Daily Create – Create a New International Friend

Daily Create number #tdc2502 is to create a new friend from another country. This might be the most challenging Daily Create activity ever, but I wanted to throw it out there to see what people would do. To me, one of the most exciting aspects of having internet access is the chance to make friends with people in places you would never otherwise meet.

I actually managed to pull it off. But the only way I could think of to make it go in a single day was to scour the list of followers/following on Twitter of an existing international friend and work from there.

Teach On Conference – 2006

inter-institutional professional development

In August of 2006, K-State Polytechnic (then called K-State Salina) hosted an inter-institutional day of professional development for faculty from multiple institutions of higher learning in the region. The two main collaborating partners were Cloud County CC and K-State Salina.

It was at this conference that I first met Ruth Moritz who was then working at Barton County. Ruth eventually found her way to teach on the K-State campus in Salina. We became good friends and I was deeply saddened when she left to teach for Kansas Wesleyan.



A Tale of Recovered Digital Media

Painting of woman searching for lost coinSeveral years ago a large external hard drive I had been using for home and work for about six years died on me. Because it was so large and expensive at the time, I had no backup. I lost most of my saved work from six years of my life.

When I finally realized that I wasn’t going to see that data again, it literally felt like being kicked in the stomach. Enormous pressure built up in my chest, my heart was racing, I couldn’t breathe and I imagined that people who experience a house fire losing all of their precious family photos must feel precisely the same way because that is what had happened to me.

“You idiot!” I thought. You call yourself a computer professional? You, of all people, know better than to rely on a single drive with no backup. Now you have lost all of the kids’ baby pictures, movies, and sound recordings, not to mention all of that stuff you created for work.

But this was a terabyte hard drive, back when most people did not have so much storage, and it cost over $500. I simply couldn’t afford to purchase another one to make backups (although I certainly could have used another media like CDs and DVDs to make backups of the favorite items). Of course, making print photos was still a thing when the kids were small and we have some of those too, but many, many of our family memories were inaccessible and presumably lost forever.

I looked into a data-recovery service. I was in luck, they told me. As a member of the staff of Kansas State University, I was eligible for a discount because my employer was a partner to that service. I was quoted the reduced price to recover one terabyte of data of approximately $1800 – $2000! So if I thought $500 for a backup drive was bad, try paying for the data-recovery rate!

I seriously contemplated paying for data recovery. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing all of those memories. The company sent me a special padded shipping box for my external drive. When the shipping box arrived, it was too small to hold my drive. It was meant to hold a (now) standard sized smaller external hard drive, but my terabyte drive was actually a Seagate enclosure that held two full-sized internal hard drives along with RAID electronics that make the two drives appear as a single drive. It was far too big to be shipped in the provided box.

So I hesitated, put off the data recovery idea, put my broken drive into storage in the closet, and tried to forget about it.

Every once in a while, I would pull that terabyte drive back out and test it just to be sure I wasn’t mistaken. Nope. Every time, it still was unreadable by any computer or operating system I attached it to. I even went so far as to remove the internal HDD drives from the enclosure and attempted to read them directly with a USB device that could read and power these devices. Still nope.

This process went on for nearly seven years. The last files that I saved to the failed drive were created in February of 2012. As I began working seriously on my doctorate, I purchased not one, but two external drives that are 2TB in size, and I was very diligent about mirroring one on to the second drive and keeping one at work and the other at home. I had no intention of ever letting a failed hard drive get me again.

Of course, over that time, cloud storage has made its appearance and is taking over the way we save data. I have moved away from using external drives altogether and mostly rely on the cloud. It actually is quite nice since I can access it from home or at work. But I still keep my own copies of personal files like photos and home movies.

Then, last week, something happened. I was doing some cleaning at home and came across that failed hard drive. There it sat, a symbol of my incompetence, mocking me once again. I don’t know why, but I’m going to pull it out and try again. I have a new Macbook I didn’t have before. Maybe my luck will turn.

So I hooked it all up, and the lights came on and… still nobody home. Sigh. Well it was worth a shot.

Hmm, here is something I don’t remember seeing. There is a tiny “reset” button on the enclosure. I wonder what would happen if I pushed that? Now I have seen these tiny little “reset” buttons before, usually on something like a router or other embedded computing device. You have to get a pen or paperclip to even push the button it is so small.

I pushed “reset” and guess what happened? Nothing.  A loud cooling fan noise, just like every other time the drive powered up, some blue LED lights, and nothing. No readable drive.

But after a couple of minutes, incredibly, unthinkably, that darned Seagate drive became readable again! Well, I don’t dare turn this thing off again. So I grabbed one of my other drives that had plenty of space and started copying things, beginning with the family photos, then the work documents, then the home movies.

Copy, copy, copy. I spent most of last weekend copying things to the backup drive. Soon, my daughter noticed what I was doing.

She – Dad, isn’t that the drive that quit working you were so upset about?

Me- Yep. It started working again.

She- So what is on it?

