Thursday, May 8, 2014

Past, Present and Future

It's a question that won't go away: how is technology affecting our lives?  While the question can go back to the industrial revolution with factories and machinery, or even back to metal replacing stones in tools, today our focus is on computers.

I smile when I think about men using computers because forever they could use tools in their dominant hand, but when they started to use keyboards on computers they needed to use both.  As farmer boys moved to the cities to work in offices, their muscles weakened, their weights went up and their health went down.  To get the exercise they went to the gym where more technology existed to counter the effects of other technology.

This morning as I sat in the doctor office the TV screen was running a short clip on the affects of computers, and screen time, on health; not just on children with the affects of obesity, lack of exercise and shortening of the attention span, but also on adults and old people ailments such as heart conditions, hypertension, stress, lack of sleep and more.  They were recommending adequate sleep and a moratorium on screen time just before sleeping.

Some have never indulged in computers and some don't watch TV, but most of us use both and would never give them up.  They are a part of our lives both as a necessity and leisure activity.  Computers are here to stay.  What we need to do is resolve how to use them best, how to counter their negative affects and to balance all aspects of our lives to healthy, and clear thinking.

I think I will go for a walk and check out the availability of the classroom.  Walking is good; at least as good as writing this post.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blogging is Archaic

Blogging seems to have been around for quite some time.  So it's old, especially by technology standards.  It may also be even old-fashioned when stacked up against the more recent interactive web applications, or it may just outnumbered by the plethora of interactive social media websites.

Blogging has been around since the late 1990's when interactive websites were becoming more available.  Prior to interactive websites, a webpage was static and to put information on the Internet one needed knowledge of HTML and FTP.  Blogs received their names as a truncation of web log, a log being similar to a captain's log or a personal journal.

Blogging websites allowed individuals to deliver their writings to the entire world which meant they were able to publish their daily activities, and far more powerful their opinions on a variety of topics, hence becoming their own editors, publishers and journalists.

In education one can follow the same pattern of logging and opining, or one can recognize the effectiveness of this tool and use it to benefit education, such as communicating with students about lessons, or parents about activities and students' work, or administration with suggestions and questions, or the community about just about anything; and allowing a response from the audience.

Currently there are numerous websites that allow one to create a blog, and typically for free.  Over time the popularity of different sites wane and ebb.  Google's Blogger was a hit for years; more recently it's Wordpress and Weebly.  Fundamentally they're all very much alike, but each offers different features to entice users into their web.  Individuals therefore can choose their own preferences based on their desires, interests and reasons for blogging.

Our challenge today as educators is to continue to evaluate the effectiveness of blogs among themselves and against other social media, and to evaluate its effectiveness in education.  If you haven't noticed you're reading this in because I started it years ago and would just as soon not start more blogs elsewhere on the Internet.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thinking Ahead

There's no denying that everything ages.  Some philosophers would exempt God but not computers and people, two items with which I am very intimate.  People are much more durable than computers whose life expectance is around five years.  I'm already in my seventieth year far beyond that five-year mark.  Recently I claimed to feel like 35 but more recently I will claim 39 and that claim getting harder and harder to support.

The spring term at Western is a week away from completion, the same day of graduation.  I have only two more meetings with students.  Currently I am scheduled to teach only one course next fall and I'm planning to not teach the winter term.  Spring term a year from now is completely up in the air.  I'm gradually moving into not teaching or as some call it, retirement.  There's an implication with that transition that I'm getting old and I'm not ready yet, so I need to redirect to a youthful exciting activity for the future.

One activity during these upcoming free days will be to plow through the piles that accumulated waiting for the day when there was time to tackle them.  Another is to continue volunteering as we have in the past and add new volunteer opportunities.  Certainly I need to keep in the agenda routine and regular contact with the world of technology so as to not get left behind.

Thursday evening was the last class of the CSE610 Computers in Education class.  Everyone was there which is a positive stroke in itself, but again they behaved as if they were interested and eager to learn.  The topic were Google Apps, what's available, how they interact and their advantages and limitations; navigation using hyperlinking by reviewing several website authoring sites and creating a website modeled after the portfolios that were presented the evening before.  Several actually created websites as if they could be the beginning of their portfolios. A long week of trying to design this evening of class culminated  in a meaningful and exciting evening which included the traditional end-of-term brownies.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Remember the future with iMovie on an iPad

I still remember the day we introduced the iPod Touch to our classes at WOU.  During a brief faculty preview straining to see the tiny screen and get my "what seemed like oversized" fingers to find the letters of the keypad, I remarked, "When will they make one of these so that older folks can see them?"  That was just a little over year before the iPad.

