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Adobe Acrobat – Form Distribute

I have not played with Adobe Acrobat in quite a few years.  At one point, I had figured out how to create form fields that could be submitted to an online database from a fillable PDF document.

I had the opportunity in the last day to return briefly to Adobe Acrobat and find that the app has developed well in certain areas.

The need was to distribute a lengthy document (a planning guide) and have various readers comment on up to 9 “goal” areas.  The original thought was to have a WordPress site and allow for comments.  I even went the route of activating a form plugin with the idea that viewers of the document could send (via email from the online form) their comments.  *I finally abandoned that route because the layout of the original document was lost when moving it from Word to HTML, and to make it look “pretty” online, there would be a time consuming process to port the data over into Table columns and rows.  The comment form was also sprawling.  Given time (which I didn’t have), yes, I think I could have made the form layout more aesthetically pleasing.  But, there was also the problem that aggregating the comments would become a time consuming manual process.

So, early on, I realized that the task was calling for a fillable PDF document.

Adobe Acrobat XI easily found all the potential form fields.  It found about 4 others that were easily deleted.  I did have to delete about 10 fields that were best represented as a “checkbox” and not a “text” field.

I didn’t know how to set the PDF so that anyone, whether they had the full version of Adobe Acrobat, or just Acrobat Reader, so that they could fill in the responses and save the PDF.  That was later found under Forms –> Distribute.  This allows you to choose to save the PDF, and send it via email to a specific address.

I also found that you could Choose Tools > Forms > More Form Options > Manage Form Data > Merge Data Files Into Spreadsheet, to aggregate all the data from those returned (filled in) PDFs and export as a .csv file.  Then pull that file into Excel.

A Learning Object with a “Something” Interface

CT-e-textbooks-whats-next

golden sphere

I think of a “learning object” as having the shape of a ball.  Everything inside that ball relates in some way to the overall understanding of the learning object’s subject or core concept.  A student can approach the learning object and enter from any direction, but to be effective initially, the student should be encouraged to enter the subject from their strongest point of understanding.  Doesn’t that make sense?  If understanding is built on prior knowledge, then entering the study of a new subject would be best from where we are most comfortable.

Analogy, “something is like something else,” provides a framework of clarification and understanding.

The learning object is in constant motion (like a Roomba, it eventually will cover all the area) and as it rotates, it reflects back our level of understanding.  Where the interface senses our greatest level of recognition, it “lets us in.”

As we enter the learning object, our level of understanding could be portrayed much like a smaller bubble (sphere), or that is what we are imperfectly working toward.  No one ever understands it all.  There are always areas of knowledge that make our level of understanding like Swiss Cheese.  But, we enter the sphere and immediately we see some things that we readily recognize, while other things are dim, or possibly even unintelligible and apparently blank.

bubbles-n-bubblesSo, we can once again move to what we know, and “turn right”.  There is that dim item and we begin to learn how it is related to what we know.  The item becomes brighter, and down to the “southeast” we see another dim item.  We explore and find something, that we never knew existed, or that we thought was totally unrelated to our current level of study.  We learn more.

Now if we step back out of our learning object and attempt to re-enter where we first entered, our level of understanding has changed.  There are still the most recognizable areas, but now, some of the dim areas are equally as bright, and to our surprise, at least one blank area is not blank any longer.

Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning should be as simple as controlling the weather, or herding cats.  There are so many variables when it comes to individual learning that it would almost be impossible to create a tool (other than a teacher) who could interface with a student, determine their level of understanding and then proceed accordingly to improve their understanding where they are weak.

The “Something” Interface needs to be able to test our understanding and respond accordingly.  Images, audio, video, text.  Something from “A Clockwork Orange” or some psychological study where images are flashed before a test subject in a dark room.  The subject, hooked up to electronic equipment which is sensing bodily changes, increased electrical activity between synapses, modifications in the levels of gases in exhaled air, etc.  I’m not quite sure how you would determine a level of understanding.  Is it as simple as responses to questions?  It could be.

van-de-graaf-learning-objectBadges?  Someone has to determine the differing levels of understanding of a subject.  As our model of understanding of a subject begins to approach that of an orb, but there are still pockets of emptiness, resembling Swiss Cheese, then we need to fill these in.  We need a complete set of badges to complete the instructional process.

If a learning object is in the shape of a sphere, then the process more than likely will not be a linear progression.

Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS on a Dell Latitude D630

I have an old Dell laptop that started experiencing memory issues several years ago.  I do not recall if it had Windows 7 on it, but I’m guessing that it did when I brought it back to the office from home.  At one time, I had my laptop and iPad at home and used them both quite a bit, both for work and personal, but then the institution changed their off campus policy for technology.  They expected me to sign a contract that stated that I would be responsible (monetarily) if the equipment I had at home were damaged, lost, or stolen.

I had no problem with being responsible if an item was damaged or lost by me… but, I definitely had a problem being expected to pay for the item, if someone broke in and stole it.  And, that is just what happened about four years ago.  I came home one hot afternoon, I think the Monday after the 4th of July that year and when I got to my apartment door, it was slightly open.  I then noticed that it had been kicked in.  I entered cautiously and there were papers and items strewn all over the living room.  Heck, it was pretty much like it always was, but I hadn’t done this damage.

I didn’t even notice that the office provided laptop was gone until after the police had left (and it took about an hour for them to arrive after I first called).  A $600 Government check had also been taken, a nice Westinghouse 30″ PnP HDTV, and a small Canon digital camera.  Apparently, some druggies that had been visiting someone in the apartment complex had decided I might have something worth stealing.  I could never prove this, although my downstairs neighbor had talked with a young woman (even given her something to drink) that morning and he knew that she was the granddaughter of a law enforcement officer from the area.  She was probably the “look out” while her friend or friends scoffed my loot.  They were probably long gone before 9am.  *I did get a replacement check for the $600 check, but the insurance only paid for half of the other item’s value (until you sent in proof that you had replaced the stolen items).

