Category Archives: Work

Just a General Update

What is it about the spring – I always fall under it’s spell. I brought most of my plants home from school so they could live on the back and front porches which are their true homes. I started digging up the rose bed today. Dale is tired of fighting with it – Roses are just so high maintenance. We are planning to fill in the area with stone so it will mean a lot more work and quite a few more trips to Home Depot for stone. I’m getting the itch to paint too. We have squash, asparagus, and walking onions growing in the garden. I have herbs and spinach in big pots on the back porch. I’ve already picked spinach three times and it is ready again. There was plenty of rain this year and it has made a difference. Even my peonies have been beautiful.

I managed to get a “start” on cleaning off my desk. I was starting to feel like I would be smothered under piles of paper! Another teacher and I got our presentation submitted for next year at TCEA and I only have one more week of staying late for open lab. The year is winding down. Dale is doing well and Kinsey will graduate. Jessica will get her license and will look for a job.
I bought myself an Mp3 player on ebay and it came today. I wanted something small for carrying when I walk and so far I really like it. The end comes off and you plug the whole thing into a usb port. I spent about an hour this evening dragging songs over to it and then went for my walk and I think I walked twice as far as usual.
Now I am watching Numbers and putting up the laptop and curling up with my book. No alarm clock in the morning and tomorrow is our 28th anniversary. I hope the rain holds off – I plan to work in the yard tomorrow but I’m not cooking. Supper will probably be Magels – mmmm. I’ve got to make the PowerPoint for Sunday evening but with google docs it will go together quickly. BJ is teaching on Romans and I have an idea for a skit for the kids to do on 1st Kings (maybe next month). It will take some time to get it together but I’m starting to put an outline together.

Monday is a weather day so I have extra time to play in the yard. Goodnight world and have a peaceful weekend!

TeachersFirst Question of the Week had this for the question of the week recently. Below it is my response.

Some teachers create their own MySpace and FaceBook accounts. Some have personal blogs. A recent article in the Washington Post details indescretions by teachers in such public spaces. If a teacher wants to have a personal web presence, what guidelines or advice would you give to him or her about what should/should not be shared online for the world to see, and why?

Having a presence on the web is like having a picture window into your life. Anyone driving by will form an opinion of you by what they glimpse through that window. If you are dancing around with your lampshade on your head – they are going to make a snap judgment. Every picture, every post, every song playing on your website creates a picture of you for someone who visits. If you are a teacher and have not learned what is and is not appropriate in public then you have bigger problems than the internet.

It doesn’t matter if it is correct, the opportunity to make an impression has passed and if it is a bad one it will be very difficult to change even if you get the chance which in most cases you won’t.

If you are the type of person that sweeps the floor, dusts and straightens up for company then do that on your website as well because company will be coming and going most times without you even knowing it.

In education this is even more crucial. Whatever is on your website may as well be on the principals’ desk, the school board meeting, the local newspaper, or a students iPod. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it. We should just use it for what it is – a tool to communicate. It is not and never has been your private diary with pictures and sound.

Our students are now creating content on the internet. We have a wonderful teaching opportunity if we choose to utilize that capability. That means we have to get on the bus with them – not stand on the sides wringing our hands. We just need to have a destination in mind and plan accordingly.


Ten Steps For Burning A CD or DVD On Your Mac

  1. Create a “Burn Folder”
  2. Click the finder icon (the little blue faces) in the dock
  3. Click file/new burn folder (menu bar at the top of your screen)
  4. Go to the folder where the files you want to burn are living
  5. Click a file you want to burn to disc. (Hold down the apple key and click multiple files to select more than one)
  6. Select edit/copy and then click on the burn folder and click edit paste or drag the files over to the burn folder
  7. The files you selected should appear in the folder as “alias icons” with little arrows in the bottom left corner of each file (indicates it’s a shortcut)
  8. Select file/Burn “burn folder” to disc or click the burn button that appears in the upper right corner of the finder window
  9. There will be a dialog box asking you to insert a blank disk
  10. Insert a blank disk into the Mac and it will start burning your files.

