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Technology and Download News Briefs
Reader 8 is now available for free download.
According to Adobe, "Adobe Reader 8 features a new,
streamlined interface with user customizable
toolbars. Adobe Acrobat® Professional users can now
enable Adobe Reader users to fill and submit forms,
save data and digitally sign documents. Adobe Reader
8 also features graphics processing unit (GPU)
acceleration, which boosts performance when viewing
graphics-intense PDF files, such as 3D content."
Click here to download the new version,
here to read the press release.
Adobe also announced on Wednesday that Adobe®
Acrobat® Connect™ is available for purchase.
Acrobat Connect permits web collaboration by groups.
"Unlike traditional web conferencing solutions, the
Acrobat Connect products enable users to choose a
simple and easy-to-remember web address for their
online personal meeting room that is unique to them,
much like a phone number or e-mail address" (Adobe
press release). Palomar is not yet
licensed for this product.
Microsoft has announced an Express Upgrade program
which will upgrade from Windows XP to Vista for
computers purchased through certain vendors between
October 26,2006 and March 15, 2007.
Click here for details. Vendors include
Acer, ASUS, Dell, eMachines, Fujitsu, Gateway, HP,
Lenovo, LG, Medion, NEC, Sony and Toshiba.
under 'building a patent moat': "Apple
Computer has sought patent protection for an
iPod/iPhone combination that is rumored to be on tap
for as early as January." Rumors are always
rife with forthcoming Apple products. There
are two things to remember about these rumors:
1) the product almost always arrives, in one form or
another; 2) the timing is always wrong.
Also on the Apple front, we reported last week, and
repeat here, a security patch has been released
affecting Mac OS X versions 10.3.9 to 10.4.8.
Click here for details and download links.
the patch was released November 28 in response to a
US-Cert vulnerability warning, and affects
various Mac systems.
Adobe announced vulnerabilities in Adobe Reader
and Acrobat that could allow an attacker to take
control of an affected system.
security advisory here.
A patch has not yet been released, but a workaround
is available, as described in the security advisory.
The vulnerability is an ActiveX control used only by
Internet Explorer. Adobe considers the issue
as "critical," but says it has not yet been observed
in the wild.
Click here for other Adobe security issues and
And, while speaking of security vulnerabilities, a
new MS Word vulnerability, called the "zero-day
flaw" was revealed Wednesday affecting versions of
Word sold from 2000 to 2006. Word 2007 is not
affected. The vulnerability could "let
malicious hackers take control of victims' computers
by sending them e-mail with a Word document
So far, no patch.
Of the three major search engines, Microsoft's Live
Search has the fewest users and has actually lost
market share over the last year, due probably to
re-branding and a confusion between MSN Search and
According to Nielsen, market share among the 3
major tools looks like this:
1. Nokia (7.3/10)
2. Dell (7/10)
3. Fujitsu-Siemens (6/10)
4. Motorola (6/10)
5. Sony Ericsson (5.7/10)
6. HP (5.7/10)
7. Acer (5.3/10)
8. Lenovo (5.3/10)
9. Sony (5/10)
10. Panasonic (4.3/10)
11. LGE (4/10)
12. Samsung (4/10)
13. Toshiba (3.7/10)
14. Apple (2.7/10)
Listen to the news [mp3 -
- Academic Technology Training
The Academic Technology schedule of
training workshops for Spring 2007 has been
Click here to access the schedule,
here to read a description of the various
workshops within their competencies and also the new
Blackboard Certificate program and TBA training.
Register for all Academic
Technology workshops through the
Professional Development web site.
- @ONE has announced it's schedule
of multi-week, online, instructor facilitated
courses for Spring 2007. Of relevance to
Palomar faculty will be courses on Teaching Online,
Teaching with Blackboard, and Using Dreamweaver.
Click here for more information and
@ONE has also announced its Spring schedule of
Click here for the schedule and a registration
- Free Microsoft eLearning courses:
for a limited time access to these excellent
e-Learning products on Office 2007 is available.
Click here to access a gateway to sign-up for
training in the new Office interface, Access 2007,
Excel 2007, Infopath 2007, OneNote 2007, Outlook
2007, PowerPoint 2007, Word 2007, Visio 2007, and
Groove 2007. You may also download a free
e-book from this site titled
First Look 2007 Microsoft Office System in
- Free online training is available
for Horizon Wimba
Live Classroom and the Horizon Wimba
Voice Tools, both of which we have access to in
our Blackboard system.
