Fly the Friendly Classroom – Imation Wireless Video Extender

I’m just barely old enough to recall that sound through the speakers of an airplane: “*Ding* You are now free to move about the cabin.” It was never fun to know that I had to stay in one place, even if there wasn’t really any better place to be; sometimes I just wanted to know I could move around. (Of course, nowadays you’re discouraged from ever getting up unless you have to. Grumble grumble, get off my lawn.)

I feel the same way when I’m projecting my computer screen through a data projector. I want to move around, but the keyboard and mouse tie me down to the computer. Sure, there are some things I can do, like use a presentation remote to advance through PowerPoint slides while I walk around, or getting a remote keyboard that I can carry with me, but sometimes I just need to go back to the computer. That’s true even if I’m projecting from a laptop, which… is just wrong. The whole computer is portable, but because I have to be cabled in to the data projector, I’m stuck up at the front (if the classroom is well designed, at any rate) of the room, tied to the wall.

Doesn’t that just make you angry? Wouldn’t it be great if you could project from your laptop, but be wherever you want in the room? Even though walking around with a netbook or laptop in your hands is cumbersome, wouldn’t it be nice to have the choice?

There are many expensive data projectors that would allow such, but… I’m cheap. I want to find something inexpensive, have my cake and eat it too.

Meet the Imation Wireless Video Extender!Imation Wireless Video ExtenderThis device works on both Windows and Mac computers, and is comprised of two (or three, if you count an AC adapter as a separate piece) components. The USB dongle is plugged into your computer (so you do need to have a powered USB port available), while the curvy base station has a power adapter and the data projector plugged into it. (The base station can connect via VGA or HDMI, and will support sound from the computer, too.) Once the USB dongle is recognized, it loads the drivers onto your computer (from a USB key partition on the dongle itself; no downloading drivers needed). Depending on your operating system your computer may require a restart the first time the drivers are loaded, but after that your computer will recognize the device as being a separate screen on your computer.

On the computers I’ve tested this with, the default behavior is to make the data projector an extended desktop, which is perfect for running PowerPoint in Presenter’s Mode (where the slides show on the projector, but the presenter notes show on the laptop). Alternately you can just tell your computer to mirror the screens, and what you see on your laptop is what will show on the projector. Look Ma, no wires!

I have also tried extending my laptop to my TV using the HDMI connection from the base station, but quickly decided that my own television is not a good enough device to watch computer content on. (The colors were wacky, and the resolution was low enough to look bothersome. There’s a reason the purchase price of a monitor is higher than the purchase price of the same sized TV!) So, this isn’t what I’d want as a solution for watching video on my TV or anything, but so long as you’re piping to a data projector or additional computer monitor it seems to work very well.

And… given that at the time of writing this blog post the device is under $100 from Amazon, the price is fairly right, too. You are now free to move about the classroom. *Ding*

Teaching with Technology Imported

Library BooksAs I said in yesterday’s post, we will be consolidating the work of several authors in this blog.  Today I have imported the content from Dr. Haydn Davis’ old WordPress.com blog “Teaching with Technology.”  For years Haydn has contributed a column with the same title to our podcasts and Newsletters, and then beginning in December 2009 his own WordPress blog.  Now his materials have been consolidated in the back catalog of this blog.  Since many of them contain valuable insights, and they may be somewhat difficult to selectively find in our back posts, I have included links here to some of the more important ones.  Not that they all do not contain something valuable, but as anyone who maintains an active blog knows, some days are better than others.  Here are my candidates, at least, for Haydn’s greatest hits.

Please take some time to read over these posts.  They analyze the interface between today’s web technologies and traditional pedagogy.  Blogs, by their nature are transitory, and we rely on search engines to find useful information, but search engines have problems distinguishing quality.  When a blog has been produced out of the mainstream, it will not figure prominently in search results, yet, as with these posts, it may contain truly valuable and thought provoking material.

On a personal note, Dr. Haydn Davis is leaving us this semester to return to his role as chair of the Behavioral Sciences department.  Dr. Lillian Payn is taking over his position as Academic Technology Coordinator.  While we are excited to be working with Lillian, it is with sadness that we part with such a close and valued colleague as Haydn.  Our work with him has been rewarding and fruitful, and we at Palomar and in the larger educational community owe him a debt of gratitude.  His dedication and moderating influence as we have progressed in  integrated technology into teaching and learning at our school has been truly exemplary.

