Once again, I’m well out of date here.

I’ve had a busy year and change! In addition to fighting with multi-month-long health issues, I managed to complete my Master of Information Science at Indiana University in the last class to graduate from its School of Library and Information Science before the merger with the School of Informatics and Computing. I’ve lost over a hundred pounds and gotten a lot healthier, and I’ve accepted a full-time job that keeps me busy doing a lot of talking and traveling. My photo on the front page is now horribly out of date, as is the only before-and-after I have, but I hope to be posting some more information on that in its own blog post. I’ve also switched to a more streamlined design on the site because it was time for something new and updated my resume to reflect my most recent responsibilities, although by no means did I give it an overhaul because I’m not seeking new employment at this time (in fact, I recently found out my position’s funding was extended an extra year, through the end of July 2015, so I won’t be going anywhere for awhile). I also added a Curriculum Vitae page; given that my eventual plan is to get a PhD, it is necessary to maintain a record of presentations and publications with which I can be credited, and thus that list will live here.

I’ve also picked up a new hobby: nail art! In July of 2012 I realized that it was time to think about something I could do to take care of myself as part of an effort to improve my mental health. Since I was beginning to get tired of biting my nails all the time, I decided to use nail art as a way to keep myself from biting them. I haven’t bitten since July and I’ve been painting my nails ever since; they’re still in the recovery phase, however, after 27 years of abuse.

Some Social Media Links:

My Vizualize.me profile is a pretty complete view of my work history since starting my Bachelor of Arts degree in 2004.

You can find other useful links on my My About.me page, including a link to my Facebook page.

Quick disclosure: I discovered about.me via the BzzAgent program, where I had the opportunity to receive some free Business Cards from Moo.com. I opted not to take them up on it at present, preferring to save them a little longer until I have my page looking real sharp, but you can get the same free deal. I have to let you know that I’m required to be honest about how I feel about the About.me system as part of the BzzAgent Terms of Engagement, but I think it’s really neat! It’s a good way to compile if you’re like me and have a metric ton of links you want people to see. Just go to http://about.me to check it out – it’s free, and hey, if nothing else, free business cards.


Image required as part of the BzzAgent reporting protocol, sorry

Demented Pants, you say?

I get a lot of questions about the nick I use online – demented_pants (or some variation thereof depending on username rules on a given site).

It’s a good username because it’s very memorable. Most people laugh, or at least smile, the first time I tell them what it is.

Awhile back, a Redditor with the username breeskeys did an r/Favors thread offering to draw things for people. I commented asking for some simple demented pants, not really expecting a response since there were already a million comments requesting things by the time I found the thread, but she came through with some pretty awesome drawings. The original thread is here, and some of them are quite funny.

So here’s my drawing, with special thanks to breeskeys – these really made me smile. Especially the f7u12 brand lolface overalls.

A Wil Wheaton Quote I like a lot.

While I rode the elevator up to my floor, I looked out at the lobby. It was filled with people in all sorts of beautiful costumes, in groups of 3 and 4, or in large parties of 10 or more. Everyone spoke to each other with animated arm movements, people posed for and took pictures with and of each other, and everyone seemed to be having a great time getting their geek on.

“I’m looking at a con in Germany,” I thought, “but I could really be anywhere in the world, even my own town, and I’d be looking at essentially the same thing. This is how enormous and inclusive our culture is.”

I walked down the hallway and into my room, feeling lucky and proud to be part of this.

— From “Fedcon day two” in Wil Wheaton’s Blog. The entire post is something to read, but I really liked that synopsis of what it’s like being a part of geek culture.

R685 – Mobile Experiment Series – Post 3 (The Experience)

Recently in R685 we did a week on mobile learning, or m-learning. As a companion activity to that week, I decided I would limit myself to participating in class only via my smartphone. This is the third of a series of blog posts I’ll be doing on my experiences that week; this post will focus on the experience I had carrying out the experiment. You can view the entirety of the series here.

