Monday, February 26, 2007

Cell Phones, American Idol, and other Impairments

I almost got hit this morning by some clown on a cell phone who gave serious thought (about four feet of foward motion woth of serious thought) to pulling out in front of me while I was riding my bike. Which got me thinking about just how much cell phones impair our driving and it turns out it a fair amount:
Drivers using cellular phones are four times as likely to get into a crash that can cause injuries serious enough to send them to the hospital.
Yikes, or in this case send me to the hospital. Now I don't own a cell phone, and if I do (not sure how long I can hold out--I'm starting to get weird looks) I'll have to resist the temptation to use it in the car because I can barely drive as it is. But, I think I do have plenty of impairments in my life anyway. For instance, I've started watching American Idol while working at night. In addition to having to resist the temptation to write "I'm sorry, it's a no" on the papers I'm grading, I'm wondering just what the heck I'm wasting my time on this for anyway. Although the chances of me getting into a crash while on my couch are pretty close to zero I'm convinced that they're four times more likely when I'm watching American Idol.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Free Science at Utah State?

We currently have a very active student organization in our department--and oh what a difference it makes. In our two candidate searches they've been invaluable in coordinating (and conducting) student meetings with the prospective faculty, they're engaged in outreach, they're pushing us to think about curriculum issues and it's just generally good all around--and that's just from a faculty perspective I think the bulk of their contribution has been between and among students. One of their projects is starting an online journal--which I think is an admirable thing to take on but I wonder if an expansion of the free science movement into instructional technology/educational technology/learning sciences might be a better usage of time.

I'll express my own ignorance here--perhaps it's already being done elsewhere. I guess there is something related with the IT Forum in that papers are discussed, but I'm talking about a widespread pre-print and (where it doesn't violate the publication guideliness of journals) in-print archive of manuscripts. We've tried to start an online journal in the past and the biggest problem was getting quality submissions. Heck after reading some of the articles in established print-based journals I think they have the same problem . . . This would be a step in the right direction that doesn't come with all the overhead of starting a journal. If enough interest is started with the manuscript archive, then a journal could be started from there.

I do think our librarians are already thinking along these lines--at least with the manuscript archive (and maybe have an archive up already), would be great to partner with them in some way. If USU is known so well for open education, it seems like a natural step to start building a reputation for open research.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Back into development

Even though I only put in about 10 hours or so on this .php project (see below) I'd forgotten how much I like doing development work. Of course, maybe I liked it so much because it was only 10 hours or so. I'll admit to a few moments of frustration when I tried to roll out a new class that supports MySQL for my database abstraction scheme.

It's decidely odd to be on grants now where most of the heavy lifting on development is done by other folks. I can barely keep up with the conversations now, and in the case of the COSL work they're using languages that I'd never heard of back when I got started.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ES Free is up

The important part: I've just posted a website that let's you calculate effect sizes (called ES Free and available here). Now for the mundane stuff. This is a project that I've been working on for quite some time, but just recently migrated it to a linux server using mysql & php (previously it was just a resource I intended to use for myself and was running on windows xp, apache, php, and used MS access as the database, about two MS products too many for my taste. The big push for the migration was actually some hideous error in which .php was partially parsing scripts and then decided to give up about halfway through. The intention of the tool is to assist in computing and storing effect sizes for meta-analysis (so it's organized around studies and outcomes for studies). Right now I don't have a whole lot of ambitions for improvement--other than adding computations as I need them as part of my own work. If anyone wants to run with it then I'm happy to release the source code. If you run into any bugs let me know. I did (partly for my own sanity) add a help feature that explains the computations and when they are appropriate to use.