 

The Glossary Tool in Blackboard

Today I undertake explanation of the use of the glossary tool in Blackboard 9, certainly an overlooked part of the program, but do it in combination with a program that we license for faculty and staff members at our school called StudyMate. Along the way we will explore:

1.  Building a glossary in Blackboard 9;
2.  Exporting the glossary file as a tab delimited XLS file;
3.  Importing the XLS file to StudyMate;
4.  Building a flash card activity in StudyMate based on our glossary file;
5.  Saving our flash cards as a flash object (the two uses of “flash” not to be confused);
6.  Zipping our resultant htm, js and swf files into a compressed, zipped folder using Windows 7;
7.  Uploading this zip folder–known as a “package file” in Blackboard parlance–to a Blackboard course;
8.  Linking to the entry point in our flash card activity within a Blackboard content area;

a series of steps none of which is particularly complex in itself, but taken as a whole feels somewhat complicated, especially if using the new version of Blackboard and the old (but not much used) version of StudyMate are new experiences.

Consequently, we will take it slow.  Believing that seeing it done is better than writing a few hundred words, I have made four short, to-the-point (I hope) videos illustrating the major steps described above.  Today I will present the first two, the first illustrating points 1 and 2 above, the second points 3 and 4.  Tomorrow I will present the final videos and complete our discussion of this project buildt around the Blackboard glossary tool.

Before showing the videos,however,I will just comment briefly on the surprising under-utilization of the glossary tool in Blackboard and study aids in general, that are extremely easy to create with a program like StudyMate.  Since introductory, general ed course are the stock in trade of community colleges, and the memorization of terms, generally new terms to many of our incoming students, plays such a major role in introductory courses, it is surprising how little the tools we have in place to teach terms are used.  We stress the importance of memorization of terms, but often do not discuss how to memorize or provide tools to aid in memorization.  I am suggesting in this post that the use of the Blackboard glossary in combination with StudyMate and other course activities can help.

In any event, here is the first video on how to create a course glossary in Blackboard.  Unfortunately you can only have one course glossary.  It might be more helpful to be able to create several small glossaries linked to parts of a course, rather than one general glossary, but that isn’t the way it is.  The situation can be remedied, however, BY a, a, a, a, aby using a tool like StudyMate to build separate small glossaries with practice activities in apposite course locations.

In the course of the video I mention that even though the Blackboard glossary tool does not use the visual text box editor, it is possible to include graphics with glossary terms by using HTML.  Simple img src tags along with formatting tags are rendered correctly if they are directly inserted into the glossary term box.  If you are not very familiar with HTML I would not recommend this, however, since mal-formed HTML can have disastrous effects on a Blackboard course content area or even–if you use some “exotic” HTML, make a course content area inaccessible.  Better to stay away unless you feel comfortable coding HTML by hand.

Video 1 – How to build a Blackboard 9 course glossary and export it as a tab delimited XML file.  (Note:  Higher resolution versions of our screencasts can be found on our web site or in the video section of our Facebook group site).

Now that you have the glossary file exported, you can easily import it to StudyMate.  StudyMate is a web authoring tool that allows you to create flash-based learning activities based on terms and definitions.  While it is possible to build all sorts of activities, matching, fill-in-the-blank, crossword puzzles, etc., we will build a simple set of flippable flash cards that students can use to memorize the terms we have presented in the glossary.  While I have kept this one simple, it is possible to embed graphics and other multimedia within StudyMate activities, to make them quite sophisticated.  StudyMate is a program that we license for our faculty and staff at Palomar College from respondus.com.  If you don’t have it, you might want to skip the next video and pick things up with video 3 (to be presented tomorrow).

Video 2 – How to create flash-based flash cards (two distinct uses of the words) from an exported, Blackboard glossary using StudyMate.

Tomorrow I will pick up the thread by showing how to zip the files produced by  StudyMate into a Blackboard “package” file, and then how to upload that file to the Blackboard course files area and link to its entry point in a content area.

Fall 2010 Training Opportunities

Our fall 2010 training events will be a combination of tried and true workshops and new workshops prompted by the adoption of Blackboard 9 for the spring 2011 semester.  It is critical that new and established Blackboard users attend one of the “New to Nine” 1-hour workshops, and for those wishing an in-depth Blackboard 9 experience, one, if not all, of the full-day Blackboard 9 events.

It is not final final, but nearly so.  Here is our probably training schedule, in brief, for the coming fall semester.  Watch our web site for the formal announcement and final dates/times.

