Monday, August 29, 2005


OK, I am awed by Picasa. Well, it's more like I'm blown away....and to top it all off, it's free!

Picasa is to photos what iTunes and iPod are to music. Now I understand why Google's stock is rising through the roof. First, Picasa is a photo manager. Once you download and install (quick, less than a minute for me), it automatically pulls in all photo files on your harddrive, categorizes them by year and folders. You can instantly view thumnails of all photos, and drop and drag between folders for better organization. And that's just file management...

Picasa also offers some basic photo editing tools such as crop, redeye, special filters, resizing, etc. I really liked the Timeline option--you can view folders of photos in a graphic timeline. The drag and drop interactivity, and display of information itself, mimics Mac. No stiff PC-like useability in this product (and I ran it on a PC). If you are using Photoshop Elements, I'd suggest checking out Picasa as an alternative; it offers so much more!

What else? Well, you can create instant slideshows, publish to the web, prepare folders of files to order online (your choice of various services). I chose to create a photobook of 35 photos from my kids' summer activities. I was able to edit the layout, put in captions, choose a cover and title--all for the cost of $12.95 on Shutterfly.

If you are a teacher who uses a lot of digital imagery in your online lessons, syllabus, assignments, do multimedia creation, etc., then check out Picasa.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

when the technology dies

Anyone who uses technology on even a semi-regular basis has come to accept the fact that technology fails. In fact, we come to expect it; sometimes we're even glib about it. "Oh yes, THAT is broken again. Not to worry. All I have to do is push this button, unplug this, push that button, and voila!"

Classes started yesterday and our online course server is barely functioning. It can take a minute just to bring up one page, if it comes up at all. I share this fact not to complain. In fact, I'm wondering about the effect this technology snafu has on online learners. How long will online learners stay devoted to an online class when the technology isn't working appropriately? And are more experienced online learners more patient with delays in the technology?

As an online teacher, I know I'm already frustrated with the slow performance over the last couple of weeks. I needed to prep three online classes, and the time on the job seems to triple when the server runs slow (or not at all). At this point, I'm wishing I taught on campus. Well, not really. I love teaching online. But I am concerned about the students. I'm concerned about losing folks who really want to learn online but don't have the patience to hang around until we get it all figured out. I'm also concerned about first-time online students who might jump ship and never return based on this one experience.

OK time for me to go! I just heard Blackboard is back online--I need to get while the getting is good!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

back to school

Well, the summer semester has ended, and the fall semester starts in three days. I am teaching three online classes this fall, one is a new prep. I'll admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed with the idea of how much time I'll be spending online, but I also have the tingly feeling of anticipation that comes with the beginning of a new semester. The good news is I still enjoy teaching a lot--and after 20 years of teaching, I suppose that's a good sign I'm doing what I'm supposed to do.

This week brings the tasks of recycling old courses. After five years, you'd think I had this down to a science--what really works best for recycling? Sometimes it seems easier to just recreate the entire class from scratch, instead of modifying assignments, discussion boards, announcements, etc from a recycled class. What about you? Do you have any preferred approaches for getting started on a new semester when reusing old materials?