Webcasting School Sports

Some colleges may start passing on going for TV contracts and opt for web broadcasts of some or all of their athletic events.

This fall, ESPN's new online channel, ESPN 360, will show 30 football games. Ten of them will be web exclusives, and we're not talking just small schools. My older son's school, Virginia Tech, will be on there. The online channel is available to about 6 million homes, and will include chat rooms, statistics, and online polls.

Some smaller colleges as well as some entire athletic conferences are now using webcasting to get past the maze of cable availability to show their teams on their web sites. NJIT moved its athletic program up to Division One this year (I know, you thought we just had architects & engineers) and I have heard no plans for webcasting yet, but it seems like a good option for us.

The fact that big schools are putting games online indicates demand not only for the games, but also for new way of viewing/hearing sports.

It won't replace television coverage. The best HDTV seems to be sports right now. (Wow, I can see every bead of sweat!) Conferences can make millions of dollars from their football and basketball television contracts. The appeal may be for smaller sports.

The Big Ten Conference announced plans this past June to create its own cable channel for "minor" sports like volleyball & swimming. The Big Ten Channel will be available on cable, but also through the internet, iPods, cell phones, and whatever comes next. Now, I can watch some of my alma mater, Rutgers, online. (Now, if Rutgers would just stop cutting "minor" team programs. I can't believe there won't be a crew team rowing on the banks of the old Raritan anymore!)

Links to try:

Getting Science

87% of online users have at one time used the internet to carry out research on a scientific topic or concept. That's a lot, but I'm not very surprised.

I am surprised that 40 million adults (that's 20%) use the internet as their primary source of news and information about science. Television is the top source with 41%. Magazines and newspapers are well behind at 14%.

I find myself reading a lot of the reports from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Great source of information and inspiration.

This time it's the "Internet as a Resource for News and Information About Science". You can read/download the report and even look at the questionnaire they used. (You might conduct a survey with your students or have your students conduct a survey before you share the Pew results with them.) In case you don't read the report (42 pages), here are some interesting points.

  • Those who seek out science news or information on the Internet are more likely than others to believe that scientific pursuits have a positive impact on society.
  • 67% of those receiving questions about stem cell research said they would turn to the internet first for information on this topic; 11% said the library.
  • 62% of those who get science information online use other online information to check the reliability of scientific information.
  • 70% have used the Internet to look up the meaning of scientific terms.
  • 68% have gone online to look up an answer to a question.
  • 65% have used the Internet to learn more about a science story
  • 52% have used the Internet to check the accuracy of a scientific fact
  • 37% have used the Internet to compare different or opposing scientific theories.

They are talking about "average Americans" in this report. Not necessarily your students. But are your students so different?

I have questions.

  1. What is happening to the practice of getting science information from newspapers, magazines, journals and books?
  2. Are schools the only opportunity for Americans to get science information that's not from the internet or television?
  3. If #2 is true, what about the increase in schools of science information from the internet and television/video?
  4. Are schools teaching that those are the two most reliable sources of information?
  5. How would this differ for a student in 6th grade as compared to a high school senior or a college junior?

It's not all gloom & doom for traditional learning. For example, fully 79% of those who have gone to a website that specializes in science content have gone to a science museum in the past year. Only 59% of the general population have made such visits. The study isn't so much about judging these results, as it is about reporting them. We get the harder job(s).

Pedagogy and Andragogy

PEDAGOGY is a a term I hear used by teachers, especially in the writing of reports & grants and in making presentations at conferences. I have found that since moving from the world of K-12 education (where all teachers have at least a general knowledge of educational theories and are required to attend professional development workshops on new techniques) to higher education, that professors are hesitant to talk about (some even hesitate at the pronunciation of the word) pedagogy.

Pedagogy literally means "leading children." Andragogy comes much later and was a term coined to refer to the art/science of teaching adults.

Malcolm Knowles and others theorized that methods used to teach children are often not the most effective ways of teaching adults. In his The Modern Practice of Adult Education, Knowles defines andragogy as "an emerging technology for adult learning."

His four andragogical assumptions are that adults:

1) move from dependency to self-directedness

2) draw upon their reservoir of experience for learning

3) are ready to learn when they assume new roles

4) want to solve problems and apply new knowledge immediately.

Adults over 21 are the fastest-growing segment of today’s "undergraduates," especially in distance and online education. That would seem to indicate that we should all be considering the implications of andragogy in our teaching.

Although originally andragogy was seen as "pedagogy for adults", I now find theorists looking at it as an alternative to pedagogy. By this they mean that andragogy can be used as a learner-focused approach for teaching people of all ages. The contrast is then that pedagogy can be seen as a "teacher-centered or directive" learning, and andragogy as "learner-centered/directed" learning.

What considerations might we make in designing courses for audiences that we consider to be adults? What considerations might we make if we want our course to be more learner centered?
From the educational theory, I have sifted out these conditions.