  • Thursday, August 19:  Part-time pre-plenary workshops in Blackboard Essentials and Classroom Technologies.  Evening workshop in Academic Technology Resources.
  • Friday, August 20:  Full-time prenary break-out on Academic Technology Resources, including a demo of Blackboard 9.
  • Monday, August 30:  Haydn will host a workshop on Using Safe Assignement to Teach About and Detect Plagiarism
  • Tuesday,August 31:  Chris will host a workshop on Blackboard Essentials for those who have never used Blackboard.
  • Wednesday,September 1:  I will present a workshop on Basic Computer Basic Basics.  This one was popular last semester.
  • Tuesday, September 7:  Chris will host a workshop on Web Page Development.  We will either be using SharePoint Designer 2007, or Expression Web 3 as the web authoring solution for the college and Chris will adapt his workshop accordingly.
  • Wednesday, September 8:  I will present PowerPoint 1: Creating Basic Presentations with PowerPoint, using PowerPoint 2010.
  • Monday, September 13: Haydn will present Using the Blackboard Discussion Board.
  • Tuesday, September 14:  Chris will present ONLINE, Using WolframAlpha: A Treasure Trove of Answers at Your Fingertips, and gets the award for most cliches used in a workshop title.
  • Wednesday, September 15:  I will present PowerPoint 2: Advanced PowerPoint Techniques, again, using PowerPoint 2010, we will concentrate on animations and audio/video/multimedia content.
  • Friday, September 17:  I will present a catch-all What’s New in Office 2010, concentrating on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the new Office web apps.
  • Monday, September 20:  Haydn will present Using the Blackboard Assignment Manager.
  • Wednesday, September 22:  I will present Using Google Earth, the introductory Google Earth workshop.
  • Wednesday, September 29:  I will present Creating Academic Content for Google Earth.
  • Friday, October 1:  I will present Using the Flip Video Camera, including basic video edit/upload techniques using the FlipShare software and YouTube.

We will be presenting four all-day Blackboard 9 sessions, titled “Teaching with the New Blackboard 9″ in October.  The sessions will be catered, breakfast and lunch, and will include technology prizes and giveaways.  Sessions will be held from 9am-3pm:

  • Friday, October 8:  Part 1:  Getting Ready for Day 1
  • Friday, October 15:  Part 2:  Building Your Course
  • Friday, October 22:  Part 3:  Communicating with your Students
  • Friday, October 29:  Part 4:  Evaluating Learning

In addition to these all-day sessions, we have scheduled seven 1-hour “New to Nine” workshops intended to introduce Blackboard version 9, and allow for an opportunity for faculty members to schedule one-on-one appointments with our staff in order to migrate their Blackboard 8 content to Blackboard 9.  This is not a trivial undertaking, so attendance at one of the New to Nine workshops is important.  They will be held each day, at varying times, from November 2-9 inclusive.  Faculty members will be able to sign-up for a special PD workshop that covers their Blackboard 9 migration meeting with our staff.

Finally, on Friday, November 19, Haydn will be offering a Technology Round-table titled “What Works in Blackboard” for faculty members to share their best ideas and procedures.

In the semester break between fall 2010 and spring 2011 we will be offering, for the first time, a Winter Tech Camp, which will reprise the 4 full-day Teaching with Blackboard 9 workshops from January 3-6.

Tech Planning at Palomar College – AT Techs Part 2

This is a continuation of my interview with the Academic Technology Systems Administrators about technology planning at Palomar College.  In this part we focus on some rubber meets the road issues like paperless environments, AV technologies, telephony, and lots of other issues.  The written response of the technicians is provided in the post below, and the audio of an interview with them follows the post.

Additional Questions for ATRC Staff

1.  Would you support a goal of creating a paperless environment at Palomar College, if it meant that you would not have access to printers and would have to rely on electronic versions of all documents?

Chris:  Yes, I fully support creating a paperless environment at Palomar College.

Shay:  Yes I would support a paperless environment.

Dave:  Absolutely not.  On occasion printed materials are necessary; certainly the frequency and scope of printing can be reduced, but paper handouts will always be needed in some numbers.

2.  Would you support conversion of desktop computers to laptops for all full-time faculty members and many key staff members?

Chris:  Assuming that the laptops are of comparable in speed to the desktop computers they are replacing, I would support this conversion.

Shay:  I would support the conversion for faculty if every classroom could be properly wired to allow the use of the laptops for instructional purposes.

Dave:  Yes.  Current technology makes a typical laptop able to do all needed chores for virtually all employees; portability would be a tremendous benefit to the average faculty member.

3.  Would you support purchase of messaging and other academic software to move Palomar applications to a mobile smart phone environment?

Chris:  I would support purchasing of messaging and other software only if a pilot project were completed or if the cost is minimal.

Shay:  Yes I would support purchasing technology to support mobile device access.

Dave:  Yes.  Palomar needs to make resources more available via mobile devices to meet student desires.

4.  Would you support purchase of installation of newer AV technologies like short throw projectors onto smart boards or large screen LCD monitors in place of digital projectors and screens?

Chris:  If the cost of replacing digital projectors and screens is reasonable I would support this idea. At this time, I feel that it would be prohibitively expensive.

Shay:  Yes I would support purchase of better classroom AV technologies.

Dave:  No.  Classrooms on campus could certainly all be equip with built-in data projectors and screens, which would give better visual display than short-throw portable projectors or LCD screens ever would.  However, the data projector systems need to be better managed and maintained.

5.  What AV equipment should Palomar provide that it is not currently providing?

Chris:  Blu-ray players and touch screen tablet computers.

Shay:  Smart board or touch screen input systems for classrooms. A campus wide lecture capture system.

