like long walks, especially when they are taken
by people who annoy me." ~Noel Coward
On the show:
Blackboard has been upgraded at Palomar; Google
releases Picasa for Mac; tech layoffs around the
industry continue; Roku adds Amazon; MacWorld
and CES both happened this week, to no great
fanfare; the 30GB Zune catastrophe was fixed;
there are a few words we just shouldn't use any
more; and our Tech Book recommendation is a
Visual guide to Dreamweaver CS4. David will discuss
the new Blackboard course
quotas in his
Blackboard feature this week; Haydn will
discuss "Online Human Touch";
and my Tech Talk Topic this week concerns a
Firefox extension known as "Hyperwords".
Technology News Briefs
has been upgraded to Service Pack 3 of version 8.
We should now see faster performance in the Grade
Center and can now use Firefox to upload files, both
problems that were fixed in the upgrade. In
addition we have added
Campus Pack to the system, tools which
allow for faculty and student blogs, wikis,
podcasts, web authoring, and indexed content search.
We have placed a 250MB course quota on all
Blackboard courses. If you suddenly start
receiving an email alert from the Blackboard system
stating that you are over quota, or a "soft" alert,
saying that you are over 200MB but not yet at the
quota limit of 250MB, please contact Blackboard
technical support at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (760)
744-1150 ext. 2862. Our technicians will work
with you to reduce the size of your courses or
otherwise resolve the issue for you.
Google announced the release of Picasa for the Mac.
Picasa is free software that helps Mac users easily
organize their photos in one place, edit pictures,
and share them online with friends, family, and the
for the details.
The World Tech Layoff Report: Microsoft will be
laying off about 15,000 employees (17%)on January 15
They join Western Digital (2,500), Sun (6,000) ,
Sony (16,000), AT&T (12,000), HP (24,600),
Lenovo (2,500) and
many other tech
firms in a contraction that is being
echoed in all fields across the economy.
Streaming delivery of feature films took another
huge leap this week with the announcement from
Amazon that Amazon Video On Demand will now be
that $99 set top appliance that many have purchased
solely for the purpose of streaming their
Instantly queue. The Amazon On
Demand catalog has 40,000 titles (Amazon
MacWorld occurred this week; sans the
traditional Steve Jobs keynote.
In fact, this will be the last MacWorld that Apple will be
participating in. The news? Nothing very
spectacular: DRM free music at a premium
through iTunes; an updated 17" MacBook Pro; and new
versions of iLife, iWork, and FileMaker Pro (ars
MacWorld page). Small potatoes by
Not to forget the world of gadgets, the Consumer
Electronics Show also occurred this week, though
much scaled down from previous years. Along
with all the new gadget announcements, the big news
was the keynote by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft,
who was there to pitch Windows 7, the next iteration
of the Microsoft operating system due out November
of this year and is, Ballmer insists, on schedule.
for the video (all hour and 22 of it, if you can
stand it). Windows 7 is available
but it should not be installed on Palomar College
CES page |
File under "Aren't You Glad You Bought a Zune":
After the first of the year, owners of 30GB Zunes
couldn't help but notice that their devices
no longer worked.
They locked up, rebooted themselves, and then froze,
not to be thawed again--until now. The
problem, according to Microsoft, is caused by the
older Zunes internal calendar's inability to handle
leap years properly. they have now posted a
fix at the
Each year Lake Superior State University (!?)
publishes a "List of Words to Be Banished from the
Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General
Uselessness". Our favorite winners this year:
Maverick (remember "lockbox" from the 2000
Wall Street/Main Street
-monkey, used as a suffix, as in "tech-monkey"
or "love-monkey" or "word-monkey"
Safari Tech Book Online:
Creating a Web
Site in Dreamweaver CS4: Visual QuickProject Guide
by Nolan Hester. "Dreamweaver has been
the tool of choice for professional Web site
designers for years. And since it became part of the
Adobe Creative Suite, even more users, including
beginning Web designers, have turned to it to start
creating Web sites. This book is for those
beginners—all the people who are itching to design
their very first Web site but don’t want to learn
every last Dreamweaver feature to do so." Palomar maintains a subscription to Tech Books
Online, and the books can be accessed from any
computer on the campus network without as login, or
with your Palomar login and password from anywhere
in the world.
Click here for more information about off-campus
Training Opportunities - the next two weeks
Academic Technology Workshops
The Academic Technology training schedule has
been published for the spring 2009 semester.
for the schedule, and
for the training description page. New this
spring will be four "technology fridays" where a
topic will be pursued by a limited number of
participants (15) in depth for six hours (including
an hour for lunch, which will be provided free).
Those interested in technology fridays are
encouraged to sign-up early, since seating and lunch
reservations are limited.
