My first lab of the 2007/2008 went with very few hitches. In fact the hitches that did happen had nothing to do with me!
With a number of changes happening to the course material this term as well as the processes which we use to present it, I was a little apprehensive about how things would go: they went great.
- The students showed up on time.
- My new Instructional Assistant (IA) did a great job.
- We covered all the material necessary
- and the new software worked great for demonstration!
It was the first time I tried using NetOp School to perform demonstrations in the computer lab. Previously we had hooked up a projector to a computer up at the front. The room was so long however, that the white board I used as a screen (since the room doesn't have a screen) was not clear to students at the back of the room.
The use of NetOp School eliminated that problem. With it I am able to "Demonstrate" what I do on my computer and it gets displayed on the screen of each student. When I'm done with the demonstration, I simply close the Demo session and control of the student's computer returns to them. All they have to do is start the Student/client application and type in their name and it connects to the Teacher/server application I have running on my machine.
Changes in Pedagogy
The way we do things in lab had to change a bit so in a nutshell:
Old way: Lab instructor talked for a long time demonstrating the skills required and students followed along doing the tasks on their machine. Some times instructor would stop and wait for everyone to finish the tasks.
New way: Lab instructor demonstrates the process to all students, then the students can be given time to do the task themselves. This way the Lab Instructor and IAs can help anyone who is having trouble.
So far, so good. I'll probably use these notes as the basis for a presentation or a report to the committee that funded the new software, so that's why the details are a bit fuzzy.
Teaching for this summer has taken up a lot of my time, but I took today to try and get into my Lab Instructor duties for the fall. Primarily I'm looking at updating the lab material for Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and Access) as well as SPSS. One of the big challenges will be switching to Office 2007... which I don't even have installed on my computer yet! AND dealing with a new textbook. AND working on the other project which I have to get started.
I was hoping to add a useful tip on using Drop Caps in Word and I came across this great blog at How-To Geek.com
So: Learn how to make drop caps in Word 2007
Yesterday I spent a few hours learning how to program an application that can access Facebook information. I was able to use the Facebook Development Toolkit
(FDK) for Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition.
Since I teach a course in intro programming in Visual Basic, the addition of tools for Facebook
got me very interested. I'm more or less a teacher first and a programmer second, so I am by no mean hard core "developer" but after a few hours I was able to get some basic information out of my Facebook account.
The FDK for Visual has a small number of tools including FriendList, PhotoAlbum and UserProfile components, of which I've just started using the FriendList component to download my list of Friends.
After further fiddling, I was able to store the names of my friends in a listbox, count them and also count the number of males and females! Pretty simple stuff but you can see how this can be the start of an application to perform statistical analysis about the kinds of people you know.
More directly, it is a great way to teach computer programming basics to a group of primarily 19 year olds!
Anyone familiar with Facebook
will realize that a "Facebook Application" is a small add-on that you can use to add to your profile. That is a "web application" and what I've created was a desktop application.
You can create web applications in Ruby, Python, Java and other languages and my next step will be to figure out how to write a web application. In the mean time, in the coming weeks I'll be covering how to create MS Access tables in Visual Basic, so I might as well use them to store Facebook
for more details.
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I had tried to view a QuickTime video on the Bunshin project while connected to my main (XP) PC via Remote Desktop from my Vista machine when it showed a Q with a question mark in it when viewed my browser. So I copied the link to my local Vista machine and downloaded the file but it wouldn't view it, because Quicktime isn't installed.
I went to the Apple site to download Quicktime and tried to install Quicktime. There were two options: one with iTunes and one without. Neither worked. Luckily Apple has a link that you can visit to give feedback about your experience with Quicktime on Vista, so I filled it out with my error messages. Perhaps this will help others to get QT on their VISTA machine quickly.
Installing Quicktime With iTunes the error message given is:
iTunes could not be installed because Visual Basic Script (VBScript) is not installed or has been disabled. Make sure VBScript is installed, turn off script blocking in Anti-virus and personal firewall software, re-register VBScript, and then install iTunes.
- I did not try doing that yet but I will.