Dave:  Palomar does not need to provide a wider range of AV equipment,but does need to more consistently implement and manage the equipment they currently offer.

6.  Would the use of document cameras with built-in processors able to browse the web and display PowerPoint presentations be an adequate substitute for classroom computers?

Chris:  I think the likelihood of new technologies that require a classroom computer would make the use of “smart” document cameras less appealing.

Shay:  Only if said devices could keep up with future web technologies.

Dave:  No.  Very few classroom environments are used exclusively for presenting PowerPoint presentations,and the average “web browser” built into a projector are incapable of meeting the wide range of web site requirements that are typically used in class.

7.  Would “thin client” technology be an adequate replacement for full desktop computers in various student and staff areas where the vast majority, if not all, work is web-based?

Chris:  Thin clients could be very cost effective if used in certain areas, such as public use labs.

Shay:  Yes. Using virtual machine technology with thin clients could meet the needs of the average user.

Dave:  In most cases, thin-client workstations would make perfect replacements for many desktops currently in use.  Library database access machines, enrollment office desk stations, most academic computer lab machines, these could all be served by thin-clients rather than dedicated machines.

8.  Should the college increase the number of digital camcorders and audio recorders available for faculty checkout?

Chris:  There should be enough camcorders and audio recorders so that faculty have access to one when they need them.

Shay:  No. The college should invest in a campus wide capture system with central control.

Dave:  Only if there are actually times in which the current numbers have been insufficient to meet needs.

9.  How important is achieving 100% wireless coverage for Internet Access across the San Marcos campus?

Chris:  100% wireless coverage across the San Marcos campus is very important.

Shay:  To save costs going into the future wireless access campus wide is a must.

Dave:  Wireless Internet access across not only the San Marcos campus but ALL Palomar campuses is of vital importance.

10.  Would you support purchase of a self-paced training system, like lynda.com, for all faculty and staff members?  Should students be included in the purchase?

Chris:  Self-paced training, such as lynda.com, would be very useful to faculty and staff members. If the training covers topics that are useful to students completing their studies I would support that as well.

Shay:  Yes, self-paced training should be purchased for faculty, staff and students.

Dave:  No, and no.  The sorts of training materials available on lynda.com teach whole applications, but do not address specific uses to which employees will be completing.  It would be far better to invest in customized training materials and workshops to teach employees not just tools, but how to use these tools to do specific tasks required of them by their jobs at Palomar.

11.  Would you support abandoning Microsoft Office products in favor of web-based “cloud storage” products like Google Docs?

Chris:  The web-based products like Google Docs can be used for most purposes. There are certain things that stand-alone software does better.

Shay:  No. Although cloud based programs can meet some needs they cannot meet all needs. They should be used in conjunction with each other.

Dave:  As the next generation of MS Office products supports “cloud storage”, this is a poor question.  However, I am far more comfortable using commercial products which we can reasonable expect to keep using, rather than abandon them in favor of free products which may or may not work at any given time, and could be discontinued by the provider without any warning should they so desire.

12.  Would you support deployment of a non-proprietary email system, like Gmail, rather than the current proprietary Microsoft Exchange system used by the college?

Chris:  Yes I would support moving to an email system such as Gmail. Many organization have switched to Google apps with success.

Shay:  Yes. A cloud based system would allow users better uptime and access to their e-mail. This would also allow alumni and emeritus faculty to keep their e-mail address.

Dave:  Yes and no.  I feel the technologies offered via the Exchange Server system extend usefully beyond just email, in ways which Gmail would not support fully.  However, I do know that Palomar could be taking advantage of Microsoft-hosted, Palomar-branded Exchange-based email service for free, really begging the question of why this was not done years ago.

13.  Would you support purchase of a “coursecast” system that would allow any faculty members to record their lectures for simultaneous broadcast and archive them for future playback?

Chris:  A coursecast system would be very useful and I would support the purchase of one.

Shay:  Yes. A campus wide lecture capture system would only benefit students learning options.

Dave:  No, in my experience the technical requirements of an “on-demand” course-cast system are too great for a typical faculty member to deal with on their own, and the limitations of a “pre-scheduled” course-cast system are too great to be at all useful.  Without dedicating a significant staff and large amount of equipment to such a project, it would be better left undone.

14.  Would you support further reduction in physical holdings in the library in favor of more electronic holdings?

Chris:  Assuming that the electronic holdings are easy to access and use I would support that.

Shay:  Yes, as long as the digital copies can be accessed easily on a variety of devices.

Dave:  Provided that the electronic holdings would be paired with the tools to allow ANY patron to still use those new materials as easily and conveniently as a book (as in, without needing to have a computer at their home), then yes.

15.  Are you aware of an existing plan, or do you have a plan to restore the data on your work computer when the hard drive fails?

Chris:  I backup all data to an extra hard drive and can restore from that drive if needed.

Shay:  I am not aware of a district plan to restore data on individual computers but I do my own backup of my system.

