Wednesday, August 30, 2006

News for the Day

Educause in bed with the RIAA? How sad. The video they collaborated on to "educate" students about illegal file-sharing is not being well received. What the hell were they thinking? Educause, that is. Here's an example of the backlash being directed at the video which will also, I assume, be directed at Educause. The article says "The RIAA says that more than 350 universities have expressed interest in the video." Well, DOH, that's because Educause has had a rather sparkling reputation....but this will take some of the shine off.

Penn State offering text messaging for campus news to students. We'll all be doing this within a couple of years (or else).

Student social networking embraced by some colleges. Again, coming soon to a campus near you whether you like it or not.

More about students avoiding traditional lectures. Once again, you need to do something more productive, more active, more engaging in class that just talk AT them.

Duluth Photo Show

The photo slideshow below contains just a few of the great photos of Duluth and the surrounding area from photographer Dennis O'Hara. I am trying to decide which photos to take as framed gifts from LSC to the schools we will visit in Guangzhou, China during October. Visit his website and let me know if you have any particular favorites that we should use as gifts that uniquely show the beauty of Duluth.

This was created with ZohoShow. Go here to view full screen.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Today's Stuff

No time to write my own stuff, so here's a Reader's Digest version of some of the best things I've read or stumbled across today.

Vista to cost $449??? This may be Canadian dollars, but the exchange difference is quite small these days. Thanks to Stephen Downes for the tip. I absolutely agree with him that if this is true, you can expect to see increased sales of new computers with Linux pre-installed, if the big box retailers can break the stranglehold that they must feel around their necks from Microsoft. (UPDATE: there are lower prices depending on whether you are upgrading from XP and/or want less than the "Ultimate" version: see Wired Blog, or ZDnet.)

I was going to post more of my thoughts about the book A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. However, I came across this post today at Presentation Zen, one of the feeds in my Bloglines account. This is much more thorough review than I could ever give, so I'll just point you there instead. This particular post puts Pink's concepts into the context of presenting, which is not what Pink's book is about...but as they say, "The six fundamental aptitudes outlined by Pink can be applied to many aspects of our personal and professional lives."

The Tom Peters Company also has a post about this book in the form of an interview with Dan Pink. In my opinion they missed the boat on this one. I would much rather listen to the interview than read it. I want to hear the emotion in his voice. Pink has also written a shorter companion article about all of this stuff at Wired News called Revenge of the Right Brain. This article is a brief synopsis of one of the major points of his book. As he says, he believes there is a cause and effect going on here: "
The effect: the scales tilting in favor of right brain-style thinking. The causes: Asia, automation, and abundance."

The Read/Write Web has a post that should be of interest to Firefox users out there. They list their choices for the "Top Ten Firefox Web 2.0 Add-ons." I haven't tried Browster, but I think I will. I personally would have included the Performancing plug-in for making blog posts, but maybe that wasn't "2.0" enough for them.

TechCrunch reports that Webshots has changed their policies to now allow free accounts to upload 1,000 photos initially and another 100 photos per month, plus they will begin allowing video uploads in September that will be converted into Flash video (a la YouTube) for web viewing. This seems like a very generous offer. I have two Flickr accounts but think I'll have to check this out also.

Flickr has finally added geotagging of photos to their services. Long awaited, this now allows people to tie their photos together with maps using their Organizr tool.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Make Em Laugh

Soon I'll post my thoughts about Daniel Pink's book that I just finished this morning. There are many excellent and thought provoking ideas in the book, but none struck me more than his section about "Play" which includes the usefulness of video games, the right-brained nature of humor, the need for promoting joyfulness in the world, and the therapeutic value of laughter. It is this last item, laughter, on which I am currently focused.

Laughter is generally thought to not belong in the adult world of serious business. I say bu11sh1t. So does Pink. He makes a strong case of the value for adults to engage in laughter. In particular, he talks about the laughter clubs. Of course there aren't any where I maybe I should start one. You probably think I'm kidding, but don't be so sure.

