Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Four down, four to go

I have been scanning like a madwoman the past couple days, in a hopefully-not-futile attempt to get all of the novels for this Spring's English classes converted to e-text and mp3 before classes resume. I am, clearly, reaping the rewards for having had the audacity to take some of my vacation time as an actual, you know, vacation.

In slicing and scanning these books (side note: I am considering starting a business called the Slice 'n' Scan), I have learned several things:

a) Mass market paperbacks SUCK. Slicing out the pages without thoroughly mangling them takes more concentration than I would like to give to such a task. Also, they have less of a white-space border around the text, so as you inevitably get farther away from cutting right against the spine of the book as you get deeper into the book, there is way less room for error. Also, when you put tape over the inevitable errors, it obscures the text beneath it, meaning text editing, which is a pain.

b) There are two settings for scanning--single-sided, and double-sided. Generally I leave the program set to double-sided, as that's most of what I scan. However, I haven't figured out how to make that the default, which means when I have to re-start the program after an error, or have selected single-sided to rescan a page, I have to remember to turn double-sided scanning back on. Who wants to guess how many times I only copied one side of the pages from an entire chapter before realizing I had failed to do so? Who wants to guess how many times I did that twice in a row?

This process makes my brain get a little. . . squishy.

c) It would be so much less mind-numbing if I could somehow do something else, at least while the pages were scanning, but this task requires *just enough* attention that you can't do something else at the same time. Not that that stops me from trying. I have managed to get the number of unread items in my reader down to 70 (from 532), though I did make use of the "Mark All As Read" button more than once, and neither task really gets my full attention, leading to the types of errors mentioned above.

d) The optical character recognition program is really, really good, but far, far from perfect. It's hard to explain, even if I did have a visual, but I'll try. The text you see on the screen from the page you scan is not necessarily the same as the text the program "sees" and reads. Sometimes I can tell, while editing, what underlying text needs to be corrected. Oftentimes I have no idea until I save a copy as a text file, and see a random string of symbols. And I'll admit that I don't always go back and correct these errors because there is just so much I can do. In reality, I should be doing a LOT more text editing (and I won't get into the details of the types of errors I see and routinely force myself to ignore), but I have to make a decision between having good quality copies of all the books or excellent quality copies of a few of the books. I hate having to make that compromise, but I think I've made the right one.

Also, I can only correct one word at a time. I have no words for how aggravating that is.

I will give $5 to anyone who can show me a real, live teenager who uses the word "sexting"

Rethinking Sex Offender Laws for Youth Texting

The article is worth a read, but there are two points that I thought were worth highlighting:
Professor Adler said. “While sexting is bad judgment, it’s simply not what the Supreme Court had in mind when it crafted the child pornography law. It just doesn’t make sense that in a lot of the sexting situations, the pornographer and the victim are one and the same person.”

That's a *headdesk* moment if ever there was one.

The district attorney told parents of the students involved — both those in the images and those whose phones contained the images — that their children could be prosecuted for child pornography unless they took part in an after-school program.
The program, divided by gender, involved random drug tests, probation and classes in which the girls would “gain an understanding of what it means to be a girl in today’s society,” by, among other things, writing essays on why their actions were wrong.

Yep, nothing will address this issue quite as effectively as a good ol' five-paragraph essay.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Put the what into where now?

While assembling my new desk from IKEA tonight (yay for new new allen wrenches!) I was thinking about visual literacy. I struggle with directions that are written only in pictures; there were two pictograms at the beginning of the directions which I'm pretty sure were telling me that I should get someone to help me with this project, and also assemble the desk on a carpeted surface. However, in addition to having weak visual literacy skills, I also live alone and have wood floors.

As my recent forays into book trailer creation has emphasized for me, visual literacy is not my strong suit. But I got an overwhelming reaction to the book trailers, and almost all 50 books I had were grabbed by students; there is no doubt in my mind that that that would not have happened if I had only talked about the books. People respond to images. And even though I'm not always great at interpreting images, they always provoke a reaction in me. I feel comfortable with words. I like words. But not everyone does. And while I've always been sort of vaguely aware of it, the experience with the book railers really highlighted for me the fact that my students do a lot better with images than with words. But in order to present something in images, I have to be able to think in images first. Which, to put it simply, is hard.

Though perhaps my visual literacy skills are improving with practice; this is the first time I've assembled a desk that I haven't needed to take off the drawer runner thingies and put them on what I suddenly realize is the right way after 20 unsuccessful minutes of trying to put the drawer in.

I also recently read something in the New York Times Idea Blog about Exit signs that had me thinking that we, as a nation, might not have developed these skills:

Red, on the other hand, most often means danger, alert, halt, please don’t touch. Why confuse panicked evacuees with a sign that means right this way in a color that means stop? International designers tend to think our system is illogical and consider our rejection of the running man to be as dumb as our refusal to adopt that other sensible international norm, the metric system.

So I might be bad at this, but at least I'm not alone. And I'm going to keep working at it, if only so future furniture assembly involves fewer headaches, and also so I can design visual representations of famous movie quotes.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Technology Tip, Part Two

If you’re going to use school-issued laptops to spy on students, and use evidence gathered from such ill-considered practices to accuse students of wrongdoing, be sure that what you’re accusing the student of doing is something that is actually wrong, and not just eating some candy while doing homework.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Today's lesson

Over-reliance on spell check means that you will spend two pages of your paper talking about a book in which characters were sent to be re-educated by pheasants, making it very difficult for your proof reader to stay focused on your paper, distracted as she is by images of pheasant-run educational institutions.