Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Flash Video on OSX

So now that I'm on a Mac, using WinFF isn't quite as handy as it used to be. I was having a great deal of trouble figuring out how to use ffmpeg on OSX until a student in the Flash class, Peter Blaire, found the missing link.

I was using ffmpegX, a shareware utility to convert video using ffmpeg (like WinFF it's a gui front-end). But none of the video was encoding with any meta-data. This is all kinds of bad becasue things like cue points and the total run time are incredibly handy for streaming and vital for publishing the screencasts I do. Aparently you need to install a little ruby on rails app, which you can find instructions on here:


Note that the readme file works better than what you see here, as you need to sudo in the terminal before the install command:

ruby setup.rb config
ruby setup.rb setup
sudo ruby setup.rb install

Works like a charm! Thanks Peter.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Are Faculty Just Plain Stubborn?

This is a figure from a meta-analysis that Heather Leary and I finished earlier this month. It's about tutor variables that moderate problem-based learning outcomes. I should add these are cognitive outcomes only for students (standardized tests, essays, etc . . . ). Each of the outcomes compared a PBL treatment with a "control" or "lecture" condition (although those can mean many different things). There's a lot going on here, the little (n=xes) need some attention as they show the number of outcomes. The very rough scale for effect sizes is .2 = small, .5 = medium, and .8 = large.

Many of these combinations don't have what you would call overwhelming amounts of evidence, but we do know a lot about faculty whether they received formal training as PBL tutors or not, and the difference in terms of student learning are non-existent. We have no causal data, which I can't emphasize enough--so maybe this is because faculty are immune to training, falling back on their lecture roots, maybe the training was poor, maybe it's because of Turkey burgers--but it's pretty shocking. My vote is for faculty resistance, other research points to epistemological beliefs being pretty stable by the time you hit undergrad. And for many, this kind of approach requires a fundamental shift in epistemological beliefs. There are documented cases of faculty tutors going into a small group PBL sessions and just lecturing, even after training. But research is not a democracy. Somebody could make a serious name for themselves figuring out why this is the case.

Nobody likes a hater

But I'm going to be one anyway. 10 pages probably isn't a fair shake for any book, but last night I was reading "Twilight" to my daughter Rachel and wow, just wow. Some parents might worry about exposing their children to the occult or to suggestive content. Forget that. I'm worried about exposing her to bad bad writing. It's never good when a character's voice is "attractive" or "like velvet." And I've got to know how a BYU grad comes up with the name of Coach Clapp for the PE teacher.

This book offends me as an English major.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Learning The String Bass

My daughter Rachel has been teaching me to play the String Bass lately. She started back in 4th grade so is going on her 3rd year. Me, I'm still stuck on "Ode To Joy." For those of you with children getting into the violin or viola (I'm thinking of you Jozanne) my deepest sympathies. No matter how bad you slaughter a Bass note it doesn't have that fingers on chalkboard sound that you can squeeze out of a higher pitched stringed instrument. So aside from having to schlep one around to various things I highly recommend the Bass.

I will also say Bass has made a huge difference in Rachel's life. Her confidence in other areas has taken a huge boost, she looks forward to orchestra each day at school and her private lesson each week. And of course she loves showing off and correcting my own attempts at technique (she even created a lesson plan for me).

To help myself memorize the notation, names, and fingerings of the notes (just first position so far) I set up a little flash project. You can get the gory details here or click on the screenshot below to try it out yourself (Flash 9 player required). The gory details link has stand-alone versions for Windows and Mac OS X.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Evolution of Politicians

I actually went to a local political debate between an incumbent Republican congressman and his Democrat and Libertarian opponents. It was sponsored by the ASUSU student organization and a terrific example of the concept behind a cross-sectional longitudinal research design when compared with debates on more of a national stage. You use this to get a look at development over time when you don't want to (or can't) spend the time doing so. Instead, you a snapshot of different phases of development and make the assumption that they are reflective of the normal process. So you might assume that politicians early in their careers are much more frank and willing to take a stand than they are later in their careers. Of course the analogy breaks down a bit because generally you'd be quantifying this and using much larger samples.