The Blackboard Feature of the Week - David Gray
A Time for All Things
I tried to figure out what faculty should be doing at this
time of year, and I came up with two main things: First,
getting ready for Spring 2007, so they won't have to over
the intersession. Second, getting final grades submitted,
so they can stop worrying over Fall 2006. So, I'm going to
suggest a double feature to cover these topics, Course Copy
and Gradebook Filtering.
get materials into your Spring 2007 courses, most folks will
use the Course Copy tool, located in the lower left corner
of the Control Panel. Go there, and into the Copy Course
Materials into an Existing Course area, and you'll see the
course copy tool. There's a trick to selecting the
Destination Course though, if you Browse for your new
course, then hit the Search button without typing anything
into the search box, you'll get a list back of all your
courses that you can choose from. Check the boxes for which
areas you want to copy (although most folks just select
everything), then hit the Submit button in the lower right
corner. You'll get an email when it is done; the copy
process may take a long time, so wait for the email.
There is an online demonstration of this process
is quite a pain to scroll back and forth between the name
column and the total column in the Blackboard gradebook.
Fortunately you don't have to! Go into your gradebook and,
in the drop-down list for Filter Items by Category, select
Total, then hit the GO button next to the list. You should
now have a list of student names and final grades.
There is an online demonstration of this process
Note: To get to David's vodcast site,
Teaching with Technology - Dr. Haydn Davis
Can I Make It Better Next Time?: Conducting a
Now that the semester is almost
over some faculty are beginning to think of revising
their online course for next semester. We can all
think of things we’d like to do differently the next
semester but probably few of us conduct a systematic
review of our online class. Even if we wanted to,
how would we do it? That is the topic of today’s
Royal Roads University in British
Columbia, acknowledging concerns many have about the quality
of online courses, initiated a systematic program to assess
the quality of their online courses and, where appropriate,
to offer suggestions for improvement.
The report, published in Educause
Quarterly (3, 2006), discusses the assessment approach they
used. Specifically, a high quality online class addresses
six interconnected parts:
- Instructional Design
- Web Design
- Teaching and Facilitation
- Learning Experience
- Course Presentation
The objective of the project was to
establish quality standards for assessing online courses.
The review team established criteria for ideal online
courses and then reviewed a representative, randomly chosen
sample of the institution’s online courses.
Interestingly, the assessment team
reported that most of the courses needed some improvement to
meet the quality standards decided in advance.
What kinds of improvements were most
frequently suggested? Or, put another way, what did an ideal
online course have that the others didn’t? In high quality
Course learning outcomes use clear assessment criteria
- Performance expectations regarding
participation in online discussion are clear
- Authentic activities are used –
students are challenged to apply their learning to
- Instructor’s role and methods of
providing feedback are clearly indicated
- Technological tools are incorporated
appropriately and permit user control (e.g. stop/play)
- Course materials are free of typos
and grammatical errors
- Online readings and resources are
properly linked (e.g. links are live)
- Links to external resources open in
- Dates in the schedule or course
calendar are accurate and consistent throughout the
Tech-Talk-Topic - Terry Gray
Your First Blog
Technorati, a blog tracking/aggregator service,
was tracking over 60 million blogs as of November,
2006. To be a public person, a political
candidate, an individualist, whoever, these days you
need to have a blog. A blog, as if you didn't
know, is a personal, online diary. Some are
focused on very specific issues (like candidate blogs), others
stream-of-consciousness rambles akin to Ulysses,
with perhaps less literary merit. Technically,
a blog is simply a special web page designed to
accommodate journal-style entries which accumulate
in reverse chronological order. They include
features that provide
- a unique URL for each blog
posting (a "permalink");
- a date/time stamp, an
archive of previous months' postings (the archive
period is configurable);
- a system of links or other
"gadgets" on a blog sidebar (called the "blogroll");
- a system that supports interactive comments to the blog
Some blog services also support "trackbacks,"
that is, links to a blog posting placed when some
other blogger links to your blog post.
