This year I attended the Educause online regional conference in Austin online February 12-14, 2013. I’ve probably attended five or more Ed conferences in my life, and this was the first one I’ve ever done online. A few thoughts about the online experience before I recap some of the (I hope) interesting takeaways from the sessions.
The Online Experience
It wasn’t what I was expecting in a sense. I was imagining it would be terribly boring to attend the sessions virtually and I was afraid I would struggle to absorb the information being presented. Interestingly, I thought I was basing this thinking on previous online seminars I have attended from Sloan, Educause and others, and in a sense I was, but I was also basing it off my dislike of attending Ed conferences the traditional way.
There were some technical issues with my password that turned out to be a simple case of my copying the password incorrectly – accidentally adding a space at the beginning when I pasted it in, that prevented me initially from accessing the Adobe Connect conference room. After I realized my amateur mistake, and felt the accompanying mild embarrassment, I was able to login, test my headset, and make connection with the hosts.
Once the sessions started I had no technical difficulty, other than the second day of the conference where there was some connectivity issues that I’m not sure were the fault of my own Internet connection, which can be spotty at times, or the conference servers. But of course I was able to watch any sessions I missed live in the recorded archives one or two hours after they were presented. This did prevent me from commenting in real-time and Twittering the sessions on day two, but Twitter was mainly being used by attendees to merely summarize what session speakers were talking about anyway – hardly value-added in my opinion.
Overall I discovered that I was much BETTER able to absorb the material being presented and to think critically about it in the online milieu than I typically am when attending face-to-face. Part of this had to do with the fact that I was home, comfortable, with my cat Angel sleeping nearby, and a hot cup of coffee (and food whenever I wanted it) right next to me. I was able to let my guard down by being away from hordes of strangers and this made it easier to concentrate. In addition I could rewind the material in the archived sessions if I missed an important point and was able to really ‘get’ what was being discussed.
The first day included sessions on Developing your 5 year professional development plan, How Geeks and non-Geeks can work together, a fresh look on digital natives, going mobile, and iPads on campus.
The professional development plan session seemed like a lot of talk about something I already understand – although maybe I’m just being complacent (it’s not like my career arc has been perfect by any means). At any rate it was not an auspicious beginning to the conference from my perspective; this session really did bore me. The sessions on geeks and non-geeks didn’t improve the conference outlook either; I always find such comparisons and generalizations insulting. I did, however, become interested during the talk on digital natives.
For example, I learned – if it wasn’t clear already – that I’m a digital immigrant. According to one study from Rice University, if you learned about the Sandy Hook school shootings on Twitter you’re a digital native; if you used some other source you’re an immigrant (guiltily – for many reasons – I learned of the shootings on the abyssmal MSNBC). The lecturer, Gary Kidney, also noted that students LIKE when professors use PowerPoint to distribute their lectures online (61% of undergrads expect it in fact). Students like the PowerPoint because it’s a great way to take notes in-class because it organizes the content well. Prezi – for all it’s presentation magic – cannot do for students what PowerPoint can do.
Kidney did make some dubious claims however such as his report that 100% of their students have cell phones with Internet and Wi-Fi as well as another device with Wi-Fi (such as an iPad). I will say this again, even in the modern era I find this hard to believe. However, they also reported that students didn’t like to use their phones for learning (amen) but LOVED using them for things like scheduling and checking the cafeteria menu, and of course social networking. I don’t know what method was used to gather these statistics and I don’t know how students are equipped with technology at Rice, so I just want to be clear I’m not saying Mr. Kidney is making up his statistics (not at all in fact – just that I find it hard to believe). At UC Berkeley I’m fairly certain not even 50% of our students use iPAD based on some initiatives we’ve worked on in the past year.
Responsive web design and the awesomeness of the Twitter bootstrap framework were my takeaways from the talk on going mobile at Texas A & M. I don’t think those assertions were ever in doubt…although presumably some would disagree. Isn’t there always someone to disagree on everything? Sorry, rhetorical question. One question worth considering when developing a mobile application: do I need a fully functional, responsive website or will a mobile app do?
