IT outside the classrooms and dorms

We have a new IT governance committee* on our campus, thanks to lots of arm-twisting by the CIO, and some (ongoing) redefining of the faculty senate’s information technology committee.  (For background, see these two pdfs.)  What’s interesting about this committee is that it brings together . . . everyone.  Faculty are represented, as well as student affairs, but so are HR, and admissions, and facilities, and the registrar, and the police.  Students, too.  The idea of the committee is that all of these groups consume IT resources (bandwidth, sweet sweet bandwidth, but also money/time/people), but there hasn’t been a formal process for articulating their concerns with one another.  It’s been more or less up to the CIO to decide who gets what–that’s not shared governance, as he constantly reminds us.

The first meeting was today, and it was . . . fascinating.  First, just from a geek point of view it was interesting to hear about all the different projects going on, and also to hear straight talk about budgets and such.  Second, it was interesting to learn about shared gripes.  For example, faculty–especially part-timers–frequently complain that we don’t support automatic forwarding of university e-mail.  HR also hates this, because it’s hard for them to communicate reliably with our (ginormous) population of part-time faculty.

Finally, it was also interesting to hear about different constituencies’ interests in particular topics/technologies, and to think about the ripple effect changes in one domain might have in another.  (For example, campus police is interested in GIS, to provide information to first-responders who might not know the campus; we should be certain to coordinate with, for example, the Geography department.  If approx. 80% of our students have a web-capable phone, and we’re upgrading our security cameras across campus, shouldn’t we investigate software that lets students see the cameras in public spaces?  If all those students have smartphones, does *every* classroom have to be a smart one? &c.  [Note that none of these were discussed formally today. If they were, it’s not at all clear I could voice them here.])

In this vale of tears, I’m sure that the committee will often be frustrating or contentious–after all, everyone wants their project funded first, and these are not exactly flush times for a regional comprehensive state university.  But it is an interesting idea, and the last part of today’s meeting was awesome, in a way committee meetings rarely are.

*And of course I’m chair.  Criminy–I’m on four committees this year, and am chair of every last cotton-pickin’ one of ’em.  In this instance, it’s probably helpful that a faculty member chair the committee.

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Easy withdrawals from the Bank of America on West Main

From yesterday’s New Britain Herald:

 A brazen bank robber pulled off a drive-through heist at the Bank of America on West Main Street Monday afternoon by making a “significant threat of violence,” police said.

Police declined to comment on the threat the man in a small blue car made, but he implied he had a weapon and said he would harm employees if his demands weren’t met.

“It was a significant threat of violence to the employees,” Lt. James Wardwell said. “No weapon was displayed, but the teller took the threat seriously.”

The robber pulled up to the drive-through on the side of the building around 1:44 p.m. and handed the teller a note demanding money, Wardwell said. He drove off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

No one was harmed during the incident. Wardwell said drive-through bank robberies are very rare. Police have the note that was given to the teller, he said.

I bet drive-through robberies become a lot more common once word gets out that you don’t even have to flash your weapon!

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Dickens in glass

A nearby town, Vernon, has Dickens Days every year: a holiday celebration loosely organized around a Victorian theme.  Students in my Victorian novel class could get extra credit if they went and could prove it.  (In the interests of anthropology, of course!)  A handful of students went; most brought flyers and a cell-phone or digital camera picture.

One student, though, bought this ornament, allegedly depicting Dickens:

I’m not sure who this is–but it’s not Dickens!

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Playing with Blogs: Links for Student Learning Colloquium at CCSU

(This isn’t quite my slide presentation, but a list related resources.  Here’s the slide presentation itself.)

It’s nice to start with an epigraph.  Here’s Jo Guldi on what humanities pedagogy could look like today:

 A characterization of humanities pedagogy based on risk-taking, insight, and pattern-finding is very exciting. It pushes past the monotony of the college essay and re-emphasizes the skills of perception upon which the humanities have traditionally been based. It creates richer minds and broader sets of experience.

(Definitely click the link: Her “5-minute map” idea is awe-inspiring in its simplicity and potential.)

If you are wholly new to blogs/social media, here are three videos I  recommend:

There are lots-n-lots of academic blogs out there–if you search [your field] blogs . . . you’ll find something worth reading.  (Here are 3 to start: University Diaries, academhack, and PrintCulture.)
Rather than turn this into a long post, here are my previous posts on Ivanhoe & Twitter, plus some bonus teaching-with-technology goodness:

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Lesser-Known Characters from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

I am a sucker for Dickens-related holiday humor, and so can’t help linking to Yankee Pot Roast’s


(even if it is a year old).

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Keep your money in the community

A local blogger is reporting that a New Britain Herald reporter was arrested over the weekend on DUI & drug charges.  I’m not one to moralize when someone’s down, and in general I have a fairly libertarian take on the drug problem, but this is disappointing:  According to NBGrrrl, he was “arrested in Hartford.”

What, I ask, about the hard-working New Britain dealers?  Is the man up the street short this month?   Is there *nothing* going on downtown?  In these difficult economic times, surely the right thing to do is buy locally.

