Sunday, April 30, 2006

Poster Presentations

JN has already posted about a recent reception at our university to recognize students who had presented their independent projects at a poster session at our state capitol, and how our own PB was one of them.

Despite the high seriousness of the occasion, however, the event did have its lighter moments, as when Dr. B feigned bewilderment at PB's explanation of father figures in novels by Ray Bradbury and Stephen King.

In addition, there was music! As reception attendees milled in the lobby of our Science Center, JL and BH tickled the ivories in the auditorium, executing a four-handed rendition of Edelweiss.

Performance audio: mp3
Performance video: mov

Monday, April 24, 2006

OPML Camp - Get on the Bus!

I am very excited to be participating in OPML Camp, a free unconference to be held in May at which participants "will discuss the current tools and applications for OPML, and construct wish lists for future features with the authors of many of the popular OPML products."

I've already started writing my OPML wish list and outlining my presentation in (what else?) OPML!

A Test Post to Two Blogs at Once

This post should post to DanToday and danblasts at the same time!

w.bloggar : a freeware blogging client

It turns out that there are quite a few blogging clients out there. BlogJet is just one of them. And whereas BlogJet expects payment, others, such as w.bloggar, are free (although w.bloggar will accept donations).

Why use a blogging client instead of a web interface when you blog? The client offers some convenient features, such as multiple posting. The main advantage, however, is that the posts one composes in a blogging client may be saved locally, on one's computer. Thus, one can compose one's blog entries offline, to post later, or just keep an archive of blog posts as a backup.

Some may think Thingamablog is even better. If one has a web host that supports FTP, one can use Thingamablog to set up a self-contained weblog, complete with RSS feed (feeds, actually, since it can create a separate feeds for separate categories of entry). I know I've mentioned Thingamablog before, but it's one free, cross platform blogging tool news of which bears repeating!

Testing BlogJet

I have installed an interesting application - BlogJet. It's a Windows client for Blogger (as well as for other blogging tools). Get your copy here:

"Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination." -- Albert Einstein

Saturday, April 22, 2006

fluffy cloud

The snowstorm that raked the midwest this week, dumping seventy inches of snow in some places, was barely felt where I live. The storm made itself known to us only through two days of drizzle and three days of wind. It also netted us some pretty neat clouds.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Categorized Blog Post

I have heard that blog posts composed in Writely may be tagged with categorical labels. Let's see if it works. I'll tag this entry with the label, "software."

Hmm. Evidently this feature is not supported by Blogger.

MS Word Comments: A Two Way Street

When my students turn in papers to be graded, I use Microsoft Word's comment feature to enter comments in the margins as I read them. However, today it occurred to me that comments can be a two way street. Students can make comments on their own papers just as easily as I can. We can turn comments into a space for dialog about their writing.

So today I will ask my students to enter their own comments in their own papers before they turn them in. I will ask them to place a comment next to each paragraph and in that comment tell what they believe that paragraph does in their paper (how they think supports the thesis, how they intend it to focus and direct a reader's attention, etc.).

Many instructors ask their writing students to communicate the same sort of information (metacognitive comments about the student's rhetorical choices) in a "cover letter" in advance of their paper. I think having students report on their rhetoric may work better if they do it in marginal comments, right next to the writing they're writing about.

The next step, then, is for me to use their comments on their as springboards for my own.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

OPML Archives for DanToday

Inspired by the OPML Camp website (see the agenda box in its sidebar), I've decided to create an OPML archive for this weblog. So far, I've converted the entries of two months -- June & July, 2005 -- to OPML format, and have used Grazr, an embedable OPML browser, to display them in the sidebar of this blog.
I like that the OPML file is light, portable, and easy to edit (I'm using the OPML editor). OPML is growing on me. This morning I created a schedule for student class presentations in OPML.
If you would like to play around with OPML, there's also the OPML Workstation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

SDCTE Web Site Has A New Look

For several years I've served as webmaster for the South Dakota Council of Teachers of English (SDCTE), an organization of South Dakota k12 teachers dedicated to furthering the cause of reading and writing in our state.

Teachers who work as hard as these do deserve a snappy web site, and theirs was in need of a facelift. It had been a while since I had designed and hand coded a web page, but when, four hours later, the dust cleared, I was satisfied with the general look of the place saver page I'd turned out.

Monday, April 17, 2006

CMAP Tools

Thinking again of my fall course, "Computer Supported Collaborative Writing". Thinking that Cmap Tools might be useful in combination with blogs, wikis, Flickr for making knowledge bases.

Still working on creating a shared map that could be worked on synchronously. Need a host or a server for that.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

One Thing at a Time

The really nice thing about this little break I'm on is the chance it gives me to do one thing at a time, rather than four or six things at a time like I usually have to do.

As it happens, such simplification is a key recommendation in a course in "Positive Psychology" taught at Harvard. The course is an investigation into what makes people happy. Hear about it here.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Good Read

Looking for something read, I remembered the Project Gutenberg. Tonight, a bedtime story. I'm having my computer read Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad out loud.

P2P Content Distribution with Bittorrent

BitTorrent is a file distribution system used for transferring files across a network of people. As you download a file, BitTorrent places what you download on upload for other users; when multiple people are downloading the same file at the same time they upload pieces of the file to each other. BitTorrent pieces together the file you are downloading . . .

Get the bittorrent P2P software.

Visit legal bittorent sites to try out your new toy.

Get in on the act: distribute your own Creative Commons licensed content via bittorrent.

Wink Is New!

From the makers of Wink, a screen capture program:
DebugMode Wink 2.0 (for Windows) has been released. This version improves on the previous version with numerous bug fixes and enhancements,including unlimited textboxes & buttons, new button/object types, audio in tutorials and much more.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Tips for Tableteers

Tips for getting the most out of your Tablet PC (assuming you have one).

