Re-activate Your Microsoft Office Yourself

microsoftofficewarningNow that it’s summer vacation, and you are enjoying your hard-earned break at home. You may have taken a WKU laptop home with you. But then you may be bothered by the reminder that you have to activate your Microsoft Office. Yes, you may just take your computer to the IT desk and have the Office activated there, but do you know that if you are time conscious, you can do it yourself even without knowing the 25-character key needed to do so? Simply download the free Belarc Advisor at and it will dig out the 25-character code that you need to activate or re-activate your Microsoft Office. The catch is that you still have to come to WKU campus and hook your laptop up with the university’s LAN network. No, you can’t do it at home.

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MOOC’s All Around: Inside Higher Ed

MOOC stands for ‘massively open online course’ And the emphasis is on massive. One such course at Stanford University had had enrollment upwards of 200,000. On the smaller side, Jim Groom’s MOOC, DS 106-digital storytelling, had only a few hundred. But it definitely is something new under the pedagogical sun.  It is all about imagination, folksonomy, and creative chaos.  Reminiscent of the Occupy Movement, these courses represent a case study in leaderless, emergent organization.

The characteristics of this ‘new new thing’  include: no textbook, no lectures, and a student-driven course design where  F2F attendance is optional. Students are free to design and re-design the course on the fly. Remix is encouraged and social upvoting of others’ works a la Reddit and Digg is built in. Weekly assignments are student created. F2F students are required to create assignments and tutorials for skills need to complete them. Groom points out that there are over 1300 learners online who get no course credit yet they produce the majority of the assignments.

Groom has lofty hopes for this revolutionary course model, “The goal of DS106 is to teach students how to be creative, capable Internet citizens, able to consciously shape their own identities and narratives online. Minus the modicum of structure and authority exerted by the instructors, the course operates much as the Web does.” Or as he calls them the three C’s: community, collaboration, and coordination.

Canadian MOOC pioneer George Siemens remarks that Groom’s course is different from the Stanford model. “The MOOCs at Stanford and Udacity are instructivist,” says Siemens. “Learners largely duplicate the knowledge base of the educator or designer.” In other words students are following in the instructor’s learning footsteps much like the silhouettes of shoes in old dance studios showed learners the steps. What Groom and company are doing is to create an environment for learners to construct their own steps.

Is there a place at Western for such a course? Is anyone out there willing to facilitate? Is there something in your discipline that you have been dying to collaborate on in a similar open environment? I would love to work with someone to do this. You can get in touch with me at terry dot elliott at gmail dot com.

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QR Code, What and How?

QR Code for liking WKU Libraries' Facebook

QR Code is becoming ubiquitous. So what is it? It’s one of what’s known as 2-D Bar Codes. The first of the 2-D Bar Codes, UPC Code in particular, appeared in the 1970’s, but they found it hard to be popularly adopted due to the high cost of code scanners.

That has changed since smartphones such as the Apple, Blackberry, and Android products, have become available in the hands of millions. They are capable of reading the 2-D Bar Codes, particularly, the QR Code, using free applications downloaded into them.

Every QR Code contains a finder pattern, an arrangement of squares that help the scanner detect the size of the code, the direction it faces, and the angle at which it’s to be scanned. Every QR Code also has an alignment pattern of squares devised to help scanners to determine if the code is distorted.

Once a smartphone’s camera processes the code’s image, the scanning application/software analyzes it by calculating the ratio between the black and white areas of the code. It quickly identifies which squares are part of the alignment pattern and which are part of the finder pattern that contains the actual data. The software can compensate for errors stemming from distortion and obscurity.  After the application has digitally reconstructed the QR Code, it examines the jumble of black and white squares in the code’s data section and outputs the data contained therein.

Other 2-D Bar Codes include MaxiCode used by UPS and DataMatrix used by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Data in a QR Code can be anything from pure text, phone numbers to a URL, or a link, to a Web site or a social media like your Facebook.

You use QR Codes by embedding the image in your publicity materials such as a brochure, a flyer, or anything you want your audience to access your data/information with the ease of scanning the code with their smartphones instead of taking notes with their pen or pencils that are prone to mistakes.

You create your QR Code by using free applications (usually it comes along with code scanners) or online services, which are often free and easy to use. What you do is like 1: providing the info; 2: downloading the code it generates; and 3: embedding the code and publicizing it. One such online service that I find useful is QR Stuff at Give it a try not just because it’s free!

