27 April 2010

Stephen Wolfram: TED 2010

"Computation is destined to be the defining idea of our future." says Stephen Wolfram towards the end of this TED talk. Wolfram states his goals for the site include democratizing knowledge and trying to be an authoritative source. Just a few minutes at wolframalpha.com should be enough to convince anyone the site is on its way toward these goals. It's by no means complete, but potential is very apparent.

Systematizing knowledge, making it computable, and making it available via queries in ordinary, human language is the power of his idea. Wolfram|Alpha is to knowledge systems what Google is to search engines. Hey, it's not a search engine, it's a knowledge engine. I am looking forward to an expanding database. Video courtesy of TED.

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25 April 2010

Google Sites

Today I made a Google site.

So far, I've made a site that has a registered domain name- www.chiensolutions.com/

To this site, I installed Drupal.

Why all the sites? Well, I want to see all the ways a person can make a site. First, I want to know how to build a site "from scratch." That is, I want to know how to register a domain name, find hosting and write XHTML and CSS code. Maybe I'll get as far as learning some JavaScript. So, that is what chiensolutions.com is all about.

Then, I want to learn about more automated solutions for sites, so I installed Drupal onto chiensolutions as a secondary "site within a site." Logically enough, the Drupal part of the site is simple: chiensolutions.com/drupal/.

Without doubt, the Google site has been the most straightforward to build. In fact, the most time-consuming part of it was finding a name for it that had not already been taken. Finally, I found a name that hadn't already been taken- larryslyceum! Oh, corny!

Site building with Google is as easy as making a MySpace or Facebook page, or for that matter a Google blog. You're led clearly along a path of simple point and click design. Very nice.

Drupal's build process is less intuitive, requiring some serious time to make sense of the interface. The effort is worth it though, because there is an extremely robust range of possibilites via the Drupal "module" concept. Modules for forums, modules for e-commerce, modules for enhanced CSS control- really, modules for just about anything you can imagine. This is my favorite part of Drupal. You don't have to know web programming languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL and Apache to take advantage of they power they provide. Plus, since Drupal is OpenSource, anyone can contribute a module, and this makes for thousands of modules for hundreds of tasks. It's very powerful, and many "bigtime" sites use Drupal. Take, for example, one of my favorites- theonion.com.

Finally, building a site from scratch (i.e. chiensolutions.com) offers the most challenge. I know it's extremely simple, but that is because it's my first foray into coding XHMTL and CSS. Current web standards call for using strictly validated XHTML 1.0 code for markup and CSS for layout and design. It seems like the main idea behinds these standards is accessibility, with the additional benefit of making web pages load, and be searched, more efficiently. It really is a step forward from the days when HTML and CSS were jumbled together on the same page- site content is relegated to the XHTML markup, and site design is relegated to CSS code. For me, this makes learning easier. I would have been lost if not for the guidance of w3schools.com, a tutorial site provided by w3.org.

It's tempting to use HTML5 and CSS3 for my site, but as it is not yet official, there are compatibility issues across different browsers. Since accessibility is the prime goal of my sites, I can't use these new and exciting languages just yet.

I intend to keep learning what I've started, and I cannot wait to begin classes this summer and add new skills. There is so much I don't know. How exciting!

18 April 2010

The Khan Academy

Salman Khan (Sal) founded The Khan Academy with the goal of using technology to educate the world. Sal received his MBA from Harvard Business School. He also holds a Masters in electrical engineering and computer science, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science, and a BS in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His site provides 1200+ videos (hosted by YouTube) covering a wide range of topics including economics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and physics. It's an ambitious site, to say the least, and a great example of freely distributed educational material- a productive and successful implementation of web technology.

Surely you agree that Sal is a uniquely wonderful person. Watch 1 video a day and in less that 4 years you'll be better. I  am starting today!


12 April 2010

Official acceptance letter!

Last week, I was accepted into the Instructional Design & Development Graduate Program at UGA.

Over the years, I've learned a smattering of graphic, design and audio software and techniques. For the past 3 years, I've been working at the Georgia Center for Assessment, scoring student writing for the State. Most recently, I've been moving away from Dreamweaver and learning to code sites using only a text editor. It's my goal for my sites to be XHTML 1.0 STRICT validated, and for them to be easily read across all computing platforms.

I look forward to putting all these skills together while in the IDD program. Further, I'm ready to learn about the psychology of learning and the methodology of Instructional Design. Finally, I most look forward to getting to know the faculty and students in the program. Cheers to a productive life and work!