Yay UIL!

Tonight I got to attend my second UIL banquet of the week.   While the two were for different school districts it still is such a blessing to realize what a great group of kids live in this community.  It also blesses me to know such awesome teachers who are so willing to go above and beyond to give to the kids.

Just Checking In For A Moment!

I have been off the grid since my last post. It has been a very busy week and this weekend is going to fly by! We hosted the District UIL met at our school this weekend and while my part is small, it was fun with lots of payback. I coach Computer Applications (my first year) and my student took fifth place which I think is wonderful considering this was her first year to compete. My own kids attend school in the next district – a weird think I know but we are a small area geographically but have three school districts. My daughter placed second in Computer Applications and My son placed third in Extemp (I hope I have that right or I will never hear the end of it!)

A friend is at WordCamp Dallas 2008 this weekend and I hope learns some great stuff to share. I would love to have gone but too many conflicts this weekend! I will have to be content with searching for posts to read to live vicariously!

We have joined a small group bible study and we meet on Tuesday nights so that is one night we are busy, and then we are trying to attend two different churches right now which is confusing but we are trying to work out some things. One place has incredible teaching. the other has definite issues but we went there for years and many of the people there are like extended family. We have gotten involved with a small Sunday night praise service and tomorrow morning there will be a youth led service and then in the evening we will continue that theme but I AM TO GIVE THE MESSAGE. I have been struggling with this all week. I would have preferred a skit but they are doing one with the kids in the morning.

I’m relying on Luke 15 and the parable of the Prodigal Son but I’m concentrating on the eldest son. I would really like it to have meaning and bear fruit and I don’t want it to be about me. If you are a praying person I would ask for your prayers for this service that I would disappear and the Word would do whatever God needs it to do in this place and at this time.

There will be very little rest this weekend so I’m going to crash and burn early. I still need to do some more writing and tweaking. This is the first and maybe the last time I will ever do this – it is such a huge responsibility. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do this week after week. I AM looking forward to the kids’ skit. They will be goofy and cute and forget stuff but isn’t the way it always is?

For now world, goodnight! I will try to get some more tutorials up in the next few weeks.

PowerPoint Can Be Artistic? Poetic? Pretty???

Frame 1

Take a look at this site – a teacher wants her class to do a project like this – can we put together some instructions?

Sidebar – whoa this is cool! I am loving this.

Frame 2

A little playing, a little tweaking, some typing and some screenshots and yes we can do this! This is fun and creative and the students will take it and run!

Frame 3

Some explaining – this is how, this is where, be creative – think! not just about the bells and whistles; the bells and whistles have to enhance the symbolism in the text.
Think about the poem, put some words in separate text boxes. Animate them, use color, movement, sound and pictures to SHOW the poem!

Frame 4

Next day student asking will I be there that afternoon – this is confusing. Sure, we talk about the poem (she was stuck – how to animate a poem about sleep)

Frame 5

Student using all the elements – beautiful! Walking around helping, add a few seconds, try this and that. Go sit down – get out of the way. They are the artists!

If you are creating – you are learning. I’m learning, they are teaching me!
They are making a new piece of art!

There will be some tutorials coming up!


Today is going to be a journal kind of entry – it has been a long day and I am so very glad it is FRIDAY!

Dale went to his appointment at the transplant center by himself today for the first time and everything went well. Two of his meds have been lessened which is always a wonderful thing and he had gained two pounds. We are two and a half months out from transplant and he has just been maintaining his weight for the last month and a half so this is a great thing. All his levels looked good except they want him to eat more phosphorus (beans, nut, cheese, milk, chocolate) because it is still a bit low, though better than last time.