The feature that makes blogs
so viral is that
they all have an "RSS feed." That is, they are
syndicated using one of two popular "really simple
syndication" formats "atom" or "rss." Both
work equally well, and we are not going to dwell on
the differences here. Suffice it to say that
they are simply an XML file that describes the
overall blog and contain item "tags" which
describes each posting to the blog.
To "subscribe" to the blog, all you need to do is
paste the subscription URL (the URL of the rss feed,
if you are following me along this trail of acronyms) into a "news" aggregator: some program
designed to check the XML file every so often to see
if something new has been posted, and pull down a
headline and short description if it has. RSS
feeds got their start with blogs, and quickly spread
to many web sites that are often updated, like news
media sites, in order to quickly syndicate their new
content in a way where readers would get it
effortlessly and not have to visit the web site
unless they were actually interested in a particular
story or posting. (Note: even though the term
"subscribe" is used, there is no cost associated
with reading blogs except in the case of a very rare
The use of blogs has obvious educational
potential. Blackboard has some time now been
saying they will be including blogging features
within each course, but so far it has not happened.
There are for-pay Blackboard building blocks which
will incorporate class-specific blogs, but the cost
is prohibitive. So, how to create one?
There are several well-known blogging services.
Some are free, others involve cost. The best
(free but oriented to socializing)
(free but oriented to socializing)
(free, well designed, but recommends viewing
only in Firefox)
Live Journal (a free basic account and more
customizable for-pay accounts are available)
TypePad (for pay, 30 days free then
$5-$15 per month)
WordPress (free basic and for pay upgrades)
Moveable Type (personal blog free, with many
for-pay options and site licensing of software)
The oldest (and best, in my
opinion) of these services is Blogger.com. It is
extremely easy to use, has lots of extras, and looks
really good. It even lets you use its creation
engine, and then FTP the content to your own
server if you wish. Go to
http://www.blogger.com/start to get started.
If you have a GMail account, login with it
(blogger.com is owned by Google), if
not, create a blogger account on the fly: name your blog, pick a
template, and make your first post quickly.
It is as simple as that. I created the blog
http://blinteresting.blogspot.com within two
minutes--and what takes the longest time is coming
up with a blog name that has not already been used.
There are several simple
configuration changes you can make at blogger, but
it is ready to use right out of the gate. It
supports all the features mentioned above.
Oddly enough, blogger automatically creates Atom and
RSS feeds for your blog, let's you specify whether
you want them to be brief or verbose, but
inexplicably does not tell you what the subscription
address is. It is the URL of the blog, plus
the suffix "/atom.xml" or "/rss.xml."
Now you know.
To subscribe to my blog in your news aggregator
Google Reader, or simply IE7) enter the address
the subscription function (i.e., the address bar, in
IE7) of the aggregator. Even clicking on this
link in IE7 or Firefox will give you the option to
subscribe. From then on, each time I post to
my blog, you will be notified with the blog post
title and a very brief summary of the post.
(For help with RSS subscription,
Blog templates are highly customizable, and the
"new" look of blogger.com is really elegant,
permitting the installation of gadgets like clocks
or Wikipedia search boxes, in your sidebar.
Take a look at
my Academic Technology blog to see what I mean.
Maintaining your blog couldn't be easier with
blogger.com, but to really make life easy, I
Microsoft Live Writer (which is still in beta,
by the way, but works great) to do your posting.
By using Live Writer (reviewed in
podcast episode 36). Install Live Writer
locally, configure it for your blogger.com blog(s),
define an ftp directory if you wish, where images
can be posted (any folder on a Palomar web server
works just fine), download your template from
blogger.com, and then you can make all your posts on
your local computer without ever having to login to
blogger, or use their web composition tool, again.
Caveat: The only problem I have
experienced in blogging has been with "comment
spam." The story of the Internet to date has
been Paradise Lost, where ventures begin
altruistically but are corrupted by the forces of darkness,
in this case, spam darkness. Spammers have
invented programs that post comments to blogs with
their unsolicited advertisements. To combat
this practice, blogger.com has two strategies: 1) an
option where you can turn on Word verification,
where comment posters must enter a skewed-looking
word into an input field in order to post; 2)
moderated comments, where comments are mailed to you
and you approve them for posting via email.
It's a shame, but that's the way it is.
Give blogging a try. I would be especially
interested in hearing how all of you creative people
find academic uses for it.
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