We'll start with the candidate (Libertarian) least likely to get elected. He was unabashedly forward about his beliefs, in fact at one point he talked about wanting the free market to prevail in three different things: business (he thought AIG should have been left for dead--as an aside, if we had regulated properly would we have a sole privately owned business with so much market share that it's going down would destroy the World's economy?), health care, and--here's the real kicker, he wanted to make sure the market could prevail on fighting terrorism. Now before you start thinking Blackwater I'm not sure that's where he wanted to go (because they're government contracted--or is it government subcontracted through the Vice President's former company?) but it does frankly strike me as out on the lunatic fringe. Mostly because a private company can't negotiate or engage in diplomacy on behalf of the US, and probably wouldn't have the kinds of incentives to fight poverty and other conditions that can lead to terrorism.

Next, the Democrat who in this year actually has more of a shot than you might think in Utah. He was willing to express his views, was a little more elegant, a little more educated (for instance he brought up the difference between radioactive and nuclear waste), but was still willing to be very direct at times, maybe to his own detriment. For instance, in that same question about storing nuclear waste in Utah he said we weren't currently, just radioactive but that he would be opposed to storing anything in our great state especially waste from overseas. He also called out the Republican for refusing to work with him on a bill to that effect and taking $26k from Energy Solutions.

Enter the incumbent. He's been to Washington, knows the ropes and his response to the
questions was this. In a slightly rough moment (that or massive hubris) he said it wasn't $26k but $28k, and not from Energy Solutions but from employees who "happened" to work at Energy Solutions (which makes all kinds of difference to me, let me tell you--that and the fact that 14 people gave him about half my annual salary for an election campaign makes him sound like a real regular Joe). Now it's possible that I missed what the bill was about or the framing of the original question, but when both of the other debate participants seemed squarely focused on what was happening in Utah this guy proceeded to do something you'll see more about below. He said he'd do whatever Utah wanted, but he refused to work on this particular bill because he saw it as a states rights issue. He was very elegant, he talked about Washington State importing waste from Vancouver and was concerned that the bill would limit the ability of other states to make decisions about what they wanted. My concern is that he never really answered the question.

Now let's take a look at the National stage where Obama and McCain have very close views on Abortion and Gay Marriage. This is a radical over-simplification but they essentially both refer to these as State's rights. It's not their role as executive to push federal law to ban abortion, but it should be up to individual states to decide. I went to WSU after the fact, but heard the stories about how the sovereignty of states creates really interesting consequences. Back in the day the Idaho legal drinking age was lower than Washington's. As a consequence the seven mile stretch of highway 26 between Pullman Washington and Moscow Idaho had no small number of legal/underage drinkers returning home and go figure some of them were driving. I may not be a political scientist but both of these issues have consequences for other states. I think people who fall on either side of these issues should be really mad that their candidate of choice refuses to make a choice (no pun intended).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Even Optimists Can Be Presented With An Undeniable Vision of Impending Doom

One of my favorite short stories is "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by J.D. Salinger--the easiest way to grab a copy is in a collection titled "Nine Stories" and I highly recommend it. It's not a spoiler in any way to say that one of the big themes is a deeply disturbed character (Seymour Glass) who is seeking refuge in part in the innocence of children (but not in a creepy way, I promise). To make a short story long, he finds out it's not as much of a refuge as he thought it was. Even though I've always loved the story--I've never quite believed it. I get misty-eyed when I hear the song "you are the new day" (especially when coupled with a public television ad and b-roll of Sesame Street and children playing). I tend to think the best about people and about future events, but now I can see why Salinger has cut himself off from the world. For me it's not the lack of childhood innocence. I’m not ready to give that up yet. For me, it’s the train wreck that children are walking into.