The iPad was good but Apple and the tablet world decided that an iPad was a little too big so there came the Mini iPad.  Now there's rumors of the Maxi iPad.  I'll bet it's bigger.

Last week I did a "command performance" teaching iMovie, not on the desktops in the classroom like I've done for years, but on the iPad, which I have never done.  It was a delight despite the fact my first reaction was that it was very watered down; no green screen, no fine tuning of color.  After working with iMovie on iPad and having 20 students do the same, my reaction is much more in favor especially for younger students such as those in K-12.

A convenience is that you can take the video and stills directly with the iPad.  An inconvenience is that it's more challenging and sometimes inconsistent gathering videos and pictures from other sources.  It's a typical Apple philosophy: make it friendly, make it compact and don't sweat the small stuff like interfacing with other complex devices.

Most actions are intuitive, well, that is after you get the hang of it.  Click on the handful of standard icons, click and drag clips and images from one place to another, touch and hold in some cases like when rearranging clips in the project.  Touch clips and drag corners to shorten or lengthen chips, swipe your finger through a clip to split it or free a portion.

The younger I pretended to be, the more fun I had, especially with the trailers, which essentially give one a story board where one only need to personalize a little text and add my clips or stills which I can quickly gather with the same iPad.  Saving is automatic but getting it to a more universal format annoyed me as I'm not a fan of youtube, facebook or iTunes.  They work and with a bit more energy I can get them to be useful in a PowerPoint or webpage.

Now if only I had an iPad with iMovie.  And the open mind of a third-grader.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It seems like the beginning of a university term is a time to post a blog entry; at least this term and last term.  My life at this point is on the fence in so many different ways: which class will I teach this term, ready to retire and eager to teach, planning to travel and to relax at home.  One at a time; I should know by later today if you will see me in Creating Websites class or responding to me online for the Internet for Educators class.  The first is my dream class, the second a desirable and wonderful opportunity to learn more.

The iPhone5 is the craze this week and the mini iPad is rumored to be here soon.  I have a dumb phone for which I buy minutes every other month.  Even with a para-Luddite attitude with regard to cell phones, I am swept up in the current of society following these fads and trends.  It's everywhere. The iPhone's been on the market through pre-orders for only two days and already all two-million designated for that purpose are sold, and people are forming lines for the first iPhones when the stores start to sell them in a couple more days.  If this isn't craziness, it certainly borders on very fast moving trends and fashions.

Meanwhile we will plod along in our classes with the knowledge we now have, reaching for that next level of income, social status or just plain knowledge.  Have a great term.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What a week!

That was last week when I refer to "What a Week!" It included the first week of classes for a new term, Holy Week activities and a funeral and memorial service for Professor Hank Bersani. The over the weekend was Easter with a great and longed for visit from the grandkids and family. This week is also "What a Week!" as we try to make up for what we missed last week.

A modification to my classes this term is more use of the SmartBoard. Some claim that the public schools are filled with them and the teachers don't know how to use them. Yet, many students in class have never heard of them or seen them. I agree that more schools have them now than in the past but the point of saturation has not been reached. Using SmartBoards in class means more students doing more work on the SmartBoard including setting it up and that takes time from other also important skills and discussions.

In timely opportunity one of the post-graduate students is doing in-depth research into the use of the SmartBoard and DualWrite Board by eInstruction to help all of us become more proficient at this use. Meanwhile this is an advanced challenge for me and several other instructors trying to bring this technology into the classroom.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Digital Day

This weekend I facilitated a workshop for nine teachers in a couple small private K-8 schools near Banks. I was more anxious about this session than most because these were teachers of children, something I've never done, I didn't know them and I really wasn't certain what they expected.

As I waited for the arrival of the students, the teachers, I noticed a coffee table type book on display on the upper shelf. It was called One Digital Day, How the Microchip is Changing our World. It wasn't fill with iPads and cell phones and robots. It was filled with pictures that appeared very routine, pigs on a farms, old women in a line in southern Africa, children in playgrounds. The pigs were being examined with computer equipment, the women were identifying themselves with fingerprints for their monthly government checks and the children were supervised by video cameras. Hundreds of pages of pictures showing how microchips affect our lives every day everywhere.

There is a balance in everything we do, such as microchips versus trees, flowers, pets and family; such as family versus work and class. Someone will someday look back and notice the thousands of hours on computers but I hope they don't ignore the calluses on my hands, the mud on my boots, and the sand dust in my lungs. But most importantly I hope they don't ignore my children, my wife, my friends, my trips to China and Africa to help with whatever I could. I hope also that someday you will be remembered for the people you know and not the day you missed class or didn't post a blog entry.