Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Google Centered World?

It seems this is a good time to explicitly lay out my theory for this course and tie it in with what we've done so far.

This week we have been practicing with Microsoft's famous (or infamous) Office suite. We've designed simple spreadsheets to manipulate stock market data with Excel. We've designed databases with Access to keep track of students and their records. We used Publisher and Word to write pamphlets to explain the stock market to the uninformed (what a task!).

But there was a problem. We had to think of ways to publish the information. The information wasn't easily shared with others, without email! Historically Microsoft was surprised by the speed at which the Internet changed the PC and society. Today it seems Google is at the forefront in allowing people to quickly share their ideas quickly. For instance, Google bought Blogger, the site I'm now using, and runs it ad-free. So why did they purchase it? How does it benefit them if it costs nothing to sign up and no ads run on the blogs at first?

This course will not be an advertisement for Google's services (except for this one time: they are awesome). But it won't be an advertisement for Micrsoft either. I taught for a couple of years at a local college and I was dismayed at the way the courses were structured and especially displeased with the boring, Microsoft-centered textbooks. Professors were pretty much limited to Microsoft software. There was never any discussion of open source software. The courses seemed outdated and professors and students were not encouraged to venture far from the safety of Microsoft's shadow.

This course isn't about a software company in California or a software company in Washington. This course is about solving problems. Let's say you own a business, how can you use a spreadsheet to analyze decisions? How can you ensure that the data in a database isn't corrupted? How can a wiki benefit an organization?

This course isn't just about using computers for commerce either. There are social implications as well. Are people overwhelmed by a certain level of data? How will instant communication change relationships?

With all this said, I'm happy with the way the year started out. Keep in mind the pseudocode from the beginning of the year. Computers use algorithms to solve problems. Remember the way computers must be told every step. Loops and if statements are just ways of solving problems.

I'm happy with the interest in the stock market game. I'm planning on using the data in a few months for a project. I'm wondering if students who traded more do better than people who just leave the stocks (perhaps they just forgot their password?). Maybe we can draw a connection with the data. Maybe not. We'll see.

I sent out gmail invitations today but I got a lot of emails bounced back. Everyone will need a gmail account by next Monday. It's for a grade: A, you have an account- F if you don't. The if statement is simple. So is getting the account.

With all that said, today we'll be learning the basics of HTML in order to make "About Me" web pages...

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