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Exercise * Assignment
Making It All Work

Joe Old

At this point, you've worked through making web pages (which has included capturing images and linking to instructional resources on the web, as well as making your own) and creating a PowerPoint presentation. What's left is to make it all work.

This involves several things and different strategies depending on the status of your institution's instructional technology. Here are the the issues:

  • Uploading web pages
  • Showing PowerPoint presentations
  • Getting It into the classroom

Each of these issues can present special problems and each may require consultation with local experts to help you solve them.

I will discuss them one at at time.

Uploading web pages:
It's one thing to create web pages. But it's something else to make them available to students on the web. While there are places on the web that allow you to create web pages and upload them (promising free web space), it's more satisfactory to display your educational materials on a web site sponsored by your institution.

Your web master -- the person who maintains your college's web site -- should be able to create an account for you and let you upload your pages directly using FTP (file transfer protocol). If you learn how to upload your own web pages, it will be so much better than depending on someone else to upload the pages for you.

The way it works is this: You maintain the files that constitute your web site on your own computer. You make whatever modifications you have to (adding new pages, correcting mistakes, adding new features to old pages), and then upload the pages to the web site. When you upload them, they overwrite the existing pages and students have immediate access to them.

You may find that the more competent you get in building web pages, the more you will want to post for your students. You could post explanations of difficult concepts, pages with links to pages relevant to what you're dealing with each semester, and even assignments for them to download. In the past, I have maintained a separate web page for each class, posting information that I perennially have to explain as the new semester begins. Here are some examples:

  • A class web page for Freshman Composition (English 1301), a combination research and literature course at El Paso Community College.
  • Special resources for English 1302. This page constitutes a variety of pages I developed to model literary analysis for my students.
  • Toward Better English, a small text I published with the idea of helping students get beyond some basic problems in writing in English. Originally issued as a booklet, it is now available online.
  • World History Web Page. This is a growing page I have been developing since I returned to teaching history, a year ago.
  • Prolix-Skylark, an online magazine for EPCC students. Originally conceived when few people at the college had web pages, this project was developed before HTML editors such as Netscape Composer and Dreamweaver became available. Many of the pages were written as text files and converted to HTML by simply adding that extension. A few of the pages aren't readable by modern browsers and the source code is what displays. (I need to update these pages but simply haven't gotten around to it!)

After El Paso Community College developed the capacity to teach classes online, I converted my English 1301 and English 1302 for online instruction. That meant writing lectures, uploading pages, and carrying on class discussions, all within the context of a closed, password-protected system. EPCC first used eCollege, but later converted to WebCT. I accordingly put emphasis on let these class web pages.

Showing PowerPoint presentations:
In order to be able to deliver a PowerPoint presentation, you will need a classroom containing equipment that can show it. If you're lucky, you have such a modern classroom. At El Paso Community College, we have several. Most are reserved for videoconferencing distance learning classes, but I have been able to use one of these rooms to teach a history course where I could show materials like those I have talked about in this module.

This semester, I have a small history class and am able to squeeze everyone into a tiny conference room at the Northwest Campus Library at EPCC. It's the newest and most advanced library at EPCC and has the latest computer equipment, including a SmartBoard that is wonderful to use during lecture.

If you are not lucky enough to have such a high-tech classroom, you have to create comparable conditions with portable equipment: laptop computer and LCD projector installed on a rollaway cart that can be delivered to the classroom. Instead of a projector, the materials can also be displayed on monitors large enough to be seen by the whole class. (Obviously projection onto a larger screen is preferable.) Increasingly, such equipment is becoming available at EPCC, so that material developed for online instruction or videoconferencing distance learning classes can also be used in a regular classroom.

And that is what kind of equipment you will need to be able to show a PowerPoint presentation. You just need to make sure that you test the presentation on the equipment before you actually try to deliver it, in order to make sure that it works properly.

How to get the presentation into the classroom is the subject of the next section.

Burning CDs for classroom use:
As making CDs becomes more and more common -- driven chiefly by the music industry -- more and more computers come ready-made with CD making capability. The new Windows XP operating system has one of the most convenient CD "burning" features imaginable. You literally just put the CD in the proper drive, copy the desired files into a special place in the memory, and write them to the blank CD.

And CDs are increasingly necessary, as PowerPoint presentations can become enormous, especially with images and audio files. (The latter really take up memory.) I have one PowerPoint presentation that started out relatively small (at 30-odd pages and a few images) and ended up being more than 176 pages and dozens upon dozens of images. It requires 29.5 megabytes of storage space, which means it can only only be transported by CD.

Investing in a label maker, relatively inexpensive at less than $20 at a local computer store, is worthwhile, especially as the better able to use this technology you become the more you will find yourself using it. And there is nothing more annoying than trying to keep track of a pile of CDs with the subject matter scrawled on them with felt-tip marker. Labels make them look nice and professional -- and easier to keep track of.

You can also copy audio materials onto a CD for use in class. One of my favorite sources of such material is National Public Radio, which has a wealth of material stored online and easily available. I often hear the material broadcast in the morning and am able to capture it, burn a CD, create a label, and bring it to a morning class with me the day of the broadcast. I have found materials relevant to every class I teach and taken the following recordings into class this semester. I have also used other sources, such as the White House. Here are some examples::

  • A feature story on the separation of Egyptian twins joined at the head. (Used in a journalism class to illustrate feature writing.)
  • A Weekend Edition story with an interview with one of the conspirators in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi -- who is "utterly unrepentant" (Used in a World History class to show conflict between Hindus and Muslims)
  • A recording of George W. Bush's most recent speech speech to the United Nations. I used it in English class for the analysis of rhetorical appeals made by the president.

Recording audio is a little more tedious -- and consumes a lot more computer memory -- than making CDs with images and text, but it's a good skill to learn. (I suggest you work with your local technology lab personnel to develop that skill.

(I found an inexpensive piece of software called Audio Record Wizard that lets me capture streaming audio. It costs $24.95 and is downloadable in a few seconds. It has seen use several times a week this semester.)