My day was completely devoured by favors for other people, as was most of yesterday. The worst part is that those favors caused me to ask for help from others. It’s bad enough that I am unable to say no to people but when my inability spills over and becomes problematic for others then I truly start to wonder if I need therapy. There were some things I really needed to get done that were left hanging.
I have personally been guilty of asking for free computer work and I truly like to help people but today and yesterday were just insane and I really don’t know what to do about it. The worst was that someone was just plain rude when I was unable to complete work on a personal computer because I was having complications on work computers. I was angry when I left, got angry again as I thought about it on the way home.

I feel a bit better since I have banished that person from the earth. They now live in another dimension where they cannot be seen or heard except as though they are deep under water. Everything is distorted and difficult to understand which is how I prefer it. I think there were speech bubbles over my head that said what I was thinking (and couldn’t say out loud!) but only my friend could see them.
Maybe after the weekend the banishment can end but maybe not. I wonder if time is different there. Maybe a two day weekend here seems like a thousand years there……(insert immature evil laugh)

I need to work on priorities and saying NO but for now I think I will just enjoy my weekend – after all, it will go by quickly!

Dynamic Powerpoint – Beyond Basics By Cindy Cohen 8035

This was a good session that gave some basic common sense tips on using PowerPoint.

Why would we want to use it (well)?
• This generation has little tolerance for delays or mistakes in delivery of information
• It’s an easy way to get information across in a short time period


  • Too much information – on each slide
  • Color choices (may depend on lighting in presentation location)
  • Can be “eye catching or eye watering”
  • Presentation often not test driven to catch problems

If well used can be extremely engaging


  • Proof read
  • Don’t include all information
  • Practice test run
  • Don’t over-use the software in the classroom

Key – Keep the focus on the presenter

Start with the basics

  • Know your information
  • What are the key points or concepts
  • Make an outline (enter basic information on blank slides)
  • Order is important
  • Add relevant materials (diagrams, images, audio, video)

Consider approaches for presenting

  • How is the slide being used?
  • Ask a question on the slide (stop for discussion)
  • Break up with a related activity (stop presentation, do short activity, go back to presentation)

Adjust style elements (easy place to waste time)

  • Visual interest is key but remember to keep focus on the presenter
  • You can use WordArt to make notes on each slide to remind you of details, changes, and additions – what needs to be done to each slide
  • Do test run
  • Prepare your oral presentation (this is the part that many people omit!)
  • To prepare you can take your original outline and print it out or print slide handouts.
  • 3 slides to a page and you can have lines on the right side for notes

Presentations without a presenter

  • Podcast presentation
  • Save each slide as a jpeg
  • Insert into MovieMaker
  • Create audio voiceover using Audacity put together audio and movie – Podcast

*They did a Distance Learning Day at Good Shepherd. They submitted lesson plans, students stayed home and did assignments via internet. This type of podcast presentation was part of her lesson.

TCEA 2008

tcea08.jpgNext week I am planning on attending TCEA 2008 in Austin. Dale is doing well and I will be a cell phone call away. I am looking forward to learning some new things and meeting some folks that I have till now known only through blogging.

I plan, as I did last year, to blog my notes. If you do not blog and are going to be attending this year from PISD, I would love to have you as a “guest blogger”! Just let me know if you are interested and we can arrange for your notes/reflections on the conference to appear as a guest post by you to share with the rest of the district.

If you are a blogger I have a few tips for you. Take good notes making sure you have the session name, presenter name, and school district if applicable. Check out HitchHikr – a site that will aggregate posts that are tagged for specific conferences. There is no tag yet so you might want to check back – it will be something like TCEA08. If you tag our post with the HitchHikr tag it will make it easier for people who didn’t attend the same sessions to find your notes. As conference attendees start posting and tagging, the posts will show up on the HitchHikr site and there will be an RSS link so you can subscribe if you like and read other posts. This is a great way for all of us to get the most out of the conference and share the information with folks in the district who couldn’t attend.

There is a great post at Lunch Over IP on tips for conference blogging with links to other articles if you are interested in reading more about this. They have even created a PDF booklet you can download. There are two versions and I have included one here.