Last weekend I cleaned out the garage, which included three different items for the dump: A computer (desktop & monitor), some flooring tiles, and some scrap metal (an old vent for a swamp cooler we had removed). I knew the computer and monitor had to go there for proper disposal, I knew the metal could be recycled, and I was hoping they could recycle the tile too. We also had a bunch of stuff for DI (the local "goodwill")--which happened to be my first stop. I'm unloading there and I pull out and set aside the scrap metal to get at some other stuff, and one of the helpful workers decides he's going to do me a favor and throw my scrap metal in their dumpster--which also happened to be full of cardboard. This is my first sign of our impending doom, a guy trying to do me a solid by sending my recyclable waste off to the landfill. After rescuing my scrap metal out of the dumpster along with other recyclables I decide that individuals can still make a difference--and got pretty jazzed about taking so much to the dump, none of which is actually going into the landfill. As a further boost, the woman at the scales says I can toss my flooring tiles in with the concrete, so I guessed right and they can be recycled too (side note: Jen wanted to try gluing them down again--so not such a great thing after all).

Still, I'm on a high note. Until about 12:30am. We live across from a park that has a dumpster right next to it. I wake up to someone tossing in a truckload of something or other. The next morning I take a peek and it's mostly construction waste--including a good bit of recyclable scrap metal, and some wood and sheet rock.

The amount of green waste we see go in that dumpster from otherwise nice, friendly, and intelligent neighbors is astonishing. What's more astonishing is that they will pick up green waste at your curb if you pay $4/month for a green waste bin. $4/month for weekly pickup! This town makes it incredibly easy to recycle everything from leaves to plastic and we still can’t pull the trigger.

These are pragmatic pressures (proximity of a dumpster vs driving to the landfill or spacing out your tree pruning over a couple of weeks). Imagine the financial pressures faced by big corporations. Heck, I remember a few years ago insurers wanting to know if employees were bike commuting because it presented additional risk that companies either had to pay for or pass on to their employees.

We’re doomed.

Somebody give me some good news. Tell me I’m wrong, tell me you stopped a baby seal from getting clubbed to death (metaphorically speaking).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thompson Reuters needs to rethink their life

After taking a bit to update their plug-in for Word 2008 (maybe a bit understandable given that it's supposed to be a different structure). The folks who make the End Note software have opted to not make CWYW ("cite while you write") available on Word 2008 for older versions of End Note--namely version X.02 which I use right now. Not only that but they'd charge me $91 to "upgrade" to version X1! To really let this sink in the build date on my version is 2007! That's right, it's a year old and no longer capable of doing what I need it to do.

This isn't even remotely acceptable behavior on their part. As a result, I've now downgraded to office 2004 and I'm anxiously awaiting an alternative bibliographic option. It looks like my best bet so far is Zotero (thanks for the referral Melynda!) which is an open source alternative to a program that I refuse to even mention again by name. There are times when a small part of me feels a little sorry for niche software developers when an open source alternative comes along. Then something like this happens . . .

Saturday, August 02, 2008

My favorite facebook ad

I'm sure there will be others, but this one is my first love.  I don't really own a bikini but if my swimsuit had unwanted hair I would definitely want to have it removed (the bikini too).  Not only does it remove unwanted hair from swimwear, but it also removes it from your "etc . . . " which is just dang helpful.  Of course, ever since I first saw Buck Rogers I always wanted to own a personal laser, so the fact that it can remove hair from my etc is just a bonus.  

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Did you ever think . . .

I'm trying to think back to my earliest experiences with video games (at least at home). I remember my brother and I saved our money for an entire summer to get an Atari 2600. It came with space invaders (which just celebrated its 30th anniversary) and we bought asteroids at the same time, if memory serves.

When we got it home my mom plugged it in and played for about an hour--which was probably a sign that a broad market appeal system like the Wii has been long overdue.