–Key information in the post is adapted from How Stuff Works.

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Turn Your iPad into a PC with MS Office and More


This is not a screen from my PC, but from my iPad. Yes, my iPad simulates a PC with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 on it, so long as I have wifi connection. It’s IE and Flash capable, too! Everything, from application launching to file directory mapping, are simulated so that you can’t tell the difference. It looks and feels like real also because of its amazing speed.

All is made possible by a free app called Onlive Desktop. The iPad app is “purchased” from the App Store at Both the app and the use of the “desktop” with MS Office are free with 2 Gigabytes space in the cloud.  More gigabytes and Flash availability can be bought for as little as 5 bucks a month. Try it and experience the power of the cloud computing technology.

You do need to sign up for an account, though. Registration is free, too. Enjoy and share your experience with us!

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ATAG Meeting Reminder: 04/6/2012

The next meeting of the Academic Technology Advisory Group will be held on Friday, April 6th, at 1:30 P.M. in the Board of Regents Room, Mass Media and Technology Hall.
The meeting agenda has been posted on the ATAG Blackboard site.

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Hardware Gone Wild…

I am not sure if the screenshot in this post is to be believed, but DataWind is booking orders for a $35 Android tablet!

If this isn’t vaporware, then this really is what Clayton Christenson called disruptive technology. When combined with etexts, annotation software, and cloud storage, I think we have to ask what else is keeping us from trying out others have adopted whole hog.

Consider Digital Learning Day,  Korea’s national push for total etextbook adoption by 2013,  Indiana University’s eTexts, and last year’s Techonomy Conference.  Add to this groundswell the possibility of a $35 tablet and you have a formula for very fast change.  And if not at Western, then in lots of other places who will use it as a winning formula for attracting and retaining students.



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Some Very Preliminary Considerations on Adopting Etextbooks at WKU

We opened up a “can of discussion” in our last ATAG meeting about etextbooks.  Here is my Prezi presentation again for viewing if you want to refresh your thoughts.

As I write in the title of this post, these are very preliminary considerations based upon a little research and upon my limited scope as a gen ed instructor who uses technology in the classroom.  I think of this post as a crack in the door to look through and I have borrowed heavily from the suggestions made here.  (Many thanks to Doug Smith for pointing me to this early study of etextbook adoption.)

First, we need to do a review of those who are adopting etextbooks, of those who are considering moving to etextbooks, of those who have done it and are evaluating how it went.  We even need to look in particular at those who have decided not to adopt them or who are putting off the decision.

Second, I think we need to avoid top-down mandates on etextbook adoption. Institutions that go ‘all out’ and ‘top down’ might be flirting with disaster. Instead, let us encourage pilot adoption of etexts. Let’s provide monetary/hardware incentives and make folks sing for their supper with TSOnline/FACET/campus wide presentations. Or maybe we can create a small cadre of early adopters and let them figure out how to model etextbook adoption to the larger community. We might want to have this group be cross-departmental or from several colleges to get the broadest POV on adoption.

I keep forgetting students in this mix. Bad, bad problem that. Students must be involved at every level of the study process. And I also forget that we could involve discrete organizations like the Honors College or Gatton Academy as pilot groups of users.

Perhaps I am stating the obvious here but someone should.  If we decide to adopt, we need to plan well ahead for any campus-wide rollout by making sure our physical and employee infrastructure can handle the particular needs of faculty, students, and staff. For example, we need to know how a large scale adoption of etexts might pressure our network at its weakest links. We need to think about how we would support even a small rollout of both IOS and Android and other devices. A larger group can flesh these questions out or we can borrow from the experience of others who have so kindly been the earliest adopters.

Perhaps we could do as we have with Adobe Connect–limited licenses (or in this case  limited hardware and training for first users).  It is a classic sales technique–the takeaway, limited time offer. We might combine this “sing for your supper” opportunity with a second tier of opportunities as an inducement to longer term use of etextbooks, devices, and training.

If our piloted efforts show fruit, then we market the fire out of them to all affected folk–teachers, students, and staff. It seems paradoxical, but my experience has been that students are ‘way conservative’ about adoption of tech so I think they need convincing. Perhaps there could be subsidization for selected gen ed courses.  Free pizza?