Stop by Lunch Over IP blog and leave a thank you comment if you find this useful. I’m excited about the conference and can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Also posted at My school blog – PHS Computer Project Lab

Teachers Make Technology Work For Them

I love Google Earth – to me it has this magic carpet feel to it. I can visit anywhere on earth in moments and often when I get there I will find that someone has taken photos of interesting sites there or I can add overlays that tell me everything there is to know about the area. I’m a Google fan anyway.

Right now a friend of mine and I are making some slides for a praise service using Google docs. I type or copy and paste lyrics onto slides and then “share” with him (which sends him an email with a click-able link to the presentation) which he then adds a background to and maybe tweaks the text a bit. When he is through he shares it back with me. We can work on it at different times, in different places and even add collaborators if we want. The slides can be downloaded and used in Powerpoint, Keynote, OpenOffice Impress, and even SlideShare.

I have not been so in love with Twitter. Twitter is an application that lets you constantly add a few words about what you are doing at the moment. I see how it might have it’s uses (sort of) for people who have a shared interest but mine would bore people to tears. Maybe I could make it a paid subscription for insomniacs? I signed up for a free account trying to see if I could “get it”. I have even subscribed via RSS to several of my favorite education/technology/blogger “tweets”

This morning I read how several teachers are using it and was once again reminded of how creative and resourceful teachers are.

Langwitches have started a Teachable Moments Shoutout Twitter account that you can that you can subscribe to and if you have a Twitter account you can join in. You can help other teachers with teachable moment ideas or get help yourself. If you are not familiar with Twitter, this does not mean a huge lesson plan with rubrics and worksheets – these are short messages. You can even subscribe via cell phone and get “tweets” as text messages. If you are curious you can find out more on the Twitter FAQ page or the Twitter Lingo/Help page.

This Shoutout idea was inspired by Tom Barrett and his use of Google Earth and Twitter. Tom got his Twitter network people to participate in his students’ Google Earth lesson. The students had to find these people based on a few clues on Twitter.

I asked my network to challenge the children to find them in Google Earth, to search and discover their location from a few scraps of info via Twitter. Well the challenges rolled in and in a couple of hours we had 25 different people to track down.

Some of the Tweets were longitude and latitude. Others were addresses or well-known geographical sites. As the students found the locations the sent back messages via twitter to let them know they had been found. The students got experience searching and using the different layers and even the three-D buildings feature. Because they had a real purpose the focus of the class became finding real people in real places and the technology became the tool instead of the lesson.

When I was in elementary school I had a Japanese PenPal. That was our Web 2.0.

New Years Goals for 2008 And Dale’s Lab Update

First for those of you that have been keeping up – Dale’s labs continue to be good. His white count was a little high which can be an indication of infection but it could also be a false reading so they will recheck and we will watch for fever. He has no other signs and everything else looked good except his cholesterol so they will start him back on his cholesterol medicine. They are finally listening to him about the stomach pain and trying him on a different medicine. The cellcept has been a problem for him all along and even with a daily pepcid he has had almost constant problems. It turns out that there is a newer alternative with less side effects. The hospital automatically puts you on the cellcept right now because they have a contract. When that contract runs out they will most likely switch to the Myfortic. The pharmacy has it ordered and unfortunately won’t have it till Monday afternoon so he will have to hang in there for the weekend. Myfortic basically does the same thing but is coated so it won’t be so hard on your tummy.


I’m thinking a lot about goals for the new year. I realize I may be a little late as most people try to make resolutions on the actual first of the year but things have been a bit busy here and I have never really been able to keep a resolution. After reading a few posts that talked about setting goals instead of making resolutions I decided that was the better path to take. I can work towards a goal and even if I don’t reach it I can at least see some progress so here goes.

