Monday, February 23, 2004

Smoke and the City 

I used to dream of one day visiting Paris, but after watching the final episode of Sex and the City last night, I think the City of Lights should be renamed the City of Lighters. I believe I just might suffocate in that city.

I am old enough to remember when people used to smoke anywhere and everywhere -- restaurants, the teacher’s lounge at school, movie theatres, my family’s and friend’s homes, grocery stores, etc. I guess I was naïve enough to think that most of that smoke had been blown away by the strong breeze that is the reality of cancer and emphysema. But not in Paris! It appears as though the only place you cannot smoke in Paris is an art gallery.

Mon dieu! What are they thinking?

Last I heard, only 23% of Americans were smokers. (Somehow they always seem to end up standing next to me in any crowd, but that’s a story for another day.) Sex and the City made it look as though that number must be the percentage of NON-smokers in Paris – people were lighting up everywhere on that show! And they all seemed to languish in it, sucking in hard and blowing out slow and steady, usually in the direction of somebody else's face as though the smoke were some delicious stream of perfume they wanted to share.

In one scene, Carrie and Victor are on the street and she lights up. Expecting him to say something negative about her smoking (like her friends back in NYC always did), she questions him about it. He feeds her some line about everybody in Paris smoking and that it looking sexy to him. As he jumps into a cab she laughingly calls after him “But it’s killing me!” He just laughs back, shuts the door, and speeds away.

Not to be over analytical about what is, after all, just a television show, but I think that line was put in there to underscore the fact that Victor didn’t care enough about Carrie to even try and stop her from smoking.

OK, I am climbing up on my soapbox for just a second…bear with me.

According to the World Health Organization, smoking is the second major cause of death in the world. It is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year). If current smoking patterns continue, it will cause some 10 million deaths each year by 2025. Half the people that smoke today -that is about 650 million people- will eventually be killed by tobacco.

So if you know somebody who smokes, care enough to try and help them stop smoking. If you smoke, care enough about yourself and those you influence to stop smoking.

OK, I am off the soapbox now.

As for me, I won’t be going to Paris anytime soon. And neither will Carrie.

She and Big are getting married and living happily ever after in New York, where you cannot smoke in most public places. Perhaps I will visit them there one day...
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Thursday, February 19, 2004

My Editorial on Keeping Children Safe in Cyberspace 

I wrote a response to an article that was published in my local newspaper last week and it actually got published today in their "Your Say" column -- here's the text:
Having developed and taught an online course for parents on the topic of “Keeping Children Safe in Cyberspace,” I found Charles Favata’s article on Internet safety (“Your Say” 2-12-04) both valuable and timely. It is true that many parents are in the uncomfortable position of knowing less about the Internet than their children, and it can be difficult to parent from a position of authority in such a situation. I believe the comparison Mr. Favata drew between the Internet and the mall could – and should – inspire parents to take their children’s safety more seriously.

However, have you ever been to the mall on a weekend evening? It is chock-a-block full of unsupervised tweens and teens. The idea that many of the same parents who drop their children off at the mall unsupervised could be just as casual with their children’s Internet excursions is a frightening one.

In teaching my course I have found that some parents surrender completely and do virtually nothing to govern their children’s online experience (using the “ignorance is bliss” theory, i.e. dropping the kid off at the mall), while others ban the Internet altogether (thereby “throwing out the baby with the bath water”).

Neither extreme is a good solution. It’s important to realize that the Internet is not the enemy. The Internet is a powerful tool that has the ability to educate, entertain, and expand a child’s world. These days, a child’s ability to use this tool to its full advantage can be critical to their success in school. (Similar to how the efficient use of a library was important when their parents went to school.) As a parent, it is important to balance concern for the Internet’s potential dangers with an appreciation and understanding of the riches that it offers.

There are two key issues that should be considered critical for keeping a child safe in cyberspace: the physical location of the computer in the home, and clear communication regarding the concept of “no expectation of privacy.” If you choose to do nothing else with regard to Internet safety, at least do these two things:

First, position the computer where a parent can easily see the monitor at any given moment. Doing so practically forces your children to keep their Internet activities G-rated. Do not put a computer with an Internet connection in a child’s bedroom. Do not put a computer with an Internet connection in any private out-of-the way place in the home.

Second, communicate clearly with your child regarding the concept of “no expectation of privacy.” Most employers issue Internet use policies stipulating that employees using computers in the workplace should have no expectation of privacy. Most schools issue Internet use policies stipulating that students using computers at school should have no expectation of privacy. One purpose behind such policies is to help prevent inappropriate use of the Internet. I recommend adopting a similar policy at home for the very same purpose.

