and I'm all out of bubble gum…

A quick follow-up on my post from earlier in the week on my Flickr image turning up on

Yesterday morning (via some suggestions from Alex Howard on Twitter and friends and family on Facebook), I got connected with Dean Betz, the Director of Content for the Houston Chronicle online. Dean has turned this into a learning opportunity for his staff, and has been candid with me about how events unfolded. Suffice to say that I am really impressed with his response thus far, particularly his decision to handle this as a teachable moment. He’s planning to post an explanation here, in his own words, of what happened and how he’s handled it.

February 11th, 2010

Posted In: Educational Technology, Ouroboros

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In much the same manner that I have opted to do an end-run around the issue of changing email addresses by establishing my own, permanent email address that forwards to my current email provider of choice, I have just installed my own URL shortener. At least I know that my short URLs are at no one’s mercy but my own. Who knows? This could be a disaster. But I’m excited about it right now.

December 24th, 2009

Posted In: Ouroboros

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Original #lazyweb tweet

So, I’ve spent far more of this fall mucking about in the Stygian stables of PowerPoint than I would really prefer. I don’t use it regularly myself, but have been working on converting a bunch of lesson units that were sent to my team as PowerPoints into an actual, y’know, shareable format. I’ve detailed at length my battles with converting PowerPoints into web pages (short version: don’t — I already knew this, of course, but had PowerPoints and needed web pages…).

Some quick history: these PowerPoints are created in Israel in Windows, I believe as PPTX files (i.e. Office 2007 documents). They’re saved as PPT files on those Israeli Windows systems. Which means that, in fact, my Mac PowerPoint 2008 converts the PPT files as they’re opened (into what, no one knows — they get “converted” again every time I save them, so I’m guessing it “converts” the PPTs into PPTXs).

Right now, I’m at a point where I need to pore over several hundred PowerPoint slides one-by-one and double-check hyperlinks, rebuilding pages that contain structures that PowerPoint is (mysteriously) incapable of exporting to the web correctly. And I see this bizarre view:

Too Wide Slide PreviewNo, your eyes do not deceive you: the slide preview on the left is roughly double the size of the actual, editable, slide on the right. That left column is my list of slide thumbnails. I kid you not. And, it turns, out, that I can’t drag the divider very far to shrink it, maybe only 30 pixels:

Still Too Wide Slide PreviewThis isn’t much of an improvement. (And, lest you think I haven’t clicked around enough, it turns out that if I try to close the left-hand slide thumbnail column by clicking the close box next to the divider… all that happens is that the column contracts to this slightly narrower width.) And I still have this miserable, unworkable right-hand pane in which to edit the actual slide. To add insult to injury, it turns out that I can control-click in the slide preview column and choose a zoom level for the previews:

Previews Zoomed to 100%So, this is the slide previews zoomed to 100% (which implies that they were previously displayed at something like 200% or 300% of their actual size). But I still can’t move the dang divider and create enough space to edit the actual goldang slide. As Obelix would say: “rhubarbrhubarbrhubarbrhubarb…”

Moreover, it turns out that when I switch from slide preview view to outline view, I can slide the divider around as much as I want. But the outline view doesn’t work for me, since these slides are made almost entirely of images and text boxes (and therefore the outline shows nothing). And, when I switch back from outline to slide preview mode… the flippin’ divider pops back to take up two thirds of my window.

I did some futzing around. It turns out that if I open the presentation in OpenOffice and save it as a PPT again, the slide previews go back to normal, reasonable, adjustable sizes…. but all of the links to supporting documents are destroyed because OpenOffice doesn’t support hyperlinks in presentations yet. Apparently. Ditto Keynote (it borks the layout, hyperlinks get munged, etc.).

And now, here’s the cherry on top: when I open the file in PowerPoint 2003 on Windows, it opens with the slide preview on the right. As though I were using an Israeli system. Same proportions — wide left column for editing, narrow preview column on the right. But I can’t move the preview column over to the left. I can only hide or show it. It seems that PowerPoint is saving column widths, but not remembering which column goes in which width: it opens it in Windows “Israeli-style” and knows the narrow right column is for previews, but on the Mac, it only sees the narrow right column — not that it’s a preview, and assumes — because I’m in the US, that the actual slide editor is the right column. But doesn’t let me adjust the width.

