Category Archives: Technology Tidbits

Scenario 2010

I teach Composition in a computer classroom, with 24 desktop computers and 23 students.  Since we also have wireless Internet available, some students bring their own laptops to work on in class instead of the desktop computers.  So, we’re workshopping in class on student projects.  One student is working on his project on his laptop, located on the table in front of the PC monitor he is not using.

            “I’m having trouble finding information for the project,” he laments.

            “What kind of trouble?” I ask, hoping to help him direct his search.

            “My wireless connection isn’t working very well on the laptop, so I can’t get Internet access.”

            For a minute, I wasn’t sure what to respond.  “Did you update your virus protection?” I began.  Our university requires the latest updates for connection.

            “Yeah,” he said.  “It isn’t that.  It’s the wireless card in this laptop.”

            What to do? I suddenly realized the answer: “Um, this thing behind your laptop?  It’s a computer, you know!” I blathered.

            “Oh, yeah,” he said, “but I don’t want to have to worry about USB drives and saving stuff or uploading it. “

I remember the days when we had to worry about instructing students to save their work to disks.  Then I was able to help students email/upload their work to the server to access it.  We worked hard to ensure that students would have access to computers in the classroom—both wired and wireless.

It never occurred to me, in all these years that I have been working toward this day, that one (or possibly many?) of my students would be sitting at a computer while using a laptop and would find it too much of a bother to move information from one to the other. 

Oh, yeah—and this student is a computer science major in a special Computer Connections section of Composition…

Go figure.


Writing and Linguistics Department “Brown Bag” Workshop: Technology in Composition 15 October 2009

Susan Smith – “Essay Out Loud” (EOL)

Challenges: citing sources in PowerPoint. Project: Evaluative project – judgment statement (purpose) and criteria. Follow-up: Written evaluation (“traditional” essay). Then morphed into “magazine type” format, using WordArt (for titles) (insert continuous page break after title; THEN format columns), color, images (including citations for graphics/images; textwrap = inline w/text—usually and tight), subheadings, drop caps, pull quotes, etc. Plus, of course, the Works Cited list.

Me: Use Adobe .pdf and “publish” these as “special issue” for TechWriting journal?

David Bailey – “Environmental Scanning”

Gathering RSS feeds together (using MyYahoo). World News feed – gathering different news feeds on one page allows comparisons and determinations of biases. Stock prices alone with economists opinions, news, etc. Data that allows you to customize and interpret. Help students acquire language of a discipline. Interests: pop culture (comic books, movies, music, etc.)

Project idea: “Futuring” – students using RSS feeds/news updates to predict future behavior.

Check out RSS feeds on; RSS readers (GoogleWave – wants invite);; Twitter. Also check out (like Wordle—the more people are accessing, the larger the headline). Technorati.

Me: Check: Citing RSS feed “articles” w/Refworks? Using Galileo Toolbar to search for information?

Help! I’m Cell-Phone Challenged!

Okay, so usually I pride myself on being at least relatively technically savvy.  Or at least most people who know me think I am (don’t let them read this blog!!).  People always come to me when they have techie challenges for help–and I’m usually okay at helping.  My sister called me last night from her hotel room (she was attending an out-of-town conference) and said, “Hi, is this tech support?”  I finally talked her through getting her laptop hooked up to the hotel’s wireless network before “gently” reminding her that she was in a different time zone and I really needed to get back to sleep….

So that was last night.  This morning was a different story.

For some reason, I was playing around with my cell phone.  I’ve had it for awhile now and been very happy with it (it doesn’t matter what kind it is–that’s not relevant to this story and I refuse to be an advertisement for some company).  At any rate, I flipped the button that let the battery fall out.

Oops!  Didn’t mean to do that.  Ah, well, so I put the battery back in the phone.  No harm, no foul, right?

Wrong.  The phone’s display was dark.  I hit the button I usually hit when the phone is dark (it goes dark whenever it’s not in use to save battery power, of course).  Nothing.  I tried hitting a few more buttons.  Nothing. 

I used my land line phone to call myself.  Nothing.

So I decided I’d have to stop at my cell phone provider on my way in to work.  But first I decided to check the Web to see what I could find out–maybe there’s some kind of re-set button?