Our plenary and pre-plenary workshops will occur on
January 15, 2009:
Blackboard Essentials - a hands-off introduction
to Blackboard by Chris Norcross in room P-32 from
The Blackboard 8 Grade Center - a hands-on
workshop conducted by David Gray in room LL-109 from
Academic Technology at Palomar College - a show
and tell by Dr. Haydn Davis and Terry Gray in room
LL-109 from 7:15-9pm.
In addition, we have developed a set of
self-paced, online workshops on various technology
essentials topics in the Academic Technology
Training Blackboard course. All faculty and
staff members are pre-enrolled in this course.
You will find it in the My Courses area when you
login to Blackboard under the "Courses in which you
are enrolled" section.
We have also developed (or linked to) sets of
screen videos that teach how to use the features of
the various technology tools available to faculty
members through Blackboard:
you’re using Blackboard, have a good bit of stuff in
your course, but all of a sudden you started getting
these messages about “Course quota exceeded”. Quota?
Yes, a quota on your Blackboard course.
Here’s a list of both those questions we’ve
already received about quotas, and some questions
that we’re anticipating:
Q: Why is there a quota on my Blackboard course?
A: Two main reasons: There is a technical
limitation in Blackboard, where if a course is
archived, but that archive is over 250 megabytes in
size, the course cannot be properly restored; we
would be remiss if we didn’t do everything we can to
ensure that your archives will work, so are imposing
a quota to emphasize this issue. Also, the time our
Blackboard system has to be down for maintenance and
upgrades is directly related to the amount of data
on the system, so finding ways to limit the sheer
mass of content held inside the Blackboard courses
will allow us to minimize the system down times.
Q: Why are these “Course quota exceeded”
emails coming, and why are they so badly written?
A: Sadly, the quota notifications are not
customizable in Blackboard. They are automatically
sent once a day; we have no control over how often,
nor when during the day, those messages go out. The
wording of the messages is hard-coded into
Blackboard, and there is no way for us to customize
that in any way. In fact, there are two different
types of messages that go out, but they read almost
identically. The first you may see indicates that
you have “exceeded the soft quota limit”, which
means that you are between the warning limit of 200
MB and the actual quota limit of 250 MB. The other
message reads the same except indicates that you
have “exceeded the hard quota limit”, that is, you
are over the 250 MB limit. Of course, when you
contact our techs and start working to diminish the
size of your course content, we can also halt the
warning messages from being sent.
Q: So, hard limit, soft limit, what’s the
A: The quota “soft limit” defaults to 200
MB, and is really just there so that you should get
a message before you hit the hard limit; being in
this size range doesn’t have any effect other than
to generate the warning message. The quota “hard
limit” on a course default to 250 MB, which we
picked because of that technical limitation of
Blackboard. Courses which are over the “hard limit”
will return errors when trying to upload certain
kinds of content to the course. If your course is
over the hard limit, please get in touch with our
Blackboard techs as soon as possible, and we can
work with you to get things in your course working
Q: What should I do if I’m over the quota
A: If you have more than a couple hundred
megabytes of data directly in your Blackboard
course, that’s what I would consider “big”. Apart
from quota concerns, I’d really recommend talking
with our techs to see if we can’t limit the sheer
amount of data you have. If you are over the hard
limit and being prevented from adding content to
your course, get in touch with us at once. We can
modify your quota limits for this semester so you
can continue uploading needed material, and we can
begin working with you to find ways to deal with the
file size issues long term. Even something as simple
as optimizing the images in PowerPoint presentations
may decrease file sizes to a tiny fraction of their
original size without changing the appearance of the
images at all; there may also be alternate, and
possibly better, ways to store some of your
material. The possibilities are legion, which is why
you should really get in touch with our techs to
look at your specific situation.
Q: So, I don’t need to just delete a lot
of my content?
A: No. Imposing quotas on Blackboard
courses is not intended to limit the way you teach
using the system. It is simply the best solution we
can find to address some of the technical
limitations of Blackboard. Absolute worst case
scenario is that we will override your quota, you
will keep having a large course site, and you will
know that your archives will be useless. (In other
words, rather than be ignorant of the situation, it
will be business as usual with you in possession of
all the facts.)
Q: How do I know how much content is in my
A: As you might expect, Blackboard gives
us absolutely no tools for analyzing content sizes.
However, the good folks at the University of York
have developed a Building Block for Blackboard
systems, which they freely shared with us, which
gives some useful information. To use this tool, go
into your Control Panel, and find the “Quota Usage”
link in the “Course Tools” area. There are some
details on exactly how much content is in your
course, but for most people the really meaningful
number is the percentage in large colorful text. If
green, you’re under the quota hard limit, if red
you’re over the limit.
