Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Second Take on Second Life

Quite frankly, I'm still a bit baffled by the whole Second Life thing. This Flickr graphic from mylerdude really speaks to me. The hype feels like some sort of a Jim Jones thing, and yet I still think that there is something significant going on in there, even if I haven't been able to find it just yet. There is no doubt in my mind that this requires a fair amount of playtime in order to really figure it out.

I think the parody site Get a First Life is pretty funny and I hope they add to it since right now it is basically just the first graphic and a link to sales of merchandise. Maybe that's all they intend, but I do think some comedy writers could have a lot of fun with this. Apparently, Linden Labs (SecondLife) has a sense of humor about the whole thing ... so that is refreshing in this overly-litigious world.

D'Arcy Norman sums up my thoughts pretty well (thanks for saving me the time) and Leigh Blackall at LearnOnline is another writer who is helping me keep up with the Joneses by tagging posts and comments about SL.

I'm going to keep playing around with it for a while longer, at least until I figure out whether I like it or not.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Skypecasts Update

skypecastA couple of weeks ago I tried a Skypecast with about 8 faculty members to show them the possibilities for using this to connect with their students or as a suggestion for how the students could connect with one another.

When Skypecasts were first introduced, I found them to be an effective and fun way to communicate with groups of up to about 25 people. It is possible to have up to 100 people on a single Skypecast, but I've never been involved with one that approached that number.

Things have changed quite a bit since the early days of the Skypecasts. If you want to set up a Skypecast and expect it to be useful to you and your audience, then I STRONGLY SUGGEST that you set it up as a PRIVATE Skypecast. You then need to send an email to your intended audience members with a URL to the hidden Skypecast. Anyone with the URL can join the Skypecast, but no one else will find it. It won't be shown in the Skypecast listings for the day.

If you host a public Skyepcast, you can expect every nutjob with a microphone to click in and share their two cents about whatever disgusting thing they might have on their minds at the time. The technology works as it was designed, but the humans are malfunctioning at a very high rate. Try a private Skypecast, and enjoy.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I think Alvin Toffler is an amazing intellect. I agree with most of this article in the February 2007 Edutopia magazine about "Future School" where he says we should: "Shut down the public education system." He also opines: "The public school system is designed to produce a workforce for an economy that will not be there. And therefore, with all the best intentions in the world, we're stealing the kids' future."

Here's your word for the day, courtesy of Toffler: "Much of what we're transmitting is doomed to obsolescence at a far more rapid rate than ever before. And that knowledge becomes what we call obsoledge: obsolete knowledge. We have this enormous bank of obsolete knowledge in our heads, in our books, and in our culture. When change was slower, obsoledge didn't pile up as quickly. Now, because everything is in rapid change, the amount of obsolete knowledge that we have -- and that we teach -- is greater and greater and greater. We're drowning in obsolete information. We make big decisions -- personal decisions -- based on it, and public and political decisions based on it."

He concludes with: "I just feel it's inevitable that there will have to be change. The only question is whether we're going to do it starting now, or whether we're going to wait for catastrophe." Of course, we all know the answer to that question, don't we?

Blogging about the same Toffler article, Tim Stahmer says: "However, more than anything else, we need to seriously reconsider what it means to be “well educated”, the purpose of school, and the role of teaching and learning in society." Once again, I say right on! Tim has a great blog, I highly recommend it.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Constantly Changing

You are PHP.  You enjoy the World Wide Web.  You are constantly changing the way you do things, and this tends to confuse people who work with you.

I took the quiz as have many other people lately. Here are a couple of the questions:

I am most annoyed by...

  • Disorder
  • Rigid structure
  • Frat boys
  • Bad drivers
  • Semicolons

I like solving a problem...

  • From the top down
  • From the bottom up
  • Laterally
  • From outside the box
  • By looking at someone else's paper

If you came to a fork in the road would you...

  • Take the one less traveled by
  • Go down one road then come back and go down the other
  • Consult your GPS unit
  • Turn around and go home
  • Write about it in my blog
Any quesses as to how I answered those questions?

