Wednesday 17 December 2008

Now anyone can start a forum or discussion group

I know moodle has a forum but I'm not so sure it's that easy to use and it certainly isn't very pretty. What is easy to use and is pretty is a super free tool providing free forums by Lefora'I managed to set up a forum from scratch in about 10 minutes. OK, so no-one yet knows about it which will take a bit longer but it needn't be restricted to one course or another and has an interface which students will find more attractive and interesting.

You can set up various categories of discussion and add gadgets, polls and the like very simply. Remarkably, it's completely free, has bags of space, no obvious limites on uploads where people wish to share files, pictures etc., and no adverts that I spotted either.

Unless I've missed something, this has to be one of the best new additions to the webtools collection for a while. Right, now to make another one for The Village to gossip in! Here's a link to the Studyzone forum if you want to see how it looks.

This discovery also came from the brilliant pbwiki educators forum which uses the same software.

Did they copy it from the internet?

I'd like to think I can spot text that's been copied from a web site and pasted into an assignment. Often all I have to do is ask the student what a particular word or phrase means and the slightly desperate, blank look says it all! The really lazy ones who don't get rid of the formatting don't deserve any feedback and even those who try usually miss something and a stray table or odd font size gives the game away.

However, for the times when I need a second opinion, an FE College I work for bought some quite expensive software a little while ago and I might have thought about being one of the first to use it. (I don't think many have. In fact I might have been the second to use it. And, no, it wasn't my recommendation.) Now, though, there's a free tool that's worth a try and may be useful for checking an odd paragraph or two that appear far too well spelled and punctuated for the urchin who handed it in. Called The Plagiarism Checker, try it out at this link. If I get some decent feedback about it I'll add it to the webtools site.

This discovery came from the brilliant pbwiki educators forum. Full of good stuff and still free.

Unfortunately, it won't catch the blighter who hands in someone else's work with the footer changed unless the person who did it first did his own bit of copying and pasting!

Wednesday 10 December 2008

1s Upon A Time

In the beginning, God created the bit. And the bit was a zero.

On the first day, he toggled the 0 to 1, and the Universe was.

On the second day, God's boss wanted a demo, and tried to read the bit. This being volatile memory, the bit reverted to a 0. And the universe wasn't. God learned the importance of backups and memory refresh, and spent the rest of the day reinstalling the universe.

On the third day, the bit cried "Oh, Lord! If you exist, give me a sign!" And God created rev 2.0 of the bit, even better than the original prototype. Those in Universe Marketing immediately realized that "new and improved" wouldn't do justice to such a grand and glorious creation. And so it was dubbed the Most Significant Bit. Many bits followed, but only one was so honored.

On the fourth day, God created a simple ALU with 'add' and 'logical shift' instructions. And the original bit discovered that -- by performing a single shift instruction -- it could become the Most Significant Bit. And God realized the importance of computer security.

On the fifth day, God created the first mid-life kicker, rev 2.0 of the ALU, with wonderful features, and said "Forget that add and shift stuff. Go forth and multiply." And God saw that it was good.

On the sixth day, God got a bit overconfident, and invented pipelines, register hazards, optimizing compilers, crosstalk, restartable instructions, microinterrupts, race conditions, and propagation delays. Historians have used this to convincingly argue that the sixth day must have been a Monday.

On the seventh day, an engineering change introduced Windows into the Universe, and it hasn't worked right since.

Reproduced from something I found on ZDNet without an author so I hope they don't mind.