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Bad interface design May 28, 2008

Posted by jameyo in : presentism , add a comment

I’m one of the few people still using go.com’s webmail service. Long story but I use it for a few subscriptions that I’d rather not clog up other, more widely utilized email accounts.

It’s always been a horrible service to use (no spam marking, slow) and its even gotten so bad I don’t even get spam there anymore! If the SPAMMERS don’t use it, then you know a service isn’t cutting it.

Today, I logged in for my bi-weekly flush and found they’ve managed to make a horrible design even worse!

Screen cap of go.com\'s new \"design\"

Note that, in my 1024 x 768 resolution, I have exactly two messages visible in the message list. Of the messages I select, I can preview exactly five lines of text! My mail message that I come to the site to read, is presented to me in about 8% of the available screen! It’s almost impossible to read.

Nice work, guys!

I understand the need to generate revenue via ads. I’m accustomed to losing some content area for those ads. When the ads squish content down to a minority of the space available (and I’m talking about you, chron.com!) then your design has lost its focus.

I think in go.com’s case, they’re more concerned about getting me to visit one of their real sites when I’m done using their email service. Too bad they’re not concerned with the actual service they’re providing. It’s all AJAX-y but that doesn’t excuse the poor design. And it won’t make me visit their sites.

If you design websites, don’t do what go.com does. Make your bucks where you can, but remember why I’m going there (hint: it’s not so I can look at your ads).

Interview about Second Life April 22, 2008

Posted by jameyo in : virtualism , add a comment

The Houston Chronicle asked area educators about interest in Second Life. I bit. The article is here.  It was printed on page B1 and the picture was inside. Wow.

Interesting experience. The photographer, Nick De La Torre, came with his trusty Nikon, of course. But he also had a pretty interesting video setup, which he used to  shoot the :49 video that accompanies the article.

Jennifer Radcliffe did a creditable job with a topic that was pretty big and multifaceted.

Sure did garner a lot of feedback at work! More people than I imagine read the Chronicle!

Cheating March 10, 2008

Posted by jameyo in : presentism , add a comment

While browsing teh interwebs today, I ran across an interesting piece about why kids cheat.

A fascinating topic and it’s made me stop and consider it all day. How many adults have you heard brag at parties about how they “got a little extra” on their taxes this year? Or ran that red light? I don’t condone cheating, but what kind of example do we truly set for our children?

A larger question is: why are we teaching content that can be cheated on? We’re not asking students to think if they’re able to cheat, are we? I can give you a list of facts and you can either learn it or find a way to bring it to the front when I call upon you to remember it. If I want you to learn it don’t I need to find something that will let you USE it? A project, perhaps?!

Call me crazy…

Getting ready…. January 31, 2008

Posted by jameyo in : presentism , add a comment

Next week is my favorite week of the year: the annual Texas Computer Educator’s Association conference in Austin, Texas. My schedule is full and I run around like an idiot, but I’ll never complain.

I’m presenting one workshop and two sessions. The workshop is a completely overhauled “Building Dynamic Websites using Dreamweaver, MySQL and PHP” six-hour session that I’ll be presenting for the fifth time at TCEA. I just presented the same workshop (with the new content) in Florida at the Florida Educational Technology Conference and it seemed to go pretty well. I’ve tweaked the session a bit, based on their feedback. Not sure if its full or not but it’ll be Tuesday from noon to 7 pm.

Update: its full. Its very clear to me that educators are ready to learn how to make advanced web pages and take advanced workshops.

Mardi Gras on Sixth Street is the likely apres-workshop activity!

Both sessions are Wednesday. At 11 am is a 45 minute session I’m doing with my colleague and friend from Ysleta, Ron Livermore, on Web 2.0 sites of note for educators. At 4:00 pm, I’m doing a 90-minute session on “Podcasting: Understanding your hardware options” in one of the Ballrooms. I guess they think a lot of people will be attending! Yay!

That last session is one near-and-dear to my heart. I’m an inveterate radio guy and good sound is important to me. I hope to transfer some of my some of my knowledge about hardware setups and options to educators looking to improve their podcasts. Topics to be covered include microphones (and proper technique), mixers, compression and options for recording on the move and in unusual situations (like Skype or phone).

I hope to see you there! Stop by and say hi!

Turning a page… March 18, 2007

Posted by jameyo in : futurism, presentism , add a comment

The absence of posts recently is not so much an indicator of lack of interest or topics, but more a reflection of the changes going on in my personal life. Sorry about that; I’ll try to do better in future.