Other goofy quizzes:

Monday, January 15, 2007

Crazy Pills

Yes, apparently the whole world has gone crazy.

Exhibit A (For the record, I don't think the blogger is the crazy one)

Exhibit B (Cartoons no longer have to make stuff up, just report the news)

Exhibit C (Apple no longer needs a P.R. dept., the public and press does it for them)

Exhibit D (Apple lock-in is bad for all of us)

Exhibit E & Exhibit F (NCLB is a disaster for our future)

Exhibit G (Let's see, first they break up AT&T, then they let them buy up all the Bells that were broken off. Yep, that makes sense.)

Exhibit H (It's about time they raised the minimum wage. $150,000 a year just doesn't go as far as it used to, IN NEBRASKA for crissakes.)


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Manning vs. Unitas

Colts Vs. Colts

When I was a kid, my first favorite football team was the Baltimore Colts. Probably my favorite Colts team was in '65: Johnny Unitas, Ray Berry, Jerry Hill, John Mackey, Tom Matte, Lenny Moore, Jimmy Orr. That was the year that Matte had to fill in at quarterback in the playoffs and had the plays written on his wristband. They lost to the Packers that day 13-10, but I was proud to be a Colts fan.

So imagine my thrill at seeing the TV listings in the always-stellar Superior Daily Telegram. Yes! The Baltimore Colts were finally going to get their revenge from Bob Irsay and the others who moved the Colts to Indy in the dead of the night. Yes, Johnny U was going to hit Raymond Berry on a post pattern late in the fourth to seal the deal. Alas, the real game was not nearly as exciting as those in my dreams.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sign Language 10

Decimal Debacle 01

When I taught Personal Finance as an online class, I would post photos like this as extra credit opportunities during exams. The question would be something like this:
Assume that you went into this store and ordered the following:
  • 1) exactly one gallon of Unleaded gasoline and
  • 2) a single 2 Liter bottle of Pepsi.
Furthermore, you demanded that they charge you exactly the prices that they were advertising on their sign as shown in the photo. Also assume that they agreed to charge you the exact prices listed on the sign. What is the total amount that they should charge you (regardless of whether you have the ability to pay that exact amount)?
  • a) $3.38
  • b) $3.39
  • c) $3.389
  • d) $2.4089
  • e) none of the above
Let's just say that I didn't give away very many extra credit points with these things. Almost everyone gets them wrong. Maybe most of my students were the people who worked at these places and put up the goofy signs in the first place. Check the correct answer here.

Also, hasn't the ship pretty much sailed on the whole 9/10ths of a cent for gasoline prices? Maybe that made sense (well, no, not really) back when prices were 35 cents per gallon. But why do we (they?) care about posting the 9/10ths of a cent when the price is two-fifty a gallon? Will they still do it when the price is five bucks a gallon? Ten bucks a gallon? Isn't this totally absurd? And will people ever learn the difference between the cents sign and the dollar sign? Am I takin' crazy pills here?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Famous Chinese Artist

Wenzhi Zhang, one of the most acclaimed female artists in China will be teaching four ART classes at Lake Superior College this spring. Wenzhi (pronounced Wen-gee) will be teaching two ceramics classes and two sculpture courses in the semester that starts Wednesday, January 17.

I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with Wenzhi during our five day visit to the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA). Here are links to several previous blog posts about this trip: One, Two, Three, Four. Wenzhi also taught at LSC during the spring semester of 2005. This is a photo from our October trip where she is presenting her American visitors with beautiful ceramic tea sets. The picture at right was taken outside one of her ceramics shops in Foshan. All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Wenzhi is an amazing ceramics artist. She has a tremendous ceramics empire in Foshan that we had the pleasure of touring on our final full day in China. This picture is of Professor Wenzhi Zhang in front of the ceramic mural that she created for the Ceramics Museum in Foshan. A great deal of her artwork is on display at the museum, including many things created for the sole purpose of demonstrating some of the artistic techniques of Chinese artists from many centuries ago.