I resolved last year to become more organized and therefore more productive. I read books and articles on GTD and bought file folders and tried setting up contexts in files on my computer. I just couldn’t seem to fit what I do into they system or for that matter take the time to get it set up and then keep up with it. I think that GTD sold books (it did to me) and ads and entire communities have grown up around the principles, organizers, templates and software but it just seems too labor intensive without the labor saving outcome for me.
I find myself spending more time trying to figure out how to be more productive than it takes me to actually be uh…productive. The best things for me seem to be:

  1. a large spiral notebook I keep on my desk near my phone and every morning I start with the days date. I copy anything unfinished from the previous day to the new day’s list and then check email and add anything appropriate to my list. I add to the list throughout the day and cross things off as they are completed. I store old notebooks so I can refer back to them if I need to.
  2. a small notebook I can carry in my pocket to write things down when I am away from my desk. (I have started being intentional about putting the dates in them as well so I can refer back) If it is important it can be transferred to the big spiral or a 4×6 card when I get back to my desk.
  3. my 4×6 card file. I have a small coupon keeper for portablility, a wooden box for permanent storage, and a small wooden easel for working cards. I created a template in Word that creates two cards on a page so I can copy and paste or type whatever I want on the cards. I keep a stack of cardstock in my drawer to print these homemade cards on and I also have a supply of colored cards to hand write on when I need to.

I use for email and a plugin lets me tag posts with keywords. I also have a mail folder just named “done” so I can drag things that are completed into the folder and get them out of my inbox. My goal is to find ways to get everything ELSE out of my inbox. I am not entirely happy with and not sure if it would be worth the trouble to make a switch or for that matter what I would switch to.
It was progress for me to get to this point so the resolution from last year hasn’t been a total bust. The things I still need to work on are organization of files on my computer and a system for deleting things that I no longer need instead of letting them pile up and clutter up and become a nagging problem. The same problem exists for my desk drawers and my closet. I really want to simplify and so those are the areas I have set as goals for the next year. There are a lot of keepsakes and pictures that I want to go through and distribute to other family members and get them off my mind and out of my home.

Dale and I stayed at a small apartment in Dallas for a month and I had the bare minimum as far as clothing, makeup, books, and kitchen tools. The only place I ever really missed something was in the kitchen. In every other area it was actually very freeing which was an important lesson. The problem for me now is finding the time and figuring out what to let go of and what to do with it so it will not be wasted. I managed in the week we were home during the holiday to clean out several junk drawers and baskets of paperwork.

My first goal is to continue to whittle down the piles, both in real life and virtually. This year has been more stressful than normal and unfinished tasks and clutter add to stress which adds to health problems which starts a cycle I want to break.
My second goal is something I have already started on. My brother was recently diagnosed with diabetes and while we were still in Dallas I checked mine a few times with Dales meter just to see since my brother is about ten years younger than me. My sugar was kind of high both times so I went to the doctor last week and she gave me my own glucometer and I will be checking for the next two weeks. So far it has been ok and it may have just been stress and not eating or exercising. It was a wake-up call though so I have been eating better and trying to squeeze some exercise in too. I had already made a lot of adjustments in my diet because Dale has to check his sugar right now and occasionally give himself insulin so I was just eating what he was eating.

I have discovered that you can get a “skinny” Cinnamon Dulce Latte at Starbucks so I think I can survive. I’m not sure what I’ll do about chocolate though. I have already been taking my lunch this year instead of buying cafeteria food and it has saved me money. Now it will help me make better choices as to what I eat. This may not be an organizational goal but I know if I work on a healthier lifestyle I will feel better and that will make me more productive.

I “gifted” myself with a good Wolfgang Puck saucepan with steamer insert (via ebay) and every trip to the doctor in Dallas means a stop at the Wholefoods Market. I’m switching us over to whole grains and brown rice and we are eating a lot more fruits and vegetables. I stopped drinking anything carbonated at the beginning of the school year and haven’t missed it at all. We have started taking re-usable bags with us and another goal for this year is to take those bags to more stores and to encourage those stores to start selling their own. Our local Krogers already does this and by using these bags you can cut down on clutter (all those thousands of plastic bags!) as well as be nice to the earth.