Never in a million years did I think that the words gaming and industry would be mentioned in such close proximity, nor did I think that it would be such an enormous juggernaut that it would spawn such creations as gaming journalists. I mean seriously, who saw that coming when they were playing turtle graphics and load runner on their C-64s? The worst part is that I can see a niche market for gaming journalism that isn't being filled right now. I read these reviews for Wii games and I've still been burned twice. We got Mario and Sonic at the Olympic games and EA Sports Playground, both got decent reviews with people saying in general that "it would be great for kids." Not so much--my kids have played far more of Super Paper Mario (a game graciously handed down from a college age Uncle who didn't like it). And Rabbids 2--which also got good reviews and which the kids loved far longer than I would have expected. My daughter in fact just the other night did a disturbingly spot on rendition of "funky town" in the Rabbid's heavily modulated and high pitched voice. So hey, they were 1 for 3. A "gaming journalist" that could actually do a decent review for games from a kid's perspective would be fantastic because right now I think they're maybe a bit too knowledgeable and possibly a little jaded.

A long digression away from may main point though--this industry is huge. In a day and age when the supposedly "recession proof" Starbucks is decommissioning some 600 stores (although to be fair I swear 599 of those are stacked up on a single street corner in Seattle). The Video Game industry is going strong. More than strong. It's beating DVD sales like a tired dog, it's even dictating some of what happens in movies. Raise your hand if you thought a 1980s arcade game would be made into a movie. I've seen the imdb listing for Spy Hunter and I'm still not convinced I should put mine up.

I would classify myself as a gamer. I've always played something, but kept to PC games (mostly real-time strategy and first person shooters). I've owned a total of three consoles in my life: The Atari 2600; A Sega Genesis (I know, I know); and now a Wii. I feel like I've blinked and a whole new economy has grown up overnight.

This has got to be a good time to be involved in gaming research (thanks be to Brett Shelton and Mary Ann Parlin who just did the heavy lifting on a DOEd grant for game design using problem based learning--keep your fingers crossed).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A good problem to have

It looks as if we're driving less (at least according to the US Department of Transportation). The more miles people drive, the more tax revenue the DOT collects from gasoline taxes. Here's the part that gets me. The secretary of transportation Mary Peters is saying this is a bad thing because "History shows that we're going to continue to see congested roads while gas tax revenues decline even further."

Hmm, people are driving fewer miles. Fewer miles means fewer cars. Fewer cars means more congestion? I got lost somewhere. To avoid being completely disingenuous a point is also made that people are choosing more fuel efficient cars, which have the potential to keep the number of cars similar while decreasing tax revenue. That's fine, increase the federal gas taxes for private use. It shouldn't have the downside that a private and commercial tax would have (except of course for tourism) and it appeals to me because roads are essentially being subsidized by the worse pollution offenders (thirsty SUVs would pay more per mile than a little smart car). This fits because in addition to cranking out more CO2 emissions, they put far more wear on the road.

Here's my favorite part of this whole discussion. The "walk away price" for gasoline at the pump. Where a consumer decides to not pay and try something else instead. According to the Louisiana Oil & Gas Commission that price is $7.50. I think you'd need to be the mayor of crazy town to think that still holds true. It's obvious that we're at the front edge of the "walk away price" right now. And think about the context too. Our whole life is structured around car travel. For most of us our housing is miles away from where we work and public transportation is not at all convenient. I live right on a free bus route that takes me pretty much door to door I'd say I have to walk a total of about 20 yards, and my travel time is about 15 minutes including wait time. But I'm a huge anomaly and my schedule fits perfectly. The average American commuter is spending about 100 hours a year in their car. So I think given how much of a life change this represents for the average commuter, a 4.3 percent year to year drop in miles driven means the "walk away price" for gas is here right now.

