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Break time August 12, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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break   I thought I would take a few days off from writing in order to devote my time to editing. After 75,000 words compiled in this particular blog, In Lieu of Lunch, I thought I would take some time to find some sort of thematic continuity running throughout the pieces. Obviously, educational technology as a theme would rank high, but since I originally intended the blog to be a way of demonstrating some of the humanity behind technological tools, I thought I should try to focus on that. In my reading of entries since last November, I have noticed general trends of discourse and threads of ideas that I think I can bind together.

Besides, my daughter is starting middle school, the yard needs weeding, I have been shorthanded in the workplace, and sometimes working in the yard and family duties take place of writing. If they did not, we would all be in big trouble.

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Breeze Testimonial August 11, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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breeze   Yesterday, some of my colleagues asked me to create a testimonial for a piece of software called Breeze. I was very happy to oblige because the software has helped me in several ways this past year. I used it to create a speech for the governors committee on innovation and technology, education subdivision, which by the way has recently been receiving some press in the Arizona newspapers. As I dictated my narration, I was able to remove awkward pauses and tidy up the general presentation. Breeze software enabled me to do that.

A few months ago, a visiting team came to the college to assess a program in Rehabilitation. I was unable to speak to the group, however with Breeze I quickly set up a web cam at home and lock the participants through a PowerPoint presentation that help to explain how technology worked in a Rehabilitation program. One of the visitors to the college apparently was famous in the world of sports. A few clicks later, I had a photograph of him from his younger glory days and posted it as part of the Breeze interactive chat we are having. Apparently, he was most impressed.

I have used Breeze for many projects over the past few years but when I asked my colleagues what format they wanted the audio or video presentation to be made in they really were not sure. My suggestion was that we do it in Breeze. If it is that good tool, they might as well put to use.

Sharing Skill Sets August 8, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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fullan   After struggling with a grumpy database and trying to integrate its contents into a FrontPage generated web page, I finally had the epiphany I was seeking and created a work around to make the site work. There was a deadline fast approaching and we simply had to get it done one way or another.

The database designer came in today to look at what I had done and we tried to get out heads around the problem. The first order of business was to determine if there was some colossal ignorance on either of our parts. There was not. She was working under one set of constraints and I was working under another.

By the end of our meeting, we were laughing about it. We were like little robots with partial skill sets. I was only programmed to go forward or backward. She was programmed to turn left and right. Together we were stuck in a corner. However, with me moving backward and with her turning left, we eventually got out of the jam.

How many problems in the world are the results of too narrow a set of skills? Or is the problem simple communication and collaboration? Writers in education from Michael Fullan to Thomas Sergiovanni agree that collaboration is an essential skill for survival in the twenty-first century.

Happy 165th August 7, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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red Cross   Here I was having a rotten day, databases that did not work, crashed computers, frustrations all over the place, and the day ended with the discovery that a dear friend’s father had died in a car accident. I suddenly felt that all my troubles throughout the day were minor next to those of my friend.

Therefore, I decided to enjoy the evening with my family. However, the problem databases of the day still called to me. After a few hours of knocking numbers around, I believed I had finally discovered a solution. You know, when the database is set up incorrectly, there is little you can do to fix it. That was my thinking at first. I was looking at the problem and should have looked just to the side a little.

The solution to my problem of the malformed database with great data was simply to build an additional query to circumvent the original and flawed query. Duh. The answer was staring me up the nostrils right from the beginning.

Then I received a phone call from the Red Cross to put everything into perspective and validate my fuzzy thinking. I had missed a donation, twice, and they were hot on my trail. I have rare blood and I do my best to fill the need, but hot summers can make my recovery extra long. Anyway, the young woman on the phone told me that I had an amazing number of donations. She said I had 842 to be exact. It was right there on the computer screen. That seemed off.

I asked her how many times I could donate and it came to about six times a year. Calculators out, everyone. I began donating at age 17 in Canada and took a few years off so let us say I started at age 25. I am almost fifty now so that would be, at best, 150 donations. If the information on the computer screen had been accurate, I would be 165 years old. A very spry 165 at that.

Sometimes you have to relinquish your faith in what you see on the computer screen and use your own built in calculator.

Wireless Mobile August 6, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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wireless mobile   A few months back, my Dean asked what I knew about wireless mobile. At the time, I vaguely recollected stories about a test program in Malaysia. Much of the country was going to be able to connect to the Internet wirelessly using the cellular telephone network. The Dean’s question was just the beginning of questions I was to receive.

Over the past two weeks, I must have heard from a dozen faculty members interested in the technology. The vision they shared was that they could drive to Phoenix and back for a meeting and never be out of contact with e-mail, conferencing, and the web for research.

Today, I saw a television commercial for wireless mobile. The pitch was that you could be on the road and upload data to headquarters simply by inserting a wireless card into your machine. I remember that only a few years ago we were purchasing the same sort of cards for our laptops. It was not long before computer makers were producing machines with the wireless cards built in. Soon, the wireless mobile technology will be just transparent.

Right now, the card costs about two hundred and fifty dollars and the service is quite pricy at around eighty dollars a month. If you need it, though, the price would be worth it.

Movie Fun August 5, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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We traveled south to Elgin, Arizona, yesterday to visit the Sonoita Wine Festival. As the non-drinker in the group, I took on the role of designated driver. Since my hands were free from the encumbrance of wine glasses, I also became the group’s videographer.