This photo shows a close-up of the ceramic tiles that cover several walls in the courtyard outside of the museum. Each large tile was hand made by Wenzhi and comprise a truly amazing work of art. She worked almost nonstop for over a year making all of the tiles for the mural. It truly is an amazing sight to behold.

The last photo was taken in front of one of the kilns at the new GAFA campus on the Higher Education Mega Center island in Guangzhou. GAFA is one of ten universities on the island. Their new kilns were modeled after the kilns at Lake Superior College.

For a truly international learning experience, please consider enrolling in one of Wenzhi's courses this semester:

  • Ceramics I (ART 1138-70) Saturdays 11:00AM - 3:50PM
  • Ceramics I (ART 1138-90) Mondays 5:00PM - 9:50PM
  • Sculpture I (ART 2100-01) Tue-Thu 2:00PM - 4:20PM
  • Chinese Sculpture (ART 2999-90) Tuesdays 5:00PM - 9:50PM

Sign Language 9

Motivator - Permanence

Another sign found in Beijing. Another motivational poster created with fd's flickr toys.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Turnitin Still Sucks

I've been reading more and more about the Turnitin battles going on. I'm still amazed that higher ed has taken such a gestapo mentatilty about approaching the teachable moments that plagiarism offenses present to us. Now even Harvard is piloting the use of Turnitin, so I expect that we'll all be chewed up and swallowed before long by corporate interests because we can't handle those pesky students ourselves.

However, my current plagiarism interests lie at a slightly different place. I've been particularly bothered by the double standard of professors who plagiarize every day during classroom lectures but raise holy hell when a student doesn't cite a source.

While researching this, I came across this line in Wikipedia: "These principles apply to written or printed text. Oral discourse or presentations do not seem to be the subjects of the rules of plagiarism."

So, my question is this: Is the Wikipedia entry correct about this? Do we not consider it plagiarism to use another's words as our own in oral discourse? Give me your opinion in this poll.

In a related situation, Terminal Digit takes his (her?) med school profs to task for plagiarizing the feedback (explanations) for questions from online quizzes. He ends with this: "Phew! I don’t know what’s sadder: the fact that I spent about 30 minutes tracking all this down, or the fact that the faculty at this medical school can’t be bothered to write the answers to their own questions."

Second Life - Day Two

Okay, things have gone a bit better today in Second Life. I was only able to spend about 45 minutes in there but at least everything worked for me. As commenter Eric pointed out, my Toshiba laptop falls just short of the needed graphics card. I tried it again today and did get it to work, but still not very well. Logging into SL with a new Gateway laptop went very smoothly.

It took me a while to figure it out, but I was finally able to shed the ringtail fox avatar that I selected when creating my account. I still have a lot of work to do on my avatar, but I'll slowly keep chipping away at it. This is going to take hours to really learn what goes on in there, but so far I like it.

I just logged in to get this picture of my avatar and found an alien spaceship hovering and then gun fire erupted. Apparently things get a bit rougher in there at night. I was run over by a motorcycle earlier today. I'm pretty sure that it was intentional since I'm not the only newbie that was sent flying by the madman on the bike.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Second Life Welcome Wagon

second life logo

Finally, after months of procrastination, I created a Second Life account today, downloaded the software, and tried to get started. The site was extremely sluggish and took about two minutes just for my six-digit password to load into the form field. After about ten minutes of waiting, re-trying, and waiting some more, I get this ...

second life crashed

So gee, that was totally worth the wait.

Sign Language 8

Motivator - Relaxation

I saw this "Keep Off the Grass" sign in a park in Beijing. I find it somewhat disturbing when the grass starts talking to you in the first person. I turned it into a motivational poster using fd's flickr toys.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Possibilities for 2007 List

I'm just guessing about what some of the new tools might be when I update my Top 12 list at the end of 2007 (if I do). The following contains many of the services that I have started to use or am planning to start using. In there are probably 3 or 4 things that will supplant items from the 2006 list.