Monthly Archives: November 2007

Chart chooser… if you need help finding the right chart

I came across this nifty tool, the Juice Analytics Chart Chooser, for picking out the right chart/graphic type for the type of relationship you’re trying to show. You check off what characteristics you want to highlight in your data (comparison, distribution, composition, trend, relationship, and/or table) and it filters in the possibilities that fit your needs. The nice thing about this website is that you can download templates for Excel or Powerpoint to get you started. One of the most time consuming and frustrating tasks I run into is when a researcher gives me a spreadsheet full of data and an idea of what he or she wants their data to show but the dataset has been laid out in a way that I would have to recreate the dataset to get Excel to produce the appropriate chart. These templates hopefully will give you a good idea of how to lay out your data table to make charting a breeze.

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Science fair project: analysis of running pace as a function of distance

I finished my multimedia science fair project for EDU533W this afternoon. Yeah, it looks long at 103 slides. But it’s mostly overlays timed to give small chunks of information at a time. The topic isn’t what I originally planned on doing. I was hoping to do some bird surveys but it was cold and rainy when I had time to get out in the field and I wimped out. Five years ago I would have been all over it. Besides, November isn’t the best time of the year to go birding unless you’re really into ducks and geese.

The Quicktime version has a soundtrack and clocks in at 6’03”, but you can’t control the speed of the transitions. The SlideShare version, which is below, doesn’t have a soundtrack, but you can advance the slides at your own pace. Take your pick.

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One Laptop Per Child

I'm tempted to get one of these XO Laptops just to see what all the hype is all about. Plus, I like the design. Plus, wouldn't it be cool to hand-crank your laptop? Here's an MSNBC article and a link to the One Laptop Per Child main page.

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Web 2.0 redux, copyright law, and awesome presentation

Lawrence Lessig's talk, How creativity is being strangled by the law, at this year's TED conference was recently posted. A few things I wanted to note.

  • Lessig touches on what we've been discussing about Web 2.0 and more generally, the current state of technology; that it's been easier and cheaper for people, unskilled and untrained, to be creators and participants of culture as opposed to only being consumers
  • That current copyright law hasn't acknowledged this (I'm setting the stage for our micro-teach project, Tonia)
  • And Lessig's presentation style rocks. Notice the sparsity of text on his slides and the simplicity of his graphics. No distractions. Everything he uses emphasizes his points. The slides aren't the focus, his ideas are. The slides simply compliment them. This is a style I've tried to model my own presentations after. 

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PowerPoint tips

I've seen more than my fair share of awful PowerPoint presentations in the various scientific meetings and lectures. Who would have thought bright red text on a blue background could give you a headache? SInce our next project for EDU533 is a multimedia science fair presentation and most of us will be using PowerPoint or some other similar medium, I'm providing a link to some really good presentation design tips from Garr Reynolds, who writes the Presentation Zen blog, one of my favorite design blogs.

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Chess boxing

I wonder what Trish Lichau would say about this… chess + boxing. Tapping into your logical/mathematical intelligence, then pummeling it with your bodily-kinesthetic intelligence?

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Profiles for technology-literate teachers

Part 2 of my review of the National Educational Technology Standards was a reading of the standards for technology-literate teachers, NETS for Teachers. I've been thinking about technology's role in education for years, since the early 1990s, not with the perspective of an educator but as a concerned citizen (just to give some background, I consider myself a social liberal and fiscal conservative, though I always vote in favor of school bond measures, and I don't have children of my own). I've also been using some form of technology in my own area of work, research, and education since the late 1980s and have seen enough examples of how it's been immensely helpful and how it's been extremely unhelpful. I even remember my first experience with a computer in a classroom… a "Trash-80" playing games of the non-educational sort. So I've been immersed and thinking about technology for a long time.

Regarding the NETS for Teachers, I have to reiterate what I said about the NETS for Students. These guidelines are great in principle. But the devil is in the details. NETS breaks up its standards for teachers into 4 profiles corresponding to the "four phases in the typical preparation of a teacher"

  1. General preparation
  2. Professional preparation
  3. Student teaching and internship
  4. First-year teaching

Currently, I'm in the middle of phase 2, professional preparation. Now, overall, the items listed for each profile is vague. It's purposefully vague, but probably too vague and lacking examples. Let's take the first item under profile 1,

Upon completion of the general preparation component of their program, prospective teachers [should] demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature an operation of technology systems

First of all, this point is grammatically incorrect. Not a good way to begin a set of standards. That aside, what is a "sound understanding"? Does it mean understanding operating system software? Does it mean understanding how to turn on a computer?

I'm also struck by item #15,

Exhibit positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity.

Gee, that's great. But I think a healthy dose of skepticism and moderation also is an indicator of being technology-literate (both also satisfy item #1 in that knowing when technology is not needed demonstrates a sound understanding of the nature of an operation of technology systems, e.g., is it really worth it to fiddle with the LCD projector to put up a couple of slides when the whiteboard would do?). I'm sorry, but this one reads to me like NETS is trying to push a certain dogma. There are instances where technology is overkill (e.g. "death by Powerpoint") and even detrimental (e.g. watching streaming multimedia of a hike in the woods instead of hiking in the woods).

Now, I don't mean to imply that technology doesn't have a place in education. I think it does. PubMed, Google Scholar, PLoS, are just some examples. But I also don't like the effect of having all this bureaucracy and codification of things, namely, that we've gotten to a point where someone has to create standards. Wasn't technology supposed to make life easier and better? It seems like it's made our lives more rigid in a lot of ways. And believe me, it's also created a lot more work, for me at least, than I was promised it would alleviate. Technology is great. I just wonder if we need to spend so much time and energy thinking about it. I mean, was there a National Educational Mimeograph Standards back in the 1970s? Did we wring our hands about whether the new crop of teachers were filmstrip-literate?

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