Thursday, August 6, 2009

Counting on the Cloud - How to respond when it lets you down

You can tell how many people at your institution or school are using a service in the cloud by the amount of emails you get when it is down. Judging by my inbox, there aren't many people using Twitter at ACC just yet, but there are some and there will most likely be more once the Fall semester begins.

For some people this may be the first time they ponder relying on free third party services. Are they reliable enough, can we count on them, can we trust them?

The fact of the matter is that when you ask anyone how much downtime costs, the answer is always higher when you are in the middle of an outage. Ask them when the service has been running just fine for a few years, and the financial figure gets much smaller.

So with Twitter under a denial of service attack right now, lets take some of that "free" time to implement some common sense guidelines to protect your instruction and courses.

1. Diversify - Just like your 401k, you need to have a variety of services you can use. If Twitter goes down, move the in class responses over to a wiki or to a Wiffiti (which can still take sms message from cell phones). Technology will never be 100%. We can get close, but there will always be that .001% of the time that it is down even on the best of systems.

2. Always keep a backup copy - It sure is easy to save something in Google Apps or on Gmail, but having a backup copy that you periodically save to your network storage at work is always a good idea. If your whole course for a given day revolves around a few files, they probably shouldn't be stored in one place. You can either be stranded from them by an Internet connection being down, or the provider's service can go down.

3. Adapt - One of the fine arts of being an instructor is being able to teach on the fly when you must. I don't know anyone who has walked into every single instance of every course they have taught being 100% prepared and mapped out. If you know the material (and you should...) then be creative and kick it old school! Pick up a whiteboard marker, divide the students up into discussion groups, go sit under a tree outside, whatever it takes. Teach your students how to react when technology is unavailable, its a life skill they are missing out on! (Don't believe me? Just ask a group of 17 year old students what they do if their car breaks down on a rural road. Then tell them their cell phone is broken...interesting responses.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Educational Technology is Backwards

Keeping up with educational technology is a daily part of my job. I read many blogs, follow experts in the field on Twitter, read several news sites and receive a few daily Google News Alerts on various keywords.

In this moment I feel like I'm sitting under an avalanche of information regarding technology as it pertains to the classroom, instruction, learning and faculty development. I can't breathe, and I'm desperately trying to tunnel my way to the surface!

I can't help but wonder: if I feel like this, how does the average faculty member feel?

Information overload is not a new problem and it isn't localized just to higher education. Enterprise search is a buzzword that's been around for awhile, and companies are working hard to create data retention and disposal policies so they can sift their way through the data to find the information that is actually useful.

The question becomes how can we get the appropriate technologies, techniques and devices to the faculty who need it without making them wade through the whole industry? I can't help but think we need to flip the delivery upside down. Instead of listing the technologies available, lets list the problems that they encounter and then provide technology options that can help them tackle those problems.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The First Month

It seems hard to believe, but today marks the completion of my first month at ACC. I don't know that I've ever met so many new people in a month's time, and I guess I should apologize ahead of time if I've met you and forgot your name. I'm trying hard to remember them all, and I'm looking forward to meeting even more people.

Since my first interview at ACC I knew that if I got the job I would want to start a blog. Not because I enjoy the regular upkeep a blog requires. My personal blog is a testament to how little I enjoy that exercise. Rather, I needed a good place to catalog what I discover and learn as I work to stay up to date on the various ways technology is being used in the educational setting. It is my hope that this blog will give widespread access to these ideas and allow open comments and dialogue on them.

So I guess that is about it for the innagural post. If you've got questions for me, or you would like help integrating technology into your instruction please contact me!