The first Sunday in May is World Laughter Day. To my knowledge this is not celebrated in the area where I live (Twin Ports, WI & MN). That's very sad and maybe there's a chance that we'll have something to laugh about in May 2007. Colorado College is one place where an event was hosted on the last World Laughter Day. They participated in a series of laughing exercises, what is commonly called "laughter yoga." Here's a quote from a laugh leader at that event: "The purpose of the exercise is 3-fold. First, to increase oxygenation; second, to improve their mood; and third, to improve social interaction," Dr. Tomi-Ann Roberts, CC psychology professor and “laughter leader” said. You can also see a short video news report at the link above.

My guess is that 90% of the people (adults, that is) think that this is totally whack. I guess I'm glad to be in the 10% who think this is a perfectly reasonable and healthy thing to do.

Photo courtesy of Tom@HK through Creative Commons licensing.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Reinventing Me

I need a makeover. Thanks to Web 2.0 Logo Creatr for getting me started. (NOTE: that link has rotted. Here is a similar logo creator.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

SoaP Tonight

I've been trying to round up a few troops to go see SoaP tonight at the 10 PM sneak preview. Things like this have been persuasive. I changed my wife's name to protect the innocent (and because her name wasn't in their database). You're havin' a bad day? SoaP, baby, SoaP!!

Some Good Links

Wow, when they say "elite," they aren't kidding
About 3% of community college students who transfer get into elite universities.

Every educator, parent, and child psychologist should be required to watch this video of Sir Ken Robinson speaking at TED. We need to encourage and embrace creativity.

More amazing TED Talks videos. A fairly short video shows Jeff Huan demonstrating some amazing technology that allows you to interact with computer programs using your hands rather than a mouse and keyboard. Very fun and creative. After viewing Hans Rosling illustrate how world data can actually be compelling and educational, visit the website at

If you're a music buff, check out the musical prodigies at TED Talks. The improvisation by the pianist is amazing after Goldie Hawn picks five notes for her to play as the basis for a composition. The violinist is also quite an amazing young lady.

If you've heard of One Laptop Per Child but haven't heard Nicholas Negroponte talk about it, you can check that out here also. This is a much shorter version of the talk I heard at NECC in San Diego, and some of the most fun stuff is missing such as why the software bloat (mainly from Microsoft) wasn't even an option for these fast, lean machines.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cool Web Polls

Go ahead and vote and then view results.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Tipping Point

The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

The Tipping Point is the name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once.

Three factors are needed for a tipping point to occur:
1 - it needs to involve contagious behavior, such as disease/illness, fashion, crime/violence, or word of mouth.
2 - little changes must be capable of having a large effect, and are typically spread by mavens and connectors.
3 - the changes have to happen in a hurry; we're rarely surprised when things change slowly over time.

Separately, there are three rules of the Tipping Point:
1 - the Law of the Few, as it only takes a few exceptional people to start an epidemic.
2 - the Stickiness Factor, in that if you craft your message properly it can have much greater impact and become memorable.
3 - the Power of Context, based on the theory that humans are much more sensitive to the current environment than they might appear to be.

He uses quite a few examples of tipping points, some of them have positive impact and others are negative. Some examples include:
* a huge reduction in street crime in New York City
* a huge increase in suicide among teen boys in Micronesia
* how a few hip teens brought back Hush Puppies shoes from the kennel of darkness
* how Paul Revere was successful in alerting his countrymen while another midnight rider was totally ineffective
* how ABC News anchor Peter Jennings smiled enough to enable Reagan to defeat Mondale
* how little quirky things in advertisements mean the difference between success and failure
* programming changes that allowed Sesame Street to become a success and also Blue's Clues many years later
* the circumstances that led to Bernhard Goetz gunning down four youths on a NYC subway traincar
* why 150 is a magical number in many situations

