Snapshots by Gloria Freeland -- Jan. 13, 2006


I shook my head, trying to make sense of what I'd just heard as I returned from a session on how to integrate technology into teaching. I consider myself to be a fairly quick learner when it comes to foreign languages, but techies use a language that I'm not sure I'll ever be conversant in.

The speaker began by presenting a quick overview of Tegrity Web Learner, which is a method by which some instructors -- but not me yet -- can put their class lectures on the Web. Soon, he said excitedly, instructors will be able to move beyond that to using Horizon Wimba and creating podcasts from lectures.

Gulp! I'm way behind the learning curve!

When I first started teaching at K-State more than 20 years ago, our writing lab consisted of 20 typewriters. The good news was that SOME of them were electric!

Now we have four writing labs equipped with the latest -- er, modern -- computers with word processing, design, video editing and Website design software. I can't say "the latest" because anything more than a few weeks old only rarely qualifies for that adjective.

I am proud to say that I have learned how to handle at least some of that software.

The other two speakers in the technology session described the different equipment faculty and staff members can check out -- digital cameras, video cameras, mobile wireless carts, an ultra portable lab, tablet PCs and others. My favorite was a 256-megabyte "thumb drive" -- named that because it is the size of a person's thumb. The user's data is kept secure by requiring him to present his thumb to unlock the unit. I can't say I have much top-secret data I have to protect. I'd prefer the manufacturers would have worked on a way I could find it after inadvertently setting it down somewhere!

The other day, Art mentioned that Wal-Mart was selling an MP3 player the size of a large caramel that doubles as a radio. I hope the headphones don't unplug because if they do, I know I'd lose the player for sure!

A recent "Weekend Update" segment on "Saturday Night Live" poked fun at how more and more data is being stored in increasingly smaller and smaller devices. One of the comedians, playing the part of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, described the popular iPod, which can play videos as well as store up to 15,000 songs in a package that fits in the palm of your hand.

In the skit, "Jobs" threw it on the floor and said, "Oops! That one's obsolete already. Here's a new one that holds 50,000 songs!"

He demonstrated a couple of more such gadgets, throwing each away for the same reason until he ended up with what he called the "invisipod," a device so small it was invisible, but so powerful it could hold eight million songs!

I laughed. Both our daughters are enamored with their MP3 players and Art ordered one for our exchange student Nadja last week. Art got me one last year, but it sat on a shelf until he rescued it. "I appreciate it, but why would I need that many songs in one place?" I asked him.

"It comes in handy on my 12-hour drives to Wisconsin," he answered.

Well, I suppose that's the case. But for now, I'll just be satisfied with a CD player that I can put on my desktop -- one I can see and that I can't easily misplace. After all, I have all I can handle just keeping track of my car keys!

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