So, the Dell laptop has been gathering dust on my office window shelf for a couple of years now.  Since it was experiencing memory issues, I had sometime ago, put a version of the Chrome OS on it.  It worked, but was nothing to write home about.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that I should buy a Raspberry Pi, but each time I did, it just seemed like too much effort to get all the components together to actually do something with it.  The Pi costs about $35, but then you have to have a keyboard, a memory card, a USB hub, etc. and it looks like it would at least double in price.  *I don’t count the cost of the HDTV.  I’ve got at least one of those that I could hook it up to.

I think I’ve talked myself out of the Raspberry Pi, but then I thought… “maybe I could install Ubuntu (Linux) on the laptop” so that I could become more familiar with Linux.

Yesterday morning, I came into the office and pulled the laptop onto my desk and plugged it in.  *It also has recharge issues because the power cable I currently have isn’t for this laptop.  It will power the laptop, but not recharge it.  I got online and downloaded a copy of the Ubuntu install disk, first for the Mac, and when that didn’t work, I also downloaded a Windows copy.  I burned the .iso to DVD and then put it in the laptop’s player.  F12 and boot from the DVD drive.  Ubuntu started up.

Ubuntu 14.04 on Dell Latitude D630I am amazed, I followed the instructions and it wasn’t too long before I had a working version of Ubuntu 14.04 on the Dell.  I then went out and found instructions for installing WordPress.  I almost finished that up this morning, even getting the multisite setup to work… but, there are write permissions issues and I cannot download and save extra themes or plugins because I don’t have write permissions for the folders and the direct WP install process won’t let me install from the drive.  It prompts me for FTP authentication info. *Addendum:  I was reading another set of install instructions, and for some reason (more intuition than understanding), I ran a single line of code that reset permissions on the web folder.  I think it was giving write permissions to the database account (webdata?).  After this, WP worked perfectly.  I have installed several plugins and different themes without a problem.

Well, not being familiar with Linux (Ubuntu), the language or syntax, I have gotten surprisingly far along in a short time.  And, after all, learning Linux was why I installed Ubuntu.

Running WordPress Locally

When you love what you play with, you play with what you love. I first used WordPress as a means for publishing historical research. The more I used it, the more enamoured I became with WordPress. Soon, I was using XAMPP to install a local copy of WP on my office PC for testing purposes. Eventually, I created a child theme, and even installed a Multisite version of WP on a USB stick, from some detailed online instructions.

After a couple of years, I was still using WP for a personal site and a technology site, but I had stopped exploring “behind the scenes”. About six months ago, I decided to re-install a local copy of WP for testing. It was then that I realized that I couldn’t find the old XAMPP and somehow was directed to BitNami for XAMPP. I also found after several tries that I had to follow the BitNami install instructions to the letter and couldn’t rely on the old way of doing things to successfully complete the task. But, I did get a working copy of WordPress on my local PC.

I installed various plugins and themes for testing.

Our IT department requires each of us to develop and maintain an updated Desk Manual for our areas of expertise and authority. I had only superficially thought of using WP as my desk manual, until recently, and then I started developing my desk manual via a local instance of WP running on my PC.

I have an Applications set of pages and sub-pages and on each I list contact info and processes that need to be repeated cyclically. I have a page for links to the various applications and programs I may use daily. I have started creating posting categories and post the various tasks for each app to it organizing by category. I have an Inventory section, which I have used on a previous site, but have not started to seriously develop on this local site. I also have the departmental phone list, which was removed from public access several months ago, but is still necessary to reference.

I have an Google Docs Embed plugin that works fine on non-local sites, but for some reason will not render an embedded document on the local site. I may or may not use a Calendar plugin, which will let me import several external .ics calendar feeds.

I’m not sure how I am going to provide access to the desk manual for my supervisor, but the local site is great for organizational purposes.

Swivl

Swivl provides a “hook” for presenting captivating videos.  The hook is that the Swivl base tracks its remote (that you carry about or wear on a lanyard) and thereby your video recording device follows you about, as if you had a “personal cameraman”.  The current Swivl base has a very smooth tracking motion.

I think the subliminal message is that either I, or what I am saying is important enough for the camera to follow me, and if the camera is following me, the audience should be attentive to what I am saying or to what I am showing them.

The other Swivl feature that makes your videos more captivating is that the  remote also captures your audio very well.  You could record your audio remotely, and then use video editing software to combine silent video with the matching recorded audio, but Swivl saves you that time and effort.

I’m not sure the current price of the Swivl base & remote (approx. $300) can be justified by most individuals.  However, in an educational environment the device could be shared amongst instructors or teachers in a department.  On sharing equipment:  The current Swivl base and remote appear to be well constructed.  That said, there are several other plastic pieces that could be easily broken or lost =  the plastic remote holder that is hung from a lanyard, the 3 different sized shems that hold various video capture devices, the audio cable that attaches the video capture device and the Swivl base.

Don’t equate Swivl with the flipped classroom.  For that matter, don’t equate video lectures with the flipped classroom.

I think the Swivl might be useful in recording student teachers who are walking about the classroom during the teaching process.  You could track the instructor’s movements and have very good audio.  But, I am not sure how well the Swivl would track the teacher if the “little” or big heads/bodies of their students block the tracking device.  Put the Swivl & video recording device high on a tripod so that “line of sight” room obstacles are few.

NOTE: I gave a Swivl presentation to two groups of faculty during the Bronco Kick-Off (start of the Fall Semester 2014).  I could not have planned for a better illustration than what Professor Denise Payton provided on the fly.