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Some data data to wow ’em at the water cooler

From the January 2009 issue of “Computer”:

  • The US power electric grid generates 15 terabytes of raw data each year
  • Google sorts through 20 petabytes of information daily
  • The Atlas experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN will generate 2 petabytes of info per second
  • New climate models which resolve rather than parameterize will cause a 1,000-fold increase in data
  • New genomics and proteomics work in biology produces, nationally, over 100 terabytes of data per day

No. Floppy. Drives.

I asked why our staff and faculty desktop replacement model had a floppy drive. Actually, I noticed it when one of my staff asked, after reviewing the proposed model, if he could also get “a surrey with some fringe on top.” Snarky but funny. We both were told we needed to get floppies because some folks here back up their desktops onto floppy drives. Where to start with what’s wrong? The good news is that if their backup fits onto a floppy, we should really be able to provide network space for cheap…. The bad news is that, apparently, well, … Continue Reading

Grade for Online Literacy? Big Fat F

In the 9.19. Chronicle of Higher Education, Jakob Nielson reports on his study

on how people read web pages. Apparently, they just

skim them and read across lines







So the reading pattern looks like the letter “F” or, for the more literate of us,

kind of like an e.e. cummings poem.

The article goes on to note that just as online reading is like “reading lite” so too is technology in the classroom regarding its effect (or not) on student achievement. Perhaps our tests are testing the wrong skills and haven’t adapted, perhaps we really are evolving to “idiocracy,” or perhaps our curriculum … Continue Reading

Thank God the economy’s so stable

so we in higher ed don’t have to worry about folks questioning the value of a college degree, particularly when we have “open teaching,” where faculty use web tools to open course enrollment to non-matriculated students and hand out certificates of completion in lieu of official transcripts. Thank God the market’s doing well so we don’t have to worry about this newfangled world where content is free, knowledge is open, access is expected, and we get to be all creative when we’re not playing halo and shopping at Costco. What’s that about the economy? Uh oh. Time to … Continue Reading

Monday, Monday, it was all I hoped it would be

Ah, another satisfying day at work. Here is what I accomplished today:

  • sent updates to the President’s Cabinet (sorry about the 7-hour internet outage, sorry it took 90 minutes to send a campus-wide email to 4500 people, and glad you like the new “web for employees” self service tool)
  • sent out the agenda for the directors’ meeting tomorrow: it will be The One About The Password Synchronization
  • determined that my personal pet project of a bunch of Dell minis to dish out like jujubes to buy faculty love will be delayed due to Dell’s 30-day delivery backlog
  • attended a faculty meeting to … Continue Reading

What he said

This presentation by Adrian Sannier (UTO at ASU) will cost you about 72 minutes of your life. But it’s worth it if you’re interested in what the future holds for us IT’ers in higher ed. I’m considering showing it to all the IT staff at our next staff meeting and to the dreaded advisory group too. I think Sannier’s right on the money with where we should be going and what we should be doing. The question is: how much do we let our culture and internal politics affect these ideas, our plans, and doing … Continue Reading

Teaching vs Research: What’s our business?


Higher education institutions seems to reward research success more than teaching success. Tenure is granted based on publication. We admire prolific publishers and research grant winners more than recipients of our undergraduate teaching awards or those whose students go on to achieve greatness (do we even correlate post-graduate success with specific teachers?). Yet most universities, even top 10 R1 institutions, even state universities getting state funds, depend more on tuition revenue than indirect cost recovery from research grants or state grants. So are higher ed schools just bad managers: rewarding behavior that does not clearly contribute to our core … Continue Reading

Deanna Troi on Technical Support


Today I announced formally to the campus the changing of our name from the Office of Information Services to just plain Technology Services, the result of a vote described earlier. I also announced our training sessions for this month, which, for the first time ever, include a session on the administrative use of collaborative tools (e.g. our meeting’s on a wiki!). And we’re offering Mac training now too. I received many responses, all positive, all saying things like, “It’s the dawn of a new era” etc. What’s funny is these changes cost us … Continue Reading

Open Source Development in Higher Ed–the new form of community service?