Dave:  I am vaguely aware of the organized backup schemes used by many employees, but have opted for my own independent backup strategy for my files using third-party products connecting up to cloud computing technologies.

16.  Are you aware of Palomar College policies for data security, privacy of data, intellectual property rights, or copyright compliance?  If not, how would it be best to train faculty and staff in these policies?

Chris:  I am aware of some policies. It would be useful if all of these policies were combined into one document or site and made available to everyone.

Shay:  I am not aware of the policies in place currently. Mandatory training on these policies would be the best way to inform all employees of these policies.

Dave:  To the best of my knowledge, Palomar does not have any intellectual property rights or copyright compliance policies on record.  I have some vague knowledge of the Telecommunications use policy at Palomar, which in part deals with data privacy.

17.  Have you seen a technology used at another college that you would like to see deployed at Palomar?

Chris:  None that I can think of.

Shay:  A card access system to secured areas of the campus.

Dave:  Credit-card based pay-for-print systems appeal, as our current system works on a cash-only basis.

18.  Would you support the idea of a “technology access index,” whereby the college would commit to funding student computer access based on some commitment to publicly available access hours based on FTES or some other student population number?

Chris:  Yes, that sounds like a good way of gauging the “access” that a student has to a computer.

Shay:  Yes. I’d also like to see a push to help students find access to or purchase computers for use off campus.

Dave:  This idea is too vague as presented for me to put forward any opinion.  I would need more information on how such funding would be calculated.

19.  Would you support purchase of a “search appliance” that would make it possible to search the Palomar intranet?

Chris:  Yes, I would support the purchase of a “search appliance” because it will make locating information and documents easier.

Shay:  Yes. It is getting harder to find electronic documents on the system.

Dave:  I do not see how such an appliance would end up superior to simply doing a Google search restricted to the Palomar.edu site, so… no.

20.  Do you feel student “technology competency” is high enough, or should there be basic instruction in this for some students based on an assessment test?

Chris:  I am in favor of assessing students “technology competency” as long as the correct skills/abilities are assessed.

Shay:  Palomar already offers many computer skill classes in various departments. Students should be guided to these classes to help them succeed in a digital world.

Dave:  Our students have inconsistent competency, looked at across the spectrum of students.  Therefore, of course some need basic instruction in technology basics, while some do not.  Palomar should make such instruction available, but certainly never require it for all students.

21.  Should governance of the use of technology by the college be improved?  If so, how?

Chris:  I do not advocate governing the “use” of technology but I would like to see more governance of the selection, evaluation, and purchase of technology.

Shay:  Yes. There needs to be one governing body responsible for developing policies and reviewing them as technology changes over time. They should also be focused on the goals of the district when choosing the use of any technology.

Dave:  Yes.  As stated above, the decisions to fund improvements to current technology or to acquire new technology needs to be connected via metrics to needs which are not being properly met.

Here is the audio of my interview with the AT systems administrators.  It expands upon their written answers above.  In this interview we get down and dirty with specific issues, rather than more general questions.  Play time = 47:26.

Additional Questions for ATRC Staff

1.  Would you support a goal of creating a paperless environment at Palomar College, if it meant that you would not have access to printers and would have to rely on electronic versions of all documents?

Chris:  Yes, I fully support creating a paperless environment at Palomar College.

Shay:  Yes I would support a paperless environment.

Dave:  Absolutely not.  On occasion printed materials are necessary; certainly the frequency and scope of printing can be reduced, but paper handouts will always be needed in some numbers.

2.  Would you support conversion of desktop computers to laptops for all full-time faculty members and many key staff members?

Chris:  Assuming that the laptops are of comparable in speed to the desktop computers they are replacing, I would support this conversion.

Shay:  I would support the conversion for faculty if every classroom could be properly wired to allow the use of the laptops for instructional purposes.

Dave:  Yes.  Current technology makes a typical laptop able to do all needed chores for virtually all employees; portability would be a tremendous benefit to the average faculty member.

3.  Would you support purchase of messaging and other academic software to move Palomar applications to a mobile smart phone environment?

Chris:  I would support purchasing of messaging and other software only if a pilot project were completed or if the cost is minimal.

Shay:  Yes I would support purchasing technology to support mobile device access.

Dave:  Yes.  Palomar needs to make resources more available via mobile devices to meet student desires.

4.  Would you support purchase of installation of newer AV technologies like short throw projectors onto smart boards or large screen LCD monitors in place of digital projectors and screens?

Chris:  If the cost of replacing digital projectors and screens is reasonable I would support this idea. At this time, I feel that it would be prohibitively expensive.

Shay:  Yes I would support purchase of better classroom AV technologies.

Dave:  No.  Classrooms on campus could certainly all be equip with built-in data projectors and screens, which would give better visual display than short-throw portable projectors or LCD screens ever would.  However, the data projector systems need to be better managed and maintained.