I agree that adults learn best when:

  • they feel a need to learn the content
  • they have some input into what, why, and how they learn
  • the learning’s materials & methods have a meaningful relationship to the learner’s past experience
  • and their own experiences are used as a learning resource
  • what is to be learned relates to the individual’s current life situation
  • they have as much autonomy as possible
  • anxiety is minimized
  • freedom to experiment
  • their learning styles are taken into account
  • a cooperative learning climate
  • opportunities for mutual planning
  • the teacher can diagnose learner needs & interests and then formulate learning objectives based on that
  • they are given clear sequential activities for achieving the objectives

There are certainly things in that list that would benefit students of any age (learning styles, for example) but other items (life experience; input) do sound like more important considerations for the adult learner.

I suppose that one reason all this is coming back into my focus is that I'm preparing a new graduate course for next semester and I know I'll be teaching students who are older, working in the field - and I'll be teaching them online.

A new branch of science?


I was reading online an article about how computing experts are kicking around the idea that there needs to be a "science of the Web."

My first thought was that there must already be one. Aren't computer science or information science or information technology departments teaching this?

Apparently, the answer is - not really.

They are defining web science as "an interdisciplinary study that would look at the Web's rapid evolution and its scientific underpinnings."

The article in Scientific American describes how M.I.T & the University of Southampton, in England, announced plans for a Web Science Research Initiative. Here's some of what the article describes:

"...vast emergent properties are beginning to arise on the Web, and no one is studying how they have blossomed or what they may mean for society. E-mail led to instant messaging, which grew into social networks such as MySpace. The transfer of documents led to file sharing sites such as Napster, which led to user-generated portals like YouTube. Tagging documents with identifying labels is prompting the emergence of a Semantic Web, a global effort to allow computers to recognize not just what online documents are, but what kinds of information they contain and what it might mean. The Semantic Web promises to bring all sorts of useful data to users, not just text and imagery."

I would be curious to hear from those of you who teach CS/IS/IT to see if you agree that  a) it is not being taught in any cohesive manner currently and  b) there is need for the creation of a new branch off the computer science tree for it.

Thinking Inside the Box

The Thanksgiving holiday and extended weekend have given me some time to spend on projects that have been tasking me. Primary among those tasks has been some way to figure out how to make our dear Serendipity35 run a bit faster.

Back in the summer, I discovered that the bottleneck through which Serendipity35 tried to squeeze its content was our backend database server MySQL. In July the loading of the database server was so heavy that I had to move it to a faster, less busy machine to prevent endless waits for pages to be delivered and to prevent random corruption of our main display pages. While this off-loading of the database processes stopped the random file corruption we were experiencing, it only sped up the delivery of our pages a little.

For about 5 years, when developing a new project, the database backend of choice for me has been PostgresQL. At first I didn't have any compelling reason to use PostgresQL over MySQL other than it had a simpler method of assigning database user and host permissions, but as time moved on, I discovered some things about the structure of PostgresQL that made me feel more comfortable in designing web sites and applications.

I'm not advocating using PostgresQL over MySQL in all database driven applications, but here, in an egg basket. is why PostgresQL can outperform MySQL in this blogging environment.

If we were sitting at the breakfast table on our Cyber Farm and we wanted to order an omelet and MySQL was our server du jour, everytime the cook wanted an egg MySQL would go and gather every egg on the farm in its basket and bring it to the cook even if just one egg was requested. On a fairly large farm, the load of carrying all the eggs around all the time would considerably tire out (and slow down) our server.

If PostgresQL were our server and we ordered a 3 egg omelet, because it has a much smaller egg basket than MySQL it would have to make 3 trips from the chicken coop to the cook to deliver its 3 eggs. Having a small basket, though, and not having to gather every egg on the farm each time even one egg was requested, PostgresQL would make much faster trips and not need as many support resources. Our virtual breakfast could be enjoyed without waiting for the server to catch its breath and bring us our finished omelet.

Daily repastes aside, I decided I wanted to switch our server backend from MySQL to PostgresQL and bask in its glow of promised increased speed. But that database conversion process was slow and after many starts, stops, and hand edits, I couldn't get the data stored in the MySQL database to play nice with PostgresQL. I needed a fresh start and a different approach.

I built a new installation of Serendipity on my server at home and configured t to use PostgresQL as its backend server. After installing, by hand, Serendipity35's, users and categories, I set up an RSS feed to capture all of the current content and place it on my new "at home" server. You can see for yourself the increase in speed and page delivery. Not everything was a smooth transition, though. Articles had to be edited by hand to preserve the original author ID. phpPgAdmin saved my virtual bacon when it came to making those edits.

As of now the imported web log looks pretty good when viewed with Firefox, Mozilla, or Konqueror, but it loses its sidebar in Internet Explorer. The improper display in Internet Explorer may be a function of the Serendipity blogging software version 1.0.3a I installed. Serendipity35 runs on version 1.0.2

My next project for this rapidly evaporationg weekend will be creating an SQL from my home server's file that I can import into a PostgresQL server that supports Serendipity version 1.0.2 at NJIT, and soon make the switch to PostgresQL on this blog to improve its performance.

One project I'm NOT tackling this weekend is cleaning up my desk.