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- The Blackboard Feature of the
"The Learning Unit"
- Teaching with Technology:
"Blackboard Spotlight and Blackboard
Tech Talk Topic:
"PowerPoint Questions and Answers"
- For more, see
podcast notes for
Technology & Download News Briefs
The big news generator over the past week was
Apple's September 9th "Let's Rock" fall product
announcements, though the offering was not as
impressive as usual. Jobs announced:
iTunes 8, with something called the "Genius"
play list (where the iPod finds songs like the one
you just played) and a new view called "grid" view
(just what it sounds like);
- the iPod classic moves from 80GB to 120GB and
the 160GB model gets discontinued;
- a new, sleeker, more colorful Nano;
- new premium (read $79 extra) in-ear headphones;
- new iPod touch upgrades and price drops;
- NBC returns to the iTunes store;
- HDTV downloads for $2.99;
- new iPhone firmware;
- and, o yeah, this time there isn't just one more thing...
Read all about it at
Note: Some Windows Vista
users have noted incidents of BSOD
(blue-screen-of-death) and disappearing USB devices
after installing iTunes 8. Vista users might
be well advised to wait for the 8.0.1 version.
from Apple, on Friday, September 12 Apple released
version 2.1 of its iPhone (and iPod Touch) software
which fixes many bugs and adds stability and
- Decrease in call setup failures and dropped
- Significantly better battery life for most users
- Dramatically reduced time to back up to iTunes
- Improved e-mail reliability, notably fetching
e-mail from POP and Exchange accounts
- Faster installation of third-party applications
- Fixed bugs causing hangs and crashes for users
with lots of third-party applications
- Improved performance in text messaging
- Faster loading and searching of contacts
- Improved accuracy of the 3G signal strength
- Repeat alert up to two additional times for
incoming text messages
- Option to wipe data after 10 failed passcode
- Genius playlist creation
In other words, it's a big deal (and a big
download, at 240MB). Just plug in your phone
(or Touch) and you will be prompted to make the
upgrade. Windows Vista users beware, however.
download page instructs users to upgrade to
iTunes 8 to make the upgrade, and (as noted above)
there have been some unpleasant iTunes 8/Vista
Though it is old news now, Google released their new
browser, Google Chrome, the week of September 1.
The launch was shaky, with the
comic book (read concept manual) "accidentally"
released first, then an abortive download link, then
a press conference, and finally the
download link. The new browser is in beta,
but except for the Search Engine, all Google tools
are in beta. This really is beta-beta,
however, and not Google production beta.
Google hopes to interest developers to write plugins
and add-ons for the browser's open source code so
that it will someday become as useful as the other
open source browser Google has long supported,
Click here to learn more about Chrome.
- Also this week Google
announced that they were "launching an
initiative to make more old newspapers accessible
and searchable online by partnering with newspaper
publishers to digitize millions of pages of news
archives." The goal of the project is to make
any story from any newspaper findable, "from the
smallest local weekly paper up to the largest
national daily." Google is working with
partners, much as with Google Book Search, to place
historical archives online. Partners include
The New York Times, Washington Post, Proquest,
Heritage, and other for-pay enterprises who will
eventually benefit from Googles scanning/digitizing
technology. Results will be searchable through
Google News Archive,
or by using the sidebar timeline after searching
- Also from Google, they have filed a patent for
"...floating data center powered by wave motions and
cooled by the sea's water" (CNet).
There's not much to say about this one except that
it may give a whole new meaning to 'our servers are
- The world's best PowerPoint Presentation?
Well, according to
slideshare, as judged by slideshare.
Click here to view the winners.
- Here is a reminder you may wish to pass on to
students, Microsoft's "Ultimate Steal" is still
going on. Students can purchase Microsoft
Office Ultimate edition (the standard Office
programs plus OneNote, Groove, Publisher, Access,
Infopath and Accounting Express) for only $59.95.
Click here for the details.
- Please note: the following product is a 0.1 beta and
is NOT recommended, or in this case even suggested,
installation on Palomar College production
computers. Nevertheless, this product has so
much potential that you may want to test it out.
It is called "Ubiquity" for Firefox, and is (this is
a little hard to describe but you will understand it
watch the video) a Mashup integrator that makes
web pages far more useful, and the web itself far
more seamless, than it is now. Being
click here to access the download link for the
pre-beta prototype (!) of Ubiquity.