Q: What do I do, if my content is simply
never going to be less than 250 MB?
A: Although in the vast majority of cases
we will be able to help folks get their content
trimmed down to under the quota limit, we realize
that certain courses just can’t compress files and
trim down data. However, there are some other
options available to store the content securely,
that will not require the files to be actually in
your Blackboard course. Depending on your exact
situation, your solutions may vary; get in touch
with the techs and we will work with you. Again, the
first step will be to bump up your quota limit for
this semester, so we’ll have all semester to
implement the new way of doing things. This is not
something you’ll need to get finished before the
students show up, by any means.
the index of Dave's previous
"Blackboard Feature of the Week"
Teaching with Technology - Dr.
Online Human Touch
Student enrollment in online classes continues to
increase nationwide. But, unfortunately, student
attrition is much higher in online classes relative
to traditional, on-campus classes.
Drexel University has developed an interesting
approach to ensuring that online students don’t drop
out. Called the Online Human Touch program. This
approach asserts that students are more likely to
remain in online courses if they are engaged with
the course and if their online learning experience
is personalized. While the Drexel program is a
comprehensive one that couldn’t be implemented here
in its entirety, some important elements could be –
and these could make a huge difference in student
Here are some practical ways that student
engagement and personalized communication can be
integrated into an online class (or an on-campus
class to for that matter).
Welcome To Students
the week before the semester begins,
make a phone call to each student – while
this may seem initially, like a time
consuming effort, it really doesn’t have to
be: when you reach a phone message it will
take maybe 30 seconds or so to welcome the
student to your class and if you actually
get the student on the phone it probably
will only be a minute or two in most cases
record a welcome message, place it
somewhere in your course and link to it from
the Announcement area so students will see
(and listen) to it when they first enter the
Use first names in all correspondence to
Create a forum that allows students to
introduce themselves to each other – the Drexel
program requires students to post audio/voice
and text introductions and to respond to at
least two classmates during the first week
Provide individualized feedback
Drexel University faculty are required
to provide individualized comments on all
graded assignments – these comments allow
students to understand what they have done
well and what they need to modify
consider sending voice emails – you can
create one and send it to all students (for
example a summary of that week’s activities)
or create a personalized one to send to a
particular student (for example reminding a
student to post to the DB or submit
assignments on time or praise for doing
create brief audio messages regarding
such topics as weekly overview of the coming
week’s assignments, audio announcements
regarding local current events or a movie or
TV special that relates to that week’s
content, weekly wrap-ups that highlight some
main learning objectives and/or that mention
– by name – some student contribution, a
weekly (or periodic) podcast relevant to the
Survey data from students enrolled in the Drexel
University program that implemented the OHT approach
indicated that the online education they received
from this program was the same (53%) or higher (39%)
quality than on-campus programs.
the index of Haydn's previous
"Teaching with Technology" segments.
Tech-Talk-Topic - Terry Gray
majority of browser users use Internet Explorer
because that is what came with their computer and
they see no reason to change. Among this group
IE still holds the dominant market share and always
will because of Microsoft's OS market monopoly.
But among the tech savvy, things are different.
A higher percentage of this group prefer
the open source browser from
and there are many reasons. It is faster,
better designed, and offers more options than IE.
One of the main reasons for its popularity among
the technoscenti is its implementation of
"extensions". Extensions are little bits of
computer code written by third-party programmers
that can be installed as part of Firefox in order to
extend its capabilities in useful and interesting
ways. Mozilla publishes a web site
extensions, and you can browse there and
install as many as you want for free. What's
more, if you don't like what they do, you can easily
uninstall them with the extremely intelligent design
of Firefox's add-on manager.
Rather than browsing among the hundreds of
extensions available, however, or discussing
extensions in general, I would like to recommend one
I find particularly useful:
The product tagline associated with Hyperwords is
"Make all web pages smart", and that, it indeed,
does. Since a picture is worth a thousand
words, and a video is worth a thousand pictures,
take a look at this YouTube video to get the general
idea of Hyperwords. After you grasp the
concept, I will discuss some of the not so apparent
features that make it a very useful tool indeed.
As you can see from the video, Hyperwords
provides search and manipulation tools for any word
or set of words on a web page via a pop-up menu or,
something the video does not show, a toolbar.
You will find yourself using the toolbar frequently,
and when you install Hyperword you are given the
choice to replace the standard Firefox Search
toolbar with the Hyperword one. You can even
have them both, but once you get used to the
Hyperword toolbar you will have no use for the
standard search toolbar.
