Saturday, May 28, 2011


I want to clarify my previous post. As a reminder of one of the many pitfalls awaiting the tech-heavy lesson.

I am teaching a course at Dominican U., Integrating Technology Into the Curriculum. On the first night of class, I have the "candidates" (how DU refers to folks in the teacher education program, to distinguish from "students", whom the future teachers will be teaching) get set up with the basic Web 2.0 tools. They create a blog if they don't have one already, set up a wikispaces account to work on a course wiki we create, and they set up a Diigo account to begin a professional library of web resources and also to experience social bookmarking.

For blogging, I suggest Google's blogger, mainly because it is what I am familiar with. I haven't created a new blogger account in a while, but "it worked fine when I tried it".

In class, however, things went differently. After the candidates created their blogs, Google prompted them to enter a phone number as a final confirmation step. I assume this is to prevent mass creation of bogus blogs for whatever spammish purpose. The confirmation process was a surprise to me, beyond the inscrutable, illegible "type these letters" images Google usually uses. The privacy warning flags went up immediately in most everyone's mind I think, compounded by having watched, a few minutes earlier, the Onion's Google Opt-Out Village hilarity, which only compounded the distrust). "Okay, I'll sacrifice myself for the class. You can use my cell number if you don't want to provide your number." Except we were in the "Lower Level" of Parmer Hall (trans. "basement"), with no cell signal. So big embarrassment. As soon as I did get a cell signal, I received a dozen or so texts from Google for the new blogs, but the texts did not identify which blogs they went to, so they were useless.

Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village

I understand why Google has the additional confirmation steps. But the cell phone number request seems too much, especially if you are trying to create the accounts someplace where there is no cellphone coverage. Perhaps an email address confirmation is too easy to automate and circumvent Google's defenses. I don't know what a better mechanism might be, but it certainly interfered with what I hoped to do.

And hence the previous post, done during class to illustrate how to make a blog posting, and how to comment on a blog posting.

Now, I think a fundamental rule of using tech in the classroom is to go through all of the steps first, before class -- a dress rehearsal. Which of course I didn't do. On the other hand, perhaps it was the multiple attempts to create new blogs from the same IP address or pool of IP addresses perhaps triggered some additional confirmation process. A classic quality assurance engineering problem -- not testing under the actual conditions of use -- and how do you easily simulate, ahead of time, a class of students doing the same thing at the same time? Yes I know there are special apps to simulate multiple users doing something at the same time, but I don't see using such for the case described above. Experience is perhaps the better guide -- I have seen similar problems when creating GMail accounts in a class, so I should have known there might be issues.

Memo to self: In the future, ask adult students to create their accounts before class. For younger students, stick with sites where I can create their accounts.


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