Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Storm in an IT Cup

Michael Lasky's article today in PC Advisor has caused a storm of outbursts from IT Support and others. Titled: 7 fun things IT support wants to keep secret, Transfer huge files, chat and surf at work, you can guess what's it's all about. Yes, what most students do but staff shouldn't.

Can't resist passing these on, purely for colleagues to be aware of what may be going on in the classroom, of course ;)

My view is that if you believe that using a particular site or application, or that some restriction placed upon your computing activity is unreasonable then you should talk to the people controlling the switch and if you can make a good case, get it changed. It is totally reasonable for IT Services or Support staff to wish to minimise any risk of data leak, trojan or virus infection or conflicts with other software. It is, however, also totally reasonable for a lecturer to want students to access a particular site that he has determined suitable or advantageous for them, to wish to utilise such methods of communication as are most efficient, read mail when away and I would always heartily back the storage of my files almost anywhere except on some of our servers which cease to function when someone switches off the air conditioning during the holidays.

Most of us probably frequently break the IT User Agreements we signed without reading. Perhaps it's time to look at them again and do some negotiating.

News from Brighton Peer

Lecturer bans students from Google and Wikipedia

January 14, 2008
Brighton Argos and PC Advisor, Feb 2008 issue

Professor Tara Brabazon, a media studies lecturer from the University of Brighton (apparently there is such an institution), has banned students from online research.

Specifically, the Prof is unhappy with the feckless, unwashed layabouts simply rehashing the first thing they find on Google or Wikipedia. (Media studies or no, she should never meet any actual journalists. The disappointment may finish her off.)

In a move that may give dangerous ideas to the good, good people at Google, Professor Brabazon dubbed her students efforts as 'the University of Google', - although I imagine the diet would be much more healthy at that particular institution. She bemoaned her students' disinclination to double check facts. Note to subs: can you check this bit?

According to Brabazon, too many students turn to the internet for easy information, hampering their development and their forensic research and analysis skills. (A travesty, when you consider the amount of 'Quincy' and 'Columbo' they must get through.)

"The education world has pursued new technology with an almost evangelical zeal and it is time to take a step back and give proper consideration of how we use it," she told the the Argos in Brighton.

Frankly, hanging is too good for the lot of them.

When I was a student I wrote essays by hand. It once took me (literally) all night - fueled only by penny sweets and Channel 5 - to plagarise a book I found at the back of the library, only to turn the final page and see the beaming face of my tutor gurning back at me. It took me the whole day find something else to copy (I missed Hollyoaks).

Kids today don't even know they are born.

Couldn't do better than reproduce this amazing bit of news posted by Matt Egan on the PC Advisor blog.

Monday, 7 January 2008

2008 Resolutions (the boring work-related ones)

It's traditional at this time of year to tell everyone what we resolve either to do or not to do, presumably on the grounds that there will then be the big incentive of avoiding embarrassment of not sticking to them!

Here are mine.

1 Not to swear loudly in class when there is a huge delay for students opening Office files while applications are being 'installed' every day

2 Not to attach any documents to e-mail unless that really is the only way to share them

3 Not to feel guilty about using interactive whiteboards as little more than projector screens

4 Back up files to another drive a lot more often than when I just happen to remember and put things I'm likely to want to refer to on-line too

5 Change all my passwords to something I can remember but others won't guess

6 Just use one e-mail account for work and one for personal stuff

7 Delete any file I didn't use at all last year unless there's a really good reason not to.

8 Delete all my 2007 and older work e-mail other than contact details, contracts or really vital stuff

9 Get a decent skin for Moodle that doesn't stretch and look silly on widescreen and that isn't full of bugs that confuse new users

10 Write at least as many cheerful and positive articles as ones that moan about something.


Friday, 4 January 2008

Create Your Own Academic Webpage

The blurb says "Academia.edu enables graduate students and professors to create academic webpages very easily." You don't need to be a professor - just have a .ac.uk or .edu address!

It also has discussion rooms, and a paper-tracking engine, that allows academics to track the latest papers uploaded to the web in their field.

I've just tried it out and created this page in about 5 minutes. It looks neat and tidy and may be just what someone out there is looking for. My preference would still be to use Pageflakes or Protopage or, of course, pbwiki but this really is one of the simplest I've seen. It's free and no ads.

Click here for access..