These are a few of my goals for the year – what are you working on?

Good To Be Back At Work

Dale just kind of piddled around the house and stayed warm today. I think he enjoyed having some peace and quiet with all of us gone. My first day back was wonderful. I missed the place and the FOLKS! There were hugs and laughter and everything was just as I left it. I had emails about fixing some minor problems and in general just felt like I was back home.

Overheard in the hall today:

He said: something…

She said: “Your New Years Resolution should have been to stop acting so immature.”

Yes – it’s good to be back!


Thankful Beyond Words

I can’t even write about it without getting weepy and maybe I can blog about it later but today the folks I work with did a really nice thing for us and it will help us as we head for transplant land this weekend.  People do not always realize how they become the face and hands of Jesus,  I don’t handle receiving very well.  I want to be the one who does the giving and being on the other end is humbling and confusing for me.

I am ready for this to happen and for everyone to be fine and me be back at work hopefully being a better person for it.

Opening Office 2007 Files and Open Office files

7-large.jpgWe have no computers running Vista at school, but a few students have it on home computers. I learned I can open documents created on Vista machines with Pages on my Mac.

Just yesterday I downloaded the latest OpenOffice and burned it to a cd for a student to install on their home computer. The student created a presentation and brought it to school on her jump drive. It wouldn’t open with PowerPoint on a PC or Mac and I finally had to just open it in OpenOffice on my Mac and let the teacher view and grade it on my machine. I’m not sure it was because it was a new version of OpenOffice or if it was because the student had not saved it as a PowerPoint when she created it. I will download and install it on my PC to check it out.

It is always a challenge to deal with the issues that crop up as the public sometimes moves on to new technology before the school can completely catch up. Newer printers can only be hooked to the computer via usb and older computers like Windows 98 machines may have usb ports but they don’t seem to be able to use them. Unfortunately, printers tend to give out before computers do so this is getting to be more of an issue.

I also read a “just for fun” tip on A New Mac Tip Everyday. This is how to change your login screen background. If you are like me you don’t see that screen too often but you might want to put a picture as a background even there. Here is how:

1. Make a copy of the background you want and rename it to “DefaultDesktop.jpg”.

2. Go to /System/Library/CoreServices and find the file DefaultDesktop.jpg.
3. Store the file somewhere on your hard drive in case you want to go back to the original default background.
4. Place your new background called “DefaultDesktop.jpg” in the folder /System/Library/CoreServices.
This won’t actually affect your productivity but then if you use a Mac to work you are already productive!

New Bloggers!

We have some students who are blogging and I have started visiting their blogs to leave comments and encourage them. This is so exciting to see! I know that this is not a new thing in some districts but for us it is brand new and I feel like I have had a tiny bit of influence here. I don’t teach these students – I’m not even on the same campus. I was one of the first bloggers in our district and I have been an advocate so I feel a little like a proud mama or at least great aunt. I hope they find a new way to express themselves, a new way to communicate with each other, and new ways to find the common ground that connects us to each other as members of the human race. Then again, maybe all that will happen is their grammar and spelling will improve because they realize other people are reading what they write. I’m betting on the former.

Books and Tips For Windows and Word

I love Amazon’s used books. I got a box of paperbacks for Dale today. He has decided he wants to go back and start reading all of Sue Grafton‘s books in order. He has read A through F and I got an entire box in the mail today – G through N. For those of you who do not read mysteries Sue Grafton’s books have titles like “M is for Murder” and “I is for Innocence”. The main character is a girl private detective named Kinsey Milhone. These books should last him through the transplant process.

I got a copy of PowerPoint For Teachers by Ellen Finkelstein and Pavel Samsonov which looks pretty good. It walks you through creation of presentations to use in the classroom and I hope to learn some new techniques that I can post here. I am making a little collection of things to read and learn and blog about during Dale’s hospitalization and this will be part of that.