The Experience

Working entirely with my smart phone for a week was an interesting experience. There were many things that were frustrating, not the least of which were the myriad of ridiculous typographical errors that had made their way into my swype dictionary. I’d used my phone to access reddit on april fool’s day, and a couple of well-intentioned “gifts” from friends and coworkers meant I couldn’t use the letters e or x. I thought up some rather clever ways around those restrictions, but I wrecked the dictionary in the process. Even now, almost a month later, I’m still removing words every other day or so.

swype is also imperfect at figuring out which word I want when there are similar input paths. I frequently had to stop and reenter words, slowing me down considerably. Additionally, I found that my recall on the smart phone is not nearly what it is when I’m reading in other media, which meant that I had to resort to taking notes while I was reading for the first time in my life. In that respect, it actually forced me to develop a new skill as a student.

While I did enjoy the ability to participate in class from just about anywhere at any time, i found that each activity I completed took me much longer than it otherwise might have. This blog post is a good example: it’s taken me as long to write less than 200 words, one paragraph of which was copy-pasted, as some of my thousand-plus word posts I’ve done. I feel like designing for m-learning probably requires a much smaller task granularity if it’s to be done effectively.

I will say that I’m glad I tried this, but I definitely wouldn’t want to try it again. How’s that for a privilege check?

As I mentioned, I’ve written the entirety of this blog post on my smartphone. While I’ve made every effort to correct misspellings when I’ve caught them, I’m sure a few have escaped. Please be gentle with me!

R685 – Final Reflection on Blogging

You can view my blog posts for R685 here.

I tried a lot of new things with my blog this semester because of the requirement that we do some blogging. For one, I posted more frequently than at the end of each semester completed. For another, I wrote my first-ever series of blog posts about something I’m interested in (in this case, the mobile learning experiment I did during that week in class). I have to admit that I procrastinated a lot more on blogging this semester than I would have liked to.

I have a million scraps of paper with ideas for blog posts jotted down on them, but unfortunately I had some personal and health struggles this semester that precluded me from ever have the time to develop these ideas as deeply as they deserved. Even still, this means I have a lot of seed topics for my blog for when I do have the time to get back to it. I procrastinated on commenting for my critical friends, as well, and I plan to catch up on it over the weekend.

I really enjoyed both Annisa and Christina as critical friends. They’re both incredibly intelligent and have a lot of good points. I wish either one of them would have responded to any of my comments I’d left on their blogs because I was really hoping to start a dialogue and each post failed to do so.

I suspect that the lack of comments during most of the semester was partially to blame for my constant procrastination; when I was getting comments, I remembered to keep on schedule and post, but once comments slowed and then disappeared, I started to forget. Then, when Christina was added as a second Critical Friend sometime mid-semester and she began to comment, I saw a brief flurry of activity before I lapsed into silence again.

I tried a number of different things with my blog posts to varying degrees of success. Reflecting on each week’s learning was useful to me during the first part of the semester. I tried for a couple of weeks to also include posts about the weekly tidbits and videos I was consuming, but that fizzled out rather quickly. I also shared the coursework I completed on my blog, motivated primarily because of a post by an IU student in the Learning Sciences department (you can, and should, read it here). McWilliams is one of the few non-entertainment bloggers I read regularly, and this particular blog post was the first one to get me really thinking about how much of an ivory tower higher education really is.

I’m fortunate enough to be an incredible student as well as an intelligent human being, and though many would consider me to have come from a relatively low-class family, I’ve managed to work hard enough that I have a lot of privilege regardless. I am fantastically lucky to be a member of a community of learners as wonderfully knowledgeable as the one at IU, but I don’t feel it’s appropriate to jealously guard my work as if someone else is going to steal it.

Having a blog also gave me a place to vent my constant need to be expansive about everything. I found that the free-form nature of the blogging assignment allowed me to do what worked best for me, and to work out the nature of my thoughts so that I could then rephrase them better in the forum discussions, when I did my blog before I did my discussions for the week.