Regarding iPADs on campus it was asserted (Emily Cicchini and James Kerkhoff) that because of their light weight and ease of use (and size actually) iPADs are GREAT for content creation. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. Last year I was lucky enough to get a first hand view of creating an eText with Apple iBooks (at Apple headquarters) and I was very pleased with what I saw. If eTextbooks all used the capabilities of iBooks (and also students actually had access to iPADs, or similar devices) paper textbooks would be DOA; I assert this to be 100% true.
Anyway, back to the session on iPADs…
The presenters also talked about how all assets are saved in the cloud (iPAD doesn’t have a file storage system) or in its applications; it’s more secure and easier to troubleshoot than laptops; it’s lighter to carry (obviously), and it doesn’t require much support! These are all great advantages no doubt. This was my favorite session of the day (of course it helped that they put in a plug for my favorite organizational app Evernote).
This was the day I had to watch the recorded sessions because the connectivity was a problem. So I was a bit lonely that day and needed a drink after it was all over, but I learned a great deal as I said. The topics for the day included: copyright issues online, blending technology with purpose (am ambiguous title no doubt), research information management systems (a totally new topic for me), comics for learning, and NextGenU.
Live lectures can’t be copyrighted but if fixed in a tangible medium (recorded) they can be. So based off that premise the talk centered around MOOCs and whether or not that material can by copyrighted. It gets even murkier when you ask who gets the copyright – the animators, illustrators, writers, etc? Multiple people are collaborating to create the course. These are good, valid points and I don’t know the answer to them; interesting session.
Baylor University uses student smartphones as clickers. With their device webdav-enabled the students are able to share files in blackboard mobile or write their blog entries with their WordPress app. All very cool indeed. Why is Berkeley not yet up to snuff? Students are even attending Elluminate Live conference sessions on their mobile devices at Baylor! Now Baylor tech ops are looking into mobile printing as well. Crazy cool. Helen Chu from the University of Oregon was also there and talked about new learning spaces at the University of Oregon. This is not in any way my expertise so I won’t comment on it other than to say they are doing some cool stuff at U of O! I think it would be worthy anyone’s time to stop by the University if they happen to be in the area and see first-hand what they’ve done with their help desk and their IT.
Jerry McLaughlin of Symplectic gave a demonstration of a new Research Information Management System that I didn’t fully understand. Apparently management of research information data is tough and when he explained it I could see why. Researchers (and the people who support them) are using multiple library systems to catalog data and its difficult to share this information because each database system from which they are pulling data has different sharing standards (technically speaking).
The discussion on comics was a bit of a letdown but that might be my own fault as an avid collector of comics when I was a kid I was looking for something based around superheroes. I’m not sure what I was expecting really but what I saw wasn’t it. The idea of using comics for learning is terrific though; I approve.
NextGenU I had not heard about but apparently you can take for-credit classes online (with the approval of your institution) for FREE. Yea, well so what? The so what is that they have a very unique way of doing it in that peer relationships and mentoring are both encouraged, and in many cases, required. Unfortunately this system is currently only offering courses in health sciences topics but they are designing other courses in other disciplines as we speak. Lockdown security for assessments and an ad-free environment further enhance the potential of the system. I still need to setup a username and password so I can try this out.
This day had me up at the crack of dawn (actually very much like the day before) – 6am to be exact as sessions started at 8am Central time. Topics for the day included using the Library as an API, how IT can get along with everyone else, developing leaders in IT, implementing a cloud-first strategy, google apps for education, and emerging insights on learning and technology presented by the estimable Mark Milliron.
The session on using the library as API was fascinating to me. What do students need to do to conduct research in the 21st century. Shockingly perhaps it usually involves a physical visit to the library archives on campus. How nice would it be if there was an API that allowed faculty to bring in the library databases to the LMS so that students could easily check them out online? The technology is there but implementation is not so easy; the presenter for this session laid out a possible roadmap that is not so easy to implement and makes me wonder if this is the best we can do, but the idea he presented was terrific. It is, as follows:
Bring the various library-based databases such as EBSCO and ProQuest Summon into the LMS using an API (different depending on your LMS – at Berkeley we use Sakai although Canvas has been talked about as a possible replacement). Then use BasicLTI to embed database search and gather widgets in the LMS to allow faculty to show available readings and students to check them out…all of this easily enabled using the basic login authentication students used to get into the LMS in the first place. Simply wow.