- If you are reading this it means that the startup of
Large Hadron Collider (LHC
on September 10 did not, in fact, destroy the earth,
as had been feared, either through the creation
of earth-gobbling mini-black holes or ice-nine-like
strangelets. The LHC, developed over
by over 8,000 cooperating (more or less) scientists
from hundreds of institutions, at a cost of over $8
billion (USD) is (it is fervently hoped) expected to
answer questions about the origin and fate of the
universe, the nature of quarks, an answer to why
mass exists for some particles and not others
(i.e., detection of the Higgs boson), confirmation
(or not) of String theory's prediction of multiple
dimensions, and other fundamental physics questions.
The LHC was inaugurated on the birthday of
Arthur Holly Compton, recipient of the
1927 Nobel Prize for physics. Read the
Telegraph's extensive coverage, and watch
New Scientist Flash video below to learn
Or explore the design and hopes for the LHC from its designers and operators by playing on
It should be noted, for those who hoped for a
cataclysmic event, that these are early days and the
first high energy collisions are not planned to
occur until late October, 2008. Stay tuned...
Safari Tech Book Online:
2007 Microsoft® Office System Inside Out, by Jim
Boyce, et al. "This book packs hundreds of
time-saving solutions, troubleshooting tips, and
workarounds for using the 2007 release of Microsoft
Office. Whether you are upgrading from Office 97 or
Office 2003, youll be able to dig in to the
work-ready resources that help you take your
Microsoft Office experience to the next level. " 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
- Academic Technology Workshops
Feature of the Week - David Gray.
With some of the recent discussions about
Blackboard 8 and the Grade Center, it’s easy to
lose track of functionality that’s been in
Blackboard for some time. So for this
installment, let’s take a look at an oft
overlooked content type that’s been available in
courses for years, the Learning Unit.
A Learning Unit is similar to a Folder, in
that is will contain other items, external
links, file uploads, even links to tests and
discussion board forums. The primary difference
between a folder and a learning unit is that a
folder displays all contents at once, whereas a
learning unit will show content one piece at a
time. This can be a useful display mode, if the
material is appropriate for viewing in a
particular sequence or if there is so much
material that a folder full of it might seem
Just like an Item, Folder, or External Link,
a Learning Unit is an object that can be added
to a Content Area in your course site. To add
one, just choose “Learning Unit” from the Select
menu in the upper right corner of a content area
(when your controls are visible, of course) and
click the Go button next to the menu.
The list of options when adding a Learning
Unit are a combination of those you may already
be familiar with from adding Items and External
Links, such as content availability and opening
in a new window. However, Learning Units also
have an option to “Enforce sequential viewing of
the Learning Unit”, which can be enabled when
If the sequential viewing is not enforced, a
table of contents is provided below the actual
material, which students can use to skip between
the different “pages” of the Learning Unit. If
sequential viewing is enforced, students must
use the navigation buttons for “next” and “last”
which appear on the screen to progress through
To add materials to a Learning Unit, make
sure your controls are showing on screen, then
just click the name of the unit as if it were a
folder. Once inside you will see a list of all
current content, and have controls at the top of
the screen for adding more material.
The student view, however, shows that
“chunking” behavior discussed earlier, so that
only one piece of material is displayed at a
Since this is a Learning Unit with sequential
viewing enforced, the navigation buttons in the
upper right corner of the screen are the only
way to move between the different pages of the
Learning Unit. If we turn off the sequential
viewing enforcement, the screen gains a Contents
button which leads to a list that looks like
So, now you can go out and sequentially
arrange your materials in Blackboard, using the
content type called Learning Unit.
Teaching with Technology -
Dr. Haydn Davis
Blackboard Spotlight and Blackboard
The Blackboard Faculty Spotlight:
In future podcasts I intend to
have an occasional feature I’m calling the
Blackboard Faculty Spotlight. The idea will be
to highlight an innovative, exemplary, engaging,
or creative use of Blackboard. In the spotlight
this week: Al Trujillo.
Capitalizing on the fact that many of our
students enjoy You Tube videos, Al decided to
use this interest to further an educational
objective. Accordingly, he found a popular You
Tube video (see below) that related to his
subject, Geography, and asked students to
reflect on the video. Embedding You Tube videos
in Blackboard is very simple to do and can
create an engaging learning activity. In this
example Al embedded the video in a Discussion
Board post and asked students to comment by
Some thoughts about Blackboard
As we finish our third week of
the fall semester, many instructors are
preparing to give exams. On-campus instructors
typically proctor their own exams, often by
walking around the room while students take the
exam. But what about faculty who teach online?
Instructors are rightly concerned about cheating
if students are allowed to take tests online.
Students greatly prefer taking tests online,
arguing that they specifically took an online
class because they couldn’t come to campus, so
requiring on-campus testing defeats the purpose
of taking an online class. And of course
requiring on-campus testing means that people
living outside the San Diego area or people with
certain kinds of disabilities cannot participate
in an online class – even though they could meet
all the other requirements of an online class.