I think the sales effort only comes after we have proven that it makes economic and pedagogic sense to move to etextbooks. I don’t think our students are a monolithic bloc of early adopters. Perhaps etextbooks have greater advantages with our science students. If so, our focus might want to be on getting them to adopt. Whatever we choose to do, we have to establish clearly that what we propose is a game that is worth the candle for students as well as teachers and support staff.

Whether this project is in the exploration stages, the piloting stages, or the partial or complete rollout stage we must provide support that include research justifications, actual training, financial and ‘psychic’ support, economic rationales as well as follow up support.

I don’t mean to give the impression that etextbook adoption at WKU is a done deal.  In fact if our initial evaluation of existing programs and literature shows we should take a laissez faire approach, I am fine with that.  But we need to make sure that we also justify why we have not moved toward a tool and idea that is beginning to percolate throughout both the K-12 and higher ed zeitgeist.  Consider our local schools with one-to-one laptop initiatives sending us students who expect to read their textbooks on a screen.  Part of what the federal Department of Education is pushing is college readiness.  Is etextbook literacy a part of such readiness?   I don’t know, but I do know of at least four schools in the Green River Area Ed District that are now 1-to-1 schools.  Will we be ready for them?

I think that ATAG needs a few more resources to make a proper stab at answering this very important question.  I am an early adopter looking for ways to self-publish etexts, to create mini-etextbooks that are reuseable, and to use blog plugins as potential etextbook tools.  I have cobbled together a set of links here and  here if you want to gather some of my ‘breadcrumbs’ on etextbooks.  I look forward to our conversation.

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College Study: E-Books Falling Flat

Students who purchased e-textbooks saved only $1 in some cases when compared with others who bought traditional books, according to a new study.

The two-year study by Daytona State College, funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, evaluated students who bought traditional books, rented print books, rented e-textbooks and purchased e-books.

A few years ago, the introduction of e-books in college bookstores held promise for saving students money and becoming a popular choice among today’s wired students. Instead, they’ve fallen flat — with many students still preferring a paper option.

Students who purchase e-books also forfeit the opportunity to sell back their books at the end of the semester.
Boulder Daily Camera
Monday, January 9, 2012

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Spring semester meeting times

ATAG will meet Friday, February 17 and Friday, April 6, both from 1:30 to 3:00 in the Regents Room of MMTH.

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ECAR Student Survey

Results from the ECAR (Educause Center for Applied Research) “National Study of Students and Information Technology in Higher Education” were released last month during the Educause national conference.  The survey methodology was designed to report on a nationally representative sample of American college students.

Here’s the pdf version of a Powerpoint presentation highlighting the results:

 Several interesting findings stood out for me.  Take a look at slide 28.  The survey asked students to say whether their skill level “meets their needs” in various important technology areas.  Consistently, a majority of students responded that yes, my skill level does meet my needs in using these technologies.  And yet in each area, a substantial number of students responded that they were not satistifed with their technology skills.  In using word processors, 16% indicated that their skills were not adequate.  In using the library web site, 23% gave this response.  In using the campus Blackboard system, 16%.  As the presenters noted, “Many students lack confidence” with their technology skills and there is a need for ongoing technology training that reaches out to underprepared students.

Students strongly indicated that they wish instructors used technology more often in their course work.  See slide 29.  Of the national respondents, 39% said they wished their instructors used email more often, and 32% said they wished their instructors used the campus learning management system (Blackboard) more often.  We hear this from our own students over and over, and here the preference is nationally quantified.  Students wish for instructors to keep in touch with them by email, and want them to post course materials on Blackboard.

What do students think about the way technology is used in teaching and learning at their own institutions?  See slide 39.  Nationally, only 59% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “My institution uses the technology it has effectively.”  About half (49%) said “I know more about how to use technology than my professors.”  It would be interesting to know whether the WKU student population would give similar responses.

Finally, I was impressed with the findings on slide 46.  Students were asked about their “preferred learning environment” and were allowed to choose only one most-preferred environment.  The survey found that 74% of students said they preferred a course that blends both traditional and online environments.  Only 11% said they preferred fully online courses, and only 15% said they preferred a course with no online components.  Again we find that students appreciate face-to-face teaching, but want access to course resources and materials online.

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