Thursday, November 27, 2008

Course Message Boards

When I was a student I never really used the course message boards.  I never found any help or answers there.  Right now I am taking a course/seminar at the University of Hawaii.  As part of the course we are required to participate on the message boards.  It has been difficult for me to get really involved, mostly  because no one else is really posting anything for me to comment on.  I also hate commenting just to earn credit, which I have done a few times.  Forcing people to comment on a message board seems to cheapen the conversation.

I bring this topic up because I read a post on Phil Windly's blog talking about receiving a lot of email (not spam) and trying to respond to it all. I do agree that no matter what you do, you probably will never keep up with all your email.  However, as a teacher, I can really use Tantek's advice.  Whenever you receive an email question, you could post it on the course message board, along with your response.  Then when you get that question again, just refer the student to the board.

In theory, students will look at the board and see that their other questions were answered on the board, and then start checking the board before emailing their professor.  Hopefully, the class could transform a previous unused and unnoticed message board into their first source for help.

To make the process easier, it would be really nice to have a drag-and-drop interface to just drag your email conversation to the message board.  Then, for students with similar questions, you could drag their email to the post, which would automatically reply to their message with a link to that post.  Maybe that will be my next project.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Aaron Curtis - From Monologue to Dialog

Aaron Curtis from Indiana University came to BYU-Hawaii and did a presentation on his dissertation research.  He is studying how much adding a whiteboard (Microsoft One Note) to a typical chatroom (Microsoft Meeting) can improve group understanding.  Although his results are not complete, he says it does look promising.

I think the main advantage of the whiteboard was having an information store.  With just an instant message, facts that have already been stated will scroll off the screen.  With the whiteboard, the facts stay where they are.  The whiteboard makes perfect sense when all of the information fits on the screen.  It would be interesting to see what happens when it doesn't, and if some of the standard information visualization techniques would be enough to make it advantageous.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Researching Local Races

So I really wanted to know more about the local races here in Hawaii.  I have been getting a lot of fliers in the mail and heard a lot on the radio/TV, but I wanted to research the facts for myself.  Luckily, I found a web site at the Honolulu Advertiser that lets you see all of races, and view the candidates' responses to the issues.  It also had links to their website if you wanted to find out more.

The two best things about the website are: 1)  you can select where you live, and you only get the races on your ballot, and 2) you can select all of the candidates that you want to vote for and then print out your selections to bring with you into the voting booth.  It took me about an hour and a half to research all of my local races, which is about as much time as I wanted to put into it.

I wish that it also explained the ballot initiatives and had the arguments for and against each one.  Instead, I just had to read a brief description on each initiative to see it it really matters to me, and then do web searches to research the issues that do.

The official Honolulu County election site is really bad.  I couldn't even find out which races I would be voting in.  It has a link that says "Find out more about the candidates."  When I clicked on it, it just sent me to a page that tells me how to apply to run for office.  The ballot intiatives links aren't very helpful in explaining what the intiative really does, unless you are a laywer.