Part of my job is supporting teachers in their use of technology and I forget sometimes that while I get excited about Web 2.0 tools and blogging and wikis and skype, I forget that most people just want to know little tricks that make their job easier. Today I showed one person keyboard shortcuts – Windows/E for opening Windows Explorer and Windows/L for locking their computer and being able to log back in and have all their programs still open. Another person just wanted the steps for creating a folder on their desktop and instructions on how to save documents directly to it. Two people were made happy by something that took me just a few moments.

To make a new folder by the way – you right click on a blank space whether it be on your desktop or within another folder. Choose new and then choose folder. Rename your folder and then when you create a document you want to save in that folder click on File/Save As and using the drop down box navigate to the folder you just created. Voila!
I also learned you can link text boxes in Word. A class project entails some students creating a magazine type article that I mentioned in the previous post. While the Word column function doesn’t do exactly what they need another way to go is putting everything in text boxes and then “linking” them so that text will flow from one to the next if there is more text that will fit in the box.

1. Hover the mouse pointer over the border of the first text box. The pointer shape changes to the Move shape (looks like a plus sign with arrows at the ends of the lines)

2. Right click and choose Create Text Box Link

3. The mouse pointer will change to a “pitcher” shape.

4. Click in the box you wish to link to – the text will now “pour” from the first text box into the second.

5. You can link more than one text box but you must always link forward – you cannot link backwards.

This is still not an ideal answer but it gives you a some control and another option.

I love technology but I like making people happy too! New books, happy people – it was a good day!


Microsoft Word Column Limits

A class was trying to do a project today and the idea was to use Word in three column format to create a magazine style article. The problem was that they needed to be able to insert a picture and the teacher wanted that picture to be able to span several columns and have the text wrap around it but still stay in column format. Microsoft Office 2000 and 2003 were being used. I tried to figure out a way to make it work and created a text box to use as the container for the picture. On my MacBook it worked like a charm. Unfortunately the text wrapping part didn’t work so well when I tried it on the PC.
Microsoft Word worked better on my MacBook than on the PC? That is just weird.


K12 Online Conference Dean Shareski Presentation

I am slowly getting to more presentations from the conference and today I watched “Design Matters”. I have been thinking about this for awhile. Whether it be our classrooms, offices, textbooks, powerpoints – everything deserves our attention because as human beings we respond on a level that isn’t even always conscious to our first exposure to something.

My lab is straight rows of computers all facing the front. From the standpoint of me sitting at the back and being able to see if there is a problem it’s great. From the standpoint of an instructor being at the front with access to the data projector it works well.

Unfortunately it’s ugly. I hate it. I look at it from the perspective of someone wanting to learn and I have difficulty concentrating in there. Of course it was put together about nine years ago (I think). It has the obligatory chalk boards at the front with florescent lighting. The students bring their backpacks and have them between the rows so it is difficult to get to them if they need help. They bump the back of machines as they move down the row and loosen connections (and occasionally swap the mouse and keyboard for fun) I realize that there was no way we could foresee where we would be now and even less possible to imagine where we will be in twenty or thirty years.
I’d like to see some images of computer labs at other schools, particularly ones where thought was given to designing for aesthetics as well as purpose. In my mind I keep going back to a center oriented layout. I imagine centers for multimedia, centers just for wordprocessing, an area with something like study carrels where students who are easily distracted or just have a need to concentrate can work independently. I’d like adjustable lighting that can be dimmed as low as needed.

We need storage, both lockable for extra cables and equipment and open for backpacks and books. I’d like an area with a white board and a table where a group could sit comfortable and watch a presentation. It would be wonderful if there were a way for a group to have headphones that hooked to the same source for the group to use or a way to close the area off if needed for small groups to to staff development or view and hear media. One of the worst problems in the average lab configuration that I can see is that as more and more of the information on line is multi-faceted. It’s visual, audio and interactive and in a group it is impossible for an individual to see and hear and not bother everyone else around them. I’ll be talking about this subject in future posts – not just about my lab but about design in general.