I went to Campus Technology today to get an article entitled, if memory serves, “why IT staff are different from other people” or something to that effect. I wanted to blog about it in a nature vs. nurture context. Perhaps I still will blog about it someday. Anyway, I went there and saw their headline article about Seneca College’s work with Fedora. This is a nice partnership–students gain real-world experience while benefiting the greater community. I sent the link as well as a link to this guy at Oregon state to the chair of our … Continue Reading

Marshall McLuhan vs. the faculty

Today I met with a faculty member who is angry that he has to learn new tools to disseminate his knowledge. As he put it, “I’m the content expert, not the IT expert. Can’t someone else translate my content into whatever crappy format you IT people are demanding at any given time?” I guess somewhere along the wordstar –> wordperfect –> MS word –> powerpoint or the html –> dreamweaver –> CMS/CSS/etc he just got sick of it all. Now he wants an IT professional to publish all his content for him.

I understand his frustration, but I’m not sure … Continue Reading

Get Out of My Way: what your IT staff can do for you

At the NITLE summit, Michael Wesch of “The Machine is Us/ing Us” fame presented on his use of a variety of tools in his classes. At the end of the presentation, someone asked him how central IT could help him, and he said, mostly nicely, “get out of my way.” Ah, sweet sweet users. It’s like payback for the day of the bastard operator from hell, when IT staff operated in a “deny all” mode.


So I’ve decided even if we end up outsourcing or no-sourcing all coolness, innovation, and utilities, there are two areas where IT … Continue Reading

GIS: the new cool thing?

I’m off to a conference tomorrow where they will demonstrate some IT trends in the liberal arts. Specifically, sessions will focus on open source learning management and ERP systems (Sakai, Moodle, Kuali), managing change, and on podcasting, videoconferencing and other forms of real time collaboration. But I can tell from the pre-conference buzz that incorporating GIS into the college curriculum may be the Next Big Thing. Now, this isn’t new technology but I get the sense that it hasn’t really entered the mainstream in smaller liberal arts colleges.


Because I have some experience supporting this stuff, I would … Continue Reading

Top 5 IT Complaints, the academic edition

Yesterday and today I met with all the academic leads: department heads, division heads, deans, etc. Two groups of about 25 each. Basically, I sat there and took notes while they complained about everything. If I collapse all the issues into the top five, here they are. Note how they don’t seem related to the academic mission and how they don’t seem that hard to solve. My thoughts in italics.

  1. All my passwords keep expiring and none of them are synchronized. Yes, this sucks and we need to change this. I’ve been here less than 4 weeks and I’m already annoyed.
  2. I … Continue Reading

Learning Management Systems

Today the Faculty Senate voted unanimously to migrate from a proprietary learning management system (LMS) (in this case, Blackboard) to an open source LMS (in this case, Moodle). It was interesting to see the faculty operate. TheĀ  instructional technology staff demo’ed Moodle and explained that we wouldn’t lose anyone’s data and that the migration would be done over phases. Several faculty demo’ed how they’ve piloted Moodle and this was really key to the other faculty coming round. It was my first time appearing before this group so I didn’t say much. Someone asked if this would save us money because … Continue Reading

I love instructional technology, or whatever I’m going to call it

I have a senior leadership position open in instructional technology. But instructional technology as it’s practiced here seems to emphasize AV geeks rolling carts around rather than engaging with faculty on issues of pedagogy and learning technology. And we need to think about how we might use technology to facilitate faculty research grants, or student grants for that matter. We don’t have an academic computing director or any committee looking at this big picture. So, I need to get a vision, make a strategic plan, and then hire someone before the frustrated AV geeks and under served faculty explode because … Continue Reading

Steading of the Hill Giant Chief

Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, died this morning, proving that death is the ultimate dungeon master. How many of us learned strategy, conflict resolution and gained experience navigating political and economic systems through D&D? How many students are learning these same skills through their online gaming experiences? How are our faculty “teaching” and what are students actually learning given particular teaching methods? If experience is the best teacher, then perhaps simulations are the best substitute teacher? Thank you for following your dreams, Gary.