Because of the kind of student I am, making the format and requirements for the blogs as open-ended as they were meant that I was consistently writing more than I might have if the assignment were “write a two-page reflection on this week’s topics.” I wrote until I didn’t have anything else to say about the topic, and then I published it; it was nice to not have to spend time worrying about saying too much or too little and instead just write what I felt was merited. I understand that this may be an opportunity for less-motivated students to do less work, but it really works for me as a student. The informal nature of posting a blog entry instead of handing in a paper also meant that I spent less time worrying about the mechanics and more time thinking about the content.

At the same time, however, the fact that my blog was not only readable by the entire internet, but being posted to the site I put on my resume, meant that I still had to do some pretty careful thinking about what I was posting. That meant that I had to back up things that I said, much like if I were working on research that I might try and publish in a peer-reviewed journal, except that the publishing process took much less time, and likely I’ll never revise anything I posted. So, at the same time as I was completing a homework assignment, I was experiencing the projected image of an IST scholar, something I’ve never been before, but which I’d like to be one day.

That’s actually a great way to describe my experience with this entire class, actually: I got to try on the identity of an IST student and see whether or not I liked it as much as I thought I would. Luckily, I did. Everything I read was interesting. I learned a lot of new perspectives on a lot of things that I was already familiar with, and I feel like I deepened my understanding of the concepts if I knew of them to begin with. Blogging was a big part of that; having to write about something forces me to think about it and connect ideas in a much more concrete way than just thinking about it requires.

There is much that could be said here about authentic activities and self-directed learning; I could apply a million of the concepts I learned about using blogs as an educational tool, about keeping students motivated to continue by assigning critical friends… there are a lot of lessons I’ve learned. But instead of writing about them, I think I’ll post this to my blog and see if I can get a discussion started about it.

So, there’s that. I’ve just had an entire semester of fun blogging for a class. Ask Me Anything.

R685 – Final Project Reflection + link

Busy days for me! I’ve been working like crazy all week to get caught up – since life happened so many, many times over the course of the semester. I’ve been feeling like I’m behind basically the entire semester, but thankfully we didn’t have to turn in our blog reflections until the 25th.

This post is about the project I chose for the R685 final project. I decided to go with a student-suggested option: creating a resource for use with the class. In discussing this with Dr. Bonk, he suggested I create a web site with four to ten video resources per topic.

The link to the site I created is here – check it out!

Behind the cut is my full reflection, which I turned in with this project.

Continue reading

R685 – Mobile Experiment Series – Post 1 (Motivations & Device)

Recently in R685 we did a week on mobile learning, or m-learning. As a companion activity to that week, I decided I would limit myself to participating in class only via my smartphone. This is the first of a series of blog posts I’ll be doing on my experiences that week; this post will focus on my motivations for choosing to do so, and then the device I used. You can view the entirety of the series here. Additionally, since time in the semester is running out, I’ll be skipping the rest of my weekly topical reflections, with the exception of discussing my m-learning experiment and one final post reflecting on the blogging I did this semester. I also plan on sharing the reflection I wrote on my final project.

The Motivations

I understand from my class readings this week that in a lot of areas, mobile phones are people’s only access to the internet. Even though the digital divide is shrinking, the numbers of people worldwide who do not own a desktop or notebook computer is staggering. Given that I come from a relatively privileged background, and have had at least one computer at all times for the last decade, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be constrained by relatively inefficient technology.

Dr. Bonk’s class is set up very well for the online learning format. I have had no real difficulty accessing the readings for a given week, or participating in class synchronous sessions, or the discussions on the class forums in Oncourse either. I had already been participating in a less-constrained form of m-learning all semester; my job provides me with a laptop, a recent-model Macbook Pro, which I used to access the entirety of the class this semester up until I began using my smartphone. I believed that this pre-optimized setup would make my objective easier to accomplish (whereas it would not have been nearly as easy to do an entire week’s worth of homework for my Web Programming class using a smartphone). This meant that I had a set of conditions that were ideal to fostering the success of my experiment, rather than ones that would frustrate me on the first day of attempting it.

