March 7th, 2014 by Cameron
I often get requests from people to solve some eLearning/software/teaching related issue they are having. Typically they have made an effort and spent half an hour rattling around before giving up and handing it on to me. I don’t mind, it’s my job.
And you know, sometimes I don’t know the answer either. So I go online. It’s also what happens on most help desks. The person on the other end of the phone is not necessarily more informed than you, they’re just a bit more comfortable diving into the wild intertubes.
There is an old (by internet standards) joke site called “Let me Google that for you“ http://lmgtfy.com/ It was developed by a frustrated tech support person who got fed up with addressing questions with easily found answers.
It seems that a lack of search skills (perhaps the most basic of all digital skills) is still rife.
So with that in mind here’s some suggestions:
Here are a few of tips of my own
- Be willing to go to the next page (and the one after that)
- Use forums. I rarely find the answer to my questions on product sites.
BillyBob637 on the Oztark Tech blog may be the only guy prepared to go though the 400 combinations of functions and key strokes to come up with a particular solution to a problem a software company doesn’t want to acknowledge.
Of course it’s not just about searching. A big part of it is knowing what the answer looks like, that’s where the help desk gurus come into their own. But for the most part the answers are there just waiting to be found.
March 5th, 2014 by Cameron
The (next) Holy grail of plagiarism detection is style analysis which can determine authorship. It can be done, but not in a way that’s currently practical at scale.
Advances in computer technology can now parse text with ever-finer accuracy. Consider the recent outing of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling as the writer of The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime novel she published under the pen name Robert Galbraith. England’s Sunday Times, responding to an anonymous tip that Rowling was the book’s real author, hired Duquesne University’s Patrick Juola to analyze the text of Cuckoo, using software that he had spent over a decade refining. One of Juola’s tests examined sequences of adjacent words, while another zoomed in on sequences of characters; a third test tallied the most common words, while a fourth examined the author’s preference for long or short words. Juola wound up with a linguistic fingerprint—hard data on the author’s stylistic quirks.
He then ran the same tests on four other books: The Casual Vacancy Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter novel, plus three stylistically similar crime novels by other female writers. Juola concluded that Rowling was the most likely author of The Cuckoo’s Calling, since she was the only one whose writing style showed up as the closest or second-closest match in each of the tests. After consulting an Oxford linguist and receiving a concurring opinion, the newspaper confronted Rowling, who confessed.
Juola completed his analysis in about half an hour.
As an example of the sort of tools becoming available have a look at Expresso
“Expresso is a little tool to edit texts and improve your writing style. It will teach you to express yourself through writing more efficiently and help make your texts more readable, precise, and engaging. “
It provides metrics on your own writing and is not a plagiarism detector, but it’s a fairly short leap from a tool like this to some sort of comparative analysis.
Read Doug Petterson’s post about his experience with Expresso
February 28th, 2014 by Cameron
I’ve had a query from an academic about using Twitter during a lecture (200+ students) to get live feedback and comments. I’m not a particularly big fan of Twitter in the classroom for a range of logistical reasons.
There are other options, but the one sitting right under our nose at Monash is Moodle Chat.
Some other products have better interface designs but Moodle chat provides some specific advantages
- It’s private
- There is no external registration required
- Everyone has automatic access
- There is in house tech support
- Setting it up is simple and similar to other Moodle activities.
I’ll have a play with it to make sure it handles the load and does what we want, but at present it looks like the best option.
If you want to know more about using back channels for live feedback in your lectures have a look at this article by Rowan Brookes, one of our clever clogs academics.
She also has a blog http://rowanbrookes.blogspot.com.au/
February 26th, 2014 by Cameron
An academic came to me with a formatting problem. She had a spreadsheet of exported data, but the Date column was full of numbers in the format 19920720 – she needed these to look and act like dates. She needed to be able to subtract one date from another to get the number of intervening days.
Simple, I thought. I selected the column and tried all the various date format options. She had already tried that. No luck.
Eventually I found this solution from ‘Karl’ on the Kioskea.net site
1) (Save As) a Tab Deliminated.txt file.
2) Open New Excel
3) Open File and choose Tab Deliminated Option. (Click through step 1 and 2 of the ‘Text Import Wizard’)
4) Go to each Date column and select it and chose Date DMY, MDY (Whichever) format.
5) Select Finish. All dates should now format OK.
There was another solution which also worked.
I inserted a blank column and inserted the formula =TEXT(D2,”0000-00-00″) . D2 was the cell with the unformulated date. It turned the number 19920720 into text in this configuration 1992-07-20. I then copied the formula into the rest of the blank column.
The date/day calculations worked.
If someone has a simpler solution to fix the formatting failure please let me know.
February 24th, 2014 by Cameron
My big problem with MOOCs (apart from the frequently shoddy instructional design) is the typically naive (and usually absent) business plan under pinning them.*
The program mentioned below is something I think a MOOC could be part of. You could staff it at key advertised times through the year, maybe throw in a Google Hangout, and link it to f2f on-campus sessions.