I must admit there was not much to film until Grape Stomping Time. The kids ran off with me in tow, camera whirring. What I caught was a neat little collection of shots of my daughter and friends stomping grapes, a decent crowd shot, a fine pan of the Arizona desert ending with a shot of horses tied up outside the compound, and some decent sound samples from musicians.

These cameras are increasing in resolution so I am now waiting for more people to enter the world of video editing. When I first began writing poetry, I thought every line was precious and I could neither cut nor abandon any of the words I had set down. With a little training in the world of visual literacy, I think we will see people willing to chop out the extraneous, the irrelevant, and the hopelessly muddled, to develop interesting and well-paced video productions to celebrate the moments of their lives.

Here is my offering, edited as soon as we returned home, and posted on YouTube within an hour of settling into the house.

Confluence August 4, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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confluence   If someone offers a suitably challenging project and the means with which to create a network of like-minded people, that group can do remarkable things.

Yesterday, we watched a film called Ladies in Lavender, which was set in the southernmost part of England. Unable to restrain myself, I visited Google Earth to see if I could find some of the locations mentioned in the movie. Off the coast of Cornwall, well into the English Channel, was a reference point that was not near any piece of land. Further investigation revealed a loosely formed organization of like-minded people determined to photograph arbitrarily assigned places on the planet.

What is known as a confluence is what I saw off the coast of Cornwall. 45 degrees North by 5 degrees West was simply a point in the water marked by strong tidal currents and, on the day the photos were taken, rough weather. The participants captured images of the area, of themselves, and of their GPS device (as proof). They then had to write a two paragraph minimum narrative of their experience.

There is a confluence of map lines (whole numbers only) south of where I live about ten miles. There isn’t much to see there. In fact, many of the confluence points I dropped in on were beautiful in their isolation and simple beauty. I saw a farmhouse in southern Ontario, a small stretch of forest in Wisconsin, a rocky shoal off an inlet, and the side of a mountain in Mexico.

To find out more, begin with the Degree Confluence Project then look up confluence points near your home. You will find most of them have been charted. There is still a great deal of the earth to document. In addition, many will gladly share in your mad quest.

Haiku Break August 3, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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It took a bit of looking around, but the task of adding a YouTube video to a WordPress blog is actually quite easy. Simply copy the URL for the movie from YouTube then insert it as a tag in your blog entry.

and you should be able to view it. I played around with MovieMaker last year, scribbled a haiku over top of a speeded up and modified skyscape and this was the result. Enjoy.

Wireless Work August 2, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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wireless   When I arrived this morning, I encountered a team of four fellows who were running bright orange wires through the building. They cheerfully told me they were installing wireless in the building. I cheerfully replied that we already had wireless in the building and I asked who had sent them.As you may have read, the University of Arizona is implementing a total wireless coverage for the campus. That is a good thing. From what I recall, over $2 million has already been committed to the project. The college, right now, thanks to our Dean, Dr. Marx, has had wireless for almost 2 1/2 years in various places around the building. We presently have five access points, each carefully chosen for maximum coverage with the least number of transmitters. 

When the team completes work in the building, we will have 135 access points. Anyone should then be able to work wirelessly anywhere in the building, even in offices that had been shielded by wire mesh hidden in the drywall. The wireless coverage will, in effect, be much stronger and provide a better connection than the older wireless setup.  

The people from our campus network solutions team warned me there will be some training needed for my staff and the University of Arizona is creating pamphlets to inform students and faculty how to access the service. The University’s wireless team will be visiting in the fall to explain how it will work. 

I have to admit that I was quite put out and felt a little derailed by not receiving any advance notification about this. Apparently, the work around campus had progressed so quickly that the implementation team reached our building before we were notified.

Content v. Delivery [2] August 1, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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mary d   Unfortunately, the authors based their article on the premise that the professor, someone who has attended scores of advanced courses in university and has taught scores of classes in the old-fashioned face-to-face manner has very few insights into the process of nuanced instruction. The problem with the article is that an overly simple polemic is created in which there is content and there is the online learning environment. True, there are two different worlds but situations in which the “Lone Ranger” approach to creating an online course alone is foolhardy at best, there is a certain offhanded attitude in the article that suggests the content encumbered professor cannot be counted on to have valid insights into instructional design.

To me, this argument is the beginning of a rift in higher education that we must address right now before we create a separation between content and delivery. Such rifts will eventually only be bridged with arcane terminology, refined software, and highly technical skill sets. I embraced the development of course management systems because I saw them doing precisely the opposite. They were helping professors to understand and learn from their experiences of teaching online.

Last semester, I taught a course with an over abundance of technological tools knowing that some would not work. In that case, we quickly abandoned personal blogs and online meetings that were reliant on video cameras. We replaced them with drop boxes and text only meetings. For the professor, the ability to experiment while teaching was both worthwhile and instructive. The failures and successes will inform my future online teaching. I believe professors, many of them, are sensitive to the moods of their students as they tackle complex concepts and they know, instinctively, when to speed up or slow down, when to push and when to praise. I am not so sure about the instructional technologists. They have much to offer but this article sets up the argument that professors are lost without them and they disparage professors with years of experience in the classroom as “Long Rangers.”

Such an approach to creative problem solving is not effective. In fact, the article parallels what passes for political discourse today and that is certainly no endorsement.