Additionally driving my decision to try this experiment was the knowledge that we would not be having a synchronous session in Adobe Connect that week. Though I have a lot of faith in my little smartphone, I shudder to even think about what a nightmare getting Connect to work would be – if it could, in fact, be gotten to work at all. This meant that my restrictions would not prevent me from participating in any major way in the class (something I found important because my grades are important to me; I didn’t want to harm myself with this experiment).

The Device

Also motivating my decision to give the experiment a shot was the fact that I have just recently upgraded my cell phone. Previously I was using the Apple iPhone 3G, which was sufficient as a smartphone, but I have serious doubts as to its ability to handle the sorts of use cases I would be exploring.

The phone to which I upgraded is a Samsung Galaxy S, known in the United States and Canada as the Captivate. You can get a full breakdown of the device’s specs here, but I’ll give you the run-down on some of the basics.

First, this thing is huge. You could just about fit the entire iPhone into the display area on the Captivate. Second, it’s running on the popular Android firmware by Google. Third, it’s about twice as powerful as the first computer I ever got, in 2001, which came with Windows XP. The Captivate boasts 512MB of RAM, an internal 16GB SD card, and an expansion slot that can handle up to an additional 32GB, in micro-SD format. Its processor is one of the more modern mobile processors, the ARM Cortex Hummingbird, at a speed of 1000 mHz. I was using the most recent version of Android, 2.2 (colloquially known as FroYo), though I’m pretty sure anyone using a Captivate with the previous version, 2.1, would be able to duplicate my results using this particular class.

Furthermore, this thing is even more usable than I ever found the iPhone to be. Where the iPhone still reminds me more of a PDA than it does a computer with a touch-screen interface, there’s no mistaking the Captivate for anything less than a full, mobile computer. Having had it for all of maybe two weeks before we got to m-learning, I had already found myself surprised over and over again by the Captivate’s capabilities; it was this fact that convinced me that success with my experiment was possible.

And so, I pushed on. Look for blog posts later talking about the software I used and the experience I had.

R685 – Week Nine – Online Video

I’ve always been a little bit of a fan of video as an educational tool – I spent lots of time learning about science during Bill Nye the Science Guy time in my classes (including as far as AP Biology!), and there aren’t very many documentaries I won’t watch. However, I decided to play devil’s advocate in the forums a little this week, pointing out instead the problems I saw with video as an educational tool – and the rest of the class responded beautifully. My peers suggested a lot of ideas to work around the way many students tend to treat in-class videos as break time rather than learning time, and pointed out that short videos are good introductions to topics students may not have had any experience with.

But what I’d really like to blog about today was an incredibly powerful educational video I had the opportunity to see this past week: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, written and directed by internationally-acclaimed directer Werner Herzog, about the Chauvet Caves in southern France, which have the oldest human pictorial art we’ve been able to find on their walls. I spent 90 minutes with a dorky pair of 3d glasses on my face staring in amazement at the display of technique, spatial awareness, and artistry of those prehistoric cave people. This happened at the IU Cinema, where I was part of the first public audience (eg, not at a festival) to see this film.

Now, this was a little different for me because I went to see it because I wanted to, not because I had to for a class. But I learned a lot, and the 3d aspect of the film really added to it. Herzog, who has gone on records as disliking 3d film as a medium, felt that it was necessary for a deeper appreciation of the artistry that went into these paintings. I tend to concur; the 3d really increased my immersion. I found myself feeling a little claustrophobic, even, when they were in some of the narrower parts of the cave. There’s a review that is at least mostly synopsis here if you’re interested in finding out more about what went on in the film.

