with how-to lessons on setting up the sites and using them for instruction, she said, as does another for blogging. For students, a mandatory digital citizenship curriculum was launched in social studies and health classes this year, Emrich said.

emphasis is mine

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we do not serve them well

Posted by Miranda on September 20, 2009

Two of the faculty asked me to sit in on classes while they introduced the blogging platform we’ve set up. I really enjoyed getting a taste of what the school is supposed to be about – learning, education. I think that often those of us in departments that do not teach tend to forget that this is the raison d’etre of our employment. I do at least. So it’s been good for me to hear the students in the class discussions, and see how good teachers teach.

It’s been pretty disturbing though, to see again that so many of our students are woefully ignorant of the tools that they use – the internet, software and the computer itself. In the last week I had one student tell me that he supposed that the reason he could not access a certain web address was because his battery was low. Another studiously typed a full internet URL – the whole thing beginning with http:// into her Google Search bar, coming up with search results every time.

Many of our students have no idea how to double-space a document or center text in Microsoft Word. I see kids that put a return after every line to double-space or center using the space bar. As for using the interactive web – creating web content instead of mindlessly consuming.. forget it.

In one of the classes a teacher asked the students – “how many of you feel comfortable with technology?”

Out of the class, three or four hesitantly raised hands. Yet over and over I have faculty and administration blithely tell me how kids today have no trouble with technology, that they just naturally pick it up, that there isn’t any need to teach them anything about it.

Bull. I disagree strongly. We are sending these kids off to college with no idea how to use these tools and I really think we are doing them a disservice.

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wikipedia won’t kill the cat

Posted by Miranda on August 29, 2009

Curiosity killed the cat they say, and from what I can see for most people partipating in the creation of online content, rather than simply consuming it might have the same result.

A month or so ago, my sister in Oregon emailed me me in great distress. “Grandpa Redfield has a Wikipedia page” she wrote” and they mention Uncle James on it but not Mom!” she wrote.
“Why don’t you fix it?” I wrote back.
“I haven’t any idea how to edit a Wikipedia page!” she replied.

How is it that people can be such incurious sheep? They just take what they are given don’t they?

Well, everyone knows that Wikipedia can be edited. That’s the whole idea!

That’s why teachers don’t like students to use it, because it can be edited by anyone. I even had Mr. McIntyre tell me once that Wikipedia was “evil”. I asked him if he trained his students how to edit it and he acted like I was asking if he trained his students to rob banks.
The whole idea of wikipedia was that it would be self-correcting, that if you saw something was wrong, you could correct it.
So they make it pretty easy to do. If you look at the top of the page there is a tab that says Edit this Page. Says it right there at the top.

There is also a tab for history, if you edit something your IP is recorded as well as what changes you made. It’s good manners to leave your name too so if you look at the history tab for Robert Redfeild’s wikipedia page you’ll see that I added my mother, my aunt and another brother Tito ( who died at 12 from injuries in a sledding accident) as children along with my uncle, James Redfield in May of 2009

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Putting Hartford, VT on the map

Posted by Miranda on June 9, 2009

I read with great interest an article in the local paper, the Valley News today Creating Hartford on the Web about a course at a local high school

Designed and co-taught by social studies teachers Mike Hathorn and Woody Rothe, the course marries the Internet and cutting-edge online mapping technology with more traditional research and communication skills.

View the result at Creating A History of Hartford
This is very very impressive! Imagine how these students feel having their imagery and research integrated into Google Earth. This is the kind of result schools can get when they are not afraid of letting students engage with the world audience available.

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Google Privacy Blunder Shares Your Docs Without Permission

Posted by Miranda on March 7, 2009

Google Privacy Blunder Shares Your Docs Without Permission.

and this is another reason why I feel iffy about moving to Google for our school email, aside from the hit to our bandwidth sending everyone outside for their email. GMail is quite bandwidth intensive, if the response over my dial-up home connection is any indication (totally frustratingly impossible).

Regardless of what a site’s posted rules and policies are, a technical glitch is all it takes to expose your sensitive data.

Yep.

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A real Mac mini

Posted by Miranda on March 3, 2009

According to an article at ArsTechnica this morning Apple is rumored to be introducing an updated version of the Mac Mini soon – New iMacs and Mac minis may be launched as soon as tomorrow. Ooh exciting I thought until I read the article. Oh yeah the Mac mini – that one. Here I was thinking they were coming out with a Mac netbook.

My young co-worker, Steve has made his own. He’s taken a Dell mini and with the help of some programming think tank that he frequents, gotten Mac OS 10.5 running on it. It is just as cute as a button. I want one desperately.

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Humanizing Technology

Posted by Miranda on February 26, 2009

Carolyn Foote, over at her blog Not So Distant Futuresays:

So much of this boils down to telling your story–the IT department needs to tell its story–the positives, the challenges, at every opportunity so that teachers know it is a partnership and that the IT department is working hard to solve problems. The teachers need to tell their story back to the IT department–both the good and the bad (too often do we just tell the bad? How often do we tell the IT department what worked well?)

How about an internal newsletter from the IT department? How about a sit and chat session now and then? How about the IT department members being invited into classrooms and labs to see what is going on in them so they can better support things? The more transparent the process on either side, the better.

The bold is my emphasis. Oh yeah! I need to move the department in this direction.

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EduApps

Posted by Miranda on February 24, 2009

Chris Dawson asks today:Will Gmail’s outage make me think twice about Edu Apps? and concludes that it won’t. But it does me. For one thing we don’t want to give up the control that our Exchange server gives us. For another well we still have a bandwidth problem.

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