If any of that is interesting to you then you'll probably enjoy this book. I did. Although written in a different style, I find this very similar to Freakonomics which was also an entertaining read.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Yesterday I just really felt the need to pop some bubbles. Alas, I was on the road and there was no bubblewrap to be found. By posting it here I know that I ill always be able to find it. Now I can relieve tension anytime, anywhere. Hooray! Go ahead and pop a few, or go manic mode and pop alot.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Online Office Hours

Marco Pollanen, a mathematics instructor from Trent University has developed a very interesting tool that he uses for holding online office hours. He allows students to use anonymous logins if they choose to, to help them overcome their fear of asking questions, looking stupid, or whatever. In an effort at clarity, let me point out that the online office hours are offered to students taking traditional facetime courses. He doesn't teach online.

He had a long list of motivations for doing this, but most of them revolve around students' math anxiety and fear (up to 85% of students in some studies) and the fact that few students participate in class or attend traditional office hours for extra help.

Importance of Office Hours: Conventional wisdom says there is a correlation between retention, performance, etc. and visiting with professors during office hours. In other words, it is believed that students should benefit from this out-of-class communication. However, most faculty report that their office hours are mainly a great time to catch up on their reading since they rarely get interupted. Although office hours are dead, 73% of faculty report that student-to-instructor communication has increased due to email, however text-based communications are not very effective with mathematics.

enVision v1.1 software is a chat/whiteboard program for writing mathematical equations (more of a drawing program) as well as just plain text in chat mode. It is a java applet (java 1.1, no plug-in needed) that loads into a standard browser. It is FREE and available at Besides using it for anonymous online office hours, he also uses it for class message boards. It is a quick and easy install (download zip file), although I believe that instructors need to have a file with adminstrator privileges loaded onto a campus web server (check with network administrator).

Instructor observations: (1) up to 40% of class might attend a single office hour period, (2) 1/3 don't ask questions, just watch and read what others are doing (lurkers), (3) many students stay the entire time slot of one hour or more, (4) 1/3 clearly use an alias to login, (5) 1/3 clearly use their real name, (6) 1/3 not always as clear as to identity (using common first name only, etc), (7) greater multi-way dialogue than in class with students often answering questions of other students.

enVision 2.0 is coming soon as open source under a Gnu open public license. He says it will be enhanced with greater functionality. I tried to ask a question but didn't get called on (maybe I should login to his online office hours to ask it) and wanted to know if he was looking into adding an audio chat function in the future. Web-based audio exchange is becoming easier and easier and would definitely increase the usefulness of this tool. My impression from this 30-minute presentation was that he had created a very useful tool and he is a great role model for others by allowing the academic community to use his program for free. Sharing is good!
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

MERLOT Attendees

MERLOT Attendees
Originally uploaded by Barry D.

MnSCU attendees at the MERLOT 2006 Conference in Ottawa, Ontario. Back row: Deb, James, Josi, and Barry. Front row: Sara, Jean, Tina, and Hanna. Apparently there were two others from MnSCU who were MIA.

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Ottawa Sidewalk Art

Ottawa Sidewalk Art
Originally uploaded by Barry D.

Trying to get my auto upload to blog deal-ee-oh working in Flickr. Not quite there yet since this was a two-step process instead of one. Never give up..never give up.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Podcasting at MERLOT

This morning I attended a three-hour pre-conference workshop at the MERLOT Conference in Ottawa, Ontario. Imagine the sinking feeling I had when the first announcement was that they would only be demonstrating Apple tools. Luckily, they agreed to point out alternative methods using a windows PC environment when possible.

Once again I am amazed at the amount of Apple-evangelism about podcasts. Even the presenters admitted that they come from a PC-dominated campus but they think that you just need to get on the Apple bandwagon if you're going to create podcasts. Clearly these guys are not responsible for the purchase and maintenance of computers on campus. If they were responsible for that, I doubt that they would be trying to inspire 85-90% of the staff to ask for new computers.That's the last thing I want to inspire on my campus. There are Windows-based tools available to do what they are demonstrating so we really need to give people the tools that are compatible with what they already have. Now, back to the workshop.

