Friday, April 13, 2012

Hello World . . . Again

During the last year and a half I've not been a good blogger. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I'm going to attempt to be more consistent. Get ready for more posts.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Time to start blogging again

I am a little embarrassed. I have not written in my blog for a long, long time. Part of the reason is because I started a new one as part of my applying to PhD programs, but it cost money so I stopped using it.

I am also starting back up again because I have a new position at Westminster College. Sadly this means that I do not work as part of the Division of New Learning anymore; however, I am excited to be part of the IS department once again! My new title is "Learning Technology Facilitator". If you are like most people you are thinking "huh?" Well, I'm not sure yet what it means either.

As part of starting this new position I am trying a few things. I would like to be in more contact with faculty and students at Westminster. I'd also like to help push the amazing learning technologies that are available. My first big project will likely be to help the nursing program develop a better online presence.

I have moved my desk (this is my 4th desk at Westminster). Here you can see a picture of me in my new cubicle. Not very exciting, but I am happy with what I've got.

So, for those of you who started following this blog a long time ago, get use to seeing a new post every so often. If you are new, you'll see that my topics often relate to what I am working on, but I'll often share personal things as well. If you are interested in only one or the other, just get use to skimming the stuff you aren't interested in. But I'm sure everything I say is interesting so I doubt many people will do that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lessons learned in China

My trip to China was amazing. I had a great time and learned a lot. Overall I'd say our learning system will work in China. Sight seeing was fun, but mostly Terrie and I enjoyed the shopping. Below are some of the lessons I learned while in China.

Lesson one- All the web 2.0 sites I use (such as this blog) don't work in China. I was planning on updating my blog on a daily basis as well as my Facebook and Twitter status. Of course if I had thought for a minute I would have remembered that none of these sites work in China.

Lesson two- Video sucks in China. YouTube didn't work, but Viddler did. Well, it wasn't blocked, but it still took at least 30 seconds for videos to play. I should not have been surprised by this, but I still found it weird that the people I talked to haven’t ever heard of YouTube. Although Viddler worked, it did not work very fast. Our biggest challenge seems to be streaming video.

Lesson three- There are decent server hosting solutions in China. China telecom is the hosting company run by the government. It basically hosts everything. We got a price from them equal to about 10K/year which does not include any service at all. if something goes wrong and we need a hard reboot- we have to hire somebody to go in for us and turn it off. We then met with a sub contractor who quoted us a price that was only a third of the price and included 24/7 support. So, what should we choose; cheap with service, or expensive with no service? Seemed like an easy decision for me- but apparently China Telecom is what everybody uses because it is so much more secure.

Lesson four- Test speeds indicate that most of our Westminster specific tools work great in China. Some of the test speeds are a little hard to interpret. Some of our wiki pages loaded in less than 3 seconds, and most less than 10 seconds. The video’s we tried to play took between 15-30 seconds to begin playing. The results were pretty consistent between testing on campus, in the hotel, and an internet cafĂ©. Unfortunately things were noticeably slower when we ran our tests at our interpreter’s house (it was a DSL line but only got speeds of about 500 kbps which might explain the slow load time).

Lesson five- Shopping in the bargain markets is fun especially once you realize how to play the barter game. Always offer 25% of their first offer and stick with it. I love how many of them would finally break down and give me the price I wanted because we were “friends”.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

China: Browser tests

While in China I'm going to be testing how quickly our Westminster sites load- particularly our LMS, wiki, and web conferencing tools. To do this test we are going to be taking at three laptops and we will purchase one there. We will be running tests from the hotel, on campus, at a student home, and from an internet cafe.

I have assumed that I should be performing these tests with Internet Explorer. I've heard that China tends to use mostly Microsoft products, but I thought before I go that I'd do a speed test while still in Utah so I have a comparison. I don't use I.E. very often, so I decided to run my own browser comparison to see what is the best browser for the Westminster IT system.