The question is what are we going to do about it? The message from the DOT is blind panic about lost tax revenues for a system that we should be looking towards replacing with public transit options. The message from oil companies is a not so subtle Jedi mind trick "we're not the problem you're looking for . . . move along." Here's my message. This is a fantastic problem to have. Many Republicans have appropriately called this a supply and demand problem and want to start drilling offshore. Well, that takes a fair amount of time--and why would you only work on one side of the equation anyway? Why is increasing supply the answer--how about decreasing the demand. Bush's statements about gas, cars, and the commuter culture being an "American way of life" and status-quo approach to our economy have finally made a decision for us. We can't go indiscriminately drilling in protected areas because it won't help us in time--we have to decrease demand now and the American consumer is starting to do it for us.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Multiple Paper Dissertations

On the books we've had a policy in place for some time for students to forgo a traditional dissertation and instead do several academic papers. What we have not had in place is a structure for how they go about doing that. I'm kind of excited that we're putting one together (Nick Eastmond has taken the lead). I think this holds some decent potential for students but there are also several dangers. By necessity a proposal that involves the methods of say two research papers is going to give far less detail than we get with a dissertation, but that said how many of us have written journal articles with that much detail?

I think this ups the ante on the proposal stage. Because there will be less detail the committee and student had better be on the same page going into the research and then the final defense. As a current state there is a draft document in place for the summer and we'll hopefully come to agreement as a faculty during our retreat this Fall.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not Today

I'm an Obama supporter and I'll tell you why. I like that at least for a period of time he ran a somewhat clean campaign focused on what he had to say as opposed to what Hillary has said or done wrong. That's obviously changed, but way back when I voted in the Utah primary it was still true, and even if I was voting now I'd still vote for Obama in the dim hope that it would send a message to politicians and commentators alike. I also like him on certain issues. When Hillary Clinton was voting to support the Iraq War, Barack was speaking at anti-war rallies. But that's not a deal breaker for me with respect to Hillary Clinton at all. She was basing her vote on inaccurate information and at the time I agreed with her. They're so close in other respects that it doesn't really matter to me.

That is the heart and sole of the problem with this primary. If they are so close on policy then what is there to talk about? Well the news media is happy to fill that gap with questions focused on controversy. The Pennsylvania debate was a serious travesty. All of the initial questions had to do with not just old news, but previously covered missteps. I already know about Hillary's sniper fire debacle. I already know that Barack has attended church with a pastor who said "G** D*** America" they've both had several opportunities to talk about it--why do we need to ask them again? Because asking them about policy is boring. Because bickering gets higher ratings than meaningful discourse. Because health care doesn't make for a decent sound bite.

Here's a quote from that same debate:
SENATOR CLINTON: Well, Charlie, I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make sure that one of us takes the oath of office next January. I think that has to be the overriding goal, whatever we have to do.

Obviously we are still contesting to determine who will be the nominee. But once that is resolved, I think it is absolutely imperative that our entire party close ranks, that we become unified.

I will do everything to make sure that the people who supported me support our nominee.

I will go anywhere in the country to make the case. And I know that Barack feels the same way, because both of us have spent 15 months traveling our country. I have seen the damage of the Bush years. I've seen the extraordinary pain that people have suffered from because of the failed policies; you know, those who have held my hands who have lost sons or daughters in Iraq, and those who have lost sons or daughters because they didn't have health insurance.

And so, regardless of the differences there may be between us, and they are differences, they pale in comparison to the differences between us and Senator McCain.

So we will certainly do whatever is necessary to make sure that a Democrat is in the White House next January.

It didn't make the news summaries, even though both candidates expressed a similar sentiment. What do we get instead? We get Charles Gibson asking them if they would commit to being on a ticket together regardless of the primary outcome and both of them being silent. It's funny, and it seems to be making a point that they don't like each other. The real point is that Charles needs to address questions to a candidate by name in a debate.

Now according to this story it seems that race is an issue for 18% of Pennsylvania Democrats, so much so that 68% of that group wouldn't support Barak Obama in a general election. That sounds like a staggering number. A damning commentary on our current opinions about race and the electability (which is not a word btw) of Barack Obama. But let's unpack this number a bit 68% of 18% is about 12%. 12% doesn't sound quite so edgy and divisive but man 68% sure makes the eyes pop out. I say let's stop making the Today Show news writers the biggest swing vote. I say stop trying to make news and just freaking report it.

