Thursday, January 26, 2006

They're starting early

I was thinking this morning about ways we can start getting ready to support podcasting, and then read Dan Karleen's posting about the use of podcasting in K-12 that referenced this article in the New York Times . As Dan says, it won't be long (it's even already happening) before students will be coming to us already expecting podcasting, the way they've been expecting other online communication tools for a long time.

And now Apple's released their iTunes U, which is mentioned in just about every blog I read. See Dan Karleen, Gardner Campbell, and D'Arcy Norman, to name a few. Here at UWB, we'll sit back for a little while longer and see how the dust settles. But in the meantime, we'll be building up a general support strategy under the assumption that we'll need to be ready when the time comes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why I read the newspaper

It started around the time Davey was born, almost 9 years ago now. We would lounge in bed in the early mornings, nursing. Mark would bring me the newspaper and a cup of coffee. In those first months, Davey would often go back to sleep, and I would leisurely sip my coffee and read the paper. That's the way I remember it, anyway. Over the years since, coffee and the newspaper (the actual paper kind), in bed, have become more than a tradition - it's almost a ritual. But now Mark and I take turns, because somebody has to get up to keep Davey company while he gets a start on breakfast. (Whereas I wake up needing coffee, immediately, Davey wakes up needing Nutrigrain cereal bars, immediately, followed by eggs and toast and cereal and french toast and soy sausage and a waffle and lots of milk, usually all during the same breakfast, which can easily span an hour.)

Yesterday morning it was my turn for the coffee/newspaper ritual. I was greatly comforted by the total lack of bad news, of real news of any kind. It's a great way to start the day, realizing that surely nothing bad had happened in the world, since there was no real news in the paper. Here's what I did learn. These three articles took up the entire inside front page.

1. Some penguins in a zoo whose baby chick had been stolen some time ago have laid an egg. (I can't find a web reference. Apparently this good news made the print edition but not the web archives.)

2. A New York cabbie, who happens to be a woman, has a blog.

3. Scientists have discovered that January 24th is the worst day of the year.

Although these are all fascinating, I was most struck by the blogging article. Was it the fact that it was a cabbie blogging that made it newsworthy? Or was it because she's a female cabbie? Does this mean that blogging is really mainstream now?

But mainly, can you imagine being the editors, or whoever it is who gets to decide what to publish where? Wouldn't you like to know what goes on in their heads? Can you imagine sitting around a table strewn with coffee cups and newspapers (!) and saying, "People have been worried about those penguins. Our readers will want a lengthy article about the fact that they've managed to lay another egg."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Fabulous Peruvian has wireless

I'm just back from a glorious week of skiing at Alta. We walked into the Alta Peruvian for the first time in 10 years or so to find it exactly the same as it used to be, with one exception. It was the middle of the afternoon, so everyone was skiing and the lovely lobby was almost completely empty. However, there were 5 or 6 guys lounging about, and every single one of them was on a laptop. It seemed utterly incongruous to me. This is a lodge that caters to the hard core skier - the only luxury comes from the outdoor hot tub and pool. There's no TV, and the only in-house entertainment is in the games closet (we had a hilarious Clue tournament). But it now has wireless, as well as a little computer room for those who forgot their own.

I had a computer-free vacation nonetheless. In fact, I completely detached from work. My only thought about work occurred one night during dinner. Meals at the Peruvian are served family style, and we happened this night to be sitting with Todd, the Peruvian's general manager. Somebody asked him how he hired people - how he advertised. He said he used something called I immediately thought of my empty database administrator position and asked how a job gets categorized as "cool." The other folks at the table looked at me strangely when I suggested that my dba position might be a fit. I guess there's cool, and then there's cool.

I still think what we do here is pretty darn cool, and getting cooler. We spend an awful lot of time just doing the business of our daily grind, but I was inspired by Gardner's blog about his group's retreat. We need to do that. We can't step aside for two days like that, but we need to find the time to get everybody thinking bigger. That's the way to keep cool.

In the meantime, Mark somehow found time to put up a few of our Alta pictures, even though it's his first day back following a rather blissful sabbatical.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Frontrunner

For 6 or 7 months I've been posting off and on over on Bloglines, mainly because I've been very happy with their aggregator for so long. A couple of months ago I started playing with Blogger, mostly because I thought it would be a good idea to try to separate work blogging from non-work blogging. Working for the state makes you kind of cautious in that way.

However, it turns out that the Bloglines inteface is icky. Maybe it's kind of like using VMS mail (or Pine) instead of Outlook. There are probably people who like the bare bones nature of it. It also turns out that I don't do much non-work blogging, as much as I would like to. There's just not enough time in my life. So, I hope all my admiring fans (ha hahaha HEEE HAAaa ha ha) will find me here.

Couple of notes: Here at UWB we're planning to admit freshmen for the first time next fall, so we're trying to figure out who these people are and how to both attract them and support them once they're here. Today I was reading Christopher Harris's posting about how youngsters get information, and also thinking more about the Bailey Library website. I think Slippery Rock has the right idea -- bring students in using the media they're already familiar with. It's simple, really. It's about repackaging what's already there.

I'm heading up a task force that's charged with developing a freshman resource center, focused on technology support but also including writing and quantitative support. We've been thinking of a physical space, but perhaps we should also be putting together a virtual space. I wonder if there are people out there using blogs to support students -- kind of like Slippery Rock's library, but with a focus on technology tips, Blackboard updates, etc.