The browsers I've used to compare are:
  • Internet Explorer 8.0.6
  • Firefox 3.5.3
  • Google Chrome 3.0.1
  • Safari 4.0.3
The complete results can be seen on this Google Doc: Division of New Learning Browser Test.

There were 27 sites that got tested. Here is a table which shows the total number of sites where each browser was best and worse.

Browser Best Worst
Internet Explorer 3 17
Firefox 9 3
Chrome 7 2
Safari 8 5

I find it interesting that IE is the most popular browser in the world, but from what I've seen it has the worst performance.

I'm going to China!

I'm going to be in China the next week and I'm going to try to blog about this as much as possible. My wife is going to be blogging about more of the fun/sight seeing stuff that we do, so you might want to check it out if you are wanting the fun stuff. I'm going to try to blog as many of the technical lessons that I learn about. My hope is that by recording my thoughts while I'm there I won't forget some of the valuable lessons I'm sure to learn while there.

At Westminster we have been building a relationship with a University in Shanghai. The relationship is going to come into fruition next fall when we launch a partner degree.I get to go on a visit to their campus so I can see what their technology systems are like. I'll be testing our online learning tools and trying to figure out how well our servers work from China.

Basically I know very little at this point. I have a few assumptions, but I'm basically going into this without knowing what to expect. I've got a list of tests that I'm going to be running while I'm there, but if anybody reading this has any suggestions or questions that I should be researching while I'm there feel free to ask them in the comments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is Tech-Addiction Bad for Learning?

I was just trying out Google Fast-Flip ( which is a new "labs" project by google. Their attempt to rule the world, er um, I mean make information easier to view on the web. Looks nice. The first article that really stuck out at me that I came across was: Tech Addiction Harms Learning which was posted in the education section of the BBC UK website.

The article begins by saying:

"Technology addiction among young people is having a disruptive effect on their learning, researchers have warned. Their report concluded that modern gadgets worsened pupils' spelling and concentration, encouraged plagiarism and disrupted lessons."

The beginning of this article already has me upset. I can just picture the researchers who came up with this study are old-brown-elbow-patch types who hate that they are becoming irrelevant because their lectures aren't as interesting as cell phones. To prove their point- get this- they actually handed out paper surveys!

Ring!!!! Ring !!!!! Um, excuse me, it's for you, 1999 wants their paper survey back.

Of course paying attention to a lecturer is difficult while texting. Of course spelling is worse when people are use to spell-checkers. Of course technology makes it easy to plagiarize. I'm dissapointed that the study did not find that their cursive handwriting and abacus skills are also waning due to technology. Why did we need to get a survey to tell us these things?

From the article: "The research said technology drove a social lifestyle that involved a strong desire to keep in touch with friends." How dare people want to socialize more! I wonder if these are the same people who say that Facebook/Twitter/texting are the cause of our society becoming more antisocial? What is it? Too social or too antisocial?

It doesn't matter. Why does it matter if technology makes us too social (or too antisocial)? Or if it makes us bad at speling (yes, I'm being funny, not dumb)? The technology is not going away, the youth who use the technology are not going away. Instead of pointing at the negative aspects of technology use in the old paradigm, we should be focusing on how we can use it to increase learning in the new paradigm.

Learning doesn't just happen in a classroom. Learning happens when information is applied and synthesized. Today's learners are capable of multi-tasking and quickly digesting massive amounts of information. It is the job of education institutions to create better digital citizens, who can navigate these incredible learning tools, contribute to learning communities, and filter the information that has little worth.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

TTIX Conference

I am attending the TTIX conference today, (Teaching with Technology Idea Exchange). Yesterday I attended the pre-conference workshop on Personal Learning Environments (PLE). So far so good, I am excited to learn some more today. I'm doing most of my notes on Twitter, so if you want to see my notes you can go to Twitter -bneiswender- and see what I've posted so far. 

It is refreshing to interact with people who do the same things that I do, and are trying to figure out the things I'm trying to figure out. What is really great is that this conference is only about 35 minutes from home- so I don't have to leave my family.