Sure enough, there’s a re-set button. It’s actually called TURN THE PHONE ON, DUMMY! Natch, when the battery was removed from the phone, the phone automatically shut down.  Duh.

So, please–don’t tell anyone what a technically-challenged dummy I really am, okay?

Tetherless World Research Constellation

Tetherless World Research Constellation

“The Future of the World Wide Web”

RPI  6/11/08


Live Interactive Debate on the Future of the Web


More of my Notes that Don’t Make Sense

“Washington, Wikipedia, and Web 3.0: What Is the Future of the Web?”

Keynote by Tim Berners-Lee


Putting courses online, as MIT, has done — can’t be used as a research library,”each course is one person’s journey” Tim Berners-Lee about online courses.


Kindergarten teaches values which is not necessarily tied to technology.  By the time the students are in 12th grade, they are teaching us.  We learn from our students.


Information on the Web (e.g., Wikipedia) is not free—since we pay for connectivity.  


Scale-free (?)


There will always be boundaries and people pushing against them.


Text-based protocols the system will carry everything you can read or write.  In some ways there are no limits.  Cover your body in little sequins where each one is a little Web cam, and every pixel in a room corresponds to a little sequin on your body…..  Ha ha


Semantic web scaling of ontologies—who is going to write them all?  A few are public and used by a large number of people and are cheap to make.  Design a system with scale-free web of ontologies, then it all works.


Design semantic web as system of connected communities, it will work because it is designed for a scale-free system in a scale-free world. 


Read/Write/Web Future of the Web

Panelists: Wendy Hall, Nigel Shadbolt, Nova Spivack, Deborah McGuinness (Moderator), James Hendler (Moderator)

Nova Spivack

What is the incentive for people to include semantics in the structure of their Web site?  Is the semantic Web a dream? 

Yes!  As the amount of information explodes, the problem gets exponentially harder to solve.  Burden of thinking on programmers to anticipate problems.  Semantic Web approach puts the burden on the data itself, instead of making smarter software.  Creates a knowledge commons, where anyone can add data about data. Create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Technical and social challenges – getting people to agree on vocabulary to describe a domain of knowledge; storing and querying data in scalable fashion.  But, is there an alternative? Can you imagine a future without the notion of the semantic Web?  Information is increasing vastly faster than our information processing capacity.  We could use large numbers of people to make sense of the information, but that approach is not scalable.  So you need some way of making sense of this data that doesn’t rely on AI or on human intelligence.  So we need to embody the information necessary to understand the data in the data itself.

Nigel Shadbolt

How does AI fit into the future of the Web?

Most people think it’s a failed project.  In fact, the Web took a long time to come to the attention of people working in AI. Along the way, we have discovered algorithms that can do many, many things–the inventory of successes in AI are great.  I think what we’re going to see is the use of ideas and concepts of AI in a much reduced form operating in ways we never imagined.  These working at global scale have very interesting properties.  What I see emerging is this large, collective social fabric of the web of people, a developing ecology of task-achieving programs. We have these systems starting to appear now.  Still essentially people-driven, a very different kind of AI.  Reverse the letters, IA – Intelligence augmentation.

Wendy Hall

What about the multi-lingual Internet? Will this create a multicultural mosaic or a Tower of Babel?

There’s a whole huge Chinese Web that we (the English speaking public) never see.  220 million Internet users in China, about to overtake the number of Internet users we have in U.S., but that’s only 16% of the population.  But they use mobile phones to access the Web.  That will make Chinese the dominant language on the Web.  Of course, some English language sites on the Web can’t be seen by the Chinese, because their government has barred these sites.  The regulatory layer determines very much what happens.  Educating governments all over the world as to what they’re dealing with when they bring legislation into this area because our contention is that most people don’t understand what the Web is and how it’s regulated and what they do.  Not just language but social context, in other words.  YouTube is a huge hub in the Web, so when Pakistan tried to take out YouTube, they didn’t realize the tremendous interconnectedness of what they’re dealing with.  Communication to break down barriers.  We’re already living in a fragmented Web, and dealing with that is not just about teaching everybody English which is what we did in the old empire days.

See more questions and discussion at

University nixes web access during class

“University of Chicago Law School officials have a simple message for their students: less web surfing, more listening.

“The school announced April 11 that the distractions afforded by wireless internet access no longer will be available during class time, although laptops still will be permitted for note taking.

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