The basic functions of Hyperwords are exciting
enough, and I'm sure you gather the basic idea from
watching the video, but to get the maximum from
Hyperwords I suggest the following changes from the
Add your own search engines to the search
menu. While Google is the default, and
probably the most commonly used search engine,
and other more specialized search engines are
categorized under the Search menu, it may be
useful to add another category within Search
called "Sites" or "Others" or simply use
existing categories to place other search
engines within the Search structure in Hyperwords. The easiest way to do this is
to go to the Search Engine interface on the web,
right-click in the search box, and choose "Add
to Hyperwords..." from the pop-up menu.
The Hyperwords Custom Search Command dialog
box will appear. Highlight the category
where you wish to place search engine link (you
can create your own categories if you wish) give
it a shortcut key if you desire, highlight the
category and click Add.
You will be prompted to Restart Firefox for
the change to take effect.
Note: If you are installing the Palomar
College electronic database search tools on a
laptop you transfer between home and campus, add
these searches from home using the proxy server
address so that your searches will work from
off-campus. Not all of the databases
subscribed to by Palomar will work within
Hyperwords, but the OED and JSTOR certainly
Turn on the Email Page button to add a
one-button tool to the Firefox toolbar that,
when clicked, will email the URL of the current
page using your email program. The button
looks like this:
Turn it on by clicking the Hyperwords icon in
the Hyperwords toolbar and selecting Settings >
On the Toolbars tab select "Using Your Email
Program" or, alternatively "Using Google Mail"
if you prefer.
This makes it easy to quickly send page URLs
to friends and colleagues from within Firefox.
Turn on Auto-Content. This will
automatically generate a table of contents for a
long web page. Find this setting on the
Other tab of the User Settings dialog:
This will not work on every web page, but for
sites with long, verbose articles, Wikipedia for
example, it will auto-generate a table of
contents for the article that can be accessed by
moving the cursor to the far left of the page.
If you are one who likes those little link
previews (preview versions of the web page that
are linked from the page you are viewing) , you
can now get rid of whatever software you are
using and turn on link preview in Hyperwords.
You will find this setting on the Other tab
If you typically work with another language,
you can change the default translation of the
program to translate from a language to another
by default. This can be configured on the
Localization tab of the Hyperwords User Settings
Unless you have a reason to see the
translated text inline on the page you are
viewing, you will want to clear the "Translate
in page" checkbox.
Another localization you will find useful is
to enter your home and work locations into the
Google Map Location field. If you do,
driving directions will be generated without you
having to enter these items each time.
My ten favorite Hyperwords uses:
The ability to highlight all the uses of a
particular word on a page, and even highlight it.
The ability to highlight a section of text
and choose to Email immediately. When this
command is invoked the highlighted text is
transferred to an Outlook mail form, along with
the URL for the page from which it is taken,
along with an appropriate subject line.
All I need to do is address the email and click
The ability to search the OED for
highlighted words via the Palomar College
database subscription, without having to go to
the library web site or click any other
The ability to copy sections of text with
links and, additionally, the ability to turn on
automatic copying for any highlighted text
without having to use Ctrl-C or press any other
key to effect the copy operation.
The ability to print immediately, with or
without printer preferences, any
highlighted section of text to any printer,
including the Adobe PDF printer.
The system of keyboard shortcuts that permit
me to highlight a word, and simply press a
couple of keys to get to relevant search or
reference results. For example, if I
highlight "Pepys" and press r,w on the keyboard
I am taken immediately, in a new tab, to the
Wikipedia article on Samuel Pepys.
The ability to get a quick thumbnail picture
of anyone (or thing) withing the Hyperwords menu
by simply hovering over the Google image search
(See the thumbnail of Moss Hart and Kitty
Carlisle below). If I want to perform the
Google image search, I click.
This sort of in-menu processing is especially
useful with conversions too.
The ability to quickly search custom
databases by simply adding them to Hyperwords
and assigning a shortcut key to them. I
can search the full Time magazine database, for
example, by first adding it to Hyperwords (see
item 1 above), placing it in the Search>news
category, and then going to any web page,
highlighting a term, and pressing s,n,t.
The Page Info menu (once you turn it on in
User Settings) permits a quick Google search of
pages linked to the current page. There
are other ways to do this, of course, but this
is far the easiest and most convenient.
The ability to get tech support from various
recognized web resources, like Apple.com, ZDNet,
Wired, etc. through the built-in Search>tech
an index of previous "Tech Talk
music for today's show was provided by
and is used through their Creative
Commons license for podcasts.
Today's featured album was "The
Four Seasons by Vivaldi"
in San Francisco in 1986, American
Baroque brings together some of
America's most accomplished and exciting
baroque instrumentalists, with the
purpose of defining a new, modern genre
for historical instruments."
"Stuffed deer heads
on walls are bad enough, but it's worse when they
are wearing dark glasses and have streamers in their
antlers because then you know they were enjoying
themselves at a party when they were shot." ~