The sessions on IT getting along with others and Google Apps I didn’t find very useful. This is not, obviously, to say there was nothing useful in them, but I didn’t personally find them valuable. I hate having to explain things. Two takeaways from those sessions however: 1) when marketing IT to stakeholders IT needs to be aware that telling stories need to begin with FACTS and that keeping promises leads to trust. Duh. Still, worth noting; 2) Google Apps for Education comes with 8 core services including Groups and Sites…why doesn’t Berkeley have these two as part of our Google Apps for Education suite?? I love Google sites for student portfolios.
Developing leaders for IT was very insightful for me. The session was essentially split into two tracks of inspiration: what leaders should do to cultivate leaders and what wannabe leaders should do to cultivate themselves to become leaders. Here’s the two tracks in summary:
Developing Leaders (for leaders):
- meet bi-weekly with subordinates
- provide challenges and opportunities
- inspire and motivate others to look at their leadership potential
- co-develop a roadmap to achieve goals
- give feedback, encouragement, support
- look for leaders at any level in ANY area (cool)
- nudge people out of their comfort zones
- customize mentoring to match the protege
- delegate decision-making
- allow opportunities for failure
- believe in people
- INTERACT WITH PEOPLE AT THEIR POTENTIAL – NOT WHERE THEY ARE TODAY
Aspiring leaders should:
- focus on education and self-development
- self-assess, self-assess, self-assess
- do a gap analysis – what do I need to do to be where I want to be?
- seek a mentor
- seek other professional development opportunities
- set goals and plan for the future
Implementing a cloud-first strategy was interesting for several reasons: 1) the idea of hosting the LMS AND the authentication mechanism in the cloud (with a local failsafe) is immensely attractive for many reasons, not least of which is that it’s earthquake-proof. And in California that means something! Not only that but it’s more secure to use a reliable third party service actually. Finally, I liked the idea they promoted of making the role of IT staff one of architects rather than stewards. I should quote that somehow but I’m not sure that was the quote. At any rate the presenter of the lecture gets credit for the stewards comment.
Mark Milliron had many insights to share with us including the following salient points:
- OERCommons.org rocks for free content
- 4 year full-time undergrads only represent about 20% of the higher-ed population today O.o
- Let’s change the lecture/homework dynamic so that the lecture is the homework and the homework is the classtime (hell yes)
- 47% of gamers today are women. damn, really?
- Fastest growing cohort of gamers are the over 50 age group.
- Instead of charging students resource and materials fees for every class they take (which are variable and tend to discourage poor students from taking more expensive classes, which is just unfair) charge them a flat fee for the semester for all resources they might use.
- Get data for various IT services and initiatives into the hands of students; they will demand the change they need.
- Students need to know all the time how they are doing in their courses, not just at midterm, after the final, or when they ask.
This post is already long enough so I’m not going to summarize everything for you here, but if you weren’t able to attend the conference I recommend reading what I posted above.
The first time I saw Heat, when it came out in the movie theater’s in 1995 I was flabbergasted. Now here was an amazing bank heist movie; quite possibly the most amazing bank heist movie ever; certainly the best I had ever seen. Many years later, well just last year in fact, the movie The Town was released and I saw it in the theater’s as well. Now here was another excellent bank heist movie! Quite possibly better than Heat…or was I mis-remembering how good Heat was? So I decided to rent them both on Netflix and compare them, hence this article.
In the following paragraphs I’m going to compare and contrast the central characters, the major conflicts, and other important scenes from each movie to show how Heat remains the better bank heist movie. Let’s begin by analyzing the characters.