The news is that both these candidates want a Democrat in the White House, but the "story" is that they are tearing each other apart and that their supporters would rather vote for McCain than the opposing camp. Here's my pitch to the commentators/chief political correspondents/White House Bureau chiefs: If you talk about what's actually happening, you'll be novel enough to get those ratings you're trying to drum up.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Falling out of bed

So several years ago I was first exposed to Mac OS when I taught development courses at Lehigh University (specifically on Director, which I would loosely classify as an abomination of a development environment--an assessment largely based on Lingo) and on Flash, which I still teach to this day (also in a Mac Lab here at USU). But I've never run Mac as my primary OS until just a couple of weeks ago.

So far, so good. I did break down and get a license for End Note because after a day and a half of searching for an open source alternative it looked like the Tex based alternatives weren't quite what I need them to be. Which is really too bad because Office is not exactly my favorite piece of software. Allegedly the next version of open office is going to have bibliographic support built in, and that's kind of the "last mile" problem I'm having right now. I need to be able to insert citations into a word processor that I could use on a daily basis, and mimicking the cite while you write functionality of End Note is also an important feature for me.

I'm slowly breaking down my dependence on SPSS. I got R running and I've successfully been able change the default packages and to import SPSS data. A CSV file generated by Excel hasn't been quite as easy to do.

I do have to say that as a machine (I'm using an old PowerBook Pro with a PowerPC chip (not intel based) this thing has a lot of nice mechanical features out of the box. For instance, if I hook it up to my external display while it's in sleep mode but the cover is still shut, it comes out of sleep mode with the external monitor as the sole display. Which is especially nice because I hate the way dual displays runs on the mac (with program menus always at the top of the screen, I wind up going back and forth--although I did find a keyboard shortcut utility to pop up the current program menu on either screen).

Mostly, I have yet to have any sort of trouble hooking up to a wireless network. And even though it's only been a couple of weeks, I've connected to 3-4 networks, all of which my Dell (which had dueling drivers from XP and my wireless card) had non-stop trouble with.

Oh, and I have a logitec wireless mouse and keyboard that I use in my office. It was plug and play with this PowerBook. After telling it the keys adjacent to my shift keys it was off and running, including use of the volume/mute play/pause buttons on the side of the keyboard. As David Wiley would say, using this thing is like falling out of bed.

Now if only I had the new touch pad on this thing. I'm still not used to having to press the button w/ my thumb.

Monday, April 07, 2008

"Riot" Police

Ok, so don't get me wrong, I like the French. I've only been to Paris and Avignon and I was just a kid in middle school, but it was a fun time (considering I was a typical middle school kid) and I think we as Americans often give them far too hard of a time. So it's with a great deal of reluctance that I point to this picture (you'll have to click on pic #9 yourself) in which I couldn't help but notice that the police who are set to protect the Olympic bus are wearing inline skates!

I'm all for bike cops, and I'm sure inline skates have their place in police work (on say a TV show involving swimsuits and Michael Hasselhoff). But if you're expecting to do crowd control, is it really a good idea to strap a few wheels to your feet? I'm no hand to hand expert but I think that might affect your game a bit.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dan Pratt Lecture

I started writing these down as thoughts for my P&T binder (one of the big messages I got this last review was a better documentation of my teaching practices). Then I thought (as all semi-neurotic partly narcissistic assistant professors are prone to do--I know I know, the labels are a bit redundant) that maybe others would like to read this as well:

Dan started off by acknowledging a certain tacit fear of examining problems in our own teaching. I thought this was dead on. He did lose me a bit when he discussed our inverse excitement about discussing problems in our areas of research. In research, problems have to do with a line of inquiry—we get excited about them because they are an opportunity for work, grants, articles, etc . . . In that respect he's right, but I don't think he was talking about a parallel thing. Problems in a line of inquiry are different than problems with a line of inquiry. I would classify the later as more of an analogous problem to problems with our teaching. If you've ever challenged a person's line of inquiry as a whole, then you'll see the similar white knuckled response as you tend to get when you ask them fundamental questions about their teaching. Ask a biologist doing basic research about the practical application of finding a genetic connection to fin length and you'll get a sense for what I'm on about. And don't mistake that for a rant against basic research. I'm a fan of basic research, applied research, research to practice, and practice to research.