5.  What AV equipment should Palomar provide that it is not currently providing?

Chris:  Blu-ray players and touch screen tablet computers.

Shay:  Smart board or touch screen input systems for classrooms. A campus wide lecture capture system.

Dave:  Palomar does not need to provide a wider range of AV equipment, but does need to more consistently implement and manage the equipment they currently offer.

6.  Would the use of document cameras with built-in processors able to browse the web and display PowerPoint presentations be an adequate substitute for classroom computers?

Chris:  I think the likelihood of new technologies that require a classroom computer would make the use of “smart” document cameras less appealing.

Shay:  Only if said devices could keep up with future web technologies.

Dave:  No.  Very few classroom environments are used exclusively for presenting PowerPoint presentations, and the average “web browser” built into a projector are incapable of meeting the wide range of web site requirements that are typically used in class.

7.  Would “thin client” technology be an adequate replacement for full desktop computers in various student and staff areas where the vast majority, if not all, work is web-based?

Chris:  Thin clients could be very cost effective if used in certain areas, such as public use labs.

Shay:  Yes. Using virtual machine technology with thin clients could meet the needs of the average user.

Dave:  In most cases, thin-client workstations would make perfect replacements for many desktops currently in use.  Library database access machines, enrollment office desk stations, most academic computer lab machines, these could all be served by thin-clients rather than dedicated machines.

8.  Should the college increase the number of digital camcorders and audio recorders available for faculty checkout?

Chris:  There should be enough camcorders and audio recorders so that faculty have access to one when they need them.

Shay:  No. The college should invest in a campus wide capture system with central control.

Dave:  Only if there are actually times in which the current numbers have been insufficient to meet needs.


9.  How important is achieving 100% wireless coverage for Internet Access across the San Marcos campus?

Chris:  100% wireless coverage across the San Marcos campus is very important.

Shay:  To save costs going into the future wireless access campus wide is a must.

Dave:  Wireless Internet access across not only the San Marcos campus but ALL Palomar campuses is of vital importance.

10.  Would you support purchase of a self-paced training system, like lynda.com, for all faculty and staff members?  Should students be included in the purchase?

Chris:  Self-paced training, such as lynda.com, would be very useful to faculty and staff members. If the training covers topics that are useful to students completing their studies I would support that as well.

Shay:  Yes, self-paced training should be purchased for faculty, staff and students.

Dave:  No, and no.  The sorts of training materials available on lynda.com teach whole applications, but do not address specific uses to which employees will be completing.  It would be far better to invest in customized training materials and workshops to teach employees not just tools, but how to use these tools to do specific tasks required of them by their jobs at Palomar.

11.  Would you support abandoning Microsoft Office products in favor of web-based “cloud storage” products like Google Docs?

Chris:  The web-based products like Google Docs can be used for most purposes. There are certain things that stand-alone software does better.

Shay:  No. Although cloud based programs can meet some needs they cannot meet all needs. They should be used in conjunction with each other.

Dave:  As the next generation of MS Office products supports “cloud storage”, this is a poor question.  However, I am far more comfortable using commercial products which we can reasonable expect to keep using, rather than abandon them in favor of free products which may or may not work at any given time, and could be discontinued by the provider without any warning should they so desire.


12.  Would you support deployment of a non-proprietary email system, like Gmail, rather than the current proprietary Microsoft Exchange system used by the college?

Chris:  Yes I would support moving to an email system such as Gmail. Many organization have switched to Google apps with success.

Shay:  Yes. A cloud based system would allow users better uptime and access to their e-mail. This would also allow alumni and emeritus faculty to keep their e-mail address.

Dave:  Yes and no.  I feel the technologies offered via the Exchange Server system extend usefully beyond just email, in ways which Gmail would not support fully.  However, I do know that Palomar could be taking advantage of Microsoft-hosted, Palomar-branded Exchange-based email service for free, really begging the question of why this was not done years ago.

13.  Would you support purchase of a “coursecast” system that would allow any faculty members to record their lectures for simultaneous broadcast and archive them for future playback?

Chris:  A coursecast system would be very useful and I would support the purchase of one.

Shay:  Yes. A campus wide lecture capture system would only benefit students learning options.

Dave:  No, in my experience the technical requirements of an “on-demand” course-cast system are too great for a typical faculty member to deal with on their own, and the limitations of a “pre-scheduled” course-cast system are too great to be at all useful.  Without dedicating a significant staff and large amount of equipment to such a project, it would be better left undone.

14.  Would you support further reduction in physical holdings in the library in favor of more electronic holdings?

Chris:  Assuming that the electronic holdings are easy to access and use I would support that.

Shay:  Yes, as long as the digital copies can be accessed easily on a variety of devices.

Dave:  Provided that the electronic holdings would be paired with the tools to allow ANY patron to still use those new materials as easily and conveniently as a book (as in, without needing to have a computer at their home), then yes.


