“Dear Sophina” in the classroom

A week or so ago, I read the strange tale of neighbors and noise. In a lovely application, an english teacher (who surely deserves some kind of acknowledgment for creativity) had his students read and respond in a couple of different ways, recording their performances, and putting their content on a wiki.


Read about it in Ironic Sans: “Dear Sophina” — An amazing follow-up to “The Astoria Notes”.


Alan creates a meme: Linktribution. Actually, I was thinking about this concept today, because I was searching for some code I wrote some years ago, and found it reproduced in a number of places online. That’s fine and dandy with me since it typically has my contact information in it (umm….outdated however).

Whenever people attribute things to me in e-mail (on Blackboard lists for example), I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll get my name wrong. Most people do…..”Todd”, “Davis”, “Carter”, “Tod Carter”….I have finally learned to let it go, and forgive people for not hearing it right when I say it either. I have to twist my mouth to approximate an american accent when spelling it out.

I’ve been working on some things I don’t want to talk about yet, but there’s a light I’m beginning to see at the end of the tunnel, and no, it’s not a train.

Oh, and I want to follow up on the Creative Commons thing. Forget Creative Commons, most people I encounter haven’t heard of blogging…sigh.

New Google Services

The list of Google services tied to my account keeps getting longer and longer. I noticed my Gmail services menu has now added an integrated Writely and Google Spreadsheets (“Docs & Spreadsheets”) tool, and there’s also a “Photos” web service (Picasa as a web service) item now. The full list (at least for me):

  • Analytics
  • Calendar
  • Gmail
  • Groups
  • Page Creator
  • Personalized Homepage
  • Picasa
  • Spreadsheets
  • Talk
  • Writely

My kids’ school using blogs and google calendar

My kids’ elementary school has the principal blogging using blogger, and the school calendar maintained using Google Calendar. This makes it really easy to keep track of what’s going on at their school, using my customized Google Homepage. I’ve added the RSS feed for the principal’s blog to my home page, and the school events to the calendar widget. A bit of digging reveals that Google Calendar also supports RSS, so I could be reading both in any RSS reader.

Now, if only the teacher blogs (yes, there are those) had RSS feeds too, but they use Think.com sites instead.

It’s gratifying as, dare I say it, a pioneer in this stuff to see it becoming mainstream…eight years or so after it all got going!

Meeting George Bush Sr.

My boss was in this part of the state today, and stopped by. He very kindly took our team out to lunch. We don’t exactly work in a major metropolis….it’s more a truck stop off I-81. We ate at a simple barbecue place in a standard shopping plaza (a Kroger and about 8 other stores, and that’s about all there is around there). As we were finishing up, someone looked up and said, “Oh, there’s George Bush.” My first reaction was mere confusion, and then surprise as a black SUV parked, and a secret service guy walked into the restaurant, followed by George Bush (the senior).

I quickly snapped a very bad picture using my cellphone, and then my boss and one of my co-workers, neither of whom could ever, ever be called a shrinking violet, headed over to ask if he would allow to have our picture taken with him. He very graciously did, and my boss pulled out his digital camera.

David, George Bush (Senior) and a co-worker He asked if this was a “Mother and son” picture, which unintentionally gave us a bit of a laugh, and then we left him to get his lunch. It was all very low key. No huge entourage. Just him and a couple of guys basically. It did occur to me that such a picture could have cost me several thousand dollars a few years ago.

I was born and bred in England, and so really have no automatic reverence for the presidency, and I hope, no particular reverence for anyone who holds high office, so I’ve found my reaction to be a bit more subdued than my co-workers who were pretty tickled about the whole affair (although to be fair to them, not with awe). Part of me feels that the really classy thing would have been to just ignore him and let him have some lunch, and acknowledge that there was nothing special about him, that he was just a guy doing his job. In terms of the cult of celebrity, I feel a little bit that I let myself down by having the picture taken. I didn’t say anything meaningful. I just had my picture taken with him, and, considering the alternatives that didn’t really make the world a better place. I just kept an old man from his lunch.

As is usually the case, about three hours later I thought of some things I maybe would have liked to say to him, aside from my mumbled “Thank you”. Perhaps I could have told him that although I didn’t agree with a lot of the things he did while he was in office, I thought he was a pretty decent guy and I respected him, and I could have thanked him for his service both then and in earlier times. But he is no longer a public figure, I doubt he would care to hear my opinion, he’s eighty-one years old (and looking very healthy) and he probably just wanted some barbecue.

I could have said something about his son, and the war, and the country. Would it have made any difference? I doubt it. Was it my moral duty to do so? Maybe so, even if it were a whisper in a storm.

I’m surprised that an old guy having some lunch at a truck stop could confuse me so.

[update: news items here and here]

ISP Troubleshooting Suggestions

We often are called on to solve strange problems that students have with Blackboard, and I see these discussions on some of the lists all the time. A year or so ago, I pulled together a list of things to check and it has served us well.

Some are them are obvious to seasoned users, but some really are not (checking the time zone settings for example). Read on for the full list of suggestions:

Continue reading ISP Troubleshooting Suggestions

Merlot RSS for searches

I probably missed this since I don’t typically pay much attention to Merlot, but Merlot looks like it finally has RSS feeds for arbritary searches and categories now (e.g. literature). It could do with a little polish, e.g. putting the search or category in the RSS feed title, and fixing the spelling of “materials”. Also, when I did a sort, it appeared to be in reverse order, although I’m less clear on how the RSS feed itself behaves – it appears to not keep track of the keywords or category.

A good step in the right direction though.

Blackboard’s Pending Patents

Blackboard has a number of pending patents in addition to the recently granted one.

These were posted by Santo Nucifora to the Blackboard list out of ASU.

PUB. APP. NO. Title
1. 20060168233
Internet-based education support system and methods

2. 20060026213
Content and portal systems and associated methods

3. 20050086296
Content system and associated methods

4. 20040167822
Method and system for conducting online transactions

5. 20040030781
Internet-based education support system and method with multi-language capability