He went on to illuminate a couple of models for teaching with component parts of teacher, student, content, and context. One was an apprenticeship model--and he specifically cited what is now one of my favorite books (Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation by Lave & Wenger)--note this came after years of labeling it as "foo foo situated" and much later than members of a doctoral cohort that was much smarter than me (including people like Erin Brewer) came to that realization--although I still reserve the right to call it "foo foo situated." I like to think that I align with what Dan would call an apprenticeship model of teaching but I noticed several large departures--some of which I'll do my best to address and some of which may be much more difficult to address.

One thought is that in an apprenticeship model (and this is certainly backed up by Lave & Wenger) learning happens in the context and in the physical place of work. While there are models for this in graduate education they are not all that common. A case that comes to mind because of recency is the Master's degree at George Mason University. Brenda Bannan-Ritland was recently explaining to us an immersion program for their program that involved teams taking on actual projects from actual organizations that covered their actual tuition. I would love to do that with something like my Flash course but have thus far chickened out--in large part because every time I hear someone talk about something similar, they describe how much work it is--and how it was a programmatic effort, etc . . .

Note this is a bit easier to do in the context of doctoral students but you have to mix and match. We were asked by our NSF program officer to due a literature review of online communities for teacher professional development (just a small request). I encouraged Yan Ma, the RA assigned the task to add in a small component on Problem-Based Learning (which plays a small roll in the grant) which would then enable her to use the work she's getting paid for as a final paper in the PBL class I'm currently teaching. Actual learning tied to actual work--not instantly an apprenticeship model by any means but congruence at a high level.

Another thought I had was the level of congruence between assessment in my classes and assessment in real life. I've posted before about maybe grading students on an accept, accept with major revisions, reject scale (see far far below) as a nod towards this idea but I'm not convinced that I currently do this in my Flash course.

In the real world, assessment seems to be about the surface features of a project rather than the underlying mechanics. You can get rewarded a bit even for putting something together quickly that may not be easily changed, adapted, or extended--but the exact opposite is true for my class. I reward for minimizing instances, for writing code that doesn't include magic numbers, etc . . . I'll want to take a look through some of my rubrics and seriously think about what it is that I value and more importantly how that matches up with what practitioners value.

Other ideas that stood out to me were asking students to write a reflection of what they've learned over the course of the semester. Or promoting a culture of practice. Right now, students come in on Thursdays to talk to me about problem they're having with their assignments. Everything happens in isolation. What if they presented problems they were having with their assignments or their projects to the class as a whole? In thinking more about Lave & Wenger, their examples were all about groups working collaboratively. They may have been focused on different stages of production, but they were all producing, all engaging in norming behaviors, etc . . . Right now the only one most of my students are engaged with is me.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Open content brought to you by open source software

So I finally stopped my addiction to Camtasia and started using Cam Studio. I also weaned myself off of the flash video encoder and I'm using ffmpeg instead for some post-processing. All of which is talked through in a screencast about screencasting here.

For reference purposes, here's the settings described/shown in the video:


use: Camstudio lossless codec v1.0
60% quality
set key frames every 30 frames
capture frames every 50 milliseconds
playback rate 20 frames/second
uncheck auto adjust

audio options
22.05 bytes/sec, mono, 16 bit
interleave every 20 frames
PCM compression

flash video (flv) for Web use (16:9) for base settings
bit rate 256
frame rate 10
video size 800x600 (or desired)
check 2 pass
audio sample rate 22050
audio bit rate 48k

Corresponding websites

Sample screencasts using these settings:

Camstudio software:

WinFF software (comes with FFMPEG built in):

The downside:

Camstudio is PC only (ugh) and of course, there's the fact that I use flash for the front end (not at all open source, and that I mostly use this for screencasts about a course on Flash).