So we started poking around in the photos to see what was there. A big smile came across her face as she saw all of her classmates in pre-school. She’s a Junior in high school now. We saw photos of swimming lessons, wheat harvest, Watermelon Festival, birthdays, and family gatherings of all sorts,

Having gone through that difficult emotional loss, and just recently finding the lost thing again, I feel just like those people in the Bible who lost a sheep and a coin (Luke 15:1-10).

It has been a good week. Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost data!



Bias and our hard to reach students

A friend recently posted this article about Critical Thinking:

Critical Thinking is Emotional Thinking: Reflections on a Post Truth Society by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

When the author talks about emphasizing the need for students to begin with examining personal biases, I think he is discussing a very important thing we struggle with in higher education. I know this from personal experience because I was there as an undergraduate student. I get where they are coming from.

I think that here in Kansas, some of our more resistant students are coming from a place where they see academia and professors as liberal, biased, and hostile to their own beliefs. Again and again our students are told to examine their own biases and to question authority, which they understand to mean that they should throw out everything they hold dear. We professors don’t model this behavior very often for them. Why shouldn’t they think professors are hypocritical if we don’t ever show them how to do it?

When was the last time a professor described a time when they changed their mind because new evidence suggested they should? Students are not dumb and they sense that oftentimes we don’t practice what we preach. If we do practice it, why don’t we show them? If we don’t then shame on us.

Train o’ Creativity

haunted house scene composite image with dancing pumpkin man

Yesterday’s Daily Create was pretty interesting. We started with a photograph of a silly man holding a pumpkin, then everyone added something new to the story. This assignment was basically a simplified take on the original Layers Tennis game with one person contributing a few changes to an existing image. (There is also a Layers Tennis assignment in the DS106 assignment bank.)

@dogtrax started us off with this offering:

Followed soon by

I couldn’t resist the temptation to join in the fun, so I did this revision

Then came this…

Someone suggested the pumpkin man would be a good addition, so I found a green screen version and put him right in.

Because it took me a while to add the dancing pumpkin man, a fork in the creativity happened and a new chain of events.

This one was near the end last night.

I really enjoyed seeing this one progress.

Building Community at K-State Polytechnic

 Building Tuskegee This week I invited students in our large group session of our freshman Mastering Academic Conversations class to use a Twitter backchannel to share comments as I was presenting. For the most part, it was a bust. I don’t think I explained clearly enough the purpose and value of having an online backchannel conversation during a large presentation. There were only a couple of comments, both were negative. Since the only feedback I got was negative, I thought I’d take a moment to respond to one of the comments here.
Early in the presentation, I mentioned that Kansas State University is having a diversity celebration called #KSUnite in which afternoon classes are canceled on Tuesday of this week, and a number of activities are planned. On our Polytechnic campus, our student government formulated a plan that includes a campus beautification and clean up (we’ve had some challenges in that area this year) followed by a picnic and games.
Evidently, one student in the room took issue with being asked to help tidy things up on campus and wrote this tweet:
Woo cant wait to pay to do landscaping for the school
I’ve been thinking about this comment, and how it is likely that some of our other students feel the same way. It made me think about Booker T. Washington’s “Up From Slavery” in which he describes the founding and construction of the Tuskegee Institute. (The link above is to a chapter that talks about this.) I feel like although we aren’t building up a new school from scratch, in many ways at K-State Polytechnic we are also in a building period that is reimagining what our school can be as well.
B.T. Washington required each Tuskegee student to work at the school, and it was met with protests from students and their parents alike.
Quite a number of letters came from parents protesting against their children engaging in labour while they were in the school. Other parents came to the school to protest in person. Most of the new students brought a written or a verbal request from their parents to the effect that they wanted their children taught nothing but books. The more books, the larger they were, and the longer the titles printed upon them, the better pleased the students and their parents seemed to be.
Washington stated that some students left in frustration, but more came to replace them and the school experienced successful growth. People recognized the value of what he was trying to teach. Tuskegee students themselves built all of the buildings of their new campus and in doing so took great pride and ownership. He writes,
Not a few times, when a new student has been led into the temptation of marring the looks of some building by leadpencil marks or by the cuts of a jack-knife, I have heard an old student remind him: “Don’t do that. That is our building. I helped put it up.”
I think maybe it is time for us to double-down on this group-working idea. I even wonder if we emphasized it and highlighted it, it could actually bolster the enrollment at our school? It might be one of those counter-intuitive paradoxes of life. The students don’t like being made to do it, but it has value, is actually good for them and although it will frustrate some, the end result will be a stronger community and family. People – the right sort of people – will recognize the value in our unique community and ultimately will want to come to study with us.
In our recent class discussions, I am gaining a sense that at least some of our students are frustrated by and are ready to push back against our always-on, always-digitally-connected, and always-distracted ways. I think some are actually searching for authentic connections; a better way to live that possibly includes some counter-intuitive, counter-cultural ideas. Crazy ideas like helping to clean up the campus.