And, since I’m trying to get these PowerPoints working for Mac users… it’s not really a solution to edit them in Windows. Or to travel to Israel.

Argh. And the Microsoft “support” forums are populated by ignoramuses and arrogrant dimwits. And is aimed at Windows users.


December 10th, 2009

Posted In: Ouroboros

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This is perhaps one of those midrashim that strive to unnecessarily explain the inexplicable…

It is, perhaps, worth noting — in my endless struggle towards internal consistency — that I’m still on board with what I wrote about striving to be less authoritative in my own classroom (as a means of pushing my students to be more active and independent learners).

The term “Expert Plan” that I was throwing around last weekend (and that, in fact, has become a whole category unto itself on this blog) is not of my devising. And is, in fact, my department head’s effort to do exactly as I aimed to do in being less authoritative: distribute leadership, push the folks doing the learning to take control of their learning, and generally promote active, independent learning… among faculty in preparation for going 1:1.

I am working on an “Expert Plan” for using laptops in education wearing my classroom teacher hat, not my educational technologist hat (although, perhaps, documenting with the educational technologist hat in the vicinity).

November 26th, 2009

Posted In: Ouroboros, Teaching

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I realized that I have abandoned this experiment for over a month. No doubt this is indicative of something. Not quite sure what yet, though.

April 28th, 2008

Posted In: Ouroboros

I have spent the past several weeks and months trying to a) get to know my new school and b) define a vision for academic computing that complements the goals of the school.

I’ve been doing a bit of reading online (and on dead trees) in an attempt to refine my own idiosyncratic vision into something that is supported by research and generally applicable. I have spent the past few days poring over Will Richardson’s Blogs, Podcasts, Wikis (it came out a couple of years ago: one interesting twist is that I did not intend to return to technology and education after my last experience, and so am finding myself playing catch-up this year).

My initial reaction to his introduction was to cast the book aside in exasperation: he articulated the standard shiny-eyed wonder at the potential for all of these wonderful web tools to revolutionize education, the world and probably the way we make french fries as well. Standard pie-in-the sky futurist-gibber. Groan.

However, that frustration, combined with a recent talk at school by Nicholas Negroponte, Bob Metcalfe and Lars Perkins on the topic “Computer Science is a Liberal Art”, reminded me that the reason we (or at least I) study computer science is because it provides a methodical approach to handling complexity. Academic computing is a complex problem. So, let’s start by defining the problem and then think about how to solve it. Top down design is a wonderful thing.

Richardson prompted me to think about blogs as an extension of scholarly learning. Scholarly work draws on diverse sources, reading each source critically with the intent of providing a analytic and well-supported interpretation or synthesis of the information. If computer science is all done with zeros and ones, then scholarly work is all done in the footnotes. If you think that scholarly works are dry, Edward Gibbon’s footnotes will change your mind, if not your life. Blogs as the outgrowth of annotated lists of links are, at their best, scholarly works — that is, assuming that the annotations are written by someone who has critically examined the links in question and provided a useful analysis, thereby contributing the a reputation-based validation of the information.

Combine these two ideas: a need to think through a complex problem methodically and a blog as a mode of scholarly discourse, and I suddenly have all the reason in the world to blog: I can put together my thoughts under the public scrutiny of my peers, drawing clearly on the ideas of my peers, while trying to work through complex design and logistical problems.

With this in mind, over the next several days I intend to take a serious swing at using this blog as an area in which to get my vision in order. I am thinking most about the desired outcomes of academic computing in high schools: what should a high school graduate be able to do with technology? (And how does this connect to other things that a high school graduate should be able to do?) The bullet points that I expect to expand upon over the next several days are:

I shall, understandably, endeavor to steer clear of identifiable specifics, leaving much of the logistics for my (private) wiki.

Updates: adding links for the bullet points.

December 27th, 2007

Posted In: Educational Technology, Ouroboros

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