Thursday, October 20, 2005

Reflecting on impending doom! :-)

One of the exciting :-) aspects of AECT this year is the impending arrival of Hurricane Wilma this weekend. Some say Saturday, some say Monday. Some say complete destruction of Florida, some say only light rain.

Who do we believe?

In my carpool, we're taking day by day. we're not leaving today, and whether we leave tomorrow may depend on tonight's nightly news. We definitely do not want to pull a Houston and get stuck on the freeway trying to escape.

I've been thinking the last couple of days about the irony of what my religion (LDS - Mormon) teaches us about emergency preparedness and the reality of the situation I am in. As Mormons, we're instructed to be ready to support ourselves and our families in any kind of emergency. We are encouraged to stockpile a year's supply of food in our homes, several weeks' worth of water, and well-equiped 72-hour kits for immediate evacuations.

I have my 72-hour kit. And some stockpiled food. And where is it? At home in Georgia. And where am I? In Orlando, in the path of the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, without anything more than a banana in my hotel room to preserve in case of food shortage.

That's ironic ... and probably foolish on my part. But my presentations aren't until Friday and Saturday, so I'm turn between whether to stay or leave! Plus, who knows how dangerous this situation will turn out to really be?

AECT conference in Orlando

I'm here in Orlando at the Association for Educational Communications Technology conference. For some reason (perhaps the fact that this is a conference on Ed technology?) I thought there would be wireless. In fact, wireless is spotty, so my blogging this week may be spotty.

And then when I get home, I won't remember anything that was said, so I won't have anything to post about! Oye!

In reality, my biggest barrier this week might be that I'm giving too many presentations (3). Two of these are also collaborative efforts with student researchers from other universities that I don't see very often, so (you guessed it) it was hard to pull our presentation together until we were physically together this week.

There's something there to be learned about the realities of the difficulties in distance collaboration. I always think with all of the powerful CSCL tools we have available to use that distance collaboration will be a snap, and it's always more challenging than expected.

Anyway, so my posting will be spotty ... but I've hopefully learned my lesson and will take on less challenging tasks for next year!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wikipedia and credibility of sources

Just writing the title to this post almost made me gag--it seems we have too much discussion in the blogosphere already about Wikipedia and whether it is or isn't a credible resource.

But here's some more thought to add to the conversation.

I found it interesting this past week or two that there's been a heated debate on the EdTech listserv about this issue. This listserv is mostly read by K-12 teachers and technology coordinators, so there is a good mix of conservative and skeptical folks when it comes to new technology ideas, as well as the "jump on the technology bandwagon" folks. I won't go into what both parties argued in the debate because, really, it's the same argument that goes round and round on the internet about Wikipedia.

There were many in this debate who argued that whether you use or don't use Wikipedia as a resource, that you should definitely always be critical of all your sources and be sure you know where you get your information and if the source of the information is credible. In other words, we should be critical readers.

I definitely buy into that. I think the most important thing teachers can do nowadays is teach HOW to read, not WHAT to read, but that's another post for another dayl.

The funny thing about the debate on this listserv is that immediately after it finished, someone asked for a reference for the quote, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." Of course, about a dozen people offered that this was a quote by Thomas J. Watson, IBM founder, in 1943.

What was funny, however, is nobody cited where they got this citation. If they did, they usually cited websites on technology history or sites that are a collection of funny (but who knows if they really said it) technology quotes. The most credible citation was one fellow who cited Wikipedia! The next best credible citation was from a secondary source--a Microsoft Research presentation by Gordon Wood at ACM 1997. Even more ironic, Wikipedia, the supposedly "unreliable resource", was the only cited reference to raise the warning voice that "there is no evidence he (Watson) ever made it (this quote)."

I brought this to the attention of the listserv, by saying that we were being hypocritical proclaiming how important it is to be critical of our resources when everybody agreed Watson said this quote, even though nobody could prove it. How critical were we, really, then? How thoughtful about the credibility of what we were quoting and saying? Not very much.

My point is that we shouldn't criticize people for using Wikipedia, and other like sources, if we are not critical and careful readers ourselves in the sources we use to get our information. Also, I agree with many of the posts in the listserv that argued that it is not about Wikipedia OR Encyclopedia Britannica, but rather an argument of WHEN Wikipedia and WHEN Encyclopedia Britannica. Both have different purposes, different kinds of claims to credibility, and different educational uses. So use both.

And above all, teach the kids that what matters is HOW they read and think, not WHAT they read.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

NVue and other Mac software

Everyone who know me, knows I love Mac. When we talk about my reasons why, they often counter with, "Yeah, but, you can't get very much software for a Mac."

That may have been true once, but not anymore.

Richard Miller on theBYU Mac User Group listserv I belong to recently posted three great sites for finding free Mac software:
I looked around on and found out about NVue--a dreamweaver/frontpage competitor that is open-source and free. And it runs on a Mac. I'm downloading it right now and can't wait to try it out!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

One nice thing about leaving Utah

This if to anyone reading this blog from Utah, from which I recently moved to Georgia. I was reflecting on something really random this morning: I'm sure glad I don't have to hear CEO Dell Schanze's (of Totally Awesome Computers) annoying screech on the radio every time I get in the car about how his computers are "tooootally awesome!"

That is an unexplicable new luxury of having left the state!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Why we shout at each other

Ironic twist of life: Today's Calvin and Hobbes' reprint on is a nice companion to the inevitable clash in America over the new Bush nomination to the Supreme Court. In this strip, Calvin tells Hobbes that we all argue and shout at each other because it keeps the monotony away.

Can't we all just get along? Or agree to disagree? :-)

The Web Wars: Yahoo and Google

As a consumer, I love it when two companies work their tails off to beat each other--it just means better tools for me to use! But I think the battle between Yahoo and Google is starting to get old. Turns out Yahoo now wants to do an online digital library too, just like Google. Do we really need two online digital libraries of everything ever printed? No, we don't. One would be nice, and I've always been supportive of Google's idea. Two will just be silly.

Yahoo, Inc.: Get your own innovation and do something unique. You don't have to be Google to beat Google.