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Dreaming of a handwriting-free future

I have terrible handwriting.  This doubtless follows from various moral failings, but it is literally true that I was never properly taught cursive handwriting: I was promoted out of 2nd grade, when they were first starting to teach it, and then my 3rd grade teacher tried to make me switch to right-handedness.  (I went to elementary school in the 1920s.)

It’s not *wholly* inaccurate to say that, while I reverse fewer letters than he does, my five-year old’s handwriting is probably more consistently legible than mine.  Jerk.

(True story: It is, or was, customary at debate tournaments to write your names on the board at the start of a round, for the benefit of the judge.  Once, at a tournament at West Point, a tournament where I won a speaking award, I had chalkboard duty in an early round.  When the judge, who happened to be on the faculty there, walked in, it became clear he was having trouble reading my writing.  I nervously laughed and apologized for the bad penmanship.  His answer: “No, your writing’s ok . . . but I think you need to press harder on the chalk.  It’s ok to use your muscles!”  There’s nothing quite like being told to man up right before a college debate round.)

This doesn’t come up a lot every day, at least not since I switched to electronic formats for virtually all assignments.  But yesterday, while chairing a committee meeting, I had to provide the group with possible language for a faculty senate resolution.   There was a whiteboard in the room, so I scrawled out the wording.

Jaws dropped as the various professors around the table squinted and leaned forward to try to decipher my malformed, crowded letters.  After a fair amount of bantering, one of the professors insisted that she had no problem reading what I’d written.  “Of course,” she added after the table quieted, “I work with LD kids all the time.”

Note to self: Make sure the data projector is turned on in all future meeting rooms, so that I can TYPE in front of the committee.  *Sigh.*

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Hunger in New Britain

New Britain is a very poor town, and, judging by this Courant article’s reporting, one wracked by hunger.  On the one hand, there’s a lot of anecdote here; on the other, this is an emergency in the making, and it’s probably hard to get reliable numbers in realtime.  After sitting in some PTA meetings in which even very low-cost events raised concerns–including a district-wide parent meeting in which someone walked in off the street to the Board of Education’s conference room in order to panhandle–I can say that the article seems pretty accurate to me.

The most useful part of the article is a link to a website, organized by a local chapter of Food, Not Bombs, called New Britain Food.  It’s got a neat events page featuring a Gcal grid with opportunities for food, as well as a Google Maps display of all the various locations one can get relief.  Among other things, it makes it supereasy to know where to donate. Regardless of whether one shares the idea that free vegetarian food is a likely pathway to revolution, or even that such a revolution is desirable, you’ve got to credit the dedication.  (For an even gloomier take on the situation, see the Herald‘s coverage, which points out that city health inspectors are apparently shaking down Food, Not Bombs’s donations.)

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Ruining the good Jones name

The NY Times this morning ran a story about the least sympathetic Joneses of the current recession:

Meet the Joneses, two Silicon Valley engineers who, in many ways, seem to have it all — a home they bought for $850,000, two children and a combined income of about $250,000 a year. But despite their apparent wealth, Kirsten and Mike Jones financed much of their lifestyle with borrowed money.

Now, like many overspent Americans, the Joneses are deeply in debt. They owe $100,000 on their credit cards, and the tax assessor says their home is worth $100,000 less than they paid for it. To turn their finances around, they’re embracing an idea so quaint it might be cool again: living within their means.

Apparently things really are tough in the Jones household (emphasis added):

MS. JONES said that to get back to living on their actual incomes, she and her husband had to stop thinking in terms of credit. They set up one bank account to cover the household bills and pay back debt. To rein in unnecessary expenditures, she and her husband each get a cash allowance of $600 a month.

If your austerity budget includes $1200/month for “dinners out, clothes, gadgets,” here’s an idea: Don’t be in the %@^* paper.  Nobody’s twisting your arm.  When the reporter asks, just politely decline.  It’s not indecent to be successful, obviously, but it is to whine about how hard it is to live on a mere $250K/year.  And it’s outright obscene to be self-congratulatory about one’s ability to endure a $1200/month austerity budget.

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See? Neal Stephenson uses the OED!

One of the most weirdly difficult battles I have with students, taken as a group, is to get them to replace with the OED (freely available online through the school).  Despite all the informational advantages of the latter, and its convenience, sites such as the former remain the default.

But look at how Neal “Snow Crash” Stephenson comes up with words such as loglo and his other neologisms:

AVC: There are a lot of neologisms in your books in general—in Anathem, largely iterations of or plays on existing words, in Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, invented words for invented futuristic concepts. Do you have a method for making made-up words sound sensible, for avoiding the terrible-made-up-word disease that hits so much science fiction and fantasy?

NS: “Method” is an awfully dignified word for it, but here goes: In the room where I work, I have a chalkboard, and as I’m going along, I write the made-up words on it. A few feet from that chalkboard is a copy of the full 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, to which I refer frequently as a source of ideas and word roots. Whenever I get distracted or bored, my eyes wander over to that chalkboard and I read the words. Some of them grow on me, and others annoy me. I attack the latter with eraser and chalk, and keep nudging at them until I like the way they look and sound. Others never make the cut at all and simply get erased. Perhaps one day I will sell these on eBay to RPG players who need names for characters or alien races.

Playing with the OED.  It’s a beautiful thing.

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