Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Today, Stan Walonoski of Academic Computing gave us an introduction to the new PDF creator system that Southern has put together for us poor Microsoft Office users who don't have built in PDF creation (lucky Mac users! The multi-platform Open Office also has PDF creation built in.) It's a nice little function available to faculty and staff (I'm not sure about student use, especially offsite), since the full Adobe Acrobat licenses are too expensive for everyone to get one on campus. The full Adobe is available in most of the computer labs on campus.

He also told us about the new MySCSU portal. There is a lot of great stuff in there. I've added a separate post on that.

Then we talked about WebCT. We tried some of the communication tools within WebCT, the discussion boards and chat. It was a new experience for most our faculty, with mixed results. The interfaces are not intuitive--you need to have used message boards and chat before, so you know what to look for.

After lunch we got a "tour" of a Smart Classroom in Engelman. Many of the new Smart Classroom are what Dan referred to as "bunker" style. A large desk with the built in computer technology occupies one corner of the room, and a screen in the other corner. There are some problems with the design: the separation between the instructor and students is emphasized, if the faculty member is sitting in the "bunker" and talking, the students are dividing their attention between the instructor in one corner and the screen in the other. All the chairs are packed into the back 2/3 of the classroom--very crowded.

Most of the Smart Classrooms don't have computers for students. The only department to specifically want all their technology rooms set up this way was the English department. So the "smart" is smart presentation, not interaction. Of course, most of Engelman is wireless, so a student with a wireless laptop can use it.

Dan is a real application wizard. He showed us a "virtual overhead" presentation application that he put together that allows you to use text, images, audio or video, all within the same program. Dan loads these on his USB drive, and walks into his Smart Classrooms to teach German without a audio player, video player, overhead projector, etc. All of this could be on his computer in native files, but then he'd be switching applications all the time. With his virtual overhead, he has all the players he needs.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in CSS practice. We completed Dan's tutorial, styling the page that we wrote in HTML yesterday. We found a couple of bugs in Dan's tutorial, but it's web-based, so he was able to run back to his office and fix them. Once we reloaded it worked just fine. Good work, Dan!

We have been plagued with technology problems. Several faculty are using borrowed laptops, and many of them are not set up for ideal use--very high resolution resulting in tiny text, limited permissions, etc. We also seem to have some connection problems, too, which is affecting our use of Dreamweaver since it's "key-served" from a network drive. (If I've got this straight, the key server has the permissions, registration, etc. for the software that is actually loaded locally. When you aren't connected, it acts like your software isn't registered.) This isn't a great set up for faculty who would like to develop their courses at home.

Technology: it's always an adventure.


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