I will say that I learned a lot from the film, but it was also incredibly entertaining. Herzog introduces a series of very funny “characters” over the course of the movie, my favorite of which was a master parfumier who went around sniffing for caves. No, I mean, really sniffing. With his nose. And the topic of the film makes it really easy to figure out where in a curriculum such a film might fit – while its humor is perhaps a bit advanced for younger audiences, high school and college-aged students studying art history would certainly appreciate it and learn a great deal. The film is a great example of a piece of technology that supports the curriculum, rather than being supported by the curriculum; it brings great insight to the topic that we might otherwise never have an opportunity to experience.

While I was initially worried that the 3d might give me a migraine (it has in the past), I went because I wanted to at least try to see the film. I found myself unbothered by it, thankfully, and I’m glad I gave it a shot. Looking at the cave paintings in two dimensions – I’ve checked – doesn’t have the same sense of spatial awareness that one gets when experiencing it in 3d. I took an art history course during my undergrad that had a section on cave paintings; I’d even seen some of the ones from Chauvet. But never like I saw them in the film.

R685 – Week Eight – Collaborative Editing

I was planning to use this blog entry to expand upon my positions vis a vis Wikipedia’s suitability as a scholarly resource. But, there’s already a shorter version of what I call The Wikipedia Rant in an earlier weekly reflection post, so I thought instead I’d do some reading outside of the class-assigned readings and see instead if I could find anything that changed my mind.

First, I checked the Wikipedia page on accuracy disputes. I didn’t find anything I wasn’t expecting to see here – Wikipedia tries to push a Neutral Point of View (NPOV) and had several mechanisms for disputing the accuracy of a corpus of text depending on how severe the inaccuracies are.

Next, I found an editorial piece by John F. Kennedy’s former assistant, who experienced what incorrect information on Wikipedia can do to a person. This particular piece presents a chilling picture of the kind of far-reaching effect factual inaccuracies on Wiki can have. This may be a little bit of my bias, but while I’m willing to believe that there are a number of sites who simply scrape data from Wikipedia for content, I have to take this one with a grain of salt. That’s not to say that I do not sympathize with Seigenthaler, who obviously had a lot of problems stem from the inaccurate information being posted to Wikipedia, but I wonder what he would have done had such information been printed in a paper encyclopedia. Which brings me to the next reading…

Wikipedia vs. Britannica – a comparison of the two encyclopedias which describes a recent Nature study of a number of articles in the sciences which found that the average Britannica article had about three factual errors, whereas the average Wikipedia article has about four. That’s pretty impressive, considering the relative sizes of the two encyclopedias – 1.5 million happened in 2006 for Wikipedia (and over 2,000,000 by 2007 according to the next article), whereas Britannica boasts about 100,000 topics. In addition, many of Wikipedia’s “featured articles” are at LEAST on par with Britannica’s standards, though a number of articles still do not meet Wiki’s established conventions, and thus not all Wikipedia articles can be considered as good a source as Britannica.

Comparison of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias for accuracy, breadth, and depth in historical articles. This is the one that really stopped me. I’ll quote directly from the abstract:

Findings – The study did reveal inaccuracies in eight of the nine entries and exposed major flaws in at least two of the nine Wikipedia articles. Overall, Wikipedia’s accuracy rate was 80 percent compared with 95-96 percent accuracy within the other sources. This study does support the claim that Wikipedia is less reliable than other reference resources. Furthermore, the research found at least five unattributed direct quotations and verbatim text from other sources with no citations. (Emphasis mine.)

I have definite plans to go back and read the last item on this list more closely. I’m not entirely convinced of Wikipedia’s unsuitableness as an academic resource just yet, but I’m pretty well convinced now that it is fairly unsuitable as a direct resource as of yet. I still have no plans to change my “check the citations” strategy, since it has built me a number of fairly good bibliographies. I wonder if, as a student, one or more instructors had had me engage in fact-checking a Wikipedia article, how would that have affected my impressions of it?