You should know all of your child’s current usernames and passwords, and yes – you should check up on them. You wouldn’t let your child bring a stranger into their room at home and close the door – why would you do it in cyberspace?

It was published on their web site today as well. Here's a link to the site: Reporter online.com. Just do a search on my name.

So that's "My Say" for the day!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

On Online Learning 

I teach a variety of courses online for a number of online learning sites (Element K, HP University, Sony University, Barnes & Noble University). I love teaching online. I can usually expect enthusiastic students from all over the world who seem to truly appreciate the chance to learn conveniently from their home or office.

When I first started teaching online (just two years short of a decade ago, if you can believe that) I admit to having been wary about it. I’d been a classroom-based technology trainer for a number of years, and I worried about not being able to get to know my students and about whether they would be able to really learn anything in such a seemingly impersonal environment.

From my very first online class, my worries were set aside.

I DID get to know my students -- from the way they wrote, the questions they asked, and the answers they graciously offered to classmates in my absence. And my students DID learn -- that was easy to see from the questions they asked and, in some cases, by the completed projects they posted.

I found that, as in a "real" classroom, I could easily identify many of the standard student "types" almost right away -- the student who will ask questions he already knows the answers to, just to test me; the student who obviously didn't complete the course prerequisites; the student who become my de facto classroom aide; the student who is attending just to get the CEU credits, and could care less about learning anything, etc.

Since I liked teaching online so much, over the years I’ve also managed to take a number of classes online as well. Most of these classes have been technology related, but there have been a few soft skills classes thrown in as well. As with any type of learning situation, the more time and effort you put into it, the more you will learn. Having an instructor who is actively involved in the classroom message board counts for a lot. You really DO need somebody there to answer questions in a timely manner, or you can lose interest quickly.

Taking classes online has taught me a lot about teaching classes online.

My husband has taken a number of online college-level classes through a local community college. From time to time he lets me peek over his shoulder to see his cyber classroom in action. While I find the caliber of lessons and assignments to be high, I am often astounded at the lack of interaction the instructor exhibits. There was one class he took that the instructor posted less than a handful of messages on the message board for the entire semester! He didn’t enjoy this class – or feel as though he learned as much – as others he had taken where the instructor was more involved. No wonder.

Two of the sites I teach for online offer completely FREE classes:

Sony Digital University

HP Learning Center

Barnes & Noble University offers some free classes, as well as some premium classes that are generally less than $30.:

I also teach at Element K.com. The training there is a bit more expensive, but they offer a huge selection of courses and resources for students, including the ability to take certification courses and get CEU credits:

A new site that I have been getting acquainted with is Suite University:
This site bills itself as “Real People Helping Real People” and offers almost 200 courses. They just accepted a proposal from me to develop a new course called “Searching the Web Fantastic” so you should be seeing me on here in a couple of months. The courses are inexpensive, costing between $10 and $30, depending on the length.
The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.
-- Audre Lorde

Go for it! Incite your own learning riot!
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Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Friday Five (A Million Bucks) 

You have just won one million dollars:
  1. Who do you call first?

    • My husband if he’s not already standing next to me, which he usually is. And then I would conference call my mother and brother so I could tell them together.

  2. What is the first thing you buy for yourself?

    • Hmmm…it’s “only” a million bucks, so I wouldn’t be able to afford a home on the ResidenSea, which is my ultimate dream. I think I would buy the Dyson Animal vacuum cleaner…I have been jonesing for one of those for forever. And what more could a girl want?

  3. What is the first thing you buy for someone else?

    • I would buy my husband a new computer with his own DSL line and the full ProTools program. I would buy my mother a new computer and hire a personal computer tutor for her who would be on duty 24-hours a day. (Preferably an adorable single man in his 70’s who has a good sense of humor and a lot of patience. And likes to dance. And sing a little. And travel.)

  4. Do you give any away? If yes, to whom?

    • Yes, I would make a nice donation to my church. And I would probably invest in my nieces and nephews college funds. But let’s not get crazy here, OK…it’s only a million bucks. A million bucks doesn’t stretch at far as it used to, ya know.

  5. Do you invest any? If so, how?

    • I would invest most of it, so that I could put the money to work for me. I would have to hire somebody to invest it for me because I wouldn’t have a clue.

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