Beware of the Sgnome's

Originally uploaded by rkleine

'Tis the season for sgnomes (snow gnomes). Beware!

Obsolete Learning Technologies

Joshua Kim offers up an intriguing list of Obsolete Learning Technologies. Here's Kim's 10 obsolete learning technologies and my take on his rationale:

1. Scantron Sheets: When I first started teaching (in 1997) we would give multiple choice tests on Scantron sheets, which would then be graded by the Scantron scanner. Today, thankfully, high-stakes multiple choice testing has been replaced by the testing engines in the LMS. We also know that good pedagogy involves frequent, low-stakes testing - and that mid-term or final multiple choice exams most test students ability to take tests.

Exactly, I couldn't have said it better. It takes a bit more effort to create a quiz/test, but the efficiencies for student and faculty are back-end loaded. The immediate feedback made possible by a CMS is crucial to learning.

2. Overhead Projectors and Transparencies.

I think Kim is a decade off on this one. Overhead projectors became extinct over a decade ago. I still have some transparencies created in the '80s for my consumer behavior class, but have used none of them for over a decade.

3. Classroom VCR/DVD Playesr:

Agree 100% that showing video in class, except for very short video clips, is not a good use of time. Students can watch the video outside of class and come prepared to discuss what they observed. Besides, any video shown in class should be available in digital format that can be streamed; no media required.

4. Course Packs and Course Readers.

Yep. Blackboard and related technologies have rendered course packs and course readers unnecessary.

5. Photocopiers ... Tomorrow we will download the articles to our e-readers.

Yep, a work in progress. To the degree that students bring their laptops to class they are now able to view class materials, including what have traditionally been hand-outs, rendering physical copies less useful. That said, the physicality of a handout, especially when it contains assignment details has some benefits. Some students benefit from the touch and smell of the document. Yet, these folks need to get comfortable operating in a digital environment as their future workplace will likely be digital.

6. Microfiche

Microfiche lives? Color me enlightened. Really?

7. Language and Computer Labs: Language labs are basically gone - computer labs are not far behind.

Yep, more than 90% of students on our campus own a laptop. With WiFi ubiquitous on campus and in the classrooms, every classroom can be a computer lab. More useful than 'labs' are spaces conducive to small group collaboration.

8. Paper Journals and Periodicals?

Ah, this strikes me to the core. I just received an email from the University of Chicago Press imploring me to renew my subscription to the Journal of Consumer Research. Lingering over the email, I was wondering: "Why? Why subscribe when I can access the journal online?" After 25 years, it may be time to let that subscription lapse.

UPDATE: A colleague emailed:

This list is clearly based on the assumption that both the student and the faculty member are technologically savvy. An assumption that is dangerous to make, but one often made by tech. savvy people.

To which I replied: Professional development for faculty and teaching students can easily eliminate gaps in the ability of faculty or students to use these basic tools. We are educators in a professional school, aren't we?


CRM the Time Warner Way

To understand why we couldn't watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince via Time Warner's video on demand last night requires a bit of time travel. More than six months ago, a credit card vendor, believing my account had been compromised, changed my credit card number and issued new cards. The change, while welcome from a security perspective, required me to update the card information wherever I had the details stored.

I called Time Warner to query why video on demand wasn't working. "Your account is past due," was the answer.

"Impossible, the account is on auto pay."

"Your bank denied the charge."

"Impossible, the charge goes to a credit card. This doesn't make sense. Something's odd here."

"I agree. Let me check into this, please hold."

"Thank you for holding, sir. It appears your credit card is no longer valid. Please update your credit card information."

"Um, OK."

Extracting the most recent bill from to process stack, it indeed shows a balance due and over due. Pulling out the previous month's bill, it too shows an amount overdue, however it also includes the message, "Do not pay; your account is on auto pay." So, naturally, I filed the bill with no further action. The most recent bill doesn't include the autopay language. Autopay was discontinued without notifying me.

Yep, more than six months after the new credit card number went into effect, Time Warner's billing system finally noticed. Once the billing system did notice, it took three billing cycles, and accumulated overdue amounts, to trigger a "we've got a problem here" symptom.

This is wrong in so many ways. One, I found out by accident: a feature wasn't working so I called Time Warner. Two, when I called, I was miffed. I was primed for a fun movie night with the crew. Third, I'm pissed that overdue payments accumulated while the messaging on Time Warner's bill indicated that all was OK. I pay bills on time and am embarrassed when one slips by my. This one didn't slip by, it accumulated due to the design of Time Warner's system. Fourth, Time Warner discontinued a payment feature without notifying me. Don't you think they'd be on top of this stuff to ensure they receive payment in a timely manner?

Improving the situation further, the perky TW rep told me that the monthly fee for my triple-play bundle will increase on January 24, 2010 unless I take action. That was the first time TW had informed me my service bundle had a time limit on the pricing. To maximize convenience, the rep indicated that I couldn't switch to a new package now; that I need to call on January 24 to learn about new package pricing.

What sort of twisted logic leads a company to design a retention path with so many hurdles? TW had me on the phone last night inquiring about my services, what better time to discuss a new package (that ideally offers more features at a lower price)? And the rep had no idea what bundle pricing would be on January 24th.

Time Warner: do you want my business? You sure are acting as though you would prefer that I switch back to Verizon.

Addendum: The TimeWarnerCable.com site informs me it is designed to run on IE or FF. Sorry TW, I prefer Chrome.


Custodians to the Defense

Ah, this is priceless:
In a letter (PDF) to the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries, say “active supervision of the settlement by the court and the United States will protect the public interest far more than any additional restructuring of the settlement.”

They also ask for representation of academic authors on the Book Rights Registry and remind the DOJ that libraries would be primary consumers of institutional subscriptions and thus deserved to have their voices heard. A fairness hearing is scheduled for February 18, 2010.

Ah, yes, the historical custodians of knowledge are scrambling for relevance. This should be interesting to watch. From a reader's perspective, digitized content is a wonderful thing. Access from anywhere, not just from brick and mortar custodians of the flame, is a reality. My Kindle Wireless Reading Device is hungry for more content.