There are really two main characters in Heat: Neil McCauley (the leader of the armed robbers, played by Robert DeNiro) and Lt. Vincent Hanna (the detective chasing Mr. McCauley and his crew, played by Al Pacino). The most interesting thing about Heat is the interplay between these two characters, and the revelation (not highly concealed) that they are two sides of the same coin. Lt. Hanna is the ‘good’ guy, but only because he cares a little bit more about human life than McCauley; in love they are both miserable human beings. You feel sympathy throughout he movie for both men, because, as the following video clip shows, they are both just doing what they do (robbing banks and catching bank robbers) because it’s all they know how to do. This is the best scene in the movie and is a classic case of protagonist meets antagonist:
In The Town there is only one major character: Doug MacRay (the leader of the bank robbers, played by Ben Affleck). The movie centers around him and his burgeoning love interest in the former bank manager of the bank he and his crew hold up at the beginning of the movie. They robbed her and held her at gunpoint, then kidnapped her, presumably so they wouldn’t get shot by the police, and then let her go, blindfolded, on a nearby beach – she thought she was going to die. She doesn’t know he was one of the bank robbers (because they always wear thematic costumes), and he doesn’t tell her he is one of the bank robbers, because she is so traumatized by the event, and he is falling for her. He doesn’t mean to fall in love with her; he begins by stalking here to find out how much she knows and how much she is cooperating with the police once one of his crew discovers she lives nearby them.
Like in Heat, Doug MacRay is not an ‘evil’ person, despite his bank robbing ways; he’s a man trapped in an unfortunate situation, with no easy outs. When he tries to leave, the people who hire him and his crew to take down banks threatens his friends and family. He does eventually get away – unlike Neil in Heat – but the damage has been done; his friends get killed, and he loses his girl. In both movies the bank robbers mostly all die.
The primary conflicts in Heat occur between Neil and Vincent, Neil and his girlfriend, Val Kilmer’s character and his girlfriend, Vincent and his wife, and the rogue bank robber/serial killer and Neil. Most of these conflicts revolve around the idea that being involved in or with law enforcement in some way entails broken love. Those are in fact he primary conflicts – those of interpersonal relationships of the various characters. The conflict between Neil and Vincent is less fraught with emotion, betrayal, and pain, and is more about mutual respect. In fact, in the final scene, in which Vincent hunts Neil down in a shadowed area outside the airport, moving from crate to crate, the only light coming from the ground lights that flash on brightly, and very briefly, when a plane lands, their is a showdown and Vincent mortally injures Neil. While Neil is dying Vincent looks into his eyes and holds his hands.
In the Town the conflicts are between Doug and his girlfriend the bank manager, and Doug and his accomplices. In the first instance it’s the same sort of conflict we find in the Heat, although demonstrably more complex because not only is Doug on the run, but he also inflicted a severe amount of emotional pain on his girlfriend when they first met, and subsequently lied to her. There is also a conflict between Doug and his father – who was also a bank robber, and is currently serving time in prison (life) – and I thought this was the most interesting conflict of all in either movie. His mother left his father (and committed suicide) at a very young age, soon after Doug was born. There is a telling dialogue between Doug and his father, in prison, and it brings home the gritty reality of the life this family has endured, as bank robbers, on the run from the law; it’s not glamorous, it’s tragic.Recollecting what his father told him when he was a boy, his father says:
Your mother left; she’s not coming back.
Other Major Scenes:
The street shootout between the cops and robbers in The Heat is one of the most memorable gun fighting scenes in all of movie history. It’s violent and epic. Only a video would do, so here it is for your viewing pleasure:
Most of this scene, as you can see for yourself, is intended to show you the seriousness of what both sides of this fight are involved in; they both want what they want (money vs. justice) very, very much; and it’s tragic too because not only do scores of innocents presumably die, but the driver of the getaway car is killed as well, just as he was reforming himself after being released from prison, and was loved, and believed in, by his girlfriend.
The other major scene of this type in the movie is at the beginning when they take the armored truck, and the serial killer member of the crew (the new guy) displays his psychotic behavior by killing the security guards execution-style, which leads to the crew being investigated and hunted by Vincent in the first place.