The presenters did a good job. This was a hands-on workshop and they did have each team of 4-5 people create their own podcast. The steps followed were:

Step 1: Broadcast idea brainstorming and development (what will be the theme for your series of podcasts?)
Step 2: Plan the first episode (encouraged the use of storyboarding)
Step 3: Preshow preparation (script or talking points, background research, a little practice)
Step 4: Studio setup (we didn't have a "studio" so we all tried to hide somewhere quiet for our recording sessions)
Step 5: Recording your podcast using Garageband (sorry, Mac only) and editing with same
Step 6: Compress (or encode) the podcast to reduce filesize
Step 7: Upload podcast and create RSS feed
Step 8: Subscribing to your podcast (they used iTunes of course, but I would recommend checking out ed-cast as an alternative (thanks Mark Peterson) since it is higher ed sponsored and not vendor-based)

BTW, Ottawa is a beautiful city. I'm a first timer and it is a special place.
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Friday, August 04, 2006

Front and Center

At the Noel-Levitz conference, I heard about a study done in Colorado that was kinda crazy, at least the results are unexpected. It is titled The Surprising Impact of Seat Location on Student Performance and is written by Carl E. Wieman and Katherine K. Perkins.

Here's the gist: Students who sit in the front of a large lecture hall (Physics class, in this case) get much better grades than those sitting in the back. Okay, big suprise there, right? Except that conventional wisdom says that this happens because the smarter students CHOOSE to sit in the front of the class and the slackers choose the rear. However, in this study the students were randomly assigned seats and generally speaking the students assigned to the front were no smarter than those assigned to the back. They even swapped positions halfway through the term but the die had been cast. Those who were now in the back were still more engaged, attended more regularly, and scored more highly. There's a little more to it than that, but as I said, there's the gist of it. The paper is a good read, and not nearly as boring as most academic crapola.

Flickr photo by Nav A (Creative Commons)

Meebo Me

NOTE: the MeeboMe widget has been removed from this post and inserted permanently into the right-column at the top of each page. (8/9/06)

Meebo is a web-based IM that I've been using off and on for the past several months. Just a couple of days ago they came out with this cool item... Meebo Me! It puts an IM window into any web page. This blog post is sort of a test to see if it works well here. Go ahead and send me a message if it says that I am online.

Also, I have added this as a permanent fixture in the sidebar at Desire2Blog (thus the name on the window of Desire2Chat). This has many possibilities and we're already looking at using it as an easy way to provide support to students from our Virtual Campus Center. Maybe a widget in D2L? It should work...I'll be checking that out.

BTW...if you start a chat in the window above, other people viewing the site cannot see it. They will have a blank window and could start a chat of their own, but each session is 1-2-1 and not shared. I think they are working on a group chat widget as well.
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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

DOPA Thoughts

From some very smart people:

Clarence Fisher writes:
"It is all about the connections that are possible. We read the words written by each other. We see the pictures of each other's lives. We hear the voices, the concerns, the stories told by people in another time, in another place we never had known before. Will American kids be closed off by the DOPA legislation currently in the works? What will this mean for Canadian kids? How will we understand our neighbours? How will they be able to understand us?"

"Blogging and other social networks have the possibility to change the landscape of possible networks of understanding for our kids, and open our classrooms to voices from around the globe in ways that simply was not possible a few years ago. But closing off these doors to the world could have drastic consequences for a generation of kids who need to understand the world like never before. As I've often said, kids will be doing these things anyway, would we not rather that they use these tools and learn these skills with our guidance instead of without it? It seems to be like the debates that used to rage about sex education. Study after study showed that giving kids information made them safer and more responsible, not more promiscuous. I am certain that studies of blogging will over time show that teaching kids to use these tools in school in ways that are safe and responsible will lead to safer behaviours online."

"School starts for me in September. I plan on opening my classroom more and more to the world. I plan on driving kids to make connections, to form networks, to insist that they spend time with people from other nations and other cultures. I hope you are there with me."

