A Rant About Customer Service vs. “Personal Security Questions”

I just encountered a pet peeve of mine last night. I was asked to update my account information on my cell phone carrier’s website, and I had to set up one of those now-common sets of “secret questions” for security in order to make a change to my account. While I agree very much with the concept, I think they must be letting 18-year-olds create the lists (no offense to young people here!). One of the lists they gave me, with no other options, was all about my ‘favorites” — my favorite movie, my favorite actor, my favorite restaurant, etc. These are all things that change over time, and therefore are TERRIBLE answers to expect me to provide in six months or a year, when I’m making more changes to my account and my “favorites” have changed! These lists should always ask for static information — where I was born, my brother’s middle name, the year I graduated from high school, etc.

Using free online videos for teaching and learning

Here is a good article about how a number of higher education instructors are using freely available online video to enhance the learning experience for their students:

Instructional Video for the Budget-Constrained Classroom

I have similarly employed online videos that I didn’t produce myself into my own courses. Not mentioned in the article is a special educator’s video site dedicated to teachers, called TeacherTube. Although a lot of it is aimed more at K-12 teachers than higher education, you should check it out as well. Yet another source for inspirational and faith-based videos is GodTube (also known as tangle.com). Another useful site is Vimeo, although you may need to search a little harder to find what you might be interested in.

For example, here is a clever video on Vimeo, created by a high school senior as part of his class assignment, to encourage other students to take Calculus. Enjoy!

Calculus Video from Brian Sewell on Vimeo.

From the student author: “At the end of my senior year in high school, our Calculus class had nothing more to do after we had taken our AP exams, so our teacher tried to fill the time with a small “busy work” project. She wanted us to make something practical to help teach Calculus to other students. Lots of people just made posters with a definition on it, others worked a little harder and made a board game… Justin Hendricks and I made a rap. We recorded it and played it for the class before the thing was due, but we weren’t finished yet. We decided to make a video accompanied by a music video portion to show the class. Since we graduated, our video has been played every semester in everyone’s Calculus classes. Gotta love it.”

Semantically-linked photos: Coming soon to an Internet near you.

In the video presentation below, a new technology is discussed that practically blew me away. Imagine being able to upload photos to Flickr or some other photo sharing site, and then have them automatically linked to all the other photos and textual information from the Internet related to them, especially if they have geographic or other spatial attributes connected to them. And the resulting meta-display is almost instantly scalable and zoom-able.

Imagine having students do a research or exploratory project with this kind of rich information!

Check out the Photosynth project from Microsoft!

Linked data — the next Web generation

Tim Berners-Lee recently gave a presentation at a TED conference on what he sees as the next generation of the Web — Linked Data. He sees organizations and even us as individuals contributing to a growing, well-organized (albeit organically) repository of raw data. This is being fueled by the exponential expansion of social networking and social media sites on the Web.

This talk (in the video below) is only a little bit “techie”, and I think everyone who has used the Internet at all recently can find relevance in it. Berners-Lee is one of the two “real” inventors of the Internet (note: they did NOT talk to Al Gore first!), so his thoughts here should be considered very significant.

By the way, TED (www.ted.com) is a great source of short presentations by expert accomplished speakers. Students would do well to study the presentations there to get ideas for how to make their own presentations.

Disaster planning and recovery

I recently gave a presentation on Disaster Planning and Recovery at the annual conference of the Oklahoma Association of Institutional Research and Planning. The conference was held on the campus of Redlands Community College in El Reno. The folks at RCC were very generous and accommodating for the conference.

My talk was in two parts. The first part focused on some of the institutional issues are in regard to information assurance. The second part was intended for individuals, to have some innovative and inexpensive solutions to make sure their own personal data is secure and recoverable in case of a data loss event.

If you want, you may download the PowerPoint presentation from this talk in two forms:

1. PDF file of the notes

2. PowerPoint Show

I hope you find these interesting and useful.

Technology for creating screen capture videos

I’ve been using screen capture software from TechSmith for several years to create videos, static graphic images, and more for sharing with students and colleagues. I have created whole courses built around creative ways of packaging narrated screen videos.

In this video, the makers of this software are interviewed about the latest developments in this technology arena. I thought it would help you visualize what the possibilities might be for using them in your own educational endeavors.

How to Make Pedagogically Meaningful Animations for Teaching and Research Using PowerPoint and Camtasia

I just discovered a very interesting tutorial on using PowerPoint and Camtasia Studio to create teaching animations. The paper reviews and compares some of the various methods to accomplish the creation of such animations for illustrating concepts in cell biology and biochemistry. The techniques are universal, however, and can be employed in nearly any field where animation might help convey the information you are teaching. From the author Danton H. O’Day, of the University of Toronto at Mississauga:

“There is accumulating evidence that students learn more from animations than static graphics…I will show how pedagogically meaningful and visually appealing animations can be easily made using PowerPoint and a collaborative add-on program, Camtasia Studio.”

You can download the .pdf file here: odayanimationipsi2006.pdf

Read it and enjoy!

Note: A number of faculty members at ORU have started using Camtasia Studio for creating tutorials, recorded lectures and more for online learning. You can review the product at www.camtasia.com. More about applications of this technology will be forthcoming in another post to this site a little later…