In The Town the primary combat scenes involve the various bank robberies, where the camera alternates between shots of the bank robbers in full, typical movie color, and silent shots from the video cameras installed in the bank; I thought this was a very effective technique. There is a shootout scene in The Town as well, although it’s less epic than the one in Heat, but also more nuanced in the ways in which the robbers attempt their escape – by donning various uniforms, first as medical staff and then as police officers to evade the other police officers. There is also a car chase in a minivan – a type of scene lacking in Heat for the most part – and of course lot’s of gunfire.
I loved the costumes the bank robbers use in The Town; they dress up as nuns, medical staff, the undead, and police officers in four different scenes. Also the cinematography is better and it’s more modern. Heat can be amusing sometimes because it’s so old-fashioned with the old, and ugly 90′s Ford Mustangs and Camaros, and the ponytails and other silly 1990′s ‘styles’ that reminds one that the 1990′s really weren’t that much more stylish than the 1980′s after all. In general the acting is better in The Town as well. However, despite Al Pacino’s overacting in The Heat, I think the story of two lost souls fighting each other to prove their respective world views are correct, as well as the mesmerizing street fight scene and the scene in the restaurant with Pacino and DeNiro, makes Heat a more durable, exciting, and interesting movie. I recommend both however.
Yesterday I had to work at the front desk for 4.5 hours (again), but it was very quiet due to it being Friday, so I chatted a bit with Annalisia – one of the student workers. I also attended a two hour training on TurningPoint clickers. Unfortunately the representative from the company had neglected to bring his Apple-specific USB adapter for his Mac so I had to try and install the programs he needed on the Windows machine he could use to give his presentation; although I got the assistance of another instructional design consultant and our network administrator, a solution could not be found.
There was a lot of talk about using the TurningPoint clickers to allow students to submit answers for actual points, right into an LMS gradebook. The faculty who attended the session seemed interested in this feature, but I was more interested in their use as an interactive tool within a class – to poll students randomly, or to get them engaged during a particularly dry topic for example. I think Dr. Stephen Vaisey, Sociology professor at UC Berkeley, does a nice job explaining this particular use of clickers within a classroom environment:
Nonetheless it was Friday – my favorite day of the week – and I found some excellent poker-related resources you might enjoy; I know I did. The first link I found is called Four Key Poker Skills and has some great tips for improving your game. The second is an insightful look at all the possible starting poker hands you can have, along with their winning percentages (or lack thereof); I have found this site useful on a number of occasions when playing online poker. The third resource is a graphic of the starting poker hands with highlighting emphasizing which hands you should almost always fold, those you should play in any position, those you should play only in late/middle position, and those you should play only in late position.
Learning how to read sounds like something most of you already know how to do, but I guarantee most of you are wrong. I just finished How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, and I must say it’s one of the most useful books I’ve ever read. I highly recommend all my students – and anyone else reading this post – to read this book through thoroughly, if you have any interest in truly understanding the materials you read; and if you’re in school, how could you not right? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.
Despite the very specific title, you actually learn how to read anything, not just books, using this text, including web-based material (though the book was written in 1940 – the concepts still apply). I’m going to try and summarize the most important points from this book today, and I’ll try to be brief, but not so brief that I miss the important concepts; you’ll still want to read the book however, as almost every sentence in the book has useful detail. The authors break down learning how to read into four distinct levels, each of which builds on the previous level. There is:
- Elementary reading
- Inspectional reading
- Analytical reading
- Syntopical reading
Elementary reading is the kind you learn in elementary school – hence the name – and refers to basic reading skills, such that when you’ve mastered this level you are capable of understanding most words and phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, without having to look words up all the time (this includes not being baffled by grammar). Also, when I say ‘understanding’ keep in mind that I mean understanding the building blocks of words and sentences, not necessarily the meaning the author is intending by his or her use of certain words; for true understanding of that nature you must do an analytical reading of a text (unless, of course, you know everything).
Inspectional reading refers to the ability to accurately be able to judge a book’s contents by skimming it and performing a superficial reading of it. This is the type of reading you will employ when you have a fixed amount of time with which to judge a book’s contents – such as at a store or during an exam. This is a helpful method to determine whether or not you even need to read the book at all! Here’s how it’s done:
- First you skim the book in question, to determine if it needs an analytical reading (many books do NOT); ask yourself while doing so, “is this book worth my time?”