Listed below are some of the ways online
instructors have dealt with this conundrum.
Schedule half the tests online and half the
tests on campus
The thinking here is that requiring students to come to
campus, say, twice a semester is a reasonable compromise.
Some further state that if there is a marked disparity
between online and on campus score, the student may be
required to take an additional test on campus.
Allow online testing but require proctoring
some cases, military students come to mind, it can be fairly
easy to arrange to deliver the test to a responsibly party
who will agree to proctor the exam. Some facilities like the
Sylvan Learning Centers have been used for this.
Create what amount to take-home exams
Some instructors have created a series of essay questions
and assigned them to students such that no two students
receive the same set of questions.
However, for instructors who want to use the Blackboard
testing module to deliver (and grade) tests, there are some
features that help to reduce the likelihood of cheating.
Create tests using random blocks of
questions – this ensures that no student will receive
the exact same test
Randomize the answers to test questions –
this means that even if students are presented the same
questions, the order of the correct answer will vary
from test to test (see graphic below)
Randomize the order of questions – this
means that students will have the same items on their
tests but the order of the questions will be different
in each test (see graphic below)
Impose time limits on the test – this
will reduce the likelihood of a student looking up all
Require students to answer questions
one-at-a-time – this means that, instead of a student
seeing the whole test displayed at once, he/she will see
one item and have to answer that item before another is
Question Options –
Show answers in random order:
Choose as you create a test question
Test Options – Each test has the same questions, but each
test displays the questions in a different order: Choose
just before making a test available to students
Tech-Talk-Topic - Terry
PowerPoint Questions and Answers
Q. Is there a quick and easy way to
take a group of photos and place each one on a slide
A. Yes. Click the Insert tab
(PowerPoint 2007) > Photo Album > New Photo Album:
In the resulting Photo Album dialog box click the
File/Disk... button and select your pictures
There are tools for ordering your list of photos,
adjusting their appearance by rotating, or adjusting
contrast or brightness, several basic layout
options, and theme selection. When adjustments
have been made, click the Create button, then edit
the presentation itself in PowerPoint to add
whatever other elements you wish to include.
Q. Is there a quick way to apply the
same picture formatting to each picture on several
A. Yes. Use the format
painter. First, apply your formatting to a
picture. You can do this quickly and achieve
professional results by using the formatting tools
built-in to PowerPoint. Then, with that
picture selected (ie, click it to select it after it
is formatted) go to the home tab and double-click
the format painter.
Clicking the format painter a single time turns
it on, double-clicking it turns it on and instructs
PowerPoint to leave it turned on until it is clicked
again. Now proceed through your slides and
click each of the pictures once. The
formatting from the original picture will be applied
to each on you click.
Note: This technique will work in all the
Office programs. It is a quick and easy way to
apply paragraph styles in Word, for example.
Q. I have created several hyperlinks
on my PowerPoint slides, but I don't like the color
PowerPoint used when it changed the text to the
"hot" hyperlink color. Can I change this color
without changing the theme I am using?
A. Yes. Almost every element
of design in PowerPoint is customizable. To
modify any of the colors used by a theme click the
Design tab, then the Colors drop-down. The
8-basic colors of the theme you are using (all
themes use 8 basic colors) will be highlighted with
an orange colored border. You may have to
scroll down a long list of themes to find it,
depending on how many custom themes you have
created, downloaded or installed.
Now right-click the them and choose Edit...
The Edit Theme Colors dialog box will appear.
You may now choose a different color for Hyperlinks,
Followed Hyperlinks, or, in fact, any other color
used by your theme.
If you make substantial changes to colors or
other design elements in one of the standard themes,
you will want to save it as a custom theme so that
you can re-use it by clicking the Theme Gallery
drop-down and selecting Save Current Theme...
Q. I use a Mac and create my
presentations using Keynote, but when I get to the
classroom the computer is a PC and Keynote
presentations will not play on the PC. What
can I do?
A. Don't despair. Keynote has a slick
Export... function that will let you Export to
PowerPoint format. On the Keynote menu bar
choose File > Export... And then from the
Export dialog choose PowerPoint.
Be sure to test your exported presentation in
PowerPoint before actually presenting in class.
Be especially careful about any linked or embedded
media files. They must accompany the export,
and may need to be re-linked from within PowerPoint
before they will play. They must also
accompany the exported file. As extra
insurance, Export your Keynote presentation as a PDF
also, so in case PowerPoint does not function for
whatever reason, you will still have a copy of the
basic presentation from which you can work.
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