It would help students achieve success at university, reduce the burden on lecturers, provide a social service to the community and make the uni look good to prospective students. That’s worth spending a buck on.
This article from InsideHighered.com is commenting on a paper by Nicole M. Stephens, associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; MarYam G. Hamedani, associate director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University; and Mesmin Destin, assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern University.
For years, studies have found that first-generation college students — those who do not have a parent with a college degree — lag other students on a range of education achievement factors. Their grades are lower and their dropout rates are higher.
But the article is actually quite optimistic, as it outlines a potential solution to this problem, suggesting that this approach (which involves a one-hour, next-to-no-cost program) can close 63 percent of the achievement gap (measured by such factors as grades) between first-generation and other students.
What is the solution? A one-hour program for new students that is called a “difference-education intervention.”
In the program, college juniors and seniors from a range of backgrounds talk about how they adjusted to college, and how they sought out resources and people to help them with decisions, issues they didn’t understand and so forth.
Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/17/study-1-hour-program-can-close-achievement-gap-first-generation-college-students#ixzz2uCoNQqz9
Inside Higher Ed
* OK, my three big problems…
February 17th, 2014 by Cameron
A local railway station has been recently upgraded and put underground. The old tracks across the road haven’t been removed yet so they now start on the foot path on one side of the road and disappear on the far edge of the other footpath. So a snapped a few shots across the busy road on my Samsung Note and decided to let Google “Auto-awesome clean out all the cars for me. Which it did, almost.
As you can see it removed the top of the car, but the lower half is close enough in colour to the barrier that it didn’t get filtered.
February 14th, 2014 by Cameron
Mike Caulfield has reached into my head and stolen my thoughts again.
The Harvard “MOOCs for Alumni” Thing Parties Like It’s 1999
This is his response to an article in the Chronicle
The university plans to make some MOOC materials available exclusively to alumni, in an effort to help Harvard graduates reconnect with the university and one another.
Here’s my favorite bit from Mike’s post.
So we are faced with the endless circle of life of the digital learning initiative:
- Someone says — hey we should make money on this. But they can’t make money on it, because people generally want credit for the hundreds of hours they spend on a class.
- So someone says — well, what if we did it just for alumni, where we wouldn’t have to give credit? But that doesn’t work out either. Because math.
- Someone then says, you know, since we can’t make money on this, we should just give it away free, for the public good. There is a brief period of sanity! People love the free stuff.
- The open stuff starts to have impact. The institution buries the evidence of the failed for-profit venture and hides the bodies, proclaiming success of open initiative.
- A year later someone comes along and says “Look how interested people are in this free stuff! We should make money on this!”
When I do my crabby Grandpa Simpson thing and tell the young ‘uns that we’ve been through this all before, they often think I’m being metaphorical, or constructing an analogy. But I’m not. We have been here before in as exact a fashion as one can be at a place in history again without violating fundamental laws of physics.
My big worry is that we’re approaching the time when institutions and academics who got sucked into the MOOC hype are going to see what they signed up for and bail on the whole online learning idea and we’ll see the baby go out with the bathwater.
Now is the time to start scrambling to get those resources re-purposed and propose new flexible/blended/hybrid/flipped units for our institutions. If we don’t we may see a retreat into old habits rather leveraging the lessons learnt.
February 13th, 2014 by Cameron
George Siemens is an internationally renowned and respected expert in the field of eLearning.
He was a pioneer in the original collaborative, pedagogically sound MOOCs. This is before the emergence of the over blow, over hyped, amateur designed, content based products that we now refer to as MOOCs.
This quote is a cracker.
“Regarding Thrun and Udacity, I think the gloating is absolutely justified because this was an individual that was able to get front page coverage in the New York Times and USA Today for saying really absurd things.”
via Stephen Downes OL Daily
February 7th, 2014 by Cameron
This is one of those posts very few people will be interested in, but those who are interested will want to travel to Melbourne and buy me a beer.
I am cleaning up a Samsung Series 7 PC Slate and yesterday I couldn’t open any MS Office applications without this message appearing.
MSOXMLMFDLL is either not designed to run on Windows or it contains an error.
Office would attempt to reinstall itself then reboot, but when I opened an Office app again the problem reoccurred.
So I woke up Professor Google and hit the tech forums.
I tried renaming the file , deleting it, copying in a ‘working’ version, running CCleaner (an otherwise excellent app), scanning for malware, running regsvr /u to uninstall it (it couldn’t find the file despite the path being exactly correct – I’m an old MS DOS user so I’m not a total bunny with the command prompt).
And forget the free download fixes.
Eventually I found a post where someone mentioned, almost in passing, you could also try creating a new Windows user account.
That worked, not only in the new account but it also fixed the original account.
The simplest and quickest fix – mentioned by one person – in a minor forum – halfway down the page – on the 7th page of a Google search.