15.  Are you aware of an existing plan, or do you have a plan to restore the data on your work computer when the hard drive fails?

Chris:  I backup all data to an extra hard drive and can restore from that drive if needed.

Shay:  I am not aware of a district plan to restore data on individual computers but I do my own backup of my system.

Dave:  I am vaguely aware of the organized backup schemes used by many employees, but have opted for my own independent backup strategy for my files using third-party products connecting up to cloud computing technologies.

16.  Are you aware of Palomar College policies for data security, privacy of data, intellectual property rights, or copyright compliance?  If not, how would it be best to train faculty and staff in these policies?

Chris:  I am aware of some policies. It would be useful if all of these policies were combined into one document or site and made available to everyone.

Shay:  I am not aware of the policies in place currently. Mandatory training on these policies would be the best way to inform all employees of these policies.

Dave:  To the best of my knowledge, Palomar does not have any intellectual property rights or copyright compliance policies on record.  I have some vague knowledge of the Telecommunications use policy at Palomar, which in part deals with data privacy.

17.  Have you seen a technology used at another college that you would like to see deployed at Palomar?

Chris:  None that I can think of.

Shay:  A card access system to secured areas of the campus.

Dave:  Credit-card based pay-for-print systems appeal, as our current system works on a cash-only basis.

18.  Would you support the idea of a “technology access index,” whereby the college would commit to funding student computer access based on some commitment to publicly available access hours based on FTES or some other student population number?

Chris:  Yes, that sounds like a good way of gauging the “access” that a student has to a computer.

Shay:  Yes. I’d also like to see a push to help students find access to or purchase computers for use off campus.

Dave:  This idea is too vague as presented for me to put forward any opinion.  I would need more information on how such funding would be calculated.

19.  Would you support purchase of a “search appliance” that would make it possible to search the Palomar intranet?

Chris:  Yes, I would support the purchase of a “search appliance” because it will make locating information and documents easier.

Shay:  Yes. It is getting harder to find electronic documents on the system.

Dave:  I do not see how such an appliance would end up superior to simply doing a Google search restricted to the Palomar.edu site, so… no.

20.  Do you feel student “technology competency” is high enough, or should there be basic instruction in this for some students based on an assessment test?

Chris:  I am in favor of assessing students “technology competency” as long as the correct skills/abilities are assessed.

Shay:  Palomar already offers many computer skill classes in various departments. Students should be guided to these classes to help them succeed in a digital world.

Dave:  Our students have inconsistent competency, looked at across the spectrum of students.  Therefore, of course some need basic instruction in technology basics, while some do not.  Palomar should make such instruction available, but certainly never require it for all students.

21.  Should governance of the use of technology by the college be improved?  If so, how?

Chris:  I do not advocate governing the “use” of technology but I would like to see more governance of the selection, evaluation, and purchase of technology.

Shay:  Yes. There needs to be one governing body responsible for developing policies and reviewing them as technology changes over time. They should also be focused on the goals of the district when choosing the use of any technology.

Dave:  Yes.  As stated above, the decisions to fund improvements to current technology or to acquire new technology needs to be connected via metrics to needs which are not being properly met.

Tech Planning at Palomar College – AT Techs Part 1

We are in the throes of writing a new Technology Master Plan for our institution, looking out to the year 2016, as if such a vision were possible.  We are in the information gathering phase of the project now, and, as usual in education, on a short time line with far too many other things to do.  In any event, this post summarizes my interview with the Academic Technology Systems Administrators on our campus.  There are three of them, Chris, Shay and Dave.   They are primarily responsible for the Blackboard System, Web Servers and Systems, Streaming Media Services, and Tech Support for faculty,staff and students in using these systems.  Part 1 of my interview with them is recorded in this post,and part 2 in the next.  I have included there written responses in the posts, and attached the audio file of the interview, where we talked about and expanded on their written responses.  We started by asking the 9 “big picture” questions we are asking everyone at our institution in this part, and then about 20 specific questions in part 2.

The 9 Standard Questions

1.  If funding did not matter, what technology improvements would you like to see in the Technology Master Plan?

Chris:  I would like to see a content-management system be implemented for the district website.

Shay:  A web (cloud) based structure for content for all users of the college. A computing device at every desk with multiple input methods available (pen, keyboard, etc…). A paperless environment with the option to use digital signatures for approval. A unified and consistent web presence with a separation of content from design for rapid change of look and feel of site without worrying about content.

Dave:  Consistent across-the-board equipage of portable computing technology for all faculty members, full and part time.  Emphasis on mobile platforms for use by students, such as maps, class schedules, and other campus news and events being easily available via portable devices such as iPhones, Blackberries, or other PDA smart phones.  Reliable wireless Internet access across all of the area of all of the Palomar campuses.  Tools to make online materials available to students in a consistent and controlled manner – e.g. content management of both academic and administrative materials.