Dave Cormier:
"In the span of a couple of weeks the educational landscape we’ve all come to know and care about has taken an awful beating. It seems that DOPA is taking away our open ed-web and blackweb is taking away our walled gardens. For DOPA discussions check out will richardsonHarold Jarche and the post on the moodle forums (sign in required… but if you’re not signed up, sign up now, the more the merrier) The important thing to draw from that discussion is that Blackweb has already filed for patent infringement (desire2learn).

"So here’s the thing. Individually we’re just a bunch of bloggers/educators/interested folks looking at a bunch of rapid fire legislation and going… wait. you can’t do this. What we really need is some kind of united response… we need to react in a way that is focused. We need to gather the experience and intelligence of the community and decide what needs to be done."

Tim Stahmer:
"After reading and thinking some more about the recently passed DOPA, I’ve decided there’s really nothing new here, certainly not for the current administration. After all they pass laws on science policy without talking to scientists. Why shouldn’t they pass laws on education without talking to educators? Who needs experts when you have 535 Congress critters and a president who know everything about everything?"

Will Richardson:
"I’m really pissed at the media on a number of levels, first for they way they have sensationalized the whole MySpace issue into ratings by pumping up shows that “catch” online predators and stories that almost celebrate the ignorance of kids who aren’t being taught not to trust the people they meet online and to keep personal information private. They’ve preyed on the ignorance of the masses who really aren’t paying close attention and just scared them into thinking that there is danger at every turn, when in reality our kids are more at risk for sexual predation from their family members than online."

DOPA Surprise Attack

Many Americans are expressing their shock at how quickly the U.S. House moved to approve an idiotic technology bill and by a vote margin that is equally alarming: 410 - 15. To turn a good northern WI/MN phrase: ISH!!

I live in Wisconsin and work in Minnesota, so I follow what the politicians do on both sides of the bridge, and in D.C. All 16 Representatives (8 from each state) voted in favor of this ridiculous bill. I'm willing to bet that not one of them understands what the ramifications of this legislation will be (can be?). Here's a vote that is all about campaign commercials and positioning: "we've made the Internet SAFE for your children!!" Gag, barf, puke, wretch!

H.R. 5319: Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006.
"To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms."

DOPA will not only protect minors (under 18, we have some of those in college, too) from chat rooms frequented by online predators, it will also protect them from chat rooms in D2L, BlackCT, and Moodle. Strict adherence to the law would disallow educational uses of blogs and wikis and other social networking sites that have great educational potential. And, it will require that people 18 and over will have to register at public libraries (and I assume, also at schools) in order to not have the content blocked from sites such as these. OMG! What insanity.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) is one of the few who dared to speak out against the law: “So now we are on the floor with a piece of legislation poorly thought out, with an abundance of surprises, which carries with it that curious smell of partisanship and panic, but which is not going to address the problems. This is a piece of legislation which is going to be notorious for its ineffectiveness and, of course, for its political benefits to some of the members hereabout.” He finishes with: The process stinks. The legislation is weak. The legislation will be ineffective, it will accomplish nothing, and we will all share red faces about this bumbling endeavor."

Then, he cast an AYE vote to PASS the law. "Well, most Members, I suspect, will do the politically wise thing, and I will join them in it, and that is, I am going to hold my nose and vote for this legislation in the full awareness that it is not going to address the problem at all and that it is a political placebo for a very, very, serious problem."

Even sites like C-Net and Amazon could be affected because they allow users to communicate with one another.

A mother of two teenagers thinks DOPA is dopey.

Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher) has an excellent breakdown of the law as well as a rant about the vote by the village idiots.

Can the Senate be convinced that this law is idiotic? I doubt it. They'll probably vote next week and approve it by about 70-30. No doubt that W will sign it swiftly and pronounce the cyberworld safe and thank the Republicans for educating the Democrats to see things in the proper perspective. I must be takin' crazy pills.