Moore's Law predicts that any computer you buy tomorrow
will be worth less than half as much, a year and a half later! :-(
One of those technologies -- alluding to the vernacular term for the internet -- is now called "Cloud Computing" or simply "the Cloud". In the next session, Tony Iams will point the way forward to show how teachers and students can exploit the power ot "the Cloud" in order to "Change the Economics of Computing to Empower Future Students and Teachers".
In keeping with the season, I suggested to Tony that I introduce him as "the Ghost of Christmas Future", since I am really representing "The Ghost of Christmas Past". When I'm done, I hope all of you will join in in a general discussion of current methods, which we could call "the Ghost of Christmas Present".
About 15 years ago, I was asked to teach a course called
"Homepage and Website Development" (it is still called that -- how quaint!)
I was working at Brookhaven Lab at the time,
where I had been using web pages,
with both raw HTML and strings generated by CGI scripts,
to display the status of equipment scattered along the collider ring.
So this promised to be a piece of cake
(especially when compared to teaching Pascal and Assembler,
or the PL/I course I was asked to teach when I first
started as an Adjunct at Suffolk. ;^)
The original plan was to put the student files on the school computer, but I had several objections to that:
CM-35 Class Page / Projects / HTML tags / Web resources on the web
There was another, unexpected benefit: the school system had problems, and students could not have uploaded until 3 weeks into the semester. (I'm not saying that this could never happen with something like Geocities, but it's a much larger venture than one school, and things tend to get fixed more quickly!)
Creating web pages introduces both pedagogical and logistics problems
that are not present when the students merely have to
write a program and debug it.
These programs, and the input data,
could be carried around on a floppy disk
(or a deck of punched cards -- remember them?)
and run from anywhere (as long as you a compiler for that language).
But a web page has hyperlinks that point to other files, in the same directory, elsewhere on the same disk, or maybe on another computer -- somewhere off in the clouds!
To create a web page, students have to upload their HTML to a server, somewhere, and that presented some logistical problems. As well as some opportunities:
Unfortunately, Geocities did not last forever:.
By that time, I already had a block of web-hosting accounts on a commercial shared server (Netnation), so I used one of the spare, unused web-hosting accounts and moved things there. (Even if you have to pay for it, web hosting is available for only a few bucks a month, and sometimes for free. You only need ONE account -- so long as you can log into the server and set up passworded folders for each student. Just make sure you get hosting on a server that you can log into!)
This migration took some effort, bu it wasn't very hard to write a simple Perl program to upload student files into passworded folders, and do other maintenance.
One thing I realized right away was that I no longer needed to bring in a briefcase full of handouts,
or go home with a briefcase full of papers.
Just think of threes we saved!
Nowadays, this sort of thing is "old hat"
but I can tell you that only a decade or so ago
(back when the same computer cost 1000 times less!),
it was a great technological benefit for its time!
(Just like the computer that flushes the toilet, when you get up.)
Pretty soon, I began using the same scripts for all of my courses: suffolk.li
Of course, I do all of my Course outlines there. Students may print them out, but there's really no need. (My department still insists on a few paper copies, so I print those out, but I don't waste any other trees. Since it is a web page, my course outlines are interactive, too.
In addition to outlines, tests, assignments, and so forth,
I also put presentation materials there
(and I like it much better than Power Point).
The presentations remain accessible to students,
and they can have hyperlinks that go to other reference material on the web.
Yesterday and the day before, I gave midterm exams,
I didn't need to bring anything with me (except for one printed copy, just in case), and I didn't take anything home.
During the week, I had worked on the exams from five different locations, including one mod I made from my iPhone.
About 10 minutes before one of the classes, I discovered a serious error. All I had to do to fix it was to ssh into the server and make the correction there. There was no need to hand-correct all the tests or throw out the paper and print new ones. Midterm