2.  What does “access” to technology mean to you?

Chris:  Access to technology, to me, means having the resources students require to complete their education plan and faculty require to meet their instructional goals.

Shay:  The ability to use the best available technology solution for the task at hand and the training available on how to use the technology no matter where you are.

Dave:  The equipment and infrastructure is available to the person who needs it, at the time they need it, without them having to make special arrangements to get these things in advance.

3. How should technology requests be evaluated?

Chris:  Technology requests should be evaluated based on how they align with our mission and goals.

Shay:  Pilot Programs with an eye toward how the technology can benefit the entire campus first without an emphasis on cost.

Dave:  Primarily by the number of students who will benefit from the technology request being granted.  Therefore, a request that would serve one full time faculty member runs to about 175 students per semester, while a request that would place an additional ten computers in a computer lab might run to several hundred students, depending on the lab hours of operation.

4. Are there technologies that you know of that Palomar does not provide?

Chris:  A web content management system.

Shay:  Blogs, Wikis, Content Management Systems, Web Facing Community Sites with an eye towards Social Networking, Touch Screen Computing, Mobile Device access to resources at Palomar, Campus alert system for class cancelations all the way up to disaster and emergency notification, Single-Sign On for all resources, Campus Wide Searching of electronic resources, Cashless card system for payment of items on campus.

Dave:  Telephony mass communication systems is one technology Palomar really needs to put in place; if it can be done by my child’s Elementary school, it’s embarrassing that it isn’t done here.

5. What benefits would you expect to see from the use of technology?

Chris:  The benefits I would expect to see are more efficient communication, the ability to provide services to a larger geographic area, and an overall cost savings when compared to previous methods.

Shay:  Increased productivity when the technology does not get in the way.

Dave:  The prime benefits of technology here at Palomar should be to either make it easier for students to take classes here (such as online enrollment does), or to make it easier for students to learn (such as providing “anytime, anywhere” access to class materials as Blackboard does).

6. How can the experience of incorporating new technology in the Palomar workplace be improved?

Chris:  I would like to see new technology be evaluated in pilot programs, perhaps with open access to the pilot for staff and faculty.

Shay:  Make some training available before launch of new technologies. Well documented online resources available at launch of new technology.

Dave:  New technology initiatives need to be better coordinated together and announced to the faculty, staff, and students in a consistent fashion.  The best of technologies do no good if the users are unaware of their very existence.

7. What concerns do you have in regards to data security?

Chris:  I would give Palomar a score of 6/10 on personal data security.  One of the biggest problems is the lack of understanding about strong passwords and appropriate methods of keeping passwords secret. In general, I am more worried about the social security issues than the technical ones. Properly educating employees and students about password security is essential.

Shay:  Personal data is not very secure at Palomar. Paper trails are often left where prying eyes can see. There are users on campus who have access to information they should not have access to.  Policies need to be put in place to prevent users having access to password information. Smart card or biometric technology should be implemented to access sensitive areas on campus. Security logs need to be kept when sensitive data is accessed and by whom. All logins should be secured to prevent compromised passwords.

Dave:  I have no particular concerns about data security, as I assume that all personal data at Palomar could easily be compromised; then, I assume that about all data living on computer systems connected to the Internet.  I am not convinced that there are any steps Palomar can take to truly secure their systems without crippling their functions.

8. What is the primary reason to replace or update existing technology?

Chris:  Existing technology should be replaced or updated on a rotating basis. The specific schedule should depend on the technology in question.  Technology should be replaced or updated in a fair and balanced way. The “most” obsolete technologies should be replaced before anything else.

Shay:  The primary reason to update technology is to ensure the most secure stable system is in place. The primary reason to replace technology is to meet new needs that are not serviced through upgrading.

Dave:  The primary reason to replace or update existing technology is if it is not meeting the demands placed on it.  Only if a technology can be demonstrated to be failing in meeting current or projected demand (with metrics rather than mere anecdotal evidence provided) should the technology be replaced or updated.  If it is meeting needs, no update is required, plain and simple.

9. Any additional comments related to technology at Palomar College?

Chris:  In some respects, Palomar College is ahead of many similar institutions; however, there is always room for improvement. It should be a goal of the district to strive for innovative use of technology in the classroom.

Shay:  There are too many disparate systems at Palomar. This causes users to have to request assistance from too many various departments to accomplish what should be minor tasks. The technology systems at Palomar need to be better integrated to allow a simple means for users to get the help and resources they need in a timely fashion. There needs to be a single point of contact for technology support requests to ensure proper routing of support to the correct people.

Dave:  The current management of technology at Palomar seems less based on needs analysis and more on who makes the requests for new tech.  This needs to change.

Here is the audio interview associated with these questions.  We do a lot of explaining and talking around the question.  The audio is not just a repeat of the technician’s written responses.  Play time = 42:21.