Wednesday, September 17, 2008


That's it. I'm completely insane. I admit it.

I am "tweaking" an online course in Blackboard CE6.0. Read between the lines. In my looney world, "tweaking" is a polite word for constant, compulsive editing. I took a searching and fearless moral inventory of my "skillset" needed to tweak. No, I'm not bragging, the inventory made me realize how nuts I am. I honestly had no idea I was doing this.

Well, first there's Blackboard. The mother ship. It's a hog. I spend 50% of my course development time tapping on the keyboard and clicking this and that, and the other 50% waiting for the %#@*& page to refresh.

Then there's Dreamweaver, my beloved workhorse of an HTML editor. Etc. Only problem is, my version at home, which I installed on Windows Vista, refuses to create tables anymore. Maybe, like me, it's unconsciously rebelling against information overload? (Tables? TABLES??? We don't need no...) I can copy a table from another file and edit it just fine, just can't create a new one. But I love you Dreamweaver, more than you'll know.

I record my weekly welcome messages in Audacity, reading from the html page. I've gotten to where I can record and convert to an mp3 in just a few minutes, once I've written a good clean welcome message (er, as opposed to a what kind of welcome message?). I'm so over the fact that I hate my voice, which makes getting a good take a LOT easier. ;-) It's a bit of fluff really, but I do it because that's what the students comment on the most. They like it. Makes things more personal I suppose.

When I'm doing how-to's I usually use PaintShop Pro's screen capture utility because that's where I edit my images (why is it I have to edit every screen shot I take? Does it really make that much difference to reduce to 80% of the original size? Must I add a border around everything? This week (and it's only Tuesday) I am about to go nuts clicking the same dawg keystrokes over and over...

And when I was in training last week my buddy next to me reminded me about SnagIt. I've had it for years cause it came with Camtasia. (Have you lost software count yet? I have!) I didn't use it much, preferring PSP. But when I saw those cool torn edges borders etc. that you can put around the grabs, I went a little nuts for a couple of days. And then in Vista they've got that Snipping Tool, which is quite handy (compared to the days of Alt+PrntScrn + crop in Paint + saved as .bmp...). So I've been "playing" a little too much with screen shots.

And then there's SoftChalk, which I hate/like. Like because you can add cool little interactive components like drag and drop quizzes, flash cards, crossword puzzles, self-tests, and embedded glossary definitions. Hate because it's expensive and creates a folder full of four million files for one little activity. Hate because it's buggy and doesn't play nice with Blackboard CE. It's not Windows (or anything else) compatible so I'm thinking of trying that new product by the Respondus people that does the same kinds of things -- java jingle balls, I call 'em. Again, the students like those things.

You can't get away from Adobe Acrobat for creating PDFs (from anything, trust me). I use PDFs for some of the course handouts and other files where formatting is critical or I don't want somebody to mess up the page... ;-)

I try not to use PowerPoint (I mean, isn't 8 programs enough already?), putting my lectures into html pages instead. I'm not going to mention pbwiki because thank the stars, I haven't been able to justify using it in this course. Last spring I used an online webquest site but opted this time to take the pages and restructure them in Dreamweaver. And my quizzes are short and sweet so I haven't cracked open Respondus in a few months.

So that's only...what? Eight different programs? (not counting Word, where I flesh out my drafts) It occurred to me this morning -- why on earth don't I do what I tell everybody else to do -- create it all in Word? Now that Word has the "Save as Filtered HTML" feature you can actually get a decent HTML page (the only issue being images, which end up in one convenient little folder). WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF? Because I'm nuts. That's why.

OH! LOL -- I forgot my webcam. Does that count?

Did I mention my Internet connection is running slow today?

--I really, really, really need to detox.


  1. No more caffeine for you, my girl. LOL. Holy smokes, Mary, how do you keep it all straight? I got confused just reading your post.

  2. That's nothing...

    1) Blackboard Vista 3.0.7 and 8.0 but still close enough to lump into one number. We have 9 (soon to be 15)

    2) Stats site

    3) Monitoring alerts site

    4) Status site

    5) Bugs site

    6) Remedy Ticket tracking

    7) Project technical, internal community wiki, and Blackboard wiki (different wikis, different formats but overall similar enough)

    8) load balancers x4

    9) cluster Weblogic admin consoles x 9

    10) Behind the Blackboard support site

    11) Blackboard Connections site (BbAS7)

    Then there are the 200 different computers to which I connect via a shell to manage. and PenguiNet shell clients. These I will lump together because other than a few configs, they are pretty much used the same way but on different machines.

    It's fun keeping it all straight!

  3. O.M.G. sneezy, I feel ya. I don't want you job. 8-)

    I had forgotten about Behind the Blackboard...I can't remember how to get in.

    Today just for a fun break I played with shareware font mappers and printed out character maps of all my dingbats, LOL!

  4. Arline -- did I say I kept it all straight? Some of the software I've been using so long I dont' think about it. It's not til I go and try to show somebody else how to do it that I realize, "uh-oh. this ain't that easy."

  5. ...but ain't it all fun? I guess I'm going to inventory what I use as I migrate it all over to a new computer tomorrow. Like you said, use it long enough (my first IBM didn't even have a hard drive!) and you don't think about what/how you do it. I just hate to give up software that I really like because it just plain doesn't work on newer machines/systems.

  6. Wow. I don't seem to use any of that. I'd like to get photoshop but am afraid I won't learn enough to get my money's worth.


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