Closet Podcast

While attending the GPACW Conference at NDSU, I attended a workshop on podcasting run by Nem, host of the geek (I mean techie) podcast, Geek Muse. Nem gave the participants in the workshop some unorthodox advice for making a voice recording with minimal background noise. He advised us to make the recording while sitting in a closet. That way, he said, the clothes hanging around us would act as acoustical buffers.

Of course, I couldn't wait to try it out .

While recording myself talking in a closet, I also mentioned Dr. B's grading macros (also known as active rubrics), so I thought I should post a link to those again. LINK!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Thinking with the Thesaurus

I like to use Roget's Thesaurus as an aid to cogitation. To do so, however, I need access to its index of categories. With it I can ruminate up and down the old ladder of abstraction.

Unfortunately, it has become harder and harder to find an online thesaurus that includes a convenient index of categories. But today I did find one, here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

MoonEdit Collaborative Editor

I need a simple collaborative editor for my fall Collaborative Writing course. I have one that works on my campus network, but I'd like one that works on the internet.

MoonEdit claims to be such an editor, but so far I have not been able to "host" a file that other people can edit with me in real time.

If anyone has better luck with MoonEdit, please let me know!

Update: I figured it out. I was using it with a virtual IP address. That's why it wouldn't work. That was at home. At school, where I have a dedicated, static IP address, it works fine.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"Video" Tutorial On The Cheap

It occurred to me that one could make an animated software tutorial using nothing more than Print Screen, Paint, and Flickr's slideshow feature.

And if for some reason you or your intended audience cannot access Flickr, simpleviewer is an option. This standalone slideshow does what Flickr does. You make the images, it does the rest.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Cat Who Thought . . .

Dr. B. suggested I create a photostory with Bubblr. I tried to make one like he made, but when I did, Bubblr crashed half way through my experiment. Was I too ambitious? I don't know. But instead of trying to revive Bubblr, I made my photostory in Draw, using the "found image" technique Dr. B. demonstrated. (The images are from Flickr.)

Sorry it's so small. If you can't read it, try the pdf.

Frame Your World

Reading interviews of Marjane Satrapi , I happened upon a drawing assignment by Satrapi herself.

It's a way of practicing the kind of visual perception and autobiographical attention needed to produce a work such as Persepolis, Satrapi's graphic memoir which my Contemporary Rhetoric class is currently reading.

To do this assignment, think of an event in your life. Write a sentence or two about it, and, at the same time, think of an image that goes with it. Stretch this into a string of key moments, each with its own associated image. Once you have a string of significant images in mind, draw those images in a series of 6" x 6" boxes. The result: a visual story of your remembered event. Add speech balloons to taste, et voila!

Monday, April 03, 2006

ID That Tune

This podcast asks a question: can you ID the author of this tune?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Web 2.0 List

A list of Web 2.0 applications.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Foobar Rocks . . . Literally

My favorite audio player has been updated. Check out the new features of Foobar 2000 version .09.

I like it because it has a footprint smaller than Thumbelina's and plays a bunch of audio formats. Here's a list: MP1, MP2, MP3, MP4, MPC, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC / Ogg FLAC, WavPack, WAV, AIFF, AU, SND, CDDA.

Download Foobar 2000 v.09 (requires Windows 2000 / XP)

Xtreme Writing

extreme dirt bike photo from
At the moment I am wondering if the practices of programmers may benefit the processes of writers. Here's the idea: use xtreme programming protocols to manage collaborative writing projects. Replace "user stories" with critical thinking criteria and you'll likely see the big picture.

Real Time Collaboration with "Ace"

Thursday's Critical Thinking workshop also gave some colleagues and me an opportunity to field test the Ace Collaborative Editor.

According to its developers Ace is

a platform-independent, collaborative text editor. It is a real-time cooperative editing system that allows multiple geographically dispersed users to view and edit a shared text document at the same time.

What makes this plain text editor a truly amazing tool for collaborative writing is its use of bonjour technology. Bonjour is "a general method to discover services on a local area network. This technology is widely used throughout Mac OS X and allows users to set up a network without any configuration" (Wikipedia). We used the Windows version.

Thus, using Ace and logged in to our usual campus wireless computer network, my colleagues and I were able to perform a seamless, real time collaboration on a sample assignment we developed in response to Bill Condon's presentation. No single person had to take notes on our brainstorming session. Instead, everyone at our table, each one using a different computer, was able to type directly into the same text document at the same time.

I plan to use Ace in my fall course in "Collaborative Writing in Elecronic Environments" in tandem with some Xtreme programming protocols adapted for writing assignments.

This should be fun!

Big Time Babysitter

My former babysitter, Rich Topol, is now a star of stage and screen.

That's Rich on the left. Alvin Epstein's on the right. They're acting a scene from "Tuesdays with Morrie."

Who Knew?

Thursday was an important day for me.

On Thursday I heard Bill Condon, Director of Writing Programs at Washington State University, give a presentation at my school.

Bill spoke about the Critical Thinking Guide developed by Washington State. It's been used at Washington State for almost a decade.

The presentation was suggestive.

As I listened to the talk and participated in related workshop activities, my mind formed trickle-down associations from the critical thinking guide, to writing assignments I could design to incorporate critical thinking goals, and finally to evaluating student writing with reference to critical thinking criteria.

And I thought: This makes so much sense! If only someone had told me this when I was an undergraduate!

Applied to my own writing, it could have saved me years of frustration.


Jeff Wahl: music to think by.


Grazr does for OPML what Feed2js does for RSS.