Friday, May 20, 2005

Fragments from FSI

Our faculty summer institute ended today. We had a small group this year, but the ones who stayed till the end were quite appreciative. The last couple of days the plenary sessions had more Q&A. Steven McDonald's presentation on copyright was very well received as was Norm Coomb's presentation this morning.

Yesterday I had lunch with a few attendees including a woman who sat near the front of the room during the plenary sessions but who never asked a question there. At lunch it also took here time to warm up but when she did she asked, "Why didn't you plan some activity during the Wednesday night dinner session?" She caught me off guard. The members of the steering committee were very low key about this FSI. They reported it tough to recruit faculty to attend. Also, at the last year meeting, where I had a presentation to deliver before that dinner, everyone kept going to the bar and it was as if my talk was interfering with their blowing off steam. But each cohort is different and this attendee, quiet as she was, wanted to work and learn. Before the event this thought doesn't occur but during FSI it is quite clear to me that I have an obligation to those who come, including those from other campuses. I didn't do well by her.

I learned something about usability during Norm's talk. He would much rather have listen to someone talk extemporaneously than have someone read. This is coming from someone doing using a Jaws screen reader who is quite used to that speech. He did argue for a text transcript but it was clear it should be created that way rather than having the text first and then reading from that. I've tried it both ways myself and find I can't talk naturally about economics, if I'm reading aloud.

Many people were very appreciative about FSI. I got this both at steering committee dinner last night and at the end of the conference today. Most everyone who I can recall expressing appreciation was not from my campus. The people from Carbondale and Edwardsville said they collaborated (they were in learning technology support) but the rest of their campuses did not collaborate. There is something to scratch your head about.

Steve Schomberg, who was the force behind the first FSI, came to the dinner last night. Several years ago he passed the baton to Jim Onderdonk in running FSI. The last year or so, Jim has likewise passed the baton to Wendy Pickering. Similarly, many people on the steering committee now have had the job handed to them from predecessors who had more of an administrative role but less of a direct support responsibility. In contrast, I've been the head facilitator for the whole nine years that we've had FSI. When I was running SCALE, it had an outreach mission and so this made sense. CITES doesn't have such an outreach mission and so there really isn't anyone to pass the baton to if we were to do this again next year.

Simple kludges are still best. During most of the conference, if a presenter had audio on their computer we plugged in some wired amplifier through the headphone jack and got sound out of the computer that way. Burks and Curtis brought their own speakers. But for Norm's talk today for whatever reason it just didn't work through the headphone jack so he removed the wireless mic from his sweater and held near the speaker built into his laptop. It worked fine. Norm is blind but he could navigate that ok. Common sense rules.

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