- Then perform a superficial reading, if the book appears to demand it; do so by reading quickly through the text without pausing to ponder the things you don’t understand.
Skimming a Book
Skimming a book is a fairly quick process – depending, just like superficial reading, on the complexity of the book of course. Here’s how you do it:
- Look at the title page, and if the book has one, its preface; read each quickly. Pay attention to subtitles and other indications of the scope and aim of the text; after doing this you should have a good grasp of what the book is about.
- Study the table of contents to get an idea of the book’s structure; it’s like a road map.
- Next, check the index and make a quick analysis of the range of topics covered.
- Read the publisher’s blurb, if the book has one; although sometimes this is just fluffery, the blurb often makes an attempt at summarizing the book succinctly, and this can help you determine if you want to read it.
- Now look at the chapters that seem important to the author’s arguments; read any summary statements these chapters contain carefully.
- Finally, turn the pages, somewhat randomly, and read various passages, sometimes a few pages at a time. Just try and get a read on the book’s main contention; do NOT fail to read the last 2-3 pages of the book.
Don’t be misled by the use of the word superficial, this type of reading is very useful. You may understand less than 50% of the content doing a superficial reading of the text in question, however this cursory reading will help you later on when doing an analytical reading because you’ll know the difficult areas you need to concentrate further on. However, if you just do a superficial reading of a text you still will know at least about 50% of the book’s contents, which, especially for a difficult book, is more than most people.
Analytical reading involves an actual reading of the entire text with the aim of TRUE UNDERSTANDING. There is much to understand about this level of reading – and again, I highly recommend you purchase the book yourself – but here are the general rules you need to know:
- First, classify the book according to kind and subject matter.
- State what the book is about as a whole.
- Enumerate the major parts in their order and relation and outline these parts as you did the whole.
- Define the problems the author has tried to solve.
- Come to terms with the author by interpreting what he or she means by their key words.
- Grasp the leading propositions.
- Know the author’s arguments.
- Determine which of the problems mentioned previously the author has solved and which he or she has not solved; and determine whether the author knows whether or not they have not solved some of their problems.
- Do not begin criticism until you fully understand what the author is saying.
- Do not disagree disputatiously or contentiously.
- Show you recognize the difference between knowledge and personal opinion by giving good reasons for the disagreements you make.
- When criticizing, show where the author is uninformed, misinformed, illogical, or incomplete in their analysis.
One reason I suggest reading this book yourself – and not just relying on my notes – is that it covers a whole range of reading related topics you’ll want to explore either now, or in the future, including the following:
- How to be a Demanding Reader
- Aids to Reading
- Approaches to Reading Different Types of Material (such as practical books, imaginative literature, poetry, history, science and math, philosophy, and social sciences)
- Syntopical Reading (reading several books at once on the same subject to gain even deeper understanding of a subject).
Note: I’m affiliated with Amazon and will receive a share of the profits if you purchase the book by clicking the link above.
I attended an online seminar today entitled, Academically Adrift: Findings and Lessons for Improvement. The speakers (who were also the principal researchers) discussed some very interesting findings to their research using the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). Their research focused on the question of whether or not students are “improving their critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills during college.” They also asked some secondary questions about student context of learning and how disadvantaged students fared compared to others in these skills.
The metrics they used, from the Collegiate Learning Assessment, were qualitative (scenario-based) rather than quantitative, focusing on essay-writing from research and syntopical reading, rather than multiple-choice assessment. Some of their findings, while not surprising, were illuminating. For instance:
- Since 1960, students have cut the number of hours they study (after class) in HALF.
- Yet, students expect to attain higher grades now then ever before.
- Moreover, student critical thinking ability has actually DECREASED over time and doesn’t improve much once they are in college (it’s even worse among African-Americans and other disadvantaged youth).
Factors cited as reasons for these declines in critical performance included:
- Lack of institutional incentives emphasizing undergraduate learning (the primary reason)
- Students being inadequately prepared
- Students being busy with other things
- Faculty not being adequately prepared to teach
Students majoring in business and education/social work were found to have the least amount of critical thinking skills when measured using the CLA, while students in Math/Sciences and the social sciences scored highest.
