Weeks One and Two in CSC 442 Section B at UIS – Transcript

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Today’s podcast is about Weeks 1 and 2 in CSC 442 Section B at the University of Illinois at Springfield.  For more information, visit the blog at csc442b.blogspot.com.

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Well, welcome back!  This is Burks Oakley, and today is Sunday, January 26th, 2014.  I’m speaking to you today from my rented condo in beautiful Naples, Florida. I had a really good week this past week. I drove over to Boca Raton and visited my cousin Susan and her husband. I had a couple of great days photographing birds in Palm Beach County - certainly the highlight of my trip was a day at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands Park - I was able to get some amazing photos.

OK, now, on with the podcast.  This past week, in Week One of our course, we spent some time getting to know each other.  We posted our introductions and found that we shared common experiences – and also that some students in the class have had some very unique experiences.  Through the postings in the Introductions forum, we learned some interesting things about each other – such as who is married, who has children, and where people work.  We learned who plays on the UIS softball team and the UIS men's basketball team, and who has traveled extensively in Europe.  We learned who plays musical instruments and who is heavily involved with Student Life at UIS. We learned where everyone lives and what they are majoring in.  We certainly have a lot of students in the class who are Computer Science majors! 

I was really impressed with the way that the class bonded during the first week of the Spring semester - how you found common experiences to discuss, and how the older students and the younger students hit it off.  I can tell that this is going to be a great class!

We had an interesting discussion in the Week One discussion forum in Blackboard.  We read the report from the Pew Internet Project entitled "Generations 2010", and we discussed in general how the Internet impacts our lives.  This past week, I seeded our discussion with a number of questions about how the students in the class are using the Internet.

I thought that it was interesting to see the students in the class describe how the Internet has become an integral part of their lives.  How they use the Internet to communicate with friends and family, to listen to music and watch videos, using sites like Pandora, Netflix, and Hulu, to conduct research, to manage their finances, and to provide assistance with their jobs - or for some students, the Internet makes it possible for them to work from home.  Oh, and of course, how students use the Internet for both formal and informal learning - ranging from learning how to fix an appliance to earning a college degree online.  We certainly covered a wide variety of uses of the Internet.  One of the interesting points to me was that now more than ever, it is necessary to achieve a balance for the Internet in our lives - and how difficult it can be to achieve this balance, when the web is so accessible; it seems that several of you are tempted to go to Facebook or YouTube or some other site many times throughout the day.

Several students discussed playing online games.  And we also discussed how many people are using their smartphones and tablets to go online from anywhere.

Unfortunately, I have to say that I was really very disappointed that a number of students only logged in once or twice to Blackboard, and really didn't get involved in any discussions with the other students.  I hope that these students will be more engaged this coming week, and will participate in our online discussions in the academic forums in Blackboard.  I was also extremely disappointed that a number of students are using inappropriate subject lines in their responses - I hope everyone will re-read the second announcement from Week One, which is posted in Blackboard.

At any rate, this coming week, in Week Two of our course, we’ll be looking at several different publications from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that are related to the general topic of What People Do When They Go Online.  We will be reading the following papers: 

The Pew report entitled "Online Product Research" describes how many Americans use the Internet when making purchases.  So much of the process of buying something can be done online - research, comparison shopping, and actually executing the transaction.  I'm sure that most all of you will have experiences to share on this topic!

The second report, entitled "The Internet as a Diversion and Destination", found that Internet users of all ages are much more likely now than in the past to say they go online for no particular reason other than to pass the time or have fun. In fact, three-quarters of all online adults say they use the Internet this way. This is quite a change from just five years ago, and as the report states, "These findings are one of our main signs about how deeply Internet use has woven itself into the rhythms of people's lives".

Finally, the third report - "Search and Email Still Top the List of Most Popular Online Activities" - found that search and email remain the two online activities that are nearly universal among adult Internet users.  The report claims that both these activities have become more habitual, with roughly six in ten online adults engaging in each of these activities on a typical day.

I know that all of you know a lot about the impact of the Internet on our lives already, so I’m sure that we’ll have some good discussions this coming week.  We will start our so-called “Student-Led Discussions” this coming week.  Early Monday morning, I’ll create a new discussion forum for the Week Two Discussions, and your job will be to pose a question to your fellow students by Wednesday evening - well, hopefully a lot sooner than that.  You then need to moderate the discussion of your own question.  This means that you will need to respond to most of the students who answer your question.  And remember, it takes some time to think of a good question based on the readings – this approach is designed to help you with your critical thinking skills.  If you are stuck thinking of a question, please feel free to contact me.  And I'll post some examples of good discussion questions in the Week Two discussion forum.

As part of this process, you also need to participate in three other students’ discussions.  We have a large class this semester – so don’t feel that you need to read all the postings in each discussion thread.  You need to participate in at least three other discussions, and of course, moderate your own threaded discussion.  And it probably is a good idea to read all of my postings.

In all of these online discussions, please remember my two Cardinal Rules:

The first Cardinal Rule is that your message must introduce new and relevant information.  That is, you shouldn’t make a posting if all you are going to write is “I agree with you.”  You also shouldn't just post your opinion if you don't have any facts to support it.  In a nutshell, each of your postings should:

• Teach us something
• Make us think, and
• Help us feel that we are a part of a learning community.
My second Cardinal Rule is that you must create a subject field for your message that conveys the essence, or the main point, of your message.  I would like to see a sentence in the subject line that summarizes your posting.  I really recommend that you create your posting first, and then go back and create the subject line - that's what I do.  A great deal more information about all this is on the handouts concerning the discussion questions.

Finally, I want to say a few words to get you thinking about your first paper, which is due on March 14th.  That sounds like a long way away – and I guess it is – that date is in Week Eight of our course.  However, I know that some of you will want to get started on this paper soon.  Earlier this week, I created a new discussion forum in Blackboard for the “Phase One” discussions related to the first paper.  Phase One discussions?  What do you mean by that, Burks?  Well, if you don’t know what I am talking about, you should read the handouts related to the Paper One assignment sometime soon.

I hope that you all are enjoying the class so far.  If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Well, that wraps up this podcast, so until next time, this is Burks, signing off.

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