I have taken a new position in the interlude between this and the last post. I’m now the Director of Instructional Technology for the La Porte ISD, on Galveston Bay just east of Houston, Texas. I start tomorrow and I’m eagerly anticipating the challenges and opportunities that await me in this new position. La Porte is right on Galveston Bay and is a much smaller district than the one I left. A smaller district can do things that a larger one can’t and it provides a unique setting for me to move my way up the career ladder in instructional technology.

It’s my intention to blog about my experiences, learning about becoming a Director of Instructional Technology here on Abstract Virtuality. I hope it’s worthwhile for those that desire to follow along one day.

Social networks and their business models February 11, 2007

Posted by jameyo in : futurism, virtualism , add a comment

The future of the Internet is here: social networks. I don’t think there’s any denying that, after looking at the success of MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and Second Life. Social networking spaces have much to offer our students and will be a significant portion of our students’ online future.

That said, the business models of these sites are preventing educators who are sympathetic and enthusiastic about these sites (read: me) from being able to successfully integrate them into my teaching. My MySpace page has been huge for my radio show. I’ve been able to connect with artists and fans I’d have never otherwise had. It gives me a voice and a reach that is unparalleled by terrestrial radio. Unfortunately, every time I visit MySpace, I’m invariably greeted by the scantily clad and poorly Photoshopped girls of true.com. Either that, or its the insipid Flash ads beseeching me to kiss the rockstar or smote the gorilla. Sometimes it’s both. Facebook is much more benign about their ads, yet our district sees fit to block it.

I see a powerful new tool for education in the metaverse. Second Life and the MUVEs (massive user virtual environments) that will inevitably follow it have the potential to reshape education as we currently know it. Their power is undeniable if you’ve spent any time at all in the virtual world yet their adoption into our educational framework will always slam headlong against the business model the companies that pioneer those worlds choose to employ. Linden Labs, the creators of Second Life (SL), have adopted a (non-) policy of allowing anyone and everyone to subscribe. A teen “grid” does exist but it can’t be accessed by adults, except for those who’ve undergone a background check. The lack of enforceability of LL’s policies makes it suspect for any educator who wishes to bring SL into the K-12 classroom, which is unfortunate. Higher ed entities are jumping on SL with good reason: it’s a rich environment and suitable for their audience. K-12 educators are going to have to wait till another MUVE comes along that is more suited to education.

The business models that recover venture capital simply prevent their adoption into the classroom, unless that is the specific, stated goal of the technology. The users of these environments are the 20-somethings that have recently left the K-12 world and the marketing stream that is targeted toward them prevents their wider adoption. I’d love to tell the makers of these worlds that there’s lots of money to be made in education, if they would only make it possible for us to bring it into the classroom.

A revelation (updated) February 9, 2007

Posted by jameyo in : futurism , add a comment

I’m at the TCEA conference in Austin, Texas. I always consider it to be the best week of my year, professionally anyway! I’ve presented two workshops and one concurrent session already this week and have one more to go: Creative Commons in 16A in about 90 minutes. Not that anybody will read this in time to go and listen…..

I was walking the exhibit floor yesterday and a thought hit me like a ton of bricks. We’re working with our schools to put projectors into classrooms as fast as we can. The revelation was that the price of flat-screen LCD TVs are dropping so quickly that a 37-42″ unit is now comparable to that of a LCD projector! Think about it: If a teacher can connect a laptop and display it on a TV screen that size, then all the benefits of a projector are realized without the shadows, set up and cable hassles of a projector and bulb replacement costs are a thing of the past!

So, what’s it going to take for schools to realize this for themselves? An important mindset will have to be altered: flat-screen TVs are perceived as an extravagance. Look at any bar or hotel today (as I’ve been doing this week-more hotels than bars, fyi) and you’ll see how ubiquitous the flat-panel LCD has become. I think the time is ripe for TVs to replace projectors. Consumers will benefit from the further price drop that will inevitably occur and students will have one less reason to think schools aren’t cool.

UPDATE: While walking the floor today, I saw an important piece necessary for this to happen in schools: Keytec, Inc., makers of Magic Touch were in the exhibit hall, demonstrating their products. Magic Touch is a touch-screen overlay for a flat-panel TV that allows the computer image displayed to be manipulated with a finger. Their other product, View Touch, lets you operate the computer via a special laser pointer. When these two products merge with flat-panels becoming ubiquitous in classrooms, I think educational technology will enter a new realm of possibility.

I invite your comments and thoughts.

Heeeeeeeee’s ON it! January 31, 2007

Posted by jameyo in : Uncategorized , add a comment

Well, I guess I’ll try the blog thing again. I’m never short of opinions but I find myself at a loss for words when confronted by the dreaded empty form field. Hopefully, I can think of something interesting to say. When I’ve had more sleep.

Bonus points to anyone who can cite the reference in the headline!