With just QT the error was:
The installer has encountered an unexpected error installing this package. This may indicate a problem with this package. The error code is 2738.
After a much needed vacation for a few days back home visiting my parents, I'm back to try and get some real work done for the upcoming term.
Today I needed to post material for the second year course I am teaching, so I needed to put up some web pages. For the past few weeks I have been using Remote Desktop to connect to my primary machine because there isn't currently support for a Vista Version of Novell Groupwise, as well as other software I use regularly. I have found that there is a version of the Novell client for Vista, but apparently it frequently breaks as Microsoft keeps making changes, but I have no outside proof to verify that.
So today, I went looking for the successor to Microsoft FrontPage. That product is Microsoft Expression Web, part of the Expression studio but also available as a standalone app. According to their website, the market for people who need to make webpages but don't know much about HTML (the target for FrontPage) has disappeared, so Expression Web is aimed at full-tilt web developers. I don't entirely agree with their decision, as my specific needs as a web developer fall far below the level of what is available in tools such as Dreamweaver and Expression Web. But at least with Dreamweaver (the tool I use now) I can get as simple or as fancy as I want without having too many other features getting in my way. Perhaps with some time I will be able to determine if Expression Web (EW) can work the same way.
But this entry isn't aimed at evaluating EW... just whether I can install it or not. Well, it installed fine, but it does not seem to be able to open a .htm or .html file in editing mode directly. I may have to go through the whole hassle of setting up a site which is more work than I require for editing a single page. I did open a previous "web" and imported the file but it still wouldn't work.
Oh... silly me. Shut down the program and start it again and it seems to do what you want.
In other news.. I've just installed AVG Free Edition anti-virus scanner and it is happily scanning my computer for viruses. So far so good.
Recently, our department purchased 30 new computers from Dell for one of our computer labs. They came preinstalled with Windows Vista Home Premium but we intend to downgrade them back to Windows XP for the coming term since our IT department still has reservations about going to Vista across campus and for very good reasons. I have one under my desk now to work on and test software on while it still has Vista on it to give our guys an idea of software compatibility as well as being able to provide info to our IT department since they don't have the resources to devote to testing Vista at the moment.
I'll use this blog to post my experiences.
So far, I've found interestingly enough that I haven't been able to get a lot of non-Microsoft applications to install, and I can't even get the Office 2007 trial to install. I was spending a lot of time last week playing with Silverlight, but now I have to focus and get real work done for the summer!
Software installations so far:
OpenOffice 2.2: Installed completely, haven't used it yet.
Mozilla Firefox 126.96.36.199: Installed completely, no problems yet (though right now I'm posting with IE7)
Microsoft Expression Design 1.0: Installed completely, no problems.
Microsoft Expression Blend 2 May Preview: Installed completely, no problems.
Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition: Installed completely, no problems.
Adobe Flash CS3: Installation failed. I checked the Adobe site and followed the instructions on installing it in simplified mode but the installation still failed. Hey, I'm probably still in simplified mode!
Computer Associates Anti-virus: I tried the Vista beta version of their software and it originally failed so I'm trying it again. I had ZoneAlarm running at the time and it told me to uninstall Zone Alarm first. Oddly enough, it now asks me for a license number which I didn't get in an email from them and is not listed on the site when you download the trial. Grrr.
When I uninstalled ZoneAlarm, it left the (empty) ZoneAlarm folder in my All Programs list.
The machine came preinstalled with Roxio Creator DE (it comes with a DVD player/writer) but the software conflicts with one of the drivers and windows displayed a message at every bootup until I disabled software.
Later I intend to install some other graphic editing software and see how it goes. I am very impressed with the Windows "Switcher" which will continue to play video (if you have a REALLY good video card) as you switch between windows but then again, I think a lot of time went into making the user interface nicer
but it remains to be seen if that makes it better
I'm sure professors everywhere must deal with this kind of question but its not easy sometimes. A lot of the time I'm sure textbooks are chosen on the basis of inertia: we've always used it so we'll keep using it. Its just easier that way. The students can get cheaper copies if the same edition is used, and material doesn't have to be updated and professors and other instructors are feeling the crunch of getting more done with less time and resources. That is certainly the way things were with my Intro Computers course for the past 7 years.