College selectivity also was found to be a minor factor; more selective schools had more critical students. Also, students who studied alone, read more than 40 pages per week, and studied more than 20 hours per week were found to perform better on the assessment. When they studied with peers, interestingly, student critical thinking performance tanked.
I wanted to ask them a question during the Q&A session but never got a chance to; or rather, they didn’t get around to answering my question (admittedly I was late to posting it). So the question I asked, which I will also pose to you, is this:
Is there research indicating how students in online education programs (which are generally less selective, but also with more study time alone) perform on measures like the CLA?
This is a list of the basic equipment you’ll want to own when taking classes online:
- A computer
- A networking card – usually installed in your computer already
- A headset
- Word-processing software
Before going out and buying the four things I just mentioned you’ll want to take some things into consideration however, and that’s what the rest of this article is about. First, ask yourself:
Do I own a computer already?
If you already own a computer you need to determine if it will meet your needs. Is it fairly new? If so, it probably has a networking card installed, and should meet your needs. Congratulations! If it’s old you might want to consider upgrading.
If you already have a PC computer and aren’t sure if you have a networking card installed, here’s how you find out:
Finding your Network Card on a PC:
Visit the System Information tool by clicking START > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Information. In the window that appears choose the + icon next to Network, and then choose Adapter to see the list of networking adapters installed on your system. Look for the words Ethernet and Wireless next to Adapter Type. If they are there you have networking!
If you have a new-ish PC AND it has networking you’re probably ready for your online classes and you can stop reading here.
If you Do NOT Have Networking OR You Have an OLD PC:
BUT, if you do NOT have a fairly new (and fast) PC or networking you should keep reading, because you’ll want to buy one. Taking even one class online can get old if you have to go to the library each time you want to take a test, or turn in an assignment. If you’re going to learn online, do it in comfort, so you can concentrate on what’s important: learning!
Be good to yourself; buy a new computer (desktop or laptop). I recommend both a desktop and a laptop personally, but you can get by with just one or the other if money is tight. A laptop would be my preferred choice if I HAD to choose because you can take it with you easily and work from wherever you feel comfortable: home, coffee shop, bar, restaurant, airport, your friend’s house, etc. On the other hand, a desktop is nice to have as well however because you generally get a larger screen, which makes reading and research online less of a hassle.
You also want to make sure your computer has at LEAST one form of networking capability – the default is usually Ethernet – but having a wireless card is also quite nice (it goes well with that coffee shop experience I was just describing). Most new computers come with both Ethernet and wireless cards so you’re probably in good shape there if you choose to get a new computer. However, if you can only get one or the other choose an Ethernet card so you can connect at home and be able to turn in assignments before they are due.
PC or MAC? the Eternal Question..
Choosing to get a PC or a MAC usually comes down to the following:
- Cost considerations
PC’s are less expensive than MAC’s and usually are more than enough for what you’ll need to do in most online courses. However, some course may use specific programs that require a MAC, so check your course syllabus , and ask your instructors, to make sure you can make do with either a PC or a MAC. In most cases you can get the same software for both platforms these days so it shouldn’t really be too much of an issue. Check the system requirements for the courses you are taking to make sure. The last thing you want to do is buy a computer that wont work for the classes you are taking!
Do You Need a Headset?
A headset – with microphone AND speakers – is an invaluable tool for many (not all) online learning courses. Often you’ll be required to listen to audio-recorded lectures or podcasts from instructors, or have virtual meetings with them on web-conferencing platforms such as Elluminate Live; in both cases you’ll want a headset – unless you’re planning on doing all your work from home, alone, with no disturbances, and no way to disturb others. What’s that, you live in the real world? I suggest you contact your instructor to see if you’ll need a headset or not. If you do need a headset I highly recommend this one: iMicro IM320 USB Headset. Note: if you purchase this headset, make sure your computer accepts USB connections.
What Software Do I Need?
