Archive for February, 2010

Class in the middle of a snowstorm

February 15th, 2010 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

What does a university do when record snowfalls hit the Washington DC area? They close, of course. In all, there were 5 class days cancelled last week at the College Park campus (more if you include weekends).

But, for one of my classes, we didn’t interrupt the learning because of weather. When I think of the word “professor”, it’s hard to get away from the visions of dusty jackets, old technology, and bookish ideas. This week, all of that was pretty much eliminated, at least in reference to my current professor for Data Mining for Business.


Prof. Shmueli, like many I’ve met at the Smith School, is very hip with modern technology. Instead of cancelling class last monday, we had class online. So, the idea of an online class is nothing new, but typically it’s limited to a little video screen and some slides. For this class, we used “Wimbio Classroom”, which is much more robust. There are functions for:
* raising your hand
* interactive chat
* whiteboard, where students/teacher can write or draw
* microphone button, where students can ask their question or answer a question via audio.
* allowing the teacher to share their desktop

Now, none of this software would be helpful if we didn’t have a dynamic professor. It also helped that she knows her lecture content extremely well, so she was able to constantly monitor student chat comments, hand raising, and other program features without delaying the action of the class.

This was the first time I’ve taken an online class that was as interactive as really being there. Although I truly enjoy sitting in a classroom to learn, this proved to me that the technology is good enough that we can now have “virtual” classrooms without sacrificing the quality of the instruction. The problem, for me, is how do we get as many professors like Prof. Shmueli, who love and know their subject and their students so deeply.

(You can read Galit Shmueli’s blog here)


The Big One

February 10th, 2010 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.


The web has already been plastered with photos from the recent snowstorms. We’ve seen titles such as “Snowpocalypse”, “Snowzapalooza”, and other silly names. The part that I find the most fascinating is that this was the most snow to fall in DC in any winter…ever. Now, to be sure, it’s possible that there was more snow in one of the winters prior to 126 years ago when they began measuring. But the chances are pretty slim, because if it only happens once in recorded history, it would be unusual for it to have occurred many times during the years before that. But, to tell the truth, I enjoyed the ridiculous amounts of snow for a few reasons:
– another winter break from school (it’s almost impossible to think about homework with 3-4 feet of snow coming down outside your window)
– cross-country skiing (the snow was too deep on the ground, so we skiied on the streets before they were fully plowed. sometimes we skiied the snowbanks in the middle of the road, which put us higher than the tops of the buried cars)
– time with kids (the enjoyment of this had its ebbs and flows, as any home-bound parent will attest)
– Psych (I spent two nights watching Season 3 of the show, which is a favorite among my siblings but something I rarely make time for)
– snow ice cream, in many flavors and varieties (I’ll have to post some of my more delicious varieties that I created)
– snowball fights with my kids and the neighbors

This picture was taken at my father-in-law’s house. It’s hard to imagine right now that this gazebo is a lovely place to eat meals and watermelon in the summertime.


Powerpoint Presentations are so passe…

February 1st, 2010 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

animotoIf you haven’t seen it yet, you need to check out It’s the coolest “slideshow” service I’ve seen. It produces professional-quality “music videos” for your photos and video clips.

(I promise, this is not a paid endorsement. I used it to make a first-year retrospective for Xander. If it didn’t contain things like birthdates, I’d publish it to the web.)