But now, the textbook I'm using will no longer be continued. We're still at the 8th Edition thought the text is now at edition 10, but no other textbook has had anything significantly different about it that would entice me to switch. For the most part, the majority of textbooks in this area are identical and have little to offer above the minimum.
So now I'm in the process of deciding between publishers. Books have become much more robust over the past few years so I do have a few more criteria I can be picky about. I probably find useful books from either publisher A or publisher B. To be very certain, I would set out some criteria and study each book individually to see which one suits my needs, but who has that kind of time!? Over the summer I could take more time to do this, but looming deadlines mean that any book I decide on in the summer won't be used until Fall 2008 to be realistic about it.
Going on the assumption that either publisher has books of equal value, I know get to evaluate the publisher on criteria that I think are important. Do they both have an online software training component? If yes, then how good is each one? Again, that will take time to analyze. Time well worth the effor no doubt, but not time I can afford to spend right now. After that it comes to the kind of treatment and response I get from each publisher. Up until now, the reps would simply come by once a year (from Publisher B, it always seems to be someone different) to introduce themselves, ask if I need anything and then disappear.
But this year things seem a little different. Publisher A offered to do a presentation of their online training software and do a preview of Office 2007. They brought 3 reps, provided pizza and drinks and even gave out branded USB flash drives as well as demonstrating some course feedback (clicker) technology they have available. Now that was useful! That was impressive! That gave me something to think about and work with to base my decisions on!
Today the rep from Publisher A (who I have now seen 3 times this term) was just stopping by and ran into a collegue and I in the hallway, handed us a CD and sample folder (which could be included in a course package of course) but then took us to lunch. We then spent the next two hours talking about courses or restaurants or the world's problems... whatever came up.
I had to step away only because someone was waiting for me in my office. It was a new rep from Publisher B. This Rep B deals with math and computer courses, while I had previously met with Rep A who deals with business courses and neither one of them had I met before this term because they were both new to the position. Publisher B seems to have a high turn over since we have been dealing with for the past 5 or more years. After me being very specific about what I was looking for (which probably cannot be made available for me teaching the course in May anyway) he left after 20 minutes. Nice guy, he wasn't rude or anything, but just take a look at the differences.
Its hard for me to believe, but it looks my choice of which textbook to go with will really depend on the personality of the sales rep as well as the amount of "value added" service that they and the publisher can provide. Not specifically on a rigourous evaluation of the quality and content of the textbook.
Am I swayed just because the guy bought me lunch? No not really. But it again illustrates the amount of work a rep or company is willing to go through to get my business. And they are genuinely interested in helping me reach my goals. Isn't that what we want from ALL sales people?
Today was the last day of lecturing for my intro computer course, and we ended on copyright, patents and trademarks so what better topic than the Blackboard / Desire2Learn (D2L) patent lawsuit?
While purchasing your closest competitor seems to be the way the world works for companies that have enough money (for example Blackboard purchasing WebCT
in 2005), sueing your competitor with a lawsuit that could bankrupt them seems a bit more unethical. Especially if you consider the controversy surrounding the Blackboard/D2L lawsuit.
More info on the current news, which has D2L being applying for a re-examination of the original patent.
This info can be found on Desire2Learn's Patent Information site
. More information can be found at Barry Dahl's desire2blog.blogspot.com.
, here is a short list of objectives to shoot for in developing evaluations in the design of an on-line course. This also serves as more of a quick list for me to remember what it is I should be trying to do when I work with redesigning my course, whether on-line or not. More specifically, it is a list of frames
from which to approach the evaluation.
- Use what you already know. (What I know is limited, but I'm using it.)
- Seek value and meaning. (Not always easy, but worthwhile.)
- Evaluation is an important part of a bigger picture. (I already do a mid-term ITB inventory.)
- Products and results are imporant; process is important too. (Too many faculty focus on having enough time to "cover all the material" and don't seem to care about engaging and discussing with students.)
- Making it better is the ultimate aim.
How can one develop their course when there is so much reading pedagogy research that needs to be done!