It really depends on the course; but, graphics editing course will often require you to use Photoshop for instance, and many courses will require programs such as Microsoft Office. I recommend – again – talking to your instructor and reading the course syllabus to find out exactly what you need. Also, if you do need software make sure you buy the correct version of the computer you own (or are intending to purchase): PC or MAC versions of software are different. You may be able to get away with using free tools like OpenOffice (a free-ish version of Microsoft Office) or Google Docs. Again, check with your instructor to make sure.
I was required to read StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath for my job. Actually, it wasn’t just me, everyone in my department was required to read this book, I think mainly for the fun of it – and to learn about each other in a deeper way perhaps. I’m pretty sure we all read the book – or at least the 30 pages or so of it that don’t involve just listing and describing the various ‘strengths’ – but we haven’t used it (yet) in any meaningful way.
The premise of the book is that it’s more important to focus on our strengths than our weaknesses and that by doing so we’ll be happier, healthier human beings. The author lists 34 talents a person may have, including such things as: achiever, communication, harmony, individualization, and self-assurance; there are even some odd-sounding one’s such as futuristic, and ‘woo’. Once you’ve read the introductory material (the 30+ pages I was talking about earlier), you can take the online assessment which includes around 100 likert-scale questions. When you’re done with your assessment you’re told your TOP FIVE strengths and keys to improving your well-being based on those strengths. My top five include the following (in order from most important to least important):
I didn’t really learn anything new about myself from this fairly basic test; you can learn a lot more about yourself doing your numerology or taking a personality test from your local career guidance counselor. But it was still a fairly enjoyable (and easy) way to spend an afternoon at work. Plus I reinforced to myself why I like to play poker and other games (competition, strategic), that I like fixing things (restorative), and that I think too much (strategic, intellection, ideation).
Note: I’m affiliated with Amazon and will receive a share of the profits if you purchase the book by clicking the link above.
You’ve setup your Google Site successfully (I hope) and now you need to know how to post an assignment to your Site. In Google Site speak this is called ‘creating a page’. So in this short article I’m going to show you how to create a page in Google Sites so that you may post your assignments for grading.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to make sure you’re logged in to your Google Site; you need to be logged in before you can make any changes to it. Once you’re logged in, go to the home page of your Google Site, and click on the ‘Create Page’ button in the upper-right-hand corner of the page. It looks like this:
On the ‘Create a new page’ page keep the ‘Web page’ icon selected, give your page a name, and keep the option ‘Put page at the top level’ selected. When you’re done click the ‘Create Page’ button.
You’ll now be in editing mode on the page you just created. You can click your mouse into the title area where it says the name of your page in large font to change the name of the page. You may also click your mouse into the larger, lightly bordered area beneath the title to type text or add other content such as images to that area; this is where you’ll put your text and screenshots.To add your screenshots to your page you’ll need to insert them into the page. You do this by selecting Insert > Image from the menus above the name of your site. Notice also a link to this new page has been added to the navigation menu of your site on the left-hand-side of the screen and has been bolded to indicate you are on that page presently. Once you’re done editing your page click the ‘Save’ button.
Once you’ve successfully created your first page you’ll want to share it with your professor and the rest of the class. See this post on sharing to learn how to do just that.
One thing you may wish to do with your new Google Site is share it with others (though not necessarily with the entire world). This is easily enough done.
Open your Google Site by logging in to your Google account and selecting the Sites link. Find your Site and click on it – you’ll be taken to the default home page.
In the upper-right-hand corner you’ll see a button that says ‘More Actions’. Click this buton and from the drop-down menu choose ‘Share this Site’. You’ll be re-directed to a new page with a bunch of sharing options. See the image below for a preview.
The large box at the top allows you to enter individual email addresses (or groups of addresses if you’ve set that up in your Google mail Contacts folder; ie. your class or some other group that has a collection of contacts). Simply start typing the name of the person you wish to add (if you have them listed as a Contact in Google mail) or type in their email address in this area. Place commas between individual email addresses.Choose whether you want these individuals to be owners, collaborators, or merely viewers of your Site. For an overview of what each user can do visit Google Help.
Uncheck the two checkboxes to make your site essentially private (except for users you invite). Click ‘Return to Site’ when you’re done editing the sharing properties.